Everything in Africa bites, but the Safari bug is worst of all. – Brian Jackson
Flying into the Mara
We made it to our little bush plane with only seconds to spare, our pilot was aware of the situation so he waited as long as he could. We discovered that we weren’t the only passengers as well as there were other stops to make. Neither of us have ever been on such a small plane but with all the excitement we didn’t seem to care about this. Taking off from Nairobi you get to see the sprawl of the city where it eventually blends into the plains and tall trees. It didn’t take long before we were out over the open national reserve where all you see are miles of brown landscape with a few patches of water and trees.
We stopped off 2 times, one to drop off guest and pick up others at another camp and one other to drop off supplies at what looked like a ranch. Flying over the desert southwest of the US doesn’t even compare to the scale of what you see when flying over the Mara. I have no idea how the Maasi can navigate, on foot, through this.
Landing at our camp there’s a dedicated airstrip for the plane. It’s not paved, no lights, and no control tower. It’s out on the flattest part of the area and there’s outlines of rocks to indicate the ‘cleared’ area for landing. There was a open air truck with 3 people waiting, 2 Maasi and 1 not dressed in tribal gear. Unloading and introductions where made. Our driver, a local from Nairobi, he was the one not in tribal attire and 1 of the Maasi would be with us for the rest of the trip. The other tribesman filled out some paperwork and left the airstrip as our plane left the area.
It doesn’t take long after you leave the airstrip before you start to see animals. The first were giraffe, you can’t miss them due to their height and how they tower over the lower trees. Next we impala and zebra. The drive over to the camp was bumpy because there is no real road, just a path but we didn’t mind. The number of animals we saw in that 20 minutes was just a fraction as to what we’d see over the next 3 days.
Arriving at the camp is surprising because pictures don’t prepare you for the entrance. It’s massive front ‘lawn’ opens up from the road to where you can see the main tent and a few of the tents used for the guest. The main tent is where the lunch and dinner meals are done. It’s also setup as a lounge and relaxing area for guest to hang out, grab a drink or even find a comfy chair to nap in.
As their name states, it’s a ‘1920’s’ themed camp but with all the modern conveniences. They even have camp wide wifi.
Our own tent was about a 200 yard walk from the main tent. The tent comes with a full bath set in the back of the tenth with hot and cold running water as well as a western style toilet. Every night, after dinner, the staff would turn down the beds and place a hot water bottle in the bed, it gets really cold at night! You pull down the bug screen and pass out until the next morning.
3 days of safari
The next 3 days were spent waking up at 4:30am where coffee and a small danish would be delivered to give you a little jump start. We’d open up the tent and see our Maasi still standing over what was left of a fire he tended all night. There are no fences at the camp. You know this when you see the huge pile of elephant dung out about 10 feet from your tent. After slurping down the coffee you’re escorted to the main tent where you’d meet up with your driver/guide and the Maasi who would be the spotter and we’d set off.
Driving about a hour, you don’t see much at first but when the dawn breaks you see plenty! Of the Big 5 we saw all but the leopard. The rhino was the 2nd hardest to find but eventually we got one. Look on my Portfolio Page for most of the Africa trip pictures!
Next up – Abu Dhabi!
Seriously – you should really check out the entire trip photo-log!