Thursday, February 19, 2015 – Our 2 day R and R has started…

This morning we left Sopa and headed for our two night stay at the Fig Tree camp. It took us a whole day as we went on a game drive and stopped for lunch.

There was lots to see including a lion eating a zebra.  The highlight was the bush lunch – a fully catered meal along the Mara River with hippos and crocodiles in the background.

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Our two groups with our van drivers

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At the Fig Tree camp

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February 19, 2015

By Leanne Grinde

We are whittling away at our time here.  I can’t believe that it is Thursday already and we have finished all of our clinics.  Today is an all day game drive and journey to Fig Tree Tented Camp where we will spend 2 nights.

 

The first leg of our journey saw us to the border of Kenya, marked with a 6 foot pyramidal stone.  On one side of the stone was Kenya, and the other side was Tanzania.  We are all now proud to say that we have been to Kenya AND Tanzania.  Then we visited a river inhabited by hippos and crocodiles.  There were a great number of hippos.  Some were sunning themselves on the beach, while some were standing in the water with just the top of the back, eyes, ears, and nostrils exposed.  They looked so docile and cute, it is hard to imagine that these are some of the most dangerous animals in Africa.  Apparently they are responsible for many killings, even more so than crocodiles.  Speaking of which, we saw about 3 crocodiles sunning themselves on the beach.  One had its mouth open, allowing birds to come and clean the meat remnants from in between its teeth — a perfect example of mutualistic symbiosis, we all thought.  We walked along a forested path beside the river.  An armed guide led the way.  We went across a bridge and came to a clearing where the vans met us.  We hopped in the vans and started driving again, which was disappointing for most of us who thought that we were going to be eating lunch; we were becoming quite peckish.  Our driver Laurence went off the path into a spotty forest area.  Then he said “Would you like to see a snake?”  Of course, we all were eager to see a snake, and started watching the ground around us as Laurence inched the van along.  All of a sudden Laurence zipped up beside the other van and parked.  He was joking with us; we were really just stopping to eat lunch.  We all had a quick chuckle at Laurence’s antics and got out of the van.

 

Eric had arranged for a catered meal on the opposite side of the river where the crocs and hippos were.  He has done this before for many other groups.  Usually they won’t do it for just 10 people, but they made an exception for us.  We sat at little tables with beautiful white table cloths.  Some servers took our drink orders, and then we served ourselves at a decadent, hot buffet.  The meal and the setting were perfect.  We could hear the hippos, and if we walked about 20 feet to the ledge above the river, we could see them and the crocs.  Mika was enthralled with the bathroom, which was a little tent with rocks built up to make a toilet, and a little toilet seat was placed on top.

 

After lunch, we continued on.  Most of us were tired and just wanted to get to Sweet Waters so that we could take showers (some of us hadn’t taken a shower in 3 days) and relax.  However, our drivers knew that once we saw some good animals we would change our minds.  The most amazing thing that we saw today, and probably on our whole trip so far was a lioness.  As our van sped toward the seen, we watched her saunter towards a dead zebra.  Laurence assumes that she had killed the zebra a while earlier and had gone to rest.  However, with the new threat of our vans she felt it prudent to come and guard her catch.  We pulled up as she began her feast.  She began with the eyes.  Laurence told us that lions always start with the eyes and the genitalia — apparently they are the “choice cuts.”  We were so close to her, only 10 feet away.  We could her the crunching and ripping the lioness was doing with her powerful jaws.  Every once in a while she would look up at us with her big yellow eyes, but she seemed to be otherwise undisturbed.  After watching for a while, Peter’s van drove away.  Our van continued to watch.  After a few minutes, the lioness lifted her head in alarm.  Clearly, something was perturbing her.  She licked her bloody chops nervously and slowly creeped away from the zebra.  Some of us were wondering what was making her act this way.  Laurence saw that Peter’s van had pulled away a distance, and someone had gotten out of the van for a bathroom break.  The lion crouched down into a pouncing position and watched intently in the direction of Peter’s van.  Slight panic broke out in our vehicle as we feared for the person who was outside the safety of the van.  Laurence spoke over the radio, “Peter, Peter…” and continued on in Swahili.  I assume he was telling Peter to get all of his members inside the van.  For a couple of minutes we watched and listened intently.  Finally, the lioness became disinterested and returned back to her meal.  Perhaps it was because the person had returned to the van.  We discovered later that it was Charlene.  We relayed the story to her and told her how lucky she was that she didn’t end up like that zebra.

 

We drove on a little longer.  This was when we again fell victim to Laurence’s mischievous sense of humor.  Mika had chugged a few bottles of water and was badly in need of restroom facilities.  She conveyed the message to Laurence and asked when we would be at Sweet Waters.  As much as we loved seeing the lion, were were all getting tired, hungry, and yearning for a soft seat without the bumpy roads (“African Massage” as Laurence calls it).  Laurence poked his head around his seat and said in a somber voice, “Oh, it is more than an hour.  How long can you wait?  Five minutes?”  Mika reluctantly agreed.  “10 minutes?” said Laurence.  “Are you kidding?!” Mika said with despair.  “Okay, 25 minutes.  I compromise,” said Laurence with a twinkle in his eye.  Mika was getting frantic as we soon approached a building and some trees.  She was ready to go behind a bush somewhere with the lions and the snakes.  We stopped, and Laurence shuffled Mika out of the van and showed her to a washroom.  Then he said to the rest of us, “Welcome to Fig Tree Camp,” not 5 minutes after he had told us it would be more than an hour.  Laurence is fun like that.  He loves to joke and tease.  Even when we get scared by things like the lioness and Charlene, he never seems phased and is constantly adding bits of humor to the trip.

 

We walked across a long shaded bridge.  Baboons playfully jumped from branch to branch in the trees beside us.  We entered the lobby and were greeted with cool, damp towels and juice.  Our rooms are tents, all of which are on the river, giving us a clear view of any crocodiles or hippos that may be inhabiting our area.  Playful little monkeys with black faces frequently visit each of our decks and give us curious looks.  Perhaps hoping that we will feed them something.  Some of us got changed and went to the pool for a quick dip.

 

We met at 6:45pm to hear a Maasai, who is also a staff here, tell us a little bit more about the culture.  Then we sat down to supper, which was a top notch buffet.  Sleeping in the tents feels very safe and neat, sort of like being in Tarzan’s jungle.  This whole place is AMAZING!