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Kenya: Jambo from Maasai Mara

Kenya: Jambo from Maasai Mara

Visiting Africa for a Safari was always among my top three bucket list picks. There is a night under the desert sky, I experienced much more than once when living in Jordan, and also, strolling through Medina Marrakech. Still outstanding a safari in Africa… at least until some weeks ago. How this one turned out? I’m going to tell you in this post…

The trip started as usual with a long journey. This time around twenty hours travel from Amman to Nairobi. With that in mind we decided to stay for the first two nights in a comfortable hotel in Nairobi. Since the city has some safety issues – we got told many times – we stayed around the neighbourhood and walked to a shopping centre nearby the hotel. Actually, I have to mention that I felt quite safe watching and being part of the nearby street life. Crowds of people on their ways or selling food or clothes out of small, mostly handmade stalls along the streets. The colourful houses and bright clothes people wearing – a true lust for life spirit. The shopping centre itself was also neat, especially the shops whit Kenyan products. Some nice restaurants and bars invited for delicious meat dishes and also great Tusker beer, an East African Lager brand. It appears Kenyan people generally eat a lot of meat, and they also prefer it well grilled, which I was looking for that day too. Later on the ride from Nairobi to Mara, I better understood why, as there are huge herds of cows, goats and others, quite freely kept in the wide steppes and grazing lands. I’ve never seen that many animals in one day – and that’s even before the Safari started ,).

First day of the Safari… or let’s say almost there. Joseph, our tour guide and Game Drive specialist picked us up very early morning and greeted us with a friendly ‘Jambo!’, which basically means ‘Hello’. From Nairobi to Maasai Mara National Reserve it’s around 300 km to the west, so I thought the ride will take us a few hours… eventually it took us seven hours!! Hearing that I was a bit concerned, but then I really appreciated the adventurous ride through the scenes and landscapes with its rich and wild vegetation. After almost two hours ride we stopped for a view over the Great Rift Valley. It’s somehow familiar traveling from Jordan thousands of kilometres south, but staying around the same big fault line .Truly impressing though.

Later the drive we saw a gang of baboons along the street, some of them carrying babies – very cute. ‘They are not as cute as they appear – they are sneaky thieves’, Joseph said. He seemed a bit bugged by this species, so I did not ask much further… I’m sure he had his experiences. Funny though how such a furry and cute monkey can make someone that furious,). We passed by a very tiny church with space for around 10 people. Joseph said ‘if they squeeze they make it for 20…’. Must be very cosy then. Anyways, one of Joseph’s funny stories in between.

A few minutes later we stopped by at a small village to buy some roasted corn and other vegetables. We had not even to leave the car – people sold their goods by showing them through the car’s window. I don’t understand Swahili language and I could just guess what Joseph was negotiating, but eventually the car was a bit richer on vegetables and tempting smells.

Halfway and time for lunch. I was starving already – so we stopped by at a small restaurant, quite basic. After that there shouldn’t be another planned stop before Mara… and I’m telling you, we were not much prepared for what was coming next. After the around four hours convenient drive on asphalt streets the adventure was right in front of us… a gravel ‘paved’ under construction and partially off road trip should continue for the coming two hours. Dusty and well shaken we arrived at the entrance of the National Reserve. Our first Game Drive was just at its start.

It took one minute until we discovered the first real wildlife representative: a mother zebra with its cute, cute baby. The baby had some birds sitting on his fur on the back, and Joseph meant it is enjoying the birds picking and scratching like getting a massage. I was similarly impressed when a Giraffe crossed in front of us. Wild creatures I know from childhood days from the zoo, but trust me, that’s absolutely not the same. Watching those animals free in their environment was amazing and heart-breaking at the same time. It was… watching each other with respect. Years ago I decided no longer visiting any zoo. That moment consolidated my personal decision.

We were also lucky to see on our first Game Drive a pack of Cheetah’s. These athletic and especially fast cats lying there just a few meters away and playing like teenagers… truly great to watch!

Nightfall and therefore time to leave the reserve and settle in the camp. We intentionally chose a camp instead of a luxury lodge – we wanted to experience the real wild and prolong the spirit of ‘being guest in their territory’. At the campsite, Steve, the chef, introduced himself as ‘our mother’ for the coming days, welcomed us very heartily, and introduced us also to the night guards – two amazing looking, very friendly Maasai. Ok… guards with a spear… why? Just a few meters off the unfenced reserve – could it be predators crossing the camp at night? I immediately asked the Maasai – after we opened a bottle of wine ,) to better receive the answer. The Maasai explained that there is a small creek right behind our tent and there is a chance that a hippo comes close. Alright… a cute hippo. I asked if they ever saw a Lion at the camp, which he thankfully negated. Generally asking them which one is the most dangerous animal, they looked at each other and agreed: Hippo. Well… great I thought. But he convinced me to protect our tent with the spear and that animals are usually afraid of their super strong torch light ,) and the campfire they kept burning all night.

Meanwhile, Steve prepared a very delicious meal – he truly was the heart of the camp! Totally done from the long and eventful day we fell into bed. Actually I slept very, very well, just a few baboons and hyenas… I couldn’t see them, but I heard them the whole night. Different noises from different animals out of different corners… so thrilling, but at the same time an enjoyable experience. Knowing there are two well equipped guards around at least.

Ahead of us a two and a half day Safari which was split in an early morning Game Drive, then breakfast at the camp, a second Game Drive, then a lunch break at the camp and some relax time, and an evening Game Drive followed by dinner. Steve really took very good care of us during the breaks.

At the first early morning Game Drive Joseph gave his best to show us such a scary Hippo, because Hippos are usually out of water very early or after sunset. During daytime they prefer a bath in the river. Eventually we didn’t find a Hippo that morning, but instead we saw Lions. How great is that? One Lioness left the bushes somehow interested to hunt a Zebra, which was some couple of meters away. At the end the Lioness went back to the bushes without a catch, as daytime is traditionally resting time in their group. We were unbelievably lucky the Lioness skipped the break for a while.

We drove further especially alongside the waterbeds. Joseph still wanted to find a Hippo, but suddenly he started to speed up and lively discussed through his special Safari channel with some other guys. Someone gave him a hint where to see a lost Cheetah and also a pack which just hunted a Gnu. And really… there was the poor Cheetah teenage male crying for his pack. As we drove further we also found his pack, which was also the one just hunting the Gnu. Thrilling. Of course Game Drive specialist Joseph showed us the Hippos later that day bathing at their river place. What a day… already unforgettable.

On our Safari we also saw Herds of Gnus and Antelopes, Elephants, Warthogs, Hyenas, Buffalos, Ostriches, Meerkats, … and many, many more of those wild creatures. Eventually, only the Rhino and Leopard we didn’t see out of the so called ‘Big Five’. But I guess that’s a good reason coming back one day. Its not the ‘Big Five’ only – thinking over it, the Warthog got my special attention ,). It looks just sooo cute and has a funny eating habit with its wrist and front legs bend… hard to describe – you have to watch yourself. When they run, their tail looks like an antenna… I really enjoyed watching them.

Not only the animals were great to watch, but also the Serengeti itself, its nature and people. There is so much more – but including the ‘Big Five’ – making noise and preparing the real adventure, especially during early morning hours, waking you up in a Maasai guarded tent somewhere in the bushes of Africa…

Cheers with sunbeams.

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