Masai Mara, KENYA, October 22-24 – Our arrival into Nairobi was a quick connection, from our Boeing jet ‘sky bird’ to our local safari Dash 7 turbo prop for our 45 minutes flight. We met Pat Awori, our wonderful Kenyan guide. Pat’s safari guiding career is only surpassed by her extensive commitments to elephant conservation. This lady is an encyclopedia of East Africa.
The Mara had not had any rains in almost 3 months … until we arrived. Of course any rains are the biggest blessing in Africa. The Masai being a pastoral cattle people, they live for life giving rains. Well, we brought the blessed rains … which made for a rather wet safari transfer to our wild kingdom tents at Mahali Mzuri. We were traveling in large Toyota 4×4 Safari Landcruisers, custom made for taking clients on safari in any terrain conditions.
Our accommodation tents at Mahali Mzuri were no ordinary tents … in fact they are Kenya’s version of ‘Ritz Carlton glamping’ as the highest luxury available in East Africa, and all made possible by Richard Branson. We are all most grateful for our large spacious tents, sitting on teak decks, beautifully furnished and with magnificent views. A spacious tented pavilions area houses a bar & lounge and along with a separate dining tent area; a great central place for gathering. Expansive views, cappuccinos made to order, roasted cashew nuts, fine wines, exceptional fine dining, friendly waiters who become new friends, and a roaring log camp fire; this is Kenyan hospitality at its finest. We easily got very comfortable living here amid the wilds of Africa, a sort of ‘heaven on earth’ good feeling.
On our first morning we all headed out before dawn to drive to our hot air balloon safari launch site. At dawn we climbed into our sturdy wicker baskets. Quickly, we were drifting across the magnificent Masai Mara plains, in our gigantic balloons … No dust, No bumps. This is the way to go on safari … and for such a bird’s eye view. We floated mostly close to the ground, the roar of the burner (to heat the air inside the balloon envelope) startles animals below us. Moved along by the gentle morning breeze, with our binoculars we can scan around and see many different gazelle and antelopes spread out across the plains. Huge herds of buffalo are seen out yonder in the direction we are flying. Suddenly our little 2-way radio crackles into life, two lions over to our right … lions on ‘honeymoon’ … huge excitement. We saw them clearly with our binoculars. And suddenly ahead a light colored blur on a termite mound, binoculars, it’s a cheetah sunning. We floated right over her … and her 3 beautiful cubs…eagle eye view. We also looked for black rhino in the dense thicket bush that we flew over. Then it was time to land … we had been afloat for over an hour. We spotted more lions. There was a huge herd of buffalo ahead across the Mara River. We were landing right over the top of galloping zebra and cavorting wildebeest. Such a wonderful experience. A few bumps, some dust and we’ve ‘landed’ in our basket back on terra firma. Our safari Landcruisers have followed us and so we immediately drove over to see the nearby lions, as well as the magnificent cheetah and her playful cubs nearby. In the distance was a lone acacia tree and under it tables with tablecloths and ice buckets with chilled champagne. Two chefs were preparing a cooked bush brunch for us … omelets and crepes, sausages and bacon, fresh croissant and fresh fruit, coffee & tea. And even two canvas side bush toilets signed as ‘loo with a view’. How on earth could life be this good?! Africa was weaving her ‘magic’ on us.
We headed back to our camp Mahali Mzuri … a Swahili name meaning ‘beautiful place’. There’s al fresco lunch, and a glistening infinity edge pool. A herd of elephants ambled slowly along the valley below us, eating their way through their day. Serene and surreal. There’s a bush spa. I think some of our guests believed they were in heaven!
