"Plains of Passage" Top 5 Page for this destination Masai Mara Game Reserve by Homanded
Masai Mara Game Reserve Travel Guide: 525 reviews and 1,630 photos
Like many others before us, Africa, the dark continent was a thing of dreams. Until our opportunity to visit came on October of 2006. An object of legends, movie cliches and childhood day dreams made possible through the wonders of cinema and telivision and the likes of Marlin Perkins in Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom", Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan and Joy Adamson's "Born Free".
It should therefor be fitting that our induction to Africa's mysteries be Kenya and more importantly The Masai Mara National Game Reserve.
No other game park in Kenya is more publicized (and rightfully so) with it's panoramic vistas of what Africa represents in the minds of outsiders. Endless prairies, teeming with animals, herds of thousands of hooves constantly on the move in search of greener pastures and the predators that feed on them, coming together to encompass that "Circle of Life" Elton John sings about in the Lion King.
Kenya's Masai Mara, one instantly falls in love with it.
After overnighting in Nairobi, we headed out on our 6 hour, bumpy, dusty drive to the Mara. Some people choose to hop on a short flight from Nairobi to other places throughout Kenya. We wanted to experience it all!
Passing through small, dusty towns, many devoid of electricity or running water. Then, just as abruptly, beautiful farmlands planted thick with tea or coffee, we sat back and absorbed the scenery...(when we weren't being justled half to death on the ardous, bumpy, trecherous roadways that make up Kenya)!
The roadways throughout Kenya are amongst the worst any of us have ever ridden on. Full of potholes, in various state of disrepair and hazards, driving on them soon becomes an adventure not to be quickly forgotten.
Laughingly, (as we quickly found out), women above a certain "cup size", if not properly "supported", have a harder time of it than us men!
This at least made for quite a few laughs which broke up the constant "ouch's and grunts" being emited from the back of the travel van.
It wasn't until we fell into a pot hole large enough to bring the vehicle to a screeching halt, throwing everyone forward and causing at least 2 of us to suffer bruised knees from the severity of it all that we started taking things more seriously.
One thing we noticed right away were the smiling faces from countless children who would wave with glee and often times run after our vehicle as we passed small towns or villages.
Even the ocassional Masaai village, constructed out of traditional dung and mud had people standing by the roadside waving us on as if welcoming us to Kenya.
The other thing we noticed was the Kenyan's attention to cleanliness. It was almost a contrast between self and surroundings. We passed through some of what must be some of the most poverty stricken and dirtiest towns in the world. Garbage strewn throughout, people wondering the streets and even garbage and tires burning in the middle of the streets as people tried to cook on them. Yet, through all of this, children and adults alike seemed smartly dressed and making every attempt to look crisp and clean. Men and women both were constantly busy with straw brooms sweeping their immediate surroundings.
In one town where we stopped for re fueling, I observed a woman on a 3rd floor balcony of her apartment building step out of her window and unto the ledge, remove her colorful sarong dress, attempt to clean her window from the red dust which seems to cover everything in Kenya, shake it off and wrap it around herself again.
At least, she could have a semi-clear view to the outside world from her otherwise dark quarters.
Eventually, seamlessly it seems, the landscape began to transform from rolling hills and farmlands to the grassy savannahs we have come to associate with what is Africa.
Animal sightings now became more frequent. First, a small herd of zebras, then another. The occasional gazelle, jumping in front of the car and even wildebeest lazily grazing or lying by the side of the road.
Coming upon such animals in the wild for the first time, almost seems surreal! One is used to seeing them on television or worse (I realize now), in Zoo's, never in their natural habitat.
About a 10 minutes drive past the main entry gate to the Park, we turned onto a small dirt road leading up a hill and into a grove of trees. Suddenly, a massive iron gate loomed in front of us where 2 armed security guards greeted our driver. After exchanging the necessary paperwork, they waved us through and if like in a dream, a beautiful wooden lodge appeared, at the end of an impressive wooden walk way flanked by a semi circular driveway which was well maintained. The first asphalt we had seen in over 6 hours!
A smiling Maasai warrior, in full regalia, complete with a tray of cool, moist towels, dipped in eucalyptus greeted us with warm “Jambo”! and a smile on his face. “Daniel” as he called himself, waved over additional porters to take our luggage and escorted us over the wooden bridge & towards the lodge.
The bridge was lushly landscaped at either side with Frangipanis, gingers, hibiscus and other tropicals and led to a semi open courtyard which doubled as the guest register. Complete with intricately carved sprawling front desk, smiling concierge and a beautiful young lady who met us with a tray of refreshing passion fruit nectar.
Everything seemed to be “No worry, no hurry”, take your time, “Hakuna Matata”!
We handed over our passports, left the check in process up to our guide and sat down on wooden benches which faced the gardens and pool area to briefly enjoy the moment.
