Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The experience started right from the Great Rift Valley view point, which is near Mai Mahiu town, about 45 kilometers from Nairobi. From here, one gets a spectacular view of the valley’s slopes and the floor below. There are numerous curio shops selling all kind of African art, from drums, to spears, paintings, bracelets made of beads, and so much more. We spent a few minutes, and after taking several photos, we continued with the drive.
From Mai Mahiu, the next major town is Narok, a drive that takes nearly two hours. The area around is flat and mainly consists of vast plains, though there are hills in the distance, and also the Mt Longonot. The road is generally straight, with very few bends. It hits your mind that you are travelling as the crow flies. All along, the road is of tarmac, very smooth and one enjoys the drive. You will occasionally come across road signs warning that gazelles cross the road. The vegetation is brown and scattered, mainly consisting of short grasses and acacia trees. At some areas, boulders have been built, presumably to prevent soil erosion. Nearing Narok town, one crosses the Ewaso Nyiro River.
From Narok, we proceeded on through the conservancies that border the Masai Mara National Park. The road is rough and it’s a bumpy drive from here on. There are relatively scattered homesteads within the conservancy. The shelters are locally known as Manyattas and are made of earth. We came across lots of herdsmen with large herds of cows, sheep and goats. The locals wear traditional Masai regalia, which comprise of beautifully colored clothe locally referred to as ‘shuka’. We also spotted some wild herbivores such as wildebeests, gazelles and zebras. We also caught a glimpse of some beautiful cranes.
We headed to the Olumara camp, which is a luxury tented camp. It is ideal for a Masai Mara budget camping safari. The camp is surrounded by a river, and there is rope suspension bridge that ushered us in. We were warmly welcomed by polite members of staff, who were ready with a glass of cool juice for every one. Just what we needed after such a long journey. We were then ushered into the lounge, were we took our drinks and were introduced to the camp’s manager and members of staff. We then proceeded to have lunch. The camp organizes bush dinners, which is so fascinating. The meal was delicious and was a full course buffet. Taking lunch in the cool open air, amidst the lovely singing of birds is just what one would want, when he/she wishes to escape usual life in the busy city.
After lunch, we headed to the camps. There are 11 camps and are all named after a wild animal or a bird. The tents have three beds each, one of which is a double. I went to a tent named hornbill. It was located in the far end of the tent, and overlooks a bridge that leads into the open fields. There was a small verandah, with a table and some chairs. A very lovely place to relax in the evening as you view the wilderness ahead and watch as the sun sets. After unpacking our bags, it started raining, but we hurried to a bar that was near the staff quarters. The camp has satellite TV, and we enjoyed watching a game of soccer while we took some drinks. We also played pool.
We were so engrossed that we were oblivious that the sun had set. We went back to the lounge where we met our other friends. We joined them and passed time having a chat. We enjoyed drinks, took photos and shared so much in the laughter. Times like this are what can be aptly described as ‘Hakuna Matata’. We were then called for dinner, and so we proceeded to the dining room. We were entertained with traditional Masai songs and dances by the locals. The dances mainly involve jumping. The lead performer explained that whoever jumps the highest attracts the most beautiful girls.
After dinner, some went to the fire place that is between the lounge and the dining room. The rest of us remained in the dining room and chatted for some time before going to bed. Back at the tents, the three of us who were in it sat by the verandah, where we listened to some hyenas laughing and a lion in the distance roaring.
We woke up early the following morning ready for a game drive. It is best to watch the animals in the morning before they retreat into the bushes and hiding places. We spotted a herd of elephants, some hippos in a river, a lone hyena, wildebeests, a vulture perched on top of a tree and two lionesses. The latter however ran away when our van got too close.
We went back to the camp for breakfast at around 9am. After the heavy and delicious breakfast, we prepared for departure. It was such a well spent weekend, the kind you wish would never come to an end.
A sign that welcomes one to the camp is wooden, and has a small round top made of thatched grass acting as a roof. On its foot, there are three huge animal skulls. Two are buffalo skulls while the other is an antelope’s. When entering the camp’s compound, one crosses a river through a rope suspension bridge. It is so awesome crossing the bridge, as it sways from left to right. All these bring the thrilling feeling of a real safari in Kenya.
Upon arrival, one is met by most welcoming members of staff, who will eagerly be waiting with glasses of cool juice, to relieve you from the heat of the long drive. Guests are then led to a comfortable lounge. The furniture in the lounge such as tables is extracted from large chunks of wood or logs, with the natural shape maintained. They are however smoothly polished. The sofas are luxurious and comfortable.
Most guests will usually arrive just in time for lunch. The camp organizes bush lunches and dinners. The table is set a few meters away from the main dining room. The meals are sumptuous and comprise a full buffet course. There’s nothing more thrilling than the experience of having lunch in the open bush, accompanied by the chirping of birds in the trees and the cool air provided by the shade from the trees and the cool breeze. The perfect getaway from the norm in the civilized cities.
The compound in the camp is green with well mowed grass. The tents are 11 in total. They are named after animals and birds. The camps are big enough and usually accommodate 3 beds, one of which will usually be a double bed. The beds are very comfortable and have very soft duvets. There is a lamp stand next to each bed. There is a verandah with a table and chairs, facing the open fields where one can enjoy a cool time. They are self contained and the washrooms are clean.
The dining area is big enough and also has a bar. During dinner, Masai men entertain the guests with traditional Masai songs and dances. At night, the lounge is lit by numerous lantern lamps. There is a fireplace between the lounge and the dining room, where guests can sit around a fire under the star lit sky.
There is a wake up call at 6am for tourists to take an early game drive, just before breakfast. It is best to watch the animals in the mornings just before they retire to their hiding places, or late in the afternoons when they start emerging. Next time you plan to visit the Mara, Olumara camp would be a fine place to consider.