Encounter with a Tusker – Tales from the Mara

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*This post was previously live on my other site TheWingedFork.com

The Masai Mara Game reserve in Kenya is an amazing part of nature still left mostly untouched by man. While on safari with my friends in the Mara, on the second day, my three friends and I headed out on a full day game drive with picnic lunches. We covered a lot of ground across the Mara which is a huge game reserve.  

A small antelope called Dik-dik outside the Tent in Masai Mara
Dik-dik outside my tent

The camp we were staying at, the Sarova Mara Game Camp is truly amazing. It’s right in the heart of the Mara surrounded by two streams, and there were some animals coming in freely. Here’s a dik-dik just outside my tent. They’re these really small antelope that weigh hardly 4 or 5 kgs and are almost as endearing as Bambi, albeit without the spots.

The game drive started early after breakfast. We had hardly started driving around when we came across a huge heard of Buffalo in a distance; took a few pics, and headed on.

A large herd of Buffalo on the game drive
A large herd of Buffalo

What came next was a definite surprise. There were three male cheetahs lazing about. David, our experienced driver-guide tells us that they are brothers and that males hunt in packs, whereas females hunt alone.

3 male Cheetah lazing about in the Masai Mara Reserve
3 male Cheetahs

Some deer in the distance caught their attention for a little while, but then they lost interest and sat back down. We waited and watched them for a long time before moving on.  

The 3 Cheetahs on alert looking at some deer in the distance
The 3 Cheetahs on alert

After a while, we came across some lionesses and their cubs on a rocky hill. It was exciting to see so many cubs together! The mums were relaxing in the shade, while the cubs played like Simba and Nala before heading back to rest. Yes, I had to use a Lion King reference! Those cubs were so adorable.

Lion cubs playing with an old carcass
Clubs playing with an old carcass
3 Lioness and their cubs napping in the shade at Masai Mara
3 Lionesses and their cubs napping

And while the cubs were snoozing, we were hoping to see Zazu, the hornbill bird who was King Mustafa’s most trusted advisor fly overhead. Alas, no such luck!

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But we were pleasantly surprised when a red-headed agama crawled along the rocks and looked over the sleeping lionesses. That red-headed agama or rainbow agama with its blue body and red head made up for Zazu not jumping out of that movie and into real life.

Lioness staring at a red-headed Agama, a type of lizard with a blue body and red head
Lioness staring at a red-headed Agama

By the way, did you know that the movie the Lion King was based on the life of the Lion of Mali, Sundiata Kieta who founded the mighty Malian empire in the 13th century?

Further on in the game drive, we saw a young Elephant at the side of the road, who greeted us. This baby elephant was so adorable!

After heading on we managed to catch a glimpse of a young leopard as he headed into the grass. We were quite happy as within just an hour and a half we had seen Cheetah,  Lions and a Leopard. What more could we ask for? 

Young leopard going into the bushes
Young leopard going into the bushes

We also came across a Secretary bird, Ostrichs, a Southern Hornbill, and also a Hyena. The Southern Hornbill may have been a distant cousin of Zazu, the red-billed hornbill that we were expecting earlier, but he looked so very different!

Secretary Bird in the dry grass
Why is it called a Secretary Bird?
Male and female Ostriches with baobab trees in the background
Male and female Ostriches with baobab trees in the background
Southern Ground Hornbill walking along the path in the Masai Mara reserve
Southern Ground Hornbill
A lone Hyena in the grass
A lone Hyena

Sometime later, we saw a group of lionesses just by the road under some bushes. They were so close!! We sat in silence as they walked by our land cruiser from one bush to another and also stopped for a drink of water. Their golden manes are so mesmerizing to look at!

Lioness moving from bush to bush in the Mara reserve
Lioness moving from bush to bush
Lioness drinking water from a stream
Lioness drinking water

But we journeyed on; and what came next was even better!

A huge Tusker was walking towards us right in the middle of the road. We stopped at a safe distance and watched him in awe.  

A big Tusker (elephant) ahead of us
Tusker headed toward us

Soon we realized that the Elephant was not changing his path! Hearts started beating a little faster! David, our guide backed up a bit and went to the side of the road to put some space between us and him.

Tusker still heading our way
Tusker still heading our way
We back up the vehicle as the Ele is still walking toward us
We back up as the Ele is still walking toward us

Our guide David thought the Tusker would eventually move off the road as they do not come close to vehicles, but this guy kept on walking toward us. So David backed up even more.

Eventually, we had to go off-road and around the Ele to get to the other side. As we passed him, he ‘mock charged’ at us, in a way telling us that we were on his turf! That was definitely an experience!

Going off-path around the Tusker
Going off-path around the Tusker

We stopped for lunch for a bit and then carried on with our safari. Being close to the border between Kenya and Tanzania, we stopped and took a few pics. A few steps beyond this marker is as far as I’ve gotten into Tanzania. 🙂 And it still is on my to-do list! Yeah, I know it’s called a bucket list, but I have no plans of kicking any buckets soon, so it’s still on my to-do list!

Border marker between Kenya and Tanzania
Border marker between Kenya and Tanzania
Me and our guide David taking a few steps across the border marker into Tanzania
A few steps in Serengeti, TZ

As we continued driving around, we saw some Topi and Gazelle grazing; and also a black-backed Jackal and a giraffe crossing our path.  

Topi and gazelle grazing in Masai Mara
Topi and Gazelle grazing
Black backed Jackal
Black backed Jackal
Giraffe crossed the road in front of us
Giraffe crossing the road
Giraffe stopped on the grass and looked back at us
Giraffe stopped and looked back at us

And on our way back to camp that evening, we spotted a Lion and guess what he did. He pooped in the bushes and left his mark. Reminded me of when we saw the tiger Raiyya Kasa leaving his mark in the Pench Nature Reserve in India

Lion pooping in the bushes
Lion pooping in the bushes

With so many animals, and a day ending with the king of the jungle, what more could one ask for? That’s what I’d call an amazing day in the bush!

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Pinterest image of a big tusker elephant at Masai Mara in Kenya
A lioness drinking water from a stream at Masai Mara in Kenya.
Pinterest image of a giraffe, lion, big tusker elephant and cheetahs at Masai Mara in Kenya.

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