The Big Five Safari at Maasai Mara Game Reserve
by Katie Millar.
A safari in the Maasai Mara has always been the number one experience on my bucket list for years. With an area of over 1,500 square kilometers, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve is one of the best places to go to spot the 'Big Five' – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo.
There are a number of flights that fly into Nairobi. Kenya Airways flies from Hong Kong via Bangkok thrice a week. The stopover in Bangkok is only about an hour on the way to Nairobi, and around two hours on the way back. You can also take Qatar Airways, and fly via Qatar. Or Emirates, via Dubai.
The Maasai is located about a 5-hour drive out of Nairobi. , and this can be done by car or if you are short of time, there are 6 airstrips located inside the park. However, I highly recommend opting for the drive instead, as it's a great experience getting a small insight into the local life outside the city. If possible, stop at one of the villages before entering the park, and learn more about the local tribes and their colourful rituals.
My experience spotting the Big Five
I went in December, which was considered one of the quietest months, as a lot of the animals have already migrated to the Serengeti. However, on my first night in the park, we spotted 3 of the Big Five – the African Rhino, Elephant and Lion. The Rhino and the Lion were a little distance away. Luckily, I brought a pair of binoculars with me and saw them strolling in the park. The elephants were right in front of our truck, and it was amazing to see a parade of elephants and calves walk right by us.
We spent more time in the park over the next few days; and came across various animals as we wander around the park – a family of giraffes with calves as young as 3 weeks old, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffalo and the jackal just to name a few; and most within perfect eye sight range!
An African Safari was something I have always wanted to. And my Maasai Mara experience, albeit short, exceeded every expectation that I had. I highly recommend this to anyone who can take the time to do it.
I stayed at the 4-star Ashnil Mara Tented Camp located inside the park. As the site is down by the river, you will often see hippos lying on the banks and calling to each other through the night. The hotel has a swimming pool which is perfect for those warm afternoons after a morning game drive. There's also an area for fire camp. As the nights can get chilly, this is a great spot to huddle around, have a few drinks, and discuss the days' sightings with fellow guests.
As with most camps throughout the park, the hotel has limited electricity and hot water. Make sure you get a hot shower early, and don't forget to charge your camera's batteries.
Beyond the Maasai
If you do have a few extra nights to spare, travel to Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru which is about a 3-hour drive out of Nairobi and can be combined with the Maasai Mara by car.
If you have a penchant for birdlife, the beautiful Lake Naivasha is for you. You can get relatively close to the birds! There's also a nearby game reserve which has no predators, so you are able to do a walking safari – imagine walking amongst zebras, giraffes and water bucks! Lake Nakuru is famous for pink flamingos, and is only about a 40-minute drive from Lake Naivasha.