The Mara is special for various reasons. Over the years, tourist traffic and human development has scarred this paradise to some degree. But one thing or rather one moment remains resolute; dawn!
Sleep gives way to anticipation. It is 5:25 a.m. and I lay in bed wide awake, yearning to get up. But I stall. I’m waiting for my official wake up call. A mere five minutes later, it arrives in a flirtatious tone- ‘good morning.’ I have yet to see her; this mystery woman who appears everyday at the same time, bearing sustenance. By the time I leap out of bed, an earthy aroma has filtered through my tent; somewhere between burnt chocolate and polished wood. I take a sip- industrial strength, freshly ground coffee. A true Kenyan specialty.
I cherish the next moment; the tent unzips with a high pitch squeal and I cautiously protrude my head out. Instantly, the mercury drops! The air is distilled and I feel it coursing deep into my sinuses. A deep breathe in and the distinct stench of hippo dung percolates through my nose. The river below moves at a sedated pace. There is just enough light to see wisps of mist hanging listlessly above it. The forest is still; not a leaf shudders. But it is very much alive. The avian world woke up nearly an hour ago; Egyptian Geese chatter noisily, a pair of Hadada Ibis scream a duet and a menagerie of unrecognisable melodies culminate into a harmonious orchestra.
By now my excitement is almost palpable. I don’t know if it is this or the temperature that causes me to shiver. I clench my cameras firmly. The cold metal numbs my fingers. Glued to the egg of light thrown by my torch, I follow the path to the car-park. A rumble of monsters awaits me. Half a dozen Land Cruisers are huffing themselves warm. The air is tainted with the sweet smell of diesel. Huddling into one of them, wrapped up in a Maasai Shuka, I strain to make out the distant shape of animals walking against the brightening horizon. Could they be zebras or a pride of lions?
And then, in slow motion, magic unfurls from the East.