- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 29 October 2014 29 October 2014
Sunday morning, Jo and I woke up for an early breakfast at the Rosa Mystica of eggs, bread, sausage and bananas. I had forgotten about Kenyans serving coffee, tea and hot chocolate with meals at restaurants. I really enjoy this part!
Jackson, our driver and guide for our safari adventure, picked us up at 7:30 AM, and we began our drive to the Maasai Mara. The drive took about five hours. We drove through the Great Rift Valley on the way, which offers scenic views. Shortly after this stop the landscape changes to desert with cactus, dust storms and acacia trees. Apparently this time of year is supposed to be the wet season, but Kenya is experiencing a drought. It sounds like severe drought hits every ten years, and this is the ten year mark. The road was paved until the last two hours of the drive, and then we switched to what felt like a four-wheel drive road. They are grading the dirt road to make improvements, but in the meantime they are diverting traffic off to the side for a rough, dusty ride.
We arrived at the Mountain Rock Kenya camp around 1:30 PM. The cellular reception is pretty horrible out in this area, so the reception manager at the camp did not know we were supposed to arrive that afternoon. No worries, though! Due to Ebola concerns, the tourist traffic for safaris in Kenya is way down. Peak season for the Massai Mara is June through October due to wildebeest migration, but sadly there are minimal visitors right now. In fact, for both Sunday and Monday nights, Jo and I were the only people staying in our camp! So they had no trouble finding a permanent tent for us to use, and they quickly set up a late lunch for us of spaghetti, vegetables and fruit. As we were eating, the text message finally came through stating what time we would be arriving.
The plan was for Jo and I to do an evening game drive Sunday night in the Maasai Mara. However, the sky was full of rain clouds and thunder, so our game drive was in jeopardy. With rain, the vehicles have a great chance of getting stuck in the mud. Thankfully the downpour of rain never came, so Jo and I were able to go into the Maasai Mara from about 4:00 to 6:00 PM on Sunday night, and we had a very successful game drive!
The Maasai Mara is not fenced in, but it is a protected area. In fact, the park is the size of the Netherlands, so there is lots of land to explore. Within the first fifteen minutes of the game drive we came upon two lions right beside the road, and there was only us and one other car in the vicinity! Amazing. In our short game drive, we saw the majority of the animals. We spotted warthogs, zebra, impalas and antelope of several varieties, giraffe, wildebeest, baboons, elephants, buffalo and one cheetah hiding in a bush. The game drive finished with an absolutely gorgeous African sunset. We had such an amazing evening and felt blessed to see so many animals in such a short period of time.
We returned to the tent camp for a personal dinner. They had a table set up just for the three of us, and we received personalized service. We had a dinner of butternut squash soup, fried tilapia, rice, mixed vegetables and banana fritters. Everything tasted delicious!
Jo and I spent the night in our permanent tent. The tents used to have zippers that you locked with a padlock, but now they have upgraded the tents to have doors that lock—in order to keep out the monkeys! The are single twin size beds with mosquito nets and warm blankets. The bathroom has a very nice shower, sink and toilet, and there is hot water 24 hours a day. It's like luxury camping!
Monday Jo and I woke up to a cool morning. We had a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, beans, toast and bananas. You will not go hungry around here! At 8:00 AM we left the camp for a full day game drive in the Maasai Mara. Jo and I had another very successful day! With fewer visitors, there are fewer safari vehicles in the park, and I felt that having fewer people around allowed us to see the animals much better.
Our day again began with lion sightings. We came upon lions who had recently killed. The male lion was eating the wildebeest and slowly dragging his kill out of the open field toward some bushes where he could eat and hide the meat. There were two female lions and two older cubs out in the field with the male lion. The female lions do the hunting, and then the male eats until he is content. Sometimes the females never get to consume any of the kill.
As the male lion was dragging the wildebeest to the bushes, one of the females began to wander off. We started following her, and with some patience, she led us a long way away to where she had hidden her very young cubs! There were three of them hidden in the bushes by the river. As soon as mom arrived, the cubs came out and nursed and played all over her. The cubs never came out into the open, but you could see them through the branches. So neat!
From here we drove through the Mara in search of more African wildlife. We saw many fields of zebra with wildebeest mixed in. The wildebeest remaining are those who did not migrate back to the Serengeti in Tanzania. I would think with fewer of them in the Mara, they are much easier prey for the lions!
I cannot believe the large herds and groups of animals we saw! We came upon a group of twelve elephants to start with, and then later we found a group of fourteen elephants. There are baby elephants in the families right now, too. Elephants have a matriarch who cares for the family. And, interestingly, they have a dominant side they eat and function with. For example, if the elephant has a shorter tusk on the left side, then the left side is his/her dominant side.
