Early on Monday morning we were collected from the guesthouse to begin our journey to the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve on the south western corner of Kenya. You can find out more about the reserve here: http://www.maasaimara.com/. We travelled in a minivan, and most of the journey was comfortable enough… until the last 30km or so and one of the most pot-holey roads I have come across in a while. Our driver’s tactic was to speed up to the worst of the pot holes, then slow rapidly and swerve from side to side… not the most comfortable of driving experiences.
At about noon we stopped and were met by our guide, Sammy, our tracker, Albert and the lovely four wheel drive in which we were to enjoy our safari. The part of the wild life reserve we were in was the Naboisho Conservancy. You can find out more about this particular conservancy here: http://www.maasaimara.com/community-conservation/conservancies/naboisho-conservancy. The nice thing about this conservancy is that they protect the reserve by limiting the number of people who can come to stay, and allow the guides to drive wherever they wish, even off the tracks. I have heard that on some safaris they insist that the guides stick only to the marked tracks, which can make it hard to get close to the more elusive animals. We were able to get very close to a number of animals we otherwise probably would not have seen at all.
We felt a little like we were in a scene from Out of Africa, and indeed a few weeks later, when we got together to watch the film, we realised that the scene where Denys takes Karen on safari was remarkably similar to our lovely experience! We had a picnic lunch packed for us and ate it amongst the wilder beast and impalas, while dodging a little bit of rain.
At about mid-afternoon we arrived at our camp, the Encounter Mara camp. You can check out their website here: http://encountermara.com/. We were met at the beginning of an elephant dung track (an awesome form of mulch, by the way) by a group of Maasai men who escorted us through the bush to the tents. There we were invited to sit and enjoy an ice cold glass of mango juice while the managers, a Kenyan/Spanish couple, explained how the camp worked. The campsite is unfenced, which meant that the animals could wander through at will, and occasionally did! To that end, we could walk around relatively freely during the day, but in the evenings we were escorted from our sleeping tent to the dining tent by our sprightly Maasai guard. These lovely guards were also our housekeepers, and filled our showers with hot water, filled our hot water bottles and popped them into our turned-downed beds, brought us thermoses of hot water for washing in the morning, and zipped up our tents as we retired. For the record, the tents had an en suite, so there was no need to leave the tents to go to the loo in the middle of the night! The front of the tents had verandas with deck chairs and a day bed, which I managed to doze on very pleasantly on the second afternoon.
After settling into our tents, we reconvened in the lounge tent for a substantial afternoon tea before our late afternoon drive, which included a “sundowner” otherwise known as a gin and tonic (or other drink of choice) savoured as one watched the sun set over the African horizon. And yes, it is very cool. We returned from our drive in the early evening to shower (hot water was poured into a bucket above our tents by our lovely Maasai housekeepers) and then were escorted by them to dinner, which began with drinks around a camp fire then a three course meal in the dining tent. We had originally planned to while the evening away by playing card games but were too tired and were in bed before 10pm.
We were woken at 5.30am, again by our lovely Maasia men to a light breakfast of fruit, cereal and tea and coffee. It was weird at first to have these chaps waiting on us hand and foot… but eventually I think we could have got used it! Then we were off on our dawn drive. This continued until about 10am when we returned to “brunch”, an enormous meal that consisted of a buffet of hot foods, salad, juice and bacon and eggs. So much food! We had the afternoon free until 4pm and our late afternoon tea, so we chose to laze about at our tents. Each had a lovely big canvas day bed which I stretched out on in the warm sun, and very nearly fell asleep. I certainly had weird dreams involving an ex-boyfriend and a lion. I won’t go into details, mainly because I can’t remember them, but I have an impression that I was on the side of the lion…
We again enjoyed a late afternoon drive, a “sundowner” and continued into the early evening. Then showers, dinner and bed, then dawn again the final morning. We enjoyed one last safari drive, then spent the remainder of the morning at a Maasai village that allows visits. We visited a woman’s home. Interestingly the women take responsibility for building the houses. They consist of a wooden frame on which the mud and manure walls are formed. Inside are small rooms and natty little shelves and cupboards. There is a small cooking stove, and the women make little lamps from a glass bottle, a piece of twisted fabric and some fuel.
After a final brunch we were driven out of the conservancy by our lovely guide and tracker and were met by our minivan and the return trip to Nairobi. That evening we indulged in a curry (so good) and started considering our all-important shopping lists for our final day in Kenya. We hit the souvenir shops early, buying small things for family and selves. Then, somewhat more importantly, we hit Nakamutt! On the top of our lists were cheese, bacon, butter, chips, Cadburys chocolate and nice shampoos! The cold items were frozen for safe travel and the rest were stuffed wherever we could fit them in our cases. In the late afternoon we drove through the traffic congestion to the airport and finally boarded our flights at about 10.30pm. Back in Addis and home by 1.30am, we collapsed into bed. Now if you actually want to know about what animals we saw, you will just have to wait until I write the next blog…