4 May 2015
Masai Mara safari
Today was an incredible adventure. We stayed up all of last evening waiting at the Kigali airport to catch our flight to Nairobi at 3:30am. We arrived at the airport as soon as it got dark (at 7pm) because we knew that the airport would be one of our last chances for good internet. I had experienced airports in third world countries before where the airport security was so strict that passengers could not enter the airport until a certain number of hours before their flight. I brushed the thought off and we headed to the airport to find out that passengers could not enter the airport until 3 hours before the flight. This meant that we could not enter the airport until nearly 1am.
The first 3 hours we sat in a local coffee shop talking, laughing, organizing our bags, and trying to get the wifi in the shop to work. We finally moved to a small corner just outside the airport where the airport wifi was strong enough to upload photos and send emails. We sat on the hard concrete floor for nearly 3 hours longer until the airport security would let us in. At 1am we were finally let into the airport, where we charged our devices and slept until the plan departed at 3:30am.
We awoke in the morning (around 5:00am) to the breakfast call on Kenyan Airlines. I didn’t realize that airlines serve breakfasts on a 1 hour flight and so early in the morning. I guess all was meant to be because as I sat in front of my appetizing African vegetable and beans breakfast curry and looked out the window, I had my first glimpse of an African sunrise on the Serengeti. The view was absolutely incredible, and one that I will never forget. We landed in Nairobi at half past 6 in the morning and proceeded through immigration, customs, and the money exchange. For all the chatter Kenya has been receiving due to security situations, there sure were a lot of tourists in the airport. Seeing all the smiling faces around me made me really excited to set off on our first African Safari.
I took a quick sponge bath in the airport bathrooms and changed my clothes while Andrew watched the bags and exchanged our money into Kenyan shillings. We then set out to find our safari guide amongst the huge lineup of people outside the airport holding up little white pieces of paper with people’s names.
We spotted Andrew’s name quite quickly and were very joyed to meet a man name Simon who was to take us to the Nairobi City Center to meet up with our tour group. Come to find out, the tour group was supposed to leave at 8:00am, a slight detail they had failed to mention. By the time we met with Simon it was 7:45am and we still had a long commute into the city in the middle of rush hour traffic. We decided to take a different method and instead meet the safari tour bus in route to the Masai Mara (the Serengeti park we were planning to attend). We caught them around 9am, thanks to some stalling by our tour operator at a nearby gas station.
When we boarded our safari bus, we were pleased to meet two people from Germany, two people from Japan, and a young English girl who has been working in refugee camps in South Sudan for the past year. The distance between Nairobi and the Masai Mara is actually quite short, but the horrible road conditions make the commute over four hours. If you find a paved road in Africa you are very lucky. If you find a road without holes from water erosion you are even luckier.
In route to the Masai Mara we stopped in a small town called Narok for lunch and were fed authentic Kenyan food, which was actually very delicious. They eat rice, chapati, bean curries, vegetable curries, and many different cabbage dishes. For a country with a lack of spices, their food actually has really good flavor.
Andrew and I ended up buying a Masai Warrior mask at a little shop in Narok in preparation for our grand Serengeti and Masai adventure. We arrived at the park a little after 3, dropped our bags in our lovely little safari tents, drank some herbal tea, and set off on our first game drive.
The Masai Mara is a beautiful part of the Serengeti because it not only has animals but all the Masai people as well. There are over 200 Masai villages with over 200 people in each of them. I was amazed that on our first day in the Masai Mara we saw many giraffes, elephants, zebras, and wildebeest. We also saw lions and leopards, two animals that are rare to see in the Serengeti (and especially on your first day). I have never seen such a beautiful sight in my life and I am so excited to wake up in the morning and go for two more game drives. Africa really is a place of beautiful adventures…