Maasi Mara Reserve Tour

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July 17th 2012
Published: July 17th 2012
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Maasai Mara 3-Day Tour 15-17 July 2012

After a quick breakfast at The Boulevard Hotel in Nairobi, our driver, Steven, picked us up at 7.30am. Steven gave us a quick briefing about the next couple of days and telling us that the road to and in the Maasai Mara National Reserve was very rough. Two months before, they had their heaviest rain for many years, leaving the roads with deep ruts from bogged vehicles.

All vehicles had roofs that could be pushed up for excellent animal viewing.

I was pretty excited because since Grade 7 and then again during High School history, I had learned of the Maasi People (and their jumping dance), and now I was soon to meet and see them.

It took us 5 hours to get to the entry of the Reserve. At the entry were a group of Maasai women all dressed in their finery. Guards with guns let us through. The locals call the Reserve, The Mara. It is a large game reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named after the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara", which is Maa (Maasai language) for "spotted," an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.

It is famous for its exceptional population of Big Cats, game, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wilderbeest from the Serengeti every year from July to October, a migration so immense that it is called the Great Migration! We learned that the wilderbeest were 20 kms south of the Maasi Mara so we will see them in Tanzania.

When it was originally established in 1948 as a wildlife sanctuary, the Mara covered only 520 square kilometres of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. The area was extended to the east in 1961 to cover 1,821 km2 and converted to a game reserve. The Narok County Council (NCC) took over management of the reserve at this time. Part of the reserve was given National Reserve status in 1974, and the remaining 159 km2 were returned to local communities.

In 1995, the TransMara County Council (TMCC) was formed in the western part of the reserve, and control was divided between the new council and the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.

We saw the Sand, Talek River (which our accommodation looked out to) and Mara River which are the major rivers draining the reserve. The Mara River is where the crocodiles lie in wait as the wilderbeest cross.

Shrubs and trees fringe most drainage lines and cover hillslopes and hilltops.

The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. These grasses were really high but will be completely eaten when the wilderbeests come through. In the south-east region are clumps of the distinctive thorny acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km long, from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique.

In the 1st 2 ½ hours in the Reserve, we saw the Maasi giraffes, African elephants, cheetahs, leopard, lions, African buffalo, topi, zebra, Thomson's gazelle, jackals, hyenas and warthogs. We couldn’t believe our luck. The only one of the “Big Five” we hadn’t seen was the very rare Black Rhinoceros. The next day, we also saw the Nile crocodile, Hippopotami, bat-eared foxes, Grant’s gazelle, impala, hartebeest, hyena, a large group of baboons and waterbucks. Sprinkled amongst these were many different birds.

The population of Black rhinos was fairly numerous until 1960, but it was severely depleted by poaching in the 1970s and early 1980s, dropping to a low of 15 individuals. Numbers have been slowly increasing, but the population was still only up to an estimated 23 in 1999.

We thought while we were driving around, how good it was to see all these animals in their natural environment. Despite the many vehicles driving around, all animals didn’t worry about us. A male lion sidled up against one of the stationary cars and walked towards his mate.

Apparently there are more than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. The Birds we saw included: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.

Our lodge at the Fig Tree Camp was very comfortable. It was a permanent large tent with a queen bed and single bed with a stone-brick on-suite bathroom. It was very comfortable. Generators ran from 6.00am-10.00am & 6.00pm – 12MN which is when you had hot showers. The meals were fantastic. We arrived at about 2.30pm and was greeted with a warm face-cloth – beautiful – and a fruit juice – just what we needed. We then had a late lunch, got back in our vehicle (after feeling refreshed despite no shower yet) as we were off to a Maasi Village community. I was REALLY excited!!!

When we arrived there were a dozen brightly clothed Maasi Warriors ready to do the welcome dance for us. They were very fit looking, friendly, with glistening chains and bracelets against their almost blue-black skin. They did their dance and singing, using very deep notes as the base for the tune. Then one by one they did their jump. It was amazing how high they can jump. They invited Tom & me amongst them and encouraged Tom to do a jump. They also put a lions headdress on us and took our photos. WOW, I couldn’t believe I was amongst a group of people I had seen films and pictures of and was now with them!!!! Fantastic.

There is no over-weight problem amongst this group. We learn that they practice polygamy, with one man having 5-10 wives. They cannot marry their 1st wife until after they turn 18 years (it’s usually later). Each wife has their own house. Their diet consists of maize, meat, blood (from the cow) and milk. They have 2 meals a day. We met and talked with one of the 23 year old men from the village who has 1 wife and a 1 ½ year old son.

We were then welcomed by the woman’s group who also sang and performed a simple dance for us – no jumping by the women though! We were then taken to where there was a circle of tables with jewellery. We bought a couple of things and said our goodbyes and thank you.

It was back to our accommodation for dinner. During dinner, the Maasi Warriors did another performance, which just topped everything off. In bed by 9.30pm and Tom & I took about 30 seconds to go to sleep. We had an excellent sleep, ready for another day of animal viewing. What a life. Our second day started after a wonderful breakfast at 7.30am. We were also accompanied by someone from the Maasi Community, dressed in his bright clothing. We got lots of photos. Stopping for a picnic lunch gave us a chance to stretch our legs and to get off the very bumpy roads. We were back at our accommodation by 4.30pm giving us time to write up diaries, shower, drink their Tusker beer and cocktail before dinner. What a great day. On our final day (17/7) we were packed, had breakfast and in our vehicle by 7.15am. Before we headed back to Nairobi, we went to see the hippos again because I hadn’t got a photo of their tail. You see, I was instructed by my little granddaughter Gemma to take a photo of the hippos tail so that she will know how they are different to other animals!!!! Every grandmother does as they are told!!!!

We also saw the dik dik deer which is the smallest deer in Africa. We had another sighting of a lioness, zebras, buffalo, and giraffes.

We arrived back at Nairobi at 4.00pm, too late to try to skype anyone due to the time difference (7 hours behind Bris time). We washed up (beautiful!!) and was ready for the night.

Additional photos below
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