This was our welcome to our first lodge in Kenya. Sarova Mara Luxury Tented Camp.
Having done research on the internet, including VT, we wanted our first experience to be “Safari like”. Running an itinerary booking company for clients and working on personal referrals which we personally try out first, we decided to be as “authentic” as possible w/out giving up creature comforts. This is how we came to decide on the tents opposed to the traditional rooms for our first few nights.
We couldn’t have made a better decision!
After check-in, we were assigned personal porters which gathered up our bags and asked us to follow. As we wound our way through the paths which lead through the garden, we were greeted by lodge employees and guests alike, each calling out “Jambo”! in passing - Kenya’s way of saying hello. Soon we too fell into the swing of it.
When we reached our tent, we were surprised. Large, cleverly built up on a concrete porch and under a solidly built wooden structure, yet maintaining its “safari” look of a tent pitched in the bush! When the porter unzipped the entry flap for us, a beautiful queen sized bed, compete with headboard, an old looking wooden chest which lent to the charm and feel of the moment and clever light fixtures hanging from the center of the room/tent.
A bigger surprise was the tiled, clean, spacious bathroom, complete with sink and vanity, walk in shower and toilet. All rivaled the cleanliness of the best hotel we’ve stayed in.
We had been instructed to take about 1 hour for organizing ourselves, getting our gear together and the commencement of our first game drive. Up until now, it had only been game spotting from the roadway en route to the lodge.
We were to meet at 4:00pm at the reception area for Tea ceremony and then re-group with our driver who would take us out for the evening’s game viewing.
Excited would be putting it mildly!
After we’d found our driver, we realized the van/safari bus we’d been driving in had a raise able roof which would allow us to stand up with ease and comfort during animal spotting.
John had prepared the vehicle by raising the roof, re-stocking on fresh water and even getting binoculars ready for use.
Almost immediately, our driver John announced he had a surprise in stored for us. Apparently, working via walkie talkie radio, which game drivers use to communicate sightings with one another, he had learned of the location of an animal we would want to see.
He asked us to be patient as we drove back up the gravel road leading away from the lodge and unto a panorama which can only be described as “expansive” and never ending.
For those of you who ever watched the movie “Jurassic Park”, remember the part where the doctor is talking and suddenly looks to see the prehistoric beasts calmly grazing in that garden of Eden setting for the first time? That is what it felt like. We crested our first hill after leaving the park and BAM! The scene opened up and hundreds of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, Topis and others we couldn’t identify were all grazing calmly as far as the eye could see.
Normally, the migration has ended by mid September. This year however, due to the heavy rainfall in Tanzania, the greatest natural spectacle in the world had been delayed, seemingly for us! At first quietly amazed, then stupefied and finally, impatient at Johns lack of acknowledgment to our pleas of wanting to take a picture, he continued on.
From afar, we could see a group of safari vans similar to ours gathering in single file alongside of the road. Everyone was obviously waiting on something!
We took our place in line, just ahead of the others. John stopping only long enough to roll down his window and exchange quick information with the drivers in the other vehicles. When he was satisfied with his placement, he pointed towards the grass. There, coming straight for us were 2 beautiful Cheetahs! Apparently unaware of the human observers, they continued towards us, sat next to our vehicle and allowed us to photograph them at will. No one spoke, the only sound was that of hundreds of shutters going off from the many cameras trained on their every move.
What a great beginning to our safari!
After they moved on, John continued on his way. This time however, he would point out animals, pull over, allow us to photograph and sharing knowledge with us about the land and it’s animals.
Soon, another call came in and again we were on our way. After a short ride, another group of safari vehicles, this time in a circle were gathered in the distance.
Queuing up in line, we waited our turn for a position. A group of lions had made a kill and now, belly’s full, they lay peacefully next to the dead wildebeest trying to keep the vultures from getting to the leftovers! It was like watching a PBS special.
We were so close we could hear the large male breathing heavy.
After our fill of the scene, and knowing it was getting close to sunset, John once again drove us towards the lodge. Suddenly, in one last hurrah for our last night, John veered off the road and onto a smaller side road which led towards a hill. He had spotted a group of giraffes; 8 in all.
Driving so they were between us and the setting sun, we knew what he had in mind. We were there, all alone, with the classic Kenya scene all to ourselves. We watched the other vehicles, their dust trails heading off in the distance towards their respective lodges.
As the sun set on that first night in the Mara, and as if on cue, the entire herd of 8 giraffes slowly crossed, seemingly for us, in front of that falling red orb of a Kenya Sun and while silhouetted against it stopped and looked as if to say “Jambo”! Welcome to Africa!
We fell in love with Africa, Kenya got into our souls!
Some Tips for photographing in the Mara: Close crop animals in unexpected positions. Picture #1 of the baby giraffes... more travel advice
We found this hat to be the best quality to take with us and have owned it for 6 years now - good as new. Has made... more travel advice
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