Masaai Mara: The Circle of Life
When you think of the Savannah, you imagine an incredible sunset with the silhouette of elephants and iconic Marula trees in the distance and music from the Lion King playing in your head… That’s exactly what you get, and much more.
After an 8-hour flight from London to Nairobi, we took a 1-hour internal flight on a tiny airplane (so small that we were sitting right behind the pilot!) to the incredible Maasai Mara National Park, home of the Maasai Tribe. This vast savannah forms a triangle by the Mara river on the East, the Oloolo Escarpment on the west and the Tanzanian border on the south, where the Savannah carries over on to the infamous Serennguetti.
Even whilst on the flight, we spotted a few giraffes and hippos. The anticipation was building up, hoping that we could see some of them a little closer. When we landed on the Serena airstrip, our driver was waiting for us with a big smile. Daniel is a true Maasai warrior, born and rised in the savannah. He laughed at us when we said that seeing a lion would make us satisfied. His answer was ‘you will see a lot more than one, don’t worry’. And he proved it…
We jumped in our Pinzgauer, an awesome 6×6, military truck and made our way across the savannah’s red soil to our lodge, located on the top of a mountain in the Oloololo escarpment. We had been driving around 20 minutes when the truck suddenly started slowing down… a huge lion walking away from a pride of 5 lionesses and 2 young lions that were feeding on a fresh buffalo. Daniel looked at our faces and laughed, it didn’t take long to exceed our expectations…
Daniel was constantly on the look out, stopping every so often and grabbing his binoculars. We asked what was he looking for, if he looked for shapes or movement… His answer was clear: “I look for everything!” We couldn’t distinguish a bush from a lion, though soon our eyes adapted to the brown tones of the savannah and we entered ‘hunter mode’. Before we got to our lodge we had already seen 3 of the ‘Big Five’: lion, elephant and buffalo… it was absolutely stunning!
We were already amazed by the drive… then we arrived at our home for the week, Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge. A group of 6 Maasai warriors were waiting at the entrance and they escorted us to the main hut, while singing their traditional welcoming song. By this point we were in love with Kenya!
We learnt that once the Maasai welcome you, you are part of their family, and they treat you as their own. We also learnt of their respect for the animals and, since the land belong to them, the complex isn’t fenced, so the animals are completely free to move where they want to. That also means you can wake up to a baboon sneaking onto your balcony, or a group of elephants feeding from the trees next to your tent. There were Maasai warriors on patrol 24h, escorting us to the tent at nighttime, so we always felt safe, even if we could hear the animals roaming around…
The surprises didn´t stop there. A Maasai took us to our tent, he smiled and said that it was the best… It was on the top of the hill, overlooking the Savannah. The size was unreal, closer to a palace room rather than a hotel room. Fitting two double beds, sofas, desk… and a waterfall shower! What else could we ask for?! Yes… even the iconic African sunrise viewed from the bed was included! Make sure you book tent 21! They call the tents a mini palace, they truly are!
Soon we were back in the truck for an afternoon game drive. Travelling across the savannah is far from ordinary. Driving through muddy tracks, seeing the heat rise and the feeling of being surrounded by wild animals in their natural habitat is indescribable. You soon understand the pace of the animal world, their rules and behaviour. Daniel knew the animals behaviour so well, that he would drive us into the middle of a pride with no hesitation, regardless of the fact we were completely shitting ourselves when the King looked right into our eyes.
We spent 3 nights in the lodge, which gave us 6 game drives. That is a fair amount of days and if you are as lucky as we happened to be, there´s plenty of time to see all the action in the savannah, including the shy leopard, the stylish cheetah with her new babies and lions hunting! Though we honestly think it is down to the drivers knowledge and skills.
Visiting in late october was perfect for us as the lodge was failry empty. We were so lucky to catch the last tail of the great migration. This is probably one of the biggest shows in nature: thousands of wildebeest crossing the Mara river on their way to the rainy Serengueti. We couldn’t believe our eyes: hundreds of wildebeest were starting to form a line on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the Mara river, waiting for a brave leader to throw itself down the cliff. In the water, vigilant crocodiles awaited a weak victim. The anticipation was immense, we knew we had to be patient if we wanted to see this. After watching the animals for two hours, it was about to begin. A few started to make their way to the edge of the cliff, then a zebra darted down and that was it! Hundreds of Wildebeest pourned down over the cliff into the river, forming as dust cloud behind them as they began to cross. The crocs didn’t have to wait too long: the first victim was snatched by a massive crocodile, with 2 other crocs joining to help get the beast underwater. Hippos were growling while watching the show from further down in the river… it was literally Planet Earth infront of our eyes… the circle of life.
We could have spent another week in the Maasai Mara, esspecially getting to know the Maasais, they were incredible people. We tried to visit their village, though got caught in a ‘short rain fall’ that flooded the whole savannah in less than 20 minutes… So thats on our list next!
Packing up our bags in our mini palace, listening to the bush babies running across the roof… We didn´t want to leave the amazing animal world and say bye to Daniel, our incredible driver. Though our next destination was an exciting one: a trip to Mombassa and the Indian Ocean!!
Where will we go next?!
Shay & Iban 👬 🇰🇪