My first post and my first time to Kenya. Firstly, happy new year! (is it still acceptable mid-Jan?) we were lucky enough to spend the first day of 2019 coasting over the Masai Mara national park in a hot air balloon at sunrise (bucket list must!) but more on that later :). I have to say, the landscape is stunning, the sunsets, the wildlife and the Masai people make the Mara an unmissable experience.
We decided for this wildlife trip, we wanted it to feel wilder then previous experience, so we opted for a luxury tented camp, if you can move past the lack of privacy when using the loo, this experience is just magical. With the camp being open to the wild, you do get some visitors at night, it’s fine as they have no interest in the tents but they do get very close, we heard a hippo munching on grass next to our tent on the first night, then on another night, we heard hyenas calling from all corners and they eventually came together very close to camp, I was knackered but I couldn’t sleep as the experience was surreal to hear them so close, I didn’t want to miss it. The small camp was called Losokwan, it was intimate and personal, you got to know those who worked there (95% of whom are from the local Masai villages) and about their lives, which of course for a girl from the UK, is pretty interesting! The food here was amazing, they catered for my every need, which isn’t always easy when I’m abroad, being vegan (they even served vegan mash!) Breakfast and lunch were served outside with a view of the plains and then in the evening, it starts with a drink around the fire followed by dinner under the stars. We had the same guide throughout our stay, Dixon, he was lovely and seemed to have the same passion for seeing the animals and beautiful surroundings as we did, we just had the best time driving around with him, he spotted a cheetah laying in the long grass just by seeing a flick of the tail, very talented!
On our first drive we came across a pride of lions who had just killed a zebra, it was pretty fresh when we pulled up and the zebra’s family were still there, watching on, almost seeming to move forward as if they thought of attacking but thought better of it and slowly moved away. This was a moment that really did spark all emotions, on one hand of course you are in awe of the time, patience and skill the lions show when hunting (we later watched two female lions stalk a heard of zebra for a long period of time, only to be spotted, leading to no kill) but then you see the family of zebras comforting one another and witnessing the loss of a family member, you can’t help but feel for them. However, this is nature and I decided to quietly take in the moment, feeling like this is one of the realist moments I’ve experienced in this world and that speaks for the whole time spent in the Masai Mara.
Throughout our stay we saw an abundance of animals, we were lucky enough to track two cheetahs, which we were desperate to see as we had never seen them in the wild before. We saw leopards, elephants, hyenas, baboons, zebras, many giraffes (23 at one point, all together, even Dixon could not believe it!) and many others. One moment that really was quite spectacular was when Dixon informed us there were some hippos in the river nearby and asked if we would like to go see. We said yes, we have seen one or two before but we were expecting a few more from what Dixon had said, however we did not expect what we arrived to! There must have been around 40 hippos in this river and more in the distance, it was an amazing sight and sound, we were allowed to get out the car to get closer to the river, it was a beautiful peaceful moment watching the mothers swim with their babies by their side. There was a lot of grunting and yawning as it was starting to get dark, so the hippos were preparing to take to land to feed on grass through the night. It is hard to spot hippo, they stay in the water throughout the day and only lift their nose out to breath every 5 minutes keeping the rest of their head and body hidden, so this sight was one to be grateful for.
Lets talk about new year’s day, a 3.30am start, a quick meet around the fire for tea and coffee and then we set off, it was around an hour to get to the hot air balloon location. I would definitely recommend doing the hot air balloon, the Masai Mara landscape is perfect for this experience, we sailed over herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and more. The sun rising with the view of other balloons floating along is picture perfect. It comes at a hefty price though and you do share the balloon with around 15 people, the basket is quite large and has separate sections but you don’t have much space to move, the main thing though is they do make sure everyone gets the same views. You are floating for 1 hour, most of the time you stay quite low to the ground in order to spot the animals, which is great! We were warned about the landing, that its bumpy, you are told to sit down and hold on to a rope as the basket sometimes tips on its side but we had a good landing, a few bumps and then it came to a stop. We were greeted with a long table set out for breakfast, in the open plains of the Mara, the waiters performed a small group song and then served champagne, in the distance you could see an elephant herd going about their day. we sat, ate and chatted with the others from the balloon ride, it was honestly the best breakfast I have ever had! We just relaxed, it was not rushed at all and we stayed in this spot for a couple of hours before we jumped back in our car and drove to camp through the Mara.
I could write a book on every moment spent watching the animals, every sunset and every conversation had. The Masai Mara, although becoming more popular to visit, is still so wild, peaceful and cultural. I felt very grateful everyday while there, you honestly cannot beat the beauty of nature, its raw and unpredictable, which made every day exciting out on game drives. I hope this post persuades those who were considering a visit, to go, it’s an experience that will live with you for a lifetime.
In the masai, it is freezing at night and hot in the days, so take some layers for the cold mornings and some long warm Pjs for the nights. Also remember suncream and a hat, when your out on the safari the temperatures change quick.
If you have the budget, I definitely recommend a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the mara, it’s breathtaking and the breakfast when you land is beautiful
Always tell your guide what your hoping to see on your gamedrives, they can’t promise anything but they will keep in contact with other guides and park rangers, so if they know what you want to see then they can ask others to keep an eye out and get in touch when there has been a sighting!