Ever since I first saw The Lion King, I knew in my heart that Africa was one place I had to go and see, no matter what. So it was decided that in the summer of 2019 I will embark on my great African Adventure. Dates were set, tickets booked, visas acquired and behold! We were in Nairobi.
The safari was to be a three-day affair which included our transfers to and from the hotel to the Maasai Mara reserve camp, an evening and a whole day safari and a visit to the Maasai village.
The Great Rift Valley
On the D-day, we were picked up from our hotel in Nairobi and embarked on our adventure. It took a good six to eight hours to reach Maasai Mara from Nairobi. The drive to the camp was scenic and en route we made a pit stop to admire the majestic beauty of the Great Rift Valley. The panoramic view this place offered spread across miles of land, scattered with trees and unique wildlife, between Tanzania and Kenya. The valley is one of the most significant geographical details on the planet and is visible even from the space. Home to 30 odd lakes across its length, some of the oldest ancestral human remains have been found at this place.
We checked into our campsite late in the afternoon and were assigned tents where we dumped our luggage and embarked on an evening safari. Strapped inside a rugged four by four that kicked up a huge amount of dust and fumes, we zoomed ahead. The excitement was palpable. As soon as we arrived at the reserve, a dazzle of zebras greeted us with curious eyes and jittery jumps. And thus began our unforgettable encounter with the wildlife. Our guide Sam was an absolute gem and he made sure that we had an experience that will be etched in our minds for eternity.
We next got a 'hello' from a majestic leopard. The poor guy was caught unaware, trying to snooze and tried really hard to escape all the attention that he was getting from the curious onlookers. Boy oh boy was I mesmerised by his gait and splendour.
Etched in memories
A peek at a half-devoured carcass of a wildebeest, a herd of deer ever alert and ready for a dash in case danger came knocking, a mighty lioness lying under the evening sun after a good hunt and without a care in the world. My hungry eyes just kept on trying to take in as much of nature as they could. Finally, after taking in the sight of a lone vulture sitting atop a tree, bathed in the last of the sun rays, we returned to the camp.
The tents at our camp had no doors except for a zipper on the flap at the entrance and were adjacent to the reserve. Bathrooms were decent but hot water was provided only during specific hours and it took its own sweet time to come out of the taps. Food was edible and vegetarians definitely won't starve as lentils and veggies were served along with the African version of roti.
After a good hearty dinner, there amidst the sounds of hyenas cackling and crickets chirping, we slept under the watchful gaze of the twinkling stars in the velvety black sky.
Into The Wild
The next day started at the crack of dawn. Bracing ourselves against the cold, we piled on in our safari vehicle and started our African Safari. The first to welcome us on this journey was a herd of elephants. Majestic, unbothered and awe-inducing is how I would describe them. A great start to the day which just kept getting better and better as we said hello to a couple of lion siblings who couldn’t care less about the 40 odd pair of eyes and camera lenses focussed on their every movement. They jumped, jousted for a while and jovially went their way. I would like to urge you here, to forget your cameras for a moment and just feel the raw power of the moment.
Onwards we went from the lion brothers and were just about to witness a young lioness make her kill for the day but her position got compromised due to the presence of all the vehicles present. The ever-vigilant wildebeest made a dash for their lives and she had to be on the lookout for prey again.
We saw sea upon sea of zebras, deers and wildebeest grazing. Skittish at the mere hint of our arrival, these gentle ones tend to stick together to ward off any attack on the group and a cheetah mommy nursing her young ones and a mighty lazy cat napping up a tree.
Strewn all over the place were bleached bones and remains of animals, serving as a bleak reminder of the way of life out here in the wild.
Rendezvous Along The River And The Great Migration
We had our lunch along the Mara River. Beware of the monkeys here as they can be very cheeky, these little devils will be off with your food even before you realise what has happened.
Tummies full, we were next introduced to a forest ranger who took us on a walking tour along the river to see hippos. These animals remained partially submerged in the water and marked their territory by making mounds of crap. Stinky much? Once the walk is finished you may tip the ranger if you feel satisfied and think that he deserves it.
As we came close to the last leg of the safari, we were low key disappointed that we had yet to see the migration that happens across the Mara River where the wildebeest along with zebras cross over from Maasai Mara in Kenya to Serengeti in Tanzania. But suddenly Sam got news on the walkie talkie and he zoomed us towards a post along the river where the wildebeest had gathered in great numbers. And the next thing we saw was beyond amazing, hundreds of these animals ran at a breakneck speed in great throngs and crossed the river towards Serengeti.
A sight to behold!
The next day was reserved for our visit to the Maasai village.
The entry ticket to a Maasai village is 20$ per person. The Maasai are an indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania.
They have a very distinctive way of dressing, customs and traditions. The society is firmly patriarchal in nature and depends on cattle for their food intake. The people from the village greeted us with their traditional song and dance where you are more than welcome to participate in.
After getting ourselves clicked with the men who welcomed us, we headed to get a tour of the village and meet the women and children and learn about their way of life.
PS: You can also buy stuff made by Maasai people, like necklaces made from a lion's tooth or claw or copper bangles etc, and take them as reminders of your wonderful time here in Africa.
Some Dos and Don'ts For The Safari
- If going in June or July, remember to carry a few warm pieces of garments since it’s wintertime in Africa then.
- Carry a mosquito repellant or two.
- Carry a first aid kit with you as the nearest hospital is pretty far away.
- Keep your power banks and camera battery charged when you get to, electricity does not stay for long in the camps and is mostly generator operated.
- Carry dry snacks with you to deal with hunger pangs as there are no restaurants nearby.
- Carry a few bottles of water and snacks on safari.
- Be ready on time otherwise you’ll miss a lot the amazing sights in the morning.
- Do not get down from the vehicle without consulting your guide and do not stray away from the vehicle as it may prove dangerous.
- Do not make a ruckus while spotting wildlife as they tend to run away and you will end up missing spotting them again.
- Avoid too much intake of water as there are no washrooms in the open and you’ll have to end up making use of nature’s resources for good.
Credit for all Images used: Ishita Pandey
Ishita Pandey is an army wife, who holds an MA in psychology and a BEd, though her heart only soars when she travels. A keen explorer, she has travelled across 23 countries. The views expressed are the author's own.