Monday, November 23, 2015

A Fond Farewell from the Mara

This year has been great, and it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I’ve met some amazing people, and seen some incredible things. As my departure date draws nearer, I can’t help but think that I may never get the chance to see some of these things again, and although I’m excited to get back to school and see all of my family and friends again, I’m definitely going to miss everything out here.

But strangely enough, the Mara seems to understand that. Every time we near the end of a research assistant’s stint out here, something spectacular happens. Back in May, when it was time to say goodbye to Molly, we had one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed, accompanied by a double rainbow and almost the entire clan of Happy Zebra hyenas. I know she must have been happy with that send-off. Then, when it was Heidi’s turn to go, we braved the “un-crossable lugga,” and were rewarded with a family of five beautiful cheetahs, standing on top of termite mounds and looking majestically off into the distance. And, on top of that, more than half of the North clan decided to show up at the den that night to bid Heidi adieu.

With only about a week left out here, I was beginning to wonder how the Mara was going to wish me farewell. And a few nights ago, I got my answer.

Emily, Erin, Robyn and I were driving back from a great observation session in Happy Zebra Territory, and talking about leopards. A few weeks ago, when I was in Nairobi to pick up Robyn from the airport, Emily and Erin were lucky enough to see one. Naturally, I was extremely jealous; I had been saying for weeks that I’d just like to see one more leopard before my time is up, and I can leave happy. The Mara certainly did not disappoint.

Out of the darkness, about one meter in front of our car, a baby zebra came dashing into the view of our headlights. It was running frantically, and we weren’t exactly sure why, until a leopard came bounding after it and made the kill, giving us front-row seats. We couldn’t quite believe what had happened; just to see a leopard is a lucky thing, but to see one actively hunt and make a kill, and so close by, is just incredible. We quickly backed the car up so that the triumphant hunter could enjoy its hard work without being bothered by us, and started madly snapping photos from a distance that made it more comfortable.

Just as we were starting to process what had gone down, and were preparing to head back to camp, a female lion came trotting out of the darkness, and swiftly stole the carcass away from the leopard and continued on into the night. That was it. There was just no way to top what we had already seen, so we headed back to camp and talked excitedly about the evening’s events for the next hour until the adrenaline wore off and we all went to bed.

Photo by: Robyn Strong

Photo by: Robyn Strong

Photo by: Erin Person

So, the Mara went above and beyond, and almost a week later, I still have trouble believing that it wasn’t all just a dream. I will still miss this place terribly, but I can leave happy now, and I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for the next RA who reaches the end of their stay!

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