Masai Mara National Park

posted in: Africa, Kenya | 0
Map data ©2021 Google
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”1 night in Nairobi”][/ultimate_heading]

After 4 weeks of volunteering, I left Kima on October 25th and took a bus to Nairobi where I arrived at 6PM. My friend Nathalie from Manchester, whom I had met in Mexico half a year earlier, was in Nairobi and I had booked a room in the same hostel, so that I would be able to spend one evening with her and her friend Kate. I was very happy to see her and I had been looking forward to this for a long time. The only thing I regretted in Kima was not having any friends. Most adults were friendly, but nobody really talked to me or tried to befriend me; so, I mostly stayed alone and I was a bit lonely sometimes…

We stayed at the Wildebeest Hostel, close to the Nairobi national park. It was a beautiful place, very green and calm. The dorms were big tents with 8 very comfortable beds. They had real toilets and hot showers (OMG! So good after 2 months of cold showers out of buckets!). We arrived to the hostel at the same time and went together to the hostel restaurant. They still had half a bottle of wine from the night before and they shared it with me – wine is quite expensive here and it was a highlight for me having some. We had a wonderful night; it was so great catching up with Nathalie and meeting her friend Kate! A bit later, Tom from Australia and some German woman joined us. We talked and talked and somehow there always seemed to be more wine until the restaurant closed down around 10PM and they told us to keep quiet (WHY? The restaurant was far from the rooms and dorms, I can’t imagine we really disturbed anyone…). At some point, I told them that I was doing a safari the next day and Tom told me that he was planing on doing one too, but that he had no precise plans yet, so I suggested he should just join me. Since it’s low season at the moment, tours are never fully booked and I was sure there would be no problem. Being quite a spontaneous guy, he agreed (I hadn’t actually suspected that answer, most people are not quite that spontaneous 😄). We stayed up until around 1AM and then we had to go to bed, because the next morning we had to leave the hostel at 7AM for our safari tour.

It had been an amazing night, seeing Nathalie and meeting Kate and Tom. Exactly what I needed after so long in a place without friends where I was treated badly by half of the people… Nathalie and Kate might even come to join me in Myanmar in February for a couple of weeks of backpacking; I hope they will be able to make it (unfortunately they didn’t…).

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Masai Mara & the Big 5″][/ultimate_heading]

On October 26th, our 3-day safari tour to Masai Mara started. My friend Gilad had recommended this Israeli guy who organizes tours to Masai Mara and he was quite cheap (280$). Tom and I took an UBER around 7:20, but there was so much traffic that it took us over an hour to get into town; so, we were about 30 minutes late (still on time – African time), but fortunately, they had waited for us. It turned out, Patrick was not from Israel, but from Kenya, and he worked for Blue Mountain. That was very funny, because many people had recommended me this company, but they had been too expensive for me. Turned out that you can get off-book deals with them, including the same services, just 60$ cheaper! 😄

As I had suspeced, it was no problem that Tom would join us, because it was just the 2 of us and 2 guys from Japan. These guys were nice enough, but their English wasn’t great and I didn’t get much of what they said… 😄

It took us around 4 hours (+ 45 minutes lunchtime) to get to our camp site in Masai Mara. Honestly, I hadn’t expected much, maybe a basic tent or something, but we had real rooms with (warm) showers and real toilets! Also, the food was amazing! I ate so much, probably more than I had eaten in the last 3 weeks together…

Our driver and guide, Paul, was really nice. He explained everything that was going to happen, he made toilet breaks whenever we needed them and he was always asking if everything was ok. Patrick, they guy I had booked the tour with, was great as well. He called me every night or texted, asking if everything was ok. That’s great service!

On our first day, we had an evening game drive from 4:30 to 6:30PM and it’s incredible how lucky we were : we saw 2 lions (1 female, 1 male), 1 cheetah (even walking!) and lots of other animals like zebras, elephants, giraffes, etc. It was wonderful!!!

