But once-in-a-lifetime experiences come about as we travel. This year following the mission, Taylor, Krista, Trina and I extended our trip with a forty eight hour safari into the Masai Mara. Thursday morning we left the team as they began arousing and packing for their flight home. Angton drove us into town to the Wilson Airport where we caught our AirKenya flight to the safari lands. We were amazed that our flight made two drop offs before delivering us...all in a one-hour time frame! It was such fun to look down from our windows and catch glimpses of giraffes, elephants and hippos near the dirt landing strips at each location.
Dee Tome met us on the landing strip and carried our bags to his land cruiser. We were delighted that he spent his time with us in his Masai attire. He is a delight young husband and father of two who grew up here in the Masai Mara and knows the winding roads and trails better than I know the back of my hand. Dee has a captivating laugh and an eagerness to share his culture and the animals he loves and admires so much. He was sensitive to each of our desires and maneuvered his vehicle to allow us to capture the moments that amazed and astounded us. We were captured immediately by his ability to take us right up within ten feet of so many exotic animals.
Once the last plane arrived and we were joined by Joe and Margaret from Australia, we began our first drive across the river and through the savannah. Around the first turn we found our first elephant grazing patiently as if awaiting our arrival. His massive ears set him apart from the Indian elephant Jonnie and I rode last year in Jaipur. We sat and observed him as he posed for our snapshots.
Then we forded the stream to get up close and personal with a twiga with its long neck and intricate pattern of browns and tans. He too posed patiently staring at our troupe of spectators from distant lands. It fascinated us to watch his movements and to gaze past his enormous eyelashes into his big brown eyes. He sauntered along his way as our engine began to purr and we climbed up the hill on the other side of the stream.
The hour and a half drive to the Tipilikwani Mara Camp continued to amaze us with delightful surprises. The savannah with its tall grasses and occasional acacia trees has a splendor of its own stretching for miles in every direction as far as the eye can see. We all four craned our necks out the top of the vehicle to see the migration of the wildebeest crossing the savannah! What a blessing to arrive the same week as the wildebeest! Millions of these fascinating animals trekked across the flat lands heading to the river crossing and on to their destination of the Serengeti. Here in the grasses, the lions lay in wait anticipating this week. At the river, the crocodiles also await their crossing.
Zebras by the dozens mingled within the droves of wildebeest. Both young and old grazing casually alongside their fellow migrating herds. A week ago the millions were zebras in the height of their migration. Today we see the stragglers of their migration. The wildebeest are happy to have them near. The symbiotic relationship between the two is enhanced by the impalas, gazelles, and topia antelopes. Each adds its own special form of alerting the others of impending danger whether it be sight, smell or hearing, the crowd offers protection when the lions surround them. One loan animal will fall prey to feed the lioness and her pride.
We passed by a lioness perched upon a rock sitting contently basking in the sun. As we sat and admired her majesty, we noticed another behind her in the shade of the bush.
Warthogs ran from the approaching vehicle with their tails sticking high above the tall savannah grasses. Gunnies, vultures and other tropical birds and butterflies enthralled us as we found family after family of giraffes, elephants and zebras cross our paths or entice us to turn from our planned route to cut them off for photos.
Arriving at the lodge, we were greeted with refreshing towels to clean up and cold juices. The personnel gave us a brief welcome and overview of our stay here. We were escorted to our tents by Masaii stewards. Tent #1 is called Jomo Kenyatta. He was the "Father of Independence" and first president of Kenya. The tents are phenomenal in themselves! The bathroom was twice as big as my master bath at home. We found the Masai accents around the rooms added to the ambience of the stay. Each time we left our room, we returned to find a special touch...our beds turned down for naps...the windows rolled down and zipped to contain the evening temperature...a hot water bottle warming our sheets for the night. We enjoyed the warmth of the Masai robes after a hot morning shower. Our stay here at Tipilikwana Mara Lodge has been exquisite. We have had excellent service in our rooms, wait staff in the restaurant, Masai warriors to build and guard fires and to escort us back and forth to our tents at night! There is even an armed Masai warrior to guard our tents all night long!
