Africa is undoubtedly most famous for it’s safaris and of them the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya reigns supreme. Besides a great chance to spot all Big Five animals, this huge area in the Great Rift Valley is home to the Masai people- a distinctive tribe that has been able to delicately manage the tricky line between preserving their traditional practices while moving into the modern age.
Now the first thing people think of about safaris is- aren’t they crazy expensive? My answer is- they don’t have to be! My eyes bugged out when I started planning and I saw the crazy prices that some people were willing to shell out. Then I came upon the Mara Explorers Camp. It is a magical place and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to go on safari for a fraction of the price while feeling almost uncomfortably taken care of (these people were so courteous and attentive we almost wanted to tell them just chill). While we were technically camping we weren’t slumming it either- each of us had our own tent with a real bed, hot showers and full vegetarian meals. There was a fire pit, a full bar and seven in-house dogs that were just the sweetest. The day we went on safari I saw the people who’d paid up in the same kind of jeep, looking at the exact same animals as me. I was feeling pretty smug.
Seriously, after the dysfunctionality of Nairobi the organization of Mara Explorers was bliss. We were picked up from Nairobi by a driver who was maybe in his 60s and the entire 4 hour SUPER bumpy drive he was listening to Backstreet Boys and Bette Midler. It was hilarious.
As the air cleared and we approached the Mara we began to see the nomadic Masai people in their distinctive red blankets.
Upon arrival we were served pizza (not what I would have guessed but it was kind of great) and we set out for a nature walk with our Masai guide, Geoffrey. Ultimately we were joined by an older Masai man wielding a spear who just came along for the exercise I guess. The spear is for protection against charging elephants so I was OK with him being there.
The next day Geoffrey would be our driver and guide during a 12 hour day out at the Masai Mara. We saw every Big Five animal except a leopard though we saw the carcass of a gazelle that a leopard had dragged up a tree for safe-keeping. We saw a pack of cheetahs chase and kill a wildebeest. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, “Pumbas” as Geoffrey kept calling warthogs, the briefest bit of a rhino, wildebeest, hyenas, monkeysostriches and so many more. Oh and if you want to be traumatized just look up videos of hippos pooing. Like- will never get that image out of my head.
I wasn’t sure if safaris would be for me. Honestly I felt like- I’ve seen animals on nature shows and at a zoo- will this really be all that different? But actually I quite enjoyed it. The thing I loved most was seeing how the animals interacted together. It wasn’t zebra section over here, lion pen to the left. They were having relationships. I got to witness the symbiosis of the savannah. I don’t think I’d want to do a safari for a week but my day in the Masai Mara was pretty cool.