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.
Ecuador is such a wonderful country in South America with so many different places to see and explore. It is a country made up of three distinct ecosystems from the coast, the peaks of the Andes Mountains, and the dense Amazon Rainforest. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is centrally located, making it the perfect location to start any adventure. Ideally, any visit to Ecuador would last for at least two weeks, but if you don’t have that much time, you’re going to have make some difficult decisions. During our trip, we made sure to make the most of our time there, but we had to decide whether we wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands or spend time in the Amazon Rainforest as we didn’t have time to do both. For an ideal trip to Ecuador, here are the top places to see during your time there.
Quito – The city of Quito has a wonderful, old-world feel that will almost make you feel as if you are in Europe. There is the Basilica del Voto Nacional, San Francisco Church and Monastery, and an old town area that is very walkable. Even if you are heading the coast or the rainforest to see the wildlife, you should certainly allocate several days to spend in Quito.
Napo Wildlife Center – For an experience in the Amazon Rainforest that you will never forget, staying at the eco-lodges of the Napo Wildlife Center cannot be beat. From giant river otters, hundreds of birds, monkeys, sloths, caiman, and more, there is so much to see during time in the jungle. Also, visiting an indigenous village as well as seeing hundreds of parrots at the parrot clay licks is extremely impressive. You will need to spend at least four to five days in order to really make the most of your time in the Amazon.
The Equator – Going to the middle of the earth is a fascinating experience and the Intiñan Museum at the true equator has a variety of interesting science experiments. It is fun for adults and children alike. There is also a very interesting museum, La Mitad del Mundo, that is at the location previously thought to be the equator and it can be seen during the same trip to the real equator.
Laguna Quilotoa – Visiting this lake in the crater of a dormant volcano is one of the most spectacular sights within Ecuador. It is certainly worth taking the time to hike down to the lake itself or you can ride a donkey down and back up if you want as it is quite steep. You can also kayak out onto the sulfur lake, but you can’t go swimming.
The Teleferico – Located on the outskirts of Quito, the Teleferico is a cable car that will take you up the side of the Pichincha Volcano with amazing views of the city. There also several hiking trails after the cable car drops you off at the viewing station. It is at a very high elevation, so it is wise to pace yourself if you do decide to go hiking. It is certainly worth the effort as the views are absolutely amazing.
Cotopaxi Volcano – Hiking on an active volcano may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but is certainly a very interesting experience. At this time, you can only climb to the mid-station on the side of the volcano due to the fact that it is an active volcano and the risk for an eruption remains high. There is also a park with nature trails located at the base of the volcano that is certainly worth taking the time to hike as well.
The Galapagos Islands – Unfortunately we had to choose between spending time in the Amazon or going to the Galapagos Islands, so we’ll have to return at a later time to see the amazing wildlife that is there. The tour company that we used provided us an interesting article on the animals of the Galapagos that certainly has us wanting to return.
When we first decided to go to Ecuador, we were surprised at how little we actually had seen or read about this fascinating country. There is certainly an abundance of things to see in Ecuador and we used Quito as our home base for our time there. From an abundance of wildlife and dramatic scenery to the historic city of Quito, Ecuador definitely has something for everyone and is a gem of South America.