On a cold November morning I departed London Heathrow and just over 8 Hours later, following a turbulent flight, I touched down in Nairobi, Kenya, late in the evening. My African Adventure was about to begin!
It was incredibly humid passing through Nairobi airport and as with any foreign travel you are trying to keep your wits about you, ensure you pick up your luggage and get into the right transportation. In my case it was look for the sign with my surname, held up by my personal driver, who I’d never met or set eyes upon until that evening. I was to spend one night in the Comfort Inn to refresh and the following morning I was to meet my guide outside the Boulevard Hotel, where a group of us would be transported from, and into the Masai Mara to begin what would become an eye opening and educational journey…
I was part of a group of 27 who had booked in hope of seeing as many wonders of Africa as possible, but particularly, every visitors dream of the Big 5. We were chattering away amongst ourselves getting to know each other. We would be travelling together for the next 4 weeks.
Passing up through the Great Rift Valley, we saw these huge trucks passing us on the roads filled to the brim and with people on top. We saw small villages, shantytowns and locals walking to the church or the mosque, there are two main religions in Africa, Christianity and Islam. The people of these villages are generally hard working but being paid a pittance in comparison to our Westerner lifestyles which to these locals, we are seemingly multimillionaires who live in luxury (They’re not far off). Children chase after tourist vehicles and will jump onto the back or the sides smiling and waving, desperate to get anything from us “rich” tourists. This is genuinely how they view us. The common phrase you will hear from these children is “Jambo, Give me money.” Jambo of course means, Hello in Swahili.
These are all common sights throughout Africa.
After what seemed like hours of driving, we finally entered the Masai Mara reserve and little were we to know the fun was about begin getting to our campsite. The first thing you need to understand is this. My trips never really go to plan and very much like my cover of Australia, this wasn’t much different. It had been raining in Africa when we arrived and the plains of the Masai Mara were green and lush for the first time in years, so we were informed. This also meant the ground was incredible wet and our tour truck ultimately got stuck in the mud.
We all jumped out and attempted digging and pushing to try and get moving to absolutely no avail, our efforts were very much futile. The only thing we’d achieved was to get covered in mud. So, we set up camp whilst we waited for one of the Masai Tribes to come and rescue us with 4×4’s and take us to the Talek Olkinyei Village. The sky at night on the African plains, is spectacular and we had a clear night. We were able to see Orion’s Nebula and just take in what looks like thousands of diamonds in the blackened sky, whilst sat around a camp fire to stay warm.
The “Cavalry” finally arrive late in the evening and the ride up to the camp was to be unnerving and also helped to develop my now appreciation for potholes. There are no such things as potholes in Africa… They are more like craters and the skill of the African drivers is beyond comprehension. If you have never experienced this before, the rule book for driving, is literally thrown out of the window and as a passenger, it’s probably best to close your eyes and pray or adopt the emergency landing approach they teach you on the plane and pray.
My 4×4 was hurtling across the rugged terrain at speed and I had by this point figured, I would close my eyes, take deep breaths and pray. This became a exceedingly good idea when we hit an almighty crater and all I could see was the ground coming fast towards my window, before our driver skilfully managed to get the vehicle back from 2 wheels and on all 4 wheels to continue onwards. I was very alert and awake by the time we hit camp and in desperate need of the quiet of my tent…
It’s pitch black as we are walked through the camp, to our allocated tents. You have the usual night noises of crickets chirping but by the earlier hours, there was another noise and on my walk from the tent with one of the Masai tribesman to the facilities, I ask him what it was. The noise I can hear is a ahhhoop and a yakking type noise one I’d never heard before and my Masai tribesman informs me it’s Hyenas. They can see us, but we cannot see them and they are very close. It is also why I need my spear carrying friend with me at all times in the dark. He is in his traditional clothes, barefoot and armed with a spear and a shield. He also informs me we have just missed a leopard that had passed through the camp and I feel a pang of disappointment. I have popped this youtube video in for reference to give you an idea of just how unnerving this experience can be and I never got to see a Hyena on my whole trip, I just heard them in the darkness of the African nights.
Morning arrives and we spend the morning getting familiar with our surroundings and head out for a safari across the plains. We see carcasses left behind from a kill of wildebeest and we see various Antelope, Gazelles, Hartebeests and Waterbuck with a few birds. After half a day out on the plains, we head back to camp to relax and the rains come down.
The second day we see similar but no big cats or at least one leopard is pointed out to us, but it is so far away you can barely see it up a tree which is disappointing but we are all in good spirits and press on. We returned to camp in the afternoon and I decided an afternoon stroll was needed. A small brown creature shot past me as I wondered through camp and I decided to follow it. This small brown blob of fluff which I initially thought to be a bird, flew into one of the huts and there tucked up in the corner I was lucky enough to get my first ever captured shot of a wild bat (it is an exceptionally rare opportunity to come across one in broad daylight and to be able to follow it). I am to this day proud of this capture. To photograph a bat is pretty difficult with standard equipment as they are incredibly agile and fast.
On the third day we headed off to a Masai Tribes village whereby, in the next segment of my African adventure we will continue…