Marvelous Mara Adventure

One of my goals for 2016 (I call them goals, not resolutions) was to travel more. This also is a goal for many of you, I’m sure. But I realised that without taking deliberate steps to make it happen, it could remain a dream. So I did my homework and researched on what it would take to go to Maasai Mara. I looked up tour companies, rates, peak wildebeest migration season and even weather forecasts. There’s a joke I came across on the internet that someone wants to travel and see the world, but the state of his wallet can only allow him to go to the park! I didn’t let the issue of finances stop me. I was determined to achieve this.

Zebra and antelopes grazing.
The beauty that awaits visitors to the Mara.

The Lord works in mysterious ways to fulfill the desires of our hearts. By His grace I got a contract job between May and August, and used savings from my pay for the trip. I would feel the pinch as I set aside money every month for this. But I would remind myself that paying for experiences is worth it. And it definitely is!

I had wanted to make the tour in August which should be the peak of the Great Migration. So far things were going well. Except for the travel booking. The tour company I’d intended to book with was slow in responding to my enquiries. However, one of my friends referred me to his brother who works with a tour company. Their response speed was a breath of fresh air and within a short time I was sorted. Keep reading to find out who they are. 🙂

Lush forest at Rift Valley View Point, Kenya.
Lush forest at Rift Valley View Point.

The tour date drew nearer and my excitement grew. Not the case with my parents though. The first question I got when I told them the news is, “Who are you going with?” When I told them was going alone the response was underwhelming. I was even called antisocial (gasp!). Reminds me of an article I read on Huffington Post titled The Stigma of Doing Things Alone. People will assume there’s something wrong with you and go on to pontificate on how you should get a life, make more friends, and not be so weird. Or insist on sitting with you when you’re by yourself in public. Some of us just prefer our own company, thank you very much. End of rant. For now.

Antelope grazing.
Maybe if I hide in this grass the humans won’t see me…

Anyway, the travel date was here and off I went to the departure point. I had to be up by 5 am to make it to the city by 8 am. The struggle. Thankfully I made it in time and my first fellow passenger was a young German college student. He had done 2 years of Law studies but discovered that’s not what he wanted to do. He was now changing to Psychology. Try pulling such a stunt when you have African parents. Ha! He had also just come from a tour in Morocco. From Maasai Mara he planned to visit Mombasa then Kisumu. It hit me how ironic it is for us locals not to tour our country yet a foreigner will visit 5 places in just 2 weeks of being here!

Antelope and zebra grazing.
Just look at that beauty.

We left the tour company offices to pick up more passengers. The next one was (another!) German. Immediately the college lad said his name, he hit it off with the other guy, speaking rapidly in German. At the next pick up point we were joined by- you guessed it- more German passengers! (Another one!In DjKhaled voice). They spoke to each other in German 99.998% of the time. I named the tour ‘The Deutch Connection’. We were on our way and shortly after arrived at the Rift Valley View Point. I tried my hand at a few landscape shots of course. My travelmates were so amazed by the landforms, reminding me just what a beautiful country we have. Sometimes it takes outsiders to help us realise this.

Rift Valley View Point.
Views!

After the brief stopover we were back on the road again. I switched between dozing off and looking out the window at the beautiful landscapes. Two hours later it was time for a lunch break in Narok town.  A bustling place with lovely warm weather. I was glad to have left the biting Nairobi cold behind. Fast forward: the ride was smooth until we got to the main road leading into the Mara. It was so bumpy that I couldn’t lean back on the seat. Add dust to the mix and it was a really rough drive! Someone wrote a news article a while back about this road being in a sorry state (especially when it rains). I got to experience it first hand. I was also dismayed at the amount of litter, mostly plastic bags. When will we realise that not taking care of our environment harms us as well? (Not just animals and plants).

Two Masai giraffes in the savannah.
Always wanted to get a shot of giraffes crossing their necks.

