Monday, 20 February 2012

Maasai Mara Day One


Jambo Benjamin Franklin
Immediately after Ramzaan and Eid, we set out on our next safari. It would be Maasai Mara – the most touristic of all destinations in Kenya. The widely publicised wildebeest and zebra migration had already begun by June. Our trip being in early September, we were not likely to catch the actual migration, but it was still the peak season. The rains were very much in Kenya and we hoped that we would be able to spot the wildebeests while they were still around. Since the Maasai Mara National Reserve (not a national park) covers some 1,510 sq km or 583 sq miles, it was not advisable to go in our own car – it would not be possible for first timers to cover that much area and have any meaningful sightings. So we chose a travel agent to provide a driver and a vehicle for the safari (rather down selected a travel agent from a list of names based on time to respond to my requests for information and quotes – and does it come as a surprise that the selected agent is a Mhindi).

Maasai Mara is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers a total of 25,000 sq km (9,700 sq miles) in Tanzania and Kenya (so it is comparatively a small part in Kenya, the larger spread is in Tanzania). What is the migration all about – I try to get some details (all I could recollect from the documentaries that I had watched were bits and pieces; in spite of channels airing them pretty regularly). Mara-Serengeti has a vegetation of wooded grassland, in other words scattered or grouped trees with a canopy cover of 10-40%, with uneven rainfall across the area. By May, the grass in Serengeti has been grazed so low that the plains’ game have to move. Around 350,000 Thomson's gazelles; 97,000 topis; 12,000 elands; 200,000 zebras and most famously a million or so wildebeests begin to migrate towards the lush grasslands of Mara – crossing over to Kenya (apparently nobody notified the ungulates when the imperial powers drew the boundary) creating the largest mammal migration in the world. By November, Mara plains begin to fail. But down in Serengeti, rain is now beginning again; so the huge herds must trek back once more. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by hungry predators: primarily lions and hyaenas.

Need less to say with all the animal counts in my head, I was bubbling with enthusiasm on the appointed day. The van arrived early in the morning. With a baby, we were not too keen to rush things and delayed the start to around 8.30 AM. The van ride was one of the USPs of the safari. All travel operators have the same kind of vans with flexible roofs that can go up and down; usually up while on safari to allow good angles for sighting and photography for standing passengers. The vans are also equipped with wireless radios; all operators tuning in to one of the two or three available frequencies. It was not long before we understood how the entire tourism system works in Kenya. All drivers collectively ensure that no tourist goes back without having his fill of game drives. The moment a driver spots something big, before the tourists on the van have set their eyes on it; the update is broadcast to all, so that other drivers may then take advantage of the information. Whenever two cars would meet, the drivers would invariably exchange notes. 

Post salamu with Robert, our driver, we settled down in the van. I was much surprised to find Benjamin Franklin greeting us, peeping sideways out of a hundred USD currency note hung from the central rear-view mirror. Well Robert certainly had his priorities right; I imagined he would any day prefer to have Wazungu as his passengers over the “money conscious” Wahindi! (Singular Mzungu literally translates to "aimless wanderer” referring to early European explorers.)

Shakes and Wobbles
We set off on our journey and approximately after one and half hours we reached the rift valley view point, where we had a stop over. We ignored the boys calling us to the curio shops and immersed ourselves straight into the stunning layered view - green vegetation with the thorny trees; brown hills shaded black where the clouds had blocked the light and the infinite blue sky, dotted with the snowy whites – where one could imagine every form and shape. Contrasting against the natural background however were giant white satellite dishes – well we have to agree that the placement (in order to best transmit and receive signals) could not have been better!
Satellite dishes in the midst of wilderness
Adi’s focus was the pebble-studded ground and soon enough he had all his pockets filled up. When it was time to load back in the car, Aamir had to lift up a vehemently protesting Adi; who was more interested in continuing with his stone collection. After around one hour of travel from the rift valley view point, we reached Narok town. With a population of around 40,000 people - mostly Maasai; Narok is the district capital of the Narok County and stands as the major centre of commerce in the district. The shops along with the way indicated that the businesses were very much with Wahindi and non-Maasai communities.

