I first dreamt of visiting Africa in 1994, after watching the movie, "The Lion King". As I first saw Masai Mara in 2011, the title song from the movie was still running in my head. It was all that I had imagined and more. The first word needless to say was "Wow!". I was spellbound by the landscape. The beautifully sunlit savannas across the horizon and the acacia trees standing as lone soldiers add to an experience beyond words.
The Masai Mara, known by the locals as "The Mara". The word "Mara" in Maa (Maasai language) means "spotted". It's an apt description for the acacia trees, bushes, savannas, the dark clouds and mountains that mark this landscape.
The Mara, is a land of wonders. Bright sunlight with clear skies can change instantly into dark clouds and rain, changing the landscape into an unbelievable myriad of colors. A rainbow from horizon to horizon adds even more color to this vibrant scape.
Each year, this magic kingdom attracts more than a million wildebeests which are in search of fresh pastures. The wildebeest come from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania and cross the Mara river into Masai Mara in Kenya. One of the most dangerous encounters on their journey are the crocodiles which wait at the river to hunt them down while crossing the river. This group of wildebeest have been lucky to spot the crocodile in advance and avoid the crossing.
And for the period that the wildebeest migrate into Mara, the landscape of Mara is dramatically changed.
With the wildebeest on the move, the other animals also migrate to Mara in search of food and water.
The Topi, an antelope is one among them.
Elephants, known to migrate large distances are also on the move constantly in search of food and water.
When food and water are available in abundance, one tends to get playful. These young Zebras blossoming in the Savannas are no exception.
This amorous Waterbuck couple has slightly different priorities, courtship it seems is first on the list.
With so much food around and lionesses doing most of the hunting, its not surprising that the African Lion rests most of the day, sometimes as much as 20 hours. Even the sight of food to this Lion is hardly appealing.
Occasionally they do lift their eyebrows a little to satisfy their curiosity of surrounding world, but not for too long.
The Lion has its pride do most of the work, the other predators aren't as lucky. The Leopard which hunts alone, has to come down its lofty abode to hunt
Leopards are mostly ambush predators and in the thick Savannas it's extremely difficult even for the trained eyes to spot them at times.
While there are those who hunt and work hard for their food, the White backed vultures of Mara are on among the scavengers. They wait carefully near a kill and when the hunters are done with the meal, they take over.
The hunters are not always hunting for themselves. Some have families to feed. Like this Cheetah mother and her four cubs. The little fur-balls almost get lost under the mother's belly.
Feeding hungry calves can be quite demanding. This mother has to keep herself well-nourished so she can provide for the young one well.
Feeding the young ones though is a tough job, the hardest task is to keep them safe from other animals. The Olive Baboons, are among the more vigilant parents in the animal kingdom.
As the sun starts to set in the Mara, more stories unfold. A lone wildebeest goes in search of its herd
A Secretary bird gets back to its nest on the acacia tree
And a Thomson Gazelle keeps a look out on the horizon
As the day ends, I wonder to myself about the life of the amazing Masai tribe that have made this place their home. The Masai tribe showcases a rich cultural heritage which they have long protected and preserved.
Though most people in the village can speak English, their way of living still remains same and thereby sustainable. They rear cattle, which provides them food and clothing. And the houses are still made of mud, sticks and cow-dung
The Mara men were once famous for killing Lions. Killing of a Lion was a pre-requisite to getting married to a girl. Now those practices have been put to a stop by Park authorities. The hunting has almost completely stopped, but the attire remains.
The Masai Mara is among the most diverse, rich and fragile ecosystems of our planet. Like all ecosystems that face threats today, the Mara has also been under severe pressure from increased human settlements. The ungulate population has been reported to have been decreasing. The Mara Conservancy has been a great collaboration that has had some amazing success in curbing poaching in the area. The Black Rhino which was almost pushed to the verge of extinction is now slowly making its way back. While we face many threats to our ecosystem everyday, such stories can only fill us with hope.