My motive to plan the trip to Kenya was to click wildlife. As much as I wanted to see the big cats and the flitting deer, I wanted to click them more. I wanted to make up for the poor quality images that I had clicked in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Wildlife was the only thing on the agenda! Not once did I contemplate visiting the beautiful beaches of Mombasa or diving in the ocean at Daini! I may want to do that sometime later… but considering Ankur’s love for beaches, I would rather plan a romantic getaway to cover the Kenyan coast.
I did not have too much time for this trip… 3 nights – 4 days is all that I could spare, which was a weekend plus two working days off. I also did not have a high budget to spend on the trip… I had to maximise the little time that I had and visit all the national parks that I could, while ensuring that not too much time is spent travelling from from one park to another. I visited Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha National Park and Masai Mara National Park while I was in Kenya.
Here is what my 3 nights – 4 days itinerary looked like…
Day 1: Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is at a distance of ~175 km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It took me little over three hours to get to the park from Nairobi City Centre, including a coffee break. Having left Nairobi at 10:30, I was inside Lake Nakuru National Park by about 2 pm. Lake Nakuru is famous for flamingos that feed on the mud flats by the lake. However, not many of us know that it is also a conservatory for rhinos and there are high chances that you will spot the white rhino here.
Safaris at Lake Nakaru National Park
My first safari in Kenya was the evening safari at Lake Nakuru National Park. I started at 4:30 pm and got back by 6:30 pm. It had rained heavily in the afternoon. While it was overcast in the evening, the dust had settled and the weather had cooled. I saw flocks of flamingos eating crustaceans at the lakeside. I was also lucky to see four rhinos grazing. They seemed to be enjoying the moist grass quite a bit…I had to wait for a really long time for one of them to look up and smile for a picture!
Accommodation at Lake Nakuru National Park
While there are plenty of hotels outside the national park and in Nakuru town, I wanted to get a feel of being amidst the action. My resting spot for the night was Lake Nakuru Lodge, situated inside the national park, next to a watering hole. ‘Everyone’ had lunch while I was having lunch… the zebras… the cape buffalos… the baboons! And I could watch them enjoy their meal and a drink of water as I munched my salad… just what I wanted!
Day 2: Lake Naivasha National Park and Masai Mara National Park
I left Lake Nakuru National Park at 7:30 am the next day. My destination was Lake Naivasha National Park, located at a distance of ~75 km. I reached Lake Naivasha by 9 am. The park is paradise for birds and is home to over 250 species of birds that one can watch up-close. I haven’t been closer to the winged beauties; I am not counting any experiences with pets and in bird parks here. The park is also a perfect place to sight ‘hale and hearty’ hippopotamuses!
Boat Ride/Boat Safari at Lake Naivasha National Park
I spent an hour on a boat in Lake Naivasha. The birds seemed least bothered by human presence once the motor in the boat was silent. They cackled, tweeted and chirped. They flew overhead and glided smoothly! I found it difficult to keep the camera down… there was just so much capture. Watching the African fish eagle swoop down for its catch was the highlight of the boat ride!
I also saw a lady hippopotamus and it’s young one sun bathing on the lake side. This lovely lady reminded me of Gloria in the movie Madagascar! Our boat was so close to her that I wanted to say my prayers, especially after reading ‘More humans are killed by hippopotamuses in the world than are killed by sharks!’. Thankfully, I am back …still live and kicking…and blogging!
I left Lake Naivasha at about 10:30 am. The next leg of the journey, to Masai Mara, was long and not too comfortable. Masai Mara is at a distance of 250 km from Lake Naivasha National Park. It is a 5 hour drive that has a tar road for the first half and a dirt road for the second half. The dirt road is dusty and bumpy… what else does one expect in the wild? I reached Masai Mara by 3 pm, covered in ‘safari powder’ i.e. brown dust, super excited to see the jungle that everyone raves about!
Evening Safari at Masai Mara National Park
I donned by safari hat and was ready for the evening safari at 4pm. What an evening… watching a lioness watch the Sun go down… watching four giraffes run across the grasslands like bachelors high on the TGIF spirit… figuring our whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes! My camera, lenses, over 700 pictures and I, we were all back in our lodge by 7 pm.
Accommodation at Masai Mara National Park
While I wanted to stay in the heart of the jungle, I couldn’t afford to do so. The camps and lodges in Masai Mara reserve were all too expensive. Thus, I chose to stay at the Mara Sopa Lodge, just outside the gate of the park. It was a perfect blend of comfort and convenience. I was a happy traveller with a happy stomach as there was plenty to keep a vegetarian satiated. I spent two comfortable nights at the Mara Sopa Lodge.
Day 3: Masai Mara National Park
Full Day Safari at Masai Mara National Park
This was the big day that I had been waiting for – a whole day in the bush! I left at 8 am and was back by 6 pm. I finally saw the Masai Mara grasslands that I had seen on National Geographic and Discovery channels. Miles and miles of golden grass, swayed in the breeze. Herds of gazelles and antelopes, buffalos fighting for supremacy, a honeymooning lion couple, snoozing leopard babies, baby elephants pushing each other into a puddle, crocodiles eyeing their prey… it truly was a jungle out of ‘Madagascar’!
Just one paragraph on Masai Mara and a couple of pictures do not do justice to what I saw and I will do a dedicated post on Masai Mara soon!
Visit to Masai Village
The tribals of the Masai community are an interesting lot. They are true to their age old traditions, are brave enough to fight a lion and value their cattle as wealth. While the modern world can provide them with plenty of comforts, they choose to live the way they have lived for years, like Masai warriors have lived over the past. Overcome by curiosity, I went to see a Masai village for about an hour in the evening. I was fun to watch the ladies dance; their movements were so soft gentle movements. And then danced the men. It was more jumping that dancing! The gentleman who can jump the highest gets to marry a pretty lady, without paying dowry!
Day 4: Masai Mara National Park and Nairobi
Morning Safari at Masai Mara National Park
The trip was coming to an end and my last safari would take me to watch the sunrise over the Mara plains. An early morning safari is the best time to watch the big acts active. I kept my fingers crossed. ‘It might just be the day that I get to watch a game’, thought, though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it, even though it’s part of Nature’s game-plan! Nature had something different in store for me; neither did I watch the sunrise (it was cloudy till 8 am), nor did I watch any big cats! I won’t crib and rant about a dull morning safari as one really can’t predict the wild. The safari on the previous day was enough to make the entire trip justifiable!
I left Masai Mara at 10 am and reached Nairobi by 5 pm as a happy wild life lover, with thousands of pictures …photo blogs…soon to follow!