I thought I was prepared for my first Maasai Mara visit—I packed light, brought a good camera, and was ready to become very familiar with my safari vehicle, where I would be spending many hours watching animals. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of being on safari. It’s difficult to describe, but when you are sitting in your safari vehicle, mere feet away from a lion out in the Mara, you feel both tremendously excited and calm. Time seems to slow down, and you acquire a deep sense of connection to the natural world around you that is truly unique. It’s an experience I will never forget, and one that I am delighted to be sharing in this new series of blog posts.
On my first day in the Mara, I awoke in the luxury accommodations of the Sarova Mara game camp where I had the pleasure of enjoying the Kenyan grown tea. It was hard to pull myself away from the delicious cup of tea. I had had a late evening drive from Nairobi the previous day.
By 7am in the morning in company of my driver and guide, Simon, we were already at the safari vehicle eager to spend time in the wild. He stayed with us throughout our travels in the Mara. We soon encountered our first wildlife sighting—we came upon a large family of impalas under a shade. One thing that immediately stood out to me about the Mara was how rich the reserve is in terms of wildlife compared to its area of 1,510 km squared. The reserve includes diverse environments of grassland and woodland savanna.
Wildlife is abundant in the park, millions of grazing animals such as wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle can be found everywhere, with predator animals such as lions not too far behind. The Mara is most famous for the great migration, where millions of animals journey across the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of water every year.
With such large populations of zebra and wildebeest in the Serengeti, it didn’t take us long to encounter our first zebra herds. In one of our first encounters, we saw a series of zebra rolling in the dirt. Our guide, Simon, pointed out that that zebras roll in the dirt as a social behavior—when one zebra rolls in the dirt, others tend to follow. Sure enough, he was right. We saw a series of zebra playing in the dirt, one after another.
And where there’s zebra, predators are often nearby. I was also lucky to visit The Mara River. I set my eyes on cautious birds quenching their thirst at the edge of the river and of course, hippos. But on closer inspection, lying just on the edge of the river, barely visible, we saw crocodiles, sitting with their mouths open, trying to stay cool in the hot sun.
During the previous encounters, we were enjoying taking photos and talking about the amazing wildlife we were witnessing, but nothing quite prepared us for what we saw next. Only a few meters down the road from the crocodiles, we came across a family of lions. As soon as we realized what we were seeing, the vehicle went quiet. All that could be heard was the quiet sounds of the lions, lounging in the shade and the subtle sounds of our cameras. That quiet, combined with the magnificent sight of the lions up close, was a stunning end to my first day on safari in the Mara.