If you’ve kept up with my blog somewhat, you’ll know two things about me. First, I’ve been to Africa twice, and second, it’s my favorite place in the world. I absolutely loved Southeast Asia and my time in Europe, but there’s this intensity in Africa that is hard to replicate. Expanding on that idea is best saved for another post, but one of the reasons I fell in love with Africa was after my first safari. I researched a lot of trips before deciding. There is a wide range from budget to luxury and whether to cover just one park or multiple, such as a Kenya gorilla safari. But in July 2008, I decided on a 4-day/3-night camping safari to Masai Mara & Lake Nakuru with five friends from a volunteer project. I would be confident in saying that we had one of the best guides in the entire park, and because of that, it was truly unforgettable. I ran into a colleague of our guide the last time I was in Nairobi and he is no longer with the company I went through. George had dreams of starting his own safari company, and I can only hope that his dreams came to fruition.
I’ve broken this safari into two posts, so first up is Masai Mara! I hope you enjoy the photos along the way.
Masai Mara is a game reserve located in Kenya and is a continuation of the more well-known Serengeti in Tanzania. While the Serengeti is flat plains, the Mara is rolling hills and one of the most popular parks for safari holidays in Kenya. A fascinating time to visit Masai Mara is right around the time I went because of the annual wildebeest migration. It is unbelievable to see hundreds and hundreds of them walking in a line as they make their way from Tanzania.
We left Nairobi bright and early and made a stop for lunch in the town of Narok. My friend from home and I were traveling with 4 guys from the UK & Ireland. We got on a topic of conversation stemming from a cultural difference, which then helped to pass the time for the next few hours in the car (it required lovely drawings as well). The dirt roads to get to Masai Mara were so bumpy that eventually we all stopped talking and hoped the driving would be over. Yeah, yeah, scenery was lovely but head banging against window started to get old. We reached the Mara just in time for an evening game drive.
If you’ve never been on a safari, it’s difficult to describe the feeling. If you’ve been, then you know. I could pull out the phrase ‘I was like a kid in a candy store’, but that’s just not true and doesn’t do it justice. The excitement of seeing the animals out in the wild was incredible. And it wasn’t just a zebra here and a giraffe there. In a short amount of time, we witnessed hundreds of animals. I was click-happy, taking tons of photographs. Our safari transport was a small van with a pop-up roof. We generally stood on the seats the entire time, hanging out of the roof, and just watching in a mesmerized manner. Our evening game drive wrapped up and we headed to set up camp for the night.
July is the middle of winter in Kenya, and it gets cold at night. Lauren and I had thin fleece sleeping bags, but the boys opted not to rent sleeping bags and just bring blankets from our volunteer project. We nearly froze to death the first night. Lauren lent me some clothes and we just tried to stay bundled up. The boys joked that they were going to push their cots together, because they were much colder than we were. This is where I’m going to point out that Africa is not blazing hot most of the time. Come prepared for cold weather too.
We left our tents before dawn to gear up for a full safari day in the Mara. The sunrise was magnificent. We saw dazzles of zebras (one of my favorite group names), herds of elephants, towers of giraffes, prides of lions, a bloat of hippos, and so many different species of antelopes. We saw our fair share of vultures and pretty birds as well. We stopped near a river for lunch to hang out with monkeys and colorful lizards.
In the afternoon we went searching for cheetahs. They proved difficult to find. George was in communication with other drivers on a radio the whole time and after an hour or so searching, we finally came across two of them. They are smaller than I imagined and were camouflaged in the surrounding.
Another cold evening in the tents, and it was back up for a morning game drive. This time, we were in search of a kill. Although we didn’t see one in action, we arrived on scene just after a mama lion had killed a baby zebra. We watched for about 45 minutes. She, along with another mama lion, dragged the zebra to her cubs. While it was gross and sad since I love zebras, it’s still such an experience to see this out in nature. We wrapped up our morning game drive and headed to visit a Masai village nearby. Check back for Part 2 of my Kenya safaris recap and if you’d like to see more pictures, click here!