If you look at Kenya road ways map, you would find that the pukka road ends at Narok. The white space between Narok and Maasai Mara in the map translated to two hours (or probably more) of bone rattling jerky ride – with Robert by experience actually pressing on the accelerator instead of slowing down. For Adi, it meant something else – being rocked by the intense vibration it was time to catch up on some sleep! Maasai Mara reserve is managed by Narok County Council and with approximately 290,000 tourists per year bringing in an estimated 10 billion Ksh annually, the state of the road certainly raises some eyebrows – though of course armed with prior information every body comes prepared to shake and wobble along the way. The landscape outside also seemed to be equally depressing - dry and dusty with construction rubble scattered along the way. After a period which felt like an eternity, the landscape did change. Straying herds of wildebeest and zebras were visible by then, which instantly cheered me up - the reserve could not be too far away. All throughout the journey, the wireless radio was switched on - Robert was being constantly updated on happenings all around Kenya (per him, guides covering as far as the coast were tuned in to his frequency).

At the entrance of the reserve, before Robert could stop the car, we were flocked by Maasai women dressed in red trying to sell their wares (by now Adi can also recognise Maasai from their characteristic red dress and the way they wear their shawls over their torsos). The Maasai soon realised that there was little business to be had from resident Wahindi (who could bargain at Nairobi Maasai market for the same stuff), and instead turned their attention on the numerous Wazungu around. The business of gate passes taken care of, we proceeded to Mara Sarova Lodge. The scenic lodge with soothing greens all around felt very welcoming after the bumpy ride. Adi was pleased to stretch out his legs – after being constrained for most part of the last five and half hours. He jumped with glee when he saw a female dik-dik, a small antelope with attractive eyes and a zik-zik alarm call which we never heard, loitering inside the lodge. He chased her and her mate, whom we spotted soon after, whenever he got a chance for the next two and half days. He was very disappointed at the fact that they kept running away from him. Our luxury tent (which is a zipped tent over a protected raised floor with separation for the room and bathroom – it was more of luxury than tent actually) overlooked a thicket of entangled trees. To enjoy the lovely weather from the garden chair listening to birds merrily chirping away – what more can one ask for? There was no stopping Adi however; he was in his exploring best, restless to survey the open expanses all around.

Wildebeests, Wildebeests and More Wildebeests
We started out around three thirty for our safari. Robert had put the van roof up by then, enabling us to have splendid views of the savannah. The outspread plains (the widest that we have seen so far) left us wide eyed – eyes sweeping to capture them till the point where they meet the mountains sprinkled with trees. "Mara" is Maa (Maasai language) for "spotted"; an apt description for the circles of trees, shrubs, boulders and cloud shadows that mark the area. So why does this land have so many grasses and so few trees? My research tells me that about five million years ago (humans were in East Africa by then), the rift below opened and lava gushed out, volcanoes erupted blasting ash and rock debris over a huge area. Layer upon layer of volcanic ash settled over the plains, forming a flat skin of ash. Over time, rainfall has leached the surface layers so as to form a hardpan that is impenetrable to plant roots; preventing the growth of trees but enabling colonisation by a sward of shallow rooted grasses.

We did not have to go too far to spot wildebeests (Kiswahili nyumbu ya montu) – in fact hundreds of them, who knows may be thousands. They were just about everywhere our eyes could go for the next two days. When we peered a little more in the distance, we found that the black spots far away were nothing but more wildebeests. Although I had all the numbers in my head from my prior research, I was still bowled over by the sight of so many of them. The name wildebeest comes from Dutch or Africaans implying wild cow. Well the white bearded animal not only resembles a cow, it is more a medley with the front of a cow/ox (certainly the curved horns), goat like face from side profile (the profile view also showing black vertical stripes on the body), antelope from behind (which is disproportionately slender compared to the heavily built front) and horse like mane and tail (which are black). They looked like awkward and stubborn creatures, some even daring to hold their fort in front our approaching car. At some point, I enquired with Robert about the sound that these creatures make. That is when he stopped the wireless radio for only a couple of minutes and we could hear the real jungle sounds for the very first time while in the van. The wildebeests were constantly mooing similar to what cows do; in fact they are also called gnus because their call sounds like gnu gnu. Robert also told us that the elephants feel disturbed by the racket these wild cows make and prefer to move to the interior when the latter are around.
Wildebeest with a zebra in the background
Every aspect of the wildebeest behaviour seems to be driven by the numbers they operate in and the fact that they have to be on the go all round the year. Amazingly about 80 percent of the females calve within the same 2- to 3-week period (birthing takes place in Tanzania), creating an excessive supply for predators and thus enabling more calves to survive the crucial first few weeks. A young baby can run with the herd at the age of five minutes and is able to outrun a lioness soon thereafter! A remarkable feature of their wanderings is their ability to repeatedly find areas of good grazing, no matter how far apart. They have been designed by evolution to travel large distances very quickly and economically, apparently requiring no more energy to run a certain distance than to trudge along at walking pace. They are relentless in their advance and will swim rivers and lakes in such huge masses that many are injured, lost (especially in the case of calves) or killed. By late evening, we saw that the animals were preparing themselves for their sleep – some were already sitting on the ground together in formations. They sleep on the ground in rows; the group providing the security in numbers, at the same time allowing them space to run in case of an emergency.

