Governor's Camp the Maasai Mara, Kenya

August 12 to August 15



Check In



We arrived at the airstrip early.  The group, with whom we had travelled with for the last week, would split up today.  About half of us were on our way to Governor's Camp, while the others would return to Nairobi to head home, or on to other tours or camps.






 We made our good-byes, wishing our new friends safe travels.  We then set off for "check in and boarding".  Our group would board 11 passenger Cessna Caravans for the hour flight to the Mara.


Baggage Check


Governor's Air







This visit to Governor's Camp was the reason we decided to make this trip.  Jacqui has been leading this tour for a number of years.  She usually extends her stay at Governor's after the group leaves.












This is where she has seen and photographed all of the animals she used to sell us on the trip.  She is well known here and should be considered a part of the staff.  Upon arriving, it was obvious how highly they regard Jacqui by the number of staff who hugged her and welcomed her home.






We arrived just in time for lunch which is set out on the grass above the Mara River.  We were joined for lunch by a giraffe.  It seems that there is nothing unusual about that.

t
Lunch?



Governor's Camp






During our three night stay at Governor's we planned to enjoy at least two Game Drives a day, and a morning Hot Air Ballon Safari.  A full and anticipated itinerary.

Governor's Camp is located within the vast Maasai Mara Reserve.  Neighbors include the Tanzania's Serengeti Reserve.  The two are separated by the Mara River.  We had hoped that our visit would coincide with the great migration where vast herds of hoofed animals cross the river into the Serengeti.  The thing is, it is impossible to "schedule" the migration.  While we did not see vast herds of zebra, wildebeest and impala crossing the River, we were in no way disappointed.

Shortly after we arrived, we met Duncan.  Duncan is Jacqui's good friend and guide.  He would be our guide for our stay.  We were fortunate.  Taking nothing away from the other guides at Governor's Camp, Duncan had an ability to put our jeep where the animals were going to be, rather than staying where they were.


All of these guides are impressive.  And Governor's is not the only outfitter on the Reserve.  There are other camps and safari operators, as well as "freelancers".  If you see 25 or so jeeps gathered around a tree, bush, or a river you are assured that one of the "Big Five" are close by.  Many of these guides collaborate, and share information in order to give us "clients" the best possible experiences.






Duncan, rather than just joining all of the other vehicles, would wait and watch.  Often he would look where others were not looking.  Then using his knowledge and experience he would drive to a spot where a lion, or leopard would appear, and walk past the jeep.  Soon to be joined by other guides.






Once while watching four of the six "warriors" along with about a dozen other jeeps, Duncan spotted a lone male lion, walking into some brush, about a mile away.  Driving there we were treated to this big guy settling into the shade for a rest.  It also created the opportunity to see a lone bull elephant at a watering hole.  Everyone else was still jockeying for position around the group of lions a mile away.














Duncan's kindness, humor, insight and experience helped to make this trip.  It would not have been the same without him.



Governor's differs from Sweetwaters in that it is located on a Reserve.  Meaning that they don't fence animals out of the accommodations.  Upon arriving we were instructed that we shouldn't walk about the grounds at night, without an escort.  A variety of animals will move through the camp at will.  In the morning, we would hear reports of a lion, hippo or elephant walking though camp last night.








The deck for the bar sits above the Mara River.  At any given time you would see a dozen Hippopotamus cooling in the river.  The Hippo is considered the most dangerous large animal in Africa.  From the river, they have free run of the camp.









Here is the drill to move about after sunset, and before sunrise.  After dinner and drinks, ask a guard to walk you home.  They will have a flashlight and usually a rifle.  From your tent, flash your flashlight and they will come to your tent to walk you to your jeep for your early morning game drive.  Durning the day, these guards still patrol the grounds, though you can walk around on your own.



















Governor's offers a variety of game drives and you will typically do two a day.  We generally would do a morning drive, to include a "bush breakfast".  You would leave very early and forgo the buffet style breakfast, returning for a buffet style lunch around 1PM.  Your breakfast would be picnic style set out on the hood of your jeep.









With Duncan, Jacqui, Rick and Kim

After lunch and a nap.  You would head out again at about 3PM and stay out until night fall.  By government regulation, Governor's, nor other outfitters, offer night game drives.

After returning from the afternoon drive, you retire to the bar to enjoy drinks with your fellow travelers.  Drinks are followed by dinner, where you order off of the nights menu.


