A tour of the Maasai Mara to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration on the trip The Great Eastern Summer.
After touring Nairobi, we were off to one of the main attractions of Kenya, the Maasai Mara.
Named after the indigenous tribes of the area, the park was established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary and has grown to its current size of 1,510 sq km (580 sq mi) in 1984. The national reserve is known for its annual Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle as well as its concentration of lions, cheetahs, and leopards
From Wilson Airport, we boarded our Air Kenya flight on a small Cessna caravan along with two pilots and one other passenger. Little did we know, the short trip would actually take almost two hours instead of the scheduled 30 minutes as we had four stops before our destination.
The flight was quite fun with great views over the different terrains and animals of the Mara and intense landings and take-offs. Three of our landings were on dirt strips and one on tarmac. On the first a herd of gazelles ran off in front of the plane to avoid being hit. At each stop we either dropped off or picked up passengers, until it was our turn to disembark.
The experience was akin to a two hour air safari!
We finally arrived at Keekorok and met our Maasai guide, Daniel, in full traditional dress. We then paid the park fee at $70 per person per day. Surprisingly they accepted credit card.
Then we drove twenty minutes to Sarova Mara Game Camp, a luxurious resort in the middle of the reserve.
After checking in and having lunch in the restaurant we were off for an afternoon safari.
Our guide was very efficient and did a good job of finding the big five for us to see. We started with a sleeping cheetah, then roaming elephants, a group of lions and the highlight of the day, a rhino with huge horns. We also stopped by hyena den where a family was started to get ready for the evening of scavenging.
Then we returned at sunset.
Back at the camp, we sipped a cocktail in the lounge while watching the traditional Maasai dance performance, the entertainment of the evening. The Maasai men jumped around taking turns to see who could jump the highest. One of the tourists watching got so into it, he started doing backflips on stage with the Maasai!
We had a delicious meal and were welcomed by conga line of staff singing and playing instruments to bring us a cake. The exuberant women even pulled us from our chairs and danced with us right in the restaurant! That was definitely a first in a fine dining restaurant.
The next day the main goal was to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration. Every year over two million animals migrate, the largest of its kind in the world, from Maasai Mara to the Serengeti National Park.
After a private champagne breakfast at the salt lick supposedly a favorite area of the buffalo, we checked out and got into the safari Land Cruiser.
We went to a lookout area with a great view over the Mara before driving for a couple of hours to get to the migration area. There were many wildebeest and zebras hanging around. We stayed back along with thirty other cars, as the animals tried to make up their mind on when to cross the river. Then finally after about an hour, they made a run for the other side. It was an all out race to the river edge with a huge stampede followed by every vehicle in the area. At the river’s edge, everyone got out if the trucks to witness the crossing.
Unfortunately, it was quite unspectacular as every animal made it across safely with no crocodile attacks.
Next we had a bush picnic under a single tree. It was a fantastic feeling to sit in the middle of Maasai Mara’s natural environment while dining on delicious meal of rice with lamb, beef, vegetables followed by yogurt, muffins and coffee. The only annoying thing was were the many tiny flies buzzing around.
From there we drove directly to the airstrip to catch our return flight to Nairobi. As expected our flight was delayed which wasn’t a big deal until it started to downpour. The rainstorm was intense and I wondered if we would even be able to fly out. The passengers were getting back into cars from the covered waiting area.
Finally our plane landed creating a huge wake on the landing strip. Passengers disembarked and dragged their waterlogged luggage off the runway.
Not surprisingly we were still taking off in the storm on our fully loaded Twin Otter prop plane. The pilot even had to clear the condensation of the windshield with his hand.
Even in these harrowing conditions, the flight went without a hitch and was actually quite a smooth ride after take off.
Back at Wilson Airport, we found a black Mercedes with Stanley written on it waiting outside the hanger. That was us.
We checked into the Stanley in downtown Nairobi and then met up with Grace at her friend’s birthday party in a diplomatic compound area. Watching Americans blowing flames with vodka over a fire pit was how we ended our night.
Tomorrow we head to Burundi.