|What we arrived to: Hail storm in Eldoret|
|What we arrived to in Eldoret: Flooding in the street|
The following day we stocked up on a few items before setting out for the Maasai Mara. Poor Ruth however had other ideas, the steering control rod breaking just after a speed bump and forcing us to turn around. Fortunately it was a relatively quick and cheap thing to fix and a couple of hours later we were back on the road.
The road to the park started our quite nice; tarmac and very pretty scenery. Then as the afternoon progressed this began to change, with dusty and dry surrounds and quite a rough road (very rough in some parts). It also began to get dark making our drive a bit more stressful. Finally we did make it to our camp, Aruba Mara Camp, but after 8:30pm which was not ideal, especially when we saw a pack of hyenas only 20 minutes down the road. We were lucky enough to be able to have dinner in the restaurant though, so all we needed to do was eat, set up the tent and go to sleep.
|Beautiful tea plantations on the way to the Maasai Mara|
Aruba Mara Camp was a nice camp ground charging 500 shillings pppn and had hot water showers. It is also only a couple of minutes from Talek Gate so it’s easy to be at the gate when it opens while not having to pay fees to stay in the park if you don’t want to.
|Talek Gate at Maasai Mara|
Mike and I were at the gate at 6:30am for the park opening. We had booked our tickets online which I’m not sure the guys on the gate had seen before, however they were ok with if after a quick review (I think Mike actually woke them up) and we were first in at Talek Gate!
|Balloons in the Maasai Mara|
Immediately I loved Maasai Mara; I’m not sure what it was and I know it’s technically an extension of the Serengeti (or vice versa), but it somehow felt different. As we drove in we saw all of the hot air balloons lifting off for their morning flight and we watched on jealously, although not for long! Only 20-30 minutes in we had our first sighting of a pack of hyenas hovering over a kill. Very cool!! I love hyenas; I know I’ve said it before but something about their sly and feral nature just makes me love them more.
|Pack of hyena.....|
|...as they move to their kill|
|Such mangy animals but it makes me love them more :-)|
After watching the hyenas feast for a while we drove on to see a million wildebeest marching along. Once again, not really the “migration” we had expected, but all a part of the larger event.
We didn’t watch the wildebeest for too long, after all there is only so long one can watch wildebeest for, this time moving on to cheetah, a male and a female! This was our first sighting of cheetah since our visit nearly a year earlier to Moremiin Botswana, and certainly the closest viewing we’d had. Such beautiful and fit animals J
|Our next big "spot"|
|Such a nice animal....|
|....and with a friend|
|Soooooo many wildebeest|
|Sadly one that didn't make it...|
|...and another one|
We stopped at Keekorok Lodge which is set in large grounds and boasts a hippo pool and a walkway with monkeys. We had a pretty good coffee there before heading back into the park and coming across a couple of lion kills. Maasai Mara had paid itself off before lunchtime!
|Lovely coffee @Keekorok Lodge|
|Check out Mike's "bib", hehe|
We drove around slowly for hours after that seeing plenty of animals and stopping for one final “safari drink”, drinking the last of our Tanzanian beer.
|One for the road and our last self drive safari for a while|
I think that part of our enjoyment of Maasai Mara was definitely our luck; we saw a lot, something you can never predict. There were also not too many cars there, apparently quite different from only a few weeks earlier. However I think it is Maasai Mara’s very open spaces, large savannah with little roads that you can drive off onto and be alone that makes this park special. We never felt crowded and were able to venture into areas with no other vehicles.
|Fast asleep :-)|
|....and the token zebra photo :-)|
We only spent one day in the park itself and in hindsight I would have liked to have spent 2 days in this park and only one in Serengeti, but as they say, “hindsight is 20/20”. And because Maasai Mara is smaller and easier to access from sites outside of the gate, the overall cost of a visit is actually cheaper, despite the higher admission fee per person (i.e. you don’t have to pay $30pppn for camping).