The landscape of Maasai Mara was a sight to behold. It looked like what I always pictured of Africa: wide, rolling plains dotted with acacia trees, and mountains in the distance. Against this vast palette you’d see families of elephants crossing, antelope grazing, and a stray giraffe. Just surreal to behold. Straight out of Out of Africa.
Huge and surreally beautiful, we spent hours winding through Maasai Mara this first afternoon, and didn’t seem to see the same thing twice.
With more people staying here, there was quite a crowd in the lounge area before dinner. The kids played by the outdoor fire pit while we sipped on Tusker (Kenyan beer) and met some of the other folks on safari. We even met another family of Texans with kids our age.
After a big buffet dinner (where we got to watch a Maasai chanting, dancing, and jumping demonstration), we got a good first night’s sleep in Maasai Mara to the soundtrack of the hippopotami. We couldn’t wait to see what was in store for us the next day!
Like on our previous safari game viewing days, we started our day with an early breakfast followed by a game drive at sunrise. We saw hot air balloons floating nearby for those who got up even earlier to experience Mara in a balloon safari. We didn’t opt for that on this trip, and don’t feel like we missed out. Maasai Mara was pretty epic in and of itself.
This morning was a significant one on our trip. It was the first time that we got to see some of Africa’s big cats! The first ones we spotted were adorable lion cubs. As we didn’t see any adults with them, we assumed that they must be out hunting.
Even though we were thrilled to see these cute little cubs, and were definitely not disappointed with all the other wildlife we had been witness to all week, I must be honest and say that I was really hoping to see some of the adult cats, and ideally, I really wanted to see them hunt!
Fortunately for us, we ended up seeing many more lions during our remaining time in Maasai Mara, starting with this majestic trio of lionesses.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one morning, we spent several more hours in the national reserve before going back to camp for our mid-day lunch and rest break. Though the Mara was a lot cooler in the mornings than our previous destinations on safari, it still got quite hot mid-day, but we stayed out for quite a while still.
During this morning’s game-viewing drive, we got to see the third different type of giraffe of the week: the Maasai giraffe.
Much more adventure came our way before the lunch break this morning, and much more wildlife to see.
Remember how I said that our safari van wasn’t a 4×4? And that it also held up pretty well on the bumpy Kenyan roads despite it? Well, we got to see the limits of the van’s capabilities during this morning’s game drive.
It wasn’t long before another vehicle helped pull us out, and we were back on our way. What’s a safari without a little unexpected adventure, right?
But again, the adventure continued. Sammy had to pay it forward when he got a call that a nearby safari vehicle needed some help. We stopped to help at a spot that just so happened to have a lovely view of the Mara River and some hippo. It also provided us with the opportunity to exit the van for a few minutes to do some in-the-savanna photo shoots of our day’s safari outfits (there is always a silver lining). For more photos like this, click here to see my post on safari fashion for men, women, and children.
After a very eventful (and incredible) morning, we went back to the Ashnil Mara for our mid-day siesta before getting back into our van for our afternoon and evening game drive later that day.
Due to some controlled burning, the plains became filled with smoke over the course of the afternoon. It made for a unique, hazy look to everything.
A little away from the smoke we came across two more male lions lazing in the afternoon warmth.
Before heading back to the camp evening, we drove back through the smoke. It was so bad at one point that I couldn’t stand up with my head out the top of the van. Though we did see a large herd of huge African elephants on our way back to camp.
Fighting back tears knowing our time in this beautiful place was limited, we departed our camp. We had our last game viewing drive in Maasai Mara on our way from the camp to the park exit. Though we did have our visit to a Maasai village to look forward to.
A beautiful way to end our game drives was seeing a large pride of lions, lionesses, and lion cubs relaxing in the shade.
After exiting the park, we went to a nearby Maasai village for a visit. We were all looking forward to this. I really wanted to learn more about their traditions and way of life. I was especially excited for the boys to experience a village with a completely different value system than what they are used to… to provide some perspective that life is not all about tablets, Wi-Fi, and the latest videogames… that there are many different ways that people live, and that one is not better than the other.
Our guide in the village was Tony. Tony taught us about a lot of Maasai history and traditions, including what has changed in recent years as a result of advancements as well as other external factors. One example of something that struck me was when Tony was describing the former tradition of a male Maasai warrior hunting a lion as a coming-of-age ritual. When he told me that they are no longer able to participate in this rite of passage, I thought it was interesting that he didn’t describe the reasons as being conservationist. Instead, he described it this way: “the government won’t let us hunt the lions, because tourists want to see the lions. If there are no more lions, the tourists won’t come.” Interesting perspective.
The villagers demonstrated their dancing and jumping for us next. What an incredible thing to see!
After the jumping and dancing, Tony invited us into one of the village homes. After walking through a front room (which apparently is a safe haven for a family’s goats during bad weather, or when a predator is near), we got to see a living room and two bedrooms.
Just like that, our magical safari experience was over. Two months later, and I still catch myself daydreaming about Samburu or Maasai Mara. I try to live in the moment when the memories come over me, as I don’t want to forget the sights of the scenery or animals. I never want to forget the rolling plains of the Mara, the way the hippos sounded at night, or the long, black eyelashes of the giraffes. I never want to forget the looks of wonder and adventure on my babies’ faces. And I never want to forget how fortunate I feel that we had the opportunity for an adventure like this.
I will be back to Africa someday, I just know. Whether it’s seeing the Egyptian pyramids, gorilla trekking in Rawanda, traveling through Tanzania on the way to summit Kilimanjaro, or all three, I know I’ll be back. It is a place like none other, and this trip can’t be the last time I experience it.