Following my return to Kenya, Mr Nomad was determined that we make up for lost time and he booked our latest adventure to the magnificent Maasai Mara. We had visited last year but the place is utterly magical and we both longed to get some time away, so away we went. This trip was different to the previous escapade in that it was not a horseback safari, and we stayed in a different location in the hope that we could catch a glimpse of the Great Migration.
We set off from Nanyuki on a plane with Tropicair that was so small and the run way so short that it was unable to take off with the entire party so the flight came in stages. Five passengers (including Mr Nomad and myself) and all luggage set off in the plane and we were deposited at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The plane then flew back to Nanyuki to collect the remaining passengers and then returned to collect us from Ol Pejeta where the run way here was sufficiently long enough to get the plane off the ground and completely airborne when fully laden.
This was entertaining in itself as when the plane left us at Ol Pejeta, we were able to share this waiting time with a giraffe, and with multiple zebra ambling across the air strip with their impala buddies. Worryingly, we had seen a hyena loitering around the area but it soon scarpered when the plane returned to carry us to our next destination.
After a short flight of around an hour, we landed on a dirt track which doubled up as an air strip. The terrain in the Maasai Mara is mainly open grassland and the landscape rolled on continuously, seemingly endless.
It was eerily quiet and the peace was soon shattered by us tourists disembarking the plane and hurrying towards the safari vehicle which awaited us. After washing our hands thoroughly at the water stop, we clambered aboard the sturdy cars and we set off to our accommodation, being treated to a lengthy game drive en route.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve can be found in south west Kenya along the Great Rift Valley in Narok county, Kenya. It is enormous and vast and lies adjacent to the limitless plains of the Serengeti National Park in neighbouring Tanzania. We had flown into Musiara Airstrip and we were to stay at Nkorombo Serian camp, a tented mobile camp on the banks of the mighty Mara river. This was located within the Mara North conservancy nestled in some 80,000 acres.
The Maasai Mara is named in honour of the Maasai people, an indigenous semi-nomadic tribe that are famed for their bright shukas and elaborate bead work. They have a fearsome reputation as formidable warriors and despite maintaining ancient traditions, the people have moved with the times and have a crucially important role in modern day conservation efforts. The word “Mara” means “spotted” in the Maasai language, owing to the many short bushy trees dotted across the landscape. The name of our lodgings , “Serian” is the Maasai word for ‘serene.’
The Maasai Mara is home to the Big Five, and an abundance of other large animals, and over 470 species of birds. There is a large density of big cats, the highest density of hippo’s anywhere in the world but perhaps what the area is renowned for is the great migration, often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. The topography is littered with millions of wildebeest who every year from around July make a pilgrimage from the north from the Serengeti in Tanzania, crossing the Mara river in search of fresh pastures and mating possibilities, and then they return south in or around October.
As our safari vehicle wound its way steadily across the rolling plains, we were able to witness millions of these wildebeest which really was an epic sight. They are quite scruffy, awkward looking creatures, with a scraggy mane which flows behind them when they are galloping along and they make constant grunting noises. Their numbers were remarkable and we were told by our guide, Francis, that we would attempt to catch the migration the following day. Their lolloping along kicked up significant dust clouds as if to give us a preview of what was in store for us. It was laughable how dirty we got just being sat in a car!
To our delight, we stumbled upon a mating pair of lions. A beautiful and muscular black maned male lion, mounting his subservient and compliant mate for a matter of seconds, tenderly nibbling her neck, before relaxing into the long grass attempting to recover some energy for the next covering. Lions mate every 20 minutes or so over a period of 3 or 4 days so this is quite an arduous process for both parties concerned! We were privileged to witness such intimacy in the wilderness although the lioness looked less than interested in the shenanigans.
In addition to seeing these beautiful beasts, we were also exceedingly lucky to catch a glimpse of a solitary cheetah. A young male who’s belly was so full, it drooped along the ground whilst he took a drink from a stream. He had clearly just had a feed and when he was sated, he gingerly slunk off, his impressive spots melting away in the dense undergrowth.
We couldn’t believe our luck. We had been in the Maasai Mara for less than a day yet we had seen the most amazing wild life already. Along with the big cats, the millions of wildebeest, there were also many zebras, gazelle, impala, warthog, topi and maasai giraffe. These giraffe are a different species to the reticulated giraffe that we would ordinarily see at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, or in Samburu. We had also spied a couple of splendid male ostriches on our journey. On the road on the way into our camp, we were also startled by a hippo! He was a huge specimen, and he spooked a little at our presence but he was too busy munching the grass like a giant cow to be bothered by us trundling by.
Our arrival into camp was met with the warmest of welcomes accompanied by a refreshing glass of fresh juice and a warmed towel to clean our grubby faces. Our tent was luxurious and we were pleasantly surprised that we had every creature comfort that our heart desired, including electricity on demand, charging points for our multiple mobile phones and hot water for the much needed showers. It was as serene as the title suggests, and it was world away from any form of civilisation which was very much welcomed by Mr Nomad and I. It was peaceful and tranquil, and everything that we had hoped for. The only sounds to be heard was the rushing torrent of water of the mighty Mara river which was strangely comforting, along with the occasional honking from the hippos that dwelled within the river itself.
Our tent was directly overlooking the Mara river which was inhabited by numerous hippo’s and after gorging ourselves on a sumptuous feast, we gathered around a fire pit to regale the stories of the sightings from our fabulous first day in the magnificent Maasai Mara. Having already experienced tantalizing views of awe inspiring landscapes, and the abundance of wild animals, we were more than excited to see what the following days would bring in this magical land.