We are often asked where our favorite place is. As anyone who travels widely knows, this is a challenging question to pin down to one place. Rikki would say in a heartbeat, “On safari!” The season, in some cases the month, is crucial to the exact “where.” It’s telling to note that during our northern winter, in late January, we returned again for a personal “vacation” at a most favorite tented camp in Africa — Little Governors’, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.
This year was fantastic — lingering with lion cubs; watching the dynamics within a group of six big male lions; cheetahs hunting; and the rewards of tracking leopard in beautiful late light. The seemingly endless plains are peppered with wildlife — giraffe, gazelles, zebras, topi, wildebeest, eland — always plenty to see, plus surprises like finding aardwolf.
Refreshed, we set off to lead our 13th annual East Africa Photo Safari. Two weeks later we returned to the “Mara” with our enthused safari travelers to share this “favorite place” with them. They were not disappointed! Like most tented camps on our itinerary, wildlife moves freely through the camp. Bordering a permanent marsh, elephants trundle through in the daytime, warthogs casually munch grasses beside our lunch tables, and hippos grunt and snort through the night. There is a classic safari charm to this experience, an intimacy with the landscape. (We’ve redesigned our 2019 itinerary to stay exclusively at deluxe luxury tented camps throughout, all in prime wildlife locations!).
The Mara is but a small part of the incredible Serengeti Plains ecosystem — the enormous and continuous grasslands stretching across a huge swath of Tanzania up into Kenya. It’s not just the millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and Thomson’s gazelles, the core of the “Great Migration,” that draw us here. A full array of wildlife, from elephants to dwarf mongoose, are found among the plains, woodlands, and granite kopjes. All this game supports healthy lion populations, excellent cheetah sightings, and many sly leopards.
The month of February is significant as we head into the southern plains, the heart of the Serengeti. The great herds of wildebeest are now congregating in the short-grasses at the peak of their calving season. Thousands of new babies are being born in this region. Newborn gazelles tenuously struggle to stand on wobbly legs, soon to be energetically bouncing about. Migrant zebra herds are here with their perky foals typically a mere month or two old. We scan the plains, always looking for what’s next. A vulture circles overhead, swooping down to grab some unidentified
remains, and more vultures follow. Hyenas prowling the plains in search of their next eating opportunity come to sniff around, shooing off the vultures. The hierarchy is clear.
We set out just before sunrise, a little sleepy, but excited. One stellar morning on this last safari we watched the birth of two wildebeest calves, and then, a little further into the game drive, we watched four different predation attempts by lions and a cheetah. That was all before lunch!
For us, this is rejuvenation. We always feel incredibly alive, excited, and blessed to be able to see it all with our own eyes.