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.
It is that time of year when we typically look back at the places that we visited, the people that we met, and the new food that we have tried. To be honest, this year was slightly better than 2020, but it certainly wasn’t what would be considered being back to normal. Obviously, the highlight of our year was the seventeen days that we spent exploring Kenya and Tanzania. Other than that, we went to Park City, Utah and went to Louisville, Kentucky as well as Washington DC and Baltimore. Definitely not nearly our normal travel schedule, but we enjoyed every opportunity that we did have. We are definitely hoping that next year is even more memorable, but we still have plenty to be thankful for as this year draws to an end. Here are a few of our top memories of the past year.
Seeing the Big Cats of East Africa – One of the things that most people look forward to when going on safari in Eastern Africa is seeing all of the big cats like lions, leopards, and cheetahs. We certainly weren’t disappointed with our encounters as we had several that were all amazing and different in many ways. Whether watching the lion cubs at play, seeing a leopard climbing up a tree, or having a cheetah jump on the hood of our Land Cruiser, seeing these animals up close was something truly special. We saw lions at almost every park that we visited, but the leopards and cheetahs were more rare to see. We know that we were very fortunate to see the amazing variety of cats, including the caracal cat, which not everyone gets to see.
Getting Locked in at a Historic Cemetery in Washington DC – It might seem odd to visit a cemetery, but they are often very beautiful, historic, and tranquil, which Oak Hill Cemetery certainly is. In fact, more than 200,000 people visit this particular historic cemetery on an annual basis and it is even possible to get a tour. We simply enjoyed walking the paths that led us amongst the tomb stones, mausoleums, and tree lined hills. It was a beautiful day and the autumn foliage made it even more wonderful to see. There was only one issue with our visit, we didn’t notice a sign at the entrance that stated that the cemetery closed at 4:30 pm and we ended up being there until 5:00 pm, so we got locked in the cemetery.
Two Magical Days in the Serengeti National Park – After spending the day in the Ngorongoro Crater, we continued north to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We would spend two nights in the park where we spend two full days driving around and seeing so many amazing sights. We would see the one missing animal to complete the Big Five as we would have several incredible encounters with leopards, whic was the only animal missing as we’d seen lions, water buffaloes, rhinos, and elephants already. We would see much more than just the big cats and we would have many encounters that were up-close and personal. The Maasai word Serengeti means “land of never ending plains”, which is certainly apt as you can see the endless grasslands in every direction that you look.
Seeing the Autumn Leaves in Park City, Utah – During the summer and autumn months in Park City, there are a few lifts that will take you into the mountains where you can have amazing views. There are less lifts available in the autumn season, but with the leaves changing, it is absolutely stunning. The scenic crescent lift is located at the adventure park with the mountain coaster, alpine slide, and other family activities. The lift is used for transporting mountain bikers and their bikes as well as hikers or those just wanting to enjoy the views to mid-mountain.
Enjoying a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Maasai Mara – One of the things that we had wanted to do during our safari was to take a hot air balloon ride over the amazing scenery of Africa. Three of the parks that we visited had balloon companies that offered balloon rides, Amboseli, Serengeti, and Maasai Mara. We decided to wait until Maasai Mara to do the balloon ride and it certainly turned out to be a magical experience. Watching the sunrise, seeing the animals, and simply gliding above the grasslands made for memories that we will never forget. Following the balloon ride was a champagne breakfast at the base of an acacia tree and then our guide picked us up to view the animals within the park.
Watching a Horse Race at the Famous Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky – During our recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky we had the opportunity to go to Churchill Downs and enjoy a day of thoroughbred racing. Churchill Downs is famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby, which is part of the “triple crown” of thoroughbred racing. The race track opened in 1875 and every race is full of pageantry and tradition. Even though it was autumn, it was a warm and sunny day making the experience even more enjoyable.
All in all, we certainly can’t complain too much about the year that we enjoyed. We don’t have any specific plans for next year as of yet as travel is still uncertain, but we are hoping that we have the opportunity for it to be at least a little bit more like it used to be. What are your plans for the upcoming year? Did you make the most of this year?