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Kenya, On the road 0

Masai Mara: Once-in-a-lifetime adventure

I suppose this will be a very clumsy atempt to tell you about the this very special Masai Mara safari experience, as I have started writing this post about four times during the week and twice this morning. It was simply too beautiful to find the right words, but that is exactly the reason why I want you to know. Because, people, you have to see this! You absolutely need to put it on your bucket list and make it to Masai Mara, before you become old and grumpy and dead. 

So let me tell you…

The dream team of forrozeiras – myself and Marie – together with the ICRC gang left on Friday afternoon towards Masai Mara and pretty much spend the day on the car – one has to suffer a bit to deserve the good stuff, right? Our driver, guide and wildlife educator in one, Rama, was entertaining us on the way, and we saw quite a bit of Rift Valley from our car. With stunning views along the road, sun high up in the sky, it was not the worst ride despite the rollercoaster bumpy two hours towards the end. We reached Masai Mara when the sun was getting ready to sleep, and I knew it would be a special trip, when I spotted a big herd of elephants with their babies munching on green bushes just next to the road we were driving on.

You know, I’ve been close to elephants in a Thailand’s elephant stay, but these were wild creatures and we entered their territory. They were HUGE and majestic. We passed unnoticed and made it to our lodge just in time for delicious dinner followed by sweet chill with wine and shisha.

Masai Mara unexpected

The main adventure started on Saturday with 6 am alarm. Off we were to the main gate of the national park ready to see them all –  lions, buffalos, leopards, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos and most importantly wildebeests migrating across the Mara river to Serengeti.

Masai women selling their jewels at the park's gate.

Masai women selling their jewels at the park’s gate.

Honestly, I had no (or at least not much) expectations, because I simply did not have any clue of WHAT to expect. Kind of a big free space zoo with a few animals somewhere in far distance? Maybe with a few zebras daring to come closer? Well… I definitely did not expect a lion majestically walking right in front of our safari car giving us annoyed looks. I did not expect zebras and wildebeests running madly along the road we were driving on, the least I expect facing an upset elephat way bigger than our safari van with tusks soooo long. It was something.

Most of the way, I was excitedly standing on my seat peeking through the open rooftop trying to soak it all in. There was no need of trying to spot animals, they were all over the place, wherever we looked near or far, very present and very chilled. It was their territory. We were just endured intruders.

Lions are clearly on top of the food chain.

Lions are clearly on top of the food chain.

The landscape itself was marvelous and we could recognize three different areas as we were driving through the park on Saturday and Sunday. Dry yellow savanah with flat horizon, green and bushy area with hills and rough riverfront all dotted with wildebeests, zebras and hungry vultures.

Wildebeest migration

Talking about the riverfront, the highlight of the trip was definitely the wildebeests crossing the Mara river in an attempt to get to Tanzania’s Serengeti national park. It really is an attempt, as many die in the river being drowned by crocodiles.

Our well informed Rama overheard that a big herd of wildebeests was rounded up at the river and drove us there. We have seen the amount of safari cars silently waiting on both banks of the river observing a massive crowd of wildebeests hesitating on the edge, more and more of the wild animals coming to join them in the suicidal move.

The ‘ugly faces’ were gathering, few of them peacefully feeding themselves already on the other side of the river. Some were walking around, but most were standing still clunched to one another, facing the river but not moving. I have never felt so much strange energy in one spot.

Observers in the cars were excited, but kept silent and patient. We were waiting for almost two hours when a small group of youngsters finally started making their way through the herd and directly to the river. The excitement of people was so present despite the hard to maintain silence, only sounds of clicking cameras was heard here and there, occassionally disturbed by the engine of another safari car.

Despite the small herd of young wildebeests disappearing behind the moulds of the riverbank, we did not hear the water splashing, and 20 minutes later the same animals appeared back up on the edge re-joining their counterparts. Some cars gave up and left, but we kept waiting, half asleep in the heat of the safari car, no longer trying to send good energy and courage to the animals.

Wildbeests crossing the Mara river.

Wildbeests crossing the Mara river.

And then it happened.

First we only heard excited whisper from the cars around, got up on our seats and peeked through the rooftop. Indeed, the herd was moving! First just a few pieces, then the whole massive herd unmistakably following them. With splashing water, the first liners appeared in our view right in the middle of the river with more animals running in a neverending line joining the herd at the back. My stomach shrunk in excitement and I had goosebumps all over. I could not believe I see this so National Geographic scene live.

As many got in water and started making it to the other side of the river, the whole theater piece got a new character – close to the opposite river bank, a massive crocodile was approaching the crossing herd. It was a matter of seconds  we caught a glimpse of one wildebeest struggling to keep moving and disappearing under the water surface. It is the survival of the fittest, and this time it was the crocodile’s territory. One lost, hundreds of others won and made it to Serengeti.

The day was far from over, but if all we saw for the rest of the afternoon were zebras and colorful birds, we had our highlight of the day, of the trip, maybe of the whole Kenya trip.

Mara was patient with us and rewarded us with much more on that and the following day. There was another large herd of elephants that surrounded us and shared the road with us with their babies excitedly running after their moms, and the bulls with scary big tusks watching every our move with suspicion. There was a big old Lion King roaring so close I wanted to pad him. There were zebras and secretary birds posing to our cameras, and cheetahs making fun of us, as we could not make it close enough.

While waiting for the wildebeests to start crossing. :)

While waiting for the wildebeests to start crossing. 🙂

Masai Mara with Marie and the ICRC gang was certainly THE trip of the year, as was this whole Kenya adventure. Although it is coming to its end, it is not the end just yet.

As I am typing this, I am overlooking the beatiful Shella beach with Manda island across the bay and the very different Lamu town just a pleasant walk away. I do have more blogging from Kenya for you, and I guess I will keep writing and reflecting upon this trip long after my return.

Thanks a lot for reading and ‘see you’ soon.



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