Immediately after the elephants, we came upon a group of eight giraffes eating in a grove of trees. Giraffes apparently have very excellent eye sight. It is very interesting to watch them spread their legs out in order to reach items on the ground.
We found buffalo as well. They were kip buffalo, I believe. They are one of the “big five” animals, because they are hunted for their meat. The other big five animals are elephants (hunted for their tusks), rhinoceroses (hunted for the horns), leopards (hunted for their skins), and lions. The buffalo are gigantic and are often quite aggressive. They are frequently seen with birds on them, who are cleaning off the bugs.
Next we came upon two brother male lions who were lying in the bushes together. They were with one female. She trailed off up the hill towards a hill full of zebras and looked prepared to hunt for lunch. It was most entertaining to watch the zebra. They did not run away, as apparently this makes them an easier catch. Instead, they just stood there and some even walked down toward the lion to verify that she was really there. Amazing! Instead of hunting, though, the lions mated instead. I find their mating habits to be very interesting. A pair of lions mates every fifteen minutes for seven days straight.
In the early afternoon Jo spotted a hyena near a dead elephant. There were multiple vultures devouring as well as a large stork. But the hyena was in a shady spot resting. I imagine the hyena was taking part in the, eating as well. Unfortunately we did not hear the hyena laugh.
Right before lunch, we came came upon a cheetah and her five cubs! What a neat scene. They were walking out in the open. The mother moved so gracefully, and the cubs just played and ran behind. They are so adorable, with their tufts of hair and small spots.
We had lunch on top of Lookout Mountain, which looks out over Maasai Mara. This site offered gorgeous views!
The camp packed us a huge lunch! We had a piece of cold fried chicken and sandwiches of cucumber, tomato and cheese. They also packed in a hard boiled eggs, chips, cookies, a banana and a juice box. By this time of day, it had greatly warmed up. We enjoyed the sun and views before getting back into the van to head to the river.
The Mara River goes right through the Maasai Mara. This is the river the wildebeest cross during their migration. The river is full of crocodiles waiting for their next prey. There are also tons of hippos in the river. They spend the day in the water trying to stay cool. We also saw an elephant down in the river getting some water and food. What a neat sight!
In the afternoon we worked our way back toward camp and continued the game drive along the way. We came upon a lion that was less than ten feet away from the van, and we were able to get great views of him and the female lion hanging out with him! We were fortunate to see more elephants and giraffes on the way back, too.
We ended the day by coming back to the group of lions we started the day with. The male was still in the bushes hiding with his wildebeest. The two female lions and two larger cubs were coming across the field trying to get back to him and perhaps thinking about hunting again. There were giraffes in the field, and they were quite worried about these lions. They would run and try to get next to one another so that they could protect each other against the lions.
The lions just prowled across the field. As they attempted to approach the male with the wildebeest kill, the female lions and cubs had to stop because there were buffalo between them and the bushes. Apparently even buffalo are aggressive toward lions, so the lions laid down in the field and were preparing to wait out the process. Since both female lions were present, this means the three cubs we had seen earlier in the day were hidden away again. It was super neat to end the day with the pride of Africa prowling across the Mara and to see the response of the other animals.
With it being springtime in Africa, we saw many baby animals. Lion cubs, baby warthogs, zebra colts, young buffalo, baby elephants, baby giraffes, cheetah cubs and baby impalas/antelope. Pretty neat!
We spent the evening at our tent camp. We had another personalized dinner of vegetable soup, beef stew with rice and vegetables. Dessert was mocha pudding with bananas. It was great to be able to eat dinner with our guide, Jackson, and to learn more about him and the culture. Jackson is actually a Maasai warrior who now drives for a living. He had many interesting stories to share.
Tuesday we woke up to another chilly morning and headed up for a breakfast of french toast, omelets, bacon, potatoes and toast. Delicious!
We packed up and left after breakfast. The drive back to Nairobi offered picturesque views of the Maasai, who are nomads, herding their groups of cattle, goats and sheep across the dessert. We did stop at a couple tourist shopping centers, but the items being sold were exceptionally expensive. And neither Jo nor I are great barterers!
We stopped at the Great Rift Valley overlook for lunch, and then we drove on back to Nairobi. Jackson took us to this market called Verandah, where we shopped for some final souvenirs. Then he dropped us off at the Rosa Mystica, where we repacked and changed clothes. My friends Catherine and Shara picked us up in the evening to drive us to the airport. Rush hour traffic in Nairobi is horrible! They actually planned to take two hours to get us to the airport. Crazy.
Now we are in the middle of our 35-hour journey home, with flights through Amsterdam and Detroit. It is hard to believe it's over, but Jo and I have had a great trip to Africa. Amazing experiences, beautiful sites, and unforgettable memories!
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?