No delay comes from delay. We have only exchanged the motto 'traveling how the wind blows' for 'going where the sun shines'. The sun shines brightly on our campsite and farm in the coming days. Two more days of rain are expected in Maasai Mara. Feline predators do not like mud between the toes. Two extra days of patience gives better wildlife experiences. Now that we cannot be beaten by his country, the farmer and large landowner, Andrew, asks us for a special activity. Chameleons are catching tonight.
Andrew invests in a new fence of his land. Nature has achieved lush plant growth in a year. The chameleons like to live in this. The bushes must make way for the new fence. The farmer wants to move the colorful lizards to another home. During the day, the special creatures artfully measure the color of the environment. That's why you don't see them. In the dark the animals visibly light up in a lamp. To catch. Lock up in a bucket. Leave free again elsewhere. It sounds simple. Spotting the discolouring animals, as the South Africans call them, remains the most difficult part. Andrew is now experienced. In his old Toyota, we drive large lamps focused on the bushes. At a distance, the farmer sees the barely ten iguana-like animal among the branches. He delegates the catching to us. As real tourists, we first capture every animal extensively on the photo before we let it disappear into the bucket. It is, after all, the first time that we have seen the chameleons in the flesh.
East Africa has been making the news for months. First through the torrential rains. Now through the subsequent locust plague. Millions of insects unite and spread quickly. They are also approaching South Kenya. Two swarms have been spotted 45 and 60 kilometers away from the farm respectively. Fortunately, they bend in a different direction. According to the farmer, the plague has taken on a catastrophic scale due to government cutbacks. Two planes, dozens of off-road vehicles and many civil servants seemed unnecessary because the country had been spared 70 years from a huge plague. Cause and effect have been confused.
Off-road driving prohibited
The heavy rains and subsequent floods have divided Maasai Mara into three separate areas. It is hardly possible to obtain reliable information about the accessibility of the various areas. We get commercially driven answers from the Maasai Mara Lodges & Camping owners. 'All roads, even the small tracks, are easily accessible'. Then they see their chance to sell a guide or game drive. At the southeast gate, the rangers know as much about the situation in the park as anyone on their first day of work. The road map, which provides more route information, has been discontinued. The paper mistakenly contained a phrase that off-road driving is allowed. The rights were claimed en masse. Those who drive off-road can count on a hefty monetary penalty. The notice board has license plates of cars that are never even allowed to enter the park again, and cars that are allowed to drive through the gate after payment of an outstanding fine.
At random we drive through Maasai Mara and see no animals larger than a chicken. Until we come across a guide who is willing to share where the Big Five animals are. Indeed, from a distance we see at least 50 tourist cars standing still. All passengers stare with cameras and binoculars at a grove directly on the path. However we look, we do not see the cheetahs hiding among the leaves. We try our luck miles away. The spotted animals are said to have been spotted there. A terrain car is cycling in the high grass along a bush. At least XNUMX meters from the road. That is undisputed when driving off-road. Fast-moving cars follow his example. The guides do everything to show their customers the animals. They will not let this last chance pass. Although the sun is warm in the high sky, the predators leave the shady center of the 'busy roundabout' in the large lawn. Looking for another place. We have never seen anything like this before. According to various studies, the wild animals in Maasai Mara behave unnatural. The animals adapt to the overwhelming amount of cars with their fearless and intrusive drivers. Unfortunately not for their natural behavior. Sad.
Stuck in the mud
Four armed soldiers in an off-road vehicle stop us. What exactly they want from us is not clear. They make it plainly known that it is not wise to drive yourself: 'You can get stuck in the mud. Then the car can only be salvaged after the rainy season. " We are not sensitive to these threatening words: "Do we look like we are just driving into impassable mud paths?" Unfortunately we have to admit within an hour that we have bluffed.
We drive on a small path along the mountains where the black rhino is sometimes spotted. It is a beautiful route. We are almost on the main road when things go wrong. We do not value the omens on the ground. Laconically, Onno drives the car through the mud without differentials. Ottoman The left rear wheel drops to the axle. The G no longer moves forward or backward. Digs deeper into it. Onno sees the opportunity to try out the unused winch. He declines help from cars rushing by. Onno is a man, after his honor to be helped. With the winch around a bunch of bushes, he smoothly pulls the G out of the mess. That gives him applause from the spectators.
A helpful guide of Indian descent points us to a lioness behind a lodge. She just hunted a warthog. Successfully. We just see her disappear among the bushes. Thirty meters from the other side of the road, at least nine off-road vehicles are circling around a grove, spinning around like a fairground carousel. Apparently the bushes also contain lions. In the absence of a better plan, we pause on the path. Soon the wait is rewarded. The lioness walks in front of our car on the road to the field. Enthusiastically, she is greeted with six cubs who have fled their bushes and are relieved to hug her. Grumbling in friendly communication, the family walks past our windshield on their way to dinner. The view of the first rank feels like justice. If you don't attack the lions in the field, they will come to you naturally.
Back to nature
We leave the Maasai Mara with mixed feelings. We have seen beautiful predators, but we are concerned about the behavior of the guides. Approaching the animals closely by off-road driving may bring a lot of tips, but it also drives the game. We hope that the tourist industry will soon make up its mind and that Maasai Mara will once again grow into a natural park.