Safari at Maasai Mara

Seeing lions this close was AMAZING!!

The highlight of our entire African trip was the two nights in July we spent at Maasai Mara during the great wildebeest migration.  This natural event runs from July through November as the animals migrate between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara. Considered one of the seven new wonders of the world, this is at the top of many people's bucket list.  I wasn't sure I'd ever have the opportunity because I'd seen those glossy ads in National Geographic Traveler and other like magazines, and I knew the hefty price tag it carried (about $16,000 per person!).  What I didn't know is that if you get to Africa and work with a local travel agency, it becomes incredibly affordable. Go to any larger hotel in Nairobi or whatever city you're planning to stay in, and they will have a travel desk.  The agents know what properties are on sale and can make suggestions.  We went to the Fairview Hotel and worked with Daphne at their travel office.  We didn't have a specific camp in mind, so she was able to recommend something that was on sale and would work for a family with a 9 year old boy.

We were able to stay at a luxury tent camp, Governors Camp, which is one of the few in the Mara triangle. They have several lodging options, and since they have their own fleet of aircraft, you get to fly right to the airstrip in the Mara from Nairobi. The price for three of us was less than $1500 and included round trip flight from Nairobi, lodging, and all meals. There was also a park fee of $80 for adults and $45 per child per day. The pass is good for 24 hours. We had several game drives every day for no additional cost.

During our stay in Kenya we had visited Nairobi National Park and Nakuru National Park.  Both charge an entry fee and we barely saw anything other than a few animals in very dusty conditions.  The roads were bumpy making the ride torture for hours. If you have the option, I'd say save your money and just go to Maasai Mara.  You will see so much more.

The migration we saw from the airplane window.  Those are zebra down there and there were MILES of them.

The Governors Camp has aircraft with 12 passenger seats

Inside our tent that had electricity, hot showers, and real beds.

We arrived around noon and checked into our tent before eating lunch outdoors under the huge trees.  It was a buffet style meal and delicious. You sit at linen clad tables with china and silverware, while waiters bring you beverages. We could walk a few paces to the river view and watch hippos swimming below us. Meals at night were served in a building without walls, so you still had the views. There was also a nice open air bar where you could order drinks with a view of the river.

My husband had never been camping...and I don't think you can base a camping experience on this one.  It was total luxury! The beds were very comfortable.  You could open the tent flaps to allow a nice breeze to get in. At night before you got into bed, they'd put a hot water bottle under your blankets to warm the bed.  Pure bliss!  Most people believe Africa is very hot, but during the African winter months, it can be quite cool at night.  It was generally 50F at night and in the 70s during the day. As you slept, you heard hippos outside the tent, but armed rangers keep them away from doing any damage.  If you want to leave the tent, you use a flashlight to flag down a ranger who escorts you. In the morning, they wake you up by delivering hot drinks and lemon cookies to your tent before the first game drive of the day.

The game drives are the highlight of the trip. We shared a vehicle with another family of 3.  They are really good at finding a match.  Several serious photographers shared a vehicle.  We also saw young couples together.  I wasn't so nervous about our Omar making too much noise because the other child was there doing the same.  The drives are as long as three hours, so it can be a long time to sit, and they offer three per day.  Sometimes the kids napped.  Omar got out his iPad with headphones for most of them.  You spend a lot of time looking for wildlife and the drivers talk to each other by radio, often all coming to the same spot if there is something spectacular going down, like the lions eating a zebra I've shown below. I was worried about leaning out to take photos, but the guides said as long as you don't leave the vehicle you are fine.  There were open windows and an open roof as well.  We wore jackets and the vehicle had additional blankets for the early morning drive.

We always saw something worthy of about 100 photos!  If you're a photographer, I'd just mention that you can recharge a battery at this camp, and you should bring double the memory cards you think you will need.  The guides will stop and shut off the vehicle so you can get really good photos.  Our guide, Moses, had taken professional photographers out often enough that he even gave me photography tips and would move to the best vantage point if possible.  I'll just close with some of the beautiful animals we saw.  Enjoy!


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