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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A WEEKEND WELL SPENT


They say Kenya is the best and perfect tourist destination in the world. No wonder Prince William chose Kenya as the perfect place to propose to his newly wedded wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Last week I had a chance to visit Masaai Mara National Park, one of the best game reserves in the world, and the place you can find the 8th wonder of the world, “Migration of the Wildebeests”.

We took off at exactly 9pm on Thursday 4th May 2011. The journey proved to be long and tiresome as it took us approximately 8 hours to reach the national park. It was so exciting such that at some point we got lost for about 70km before tracing back our bearing. We arrived at Serenani gate in the afternoon and we were warmly welcomed by the Maasai community living around the place.

We lodged at the Mara Sopa lodge located on the slopes of Oloongan hills, 2104m above sea level. Guests are drawn to this lodge built in an ethnic design surrounded by a rich landscape, covered in fauna from huge desert cacti to sweet-smelling jasmine flowers, all within the fabled Mara game reserve. We were received by the manager of the lodge and his staff. The place was over the top and one of the best places you can ever imagine of visiting. In the evening, we drove inside the park and managed to catch a glimpse of a variety of animals such as dik dik, Thompson gazelle, antelopes, zebras and giraffes. We also managed to see one of the “big five”-the lion with his family resting after having a hearty meal, probably a spiced zebra or gazelle. The den of lions consisted of two adult males, a lioness and eight male cubs.

On Saturday, we embarked on a full game program and we headed southwards towards Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, 100km from Mara Sopa lodge. On our way, we caught a view of animals such as elephants, hyenas, guinea fowls, secretary bird, jackals, ostrich and velvex monkeys. We also came across a hue herd of buffalos, approximately 200 of them. Our first stop was at the Mara River. We found a NGO known as Kenya Mara Conservancy which is a model of community-based conservation. It has been managing infrastructure and anti-poaching efforts within the triangle of Kenya’s Masaai Mara for eight years. When Serengeti enters its annual dry spell, the Mara’s western triangle and the perennial Mara river become the destination of the world’s largest mammal migration of almost two million wildebeests and zebras.
 
After driving for about 2km, we crossed the Kenya-Tanzania border and entered the Serengeti national park. It was such a wonderful feeling bearing in mind that it was my first time outside Kenya. We had a wonderful time with the lecturers, playing football with them and we had a chance to interact with the tour guide, Mr. Gitonga. We really had a good; for a moment there we forgot about books. I learnt that knowledge does not only come from books but also from interacting with other people, observing and sharing.

After spending an hour in Tanzania, we drove back to Mara Sopa lodge. We stopped by Keekorok lodge; the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. It’s erected in the direct path of the wildebeest migration. At the height of migration, Keekorok lodge is surrounded by a swarming mass of animals, and there’s hardly any need to go on a game drive. Accommodation comprises of stone-built bungalows with private balconies. The liberal use of cedar wood, pink and grey sand riverstone and other indigenous building materials offset the green lawns and colourful bougainvillea. A 300m raised walkway winds through the forest in front of the lodge to a thatched sundowner bar overlooking the plains of the Masaai Mara and a pool with resident hippos. There are no fences in Keekorok lodge, thus it is not uncommon to see elephants and buffalos on the perimeter of the ground.

We arrived back at the Mara Sopa lodge at around 4pm and had a late lunch. We later interacted with the manager and his staff who showed us various features of the lodge. In Sopa, the cheapest room can cost you Kshs.11, 000 per night per head in the low season and can rise up to Kshs.19, 000 in the peak season. The most expensive room can cost you Kshs.20, 000 and Kshs.30, 000 in the low and high season respectively. After the day’s encounter, we had a goat-eating party, interacted for a short while and then retired to our beds. We had such a wonderful time such that everybody was scared with the thought of leaving the following day.

I won’t tell you about the journey back because for sure, nobody wanted to leave the place.

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