At the end of my time spent in Maasailand and teaching the young children at Esokota Primary School in the rural outback of Kenya, I embarked on my final excursion to discover what Africa’s wildlife beholds. I travelled from Kajiado to Nairobi to meet up with several other volunteers before we commenced our 5 hour ride to the Maasai Mara.
The Maasai Mara is a game reserve south of Nairobi bordering between Kenya and Tanzania. Known for its affluent population of wildlife existing in its natural habitat and direct path through the annual migration of many animals, the Mara was an expansive region of land speckled with a variety of flora as far as the eye can see.
As we piled into the Safari pop-top Jeep, the group was eager to capture a glimpse of some of nature’s most impressive creatures that we have only been able to see in zoo’s and through media up until now. My goal was to snap pictures of as many of the ‘Big Five’ as possible which included the African elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, rhinoceros and leopard.
The safari spanned over four days and would take us to two separate locals including the Maasai Mara where we would actually sleep in large tents (or as I called them, “canvas cabins”) surrounded by the wilderness, followed by a stint in Nakuru to see the beautiful, pristine Lake Nakuru and a different set of animals not found in the Mara.
On the first day’s game drive, I saw three of the five animals I had hoped to witness. Lions were the first, followed by buffalo, herds of elephants, giraffes and lions. We had the opportunity to watch a kill right off the bat from a group of lioness as they took down a giant wildebeest. It was unlike anything I have ever witnessed to see a live hunt, mere meters away.
On the second day, we left just after sunrise for the long game drive. On this occasion, we had the chance to explore the vast environment from barren plains to dense flora, and even crossed over briefly to Tanzania to see the Great Wildebeest Migration in full flight. No Visas in hand (shhh), we crossed over and spent nearly an hour exploring the riverbeds.
Finishing up in the Mara, I had the opportunity to see many more animals including the graceful elan, families of cheetahs, warthogs, a mongoose, varied species of birds, angry hippopotami, crocodiles and many others. The next day would prove to be even more spectacular than the first two!
At last, we departed from the Mara to make our way up north to the flush green town of Nakuru. The thick and diverse plant life was an immense contrast from the previous scenery, and the rain was a welcomed relief. We rolled into our hotel in Nakuru, which to my surprise, was named “Hotel Genevieve.” My name is predominantly French and is not a common language in Kenya, so it took me aback. But I was ecstatic nonetheless to be staying in a hotel that garnered my name!
After a restful sleep, the Safari jeep took us to Lake Nakuru National Reserve where the initial observations I made beyond the yellow fever acacia trees where the plentiful, and curious baboons. The lake itself was gorgeous being no more than shin deep all the way across with calm waters that reflected the mountain ranges like a mirror.
The winning moment for me the entire safari was when we climbed a high mountain peak overlooking the rest of the park and the lake. It was completely breathtaking and a phenomenal source of inspiration and reflection.
As my trip was coming to a close, I had seen all but one of the elusive Big Five, the leopard. The experiences that I had from the moment I stepped off the plane with trepidation, to cementing a lifelong bond with a young Maasai child, and topping off a life altering Safari would endlessly be etched in my memories.
The following day, I said my goodbyes to my newfound volunteer friends and the Kenyans I would sorely miss, and set out on a 22 hour plane ride back home to Canada. It has been nearly 5 years since my travels to Africa, but I remember each detail as though it happened yesterday.
What I have learned foremost from this experience is that the line in Akon’s African tribute song entitled “Mama Africa” is true. If you visit once, you are guaranteed to visit twice!