This post details the experience of Troy Haas, CEO of Brownell Travel, and his family during a 17-day Safari in East Africa. Troy, his children Amelia, Cottrell and Margret, take turns blogging about their “best vacation ever.”
TROY: These parks are really all quite different. The lush grass (pre migration time) in the Mara is a very green contrast to the dry lakebed of Amboseli and the dusty warmth of Samburu. The Mara is also much larger, so it takes a bit more driving to find the game. But it is amazingly abundant! Zebra, various antelope, wildebeest, elephant and giraffe….all will be in an area together with a big predator that they are watching but not running from. The vehicles here are open sided, which is great. It does take getting used to having a lion 20 feet away, and no barrier between you, however. It is amazing how they don’t see you as prey if you are in the vehicle.
Olonana is a delightful place! Our tents are huge and luxurious, and the setting over the river and all the hippos is beautiful and serene. Except when the hippos start grunting, especially their morning wake up calls. The food here is the best yet, and we are again struck by the superb service and warm smiles of our African hosts.
COTTRELL (Age 17):
Editor’s Note: The content of this post could be offensive to our sensitive readers. If you’re not interested in the gruesome details (only a teenage boy could recount with such stomach-turning precision) of a true Darwinian experience, you may want to skip ahead to the next post!
When we ventured to Africa for a family vacation, there were many things this teenage boy wanted to witness, the top of the list being witnessing an animal hunt and kill another in the wild. I got everything I wanted to see and more. On the second day of our tour of the Masai Mara reservation, our guide Joseph woke us up at an unthinkable hour to take us to the other side of the park where the grass had been burned, allowing for short, fertile grass to attract grazers, and, most importantly, high visibility of cheetahs.
In just a few minutes after reaching cheetah territory we spotted a mother and daughter, strolling through the grasslands with all the animals in a 100 yard vicinity staring straight at them. We began to follow these cheetahs as they looked for an unsuspecting victim. As we mounted the hill about thirty feet behind them, we see the daughter perk up. She had spotted an sleeping Oribi antelope fifty feet away. The Oribi was awakened by its neighbor and leaped to run away… but it was too late. The cheetah was already accelerating to top speed. As they flew down into the valley about 75 yards away, the cheetah made first contact, but the Oribi had turned at the perfect moment to escape being form tackled… for the moment. With another quick burst of speed the cheetah locked onto the buttocks of the antelope and rolled with it to the ground. After quickly leaping to pin its throat, the mother began to eat the antelope’s hind-quarters. Only ten minutes after beginning to eat, the vultures began to appear.
With one came three and with three came five until there were more than fifty vultures circling overhead and hopping around the mother and daughter. The daughter would have none of it. While the mother protected the kill, the daughter made a lunge at the vultures, instantly gaining respect, and allowing herself another five minutes of feasting. After the pair had their fill they finally relented and allowed the vultures to eat the corpse. The following ten seconds were unbelievable. The vultures swarmed and devoured almost the entirety of the corpse.
The next two events were my favorite. First, the large vulture picked up the left ear with his claw, snipped it off with its beak, and ate it in one gulp. The next event was, without a doubt, the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen that wasn’t on a football field or involving bungie jumping. The vulture went straight for the eyeball. The vulture stabbed its beak into the socket, causing the eye to pop and shoot a geyser of eyeball…material flying in the air. After the rest of the body was picked clean, the vultures all flew away, leaving the body of the antelope that had been sprinting for its life 45 minutes before, totally unrecognizable.