Kim and Rick
Speaking of friends, we met many wonderful people on our trip.  We had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Rick, and spent many of our game drives with them.  They are both marathoners from Colorado.  Jacqui wanted us to meet them.  She had done several Marathon Tours with them, and she knew that Steff and I would like them very much.  She was right.  They spend their time between Durango and Colorado Springs, and were excellent traveling companions.  Again, our new life style offers us the opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of many great people.


The service was similar to, if not better than Sweetwaters.  Each tent was assigned a porter, and you often were served by the same waiter.  Our porter was a quiet man, and I am sorry not to have learned his name.  My waiter was William.  Also quiet, and very attentive.

One morning, I found myself to be under the weather, and chose to stay in camp.  Upon hearing of my unsettled stomach, William prescribed soda water and bitters.  A drink I requested for the remainder of our stay.  Throughout the day, our porter would bring tea to the tent, and enquire if I should like to see the camp doctor.  I am sure the attentions of both sped my recovery.

Maasai Manyatta



While I convalesced, Steff enjoyed a game drive that included a vist to a Maasai Manyatta.  There she got a view into the lives of the Maasai.






Balloon Safari



Mara River Ferry


One morning, our game drive was replaced with a Hot Air Balloon Safari.  This entailed rising very early, to jeep over to Little Governor's Camp.  There we hopped on a small boat, where we were ferried over the Mara River.  It was dark.  Very dark, and we were encouraged too keep our arms and legs inside the boat because of the crocodiles.  







On the other side of the bank we were escorted by armed rangers to a large field where we checked in, and watched as five balloons were being readied.





We were divided into groups of twelve to each ballon and given a safety briefing by Graham, our pilot.  After we took our assigned places on board, we lifted off into the sunrise on the Mara.



While I did take some pictures, this is one of those times when you choose to either compose photographs to look at later, or to stop and enjoy the experience.  I would suggest that you just enjoy the experience.

Graham, our pilot

Hyena Family



We floated with the wind, rising or dropping a bit to manage our direction and speed.  We floated over open grassland, where zebra and a variety of antelope were grazing.  We passed over browsing elephants, hippo and giraffe.  Crossing the Mara river several times, we saw both hippo and crocodiles lounging in the river.

Croc from Above


The crocodiles here are massive, the one photo I have of one in the river was taken from about a hundred feet from above.  Another, pointed out to me from the bar patio in camp took me a while to recognize.  I had mistaken it for a large tree and stump that had washed up onto the bank of the Mara.  It's head and body were nearly as wide as our game drive jeep.  William explained that they wait down stream for a baby hippo to float by.





We floated for over an hour, enjoying the quiet morning.  We could see small groups of animals in every direction we looked.  We carried on until it was time to land for our champagne breakfast.




Balloon Crew






Now, landing in a balloon is nothing more than a planned crash landing.  All passengers are seated in a "brace" position.  Depending upon where you sit in the balloon, you will end up either on your back or on your face.  You are moving forward as fast as the wind is moving, and you will bounce as high as the termite mounds you basket is being dragged across.  A skilled pilot will bring you to a safe stop after two or three bounces.  Graham was a skilled pilot.








After being assisted, one by one, out of the balloon you were seated for a breakfast on the open savannah of the Mara.  Every convenience was provided, and the breakfast was superb.  We toasted our ride with champagne and sidled up to the made to order pancake bar.



The experience was incomparable and I could have spent the entire day floating, but there was the afternoon game drive to get too!


Game Drives



Our Game Drives would not have been what they were without Duncan.  We would tell him what we would like to see, and then he would find it.  Not unexpectedly, we wanted to see big cats.














The most elusive of these is the Leopard.  Jacqui had told us that it wasn't until the last year or so that she had ever seen one here.  She hesitated to guarantee a Leopard sighting.

Duncan found three on our first game drive.  A female was reported to be sleeping in a small copes of trees near a creek.  Jeeps would jockey for position so that their riders, with long lensed cameras could snap photos of the top of an ear, and her spots showing through the leaves.  There were some twenty jeeps crowded around, with more arriving by the minute.











Duncan told us that this was a female with two sub-adult cubs.  He believed that the cubs were in the trees along the river.

He began looking towards where everyone else was not.  Suspecting the cubs were on the move, he moved our jeep to a spot away from the female.  He suggested we watch a clearing just opposite from where he had parked.