Spotting animals by the roadside was a welcome relief. Our driver Patrick was kind enough to stop for us to take photos. Then the most amazing thing happened. We saw a large bird, which Patrick informed us was a Kori bustard. It flapped its wings a few times to show off the beautiful colours and patterns. After we snapped a few photos, it flew up into the sky and then…fell to the ground as if it had been shot! We drove up to where it had fallen and waited, hoping to see it get up or move. But it didn’t. It was dead. Yes, just like that! It had blood coming out of its nose and beak. That was one of the most fascinating yet scary things I had seen in a long time.

Majestic Kori bustard.
Majestic Kori bustard a few moments before he died.
Dead Kori bustard.
Another one bites the dust…Rest in peace friend.

After a moment of silence and getting over the shock of what had just happened, we went on. Finally we arrived at our camp. We were coated with dust as if we had driven through Rongai (nothing but love, my diaspora peeps). All I wanted was to wash my face and collapse on the bed to relieve the exhaustion. But we still had a game drive to go for.  I wouldn’t miss that for anything. We took a quick snack then went back into the van for the drive.

Close-up of antelope.
Snack time…ready for my close-up.

Cute Common zebra and antelopes grazed peacefully in the savannah. These two actually appear like their skin has been painted. So pretty. One thing I learnt on this trip is how to shoot quickly. Since this wasn’t a photographers’ safari, my travelmates were satisfied as soon as they got one or two shots. However, I wanted to get multiple photos of each animal with different compositions, exposures and making sure my focus was right. I had to quickly check and adjust my settings before the van moved again. Sometimes I needed to change lenses and this was an additional challenge.

Grevy's zebra scratching.
Aah, nothing like scratching that itch.
Beautiful painted antelope.
Beautiful painted antelope.

The landscape was amazingly beautiful especially in the setting sun. You could just stare at it for hours. If you need to de-stress, try nature…it really works. I managed to squeeze in some obligatory ‘lone tree’ shots. Because, come on, you can’t go to the Mara and come back without a lone tree shot.

Lone tree in Maasai Mara plains.
Obligatory lone tree shot…check!

My favourite of the day was a lioness we saw on our way back to camp. She was so relaxed, lying on a rock whiling the time away. We stopped there for around 15 minutes taking lots of pictures and she barely moved. She was probably thinking, “Pesky human tourists. Never seen a lioness before?” So majestic.Queen of the jungle indeed.

Lioness lying in the savannah.
Queen resting…don’t disturb.
Lioness lying in the savannah.
Such a poser.

Soon it was time to leave the park because it was almost closing time. There was one more treat for us though: a female Masai giraffe with her calf. The mother was near the path while her young was some distance away, perfectly camouflaged by the trees. What a beautiful sight.

Female Masai giraffe with oxpecker on neck.
Watchful mother keeps an eye on her baby. Notice the Oxpecker on her neck.
Little Masai giraffe.
Little Masai giraffe…how cute.

We arrived at camp just in time for supper. It was a buffet enough to feed two or three football teams. I’m usually picky about food when I travel (because my stomach is relatively sensitive) but there were no incidences this time. Wajee Mara Camp, well done! Oh, and the tour company is called Terminal Tours Kenya. Best service delivery ever. First time customer just became repeat customer!

Closeup of Grevy's zebra pattern.
Up, close and personal with the Common zebra.

And on that note we ended the first day. A full-day game drive awaited us on the next. Considering the excitement from our short evening game drive, I couldn’t wait to see how the next day would be. I’m sure you’re also eager to know how it went down? Stay tuned for Part 2! 🙂

Masai giraffe skin pattern.
Patterns.

Thanks for reading.

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11 thoughts on “Marvelous Mara Adventure

  1. I told myself, lemme check out this blog and and see what I am going to learn this time but I was not prepared for what I read. The poor bastard!! Have you talked to the guys at Nature Kenya to help you figure it out? I have to start travelling too…ok I travel all the time but this time I want it to be on me = ) Oh u do understand that 70% of the wildlife is found outside the parks right? And hope you learnt some German too. Thanks for giving us the name to the tour operator-Terminal Tours Kenya…keeping it in mind.

    Now to the pics, one word- Sunset!!! Ok I also love the zebra.

    Like

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