(September 17, 2013) Maasai Mara National Reserve
This day is completely for watching wild life in
Maasai Mara reserve. Our target is locating the great migration of
wildebeest and taking our chances of watching a crossing through river
Mara by some of them. But if we already managed these goals the
previous day we could just be in a safari for the East area, the
closest to our camp.
The spots marked at map are:
0- Rhino Tourist Camp
1- Lookout Hill
2- Bridge over river Mara and Mara Triangle's Visitors Center
3- Paradise plain
4 y 5- Popular crossing points
One day we do things right
finally! We take our breakfast before 6 AM and as the dining room is
crowded it means it is the right time. We leave the camp before the
vans and are in front of the Oloolaimutia gate in no time. We’re not
the first today, but close enough.
As we were told in the bank, we pay 80$ per person
and 300 ksh by the car in cash and come in Maasai Mara following the
road taking to Keekorok Lodge because the rangers at gate have just
told us we can get fuel there.
In the way we can see our first antelopes, they’re
Topis. Later are wildebeest and zebras very close to the road. A
beautiful waterbuck keeps staring at us while we pass one meter far
from it. We even see elephants and buffalos from far, in the middle of
the vast yellow plains. I think about taking some pictures of the
Oloolaimutia Hills behind us in order we can use them to identify our
starting point when returning this evening.
We see our first road signs reaching Keekorok
Lodge. There, the guard at door explains us they don’t serve fuel,
that’s in Sarova Camp, at North. As going to there would be several
kilometers in the opposite direction of our route, we postpone it to
the return trip, expecting a half of the tank is going to be enough for
today. The important is tomorrow, where we know we cannot get more fuel
until Narok, the very long ride we suffered the day before yesterday.
We take a road to the West and we realize soon it
is not the main road as we’re following just two wheel tracks in the
yellow grass, passing through a vast plain and completely alone.
We think it will end somewhere and go on by it. We
soon see how all the black points covering the landscape are becoming
wildebeest. This must be the great migration. There are wildebeest over
all the places we can see! We get our cameras ready as we’re going to
pass through the herds.
Having driven between gnus, the time to the end of
this track in the “good” road pass so quick. We intuitively take that
road to the left, expecting to be south.
And it is. This is confirmed by two armed rangers
who stop our car for coming in. We don’t feel like we can deny it: they
need to go 2 Km further to the Hippo pool where there is a meeting
point for rangers and we were going to go there anyway.
We remove pour things from the back to make some
space for them. I take advantage of this for asking all I need to know:
I can get fuel in Serena Lodge and they confirm the area for big cats
is the one I though, around Explorer’s camp, following this same road,
but to north. They also confirm the hill I’m pointing is the Lookout
Hill and we can get out from the car there.
We go quite concerned about them in our car or,
better said, their weapons, but they’re kind and friendly all the time.
We even take us to the big stones marking the border to Tanzania and
make us drive through the Tanzania side for a minute. We leave them in
the Hippo pool, where we can see two of them open mouth against open
mouth in a sort of fighting.
Our next stop is after a short ride through the
only bridge for the Mara River in all the Reserve. There, we find the
pass to Mara Triangle, a different area which have an agreement with
the Reserve and our tickets can be used for getting into it. I
confirmed this point in their website before coming. Here there are a
lunching area and the only public toilets in the Reserve, which we use
without second thoughts.
After the procedures in the ticket box the bar is
opened for us and we can go into the Mara Triangle. We’ve got three
reasons for coming here – which corresponds to the left side of the map
-: Following the road along the Mara river up looking for the chance of
seeing a crossing, stopping at Serena Lodge to get fuel and coming back
through the plains, where it seems there are the better odds of seeing
When we’re in the river road, and before having
any sight of the Mara River, we meet the great migration. Again? No, it
seems this is the real one. There are so many animals that make what we
sawn before like the teaser of the movie we have now. Wildebeest
everywhere, including the horizon, which, in this huge plains, is
bigger than the one in the previous area
Zebras and wildebeest are leaving the road as we
drive through and it is now when we get our first sights of the river.
Only some minutes later, we find a crossing point which looks active
based on the amount of vans grouped on it.
When we find the way to the edge we take it, but
all the vans in this side of the river are stopped before it, where the
river water cannot be seen yet. I ask to a driver in low voice if we
cannot go further and I’m answered that not yet. They want to avoid the
wildebeest across the river.
Some minutes later the
engines are on and they drive to the edge. We do the same, looking for
a good view of the river. There are a good amount of vehicles, but
there are even more in the other side. Well, it seems we’ve got another
goal for today: we’re in a crossing point waiting for the wildebeest to
come. But they don’t look as brave as per doing it: some of them are
continuously coming down to the shore and always deciding to come back
up with the rest of them. There are a group of zebras in our side which
we thought at the beginning they would want to cross in the other
direction, but now we think they’re just calling their partners in the
other side. We can hear their funny yells.
After one hour waiting, the zebras show us how to
cross the river. Two of them go and swim their way to our side. I
thought this could be enough for encouraging the wildebeest, but it is
not, and all animals in the shore go backwards, as can be check in the
video we’ve taken of this mini crossing.
We’ll be there still some more time waiting, and
even we see a zebra crossing in the opposite direction, but the
wildebeest seem far from being encouraged to do it. We assume one can
be here the whole day and still not seeing a proper crossing. Maybe the
big rain from last night made the river is coming with more water and
that could be enough for wildebeest waiting a better day to do it. Who
We follow the river road, which now goes far from
it, until Serena Lodge, which we can see in the top of a hill. In our
way we can see buffalos, some baboons, hyenas – including one taking a
bath in the road side – and several kinds of antelopes. When we’re
driving up to the lodge, we can see the sign pointing to the gas
station, out of the area for guests.
