Maasai Mara in Kenya, Africa

Maasai Mara, the very popular national park in Kenya, was the last stop in my African safari adventure. I saw plenty of wild animals especially big cats..  We even managed to catch sight of the elusive leopard!

After landing on the air strip and settling in my room, I went for an evening game drive where we spotted a family of lions!! That made my day.

DSC01655

DSC01668

DSC01742

Funny and so relatable scene was when the cubs tried playing with the dad, he roared.

DSC01769

Roar

DSC01683

Yawn

We started a full day game drive the next day, hoping to spot the famous wildebeest migration. I didn’t get to see it though.. With the rains in Mara, they apparently changed their minds and the crossing was empty by the time we got there. That didn’t bother me much.. I heard so much about how the area starts to look like a crazy parking lot during the migration that I was pretty relieved.

The day was still as adventurous as any :)

DSC01957

Vultures scavenging dead Zebra

DSC01982

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

This is one of my favorite pictures.. I can imagine myself standing tall and taking in.

DSC02035

We spotted the very dangerous hippos near the mara river basin.

DSC02063

DSC02070
Finally spotted some cheetahs. The very graceful creature has black tear marks around the eyes (and that is how I am going to remember to distinguish between a cheetah and a leopard).
DSC02090

Cheetahs don’t hunt zebras since they are not as strong as a lion and zebras have really strong legs. I am not sure what this guy was thinking here but he did give a tiny chase and gave up.  I would have loved to see it run..

DSC02095

Should I dare?

DSC02122

Cheetahs – mother and her two sons

We spotted a cheetah devouring a gazelle and I managed to catch some good bloody pictures. Cheetahs are known to only eat their own fresh kills unlike hyenas or even lions who don’t mind making a meal out of some other predator’s kills. If you like watching movies with the man-and-animal-friendship theme, I would recommend watching Duma.. heartwarming and simple.

DSC02145

Hyenas are plenty in Maasai Mara. I could hear them cackling while sleeping in my tent. Apparently, a baby hyena is a rare sight and this seems to be few days old.

DSC02157

Now that we are talking about babies.. take a look at this baby elephant.

DSC02190

I never thought how beautiful plains can look. The endless yellow plains of Mara is one of the most visually stunning landscapes I have seen. I still remember the very bumpy drive back to our tent in the stormy rainy weather.. it was the most beautiful, reflective journey and I hope I can relive this again.

DSC02170

DSC02203

Wildebeests walking in a single file in the storm

DSC02209

My day was about to end and my guide was taking the route to drop me off. I had given up hope of catching sight of the elusive and shy leopard. A few minutes away from our next stop, we started hearing monkeys shouting. Our knowledgeable guide immediately pointed out there is a leopard around and the shouts are alarm calls given by monkeys alerting each other. The photos are very shaky but here is one. I was told we were very lucky to spot one.

DSC02214

My last day in Africa started with an early morning game drive. I was really excited to catch the sunrise and it was as beautiful as I thought it would be.

DSC02232

This post has been few months late in coming but I am surprised how its all fresh in my mind. How I still really want to be back there again. I am sure there are plenty of experiences I haven’t witnessed but being out in the wild is exhilarating and makes you realize how there is so much more in this world than just you and me.

Advertisements

Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, South India

In December 2012, during my visit to India, mom and I hiked inside the Periyar forest in Thekkady, famous for its wild-life especially tigers and elephants.

Periyar forest

Day 1 was a short 2 hour 5 mile hike with a forest-guide.

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The guide mentioned that bears were the most dangerous since they tend to charge at you as part of their defense mechanism; whereas elephants and tigers keep distance. Well (un)fortunately we only spotted bisons, tiger scratch marks and elephant poop. And I am not kidding, that was fun too!

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot 'They are their own enemy'.

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot ‘They are their own worst enemy’.

Spot the worm

Spot the worm

Bison. They like to stare

Bison. They like to stare

Day 2 was a trek+bamboo-rafting group adventure deeper into the forest with some forest guides and a gunman.

I finally got to see the beautiful Periyar lake – a man-made lake with a dam, built during the British colonial rule.

Periyar Lake

The lake submerged all the trees in its path and their stems now stick out when its not too deep.

And yay! We spotted an elephant :)

Elephant

Noon pastime. Playing with water and mud.

Deer skull

Deer skull

Elephant jaw bone.

Elephant jaw bone. You can guess the age by counting the number of teeth.

Tigers are the most difficult animal to spot within the forest. There are cameras inside to track them and the estimated number as of now is around 45. Well, we did manage to see their footprints.

Tiger footprint. I was glad I could spot something of this beast.

Tiger footprint.

Finally, I found the spirit of the forest-rangers, naturalists, locals very touching and inspiring. Over the years they have overcome the problem of poaching and now they actively take part in it’s conservation.