By now you know we’re two crazy people when it comes to wildlife. Driving countless kilometers, waiting for hours in our car, insane routes over shitty roads: as long as there is some good wildlife to be spotted we will go far. It was time for the ‘Mecca’ of game parks; the Masai Mara in Southwestern Kenya. To get there we could check off all the above mentioned items.
Self driving to the Masai Mara?!
While the Masai Mara was on our list for a long time we didn’t really know how we would approach the park. After a bit of research this turned out to be quite the challenge. On the internet everyone advised to fly into the park or join a tour operator on an organised trip because the road was horrendous. Even after reading this we decided to drive up to the gate. After seven months we’re used to some bad roads. The central city before going to the park is Narok. In this last ‘civilised’ stop we drank a double espresso and had a muffin (sponsored by my sister) to celebrate my birthday which was about to take place the next day. With enough caffeine in our bodies we started the last 80 kilometers to get to the park. The first 10 kilometers was a tarred road full of potholes, then the Chinese constructed a proper 30 kilometers tarred road and it all ended with a lot of bumpy and sandy roads. The tour operator Tour operators were ‘flying by’ but we did manage to make it to the gate!
A good spot for The Great Migration part 2
Another mystery was finding the right spot in the Masai Mara. The Masai Mara National Park is only one part. The park is surrounded by many conservancies managed by the Masai people. With some help of a couple South Africans we were pointed in the direction of the Marra Triangle. In this section you could camp and you were on the right side for the Wildebeests’ river crossings. This was the main purpose of our visit to the Masai Mara. When we finally reached the gate of the Mara Triangle it was on. With 414 US Dollar less in our wallet (for only two nights) but with a lot of excitement we went to the river.
More wildebeests than you can count
A bit further we saw dozens of (tour operator) cars at the riverside. We joined the bunch but were wondering why they were parked so far from the river. Eventually we learned that it works like this: you first let about ten to twenty Wildebeests cross the river and then you drive like a maniac to the riverside to get a proper view. Those tour operators don’t fear anything, they will hit your car if you’re not careful just to get the best spot for their clients. The first afternoon we saw thousands of wildebeests on the other side of the river but they seemed to be happy where they were and didn’t cross. We decided to head to our campsite and saw the sunset while we were on a pretty spot on top of a hill in the Masai Mara.
What a birthday
There are worse spots to celebrate your birthday than in the Masai Mara! Therefore it was easy to wake up and with the idea that we might see a river crossing today my birthday started better than any birthday before. After a morning drive we drove back to the spot where we were the previous day. It was pretty quiet when we arrived but this changed over the course of an hour. About forty cars were waiting for the wildebeests and after a couple of ‘failed attempts’ we stopped trying at this place.
It was time to celebrate my birthday! In the middle of the plains of the Mara it was just the two of us. With some good coffee from our percolator and a muffin with some candles on top of it I received a beautiful Masai Shuka (cloth). My birthday card was, what else, a photo of a wildebeests river crossing.
Together with National Geographic Wild
With some new energy we drove to a quiet spot on the river. The only other two cars were from Nat Geo Wild. We used to love watching the international TV channel and now we were parked next to them! After talking to the crew for a bit a herd of wildebeests suddenly passed by on the other side of the river. Unfortunately they were passing the section where they could cross the river. Two minutes later however they were coming back and decided to cross the river!!! We did it!! This was maybe the prettiest thing we saw (yes we do say that more often) and then on my birthday! Ten minutes later more than thousand animals crossed the river and we had to process the thing we just witnessed. This was such a special sighting for us. We waited for 7,5 hours next to the river that day to see something like this. The great thing about our sighting was that we were so close to the river and were the wildebeests crossed. I’ll never forget this birthday, that’s for sure. It was also the second time in a year that we saw the great migration after Serengeti in Tanzania.
That night we had a drink on the wildebeests and my birthday while enjoying the fire on the campsite. We were all by ourselves, together with the wildlife, on the small piece of bush they call a campsite. What an experience!