There was a time when our car (and two more cars in the opposite direction) was blocking the advance of a group of more than hundred wildebeests. The cars stopped immediately to let the animals pass. But wildebeests on our right paused, trying to think of a plan to join their friends on our left. Suddenly a lone wildebeest mustered the courage and charged to cross the road in front of our car. Then somebody else followed him and soon enough there was a huge file of animals charging to cross the road – one of them deciding he would go next. We imagined that is how they would be crossing the Mara river as they migrate from Tanzania to Kenya. And then one wildebeest decided to do something different. He started a charge, crossing the road behind our car; to be followed by others within no time. So now there were two files – one ahead and one behind us. Eventually the wildebeests decided that the route behind us was safer since it was flanked by cars on only one side (as against the one ahead of us being flanked by cars on both sides) and everybody shifted to that file. One can rely on nature to keep us astonished forever. And as a testimony of the beasts’ migration, when my friends visited Masai Mara in December, they were able to spot probably only two or three wildebeests – everybody had decided by then that Serengeti was the place to be in. That did help the elephants to come out in the open though.

With so many wildebeests grazing on them, I wondered how grasslands manage to survive. Later researching on this, I found out that the answer lies in the facts that the animals do not stay long enough and the grasses themselves can withstand considerable punishment. The plants spread by both seeds and horizontal stems along the surface. They survive the drought of the dry season and yet burst into growth within hours of rainfall. In fact if left ungrazed, the species composition of the grasslands would change, with taller grasses competing out the shorter ones!

Friends with Wild Cows
The wildebeests are not the only ones who migrate, there are others who come before and after them – the zebras and the Thomson's gazelles. With their staggering numbers (modest when compared to wildebeest though), they are certainly not hard to spot. How do all of these grazers manage to co-exist without competing for the same grass? The answer is quite simple: even when feeding off the same sort of grass, animals tend to select different portions. The razor-sharp teeth of zebra enable them to bite through the stems of the taller grasses whereas the wide muzzles of wildebeest are well suited to mowing of the short grasses. Gazelles have pointed muzzles adapted to select the youngest shoots. And to top it all, the grazing succession helps each one of them. Migratory population is led by zebras that select grass stems. Zebra feeding tends to increase the frequency of leaves; thereby increasing the suitability of the vegetation for the following wildebeests. In turn wildebeest affect the composition of vegetation, favouring its use by gazelles that select small plants other than grasses. Nature does ensure that one gets exactly what he needs and every part of the environment is utilised.
Thomson's gazelle

Zebras

Follow the King
Like all other travel guides, Robert’s primary objective during our safari was to ensure that we did not go back without spotting a sizable number (not sure what is the benchmark though) of lions. I guess he felt anything less would a blemish on his track record (probably experience has taught him that more the number of lions, the heftier the tip). So whenever the wireless radio called out a simba, our car was on the king’s trail. On first such chase, before we saw the lions, we saw a bunch of at least thirty topis (Kiswahili nyamera) standing in attention, ears alert, eyes staring out of elongated black faces, dark reddish brown bodies tensed, they would have straightened their ringed horns as well if they were able to - all looking intently in one direction. This was the first time we were meeting these patchy antelopes (dark patches in the face, lower shoulders and upper hind legs). Adi was quick to act out antelope ‘hop hop hop’ with his hands when he saw them. 

