Tag Archive | "safari"

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Picture of the Week: Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest from Trips Around the World

Posted on 08 June 2012 by Danica

Masai Mara Tribesmen from Trips Around the World


On a sunny afternoon after our morning game drive, we followed our Maasai guide to visit one of the local villages in the Mara Conservancy.  What immediately caught our eyes was the bright color clothing they all wore that contrasted against the deep green African plains and blue sky.  In addition to interacting with the locals and visiting their dwellings, we were also treated to their famous traditional dance, the Adumu (or the “Jumping Contest” as Westerners call it).  As a show of strength and endurance, these Maasai warriors formed a circle, and took turns in competition jumping as high as possible while the others sung in high-pitched tones.

I was selected as the judge of the contest, and the warrior jumping in the picture won the competition.Then they challenged David to jump in.  He did well but the Maasai’s jumping skills could not be beaten.

It was a beautiful and unforgettable afternoon visiting the friendly and knowledgeable Maasai people.

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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 7 – Getting to Maasai Mara

Posted on 06 June 2012 by David

Today, we are on the last part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.

To reach the safari camp in the Conservancy, your itinerary will have two major components.  The first is getting to Kenya.  The second is making your way from wherever you are in Kenya to the camp.

Typically you would fly into Nairobi International, take ground transport to Wilson Airport, and then take a prop plane out to the Maasai Mara.   Our around the world trip took us through Turkey on Turkish alines and we landed in Nairobi around one in the morning.

Arrival at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

For the most part you will need to fly into Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (airport code: NBO).

Kenya Ministry of Health regulations

Here's a sign with info about vaccinations. Please double-check this with the Kenya Ministry of Health for the latest info.

 

Waiting in line to buy a visa

Kenya allows you to purchase a visa on arrival. Make sure you have enough US Dollars or Kenyan Shillings to cover the cost of the Visa as the ATM's around in the international arrivals area may not be working!

 

If you’re flying out to Maasai Mara, you’ll most likely need to go to Wilson Airport.  Wilson airport doesn’t open until the morning daylight hours.   This presents a dilemma if you arrive very late at night or really early in the morning into NBO.  Should you stay at NBO and wait around until it’s time to head to Wilson airport for your departing flight or should you book a room at an hotel?   It’s up to you but we decided it was not worth the time and expense to go to an hotel for only an hour or two of sleep.  We decided to tough it out at NBO.  We arrived at 1am and were out of baggage claim around 2am.   Our driver picked us up to go to Wilson at 6am.

One tip, if you decide to wait around the airport, try to not exit the baggage claim area.  We made the mistake of exiting out into the arrivals hall to find that there are almost no seats available once you exit baggage claim!

Cafe in NBO arrivals hall

These are the only seats you’re going to find in the arrivals hall. It’s a little dark here so only take a nap if you have family or friends with you who can watch over your belongings.

 

NBO arrivals hall

This is the arrival hall. It's quite sparse but reasonably lit. Money exchange booths open around 6am. There are a number of ATMs here but every one we tried was out of service.

Nairobi Wilson Airport

Prior to us landing in Nairobi, we booked transportation with a well reviewed car service operator.  He picked us up at 6am from NBO.  Nairobi has very bad highway congestion and it took us an hour to reach Wilson Airport.

When flying out of Wilson Airport you will by flying on a small aircraft.  Do note that there is a weight limit but  if you have too many bags you’ll have to leave it behind.  Fortunately you can rent a locker with Air Kenya at Wilson airport when you check in.   We left our large duffel bag there  and we had no issues picking it up on the return.

 

Air Kenya aircraft

Air Kenya prop plane.

 

Air Kenya lobby is comfortable but can get crowded quickly.

This is the Air Kenya waiting area. There is a small cafe upstairs. They both get crowded quick so it's good if you get there early.

 

Mara Landing Strip

Air Kenya landing strip

The landing strips in the Mara are busy with aircraft coming and going quite frequently.

 

On landing you’re met by a representative of your camp.  Depending on how far the camp is, this becomes your first game drive of your safari!

