Mara Plains Camp: I get off the plane at the airstrip in the Masai Mara. Duncan, my guide, awaits. Tourists click-click his state-of-the-art Land Rover- more photographed than the lions themselves! These creatures cost $100,000, are equipped with the smuggest case bearing super cool camera, binoculars and gadgets and come with the best guides in the business. They’re witty, poetic, Masai and mad.
Duncan helps me into the vehicle, offers some nibbles, and we’re off on a game-drive. We find 5 lionesses and 7 cubs on exhibition. Duncan says the former are the territorial dominant male lion Mohican’s 4 wives and his children’s nanny. “Mohican’s a rich man, you see,” Duncan says with mock solemnity. Suddenly, a lazing lioness rises. She’s on a hunt. “She has got that look in her eye, like a man who’s spotted a woman he wants.” Duncan’s apposite similes arrest. He elaborates, “The lion lolls about all day, whilst his women hunt for him and put the food on the table. Then, like a typical man, he comes home, feasts himself, thinks, ‘What a good wife I have,’ and goes off to another woman.”
At a stream turgid with a hippo & his harem of 20 females, Duncan sighs, “Lucky lucky, lucky man.” I ask if Duncan hasn’t a harem, the Masai being permitted this extravagance. “A harem nowadays is precisely that, an extravagance,” Duncan mourns, “in these economically tight times.” He can afford only one wife; sigh. “But I’m seeking a mistress,” he asseverates. He wants someone understanding.
“But mistresses aren’t meant to be understanding,” I interject, reminding, “the point of a mistress is that she’ll be whimsical and demanding and tormenting, surely.”
Duncan abstractedly continues, “But she’ll consume me entirely.”
“Financially?” I ask.
“No,” he elucidates, “she’ll exhaust me and when I’ve to make official babies, I’ll just have no energy left!”
The sun sets, we pick into premium home-roasted nuts and fab home-made dips and crackers the camp has packed for sundowners. As flying crimson flames consume the skies, Duncan marvels, “It’s as if the clouds have caught fire.” Poetic; but then, he wrote his girlfriends poetry at school, he tells; romantic. And Duncan is perceptive too, observing that many women eschew wifehood today and would rather be mistresses, mistresses being prized unlike the “ever-available wife.” Duncan demonstrates what a fancy Masai he is when he remarks tangentially, “The last thing you want to see when you’re romancing your mistress over 10 courses in a gastronomic restaurant is your wife there.”
“Certainly not with another man,” I wink.
We reach camp. A bridge under kissing trees leads into the principal camp, elegance incarnate, that opens onto endless plains speckled with those famous Kenyan umbrella trees. The camp seems so simple. There lies the charm; and the cunning; the sophistication of simplicity. Kenya’s classiest camp has but 7 tents, and 1 game vehicle per/tent. Exquisite tents costing US$300,000 each are river-wreathed, and hippos serenade as you splash in your stand-alone copper tub. Showers have Lamu doors (US$2000/door). No, the doors aren’t to the shower, they are the shower that’s ornately studded in brass taps. Tents are seamless, with bedroom flowing into the bath area.
At supper, you’d be ravishing the choicest cuisine beside a model, if not Brangelina. But then, owners Derek and Beverly Jubert of Nat Geog fame are “legends.” They’ve made award-winning wildlife films and made an art of conservation. They’ve floored their all-eco camp with recycled colonial railway sleepers; the magnificent chandeliers are from colonial dining-carriages. Plush zebra-striped shawls drape dining-chairs, and you can go to bed with them — the shawls, not the chairs, although peculiar preferences are no doubt entertained.
Next morning we see the largest lion, Mohican, of the 4 wives, 7 cubs and 1 nanny, snoozing outside camp. After a bush breakfast on sprawling seas of green, Duncan shows me a cheetah who eschews our leering eyes, eventually resigning himself to us. “He’s like a woman- he says no when he means yes. The ladies must love him. Women find shy men very sexy,” Duncan insightfully remarks.
Duncan then locates a female cheetah, camouflaged in the grass. Impudent, she gives herself to our insistent gaze. Then, she decides to hunt, scouring and contouring her prey, until a topi approaches her and snorts. “WHY is he going to her and saying, ‘Please, please eat me!’ I enquire bewildered,
“Which man doesn’t want to die for a beautiful woman?” is Duncan’s charming explanation.
I am hoping to see a kill, but 3 hours later, the cheetah hasn’t succeeded (they are such inefficacious predators), and Duncan says we must go to camp for lunch. These are al fresco affairs in the shadows of lusty trees, where tables are mosaiced in myriad salads, the best you’ll ever have, with produce picked from their gardens. It’s lean clean cuisine par excellence. I’m ever bemoaning unpalatable meals in ungainly portions. This is the one place where I’d feign have had seconds. But one daren’t at a camp as chichi as this, amidst the beautiful people who never eat; not even the finest, freshest, sugar-flayed tree tomato sorbet.
On our evening game-drive, we see the handsomest lion, trim and figure-conscious: risen from an afternoon siesta, he does his yoga, touching his head 3 times over outstretched legs, and then proceeds to manicure himself. What a dandy! And he has an aureole for a mane. But Duncan says lionesses dislike blondes, preferring Romeo IIs brother, the tall, dark and handsome Mohican of the very same 4 wives, 7 cubs and 1 nanny we saw that morning.
Then Duncan shows me Fig, the sexiest leopardess possible, poised on a branch. She snakes down the tree with great grace and poses for us, caressing herself alluringly, throwing her head back to flaunt the string of spots that seems to rest on her neck like a necklace of black diamonds. Her emerald eyes on us, she seems to ask, “Are you watching?” It starts drizzling. Fig vanishes.
“She doesn’t like her coat getting wet. She’s a classy lass, you know,” assesses Duncan.
Duncan has in one day shown me a cat-trick (lion-leopard-cheetah), including lions that look like Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas; really. He laughs, relieved, “You got off the plane and I said I’ll show you zebra, giraffe, impala, but you cut me short snootily and said, ‘I want to see lion, leopard and cheetah. Nothing else interests me.’ You were so snooty, so snooty that I thought my manhood was at stake if I didn’t deliver.”
But now that I’ve seen a cat-trick, I say I want to see a kill. Duncan protests, “You’re like the demanding mistress who’s never satisfied!”
“Shut up, Duncan,” I say, “you’re loving this.”
He replies, “I haven’t time to show you a kill. Tell your next guides, ‘Gentlemen, my order is simple. I want to see a kill. Stop beating about the bush.'”