Following the gaze of topis, we spotted a male lion with his lioness, both sleeping sideways on the ground (sleep and inactivity being the favourite past times for about twenty hours a day). We understood the assembly of topis was in deference to his and her majesties; keeping vigil from a safe distance. Interestingly the lions had found shade under trees which grew out of boulders. No wonder; since trapped water collects in the clefts of boulders and combined with both wind-blown soil and eroded rock; tree seeds are able to take root there. Thus the boulders often become islands of contrasting vegetation, and hence animals, in the surrounding area of grass. The siesta was constantly being interrupted by flies hovering above, the lions’ attempts to shoo them away having no impact what so ever. Well king or not, the flies definitely had the upper hand in this match. Robert took the car really close to the lions – off the designated road (since the reserve is under the county council, the wildlife officials have less say there, and I guess that is the reason for liberties taken by the drivers) but did not stay off track for too long, since otherwise he may get caught. Also all the drivers give other cars a chance for close photography, hence do not stretch beyond a point. We had our share of the lion and lioness from near to our hearts' content – the one male lion that we had spotted before that was in Nakuru National Park and he was quite far away. I have lost count of how many lions we eventually saw over the next two days, by all means more than twenty – right from bachelors with light mane to old males and females with cubs – sometimes single and sometimes in prides. With Robert’s help, everytime we tried to guess the age of males from the colour and extent of the mane - the rule of thumb is: the darker and fuller the mane, the healthier the lion.
Topi with Thomson's gazelles in the background
Lion

Day of Firsts
It was a day of many first sightings and in continuation of the same trend; we saw a secretary bird (not sure if there is a Kiswahili name, in some website I found the name as karani which essentially means clerk). A striking bird of prey with an eagle-like body on long crane-like legs, long tapering tail, bright red face, black wings and thighs against grey body colour; it was walking solitary true to its reputation. It gets its name from its crest of long feathers that look like the quill pens nineteenth century office workers used to tuck behind their ears. Its mate for life must have been walking somewhere not too far away - although we did not spot it. A piece of trivia: the bird is the national emblem of North Sudan as well as a prominent feature on the coat of arms of South Africa.

We cruised past more and some more wildebeests. And then in an area devoid of other animals, we saw a female cheetah (Kiswahili duma; again another first in the wild), most probably an expecting mother, resting on our left, facing us. I started pointing out to Adi its small head with black tear lines curving down to the mouth, light yellowish brown body dotted with near uniform round black spots (and hence the name derived from Sanskrit Chitrakaaya, meaning speckled) and long spotted tail with black rings ending in a white tip. With its slender body, long legs and flexible spine, the cheetah commands awe – it achieves by far the fastest land speed of any living animal. It stalks its prey, mostly gazelles, and then accelerates for the final sprint lasting for around 20 seconds - 5500 m or 3.4 miles at an average speed of 72 km per hour or 45 mph. It can switch direction and twist and turn with remarkable agility for an animal of its size. I have read that some experts think the present cheetah populations were derived from inbreeding by those very few surviving and closely related animals from last ice age (about 10,000 years ago). This inbreeding led to the present state of cheetah genetics: all cheetahs alive today appear to be as closely related as identical twins! The fear is that since they are so similar, all of them may be equally susceptible to something like a deadly virus; unlike other species who have gene diversity – where at least some would be able to fight out the virus. We had barely begun to admire the graceful cheetah licking itself all over when we realised the spectacle was attracting audience – Robert being the informer. With so much attention, the cheetah turned its back on the approaching tourist vans. I thought to myself "you may have a big fan following now, mamma; but we were the first to spot you – face to face, eye ball to eye ball".
Cheetah - note the tear lines
Then we spotted some handsome sturdy elands holding their ground amidst overwhelming majority of wildebeests. Further ahead in an area where there were no wildebeests, we spotted a herd of elephants (Kiswahili tembo or ndovu) led by the matriarch, adults protecting the young by positioning them in between. It was our first sighting of the gigantic African or Savanna elephants. These largest land animals are much bigger than their Indian cousins. They are larger in all aspects: fuller more rounded heads, bigger African map like ears and bigger tusks. With their high intelligence and social nature, it was fun to watch the group as they grazed together and played with each other.
African elephant with Africa map like ears