In a moment one of the cubs appeared.  We only saw the one, but watched as he moved up the creek.

A short time later, Duncan learned that the mother was on the move.  He first headed along the river to be ahead of her in the direction that she was walking.  While we did spot her, she soon disappeared into the creek bottom.  Duncan quickly drove the jeep to the opposite side of the creek, again anticipating that we would be ahead of her.  She emerged from the creek just were Duncan had stopped the jeep.  We sat and watched as she easily moved within feet past us, and began looking to the open grassy plain beyond us, and all of the antelope there.  It was getting close to dinner time.







On another drive, Duncan knew of a Lioness with two young cubs.  Yaya had set up among the bushes and trees along a small creek.  He felt certain that we would see her there.  We were just leaving the area when we spotted her.  She was dragging back an Impala that she had taken down.  Duncan said that now, we would see the cubs.  He was correct.  We watched as the two cubs played with the kill.  We were close enough to hear bones cracking as they began to eat.















The most productive predator on the Mara is the Spotted Hyena.  There are several reasons for this.  They are fast and powerful and will hunt individually as well as in large family groups.  Additionally, they don't wait for their prey, often a Topi or a Wildebeest, to be dead before they began feeding.  Because of this their kills tend to be bloody.











We observed a small family group.  Duncan commented on the color difference between the adults.  He pointed out that the rust colored fur on one of the adults, was not due to pigmentation of the fur.  The animal, most likely a female, showed the results of a recent kill.







Topi
Several times Duncan pointed out what these drivers call the "Mixed Grill".  He was referring to the combined herds of Buffalo, Zebra, Topi, Impala Wildebeest, and Gazelle that move across the land.  These are the supply chain for the higher level predators.  











Topi - "Yellow Socks and Blue Jeans"




A quarter of migrating animals will not survive the journey



Wildebeest



Mixed Grill
At one point, we saw five lions within 50 yards of this mixed grill.  While many of these animals continued to graze, there were a few that kept an eye on the lions.  Duncan explained that these animals group up for their safety.  Some have better hearing, or eyesight to warn the herd of trouble.  Others are stronger and willing to fight off an attack, there by warning of danger.  They all warn of danger by running.  What is certain is that these large predators survive.  Unfortunately, the biggest threat to any of these animals are humans.  Duncan did remind us though, that once we were out of and away from the jeeps that we had become part of this "Mixed Grill".



Monitor Lizzard





They don't look dangerous, do they?


Birds

Birds are everywhere.  Some of the more interesting were the Storks, Ibis, and the buzzards and vultures.  The largest of course is the Ostrich.











On our last morning Game Drive, we were entertained by five of the "six warriors".  Duncan explained that the six warriors were a confederation of males, looking to establish themselves in a pride.  We first encountered them on the Topi plain, walking through the tall grass.  One of the males had taken an interest in a lioness.  He would closely follow her as she walked along.  Three of his brothers followed some distance back.



I observed that male lions, at least these three, are extremely lazy.  They would arouse themselves from a short nap, stand up, yawn, stretch, and began to plod along, following the amorous couple.  After slowly walking for about five minutes each of the three, in turn, would drop to the ground as if shot, and fall asleep.  These boys would act like the last five minutes of walking was the most difficult endeavor ever attempted, and would crash to the ground for a much needed rest.









These boys would walk around the gathered jeeps as if they weren't there.  All five lions gathered at the base of a tree.  There the loving couple mated and the entire group fell fast asleep, dead to the world.














It was from this group that Duncan spotted the fifth male from the Six Warriors.  He explained that he believed that the one warrior whom we had not seen, was Yaya's mate and the father of her two cubs.  He suspected that he was near Yaya, some what removed from where we were watching this pride.

There are several lion prides on the Mara.  Duncan said that there is the Marsh Pride, the Topi Pride, and the Paradise Pride.  For readers on FaceBook you can follow activities with these lions on The Marsh Pride of Lions, and the Governor's Camp home pages.

And just like that it was time to leave.  We needed to shower and pack for our return home.  The trip entailed a a chartered flight to Nairobi.  Dinner and drinks at the airport for an overnight flight to London.  A long layover, followed by a flight to Seattle, and then a short hop to Spokane and back to where AIROSMITH was waiting in northern Idaho.

It also meant saying good-bye to the friends we had met along the way.  Those in Africa, and those whom we met and got to know during this adventure of a lifetime.









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