The Masai Mara

Posted on November 25, 2011

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After deciding to suck up the cost and embark on the quintessential, must-do aspect of Kenyan tourism – the Masai Mara – eleven of us piled into two safari vans last Friday morning to start what would certainly wind up being an interesting weekend.

After making the journey out to the Mara, via the town of Narok, we were deposited at our campsite for a quick lunch. This was rudimentary, but the tents were large and spacious, coming complete with bathroom. Masai security guards strolled around and chatted amicably, and we headed out on the first part of our safri optimistic that we would see all of the Big Five. We almost did it within that first afternoon, with our slightly-crazed driver finding lions and cheetahs for us within the first hour. It was fascinating to observe these animals from close-up, but also slightly bizarre to witness a pride of lions take their afternoon nap observed by a cartel of safari vans. Buffalos, hippos and elephants were also spotted, while those with good eyesight could just about make out a pair of rhinos sitting high on a hilltop. The scenery of the Mara really is breathtaking, it is just a shame that there are so many other tourists there to obstruct the view.

After having the obligatory party at the campsite that night, we were off again early the next morning for the next part of the safari. Again we saw lions and cheetahs, and this time came close to seeing them make a kill before they inexplicably gave up. Slightly disappointed by this, my own day was significantly worsened after dislocating my shoulder in the most innocuous of circumstances when the van went over a slight bump. In agony, and with no medical attention for miles around, it seemed my weekend was over. My friends were able to track down some doctors on a safari weekend – I was in and out of consciousness by this point – who unsuccessfully attempted to relocate the shoulder in the field, almost getting eaten by lions in the process. Ferried to a hotel on the edge of the Mara, I was able to take advantage of their “facilities”, which essentially meant being pumped full of painkillers, muscle relaxant and, most importantly, expensive whisky as attempts to fix my shoulder continued. Eventually I was patched up and spared the cost and irritation of having to fly back to Nairobi early. Much thanks to the two doctors who came to my rescue, and my understanding companions on the trip.

Relieved to have been able to rejoin the group, I passed a quiet night at camp before rising at 6am the next day for the final installment of the safari. This time it was all about the hunt for the elusive leopard. Hearing over the radio that one had been found, our driver sped off so we could take a look, overdoing it a little and in fact chasing the leopard off upon his arrival. Sitting for safety in the front of the van, i was able to catch a quick glimpse of the elusive creature before it hurtled into woodland. Others in the van weren’t so lucky. Insult was added to injury by the fact that we became stuck, and had to be towed out by another vehicle that was no doubt slightly irritated that we had chased away the leopard and also contained the doctors, who were probably asking themselves what other ingenious ways I could come up with to ruin their weekend. The rest of the morning passed without much incident, cruising around the massive Mara, admiring the scenery and various wildlife.

Before heading back to Nairobi we made a detour and visited a local Masai village, whose population appeared to make up a dance for us on the spot. We were showed inside their small, smoky mud huts and given a demonstration of how they make fire using a stick and a machete. It was certainly interesting, seeing how these rural people live, but one cannot escape the impression that the majority of their money comes from ripping off tourists – which they did both with an entry fee and then when attempting to sell various onjects – rather than traditional farming. Nevertheless, it was all in good humour and added a new element to a weekend that until then had been primarily about the animals.

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Posted in: Experience, Travel