We are now on our drive to the third location. Nikki has put us way out into the bush. This is part of the Mara, a very isolated area, and even after entering the park, we had approximately another 2 Hour Drive. A couple different times, we got stuck and had to turn around and take a different path because recent rains had washed out the road and made it impAssible.
Our stay was along the river, which is quite unique and super isolated. One side is Tanzania and the Serengeti. On our side is the Mara, the Kenyan side. Their side. “The migration may start in Tanzania, but it happens in the Mara!”
Our lodging is a tent resort right on the river. If you’ve ever seen video of the Great Wildebeest migration and the river where they jump far trying to avoid crocs, it’s this one!
Our lodging is very unique but most likely they aren’t what you think of as a “tent.” True, they are made of canvas, but they are so luxurious and spacious that it’s impossible to consider this in the same realm as camping. Ours was a three-bedroom, two-bath, two-shower spectacular “tent house.”
The flaps are open in the day, allowing a perfect breeze to glide through and shut at night as the evenings are quite cold. Our steward Ishmael, from the Borana, brought us little “bed warmers” each night. They quickly became a favorite of Nikki and the kids.
There are hippos and crocs in the river; we can watch them throughout the day and hear the hippos grunting. It is especially spectacular at night when it sounds like they are just outside our wall, and a 1/8 inch piece of canvas is all that separates us from the wild outside. We often woke up in pitch dark, startled but giggling at the Hippo’s unrelenting tuba symphony!
The resort had another of our favorite Kenyans. Fred (Yule Yule) was a great guy, and we still stay in touch! Anything we wanted, he made sure was available. He brought coins for Casen, Safari Cane-and-cokes for Nikki and me and ensured that the room was stocked with Sprite, water, and tea when the girls weren’t feeling great.
The highlight of this part of the trip was Nikki’s side surprise. Yes! Another side adventure she managed to hide from us. One morning we woke up a 4 am. It was Completely dark and hard to see even a few inches in front of your face. The stars were amazing and the weather cold. We began a 2-hour journey through the Mara. Up and down river beds, in and out of 4-wheel drive, sliding down banks, and even had a male lion cross our path.
As the sunrise came over the Mara, we saw a crew readying our next escapade. A Hot air balloon ride that we took as the dawn broke over the savannah. One of my all-time favorite times and something I have wanted to do since I was the kid’s age.
To have a bird’s eye view of this land was exquisite and to drop-down just over giraffes and elephants felt like being on the production set of a national geographic special.
At the Mara, Nikki went on safari a few times on her own for a couple of days when he girls weren’t feeling great. Edward, our guide, would take her out by herself for what had to be a dream photo experience. His ride was a completely open-air Land Cruiser with riser seats. Super cool!
Nikki loves her safaris and her photo opportunities. She is a professional photographer and puts herself into dream situations. As I said in the last post, seeing her light up like a little kid at Christmas is a fantastic feeling for me. She told me she took over 5000 photos and hasn’t even started the daunting task of editing yet.
Nikki has been making a record of all the different animal species we have seen, and it is over 100 at this point. Not including birds, of which we could do way more than 100. It’s a hard experience to explain. Along the Amboseli and into the Mara, there were times when you just put on your binoculars and looked towards the horizon and see probably 3000 to 5000 animals within your binocular scope. Sometimes it was like this in nearly every direction. Herds of 50-100 elephants. 10,000 flamingos on a lake. Wildebeests and Zebras are everywhere you look.
I didn’t realize it until today, but you cannot hunt animals in Kenya. The animals are very well protected, and the numbers are hard to imagine. It’s exciting to see these animals in the zoo but to see them up close, and personal, to smell them, and feel an elephant’s thunderous low-frequency vibration while in their wild environment is impressive. Another fun note is that we have seen most of these animals with their babies as well. Cheetah babies, Roomba’s (wart hog), rhino babies, wildebeest, zebras, baby giraffes, baby baboons, baby monkeys, and baby hippos. Baby elephants… everything. The South is exploding with the next generation. I would guess Kenya is the purest and truest nature on the planet.
After three days of this and even watching a cheetah on a successful hunt, our driver took us to the most remote, small-scale airport I have ever seen. We had a box lunch and waited until our Cessna Caravan landed to take us back to the city. That is one cool plane. What an experience!
The Mara was everything I’ve ever imagined when watching documentaries and videos such as “Planet Earth” on TV. An absolutely wonderful, soulful experience and a great time as a family. When traveling on and upon landing at our first stop, our pilot informed us, “Just run to the bathroom and return to the plane; your family is not getting off here. We have one more stop for you all!”
Nikki told us, “The adventure isn’t over yet, guys. We’ve done a lot and seen a million things. Let’s make sure we get a little time to Chill before heading back to reality. We’re headed to Kenya’s coast, and you can relax, play and swim in the Indian ocean.”