3 reasons why Masai Mara should be on your travel to-do list

Who hasn’t heard of the Masai Mara yet? Located in south-west Kenya, it’s one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves. It’s actually one eco-system, together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. One of the “top attractions” is the wildebeest migration. As this takes place between July and October however and we went in January, it’s still on our bucket list – but I’m sure we’ll get to that one day…

On our vacation to Kenya & Tanzania, the Masai Mara was the third “park” on our itinerary. Arriving from Lake Nakuru, it took us about 5 hours to arrive. Anyone a little familiar with travelling in Africa, knows that the roads aren’t always top-notch – we drove mostly on dirt road. Don’t get me wrong – not complaining here – it’s all part of the experience and the start to a wonderful 2-day adventure in this amazing natural habitat.

So, what makes Masai Mara so great?

1: Wildlife, wildlife, wildlife

Pretty obvious, right? Still, we had big expectations before heading there, so couldn’t feel anxious of them not being filled in. Our worries seemed to be unnecessary, to say the least…

We didn’t have to wait for long… When driving through the Masai Mara gate, our driver Alex asked us: “Which animal do you expect to see first?”. Not sure what all of our answers were, but none of us got it right. Only a minute later we saw it: our first elephant. Wait, no – that’s not entirely correct – our first group of elephants that is, including a baby. We were ecstatic, as you can imagine!

Another highlight – the hippo! We actually saw quite a few hippos, but the most memorable encounter was on our second day in Masai Mara. We were driving over a type of small “bridge” over a water pool. Suddenly Alex stopped and drove backwards: “there’s a hippo ready to enter the water”. We all got off our seats and searched for the natural born killer. We saw him hiding away behind the bushes. Alex drove a little further, waiting for the animal to show himself better. There he was – staring us in the eye. He really looked fierce. So Alex kept his distance. We waited, he waited. Tension… Suddenly the hippo started to run from left to right and back. Everyone in the car was holding their breath (while keeping the camera’s running, of course). Then the hippo jumped into the water and we didn’t see him again. Woooow… that was spectacular!

Another unforgettable moment was our first encounter with cheetahs. We were – again – so lucky… We had just seen our first hippo when Alex stopped the car and pointed us the cheetahs – about 3 of them. Two of them were cuddling a bit (or so it seemed) – they really didn’t bother we were there. Our cameras going like crazy, suddenly Alex’ voice broke a bit, while he was saying that he thought to see a rhino a little further. He couldn’t really believe it himself. But indeed, there he was. A few tens of metres away from the cheetahs.

We actually got back to the cheetahs by the end of the day, when sun was starting to set. It seemed like they had just eaten, because a few metres further an impala was looking at them, ready to start running when they decided to move into his direction. But the cheetahs had better things to do – relaxing in the last rays of sunshine after another hard day of work in the savannah.

When we left Masai Mara on the morning of the third day, we were in for a treat by the cheetahs. Not sure if it was the same group, but when we left quite early that day we were witnessing them enjoying a feast. Luckily we didn’t see the kill itself – we only saw them enjoying a tender impala… Heart breaking was the noise that another impala was making somewhat further – probably a member of the same herd. But that’s the circle of life, I guess? Interesting to see was the interaction between the cheetahs and other predators trying to get a piece of the pie… Two jackals were continuously trying to get closer as well as a few southern ground hornbills. Amazing sight… We stood there quite some time, gazing upon nature’s way of working. This was quite a farewell gift…

Of course we saw a lot more animals than described above – I’ve listed them below and you can see them in the pictures below:
– Topi
– Mongoose
– Saddle-billed stork
– Southern ground hornbill
– Bateleur
– Giant or great heron
– Hyena
– Lion (see other post: The Big 5 in 3 days)
– Giraffe
– Buffalo
– Vulture
– Leopard (see other post: The Big 5 in 3 days)
– Warthog
– Hamerkop
– Waterbuck
– Crocodile
– Impala
– Thomson Gazelle
– Hartebeest

2: Amazing place to spend the night: Mara Serena Lodge

Ok, we have to admit – this wasn’t THE best place we stayed at during our vacation in Kenya / Tanzania. The fact is that each and every one of the hotels / lodges / tent camps etc. were unforgettable! Without exaggerating, also from that perspective this vacation was one of the best we ever experienced! What we liked most about the overnights is that none of these were standard-looking hotel buildings. That was also the case here, in Mara Serena Lodge.

The entrance alone is pretty impressive. A typical African building and when you approach the entrance, an dramatic view emerges from across the reception area onto the savannah, as the lodge is built on a hill.

Each of the rooms also offers – from your own private balcony – a similar amazing view on the Mara. The rooms are warm and cosy, with a typical African vibe, and offer all modern comfort.

There’s a pool area, where you can relax while – again – not having to miss anything of the surrounding landscape. A warthog was eating very near to the pool area, a little down the hill. His snoring noises were adorable and blended in perfectly.

The lodge offers different possibilities in view of dining. You can opt for some special arrangements, like a breakfast at the hippo pool, a bush dinner or enjoy drinks during a so-called “sundowner”. We chose for the standard formula, being breakfast and dinner in the main restaurant, which actually also overlooks the plains. It has an open-plan seating, both inside and outside. Linked to the dining room is the bar area, where some cosy couches offer the ideal setting for a glass of wine before heading over to dinner.

Breakfast and lunch are presented as a buffet, with a wide range of choices. The breakfast options are plenty, with both English breakfast as well as continental choices. In the evening a five-course dinner menu is offered. We have experienced already quite some buffet tables and we really enjoyed this one. It’s not the best one ever, but is certainly above average. The staff is friendly and helpful.

3: Ideal pic-nick area

On our second day in Masai Mara, we exchanged the buffet lunch for a bush picnic, all taken care off by our super-duper guide Alex. On a typical Masai blanket our lunch was laid out – again, with more than you could hope for. Surrounded by the savannah wildlife sounds, we absorbed this basic feeling-good sentiment and enjoyed every minute of it. Near to us, some vultures were searching for food as well, but I think they were looking for something different…

Other Countries we visited

Have a look at the other countries we ‘achievied’ to visit, and other Achievies