By Bertha Lutome, Nairobi
I have always desired to travel to Maasai Mara since I was young. This was fascinated by it being the largest National Reserve in Kenya, with the possibility of seeing the big five.
I loved watching documentaries on National Geographic, about the animal kingdom and looked forward to visiting the park, so that I can tell the story of Africa, by an African.
I scouted for travel agencies that have daily trips to Maasai Mara but was a little bit reluctant and wasn’t sure if I will sleep in a tented camp. I had crazy imaginations about the tent and preferred to wait longer before visiting the place.
This took me one year to strategize before making the final decision and when the time came, I picked up my phone and called the travel agency that I had contacted before, to my surprise, the price had gone up, to make things worse, I had to pay more for single occupancy since it was a group joining safari, well, I didn’t understand that, until I got there.
I was full of smiles and mixed feelings, eager to see the magical mara, I created an array of imaginations in my head and structured how I would pose for a photo in front of the Mara gate, like I see others do and share on social media. I quickly rushed to Nairobi town to purchase a classy travel bag and nice outfits from hawkers.
You would be quick to judge that a piece of cloth goes for 100 shillings, only for you to select many and pay 300 shillings for one.
Well, I managed to walk through the busy globe round about, up to Koja and finally at Odeon, where I purchased quality jeans, sleeping gowns and tops. You wouldn’t want to sleep in a t-shirt written ‘seng’enge ni ng’ombe’ while on a vacation, right?
With everything sorted, I had one free day to do laundry and pack before setting off to the Mara. I tried on the new outfits and looked for matching shoes, just to ensure that I didn’t pull up looking like a rainbow in the wild.
Group joining safari.
I woke up early in the morning, ready to interact with mother nature and see animals. It was a chilly, rainy morning, full of traffic in the CBD, however, all that did not deter me from arriving at my pickup station on time.
I was curious to see and interact with other travelers on board. This also secured me a seat next to the driver in a light green, spacious land cruiser, that the tour guide referred to as an ‘avocado’ color.
I knew well that creating a good rapport with him would help me capture good photos, indeed the trick worked to my advantage.
I was then joined by two couples from different countries and the air was filled with good vibes and good music. We left the CBD at 08am and held our first stop over at the Great Rift Valley viewpoint.
If you have used the Narok Mai-Mahiu road, you know pretty well how tempting the beautiful escarpment is, I mean, who would use that road and fail to take pictures, who? Anyway, the misty weather did not stop us from taking pictures and eating fresh corn oh, ‘mahindi choma’ from hawkers.
The road was clear, unlike other days, where it is known for causing traffic snarl ups, just as the name “me’imayu” in Maasai, meaning impassable. Contrary to its meaning in Kikuyu, “hot water,” we did not gain access to the water, despite the cold weather.
We then drove down the slope and saw the smallest Catholic church structure in East Africa, that was constructed by Italian prisoners of war. The church is roughly 15 feet by 8 feet, assumes the shape of a pentagon and has four small wooden pews, an altar, and a pulpit. The beautiful scenery of Mai Mahiu, Loita plains, River Ewaso Nyiro, Suswa and Narok town kept us awake the whole journey, not forgetting the beautiful Maasai culture.
Three days maasai mara game drive
Screams of joy, playful children, plenty of livestock, Maasai Manyattas and women selling maasai accessories and crafts welcomed us to Maasai Mara as we drove towards the Oloolaimutia gate, after spending six hours on the road Yeei, the three-day safari had finally come to reality, we abided by the norm, came down from the cruiser and took photos of ourselves in front of the wide, Masai Mara National Reserve gate.
Masai Mara is in South-West Kenya, it is the largest national reserve and one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves.
It stretches 1,510 Sq Km and raises 1,500-2,170 meters above sea level. It is home to more than 95 species of mammals and 570 bird species. It is commonly known for the great wildebeest migration.
Gazelles at at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok County-Photo/Bertha Images
The park was green and had a huge plain field that was filled with special dessert date trees, better known as Balanites aegyptiaca that are dotted across the wide grassland area. The trees are said to grow naturally, from Elephant dung.
The trees, plain fields, escarpments, and the beautiful sunset offer a memorable experience of the park. We started seeing Giraffes, Hyenas, Black-backed jackals, and Elephants approximately 200 meters from the main gate.
The tour guide was in constant communication with fellow tour guides, hence making it easy for us to locate wild animals. ‘Joho’ as he was referred to by many, due to his resemblance of former Mombasa County governor, Hassan Joho, ensured that we saw all the big five in two days. We saw the king of the Savanna, the Cheetah, Buffalo, and black Rhino on the first day of our trip and the Leopard on the second day.
A tour van
The second day full game drive was climaxed by having lunch at the great mara river, where we saw hippos, up close. Our third day game drive did not have many new experiences apart from seeing the sausage tree that is used by the Maasai to make beer.
Accommodation and meals
There are a variety of hotels located in and out of the park and have various rates. I preferred sleeping at a tented budget camp outside the park and had the best camping experience.
The place had plenty of balloons, the room is tented and uses a generator as a source of energy. The generator is automatically switched on at 5:30 am and is switched off at 10:00 pm, giving you enough time to reminisce about the day and plan for the next day.
However, a borne fire was set up every night and we enjoyed playing games with Maasai warriors after having sumptuous meals at the restaurant.
You would certainly want to learn more about the Maasai culture when you are in Narok county. The final day of our trip came to an end after visiting the spectacular Maasai village, with more than 30 homesteads. We had the chance to enter the Manyatta and see Maasai Moran’s jump very high.
The homesteads have low height dwellings and are made of mud, wood, and cow dung. They have small windows that make the house dark, even on sunny days. The huge homestead also has a large cow shed and uses twigs as it’s perimeter wall.
The amazing trip that cost me Sh 20,500 sadly came to an end and we headed back to Nairobi, using the Sekenani gate. I would recommend Masai Mara to anyone who loves interacting with nature.