Our African Safari Trip in Kenya at The Maasai Mara

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Of the areas we visited on our African Safari last summer, if we had to narrow our trip to just one location, it would be the Maasai Mara.

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is an extraordinary travel destination in southwestern Kenya that offers an ideal climate and exceptional year-round game views. The average daytime temperatures remain comfortable while the nights are much cooler. It also has, arguably, the highest density of wildlife in the world.

A unique feature of the Massai Mara is that every year there is a migration of an estimated 2.5 million animals who make a round-trip journey of over 1200 miles across the Serengeti between Tanzania and Kenya.
My family had the opportunity to watch the famous wildebeest river crossing part of this migration. It left us in awe and heartbroken at the same time. More on this to come.

In my How To Plan a Safari Vacation post, I outlined our trip and safari camp destinations. Since returning from our trip last summer, I wrote about our visits to Nairobi and the Ol Pejeta Camp. We also visited Lewa Conservancy (where Prince Henry frequents and made his proposal of marriage to Kate) which I hope to document soon.

This post will summarize our time in the Maasai Mara.

Getting There

We took a small plane from the Lewa Conservancy to the Maasai Mara which took about an hour. If you wanted to go straight from Nairobi, the flight would also be about 1 hour. It was a smooth ride and we had no issues.

Where We Stayed

Richard’s River Camp

Richard’s River Camp is located in the Olare Orok Conservancy Mara North which borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve. By staying in this conservancy which restricts the number of vehicles on the grounds, we had the benefit of avoiding the crowds in the National Park while having access to the same animals.

Camp main living area for guests to gather. photo: Richard’s River Camp

Our room

I think the most important factor of where to stay is the crowd. How many people use the area for game drives? Will you be passing cars every few minutes or will you feel like you have the grounds to yourself? Will you be fighting for position to get the best views when you find something? How many rooms are at the hotel/camp? Will you be going on game drives with a group or on your own? What kind of car is used for the drives? There are bus like vans with small windows that can pack many people and you can feel every bump on the road vs jeep Land Rovers which handle the rough terrain smoothly and allow for great views of animals. You are there to see wildlife. The comfort in how you get to see it, in my opinion, is the most important factor of your time on a safari trip.

Our 6 bungalow camp was very comfortable and boutique-like in their service. As much as I loved the service level and personalized accommodations, you pay a big price tag for it. If we could get the same level experience for our game drives with more basic style accommodations at a lower price, we would have been just as happy. But if your budget allows the freedom to splurge and you want 5 star accommodations, this camp is a winner.

Activities

Game Drives

Each morning we started at 6am to catch the early wildlife activity and to watch the sun rise.

Mid morning, we would stop to have breakfast.

 


 

Wildebeest Crossing

We met a couple from Canada who had come mainly to see the wildebeest river crossing but waited for hours each day with no activity. Many days, the wildebeest loiter on both sides of the river but don’t actually cross. People come from all over the world to witness the wildebeest stampede cross the river.

We realized how lucky we were to catch this sight the very next day.

Many wildebeests are killed by crocodiles who are lying in wait for animals that get separated from the pack. We saw several get attacked by the crocodiles. Also, we saw many who were injured during the crossing. Several broke their front legs during the jump or were trampled. They ended up either floating helplessly down the river and drowning or were left on the shoreline to realize their fate.

We observed the wildebeests for about 1.5 hours. It was fascinating. We heard the cries of babies who lost their moms during the crossing. We saw parents frantically pacing and looking for their offspring after making it across. We watched the reunions of wildebeest families and could feel their relief.

It was hard to just stand there and watch when it would be so easy to interfere with nature and build a bridge to allow them to cross over!

This was the most memorable part of our trip.

Click here to watch a short facebook video of us witnessing the crossing

 Maasai Mara Village Visit

We visited a small Maasai Mara Village. It was interesting to see a typical Maasai home, made of mud. We felt a bit uncomfortable as the group felt the need to “perform” for us with dances and singing. We appreciated their presentation, but it didn’t feel natural in the moment. We would have preferred a more organic and casual interaction with the villagers. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the experience.

Visit to Market in Town

After visiting the “staged” Maasai village, we asked our guides to take us to the real market that occurs in the center of town each Saturday. We loved walking around, learning what is sold at these Maasai markets and buying souvenirs. For me, the best parts of travel are experiencing life like the locals.

Activities around our Lodging Site – Richard’s Camp

Dinners on the lodging grounds. photo: Richard’s River Camp

Evening hike around the camp.

Every night we were able to admire the beautiful sunset.

We will never forget our trip to the Maasai Mara. It was an experience of a lifetime! I hope you enjoyed this post. A always, I’d love for you to leave a comment with any feedback you have!

“Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt.” A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.

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