Thursday, June 16, 2016

Maasai Mara Safari

Well, nothing in my travels goes without an adventure and our safari was no exception.  We were up and out of our nightclub hotel by 8:30 on Saturday morning with the intention of arriving to our safari camp in time for lunch.  Ah, best laid plans...  We stopped in Narok, a town close to the national park and then headed on our way, but had to pull over to make a quick adjustment to our van.  We got back in and the engine wouldn't turn over.  So, we sat on the side of the highway for about an hour on the phone with a mechanic until they realized that the issue was the van was parked on an angle, preventing gas from getting to the engine.  We had to manually pump gas into the engine and then we were back on our way.  I thought that was the adventure...nope, wrong again.

The directions we had to our camp were minimal and the phone number we had for the camp connected us to a guide that didn't speak clear English or Swahili and those were the only two languages we could work in.  We kept calling and asking where to go and we kept being told to "follow the road."  Unfortunately, the road kept splitting and twice we were told to take a turn that was in the wrong direction.  Most of the way I figured we would eventually find our way or they would come to find us.  Then, around 6pm, I could see dark storm clouds and rain coming across the plains and I knew it would be getting dark in about an hour and I felt a small pang of anxiety.  We had no idea where we were, our cell phones were getting spotty service, and we were literally in the middle of nowhere surrounded by animals and wilderness.

It rained, the road got muddy, our van was sliding all over the place, and then it got dark.  Really, really dark.  Our guide kept saying he could see us flashing our headlights, but he didn't come to get us.  Sakwa was super frustrated at that point.  He'd been driving almost 12 hours.  Finally about 7:30 a matatu (van taxi) came up the road behind us.  They'd never heard of our camp, but suggested we follow them down the road to town where we could at least get cell service.  We started following them, slipping and sliding through the mud, and about ten minutes later came upon a maasai man on the back of a motorbike.  It was our guide.  We were so relieved!  We had to drive another two hours to get to the camp through fields on barely tread tracks, forget roads.

When we arrived there was a whole group of maasai men waiting for us along with Owar, the concierge (best way I can think to describe his role).  Owar had a tray with hot towels and iced tea to greet us right out of the van.  The Maasai men grabbed our bags from the van and we were led to the lounge tent, full of comfortable beds and chairs with books lining the walls and a bar in the corner.  Dinner was ready to be served and we were starving having been in the van with no lunch or dinner all day.  It was served at this beautiful ornate table, under a tent, outside.  After dinner we were taken to our tents.  The whole place seemed like something out of  a safari movie.

The name of our camp was Speke's Camp and it really was completely off the grid.  No entry gate or signs, no wifi, no phones.  Just us, a settlement of tents, and the plains.  In the morning we were woken up with tea and coffee delivered to our tents.  Breakfast again was served at a beautiful table with made to order eggs and fresh fruit salad.  Sunday was safari day!  We had two 4x4 vehicles which were driven by Dominic and James, our Maasai guides.  The pictures speak louder than any description I could provide.

Selfie with a lion.  He's back there in the shade!

Selfie with hippos!

Another selfie with lions!

Picnic lunch on the plains

Giraffe selfie!

A rainbow after a short rain storm

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