The theme of Day 4 of our trip, per Emmy, is baby animals, though Matt might say it was cheetah.
On Day 4, we did a 'long drive' from Cotttars' Camp into the Maasai Mara National Park. Cottars itself (and most of our adventures so far) sits in land adjacent to the park in a privately-created conservancy, where the Cottar family and others work with local residents to build an economically sustainable model of development for local residents that still respects and protects the wildlife. More on that later.
The National Park is, like parks anywhere, protected and owned by the government. It took a bit of a drive to get there, along the border with the adjoining country of Tanzania (and the Serengeti)
Once we got into the Mara, we ran into the remnants of the great migration. Each year, hundreds of thousands of herbivores (wildebeast, zebra, buffalo and more) migrate from the Serengeti into the Mara and then back again, following good grazing. Following them, of course, are the carnivores. This generally happens earlier in the year, but we caught the tail end of it, and even that was amazing. Plenty of National Geographic and BBC specials cover the event, but I can tell you that on the ground the things you notice most are the poop (everywhere!) and the flies.
We were looking today for hippos, one of the "Big Five" and our guide, Enock, did not disappoint. Enock is a local maasai and has been guiding at Cottars and elsewhere for a while. He is a Silver Level certified guide in Kenya and is taking his test for Gold level certification at the end of the month. Cottars has three other Gold level guides, the most of any safari outfitter in Kenya, and Enock is deserving of being the fourth.
He did not dissapoint, finding a large number of hippos including some babies (for Emmy) and crocodiles in the Mara river.
After the hippos, we hit the highlight of the trip so far for Matt, cheetahs. Enock found three juveniles asleep, who proceeded to wake up for us and put on a show. One went to hunt; the other two lost track of their friend (sibling?) and hunted for him. It was fascinating to watch. As an aside, it's really hard to describe how close to the wildlife you can safely get in the car. We were likely within 6 feet / 2M of these fellas, and it didn't bother them at all.
The weather has been overall really great. The camp is empty because this is post-migration and in the 'short rainy' season. All I can say is that it was a tremendous value for us and I'd reccoment others travel at the same time. There has been rain several days, but it is brief, tropical rain that doesn't really disrupt the trip, and there are still plenty of animals to see!
After returns to camp, we had dinner by ourselves in the main dining tent, right by the fireplace. William, our head waiter, and the staff sang us a great 'happy anniversary' song (at least I think....it was in Maasai) and we went to bed tired but happy in our wonderful tent.