By Tom Reissmann in Munich, Germany
Photo Credit : www.thesafaricompany.co.za
I was invited by the safari company Gamewatchers to film their camps in the Selenkay Conservancy. I’d heard so much about the Maasai Mara and couldn’t believe that one of my dreams of seeing wildlife in the African bush would finally come true.
On our arrival, the local Maasai greeted us enthusiastically and performed a traditional dance for us. The Maasai tribe actually owns and operates the conservancy, so profits are shared and access is restricted to Gamewatchers participants, which makes for a truly exclusive and tranquil experience. Our guides were all locals who had grown up in the area and held a wealth of information. They were truly enthusiastic about sharing their insights and love for the animals and the country.
Early the next morning, we went out onto a wildlife safari in an open 4WD. With Kilimanjaro towering in the background, we watched giraffes, ostriches, eagles, and plenty of other wildlife parade in front of us. It was hard not to be filming all the time, because every shot was almost iconic. But I really needed to appreciate the scenery through my own eyes. The most amazing part was that we were completely on our own; there wasn’t another vehicle in sight.
Once we arrived at the wetlands, the amount of wildlife was truly astonishing. Since we were in the dry season, all the animals flocked to the water. But the most impressive were the elephants; they wandered across the road right in front of us and we witnessed three generations of elephants in the group. I felt truly privileged to be in their presence, and the sight of snow-capped Kilimanjaro in the background made for a shot that would remain with me for life. We also managed to get close to a lioness with her cubs, as well as a family of hyenas.
For me, though, the most amazing experience was probably seeing the cheetahs. It’s well known that these cats are among the most endangered species in Africa, which is probably due to the fact that they mostly hunt alone. Even though they are by far the fastest cats, with maximum speeds of 110km/h, hunting requires a lot of energy and sometimes they miss their prey. Not only are cheetah cubs prey to birds, but also other cats, such as leopards and lions, who will kill cheetah cubs to eliminate the competition. I was simply stunned and overjoyed when we got close to a cheetah mother with six cubs. My guide told me that just a couple of days ago one cub was dragged off by a leopard who then entered a fight with a lion. During the scuffle, a local ranger was able to retrieve the cub and return it to its mother. Apparently it’s a cat-eat-cat world out there.
One of my favorite rituals during my time in Kenya was the so-called sundowner. We were given a generous portion of gin and tonic, while watching the sunset over the plains, dotted with elephants, giraffes, kudu, and gazelles.
Back at the camp, I was always amazed to find a hot shower in the middle of the bush, already prepared, after which we would settle in for a delicious hot meal and a cold beer, before retiring to a comfortable bed in our perms-tents. It really was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken.