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Safari Lodge

David Livingstone Safari Lodge, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlife The welcome we received at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge was something I shall never forget: stretch-lobed Maasai warriors - in full regalia - lined the entrance of the safari lodge, jumping up and down and humming a rhythmic sound so typical of Africa.

It was quite intimidating (we were still a bit fragile) like waking up with The All Blacks in your bedroom after a heavy night (or is that just a fantasy?)

I pretended to look like this happened to me everyday, thanked someone for the glass of Champagne - and nearly hit the ceiling (except there wasn't one) when a particularly manic dancer leaped in front of me. In fact, if I'd jumped any higher I'd have been elected their new chief!

Maasai paintings and art adorned the safari lodge. In the middle was a big round bar (I couldn't have designed the place better;) set against the most magnificent backdrop - the Mara River - glistening in the morning sunshine.

Grunts and other unidentifiable noises rose up out of the water. Rocks and boulders pierced the surface. But, as I watched, they seemed to disappear into the brown, murky water and reappear elsewhere. They weren't rocks... they were hippos! The emotion was overwhelming as I registered just how absorbed our safari lodge was in real, unadulterated African wildlife.

Movement drew my eye to the water's edge. A huge crocodile scrambled onto the bank - just feet away - and all that separated us were two lines of electric fence. I loved the freedom of this place; not just the safari lodge, but the whole of Kenya. You have to keep your wits about you, no matter what you do; there's no room for daydreaming and precious few warning signs to wake you up. I could easily have climbed over that wire to get a better picture without being apprehended. But common sense prevails of course - a rare allowance these days in the developed, nanny-state world.

Monkey eating bread roll, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlifeMore pressing matters stole my thoughts: breakfast at the lodge would soon finish and if we didn't get a move on we'd miss our first game drive.

We dropped our luggage in our rooms and headed back for a hearty breakfast of fresh fruit, cereals, warm, fresh bread and a hot buffet.

Mischievous monkeys, dangling precariously overhead in the branches, would wait until the catapult-wielding monkey patrolman was out of sight, then swing down onto the tables, grab the bread rolls and bound back up the rafters. But the eagle-eyed slingshot was currently nowhere to be seen and if we didn't hurry, the monkeys would clean up.

We soon discovered the monkeys weren't the only source of entertainment at meal Dining with a croc! A meal on the Mara, Masai Mara, Kenya safaritimes. Maasai tribesmen, in full regalia, roamed the restaurant, chatting and laughing with diners. Their English was better than most British people's English and they offered a wealth of information to those hungry to learn Maasai customs and the Kenyan wildlife surrounding us.

Pankaj, the owner of the safari lodge, was very welcoming and friendly too. He always came over to say hello and top up our glasses with Champagne. The food was excellent, but the best thing was eating in such wild surroundings. It was impossible to have a normal conversation. One of us would be telling a story but, before anyone got a chance to respond, a hippo would let out a deep, rasping 'laugh', like an old man with a 60-a-day habit and we'd dissolve into fits.

Monitor Lizard eating croc's leftovers, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlifeThe resident croc was always fed what resembled half a cow at lunchtime. And, once he'd devoured most of the flesh, a monitor lizard would sidle up and pick at the remains, nervously looking about to make sure he wasn't dessert.

Frustratingly, I didn't always manage to capture the best moments. For example, one evening, the sun was setting and people were milling around the bonfires with their drinks before dinner when, all of a sudden, there was an almighty commotion in the water. We turned just in time to see a crocodile burst onto the riverbank, closely followed by a hippo. It wasn't clear if the hippo was attacking the croc or if the croc just happened to be in her way when she wanted to climb ashore. Crocodile on the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya safari wildlifeBut, whatever the reason, it was a great spectacle and the sound of water displacement gave a true indication of the size and power of these beasts.

Normally the hippos ate on the other side of the bank, when it was too dark to see them properly. But we watched in amazement as this huge hippo proceeded to munch her way along the nearside bank, just a few feet away from us.

Pankaj and one of the managers were standing nearby enjoying the scene and commenting on how neither had seen this happen before. They explained that crocodiles and hippos live happily side-by-side and respect one another's space. 'Yeah, you got big teeth, but so have I' kind of attitude and they're not competing for food because hippos eat grass. I asked which animal they'd put their money on - both said 'the hippo', without hesitation. Judging by appearance, one would assume that the croc would be the more ferocious or, at least, the one that humans would be more fearful of.

This is not the case: of all the animals in Africa, the hippo is man's greatest enemy. If you ever see one yawn, you'll appreciate this. Fortunately, this was one moment I did eventually capture, after taking a million photos of two, beady eyes sticking out of the water. They're not the cuddly pink creatures that 'Rainbow' would have us believe. They're vicious - especially if they have young - and kill more people than leopards, lions and crocs put together.

Well, that was nice to know. I was sure to sleep much easier after that piece of information. Pankaj then told me a story about a hippo entering one of the apartments during a power cut one evening. I was waiting for him to laugh and say he was kidding around. He didn't do either. And I soon came to discover just how frequent power cuts were in the safari lodge... there were three during our short stay. I glanced at the two thin electric wires - the only thing keeping the 'zoo' on the other side of the fence... 'Big five' game drive...

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Have you been to Kenya? Is there a wildlife park or lodge that you would recommend? Write a review here about your 'big five' safari holiday and tell others about your experience - good or bad. Perhaps you know of an excellent budget campsite - or a luxury lodge that should be avoided! Otherwise, feel free to post a question. Let's share our Kenya safari wildlife experiences...

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