The Maasai Mara National Reserve is best known as “The Mara” and is a world renown National Park. Kenya has amazing National Parks across the country with a wide array of wild life, but, the Maasai Mara is famous for hosting the Annual Great Migration. During the Great migration, millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles travel thousands of kilometers from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of greener pasture even though it requires them to cross the dangerous crocodile infested Mara River.
When I got an invitation from Magical Kenya to be a part of the Tembea Mara team, I was elated and it would be a great break from work. I had previously been to the Mara and didn’t have the rosy amazing time everyone talks about. The challenge with National Parks is that the animals don’t receive a memo to appear for your enjoyment and thus you may get to see lots of animals or fail. I was hoping this time would be different and truly it was.
We would be driving from Nairobi to Narok County where the Mara is found courtesy of Game Watchers Safaris and the journey would take about 5 hours. We used the Mai Mahiu route that allows one to enjoy another amazing feature that passes through Kenya-The Great Rift Valley. The view point is located at an altitude of 2140M and allows one to have an amazing view of the Great Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley covers a distance of 9600km running from the Red Sea to Mozambique.
The road is in great condition and only becomes slightly rough as you leave the tarmac road heading to the park, an indication you are entering unexploited land. We were staying at Angama Mara and I shared my floating in Luxury experience https://wangechigitahi.co.ke/2016/10/11/angama-mara-floating-in-luxury/ and would be enjoying the Game Drive courtesy of Angama Mara .
Our experienced Safari guide would be Douglas and as we embarked on our game drive, he asked the team what everyone’s expectations were. I was very clear on my wish list; to see the big five i.e. Lion, Cheetah, Buffalo, Elephant and the Rhino.
As icing on the cake, I wanted to not only see the Wildebeests crossing the dangerous Mara river but to actually see the infamous crocodiles actually hunting them. I am not a sadist-just blame National Geographic for making me yearn to see it live regardless of the fact that it was October which isn’t the peak season for the migration.
The Great Migration:
The National Geographic ,other Travel related programmes and travelers have done an amazing job in highlighting the Great Migration but I can assure you, nothing beats seeing the Wildebeest, in their thousands crossing the Mara River. The wildebeest are joined by Zebras on the banks of the river each watching the other to see who is brave enough to take the first step.
We watched for over 30 minutes as one wildebeest would walk a few steps in the water then retract, then another would try again and retract. One could see the fear in their eyes as well as feel the tension in the air. After about 30 minutes, the herd moved to another location about 100m away and finally, a brave wildebeest took a sip of water (I believe to garner confidence) and finally it jumped into the water and ran for its dear life across the river non-stop. It was almost as if it was being chased by a predator across the river. This was all the encouragement the others needed, soon they were almost falling over each other to get into the river. The scene is entrancing as herds of wildebeest driven by adrenaline jump into the water at the same time, running, walking, and treading the waters as fear is evident in their eyes.
Truly, dreams do come true. My dream turned reality and we saw a humongous crocodile snake its way slowly towards the herd. I could hardly breathe, let alone blink. I didn’t want to miss a moment and “Bam”, it opened its jaws and caught one wildebeest by the throat. The fallen soldier grunted out loud, its peers increased their pace upon sensing the danger while the crocodile then dragged it to the deeper waters drowning it as we watched. Soon, the river went silent apart from the splashing of the waters caused by the others crossing. This is the 7th Wonder of the World and I have officially become one of the few humans to actually watch it Live..Scream.
Animals on display:
The Mara seemed to be showing off its might on being referred to as one of the best National park in the World. We got to see so many animals-it felt like I was at an Animal Kingdom Runway, they were everywhere. In some instances it almost looked like they were pausing, allowing us to take amazing pictures.
We visited the Hippo Pool and the hippos there are huge-like really huge one can easily confuse them for large boulders. Listening to the sound of the grunting and huffing of the hippos is truly music to the ears. Then we got to watch them yawn, like really yawn revealing their intimidating large mouths and sharp teeth almost as if daring us to get close and see what they are capable of. However, watching a cow (mother hippo) walking with her two calves (baby hippos) is one of the cutest things ever. One cannot believe that eventually, they will grow huge on a strictly vegetarian diet and become dangerous.
The community surrounding the Maasai Mara are the Maasai tribe thus the name. We visited one of the villages and had the chance to learn more about them as well. The Maasai community has been able to keep their culture alive and this is very evident in everything they do.The men and women wear very beautiful jewelry,they cover themselves with attractive “shukas” /shawls and thus make sure you get one or a few pieces. They live in a communal setting called bomas and their homes are called manyattas. It was also interesting watching them sing and dance that we eventually joined them. We got to learn how to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together courtesy of the young men.
Angama Mara is in a league of their own as they provided the team with water, soda and wine to enjoy during the trip as well as lunch in the wild all well prepared. The lunch was a three course meal, we had appetisers, main meal, desert and a drink to quench ones thirst-I was blown away by this.
I am still over the moon, elated, excited, still in shock that I now fall into the minority of humans who have actually had a firsthand experience of seeing the Wildebeest crossing the Mara River live. Words can’t explain the emotions that one goes through: you cheer them on hoping that they will all get to cross successfully yet knowing in the wild, some have to die for others to live. The Maasai Mara over and above this has an expansive collection of animals. I got to see four out of the big five: lions, cheetah (very rare sighting), elephant and buffalo in large numbers only missed the rhino. I also got to see lots more zebras, giraffes, gazelles, crocodiles, hippos, eagles basically almost all kinds of animals. Thank You Maasai Mara National Park for being an amazing host and giving me the once in a life time experience.A big thank you to Muraguri for allowing me to use his pictures. Everyone should plan to visit the Mara at least once in their lifetime-you will not regret it.