The Carrion Eaters
We went on further, and caught a glimpse of dog like black-backed jackal (Kiswahili mbweha nyukundu or mbweha shaba; a first sighting again) who was fast moving away from us – all we could see were the pointed ears, black saddle narrowing towards tail base and the blackish tail. My friends who visited Mara in December were extremely fortunate to witness two of these jackals hunting down a Thomson’s gazelle.
Black-backed jackal
Next in the chain of carrion eaters (the black-backed jackal also eats decaying flesh) came Ruppell’s Griffon vultures (Kiswahili tumbusi mbuga, needless to say a first sighting) with scaly white and black feathers sitting on the ground, along with a marabou stork. Being world's highest-flying birds, these vultures commonly fly at altitudes ranging up to 6,000 m (20,000 ft). They have a specialised variant of a protein with high affinity for oxygen, which allows them to take up oxygen efficiently despite the low partial pressure in the upper troposphere! Patient as they are, they will wait, several days if necessary, until a carnivore leaves a carcass. After the most attractive soft parts of a carcass have been consumed, they will continue with the hide, and even the bones, gorging themselves until they can barely fly – certainly not the ones to bet on an optimistic tomorrow! With scavengers around, we tried to spot anything of interest near by, to my disappointment there were none. The social vultures were taking a break I guess, merely enjoying the sun together, using the powerful bills only for self grooming.

As we were moving away from the vultures point, Robert suddenly stopped the car. There was a spotted hyaena (Kiswahili fisi or nyangao; hyena without ‘a’ seems to be a shortened Americanised version of the spelling, I hate to repeat myself but here was another first) on our right barely five meters away, glaring at us, eyes shining in the fading light, prominent rounded ears held up. Due to its loathsome reputation (most notably as the hyaena trio in Lion King), I felt an involuntary shudder in my spine as I looked at it (although it seems that in ancient Egypt they were domesticated, fattened and eaten!) But the truth is as part of (female controlled) clans; with a skull that can weigh over 3 kgs, a heart almost twenty times the relative size of a lion, and the strongest jaws amongst the carnivores; it competes with the lion as the ‘supreme predator’ in the savannah. Another myth buster: the hyaenas are actually more closely related to cats than dogs; their closest relative is in fact the aardwolf. Truly opportunistic and non fussy feeders, with inbuilt grinder and crusher inside their mouths, both hunters and scavengers, food preservers (under ground) for a later date; they can eat anything from hunted animals (including bone, skin and hair), carrion, vegetable matter, other animals' droppings, dead of their own species, recently buried bodies, campers’ aluminium pots and pans and their own vomit – with such wide ranging menu options, I bet they never go hungry. The hyaena also reminded me of the well known 'laughs' (actually used to alert other clan members up to three miles away of a food source) and blood curdling howls; I think I felt a sense of relief when we finally moved away from it.

What a Way to End the Day
The radio by then had called out another simba, it was only a matter of time before we spotted a lioness resting on the ground, enjoying the breeze, even yawning once. Her tail could not rest though – it had to attend to its constant business of chasing away flies. Guided by the radio, we went further for sighting of a cheetah which was concealed behind bushes. It was almost impossible to see it; it was only with the help of Robert’s sharp eyes that we could make it out (I always marvelled at how Robert could see things far away unaided; whereas we always had a challenge spotting the same things even with binoculars). There was as usual a gathering near the big cats – poor creatures, they had no privacy whatsoever.

I spotted a colourful dazzling bird - later identified as a European Roller - towards my side and asked Robert to stop immediately. In our pursuit for big cats, these are the finer nuances that we miss out on. The jungles are bustling with birds; hard to capture indeed – but the reward is worth every milisecond of the invested time.

As we moved on, a mamma ostrich peered at us, with eyes said to be the largest of any land vertebrate! With its long legs and long neck, it somehow reminds me of a giraffe. It would certainly not be a pretty feeling to get a kick from the powerful legs of the largest living bird (they do kick hard when they feel threatened). With two toed legs, they have the ability to run at a steady speed of 50 km per hour (31 mph) and when pursued by predators can sometimes reach maximum speeds of about 70 km per hour (43 mph), the top land speed of any bird or two legged creature. It is really more animal like than bird like with its meat tasting similar to lean beef and skin being used for leather products. Did you know - lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles to grind food (seeds, shrubs, grass, fruits, flowers and occasionally insects) in the stomach; an adult carries about 1 kg of stones in its stomach! Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand; instead when lying down and hiding from predators, the birds lay their heads and necks flat on the ground, making them appear as a mound of earth from a distance. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs (and by extension, the yolk is the largest single cell), though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird. After my research I know why the mamma has brown and papa has black colour. The eggs are incubated by the females by day, blending in with the background and by the males during night, nearly undetectable by then. Somebody surely has the entire game plan sorted out in his head!
Common ostrich - the brown indicates female
Time for simba viewing again – a pride this time, at least two lionesses with at least five cubs; most of the group were hiding behind shrubs and trees. Unlike most wild felids, lions are very socially inclined. Lionesses in a pride cooperate in raising and suckling of the young – nursing mothers allow any young to suckle from them. The lionesses actually also try to synchronise the timing of the births; this avoids a situation where older cubs bully younger ones to threaten the latter’s survival!

