When we went on our eleven-day safari a couple of years ago. It was great to be able to spend so much time up-close and personal with all of the various animals. One thing that quickly became apparent was that animals of all kinds showed affection to one another. Knowing that their lives were in constant threat due to different predators, the environment, and other circumstances, it is clear that the various animals relied on each other, and families were extremely close, especially the lions.
It wasn’t just the mother’s affection for their offspring, but it was also the playful affection among the siblings and even that of their mates. It was a common theme amongst all of the different species of animals that saw throughout our time in the African grasslands. We have looked back at photographs from our safari many different times and the photographs showing the loving interactions amongst the animals are certainly some of our favorite memories. We were very fortunate to catch some truly adorable moments.
We had some amazing animal encounters during our time in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It started on the first night when we arrived in the reserve when we saw our first cheetahs. We had already seen the big five in Africa, the elephants, water buffaloes, lions, leopards, and rhinos, but seeing the cheetahs was amazing and was the last of the big cats that we were hoping to see. Obviously our animal encounters didn’t end there as we drove throughout the reserve observing many different animals. We also went to the Mara River, but since we were a couple of days ahead of the great migration, we did not see the wildebeests charging across the river. We did, however, see the crocodiles that were patiently waiting for the migration to arrive.
Once again, we saw many different lions as we drove through the park. At one point we came across a pride of lions who were eating their prey. This was third time where we saw animals that were eating as we had previously seen a leopard in a tree with a gazelle as well as a hyena and vultures fighting over the remains of an antelope. In addition to the pride of lions we also came across a large male lion that was sitting on a small hill, which we nicknamed the “King of the Hill”. He was definitely quite majestic as he sat gazing at the grasslands around him. Our close encounter with the cheetah that leapt on the hood of our Land Cruiser was certainly a highlight of our entire safari.
It was also our first time seeing topis, a type of antelope, as well as an eland, which is the world’s largest antelope. Another interesting thing that we saw as we drove through the park was large areas of ground that had been purposely burnt in order to refresh the growth of the area and to kill the bugs. The dark ground was quite a contrast to the rest of the grasslands that we saw throughout the reserve. In addition to the crocodiles at the Mara River, we also saw many hippos lounging there as well, but we understand that they would end up moving when the great migration arrived. The hippos and crocodiles basically ignored one another as they are both very dangerous animals.
In addition to the typical safari experiences that we had during our time in the Maasai Mara National Reserve we also had an amazing balloon ride and on the morning that we left to head to Lake Naivasha we visited a traditional Maasai village. By the time we reached the Maasai Mara, we had already been on safari for seven days, so we were quite settled into our safari routine of early mornings and full days driving around to see the animals. Since our camp was located in the reserve, animal encounters could occur within the grounds of the lodge, so you had to use caution when walking after dark.
The Maasai warriors, armed with bows and arrows, were there to protect the few visitors that were at the camp, although a large water buffalo camped himself outside of our tent and they had difficulty getting him to move. Also, just after we went to our tent, a leopard wandered right through the restaurant, much to the surprise of the only couple still in the restaurant at the time. To make our evening complete, the Maasai warriors also entertained us by singing traditional tribal songs and dancing amongst our dinner tables. All in all, our time in Maasai Mara was truly fascinating and enjoyable.
Egypt is definitely a fascinating country for many reasons and there are so many incredible sights to see. For most people, a trip to Egypt will start or end in the capital city of Cairo. We often think about our visit to Egypt as a tale of two trips with one being the cruise we took from Luxor to Aswan and the other being our time in Cairo itself. To make the most of your time in Cairo, it is best to spend at least 3 days traveling in and around the city. These are the top things to see during your time in Cairo.
The Giza Pyramid Complex – No visit to Cairo in Egypt would be complete without going to see the Great Pyramids. Although the Pyramid of Khufu is officially known as The Great Pyramid, the entire complex is often referred to as the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and also one of the most intact wonders and stands 481 feet tall (146.5 meters). There are actually six pyramids that make up the pyramid complex as well as the Great Sphinx.
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Taking time to tour the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is certainly a highlight of any trip to Cairo. As with many other sites in Egypt, having an Egyptologist as a guide is extremely helpful if you want to learn as much as possible during your time in the museum. There are so many items on display within the museum that it can be quite overwhelming. In addition to the sarcophaguses, papyrus hieroglyphs, and pieces of art, there are several dramatic statues housed within the museum.
Dahshur – We enjoyed seeing a wonderful variety of pyramids during our time in Cairo, but visiting Dahshur was probably one of our most interesting experiences. First, we were virtually by ourselves as we walked around the pyramids as there were less than a dozen total other visitors there during the time that we spent there. Also, since it is the site of the first smooth sided pyramids, one successful and a couple of others that weren’t successful, it is an interesting look into the learning that occurred by the ancient Egyptians to create what would later become the Great Pyramids. Dahshur is located out in a remote area of the desert, which was purposeful as they wanted the pyramids to be away from any well-traveled area.
Historic Old City Cairo – Wandering the narrow streets of the Old City of Cairo is an amazing experience that is worth making your way through the crowded streets to see. Just wandering the streets is quite exhilarating, but the highlight was taking a tour of an Ottoman era house that was built in 1648 and is in excellent condition as it was refurbished in 1997 as part of restoration project for the entire area. It can also be combined to see several historic mosques, synagogues, and churches.
Step Pyramid in Saqqara – The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an ancient pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis. It is located about an hour outside of Cairo and we toured it as part of trip to the Giza plateau. Although most people associate the pyramids of Egypt with the smooth sided Great Pyramids, step pyramids were the predecessors to such technology. There are other temples and burial grounds to be seen around the Step Pyramid, but as with Dahshur, there are not nearly as many visitors as at the Great Pyramids.
Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan – We took a tour of Islamic Cairo that included the Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan, which was truly fascinating not so much for what we saw, but more about what we learned from our guide. We wouldn’t recommend visiting without a guide unless you are familiar Sunni Islam, the history of Cairo , and the influences of the surrounding countries. Also, it is not currently a working mosque, so without someone to provide clarity on the features, it might not be as easily understood.
Sailing a Felucca on the Nile River – One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of Cairo is to enjoy a ride on a felucca on the Nile River. These sailboats have been used for transportation for hundreds of years in the region and are still quite popular today, although mainly for tourists. There are plenty of other tour boats that you can take, but if you want a truly relaxing experience, then a felucca is the best choice. It takes skill to navigate the river using these unique sails, especially since they are at the mercy of the wind.
Abu Serga Church – Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, also known as the Abu Serga Church as well as the Cavern Church, is an important historical and religious landmark in Cairo, Egypt. The church is supposed to be built on the spot where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus who were soldiers in the 4th century that were killed by the Roman Emperor Maximian and achieved martyrdom and sainthood.
Although we spent almost two weeks in Egypt, it is certainly a place where you could easily spend an entire month making your way around to all of the fascinating locations. With a history that goes back to the cradle of civilization and with so many historic sites preserved or still being excavated, the possibilities almost seem endless. Regardless of how much time you have to spend in Egypt, it is important to make the most of your time in its capital city, Cairo.