Our lunch menu was displayed on the chalkboard as we entered the restaurant. We enjoyed choosing between steak, fish and vegetarian dishes with fresh vegetables, potatoes or rice following the tomato basil soup. It was topped off with a lovely pear pie!
At 4:00 we met Dee just past the bridge for our afternoon trek into the Masai Mara. We were delighted with a three-hour ride unfolding on thrill after another and culminating with a gorgeous sunset backdrop! We found a loan lioness upon her throne overlooking the river. Just fifty yards away tucked into the safety of the underbrush were several more lionesses from the pride...one was supervising dinner for the seven cubs. Each had its potion of the wildebeest and was selfishly focused on enjoying every morsel of flesh from the bones. We enjoyed their antics as they finished and romped contentedly.
Ostriches sauntered across the grasslands. Families of elephants hid in the trees and paraded across the horizon. A solitary water buffalo and then another pair paused as we neared where they drank from the puddles. A retreating hyena caught our eyes. We wandered amidst the migrating herds. We loved framing our snapshots with acacia trees or silhouetting elephants and giraffes against the multicolored majestic sunset. God rejoicing with us spread his rainbow promise across His canvass in the form of golden rays of the setting sun.
Tired and happy, we returned to the lodge. We enjoyed hot chocolate around the fire pit before a four-course meal...salad, soup, duck, mutton, white chocolate mousse!
Our sleep was sound even as the sounds of the night lullabyed us to sleep...lala salama!
Friday we awoke to a delicious breakfast buffet of Spanish omelets, potatoes, tree tomatoes, bacon, sausages, grilled mushrooms, breads, fruits, tea and coffee.
Dee already had our lunch boxes packed in the vehicle when we wound through the path lined with eight-foot high pencil cacti and crossed the bridge.
Our first sighting was of a foursome of giraffe...father guarding from a distance, mother just behind the acacia that two young nibbled. The tiniest giraffe was the one that had first caught our eye. While we sat photographing the family, we noticed élan in the background standing majestically, grazing quietly.
Our day was the crowning glory of the safari. We found six content young male lions resting in a grove of trees. We drove within ten feet of them as we circled their den looking for the best angle to capture the moment.
We followed the herd of wildebeest to the edge of the river where we sat and waited as they gathered at the edge before taking the dramatic plunge into the crocodile invested waters and climbed limberly up the opposite bank.
We watched crocodiles sunning along the river and entering the waters in anticipation of their easiest meal of the year.
We ate our picnic lunch on the Masai blankets Dee unwrapped from his body and spread under the trees at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the river. Our treasure boxes opened up, we found chicken and beef, tomato/cucumber sandwiches, juice, water, fruit and fresh rolls. Enough food for a king! Hundreds of hippopotami entertained us below as we ate. Their enormous bodies floating downstream. Their tiny legs supporting the massive weight. Their huge yawns. The young lying around and between the immense mature animals. It was certainly a sight to behold!
The afternoon drive took us past beautiful groupings of animals--climaxing with a pair of cheetahs lounging in the shade of a secluded tree deep in the tall grasses of the savanna!
We spent a relaxing time in the gathering space of the dining room journaling our experiences and relaxing before enjoying a delicious buffet dinner.
Saturday we trekked back across the savannah to the airstrip. we were delighted to stop by Dee's home...to see his village and meet his twin daughters. His wife rushed past us to hand off his "fake glasses" as if in a relay, with her eyes never scanning ours. The drive took the back roads past villages, town schools and a church. As we neared the airstrip, we spotted three grazing giraffes and a small group of water bucks heading to the river for water. Dee entertained us with a wedding song with him and Trina and a high jump. He promised five cows as dowry for her hand in marriage. AirKenya arrived and we began our marathon trip home with first a five minute hop to yet another airstrip in the Masai Mara and a thirty-five minute flight on to Nairobi Wilson Airport to meet up with Maureen for lunch at Java House and a quick trip to the Masai market for souvenirs and gifts before boarding our next flight. We'll fly from here to Dubai (6 hours) then Dubai to Dallas (16 hours) and on to Midland/Odessa (1 hour), arriving at noon on Sunday.
We have been richly blessed! WBS, KWO & GCR make a strong united work in Kenya uplifting the name of Jesus Christ to His people.