Then came the prize of the day – a leopard (Kiswahili chui). Accomplished climber and lonely as it is famed to be, we found the powerfully built animal curled, sleeping solitary up on a tree – barely visible in the dim late evening light. Again Robert took us very close - just under the tree - for a few minutes, careful not to overstep the limits set by wild life officials by too far. It was almost time for the sleeping beauty to wake up. Since the leopard is primarily a nocturnal animal, one has to be super lucky to spot it. I wondered if it had taken any kill up the tree, certainly the place had many others who could come anytime sniffing a carcass. The leopard is frightening with its speed approaching 58 km per hour (36 mph), its ability to leap over 6 m (20 ft) horizontally and up to 3 m (9.8 ft) vertically, and its notorious ability for stealth. Earlier I used to be confused between a leopard and a cheetah, but on closer look it is not too difficult to spot the differences. The leopard is heavier and the markings all over its body are not spots but rosettes – in the shape of rose petals (and of course it does not have cheetah’s trade mark tear lines).

It was time to go back now; the park hours being over long back (again Robert knew exactly how much to stretch). Back at our luxury tent, we found a spread mosquito net (Aamir dislikes the feeling of being inside one so much that we have rarely used one so far; relying instead on electric repellents and odomos), the luxury of hot water bags (the night did turn chilly) and without our asking, a baby cot ready in our room. Adi knew instantly that the last item was something to avoid, being in the habit of always sleeping in the same bed with us (thank God we are not in Norway where this would be perceived as an abnormality on the part of the parents). Adi refused to have anything to do with the baby cot, he could not even be persuaded to sit on it for a few minutes. After freshening up, we went for dinner. Adi the artist was in full drawing spree on those days and he agreed to be seated at the dining table only if he had pens and paper. The attention seeker that he is, he would turn to every waiter and manager to show off the cars that he had drawn, the waiters having to keep up with the supply of paper. The dinner was followed by a cultural program, and we saw Maasai dance for the first time (since then though, we have witnessed plenty of times) with the dancers singing the folk tunes and simultaneously giving the beat (unaided by any percussion instrument).

Back in the cosy tent, I reflected on the day – the adjectives that came to my mind were fantastic, incredible. It was indeed a fantastic and incredible feeling to live the Maasai Mara dream. Robert had a guide book on birds, which I had borrowed for the night so that I could get the names of some of the birds that we had spotted that day. I realised that I was handicapped on a safari without books to refer to and updated my Nairobi shopping checklist immediately. By now I am equipped with photographic guides on birds, mammals, wild flowers and common trees of East Africa – it is a vast difference to actually know about what I see. There was another need that we deeply felt on our trip to Maasai Mara. The Canon PowerShot SD1000 had served us very well when shooting pictures with a baby around – it was handy to carry and quick to click without much hassle; but we felt severely disadvantaged by its only 3x zoom on a safari. By now we have a Sony DSC-HX100V with its 30x optimal zoom, but sometimes it does not seem enough either – we wish we had more! Dead tired, I closed my eyes; my ears still awake to the noisy rustling of the leaves in the breeze outside. My thoughts were on what was in store for us the day after – what all firsts that we will see, and before I knew I was happily lost in my dreams.

PS Some of our photos are available here:

Primary References (have lost track of the other numerous pages that I have surfed over the internet):
1. A Traveller’s Guide to Wildflowers and Common Trees of East Africa by David J Allen
2. Daryl & Sharna Balfour, professional photographers on Great Migration: http://www.maasaimara.com/the-mara/great-migration
3. Wikipedia - just cannot survive without it.

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