That first night, Tom and I went to the daily bonfire at the camp where we met a group of young volunteers from all around the world (Netherlands, China, Egypt, USA). They had a different tour, but we met for breakfast and dinner at the camp. They were really nice, but the first night, when we talked about social media and they said they only use Instagram and Snapchat because Facebook is something that only their parents and grandparents, I realized how much older I am (OMG! All my friends are still on Facebook, how old am I!?!?)…

On the second day, we started at 7AM and our game drive continued all day long until 6:30PM. It seems quite long, but the time passed really fast. There were 2 reasons for that: 1) I had great company, Tom and I got along very well; 2) we were incredibly lucky with the animals we saw. We actually saw the Big 5 before lunch! 🤗 Can you imagine? It’s super rare to see leopards and even more rare to see rhinos. Paul told us that it had been more than 6 months since he last saw the Big 5 in 1 day! I was actually the one person in the park who first spotted the rhino and I was a bit proud of myself… When Paul said to the other guides (via walky-talky) that we had spotted the Rhino, it took 5 minutes for 5 other jeeps to come to our spot and, unfortunately, they scared it away… Rhinos are very shy animals and easily scared. That’s kind of funny if you consider how big and strong they are.

So, the Big 5. They include: elephants, buffalos, rhinos, lions and leopards. And do you know why? It’s because those are the most dangerous animals for humans in the park; they are the only ones who attack humans. I didn’t know that, I thought maybe they were just the rarest ones… Surprise, surprise! 😊

We had lunch at the Mara river (the park is actually called “Masai Mara”, because it’s where the Masai tribe live next to the Mara river) and there we had a short walking tour where we were able to see lots of hippos and some crocodiles.

We also went to the “No-mans-land”, a piece of land between Kenya and Tanzania that officially belongs to nobody. From there, we were allowed to walk to Tanzania (Juhu! one more country off the list 😉).

In the afternoon, we saw many more leopards (4 in total that day), one in a tree with still half a zebra hanging from a branch below it (pretty cool!). All these big cats look so sweet and peaceful; when you see them, you would never suspect that they are such dangerous animals…

We were really lucky to have seen all 3 big cats during our stay at Masai Mara, not many people can say they saw all 3 cats + the big 5 ; that’s pretty exceptional! 🤗

I definitely have to travel with Tom again, we seem to be a good team with a lot of luck!

On our last morning, we had a short “walking safari” around the Masai villages, but we didn’t see any animals, just the sunrise. Still, it was nice to walk a bit for a change. 😊 Afterwards, the 2 Japanese guys went to visit the Masai village, but neither Tom nor I wanted to go there. I had met many people who had done it and everyone says the same: it’s awful. They explain very fast their culture, they do a short dance for you and then they kind of force you to buy their souvenirs. It’s all pretty fake. The Masai are the only tribe in Kenya that still live in a traditional way, but it’s more that they just live far from any big town. They actually wear western clothes and they have motorbikes and cars just like anybody else. The traditional dances and customs are reserved for special events and for the tourists, so it’s really nothing authentic to visit this fake “traditional” Masai village.

After breakfast, we left Masai Mara and went back to Nairobi. I spend my last night with Tom back at the Wildebeest Hostel where we enjoyed the free (fast) wifi at the restaurant. We also met a girl from Panama (can’t remember her name…). She was very nice, but very young and she was leaving a few days later to go to a wedding in South Africa. I was pretty anxious to do some work on my computer that night, because I couldn’t find my charger (Shit! Where did I forget it?!?!) and I needed to get some stuff done before I ran out of battery… Fortunately, I got most things done and the next morning I found the charger. We had another bottle of wine (sooo expensive in Kenya! 20$ for 1 bottle of wine!) and we went to bed quite early, because it was really really cold. Tom told me he had never expected Africa to be so cold and so he hadn’t brought any warm clothes and he suffered a lot during the nights… I was happy I had so many warm clothes in my backpack…

And that’s it for my trip to Masai Mara. It really had been the perfect weekend, starting on Thursday when I saw Nathalie and met Kate and Tom. Everything had been amazing and it was the perfect ending to my stay in Kenya and in Africa. Now I will always keep a good memory of it. 😊

There were many nice moments during my stay in Africa, but also many hard moments. Often things didn’t go as planned and sometimes I was quite miserable, but that’s part of every experience and makes the good times so precious. Travels are not always sunshine and rainbows, but the moments when you meet wonderful people and have amazing adventures make the miserable or difficult moments absolutely worthwhile… I’m happy I did this adventure in Africa and got to learn so much about the people and different cultures during my travels and my volunteering and I would do it all over again without hesitation.

Follow Bianca Mertens:

Latest posts from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *