The third and final stop on our African safari was the Maasai Mara Reserve, and my personal favorite reserve! If you're new to this Series (yes, SERIES - there are three Africa posts!), check out the other two. We visited the Ol Pejeta Conservatory and the Lake Nakuru region. It will really help tie everything together for you. But, to give you a brief summary of where we traveled, I've included our tour guide map below. This is our actual route we took and where we went. You'll see how close the Maasai Mara is to Tanzania - our guide said "Tanzania is just over that hill there," a few times. Crazy!
The Maasai Mara has the largest cat population of any other African reserve, and just over the hill is the Sahara Desert in Tanzania. Kenya and Tanzania differ in many respects. One of the biggest being that Kenya is a no-kill zone (in fact, if you are caught hunting in Kenya you're shot on site!) and Tanzania is a pay-for-hire zone. This really mattered to Martin and I when planning our trip. The Maasai Mara was my favorite of the three reserves. There’s so much history from the Maasai people, it’s on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, and during the great migration months is filled with millions of wildebeest. Its also one of the top places to see big cats in Africa.
Its also home of the Maasai people, an indigenous tribe that are the only people who are born both Kenyan and Tanzanian. Because the land was the Maasai people's land, when their land became a reserve, they came to a deal that the Maasai people would be allowed to live on the entirety of their existing lands, which cross into Tanzania from Kenya. They are allowed to pass through the border with no problem or passport needed. They just flash an ID that's given to them by the government and they may cross as they please.
A lot of them worked at our hotel because of the close proximity (our hotel was INSIDE the reserve) and they are some of the kindest, most gracious people we've ever come across in our travels. We really enjoyed getting to know the local people that worked at the Mara Sopa Lodge and the bar. Charles can make a mean mojito! We also witnessed some other travelers that were the perfect example of how NOT to treat people and were honestly offended by how they treated the staff at the Lodge. When you travel – BE KIND, ESPECIALLY TO STAFF. No matter what, and especially if you’re in a country that depends on tourism as a part of its economy. [End of rant].
Environment & Animals:
Very picturesque Africa with the rolling grass over the plains and the acacia trees. No wonder this is where the three big cats prefer to reside – the leopard, cheetah, and lion. We saw cheetahs and lions, but the closest we got to seeing a leopard was just missing one/scaring one off and seeing the left-behind fresh baboon kill he left behind high up in the trees. Eep! And yes, that's it below.
We stayed at the Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge inside the reserve and highly recommend! Charles at the bar inside knows how to make a mean mojito. :) I wish I would have taken more photos of the hotel itself, but we traveled here before I started this blog and I didn't realize I'd be sharing so much of our trip! But, the website has some great photos!
Maasai Mara to Nairobi by "Plane"
This is my worst nightmare. If you've been following along in this three part series on our trip to Kenya, you read about our near death experiences with hippos in part 2, but THIS was much more terrifying to me. Thinking about it now gives me shivers! Most panic inducing 45 minute plan ride of my life. NBD
But, its either a 45 minute plane ride or a 4-6 hour (depending the roads) car ride on some majorly bumpy roads back through the reserve. Most guided tours don't even give you the option [we weren't!] and you'd need to coordinate the drive back beforehand! So if this is a no-no for you, schedule alternative plans back to Nairobi.
I hope you enjoyed! Let me know if you want a trip overview like things to pack, things to expect, shots to get, etc. That alone is another blog post's worth of good stuff!