It has been almost two years since one of my best friends whom I have known since age 11 and I went to Kenya. I have posted numerous photos but never wrote a proper post. So here we go. The idea of going to Masai Mara in Kenya got into me when I was traveling in a region which is the complete opposite of Kenya: Alaska. I still remember the moment when I was riding on a bus in Denali National Park (certain areas are only accessible via buses in order to protect the wildlife – Nat Geo of this month (Feb 2016) has an amazing article on this very specific point). The bus driver also acting as the tour guide made an announcement clarifying that we should not be upset if we do not see any of the animals (grizzly bear or moose) as Alaska is not Kenya where you have animals running all around, Alaska is a cold place so the animals are protecting themselves and are not as easy to spot as they are in Kenya. The reason why I went to Alaska was not predominantly to see the animals but to experience the landscape. At the end, I got to see both the animals and experience the wild and amazing landscape of Alaska. I attribute a lot of importance to the value of comparison and contrasts when picking my travel destinations so there it was – I was definitely going to Kenya next. I believe comparison is a great tool to understand and the contrast makes certain characteristics of a region so obvious that there is no way to miss it. Also if despite all the contrast, if the regions have also something in common – that is the perfect travel recipe for me.
We picked June to travel to Kenya as June was nearly the only month that worked out for both of our schedules and we also found out that we could still see the beginning of the great migration but also avoid all the crowds. We could not be happier with our choice as we got to see many many animals – had most of the camp sites to ourselves and also got to experience a beautiful greenish landscape as the rainy season ends at the end of the May leaving you a green Kenya until the heath hits in late June.
Pinar and I are both frequent travelers and we have been to (separately) many regions in the World that can be considered dangerous, yet we never opted for a tour option. It was however a different deal for Kenya as the main purpose of our trip was safari and you cannot do safari on your own, you need to hire a guide in anyways. So after a brief period of consideration and talking with friends who have already been to Kenya, we approached Savana Tour in Istanbul and had them arrange a customized trip for the two of us. So we have not joined a tour group but had an itinerary customized for us which also took into account our hotel suggestions and they also arranged our tour guide who turned out to be amazing – perfect English skills and great experience in the area. In Kenya, your tour guide also drives the car during your entire trip – both during your travels from Nairobi to national parks and safari outings. So I can recommend Savana Tour to anyone living in Istanbul with no second thoughts – we had the perfect Kenya vacation where nothing went wrong.
Our trip covered Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha and Amboseli National Park. The highlight of our trip was with no doubt Masai Mara where we spent three nights and days. An ordinary daily itinerary in a safari trip usually involves getting up early at around 6 am and doing a morning safari before breakfast, hanging out in the camp until the second safari of the day which usually starts at around 3 pm. So the place where you stay is quite important as you spend the better part of your day there and you are not allowed to wonder around on your own (trust me you would not want to do that in anyways – it takes one far away encounter with your first lion to understand the environment you are in). We had the experience of different types of lodgings in our trip and our favourite was a tent style accommodation in Masai Mara. Tent camps are usually more expensive than regular lodgings but it is definitely worth the price as that is what truly gives you the real safari experience. We have stayed in Kilima Camp in Masai Mara and Pinar and I both agree that it was among the top five places we have ever stayed in. I wrote about Kilima Camp in my post where I list my favourite hotels.
The cover of this post shows my friend Pinar dancing with Masai women during our trip to a traditional Masai village. It was one of those moments I was torn between video and photo and I went for the second option for the sake of freezing the moment. To this day, I still think this photo would not turn as it did if it was not for Pinar – her looks, spirit and the choice of outfit for the day made this photo possible. And the animals? We have seen so many of them, we have seen mother lions cleaning up their kids, we have seen adult lions making kids and then we have seen a very rarely experienced hunt scene the results of which is shown on the photo right above. If you ever plan on going to Kenya – devote much of your time to Masai Mara which is a unique place not only in terms of wildlife but also the landscape where the sky touches the ground.