Of course, we’re not quite ready to leave for our return flight; we’ve returned with enough time to allow us a long and leisurely lunch, with possibly one or two more tusker beers. With many of the residents out on Safari we initially have the restaurant to ourselves, and as I review some of the photos from the day, a number of the staff, who have been waiting in the wings sidle over to examine the shots. It’s truly touching that even though these people get to see these animals each day, they’re all excited to see the photographs, each have their own favourite animals and each want to talk about them. If the shoe had been on the other foot, I don’t think they would get the same response out of staff in the UK, though I might be doing the later a disservice!
Reluctantly, with lunch over, we collect our gear and head out to our awaiting vehicle where Sammy and Patrick are waiting for us. We bid the Patrick a fond farewell as he won’t be accompanying us to the plane and then we’re off, driving down the long driveway, bushes either side of us, to the sentry guarded Main Gate. We make our way up and over the nearby hill towards the spot we hunted for cheetah, all the time scanning all around for once last wildlife encounter.
We see our first and last wildebeest, a pair, unlike last year when they number in their tens of thousands but that’s not the spectacle we’re looking for (to use that old Jedi mind trick). We’re in unfamiliar territory now speeding along on relatively smooth roads, up ahead a jeep is parked so we slow down as we approach it. We’re on an incline, grass short grazed by the local’s cattle and bushes providing cover for a herd of Thomson Gazelle though this isn’t what the other vehicle is watching. Hiding in amongst the foliage is a cheetah, fully alert, poised, intent on its quarry who seem totally unaware of its presence. We all scrabble in our bags to try and retrieve any available camera gear as Sammy parks up, and switches the engine off, informing us we have around 5 minutes before we need to head off to the airfield. The finely honed muscles on the cheetah are taught like piano strings, and it would appear we might well see the animals’ own symphony of movement take place before our very eyes. Just as we think it’s about to make its approach, the animal relaxes again and starts to look nonchalantly around, we all breathe out… and then it’s on the move again, slinking from bush to bush remaining hidden from its quarry. Sammy informs us that it is working as a pair and that its partner in the hunt will be moving into position to drive the Gazelles towards the one we’re watching. We wait a few minutes more, hoping that the scene before us will explode into life, but the big cats are taking their time… time, unfortunately which we don’t have – we have a plane to catch and so reluctantly we have to leave this encounter, cursing under our breath as we do so at our misfortunes. Ah well, another time perhaps.
The plane is waiting for us, and as soon as our luggage is loaded and we’re strapped in our seat the engines start. The plane taxis down to the start of the makeshift runway, and before we have time to catch our breath, not something you try and do too often what with the overpowering smell of aviation fuel present at all times, we’re hurtling down the runway; the wheels gently lift and then we’re climbing higher and higher, all the while we’re all craning our next to hold on as long as possible to our view of the Mara. Oh well, adieu Dear Mara, it’s been fun and I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.