 

That’s it for our series on Kenya.  We couldn’t cover everything so if you have questions let us know!

Also if you have an idea on a location you want to go, but not sure how to plan it all out?  We have traveled around the world so if you have a question about a place, we probably have been there.  =)   So leave a comment below. Your destination may just be our featured location next month.

Our entire seven part series of our “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya“:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Getting to Maasai Mara (Current Post)

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

 

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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 6 – Kicheche Camp Review

Posted on 05 June 2012 by David

Kicheche Camp Sign

Today, we are on the sixth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.

On our international around the world trip we decided to pay a visit to Kenya and  experience a wildlife safari.  Having already researched a location and time of the year to visit [see our post on Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 5 – When & Where] we now had to find a camp with comfortable accommodations and excellent guides.

One of the biggest mistakes we read that a safari adventurer could make is to go cheap.  A safari is one of those experiences where you get what you pay for and going cheap can result in low quality meals, poor accommodations, or even compromises in safety.

After much research we settled on Kicheche Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy.  Here’s our experience.

Check-In:

The most amazing thing about the Kicheche Mara Camp is its unbeatable location in the middle of the Conservancy.  The drive from the airport to the camp was a safari in itself.  We saw many animals in close proximity on our journey to the camp.

The moment we arrived in the camp we were met by one of the camp managers.  On the day we arrived the manager on duty, Olivia, greeted us.  She was warm and friendly.  While our luggage was taken to our tent, we sat down with her outside the main tent and checked in.

 

Kicheche Safety equipment

We received on check-in: camp regulations, a solar rechargeable flashlight, a walkie-talkie, and an emergency whistle.  Olivia also walked us through the safety procedures, daily activities and meal options.  The check-in was thorough, and we immediately felt we were in experienced hands.

 

Accommodation: 

Kicheche queen size bed

The tents were luxurious.  More comfortable than some hotel rooms we’ve stayed in.  The restroom was large and had running water!

 

Kicheche tents

The tents were large and placed far enough apart to give everyone their own private area.

Now look closely at the tent on the right.  See the bucket there?  If there was one drawback about the accommodations it was the ONE bucket of water you had for taking a shower.  Yep, every morning someone would come and fill up that bucket with warm water.    It’s tough at first but you eventually come to know that you really don’t need much water to take a shower!  And besides, we were literally in the nature together with the animals (one morning we woke up to a herd of zebras right outside our tent!), so having to take a bucket bath was well worth it.  We would rather be closer to the animals than to be spoiled in a hotel.  Another tip is if you tell the camp staff that you want another bucket of water in advance, they will gladly bring you another bucket (we used that a few times :)

Kicheche common tent

In the main tent, you could charge all your electricity hungry devices.

 

Meals: 

Fantastic dining at Kicheche

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were included in the rate.   Dinner was served in a group setting where everyone would come together to eat and share stories of the day.   The food was amazingly well prepared and truly luxurious.  We were all friends at dinner and it was always one of the highlights of our day!  Everyone would laugh and trade their safari stories at the dinner table.  Oh, and of course the fact that wine and liquor flowed freely didn’t hurt either!

For breakfast, fruit, coffee, orange juice, eggs, toasted bread, cereal, all available for breakfast in a comfortable setting.

 

Activities:

Your primary reason for going on a safari is to well, go on a safari.  Kicheche offers both private and group game drives.  Depending on how busy the camp is group drives can become a private drive if you’re lucky!  We went on a game drive every day and we only had to share our vehicle once.

Kicheche 4x4

This is one of the Kicheche camp vehicles.  They have an open top and sides that can be covered if it gets too hot or if it rains.  This is the type of vehicle you need for a safari.

 

Kicheche 4x4 and a few lions

The open layout allows you to easily move around and see the action no matter in which direction it happens.

 

Jimmy the safari guide

Here is our guide “Jimmy”.  The guides all have easy English names since they’re easier to remember.   Jimmy took us to several fabulous spots for taking some photos like this one!

Maasai Mara at Sunset with Elephants on the horizon.

