Christmas is a time for family, but much to the dismay of mine, I’ve spent the past four abroad; two of which being in Africa. This year, I scored some cheap flights to Tanzania with RwandAir (£340 return!) and headed down for my first ever safari in the Masai Mara with Absolute Africa. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! From the tour leaders, the overland busses, the people, the animals, the sights it was incredible. The whole time I was there a quote kept coming to mind:
The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to. – Richard Mullin
I know a lot of people who have done a number of safari’s over the years but didn’t see half that we did – I couldn’t believe within the first TWO HOURS we spotted all of the Big Five!! It was a Christmas to remember.
What’s In a Name?
The name Masai Mara comes from the local Masai people who called the land ‘Mara’ which means ‘spotted’ in Maa, the language of the Masai. The Masai people refer to the national park as the ‘spotted land’ because it’s spotted with animals, especially during the Great Migration. The Great Migration is on every safari goer’s bucket list and is when over 2million zebra and wildebeest traverse between Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti in search of grass and food and to avoid the rainy season. The Migration typically takes place anywhere between July – early December, so we were at the tail end of it as the animals were passing back into Tanzania. I learned from our guide that all animals in the migration travel clockwise to stay together.
Our first game drive lasted for four hours (it was late afternoon – dusk when the park closed), followed by an early 5am rise for a full day drive to scour the Mara as the animals woke up to find their breakfast. I definitely recommend doing drives at different times of the day because you see animals during different periods of their daily life; from waking up and hunting, to lounging in the mid-day sun, grazing to baby animals playing around. I took soo many photos of all that we saw, and I can honestly say if I didn’t pack a zoom lens I wouldn’t have been able to capture half of what I did.
I’ve only seen the tip of the mountain which is Africa; it’s a beautiful continent and Kenya is a place not to be missed. From the kindness of the locals, to the sights of the savannah, this country will leave you breathless. I hope you get the chance to visit one day, until then, here’s some pictures that will give you some serious wanderlust.
Masai Mara in photos
Masai Mara day 1: first spotting of a herd of elephants!! Christmas has arrived!
Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa brought me two Big Cats for Christmas! This is an iPhone photo which shows you just how close you actually get to some of the animals.
There were some crazy and beautiful birds in the National Park … this one wasn’t one of them.
How beautiful and poised is this Cheetah? We spotted her in the morning as she was scouting out a kill. Shortly after we left, she went in and snatched up an impala.
Our guide, William, told us that this NEVER happens. Cheetah’s aren’t known for climbing up trees but this one went up for a better view of the plaines.
Look at the CLAWS on this bad boy!
Don’t her eyes look sultry? Elephants are such beautiful creatures. You can tell this one is a female because of her breasts between her legs. Her baby calf wasn’t too far off.
Baby animals were everywhere! Here’s a Reticulated Giraffe nursing her baby as she eats some thorn trees. Giraffes tongues are over 30cm in length and are so tough because they eat thorns all the time. Their saliva is a natural antiseptic to repair the stab wounds from the thorns. I’d do anything for food, but that seems a bit intense.
Two Masai Giraffes are caught fighting. Watching them bash their necks back and forth was so crazy because the way they moved was like watching everything in slo-mo, but you could hear the bang of bone when they made contact. Males will fight over territory and the fighting sometimes will end with one giraffe breaking the others neck :S
Hey, hey look at me! Notice the pattern on this ones spots are a bit more squiggly? That’s how you can tell its a Masai Giraffe.
He looks so miscevioush! Hippos are my favourite animals, they might seem lazy and carefree but they’re actually the most dangerous animals in the entire park. Would you have thought that? These ones were all longing together in the water farting … the smell was something FIERCE.
A rare spotting of hippos to in the water. Look at this cute little bebe!!!
Impala’s and their cute little white tails!
Another rare sighting: a leopard lounging in a tree! How beautiful is this. Do you know how to sport the difference between a cheetah and a leopard? Cheetahs have a smaller head and black lines on their face coming down from their eyes to protect from the glare of the sun.
A lioness yawns as she patiently waits for her husband to finish eating the gazelle kill in the bottom corner. In the animal world, male lions eat first and only once they’re finished can the female and babies chow down. Chivalry is dead, people.
How crazy is this? This is how close you can get to animals while on safari. Who needs zoos when you have direct access to animals like this?!
The amber of his eyes draws me in. Look at all the bugs on his face cleaning off remnants of his breakfast. King of Africa.
What are you looking at?! Zebras are EVERYWHERE in the Masai Mara!
The best Christmas present of all! Spotting a rare Black Rhino! There’s only about 40 left in the entire Masai Mara National Reserve, which is 1,510km squared! I couldn’t believe it, we were within a stones throw of him and he just stood there grazing paying us no attention. Africanamazing.
We were lucky to visit a Masai Village and were greeted and given a tour around the mud hut village by the locals. It was one of my favourite experiences (also where I bought the most things – trinket junkie).
The beautiful colours of Kenya. Here the women did a traditional dance and signing greeting for us. Their voices were so beautiful, I wish I could have bought a recording of it! Instead, I’ve got my crap quality iPhone recording below.
One of the village elders wearing the beautiful and iconic red Masai blanket. I bought one of these in blue and it’s so warm!
The men performed a traditional dance as well and invited the boys from our tour to join them. The Masai people are a nomadic tribe and believe that in order to prove the strength of a great warrior they must jump high! The men are meant to stay as straight as possible and to move as elegantly as they can, to not only prove their strength but also to impress women.
You can watch more of the Masai men’s jumping and chanting here.
I love the sound of the Masai’s voices as they sing their greeting. This chant is also known as a warrior cry and is sung when going into battle.
This is one of my favourite photos captured from the Masai Mara. What isn’t pictured is some of the Masai’s who have iPhones, Facebook and emails! The contrast between tradition and new age was a juxtaposition I wasn’t expecting, but one that I also really enjoyed seeing. The digital transformation is everywhere!
Have you been to the Masai Mara or on a safari before? Were you one of the lucky ones to spot a rhino? Tell me in the comments below!