A bright ball of light greets us in the morning.
Breakfast is a spectacular view of the Serengeti below.
They only put place settings on one side of the table for a reason. What a view.
Driving through the Serengeti, we come across two amorous Maasai ostrich. Sally Rand would have done well to study the female’s moves…almost a contortionist, she slings her great feathered wings around and dips her neck so she practically turns herself inside out.
The male, with a bright pink neck, goes through complimentary gyrations. When they move off, we move on.
Our next stop is to examine a unique tree in this area—the whistling thorn acacia. (Be sure you clearly say all three words.) This is a specific acacia species that protects itself with three-inch thorns.
However, this must not have provided enough safety, because it made another adaptation. It has other thorns that form a bulbous swelling at the branch. The trick is cocktail ants make these swollen thorns their home by burrowing holes to the inside. (So when the wind blows, the trees whistle.)
The cool thing is the ants provide the tree a second layer of defense. If there is the slightest movement, like an animal eating the leaves (or us shaking the tree to see the little critters), the ants swarm stinging the intruder with formic acid. Animals learn this is a tree to avoid.
As we leave the Mara we look back and see how the area got its name…this is the Maasai’s ancestral home and when they looked over the plains they called the area “Mara.” In their language this means spotted. This is a fitting description of the collective composition of trees, scrub, savanna, and animals we see when we take a wide view of the landscape.
Back in the wide-branched trees, we catch a glimpse of another leopard keeping watch in the crook of a tree. He’s not close to the road, but we can see this one’s eyes.
We reach another beautiful kopje where we’ll have lunch.
This is Ngong Rock. At the top of the kopje is the special rock. The rock is made of completely different material from the others in the area. Standing beside it we have a wide-open view of the Mara.
Is it a meteorite? The Maasai have used it as a musical instrument for generations. When we hit it with a stone, it sounds hollow and the indentations give off a metallic tone, like a gong. The Maasai made the indentations by making music over the centuries.
On a rock wall at the back of the kopje we also find Maasai pictographs. Some are hundreds of years old,
but others are obviously quite new.
Leaving Ngong Rock, we have a really dusty drive out of the Mara.
We stop at at Naabi Hill and walk to the top of the kopje at the edge of the Serengeti. A sign explains the Maasai called the great plain the siringet and the name of the park was born. We can see the dust as cars head out on the road to the edge of the park.
On the way to the Serengeti Sopa Lodge we pass another Maasai manyatta.
The Maasai have moved from their warrior ways to Nomadic cattle herders. They believe their rain god, “Enkai,” made them sole owners of cattle. Cattle are their form of currency and are vital to their lives, providing wealth, milk and blood for nourishment, dung to build their houses. They are also a part of their spiritual rituals.
At Sopa Lodge we’re spending the night on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. This evening we are treated to Maasai dancing. The women wear their traditional beaded collars and move so the collars dance around their necks.
The men perform their traditional jumping, each trying to outdo the other.
Tomorrow, we’ll spend the day on the crater floor!