Following our exploration of Turkey we flew from Istanbul to Nairobi, Kenya then made a six hour Indiana Jones style drive out to Mara West Camp, overlooking the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The camp is a fantastic resort and if you have ever wanted a bit of adventure while still enjoying luxurious accommodations then this is the place for you. I had so many once in a lifetime experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life, not to mention the awesome wedding of Aaron and Natalie to top off the week.
Our week started with the drive from Nairobi to camp, on which I got to see expansive landscapes, cliffs leading to flat lands filled with wildlife and the communities of people living off the land. The Maasai people are shepherds, roaming with their flocks of sheep and goats. They wear brightly colored, draped clothing and are incredibly brave in my eyes. At the camp there are no fences to keep the wildlife off the grounds, so when it is dark out we were instructed to only walk with a Maasai warrior to protect us. They carried flashlights to spot wildlife and spears in case we came across an unwanted animal. One night we came across a very large waterbuck, but I was informed we were lucky because it was a female, not a male. Still a bit frightening. I think our Maasai warrior even gave a little giggle when he noticed I was startled.
One morning I remember waking up to something running across our canvas tent roof. I am used to small animals like squirrels scurrying across my roof, but soon I realized that this was much larger. I opened my eyes and saw the shadow of a baboon running back and fourth, and then jumping down onto our front deck and even sitting in one of our deck chairs! The nerve. This was one of the first mornings and I was suddenly very aware that I don't know much about African wildlife... could baboon's open doors? Could they rip through the canvas walls? Were they dangerous? Turns out he was just having a bit of fun and after he had a nice moment with a view from our deck chair he ran off to his next adventure.
We were lucky enough be taken on a two day safari trip into the Mara and it was one of the most fantastic things I could imagine. There are so many different animals to see, all of whom are beautiful, majestic, and fascinating to see in their natural habitat. There are five 'special' animals to see while out on safari, known as 'the big five', and they may not be what you expect. These five include the expected, lion, elephant, rhino, and leopard, but the fifth might not be so obvious... the fifth is the water buffalo. These five animals were not picked because they are the rarest or the most beautiful, but were picked by hunters as the five that were the most difficult to kill. Now, the animals in the reserve are all off limits to hunters, but the big five remain as a bench mark for a great safari experience. I am happy to say that we were able to see all of the big five, even the leopard, which is the rarest of the five.
I could go on and on about how incredible our safari was, so I will try to keep this brief. We saw lions, three times! The first, they were lounging in a tree... yes, I guess lions climb trees. The second, they were hunting... one of the coolest things to watch as their plan developed, ending in their targeted warthogs evading their attack. Apparently lions only succeed in a small percentage of their attempts to kill. The third sighting was a pack consuming their fresh kill... absolutely amazing. We saw elephants big and small, small being my favorite. We saw gorgeously elegant giraffe, some of which seemed to be posing for me. Zebra and impala seemed to be everywhere we looked, and I was not complaining. Our driver, John, seemed to have eagle eyes to spot a leopard's fresh kill that had been carried up into a tree and left for later as hyena sat in the tree's shade hoping for some scraps. We visited a small river full of hippos and learned that they make little underwater paths for themselves to bounce across... did you know that hippos bounce up and down? We witnessed both a sunrise and a sunset over the Mara and I loved every minute of it!
As out of this world the safari was it was nearly equally as great to visit a nearby school that the camp helps to support. We were able to chat with some of the older kids while in class and then the entire school put on a very impressive show of original poem reciting and tribal dance. I will never forget those smiles and their beautifully unique singing voices.
Our time in Kenya was a great mix of talking over a bottle of coke while sitting on the porch of the main dinning room for camp and out exploring the Mara and the surrounding community. It was perfect! Kenya is gorgeous country and I would highly suggest that you take any opportunity you get to go explore it!
To end this post I wanted to share possibly one of my most memorable experiences of my life... it's the video at the bottom of the post and I don't want to give anything away, so just go check it out. I apologize that it isn't the best, but you will get the point :)