The next 2 days were to see us spending a lot of time in a 4X4 9 seater as we headed to the Maasai Mara for an evening and morning game drive safari. From Nairobi to the Mara is another 4-5 hour drive, which for those not familiar with Kenyan roads and driving culture was an adventure in itself. I suspect that majority of drivers in Kenya would accumulate 12 points and an automatic driving ban within a day or two of driving in the UK. It is very difficult to judge what the other drivers around you are going to do next and all I can say is that I am glad that it was not me driving on these trips. Our drivers were very skilled and I guess as with most things you get used to things but I’m not sure I’d want to…..hairy to say the least.
The mid-stop break was made at Narok, which is the administrative centre of Narok County. Always a bustling environment the tour operator has a couple stops that they probably have a deal with. Last year we chose not to go to these after a bad experience in the first year where they appeared to want to charge us twice as much as anyone else for pretty poor food. This year was a different location so we decided to give it a try. Not a good decision – there wasn’t much on offer and they were clearly trying to get rid of the remaining scraps before replenishing the buffet. We decided that we were not prepared to be fed scraps and left. Luckily we know of a tried and tested travellers restaurant located in the town’s valley next to the garage, which does good burgers, chicken and chips……if you can run the gauntlet of hawkers wanting to sell you their wares.
The road from Narok to the Maasi Mara soon changes from a tarmac surface to rough road to well….rutted mud tracks I guess. The ride becomes fun for everyone as we were being bumped and shaken for 2 hours along the road. Anticipation takes away the discomfort but I was sitting at the back to get space for my foot and at 6’ 3” the gap between the top of my head and the roof of the carrier is small…..you can guess the rest…..foot is getting better but head hurts ;-).
Upon arrival at the mara we decided to visit the Maasi cultural village……and were given a tour by a group of Morans – tribal warriors – who danced for us; made fire from drilling a hard wood stick against a soft wood block; showed us where they keep their live-stock and protect them from leopards; explained about the 3 hour tribal meetings in the village square (circle) – where tasks for the next day are allocated by the Chief and young warriors exercise and practice dancing; invited us into their homes (giving a whole new definition to the term bijou) and finally……the obligatory opportunity to purchase arts and crafts at a ‘very special price’ 😉
That said it was a very interesting visit which explained a lot about Maasai culture and custum. The visit was followed by the evening game drive and we were so lucky to witness, not only the biggest pride of lions I’ve seen in the flesh but so many lion cubs with the pride. It was the most amazing experience. We all got some great shots, which we will share later…..unfortunately I bought a new camera just before the trip and hadn’t quite worked out the manual settings on it so relied on auto……which captured some great shots but sometimes decided to focus on ears of grass instead of the lions …….ooooops 😉 After, this magnificent drive we witnessed a magical sunset before heading back into camp for dinner and a well-deserved sleep.
After an early breakfast, and the collective decision not to enjoy the benefits a cold shower, we headed off for the morning game drive. Ifraim, our driver and guide, was extremely knowledgeable and clearly possessed a passion for and love of everything Mara, was a great guide. He had such keen eyesight and took us to so many excellent sightings……hyenas, jackals, caracals, wart hogs, ostriches, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, wildebeest and just about all manor of antelope and gazelles imaginable, to say nothing of the diversity of birds……absolutely amazing…….and just as I had become resolved for the 3rd year in a row not to see either a cheetah or a leopard……and only 10 minutes away from the park gates…..deep joy! A cheetah just sauntered onto the rough track in front of us……paused for several minutes as if to give us photo ops before pouncing over a small gulley….I had the shot in my view-finder and was just about to snap when Callum decided to stand up and jog me so I got a blurred shot of the sky…..luckily Laura got the shot on a smaller camera.
Seeing that cheetah made me so happy and the students were so excited……it was a perfect end to the best game drive of the 3 I’ve experienced……simply wonderful!