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Published: August 22nd 2007
The wildebeest migration to Masai Mara is sometimes described as the eighth wonder of the world. We were lucky we had timed our trip to coincide with this event, as a wonder it certainly is!
We flew into Masai Mara on Thursday morning in a 20-seater plane that flew low enough to allow us to see the thousands of animals that dotted the park. We were picked up at the airport by John, who was to be our driver for the next few days, and went on our first drive. The next couple of days were spent alternating between game drives and all-you-can-eat buffets at our lodge.
There were wildebeest literally as far as the eye can see, usually with zebras (and sometimes giraffes) that also migrate with them. They are quite ugly creatures, with long beards and faces like wizened old men, but their sheer number is amazing. Mostly we saw them just grazing, but a couple of times we spotted long lines of them walking in the distance. The second day we drove down to the Mara river, to see where they cross. There were unfortunately none there at the time but, while walking down by the river we
saw families of hippos and lots of very large crocodiles (that lie in wait for the wildebeest - a huge number are eaten by crocs) - we were quite glad to be accompanied by an armed ranger!
The vegetation of the Mara is very different to Shimba Hills - wide open plains that were quite dry. During our time there we saw so many animals, including elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, antelope, dik diks (yes, that is their name), impala, gazelles, baboons, warthogs and jackals. There are also thousands of birds to see - our guide was quite a fan of birds and pointed out lots of them including Rod’s favourite, the secretary bird (so named because it has long legs and looks like it is wearing short jeans and lipstick!) and dad’s favourite, the blue bird of happiness (that was the name he gave it - I have no idea what its real name was or why it was associated with happiness, but it became quite a joke to point them out whenever we saw one).
The lodge itself was quite interesting - it has no fence, so animals are often seen on its grounds. While we were there, there
were lions near one of the rooms and one of the staff killed a puff adder with his sling shot at the gate! There was also a water hole below a walkway from the lodge where hippos came at night. There is a bar at the end of the walkway for people to have an evening drink and watch the animals. We came back at sunrise on our last morning too as we’d heard that occasionally rhinos are seen there also (rhinos are very rare in Masai Mara now), but unfortunately didn’t see any. The lodge also employs ‘cultural ambassadors’ - Masai men from local villages who wander round and answer any questions the guests have. We spoke to one of them for a long time - a young guy who was very funny, and incredibly well-spoken for someone who had only completed primary school - hearing stories of Masai hunting and farming. He was particularly taken by Rod (who he thought looked like Jean Claude Van Damme! His funny pronounciation prompted us to call Rod Gene-Cloud after that…) after finding out he was a farmer because cows are quite special to the Masai - it is their belief that
cows and humans fell from the sky together.
On the Saturday, we drove through the Rift Valley to Nairobi, a 6 hour drive over dusty and bumpy roads. There is about a 50km stretch undergoing ‘roadworks’ (apparently been like that for years and, given only a few hundred metres was actively being worked on, I imagine it’ll be like that for some time to come). We were incredibly lucky at one point not to have a head-on collision with an oncoming truck that had tried to overtake a bus despite there being so much dust that visibility was almost nil. Aside from this, it was a great drive - there were lots of giraffes and other animals for many kilometers outside the park proper, and after that there was all the colour of the farms, towns and villages to keep us occupied. After climbing out of the valley (about 2000m up), we stopped at the top to stretch our legs and look out at the view, before continuing on and arriving in Nairobi mid-afternoon.
We spent the night in Nairobi - with another all-you-can-eat-meat-fest at Carnivore for dinner. The next day we went to the markets and then went out
to the Nairobi racecourse for the last race meeting of the season. It was like being at country races in Australia, and a fun day out especially for Dad, Rod and Liam, who are all racing fans. Was an interesting view of the wealth divide in Kenya too - a fence separates those who can afford to pay to get in (and so can see the mounting yard, sit in the grandstand or go to the restaurant or bar) from those who can’t.
The trip back out to the airport marked the end of dad and Liam’s trip, and we said our goodbyes there - they waited for their flight home and Brigid, Rod and I flew back to Mombasa. We have had a fantastic three and a half weeks with them - was really a holiday of a lifetime, and lovely to be able to all share it. Thanks, Stevie Babes and Liam (and Rod of course, but more stories of him to come!) for coming over to visit us! Wish Joey and Conor could have been here too! Lots of love, K x
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