I had always wanted to go to the Maasai Mari, short for Maasai Mari National Reserve in Kenya. The reserve is contiguous to the famous Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania. For reasons I can’t explain, I had become enamored with the tribe of the Maasai Mari.
The Mara as the locals call the reserve, is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the region.
The Maasai people actually described the area when looked at from afar as “Mara,” which in their native language of Maa, means “spotted.” It’s an appropriate description for patches of trees, scrub, and savanna that dot the area.
As I soon discovered, there was more to Kenya than the beauty and unspoiled wilderness of the Maa.
Our 10-day journey started with a 14-hour flight from JFK to Dubai, then on to Nairobi with Emirates Air. My excitement, and the extreme lengths the crew went through to provide comfort made me all but forget the distance—well, not always so forgettable, but the crew certainly made life easier.
Our first stop, a Fairmont property in Nairobi was such a welcome relief after such a long journey. I always tell people when they travel, they should be pampered, believe me this property didn’t disappoint.
But my husband and I were ready for adventure, as was the rest of our group. Following our brief stay at the Fairmont, it was off to the reserves, safaris and “the tents,” basically a series of camps where we all slept in, you guessed it, tents.
One of the more memorable places was the Sambura Intrepids Luxury Tented Camps. I was somewhat apprehensive at first, when I realized the tents didn’t have traditional hotel room doors. I guess the name “tents” should have been my first clue we were staying in the wilderness. The opening to our tent was nothing more than a zipper hidden by flaps. My fears soon dissipated once I saw inside the tent—king sized beds, I can do this, I thought to myself. No television—it’s back to nature as they say.
The views from our front porch were breathtaking. We awoke each morning to monkeys scurrying about on our porch, only to scatter when we stepped out. Leave food around though and you’d be having an entirely different experience. One of our traveling companion’s learned that lesson the hard way. She offered me a chocolate bar, set the package down on the table, turned her head towards me, just as a monkey swooped in, grabbed the entire package, jumped across a barrier and landed in a tree before she could say my name.
For the next six days, we were awakened early in the morning regardless of reserve for a front row seat to some of Africa’s most majestic animals. You realize quickly this is their environment—keep a respectful distance.
We saw a cheetah chasing a meal, lions and their cubs, with large males nearby lounging peacefully enjoying the day. In an astonishing display of power, we observed lions make quick work of a rather sizable wildebeest. It was gruesome to witness in person, until I realized this is how the lions survive—that delicate balance between the hunter and the hunted, all for survival.
A pack of hyenas, I believe a group of hyenas are actually called cackles, were forced to defend their territory and a recently procured meal from a rival group that quickly retreated when they realized they were outnumbered.
The scenery we encountered on our various safaris was absolutely stunning—an unspoiled landscape like no other.
At another reserve, hippopotamus’ lounged in a lake type setting just outside our door. The noise they made each morning is hard to describe, but it was loud, as they opened their mouths and clapped those massive jaws shut. After feeding, hippos would frolic in the water for a few minutes then appear to doze off like we would following a big meal after lunch.
The highlight for me was spending time with the Maasai tribes. After returning to the Fairmont, they actually came to our hotel for an exhibition. The next day we went to one of their communities, it was really awesome to experience first hand. I’m short in stature anyway, but I found myself with a neck ache, as I craned my neck upward, often imploring then, jokingly of course to meet me half way when I wanted to communicate.
The Maasai presented us with an authentic Kenyan clothe. The people have such a beauty about them and the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen.
I’ve traveled all over the world. This is one of the most spectacular trips I’ve been on.
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And if you happen to be in Nairobi and want to experience one of the world’s top award-winning restaurants READ THIS.