MAASAI MARA, Kenya, Jan 30 – Koffi peers at us nonchalantly as he munches at his breakfast quite at peace with his beautiful environment. Sharing the breakfast is his mother who cannot hide her disdain at our audacity to walk in on the mother-child moment unannounced.
It’s a wet and chilly morning at the Mara Game Reserve. Koffi is the beautiful baby rhino who was born in this park when the eminent African personality from Ghana came to save us from ourselves.
“He is as gentle as a lamb,” his keeper, a Kenya Wildlife Service warden informs us. Amazingly, I manage to get close enough to Koffi to pose for a photograph with him.
A year down the line it’s a real pleasure to be in the company of this one-year-old rhino who will always be a reminder of the kind of politics that should never be practiced in this country.
My visit to Koffi’s home is a culmination of a morning’s game drive that has been interesting, dramatic, and unforgettable to say the least. It all began with an early wake up call by my room attendant at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, delivered with a nice pot of hot tea.
This was followed by a jolly ‘jambo’ greeting from every hotel attendant I met on my walk to the van that was going to take me for the drive .The friendliness and warmth of the Fairmont employees is one plus you cannot ignore in your stay with them. It’s almost infectious; it actually makes me wonder whether I act the same while at my place of work. Hmmmm…..food for thought.
Anyway, Jeremiah the tour guide was eagerly waiting to impress us with the intrigues of this ‘wonder of the world’. He readily welcomes us on board with the pleasant announcement that unlike yesterday’s wet and cold evening drive, he had warm blankets for us this morning. How pleasantly thoughtful, I think to myself.
The game drive begins with a slow start but under the skillful hands of Jeremiah. Driving through this park after a wet night is not for any car or driver. The dexterous maneuvering required can only be achieved by somebody who is familiar with the terrain.
A crackling voice on the van’s radio indicating that a number of ‘vichwas’ (heads) have been sighted manages to bring my still-sleepy mind back to reality. In park language the word ‘vichwa’ stands for lions.
Jeremiah quickly steers the van to the direction of the kings of the jungle. Initially we come across two that seem to have just completed a sumptuous breakfast and are restfully sipping on some water from a paddle in the park. As we click away at these two, a fleet of vans is gathering around another site so we quickly proceed to see what is happening there.
The sight is something to behold. Mr Lion is tearing down his morning kill and watching close by are a jackal and a hyena eagerly waiting to jump onto this feast. However Mr Lion is not going to let them in easily. We all watch, fascinated, with cameras clicking away, but my mind swiftly drifts to the number of tourists in the park despite news of dwindling visitors as a result of the global economic crisis, which makes people classify watching ‘an animal eating another’ as a ‘luxury’.
On our ride back to the hotel, we come a cross a lion couple who were about to begin a ‘harusi’ (wedding) – which basically means mating. Unfortunately, as we unashamedly wait to watch the ‘event’ the now shy couple veers deeper into the bushes. But our guide is keen to explain to us that a lions’ mating process takes seven days and the couple even forfeits food for the period. After a successful ‘mission’ the lioness is required to make a kill and feed the lion who then leaves the territory.
Despite a beautiful and eventful drive it does feel good to see the gates of the hotel. More so the sight of the Fairmont hostess with a set of warm towels welcoming us back. Nice. Very nice.
Next week, I will take you through the recently refurbished Fairmont Mara Safari Club. For now, please allow me to grab a cup of tea.