This morning I visited the Maasai village in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. I was assigned a family – the Chief’s son, Sammy, and his first wife and two children. I learned about how they live in the bomas; I learned how they make fire by hand; I learned the ceremonial dance and song; and, how Sammy was the one of the fifty or so boys at age 15 who killed a lion with a spear and got his first wife for free rather than having to pay 10 cows for her dowry. This was a true treat and I highly recommend doing it. The donation you give (approximately $10 USD worth) goes to the school to help with educating the Maasai children and worth every penny. If you can arrange a night stay with a Maasai family in their boma, I’m told that it is well worth it and regret not having done it myself but was way too excited about proceeding on my journey as I was trying to set up something really special in the upcoming weeks. (Read further about my travels through Africa and you will see what I got to do!)
Following this, we had a long road trip to Lake Naivasha for what was kind of like a lake safari. I was fascinated by the hippos in the water, the tall tree stumps stretching high in the sky out of the water like something from a scary movie, the home of the birds (which looks like a winter wonderland due to all the bird poop) and the beautiful and rare eagles that flew overhead when our boat captain tossed out a fish. I definitely need to learn how to rapid fire/burst photos on my Olympus digital camera but given I couldn’t do burst photograph, the below was not too shabby a shot of this beautiful and majestic creature of the sky.
Lastly, late at night, we arrived in Nakuru where we slept at the CityMax Hotel and I got my first hot shower in days and a decent night’s rest. If you are in the area, I recommend this hotel as it is a good budget accommodation for when you need a break from camping. Anyway, I needed that good night’s rest as New Year’s Eve was filled with a few charming surprises and was a really long travel day to my next adventure – Amboseli.
That’s all for now from the animal kingdom of Magical Kenya.
How’s about a hot air balloon safari over the Maasai Mara in Kenya sound? Just as blissful and beholding as it was I’m guessing. Well, I would absolutely recommend it as that doesn’t even come close to effectively describing this experience. Sarah from Belgium – who I met in Estonia – recommended I do it, and, as I always do, I’m here and ready for yet another experience.
My wake up call was at 3:30 a.m. as the lift off spot was a good hour to 2 hours away on what I lovingly refer to as the Maasai Highway after picking up my new friends from Amsterdam, Migal and Jeroine, who graciously allowed me to spend the day with them on their private safari! How cool is that!
Our day started with a star-filled sky which blew all other night skies out of the water (including Merzouga Desert and Cabo Polinio if you can believe it) followed by an African sunrise which poured golden rays into the golden land of the Maasai Mara and on the golden reserve – you got it – the golden lions of the Maasai Mara among many other species of wildlife.
Following this, we loaded up in the basket with Captain Yoshitaka of Balloon Safaris Ltd and high in the sky we went as well as low over the animal inhabited lands we coasted. The wind, of course, directs our flight but you move with the wind so it makes for the most peaceful of flights you can imagine.
Below are some of the photographs of the wildlife from the sky.
Following same, a champagne breakfast at the quintessential African Tree – not a shabby way to start a day.
So after seeing all this incredible wildlife from the sky, Steven (and then later Bernard) gave me, Migal and Jeroine the close up view from the ground of the Circle of Life – not a shabby way to end the day either my Rafiki! (By the way, all the names like Simba and Rafiki and sayings like Hakuna Matata from the Lion King are not made up! I had no idea my daughter could speak Swahili at the age of 1!)
To top this incredible day off, I got a sneak peak of the Serengeti and Country 76 – Tanzania. Miranda named it the Maasaigeti, Kenzania as it is where the Maasai Mara of Kenya and the Serengeti of Tanzania meet. It was the first time, I had a Red Bull in two countries at once.
Now tell me you have zero interest in ever going to Africa on safari 😉
That’s all for today from the Lion King’s backyard – Maasai Mara!
Off to Maasai Mara for safari with Venture Safari. Take a moment to digest what I just said. The reason I ask you to do this is I think there are very few people that can honestly say “I never dreamt about a safari in Africa.” The land, the safari Jeep, the hat you will wear even, binoculars in hand and, of course, being so very close to incredible game in the wild. Yesterday I got a small taste of what is to come I’m told and, in particular, 4 of the Big 5 are still missing from my repertoire as I set out this morning – elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo. Oh but not anymore!!!
