Kenya Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
My proclivity for traveling started at an early age, and the one destination that always enchanted me--even at that early age--was Africa; particularly an African safari. Somehow I knew that my travel resumé would be inadequate unless I donned a downturn brim, safari khakis, and journeyed out to the endless plains of the Serengeti where I would see with my very own eyes the untamed animals I used to watch only through other people's lenses. This past summer [and I thank the travel Gods] my safari aspirations were at last fulfilled.
The adventure begins in Nairobi, Kenya . . .
Nairobi is a bustling, modern city with 3.
From Nairobi we drove to the Masai Mara park reserve, which turned out to be a six hour trip. Our lodge was approximately 5 miles from the park entrance, of course, the animals don't know about park boundaries. Our first night there (we slept in huts; photos supplied) I woke up hearing some strange sounds. Upon further investigation I discovered there were 4 or 5 giraffe grazing around the huts. Two nights later, we had a herd of zebra pass through.
The Masai Mara reserve is relatively small compared to the Serengeti, and it isn't even the largest reserve in Kenya, but this makes it advantagous for people wanting to see lots of animals because the animals simply can't spread themselves out. The Masai Mara and Serengeti are actually separated by the borders of Kenya and Tanzania, and the Masai Mara is often referred to as the northern expansion of the Serengeti. Our visit came during what is called "the Great Migration", when millions of wildebeest, zebra, and a variety of antelope make their annual trip into Kenya. It was so incredible to witness the unending lines of these beasts galloping across the plains as far as the eye could see. And with the prey come the predator .
The Mara West Camp, perched on the edge of the Oloololo Escarpment, and overlooking Masai Mara National Reserve, served as our home away from home. Owned and operated by Andy and Deborah Aho, the Mara West Camp offered us all the comforts of home and the warmest hospitality you could ever imagine. We had flush toilets, hot showers, delicious meals, and an incredible staff--many of whom are Masai. If a personal touch is your particular brand of vodka, I would recommend this place without hesitation.
Our first morning was filled with anticipation. My expectations were high and yet, I still had some concerns that we might not see as many animals as we hoped for. Well, I should have known better, especially after my encounter with the giraffe the night before, not to mention the slew of animals (hyenas, zebra, impalas, and wildebeest) we had already seen just on our drive from Nairobi.
One of the great things about the Masai Mara, unlike many other reserves, is you don't have to stay on the roads. Providing you have a capable vehicle, the beaten path is only used as a main route. Our driver, a local Masai, was a superb guide.
There were certain animals that you couldn't avoid, simply because of their astounding numbers. These included the wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impalas, and antelope. As mentioned earlier, we were there during the migration and on our first day we witnessed thousands of wildebeest stacking up at the edge of the Mara river. This is a common occurrence and you may have seen this filmed on National Geographic. The wildebeest eventually get pushed off the high banks, starting a domino affect. The wildebeest follow those in front of them in order to cross the river.
Our first day also provided us a rare opportunity: getting a glimpse of a leopard with his kill up in a tree. As we drove to the site, the leopard jumped out of the tree and sped away before we had a chance to realize what was happening. As we approached and came closer we saw his kill hanging in the branches. It was a zebra. It's just amazing that a big cat could haul a 3 or 4 hundred pound animal up into a tree. Leopards are one of the most difficult animals to actually spot since most of their hunting is done at night. In this particular case, the leopard had caught his prey shortly before dawn and we just happened upon him in the middle of his breakfast.
The second day of our safari started out on a much better note.
And speaking of cats, our next promising moment came later that same day when we stopped close by a small family of cheetas resting on a termite hill. Approximately 200 yards behind them was a continuous line of wildebeest running across the plain. The cheetas didn't seem bothered by us, at all. But after a short time that we were there they suddenly became interested in the wildebeest. The hunt was on. Very slowly, two of the cheetas began zigzagging closer and closer to the prey. They would move a few meters, stop and hunker down in the grass, then move again.
Each day we would leave around 7:00 am and wouldn't return to the lodge until dark.
I believe we were able to see just about every animal you can think of on this safari, except one: the rhino. It just so happened that while all the other animals were migrating to the north, the rhino was migrating to the south. Oh well, 99 out of a 100 ain't bad. My one regret on this trip is that I only brought my Canon Powershot digital instead of my SLR with more powerful zooms.
Our trip back to Nairobi was on a 10 passenger single engine plane, which we met on a landing strip in the middle of nowhere. Naturally, in stride with African time, the plane was three hours late and so we played hacky-sack until it landed.
One other consideration when visiting these parts for a safari are the hot air balloon rides, if you have the extra dough, that is. You'll have to shell out a few hundred dollars per person for a one-day tour, but it looks fun.
Swahili is the native language in Kenya so if you're going here's some important words to plant in your vocabulary: Hello - Jambo; How much money? - Bei Gani?; Food - Chakula; Thank you - Asante; How are you? - Habari Gani?; Good bye - Kwaheri; Beer - Pombe.