Before arriving in Kenya, if we ever asked Ella what she was going to see in Africa, she would happily reply, "Elephants, zebras, lions." Well, my dear Ella, you were absolutely right. This past weekend, we had the grand opportunity to travel to Masai Mara, a game park in southern Kenya, where we embarked on our very first safari. I'm quite sure it won't be the last. That makes me happy.
Today's photos were taken during our first game drive while staying at the beautiful Ngerende Island Lodge. Shortly after our arrival Friday afternoon, all four of us climbed into a huge, open-sided Land Cruiser with our Masai driver, Leng. Leng drove us for nearly three hours in search of creatures big and small.
The first was big. Giraffes average a height of 17 feet. This beauty was in a group of four, but we saw many during our drives. They are incredible to watch, moving with such grace dispite their size.
Leng had incredible vision for seeing wildlife long before we did and would drive us right up next to animals. Apparently, the animals saw our vehicle as one big beast, not as individual people inside, and didn't mind having us near. It was incredible.
There were roads in a few places, but we mostly stayed off them, driving as close to the tree line as possible. Whether on roads or not, the driving was intense. We splashed through small rivers and mud, climbed over steep hills, and squeezed between leafy trees. Ella loved it.
From far in the distance, we saw trees shake and approached in hopes of finding something moving amidst them. Indeed, we did. She was near a small river. As we sat watching her, we discovered two more in the trees behind her.
Ella was thrilled. She loves elephants. She often says to me, "Elephant, just like Ella. Ella Elephant. They're the same, Mommy." I adore this photo. She was giddy.
Leng took us to a spot where we could drive through the river and wrap around behind the place we had seen the elephants. After squeezing through trees that I was sure we wouldn't get through, we found this beauty.
Soon, more arrived.
There were eight elephants in all. Each came up over a small hill into view, cautiously looked at us as they got closer, and quickly skirted past into the trees. I think our ginormous Land Cruiser made them nervous.
We continued to drive, scanning the ground beneath the trees for any signs of lions. They nap during the day, within the safety of the trees, and go into the open spaces in the evening to hunt. Somehow, we found these two sleepy lionesses.
We parked right next to them. I mean, right next to them. Seven or eight feet. They didn't seem to mind in the least.
After they wandered toward the plain, we headed out for more discoveries. Eventually, we found the lionesses again! Ella was thrilled.
While we were stopped near the lionesses, I looked out into the long grass on the plain and saw a lion's head peeking our way. When I looked back, though, he was gone. We were told that's how they hide to catch prey. Leng had caught sight of the big guy and drove us straight out to him.
He sat up but paid very little attention to us, even though we were sitting two feet from him.
No joke. Two feet. You can see our shadow.
He eventually grew tired of our presence and wandered off. He was truly beautiful.
As he walked away, we noticed a rainbow far in the distance. Rainbows will always remind me of God's promises. How wonderful to see one across the African plain, the very place that we feel God has called us. His promises are good.
What a first day we had! I have many more photos, but it's getting late and I must be off to bed. Please come back for more of our Masai Mara adventure in the next day or two. We love sharing our adventures with you!