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Camping has offered the best sleeping experience thus far—soft beds and quiet outside the room. What a great and unique experience! Waking up this morning was a bit brisk. Sleeping in the desert (or what seems like the desert) makes for rather chilly nights! Breakfast this morning actually offered variety and included french toast, eggs and bacon. What a treat! There is a European group staying here at the camp, and we are discovering very quickly that they are a bit greedy, gluttonous and inconsiderate. It is a shame after all of the poverty we witnessed this week. Regardless, it was a great start to the morning.

To begin, today was simply amazing. We left camp around 7:30 AM and began our trek into the Masai Mara camp to begin our safari. I believe we saw every major animal that there was to see, and it is simply fantastic to see them in their natural habitat. I know I will have more and most likely some better pictures once our group shares all of our photos, but here is just a taste of the amazing and unique creatures God created to live in Africa.

Zebra: There are herds and herds of these, and their unique appearance never gets old. We noticed that the young ones have brown stripes instead of black. And the zebra tend to roam in the large herds of wildebeest.

Cape Buffalo: These animals are gigantic. Apparently they kill quite a few humans throughout Africa. Their horns are huge, and they have these small little birds that sit on their backs and even hang on tight as the Cape buffalo begin to run.

Wildebeest: Luckily we are here during wildebeest migration season, so we saw thousands of them. They are an interesting animal. It almost seems like they are two separate parts of animals smushed together: their front looks kind of like a buffalo and their rear looks kind of like a horse. I learned that there are 1.5 to 2 million wildebeest that migrate. They leave Tanzania and the Serengeti in July because it is wet and head to the Mara in Kenya. Then, in October, they head back to the Serengeti once it is dry with lots of grass. So the wildebeest are only in Kenya for three to four months, and we were fortunate to see tons of them here today. After lunch we did attempt to see them cross the river (with the obstacle being the crocodiles waiting for them), but all of the safari groups waiting for the action scared them away.

Lions: The lions are very docile right now because it is mating season. Apparently the females hunt right before the season begins, and they eat a big meal. Then the lions choose one partner and mate 240 times in seven days! They are basically mating once every twenty minutes. Can you imagine?? When they are not mating, they are laying in the grass sleeping. When we first found them, they were asleep. We waited around to see them become active, which means we actually witnessed the mating process. I am guessing it took maybe ten seconds, but we certainly did hear both lions growl. The male lion had a big wound on his face. Apparently the female lion will swat the male with her paw and claws if he tries to begin the mating process before she is ready. It was actually very neat to be able to watch them up close and personal, and hearing their growls was pretty awesome!

Elephants: These are by far my favorite! And they are hard to come by, we discovered. They just lope along. We saw several baby elephants today (one was around three years old), and it is just fun to watch them eat. They dig with their foot to loosen the plant, and then hold it in place with their foot while they pull the plant out with their trunk. Their ears are just massive!

Ostrich: I never would have thought of seeing ostrich in Africa! The males are huge and black with gigantic necks. The females are far less attractive with a grey color. You can spot ostrich standing all by themselves off in the distance.

Giraffes: These are my second favorite animal we saw today. They are just massively tall! We spotted them mostly around trees, where they blend in and eat the leaves. I really enjoy just watching them. Apparently they have a second heart between their neck and head, and they definitely have black tongues (which I hear are sharp).

Cheetahs: Our guides found this random outcropping of trees with cheetahs lying under them. We stayed long enough to take a quick picture, then, unfortunately, had to high-tail it out, because there was a ranger coming and we were off the road.

Hippos: We saw quite a number of hippos in the Mara river. Apparently they weigh 1.5 tons and can actually move quite fast. They are in the same river with the crocodiles, but neither species is a threat to the others. At night they come out of the water and graze on the grasses on land.

Crocodiles: There were a number of gigantic crocodiles in that river. Many were sunbathing on the sand bar in the middle of the river (no doubt waiting for their next prey!).

Baboons: We did come across a random group of baboons in the afternoon. They sat and posed for the cars for quite a while. The best was the one baboon running with the baby on his back.

Antelope: There are multiple varieties of antelope here, and the categories contain animals of various sizes, colorings, antler shape and pattern and name. Some of the names I remember are Bik Bik, Impala and Gazelle. I know there are many others that we saw!

Can you believe by the afternoon we were saying, "Oh, it's just another zebra"? What an amazing day! We definitely saw more wildlife in the morning as they were all grazing and moving about. In the afternoon, many of the herds were just laying down to rest. We were fortunate to see a second round of giraffes and elephants in the afternoon. We stopped for lunch in the early afternoon underneath one of the African Olive Trees. The drivers laid out blankets, and we ate packed lunches that the camp had prepared for us. It was a ton of food! Two sandwiches with minimal items on them—mostly bread with cucumbers, cheese and salami; a cold piece of chicken; a hard boiled egg; a banana; a passion fruit (we could not really figure out how to eat them); chips; a juice box (many of us were able to try the delicious Lichti juice); and a small container of shortbread cookies. That is quite the picnic!

The evening was spent here at the camp. We had a dinner of fish, rice and potatoes. The soup was again quite delicious.

What a fantastic day! This country is just so different than the United States, and it is amazing to see all of these creatures in their own habitats. They do not seem trained or phased by the people, but I do wonder what goes through their brains while we are all trying to hang out of vehicles to see them. We commented many times on how God created all of the animals to be so unique. He must have had a creative spurt the day the animals were created.

Saint John's member Kimberly Pepmiller is in Africa through July 25 with ten other doctors and nurses, lending her medical skills at clinics in Kisii, Kenya, operated by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's Mercy Medical Team.