Travel notes about a 4 days/3 nights
drive in Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru.
Part 1: Nairobi and the very first game in the reserve
After several weeks of research and planning our safari is finally booked (well, to be more precise deposit is carelessly sent to a shady Kenyan recipient as a personal Western Union transfer, God knows if we will see it again), vaccinations are sorted (which means 15 needed and unneeded injections taken by my responsible travel buddy and a couple of multivitamin pills to boost the immunity blended with positive thinking as an effort on my side) and here is my Air Arabia lowcoster landing in Nairobi on a melting October afternoon.
Immigration is fast and smooth, no sign of vaccination checks, and since I only have a hand luggage I am out of the airport almost immediately. My travel companion is there already, we’ve got a driver for the rest of the day (some under 50$) and heading to the Giraffe Manor
I usually try to minimize the support of establishments that keep animals in captivity, but it is difficult to resist a chance to look so close into those huge brown eyes with hundreds of eyelashes and feel strong and velvety purple tongues professionally wiping out food from your bare hands. Platform for the visitors is set at the height of giraffe neck, so you are literally face to face. What a cool interaction with these awesome animals! Having taken hundred of funny photos and full of childish excitement, we are heading to the hotel, overcoming one traffic jam after another. The city is busy, dusty and pale, and only cobalt-purple spots of blooming Jacarandas trees catch your eye here and there
Hotel is just a grey boring building in a residential area not far from the centre. It is almost sunset and we are caught in the overwhelming crowd of commuters (quite a few are women) that are returning home after the working day. There seems to be a railway station nearby and they are all walking from that direction along the dirty muddy road. Most of them must be working in the offices – they are dressed smart, but their outfit, not fitting properly, bit shabby here and bit dirty there, suggests that it is probably being worn every second day, as there is not much more in the wardrobe. If you ever travelled to poorer places on Earth you know what I am talking about, you know how this world’s inequality starts to scream into your face
Room finally – very basic but it has clean sheets and hot shower – what else would you need after all? Non-memorable and quite expensive food at dinner and an early night for me – tomorrow is a day of big adventure
SAFARI. DAY 1
Yay! The safari company we prepaid is not smoke and mirrors and the driver has picked us from the hotel at around 7 am as agreed. Through the jams again, we are heading to their ‘office’ to pay the remaining amount, meet other tourists in a group and finally head for an adventure of our life. Office is a cluttered room with a couple of chairs, but the process is surprisingly fast and efficient and twenty minutes later, along with other five explorers, we take our seats in the famous safari minibus. We occupy seats on both sides of the vehicle, to secure better views in different situations
East African safari minibuses are funny roly-polies resting on small wheels to keep a better balance on bumpy savannah roads and with convertible top that can be lifted high enough for an adult to stand and enjoy unobstructed 360 views of the wonders of nature. One can also rent a safari jeep of course, but apart from the more fancy look it does not bring any functional benefits – in roly-poly you can sit, stand and move around, jeep provides less of such mobility (personal opinion based on comparison to the jeep safari experience in Sri Lanka).
And here we come Masai Mara! The drive is long but it does not feel exhausting or boring, probably anticipation and excitement win over. We stop at the viewpoint to embrace breathtaking sceneries of Great Rift Valley and later on to consume tasteless sandwiches from the lunchboxes (well, we are here not for food, right?). Motorway changes to dusty village roads after couple of hours, and since our guide-driver has no intention to slow down, our roly-poly is wobbling like an old washing machine on spin. Tiny local settlements are passing by, allowing us a short glimpse on Masai people life here, in the cradle of humankind
At some point the guide stops suddenly and indicates at something out there in the valley. We eagerly start to squint for an elephant, or a giraffe maybe – but there is nothing there and we are giving the driver a puzzled and disappointed glance. What did he dream up? They say that our brain not always recognizes what our eyes register, because it has its own, brain’s, expectations to map the image. We were so concentrated on spotting some wildlife that did not notice an impressive orange whirl of sand tornado moving parallel to the road in a couple of kilometers from us. Wowed with its majesty and beauty, we take a few minutes to enjoy the unexpected encounter and continue our way. Some half an hour later we notice the gates of the reserve, finally arrived
Short formalities are sorted, and our minibus is on the road again, following one of many safari routes inside the park. We are greeted by plenty of wildebeests and zebras almost immediately, followed by the gang of buffaloes and their inseparable bird friends. Now we are super excited and take hundreds of photos, but just a day later we will become spoiled by all the abundance of wildlife and will take such extraordinary views as granted, searching for more and more sophisticated settings for our cameras. When you go on your safari – enjoy every moment, no matter if it is the 1st or 1111st zebra that you see. You only have few days to admire it and you never know if and when you will be back
Meanwhile our guide-driver gets a precious insight on his walkie-talkie and we are speeding up to a different part of the park where 2 beautiful male lions are imperturbably relaxing after the recent hunt. They know we are there, animals in the park are very used to the presence of smelly noisy cars packed with two-footed creatures permanently clicking with their cameras. We stop in less than 10 meters from the bush, one rapid jump and those powerful cats could easily get rid of a few of us, but they really cannot be bothered. After a few minutes one of the males lifts his head slightly, his light amber eyes leer at us with neglect and soon enough he is back to his enjoyable nap. And we continue our journey. On that amazing afternoon we encountered a family of several lioness with cubs, bunch of giraffes and elephants and many smaller inhabitants of the valley – what a day!
Having arrived to the hotel we were very happy that we did not go for a cheaper camping options (even though there is some romanticism in it as well). Our hotel was in the middle of oasis, drowning in the greenery and flowers, with the army of monkeys fighting somewhere high in the treetops till the late night, birds singing at the sunrise, and curios gazelles visiting the yard of our lodge from time to time. The stone lodge stuffed with all the amenities also had a cool shaft in the middle that allowed rays of sun get inside, reflect from the floor and spread along the room in a surreal way. The dinner restored our hopes in good food in Kenya and Masai tribe performance, even though touristic, was educative and entertaining. If you are wondering what else you can do after dinner in the middle of savannah – the answer is simple: you will be checking the progress of a photo upload to your social network, messenger or whichever is your window to the world. Since uploading one medium size image takes 10-15 minutes, consider your evening sorted 😛
And don’t forget that tomorrow is another early start of an exciting day in the middle of African nature…