Our volunteer project through Africa Impact was located in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, just outside the famous Masai Mara Reserve.
This is what I came for, and I was not disappointed. We worked with the Mara Naboisho Lion Project runned by Neils from Denmark (go DK!). We even spent all night in the bush tracking a collared lioness with an antenna and GPS system!
The project tracks all the prides, social hierarchies, interactions and deaths. Only one lion is collared at the moment so most of this is done by just driving around. Unfortunately, the second collared lioness was killed recently due to poisoning.
What town?The nearest “town” was a row of shops and the goat market an hour drive away. We were living in the bush with the wildlife.
Our jobs: monitor big cats (mainly lions and cheetahs) and elephants, animal counts, interact with the local community, conservancy work (ie. clear roads) and whatever else came up.
Did we go on a safari? We went on 2 to 3 game drives a day. A game drive consist of going out in a jeep looking for animals. Most tourists stay for a few days and go on a few game drives. We were there for 2 weeks, went on ~20 game drives and easily clocked more than 70 hours in the jeep. It was a great mix of work and seeing incredible animals.
From the core pride which has ~22 individuals. All the adults are identified.
Now I'm doubting that a jeep can out drive a lion.
Elephant Monitoring: our other main project.
We learned how to take pictures of the elephants to identify them. We inputted our sightings in the database (but the internet was seriously slow and often nonfunctional which hinders progress).
This elephant was injured by a poisoned arrow. Unfortunately, some local Masai people are seeking the tusks. One tusk can bring in $5000, which is 100 months worth of wages.
Also a project. We learned to ID cheetahs by their tail patterns.
I have a new respect for hippos as they are responsible for more people killings than lions. One hippo ate a Chinese tourist the same day we visited the reserve. I have a whole new perspective on the hungry hippo game now.
Our resident baboon.I could watch baboon colonies all day long. So fascinating. If you have any interest, definitely read “A Primates Memoir” by Robert Sapolsky. Being out here made me wish I did field work instead of lab work!
Water buffalo and their bird friends: a codependent relationship
Note: if you are confronted with a buffalo, lie down. It’s better to get trampled on than speared by its horns.
Birds abound. We had a birder ecology professor in our group. He almost saw 200 different types of birds in East Africa! Towards the end, we got awarded homemade jerkey for every new bird sighting.
Spitting cobra crossing our pathWe had one in our camp and one went into our friend's house and spit at his dog. Scarier than any lion.
Now this is Africa!!!
After hours and hours in the jeep, I thought I’d adapt to the animals and beauty. Sure I got used to zebra here, giraffe there, elephant here, but it was still all pretty incredible!