Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Game drive at Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok, Kenya is a fantastic place to see African wildlife, being the center of the Great Migration, the annual migration of millions of animals to and from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In fact, it is estimated that 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson's gazelles, 97,000 topis, 18,000 elands, and 200,000 zebras undertake this annual journey between July and October. The park also has an exceptional population of lions, leopards and cheetahs.

Getting there is a challenge and close to impossible using public transport. Which is why the best way to experience Maasai Mara is by joining a safari tour. You will definitely need a vehicle to explore the park. Walking around the park is not allowed for obvious reasons.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Game drives are the only way to explore the reserve. They usually start early in the morning and end late in the afternoon. So expect an exhausting but exciting day traveling around the highland savannas of the reserve.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
We left shortly after an early breakfast to catch nocturnal animals that were about to get some sleep. Almost immediately, we saw impalas, buffalos, hartebeest, zebras, and lions among many others.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
In fact, we found a lion pride that was feasting on a buffalo they had just killed most probably the day before. You could smell the stench of death as vans got really close. But this was a rare experience, a few minutes of discomfort and awe.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
We also had our first ostrich sightings, and got up close and personal with one. It was amusing watching the ostrich walk. But mind you, they run very fast and can be aggressive when threatened.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Wildebeest are the most common animals in Maasai Mara. I finally got to see a gnu!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
The guides are well-trained. Our guide knew the exact species of animals and birds I asked him to identify. And they also knew where to look for the elusive ones. He found a coalition of cheetahs hiding behind bushes!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
And there was Pumbaa! Funny too seeing warthogs walk around. You also won't miss the baboons!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
And the buffalos!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
And the hippos! Cute but deadly! Don't even try to swim when you see hippos. They will slice you in half with their powerful mouths even without provocation. We saw several bloats of hippopotamuses

And sometimes, you won't even notice they are there. So stay clear of the water!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Hippos are not predators. They will kill only as a precaution. But the waters of the reserve has a real predator, Nile crocodiles.

You can also cross the border without passport control! To the left is the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. And to the right is the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

For lunch, we looked for a tree under which the guide laid-out a blanket for a picnic. There was one group that was having lunch near the river. A few meters from their location, we saw a lioness! So watch out where you decide to have lunch. We continued our game drive after the quick picnic lunch.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
There are just too many zebras. You'll see a lot of them!

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Now this creature is also hard to find. We were lucky to see several hyenas getting some rest under trees, cooling off and escaping the heat of the sun.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
We also got our selfies with the giraffes. And we saw even more elephants.

By late afternoon, we were so tired and full of dust. So we made our way back to our tented camp. As soon as we got back to the camp, I went straight for the bed.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
The next morning was more of the same. We did another early morning game drive and got to see morning life at the reserve.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Good morning, lion! I think we woke him up! I think this was the same lion we saw on our first day.

Safari game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Before leaving the tented camp for the long drive to Lake Nakuru, we had photos taken with the local Maasai. Right before this photo was taken, the Maasai man beside me placed his shuka (garment) on me, gave me his rungu (wooden throwing club), and snap, laughed at how I look. Jambo from Kenya!

If you're interested to join safari trips to Kenya next year, e-mail me at ivanhenares@redvinta.com. Also check out my Kenya Safari album.

Part 1: Safari trip to Kenya's Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli

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