Jimmy took us to the perfect place at the right time for us to take this photo!

He also had the eyes of an eagle and he could spot animals at a far off distance faster than I could with my zoom lens.   Like many of the people we met in Kenya we had no trouble communicating with them in English.

Cost:

You must know that Kicheche Mara is not a budget camp.   At this price point you get a fantastic, luxurious, relaxing and comfortable experience out in the wilderness.  A safari is about being out with the animals and watching how they live in the wild.  It is not the time to go roughing it.  Your camp should be the place where you rest after a long day out in the sun and gives you the energy to do it again the next day.

We have to note that on a few occasions on our game drive, we saw other tourists packed into a small enclosed van  and we felt bad for them.  We could only assume they also had an inexperienced driver (especially THAT one who scared off the wildebeest crossing by cutting them off at the river bank!)

A tent of our size cost about $500 a night.  However the rate included full board, bush walks, group game drives, drinks including wine and spirits, and laundry (yes laundry!).   Once you include all that $500 is a decent rate.

Conclusion:

We think we made an excellent choice with the Kicheche Maasai Mara Conservancy camp.  It was relaxing, staff was attentive and friendly, the guides were fantastic, and we enjoyed meeting other safari goers.    We definitely recommend this camp and would go back again!

If you stay at Kicheche Mara let us know what your experience was like!

Tomorrow is the last part of our Kenya series, and we’ll fill you in on “Getting to Maasai Mara”!

 

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

 

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Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya: 5 – When & Where

Posted on 04 June 2012 by David

Today, we are on the fifth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  Planning to catch a migration?   Then you have to plan your trip to give you the absolute best chance to see one.   The wildebeest migration is not an annual event.  The herds move around the African plains depending on food availability  in the location where they are at.  When the grass is getting thin, it’s time for the wildebeest to migrate to greener pasture.

National flag of Kenya

Where?  Kenya or Tanzania?   KENYA

The best chance of catching a crossing is when the herds are in a concentrated area and are moving to reach more plentiful grasslands.   One of the best places where this happens is in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya.

Transportation wise, it’s easier to fly into Nairobi, Kenya than into parts of Tanzania.

Health and safety are about the same for both countries.

Based on that we declared Kenya as the better choice.

Zebra in Kenya

When?   Best time of the year to go?   EARLY OCTOBER

It takes a little bit of educated guessing to figure out where the animals will be during any given period of the year.   However since the river crossings are one of the biggest highlights, timing is everything!

Based on our research we determined that the best time to go on a safari and catch a wildebeest crossing is early October.

In September the herds arrive in Kenya’s Maasai Mara in search of fresh water and grazing.  The herds linger in the Mara for the month, then in October, they begin to move south towards the Serengeti plains in search of fresh grass.

When the herds begin their move down south they have one major obstacle, the Maasai Mara River.  There is no way around this and all the herds must cross in order to get to more fertile land.

Please remember that although the general timing of the migration is consistent year-over-year, the exact timing of when the herds move (End of September? First week of October? etc.) varies by year, and it depends heavily on the rainfall that year.  If there were more rain, then the grass would be more plentiful in the Maasai Mara, and the herds would stick around a little bit longer.  Before we set on a date for our wildlife safari, we checked the rainfall forecast to increase our chances of witnessing the Mara crossing.

African Safari Lion in Kenya

Our experience?   

We nailed the timing and location on this part of our round the world trip.  We were in the Maasai Mara Conservancy October 9 through October 13, 2011.  During this period the wildebeest herds had gathered en masse near several points along the Mara River.   For the first couple of days there wasn’t much movement and then on October 12, 2011 the herds decided it was the day to move and we caught two crossings, one small and one big, in one day!

Stay tuned for our “Kicheche Camp Review” tomorrow!

Seven Part Series of our Safari in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go (Current Post)
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Getting to Maasai Mara

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

Did you like this post? Subscribe via email or RSS so you don’t miss an update!

