Safari in the Mara
Trip Start Apr 10, 2008
31Trip End May 12, 2008
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We came in to land at the Musiara strip which is the one closest to the famous Governor's and Little Governor's lodges located on the banks of the Mara River. That site is where Theodore Roosevelt camped and hunted on safari after leaving the office of the US presidency. The air strips in the Mara are just patches of gravel and pavement with a wind sock off to one side, and a sign identifying the strip by name; there are no buildings.
Julius, a driver from the Royal Mara camp was there to meet us in a Toyota Land Cruiser. He was to be our driver and guide during our stay. We drove slowly north over roads that truly required a 4WD vehicle, looking for animals as we covered the 10 miles or so to our camp.
We had a few other surprises in store for us. Because of the recent violence in Kenya, tourism had plummeted. Dr. Kirkpatrick and I found out that we were the only guests in the whole camp. We would in fact be the only guests during our whole time there: a staff of 40 just to take care of the two of us! Meals were prepared to order and served outside, often overlooking the Mara River in which we could watch hippos and crocodiles moving about.
During the next 48 hours we would make 5 long game drives, punctuated with delicious meals. During the drives through the savannah, Julius would spot game for us and explain animal behaviors we didn't understand. At first we were mostly interested in trying to spot "The Big 5" the five animals that were the most dangerous to hunt (when they were hunted - that ended long ago in Kenya): lion,
One high point was seeing a mother white rhino and her 3 month old baby. The endangered pair is guarded around-the-clock by a team of rangers, some armed with AK47s. The female has seen people so often, that while not tame; she is used to people being around and won't normally attack them.
Another high point was watching two cheetahs eating a fresh dik dik (a very small antelope about the size of a medium sized dog) kill.
The last interesting thing was to discover two male lions in tall grass, right next to the airstrip where we landed, and would from where we would leave.
Friday afternoon we flew back to Nairobi, picked up our luggage and drove out to the famous Carnivore restaurant where we met newly ordained Church elder Antonio Ndungu and his wife Christine. The Carnivore is famous in Nairobi for its huge barbecue pit over which huge chunks of meat roast on saber-like spits. During the set-price meal, waiters bring the meat to each table, announcing the kind of meat and asking who would like some: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ostrich, crocodile, etc. In the center of table is a small Carnivore flag. The meat keeps coming until guests lower their flag to "surrender."
I've known the Ndungus from back when I covered Kenya for UCG in the late 90s and early 2000s; it was a special pleasure to congratulate Antonio and Christine on their new service opportunities. We caught up on old times and discussed the situation in the areas of East Africa where they serve. As the meal ended, and Dr. K and I prepared to leave for the airport, we wished them well. Then it was time to prepare to leave Kenya on the Kenya Airways flight to London. That flight should leave at 11:50 pm.