I already expected a more expensive fuel here.
Actually I was afraid the lack of options could make the fuel a lot
more expensive than it really is, so 125 ksh per liter as we’re paying
looks fair to me. I put 3000 ksh in fuel without waiting to fill as I
think this may be the last time we need to get fuel.
Now we must come back to the bar marking the pass
between the Triangle and the Reserve. The lunching area there is the
one we’re thinking to use for eating the pack we’re bringing from the
camp, but we’re going to do the return trip through an interior road
and burn our chances of seeing cheetahs.
We see a lot of things: ostriches, elephants, we
pass by an area with water and several animals drinking from it and
birds, we see one of those blue and red lizards they call Spiderman, we
can see our first vulture, and even split on two a herd of impalas, one
group at each side of the road and every group is calling each other as
we’re stopped there for the pictures. But we don’t see cheetahs. At
least, as the junctions in this area are well signed, we can follow our
way without any losing.
Just leaving the Triangle we can see several vans
parked in the lunching area and we take one place. We see monkeys here
and there and we leave the car to take some pictures of them. But then,
one of the monkeys goes quick to the opened door and gets into the car.
“It’s got into the car!”, I say to my wife smiling, but when I look
inside I can see it searching between the things we have, with my
sunglasses in its hand. When it touches the tablet I realize it can get
troubles and I jump inside to stop it and avoid it from taking of
breaking something, but I just manage to touch it while it jumps out of
the car by the window with the bag of candies we have for the children.
What a bastard! But we can only following it with the eyes as the red
of the bag is difficult to hide.
Some candies have fallen and we can see how fast
these monkeys can open it to eat what is inside.
A guide of one of the groups lunching here, who
has watched the whole thing, tells me I shouldn’t try to catch it as
they can scratch or bite.
Our packed lunch is quite good, but we can only
eat it with one eye, as the other must be checking the monkeys,
mongooses and birds chasing us. I’m keeping the distance by using the
club given by the maasai yesterday, but we can feel the pressure while
When leaving the place I have a clear new target:
reaching The Lookout Hill. Somehow, the views are not so spectacular as
the ones in Amboseli. Our plan now is going North from here to the
Explorer’s Camp area looking for the big cats. I ask to one driver has
just stopped some tourists here looking for a confirmation about this
plan and point me to the North, as I’ve lost it while climbing the
hill. He tells me also there are a couple of lions below and we take
the car and make our way down the hill.
We find a stream in our way North. The water is
not a problem as it is not more than 10 cm deep, but it is the slope.
It is not just steep, but make of big rocks. It would be difficult even
by walking, and I had just turn around and look for another place if
haven’t seen the car in front of us making it, doing every rock very
slow, letting one wheel leave one rock and then the other. This way I
encourage and go after him. When I’m done with the difficult descent I
can get the steeped, but flat, slope up easily by using the lower gear.
When I finish and I can see what I did I’m euphoric and celebrating it.
I’m even receiving the congratulations from the drivers in the other
Some minutes later following this road we can see
a lot of vans all around a single tree. It must be something important
there. It’s the couple of lions we’ve been told by that driver: the
male is sleeping deeply while the female is on guard, but indifferent
to the amount of vehicles around them. We have the freedom of taking a
picture of Eva and the lions on her window and then turning the car for
getting the same for me.
When we leave that place, we do it following the road to
North as planned, but also following a couple of vans with the hope
they can take us to some interesting place, as they’re in
communications to each other. In our way we can see several vultures in
the top of a tree and, later, some others flying in circles over
something we cannot see from the road. Then it seems there is something
serious going on as a lot of vans are taking the same way and fast.
“This must be they got an advice”, I think loudly, and follow them as I
can, as they’re faster.
After some time in this “race” we find the road is
splitting in two and the line of vans is splitting to both ways too.
Although the most of them are taking the left, I go to the right just
because our return trip is in that way. After 30 minutes following the
vans we’re quite far in the last position but I think they must be
coming back to the camps. That would be an explanation for the
splitting: left-straight for the ones going to Talek gate, and right
for the ones going to Meshanani. As we still have plenty of time, I’m
driving slow, looking what is out there, as an ostrich walking just by
the road, or a giraffe feeding from a tree.
We don’t know where we are, but we do know we’re driving to the
right direction, to the East, as the sun is in its way down behind us.
After a long while driving, where we meet a big family of warthogs,
eating in a side of the road, we see an airplane landing and we can
check then we’ve reached the airstrip of Keekorok Lodge. Today we’re
not going to get lost.
We go slowly to our gate, making time, because we want to be in
the park as late as possible in order of getting good pictures of one
of these typical African sunsets, all in orange. This is the best place
for it. Somehow, when we’re close to the 6 PM the sun is still too high
for it. We reach our gate, but when we’re told there closing time is at
6:30 PM, we still come back for a while into the park looking for those
pictures. I think we managed it.
We arrive to our Camp almost at dark, where Jackson asks us about
our journey and I don’t manage to explain so many things as quick as I
We take our dinner still amazed by all we’ve done and seen. This is a
demonstration one day can be enough for Maasai Mara. We’ve driven for
all the entire Reserve, right to left and up to down and back, as can
be seen in the following map, where I’ve drawn our itinerary.
This has been also our last safari for a very long time.