 



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Plan a Perfect Safari in Kenya: 4 – Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience

Posted on 01 June 2012 by David

Today, we are on the fourth part of our seven-part “Plan a Perfect African Safari in Kenya” series.  If you’re planning on a safari, you must try to catch a Wildebeest Mara river crossing.

Animals being animals, they don’t exactly publish a calendar of when they will be crossing.  Catching the big event takes luck to find a crossing and patience for the crossing to start.

If you have already signed up to go on a safari or just thinking about it, this is our wildebeest crossing experience.

Tourists on African safari watching wildebeests crossing the Mara in Kenya

We rose at 7am to have our single bucket shower (more on this on a future post =) and to have breakfast.   Today was the day for catching a crossing and we took our lunch with us.  We were going to be out for at least 8 to 10 hours today!

By 8am we were out on a game drive on the truck with our guide.  We wandered all over the park crossing our checklist of animals to see.  All the while, our guide was on a walkie talking chatting with other guides about sightings and possible news of a Wildebeest crossing.

Around noon we were getting concerned we were not going to see a crossing today.  Our guide radioed out and received a communication that wildebeest were gathering at a crossing.  We were a bit far away so we held tight and he floored it.

It took us an hour to get to the site.  There were already a dozen other vehicles stationed a distance away from the gathering.   At this point the worst thing that could have happened is for one of the vehicles to get too close and spook the herd away.   The thickness of anticipation was exhilarating as everyone was watching each other and the animals – waiting for one of the animals to make a move.

We were prepared for the wait.  We were just about to start taking out our lunch when all of a sudden our guide whispered strongly, “THEY’RE MOVING, HANG ON!”   We both fell back into our seats, camera gripped in one hand and holding tight to a handlebar with the other.   A dust storm erupted as animals and vehicles engaged in a rally race to the river bank.  We came to stop right at the river bank so near to the edge we were precipitously close to falling in.

Tourists on African safari watching wildebeests crossing the Mara in Kenya

Suddenly, nothing happened. The herd chickened out.  However, we were in for a treat!  There was a family of Giraffes gathered at the edge of the water.  Our guide was just as fixated on the Giraffes as we were.  “This is going to be good!  It’s so rare that they do this” he told us.   Apparently it is rare to see Giraffes at a Wildebeest crossing, and even rarer for a family of Giraffes to be crossing together.  The amazing part was that the largest Giraffe, possibly the father went first, crossed to the center and stayed there until all the other Giraffes finished crossing.  He was protecting his family!

African Safari - Giraffes Crossing Mara River in KenyaAfrican Safari - Giraffes Crossing Mara River in Kenya

After the Giraffes made it safely across the Wildebeests took it as their cue to go.  In an instant, a whole mass of wildebeests leaped into the water and thus began the famous Mara crossing.    Moments later one wildebeest appeared like it was in trouble.  It let out a scream of agony and we knew what it was.  A crocodile has found it’s meal.  The sounds of an animal being eaten alive and screaming in agony was painful to see and hear but also amazing to experience.  Fortunately for the Wildebeests, that was the only casualty of the day.  Hundreds of Wildebeests made it safely across living on for another day to continue the migration.

African Safari - Wildebeests Crossing Mara River in KenyaAfrican Safari - Wildebeests Crossing Mara River in KenyaWildebeest caught by Crocodile in the Mara River of Kenya

By this time it was well past two.  Happy that we met our objective of catching a crossing in person, we went to a nice quiet spot along the river banks and had our lunch.

If you are in the middle of planning a safari, we’re working on our next post, “Choosing When and Where to Go” that may help you out.  Come back for it on Monday!

Seven Part Series of our Safari in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya:

  1. Introduction
  2. 10 Must-See Animals (including the Big 5)
  3. Five Tidbits about the Mara Crossing You Should Know
  4. Our Wildebeest Crossing Experience (Current Post)
  5. Choosing When and Where to Go
  6. Kicheche Camp Review
  7. Getting to Maasai Mara

You may also enjoy our Picture of the Week:

  1. Maasai Warriors Jumping Contest (Adumu)

Did you like this post? Subscribe via email or RSS so you don’t miss an update!


Comments (0)

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