A vacation to thousands of miles away Africa may seem a bit inconceivable to a lot of Asians. However, given that planes are faster and airfares are more affordable nowadays, a trip there has become much easier. Kenya is a popular country to start ones maiden visit to the African continent. And if you like wildlife, then Maasai Mara National Reserve is the must visit highlight of this country.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is named in honor of the Maasai people who are the ancestral inhabitants of this area. “Mara” in Maasai language means “spotted”. It is because when you look from afar, you can see the interesting circles of trees, scrub and cloud shadows spreading over the huge plain (just like the photo above).
3 Day Maasai Mara Safari Tour
To do game viewing, you will need to join a packaged tour. We went with the three day Maasai Mara Safari tour offered by African Horizons. We booked the tour via email and paid the deposit in advance. African Horizon will arrange pickup either at Nairobi Airport or at your designated place downtown.
Game drive is an exceptionally wonderful experience for city dwellers like us. We were driven in a 6-seater 4×4 Land Cruiser Open Top. Whenever our car stopped for an interesting spot, we could just stand on our seats for an unobstructed view. When required, the roof can shield us from the strong sun. Different tour companies may use different types of vehicles and we found ours the best.
Our driver is very familiar with every part of this endless plain. There aren’t any road signs. Yet, he is able to recognize the directions and locations relying solely on the sun and the markings like certain tall trees, rivers and gorges, although there aren’t many of those. As he drove, he is constantly on a lookout (with his bare eyes) for animals which we hoped to see. He even spotted a resting lion and a stationery cheetah hundreds of miles away. When he pointed to us his finding, a lot of times we couldn’t see anything until we used our binoculars. What follows is shout of great excitement!
The Animal Kingdom of Africa
The African wildlife reserve is home to many animals species. But, the ones dominating the top spots are the Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes, Leopards and Rhinoceros.
Lions – The King of the Jungle
We were able to see many lions, even get quite close to some during our trip. Watching a lion slowly approaching its prey and plotting an ambush was extremely heart-pounding. With our eyes glued to our binoculars, we held our breath as we followed the lion’s every move.
At other times, the lions would be enjoying themselves, playing or napping.
Another of the big five animal that we saw was the African Buffalo. The dividing line between the two horns was very amusing because it looks like our “centre parking hairstyle”. Through our guide, we learnt that if a buffalo is alone and away from its herd, it is much more dangerous than a herd together, as its behavior can be very unpredictable.
The Impala is a very commonly seen antelope at the reserve. It is known for its agility and great leaping ability. Isn’t that McDonald’s sign on their butt funny?
Cheetah – The Flash
Cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, with speed reaching up to 110km per hour! It is also a strong hunter. It is amazing to meet “The Flash” of the animal kingdom. To distinguish a cheetah from a leopard, look for the “tear” mark on a cheetah’s face.
Giraffe is the cutest and is our favorite. They are as curious of us as we are of them. And most of all, they are very “gentleman”, always giving way to the cars before continuing to cross the road.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is also home to many exotic species of birds. These birds are called secretary birds because when they walk with those strong legs, it resembles a secretary typing faithfully on a typewriter. It was really hilarious!
Having watched the documentary “The Great Migration” where animals moved from one breeding ground to a new one due to the change in weather condition; we were very blessed to witness a herd of zebras and wildebeests crossing the river during their migration. It was spectacular.
We learnt that the two species are actually good friends. We were extremely impressed to see these animals queuing up to cross the river in an orderly manner. The queuing up and waiting at the bank took a couple of hours while the crossing took half an hour. We were very grateful that these animals managed to cross the river safely (this is one of the most dangerous part of the migration). And we praised God for giving us a most unforgettable experience on this journey.
Love & Respect Our Nature
The opportunity to observe these animals in the wild and learn about the different species – their look and behaviors, we have come to admire their creation and respect nature. This despite not understanding many of the interesting facts about the animals like why were they created that way.
The landscape of the Maasai Mara’s plain is truly fabulous especially during sunrise and sunset. The rays of the sun would gently pierce through the clouds forming a glamorous picture. You can choose to fly in the hot air balloon to enjoy the sunrise. However, we found it too pricey. Still, we get to enjoy this postcard perfect view from our car.
As the book of Genesis says, God created all these things and saw that they were good. Journeying such a safari also let us reflect on how we should treasure all these creatures and beautiful landscapes as God’s creations.
“This article is contributed by our friend, Annie who has been exploring off the beaten track destination.“