So how do you get an affordable safari planned in Kenya?
First things first. You’ll want to get a handful of quotes from different safari companies -you would think – depending on how much safari you want to do and where right? Well, in truth, you are going to get a huge range of numbers but will find that all of the safaris offered are about the same across the board in every way accept what they can get you to pay particularly when it comes to budget safaris. What I learned is there are many agencies but they all work together when it comes to safari so while I booked through Venture Safari I don’t think I actually met anyone from this company. I joined group after group of other companies all of which work together to provide the needed services to accomplish Safari ie one company handles the transport, another the camping or lodge accommodations and yet another the food and so on and so forth. So what does this mean for you? Just go with the cheapest quote and haggle that down to the bear minimum. I don’t know if the below quotes would be the same next time but all of these people were on safari with me from different companies and got the same exact experience/accommodation/food just different prices:
Venture Safari – $680 for 6 days all inclusive (2 days Maasai Mara, 1 day Lake Nakuru, 2 days Amboseli)
Big Time Safari – $740
Absolute Holiday Safari – $720
Karine Safari – $660
In other words, it doesn’t matter who you book with. If you want to upgrade from tent to lodge go ahead but I don’t think your adventure will be any better for it and, for that matter, it might be less authentic. Also, note that all t
hese guys/companies work together. From the top, Albert, at Big Time, is great on down to Richard, James, Bernard and my fave Steven who were all great guides/drivers. Zach was difficult to deal with but I think we were just never on the same page which inevitably means not communicating well but I think we eventually worked it out…sort of… That experience; however, is a rare to non-existent experience throughout my travels. Of course, I don’t often do tours but in the case of a Kenyan safari it’s probably the best way.
So what do you need with you? Comfy clothes, sunscreen, chap stick, binoculars, your GoPro, and, most importantly, your Olympus Digital Camera! I’ve been through a couple cameras on my travels and I saw a ton of them on safari and suffice it to say, my lightweight Olympus with incredible zoom capacity was raved on by all. Why? It took the best photos. Close ups…the eye of the tiger if you will or, in this case, the eye of the leopard, cheetah, giraffe, buffalo, rhino, elephant, hippo, eagle, zebra and, of course, the man eater…the King himself – the Lion. Oh yeah!!! I saw them all as you will see but first things first….
I was picked up by the company at Sarova Panafric (great hotel) and after getting my wings (as always thank you Red Bull) and meeting my group and paying at the company’s office (Venture Safaris), we were on our way to Maasai Mara land.
In route, we stopped at the famous Rift Valley which stretches the entirety of Africa on the east side before having some authentic African dish in Narok of lamb, peas, rice, potatoes and chapati (my fave food here in Kenya – think Indian pan). The food was always delicious which was surprising given the whole budget buffet style feedings!
And as is the norm in Africa I’m learning, we shared the road with a baboon! Of course, Zach threatened to get his “gun” if it came any closer especially since he had his eye on me. That “gun” turned out to be a sling shot and we all had a big laugh.
I will warn you that on safari it can get a little dusty. In other words, be prepared like me (see below). 😉
Upon arrival, we dropped our things at Miti Mingi Eco Camp right outside the park. Joseph, the manager, was gracious and helpful and the tents were great with our own private shower, toilet, beds and mosquito nets but remember there is only two hours of electricity in the morning and two hours in the evening so keep that in mind if you plan to charge those requisite aforementioned devices. Plus, I got my first roommate for my Africa trip – Sergio from Espana, who, it turns out, can speak English but doesn’t understand it so when I asked him to zip the tent, he thought I meant something about unzipping something else (hehehe) as he tried to climb under my mosquito net and into my bed! (Hakuna Matata as we had a good laugh and he got me back as he was the one who convinced me to climb Kilimanjaro!!!!)
We also saw our first game at Miti Mingi Eco Camp….scary huh 😉
Then we set out on our first evening game drive which honestly was a bit rushed and somewhat frustrating as Zach barely stopped to allow us to photograph; however, have no fear my friends as we got a taste of what was to come as evidenced below and believe you me, you want to see what is to come!!! (Especially if the below photos are examples of feeling rushed.)
That’s all for now from Safari Day 1 – Maasai Mara.