ELLE (Canada) - - Escape -

Now that I was feel­ing like a bit of a sa­fari pro, I was ready for eight hours in the Kenyan wilder­ness. My mis­sion? To see all of the big five (lion, leop­ard, rhino, ele­phant and Cape buf­falo). At this point, I’d seen all but the leop­ard, so an open-air Jeep trip would be the best way to see one, and other an­i­mals, up close. Half­way through our all-day trek, our ranger pulled the Jeep up next to a tree on the plains of the Ma­sai Mara (Kenya’s largest and most fa­mous na­tional re­serve). At first, I didn’t see any­thing. He pointed out eight lions—cubs and moth­ers—stretched out lazily in a slice of shade in the tall grasses. His abil­ity to pin­point wildlife was as­tound­ing—on an­other day, he spotted a Thom­son’s gazelle giv­ing birth when all I saw, with­out binoc­u­lars, was an inan­i­mate speck in the dis­tance. A few days later, I went on an evening sa­fari at the aptly named Ele­phant Bed­room Camp in the desert-like re­gion of Sam­buru, which is also in “leop­ard coun­try”: The rocky cliffs, caves and huge aca­cia trees make for per­fect loung­ing and hid­ing spots. Two more days of sa­faris didn’t turn up the soli­tary leop­ard, but I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed—I’d had close en­coun­ters with more ele­phants and gi­raffes than I ever could have imag­ined. Pic­ture-per­fect mo­ment: See­ing a lion cub stretch up lov­ingly to rub his head un­der his mother’s chin. h

A male lion mak­ing his way through the tall grass of the Ma­sai Mara plains

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