The chirp of hyenas outside was actually a restful serenade, and we slept fitfully. The bed was nice and warm and very comfortable.
As previously arranged, Mauren bid us good morning from outside at 6:00 and we could hear him filling the reservoirs for the showers with hot water. We foolishly declined his offer to bring us hot tea, which we paid for when we showered.
As soon as we got out of bed, we felt the chill. When we disrobed and went through the flap into the enclosed shower area, we felt the cold. The showers consisted of bags of water suspended over a slotted wooden platform. Turning the tap released a marginal flow of hot water that felt good where it hit, but amplified the chill where it did not. I showered quickly and dressed hastily. So far we had yet to experience that legendary African heat.
We strolled over to the center of camp where a table had been laid out in the area where we had had dinner. Breakfast consisted of muffins, mueslix, yogurt, some melon, and Mauren took our order for eggs. I asked for a cheese omelet, but what I got was an omelet with onion, fruit, and perhaps carrots in it, with slices of cheese on top. I tried it, but I was starting to notice that the cooking was onion intensive, so I mention to Mauren that we did not care for onions.
Anthony arrived with the vehicle, and we set out with a picnic lunch in tow, for our first full day game drive. Shortly out of camp, we came upon a fresh wildebeest carcass with only a small wound in the side and one partially consumed leg. Anthony hypothesized that it might have been the work of 2 or 3 male cheetahs, and we took off off road to try and find them.
We didn’t find the cheetahs, but we did find a pair of lionesses atop a tall rock, more lions lazing on a tree covered hill, and pair of leopards mating! Seeing leopards at all is rare. Seeing them going through their mating ritual is momentous. The female would goad the male until he responded. Afterward, which takes literally ten seconds, he would go off and lie down to sleep. As we watched, this happened every fifteen minutes or so.
Anthony said that he had only witnessed leopards mating three times in seven years as a guide. He said they repeat that cycle for several days. The big cats have low ovulation, so it takes many tries to produce offspring.
Using the awesome pictures I got of them, Anthony was able to identify the male as one he had seen in that spot before. The only way to identify leopards is to note specific spot patterns. The male we were watch had three spots on the right side of his nose. He suggested comparing the spots of the other leopards we had photographed when we returned to camp.
After the leopards, we headed toward the Mara River to hopefully witness the crossing of a herd of about 2000 wildebeest. Along the way, we passed a large gathering of hippopotami in the river, and a few giant crocodiles on the banks.
We drove to a spot at a bend in the river overlooking the gathering of wildebeest on the peninsula rise above the opposite bank. They gathered on one place. Then one would move in one direction. Then a couple more followed. Then the whole herd went. They went to the right along the bank. They went to the left along the bank. They went to the other side of the peninsula. They came back to the side facing us.
Anthony said wildebeest were dumb as a box of rocks. They follow the scent of rain, even if it takes them into the desert where they starve. Since it was still raining in what should have been the dry season, they had no impetus to move on.
Other vehicles would move up and down our side of the bank with the herd. Anthony suggested that we have lunch while waiting for them to make a decision. He set up the folding camp table with the table cloth and unpacked the buffet of fried chicken, marinated red cabbage, some vegetables, and a flat bread. It was very tasty, and we enjoyed it while watching the herd vacillate. After two hours, we decided to give up and look for cheetah and rhinos.
We searched all afternoon, but there were no signs of either creature. I did get pictures of crocodiles, eagles, jackals, lots of hippopotami, a tortoise, more giraffes, and a couple of other animals.
I was still feeling a little off, so when Anthony asked what drinks we wanted on arrival at camp, I asked for ginger ale, which Mauren was waiting with along with the usual wet towel for wiping off the dust. We asked him for some tea in our tent and hot water for showers.
We went to our tent and Mauren brought the tea, which we enjoyed while waiting for the shower water. Then I had a restorative nap. When I awoke, I felt a lot better. We dressed and called Mauren for an escort to the lounge tent as it was now dark.
We were led to seats around the fire on the cleared area for Bush TV and discussed the plan for the next day with Anthony. We would focus on cheetah and rhino. We told him that the river crossing was not worth waiting another two hours on our last day. We would leave at 8:00, but since we were showering in the afternoon, we would get up at 7:00, breakfast at 7:30, and take a picnic lunch to stay out all day again.
We were joined by the new arrivals, Louis and Jill from Salt Lake City, and Gui and Irene from Toronto. They were both retired couples and very friendly. Like Bill and JoBeth, they had all gone to multiple countries as well. We traded experiences until dinner time, when we were each taken to a private table around the camp fire.
Dinner consisted of excellent mushroom soup, beef filet, and rice. After the entree was cleared, the staff started singing from the darkness, and the danced around the other tables to ours, where they circled us and sang a Happy Anniversary song, delivered a cake to us, and continued with a cut the cake song. Louis joined in the dancing. The other guests shook my hand and wished us a happy anniversary.
I cut the cake for Steph and I and it was very tasty. We were moved by the gesture. I was going to offer some to the other guests, but they had already gone to bed. We resolved to share it with Anthony at lunch the next day. We were escorted back to our tent and went to bed.