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The softness of the Mara is blanketed by the sun bleached skeletons of cows, often punctuated by complete hides covering the bones, tanned by the heat and ignored by vultures. There has been too much food available for them to rip the flesh from the remains of many of these gentle beasts herded to the Mara in search of grass and water during the drought from as far away as Mt. Kenya by their keepers.

dark sky

Along the way they dropped from exhaustion, dehydration and starvation, often walking up the steep escarpment, away from the trickle of the river. When a cow goes down, that is the end, there is no help for them and they die, eyes cast toward the billowing clouds carrying moisture that they could not reach.

Only the great beauty of the Mara savannah, the majesty of the acacia and euphorbia, the drama of the escarpment, and the constant dance of life and death taking place before one’s eyes can erase the signs of death desolation caused by the drought. The Mara is truly a heaven on Earth, the birthplace of humankind, home to the greatest predators on the planet, the most graceful grazers in plentitude, and the place that the mighty Masai and their cattle inhabit with purposeful reserve.

At our camp on the escarpment, high above the plains, almost as high as the clouds that sail over the vast grassy stretches, there was a killing at night a few weeks prior to our stay. Six tents are perched on the edge of the cliff, each hidden from the next with an unobstructed view of the sunrise over the Mara. We are a five minute walk from the dining room and that is where at night, just outside the building, a male lion grabbed a zebra and ate his fill.

drought

We were asked to call for a guard via private cell phone when walking at night, and the Masai guard would walk with us, flashlight and spear in hand. Some had handmade bow and arrow. The Masai grow up guarding their flocks from lions, cheetah, and leopards. They are tough and resolute.

We are wondering how one Masai with a spear can protect us. At night, while lying awake within the tent, one hears the soft growls of the great cats talking to each other while they prowl, the beautifully odd calls of hyena as they organize a hunt, the hilarious bellowing roar of the male hippos back at the pool calling for relief from their shift at guard while the rest of their family munches grass through the fields until morning.

It is widely acknowledged in Africa that the hippo is the most dangerous animal on the continent, killing more people than any other animal if their way back to the pool is blocked. One bite is all it takes. Their huge upper and lower teeth can cut a human in half although they use their delicate lips to forage for and eat grass.

hippo
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