Hanoi, 9 September 2018
We dropped pass the famed Mara River where we saw a bunch of Hippos chilling out on the rock, taking a dip in the river or just swimming. They are massive but extremely fast, funny looking, seemingly playful but yet the most dangerous of them all! then we saw another lion resting in a bush before our lunch stop. Under a Mara tree, Evan put down 2 picnic blanket as we rest, ate and chatted on the things we had seen in the long morning. Far beyond the ditch nearby a giraffe walked passed to his luncheon – a tree. I was told I had eagle eyes to have spotted that!
The great migration
We passed a few more giraffes (there 3 of them lazily plucking some top leave with their long necks right by the side road – I was fulfilled) then Steven howled “There now they are running!”. I looked out and saw a sea of wildebeests running in line. They ran for a bit and gathered at the end by the river. The queue was endless, blackened the horizon. So many of them! Crikey we finally saw them running, fast.
The god speed beauty
Evan got some tips from the Radio – “Guys I’m not promising but are you reading to go for a hunt? I think we may be able find a leopard”. Sure chief! Even, with his great navigation skills, guided the driver (OFF ROAD of course) through savannah and bushes. I had no clue where they were heading and how they knew where they were heading. By then all the trees looked pretty much the same. I thought they numbered the trees and learnt them all by heart! Across the meadow, a few gazelles naively trolled around and behind a shrub, strangely, a “leopard” lied. 2, 3, then 4 cars surrounded him. He was not scared. He was not bothered. He was beautiful. Small, full of rosettes, relaxed. This was a rare sight in Maasai Mara these days given the number of them had gone down significantly due to illegal hunting for their beautifully painted skin. I did my 2nd attempt with the iPhone6 x binoculars production and the photos are decent! As we were about to drive away, we noticed his change of positions, almost like preparing for a run. The gazelles were in his sight. The ferocity was not there but he wanted to play I thought. Our car blocked his view for a second and we thought he gave up the idea. We reversed slightly, the preys started to run away and he speeded through the group. Missed!. “Oh no we was too slow”, cried Steven. What on earth had I just seen I thought to myself? Like a dream comes true.
I was good with this drive, more than good. I saw many wonderful things, I got sun burnt, I was holding my w**, I thought we could really call it a day and go back to the resort or a glass of rawa (Kenyan’s own vodka based cocktail with aid of honey and lemon). But Evan kept going and going, up and down this little stream and passing these particular bushes so many time (Yes, I remembered the bushes now!). He was very keen to find something in the water. What he did not tell us!. We almost gave up when we saw a family of 5 elephants down the stream eating and drinking. A little one was very shy.
– They looked so gentle. But I’m scared of them because they are so big. – I said.
– Elephants can be very dangerous. You know they destroyed some village in Vietnam. – Steven remarked on a few years old news in Ban Me Thuat, the highland of Vietnam.
– Yes, but we did them wrong. – I lingered on that thought for a while.
Only 2 years ago, over 172 millions USD worth of tusks & horns, of 8000 elephants and 343 rhinos, were caught from illegal poaching and trading and burnt in nairobi National Park. Recently there is a media circus on WWF’s marketing scheme of a fake Ivory brand in Singapore, one of the few countries that have not banned ivory trade till today. The band received tremendous oppositions from the public, which the WWF claimed would help to pass this bill in the government.
The lost one
So that 4 out of 5 members of the “Big Five” we had seen that day. I didn’t think we’d see rhinos. There are over 1,300 of them were poached last year, mostly in South Africa.
In Spring this year, over night, a life size scupture of three rhinos, “The Last Three”, was installed in St Mark place New York City, a few block from my apartment. Sudan, the last male rhinos, died in March, leaving Najin and Fatu the last two Northern white rhinos in the world, living in conservation camp and under 24 hour armed guards. We know they are waiting their extinction long time ago as they were no longer able to reproduce.
We slowly made our way back, burnt and exhausted. The someone who said “Save the best for last” is a genius – 6 giraffes harvesting off a tall tree. So pretty and tall! If only I could adopt them all. More photos and videos!
Later at dinner, we figured out the one we saw was a cheetah, not a leopard. Can you tell the differences?
And I heard all the wild noise that night.