Later in the afternoon, delicious high tea was served and then we were off on safari in our safari cruisers as Pat Awori coordinated with our superb safari guides. As the hot day cooled, all the animals become more active. Safari adventurers, we all spread out in different directions across the Mara plains. We were quickly spotting gazelle and antelope, giraffe, Cape buffalo, seeing jackals, hyena and vultures … and soon a large lioness with 3 cubs, all healthy. Later we saw a large pride of 13 lions and lionesses … including two big mane males. The black mane lions of Mara are world famous. Two-way radios crackling … a leopard and her cub. That’s the ‘crown jewel’ sighting of our game drive. The sun was setting, and it was time to head back to our ‘beautiful place’. Pat gave us an interesting talk over cocktails and canapés … some history of the Mara, conservation concerns and efforts of today. Discussions continued over a delicious dinner. The moon and stars literally sparkled in the sky. It’s been a long and exciting adventurous day … one of our lady guests said ‘I think this has been the best day of my life’. We all felt that too.
A second full day of safari adventures across the East African Mara plains. We were out in the early morning and loving more sightings. Our big pride of lions were in a ‘stand off’ with a large herd of cape buffalo. It’s an extraordinary sight of young lions chasing buffalo, and buffalo chasing lions, and the lions consistently harassing and aggravating the buffalo. Mortal enemies. But this is ‘trainee hunting’ for this large family of young lions. Their mothers stay back watching. We were amid this incredible action and noise for well over and hour. Many good videos filmed. But a cheetah has been found not so far away and that’s another big cat chance not to be missed this morning. We were amazed by all of our good sightings – our safari guides seemingly have ‘eagle eyes’.
In the afternoon Pat took us to visit a local Masai engang (village) … it’s not so far away from our luxury camp but it’s all so world’s apart. The Masai are a nomadic people of simple lifestyle. Time is of no meaning to them. Their life revolves around their cattle, sheep, and goats … but, above all, their cattle are their prize. We were entertained by the young moran (warriors) in their bright red ‘shukas’ (cover blankets) and adorned with bead jewelry. They made fire from two sticks, and demonstrated their rhythmic chanting, their energetic dancing, and their unbelievable jumping. The women entertained us with song. We met their young children and were welcomed into their small huts for a personal visit. We found baby goats and sheep inside too, protected. The colorful Masai women led us to see their bead wares…more shopping. It’s astonishing to us how people can live like this, so basically, and yet be so strong and healthy. So much of the simplicity of their lives we have long lost.
We continued into the later afternoon on safari game drives; making the very most of our precious time here. The wild kingdom continues to ‘wow’ us. The sun was 9bbq2 (2)setting, and we were steering for home camp again where a blazing log fire welcomed us. Delicious canapés and chilled wines, cocktails … all under this new evening’s starry sky. We enjoyed an open air barbecue dinner … its ‘nyama choma’ (roast meats) Kenyan style. It was a grand way to end a grand day.
Somewhat sadly, in the crisp morning air, we headed out across the wide open savanna plains to connect with our charter aircraft. It was time to bid ‘kwaheri’ (goodbye) to the magnificent Masai Mara and Kenya. How can we have seen and experienced so much in such a short time here … it’s truly amazing to us. We know that the ‘magic’ of Africa is in our hearts forever … for some renewed, for others it’s now instilled. Asante Kenya (thank you Kenya).
It was a speedy efficient transition for us through the Nairobi airport. Our team of Icelandic ‘sky goddesses’ greeted us as African queens aboard our private jet. They’ve also discovered a popular Kenyan cocktail “Dawa” (Swahili for medicine) which they served on boarding as well as our beloved Veuve Cliquot Champagne. It’s time to whisk us away to the west, right across the continent of Africa (a continent that’s four and a half times larger than continental USA!), and we’re stylishly jetting across Africa and out across the Atlantic Ocean … all the way to Spain’s Canary Islands and specifically Tenerife. An easy non-stop direct flight while enjoying all the spacious comfort of our plane, the amenities, and a sumptuous lunch including smoked salmon, beef tenderloin, baked cod, and scrumptious ice creams as well fine Belgian chocolates, cognac, and coffee. We’re all sharing photos and short videos of African adventures … not so ready to have left … yet also in anticipation of a stunning Atlantic Ocean island where the largest and tallest volcano of Spain stands. We all look forward to the Sub tropical island adventures that await us, to experience from our lavish Ritz Carlton Abama Resort hotel. Espana, here we come …