Having discovered that we were flying overnight (extremely helpful over a ten hour flight) I fully intended to make the most of the rest. With 6am starts for the rest of the week, I decided I might need the extra sleep!
As I stepped off the plane I was greeted by brilliant African sunshine and a cool breeze in the air, a far cry from the rain soaked tarmac of Gatwick. After immigration and luggage collection, I headed for my transportation to take me to the hotel and was handed a much-needed cold facecloth to refresh me after the long flight. This traditional Kenyan custom is one that I would become accustomed to throughout the week, they really know how to look after their guests! As we made our way to the hotel I really got a flavour of the Kenyan culture with children running out to wave at the bus as we drove through local towns and villages – excited at seeing new people visiting their country.
I arrived at the hotel (with an aching arm after all the waving!) and was welcomed once again with a cool facecloth and refreshing drink. After a brief welcome meeting about the hotel (never the most exciting, but great for finding out about local amenities and excursions), I dropped my bags and set out to explore the hotel. After studying the brochure for days I had finally chosen the four star, all inclusive Mnarani Club hotel. It’s intimacy and secluded location made it perfect for a quiet getaway and I was not to be disappointed. Stepping through reception, you’re greeted by an infinity pool. The African sun shines, palm trees sway and all you have to do is laze beside the pools overlooking Kilifi Creek with it’s amazing turquoise waters – this really is paradise on earth. The first two days of my holiday were spent enjoying this complete luxury. On the all inclusive packages the food is excellent, and whether you choose to sample the local dishes or stick to more international meals you won’t be disappointed.
After two days of lying beside the pool it was time to begin the real highlight of the holiday – a safari in the Maasai Mara. I was really excited to be starting this adventure and hopefully coming face to face with wonderful animals that you can only dream of seeing. The flight to the Mara was an experience in itself. In a 14 seater airplane you really get to see the landscape beneath you, and I was lucky enough to see Mount Kilamanjaro. A top tip for travelling on safari is to take a light rucksack as there is limited room on board the plane. The only people you need to dress up for are the animals and, believe me, they don’t make the effort for you! I stayed at the Mara Voyager Safari Lodge, which has cottage style buildings situated on the Mara River and where pods of hippos wallow in the water throughout the day. If your’re fortunate enough to have a cottage next to the river, you can laze on your bed and gaze out the window at these magnificent animals. There’s certainly no need for an alarm clock – you’ll be woken at 4am by the animals ‘talking’… they’re loud!
After enjoying lunch on the veranda with my beautiful view, I made my way to the game vehicle to meet the driver. The large 4 x 4 vehicle does make you feel safe in the knowlegde that you’re high off the ground, while being open all around so you can get the best view of the animals. Any fear of seeing wild animals disappears as soon as you see the first one (in my case a herd of impalas). Always on alert from predators they showed no fear as we made our way closer to the pack for a photo opportunity – with their tails busily flapping they were more interested in grazing although the more bolder of the pack seemed to pose for us!
Our driver, Francis, was always on the lookout for animals and spotted a herd of elephants in the distance. As we made our way towards them we passed a group of giraffes including three babies who were only six months old and very curious of us. Again another photo opportunity (take plenty of camera film!). We could have stayed watching all afternoon but went onwards to the elephants – the first of our ‘Big Five’ animals and considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in the wild. They were more camera shy than the other animals and made a fairly hasty retreat.
Driving around all afternoon in the bush in a bumpy 4 x 4 may not be everyone’s cup of tea but time flies very quickly and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the lodge. On the way back, unbeknown to us, Francis was hunting for lions and I watched him looking in various directions, clearly on the loookout. We came out of one bush and into another, and as we turned the corner there were three lionesses with three cubs. My first reaction was complete and utter horror at facing these wild, dangerous animals – my heart felt like it was in the roof of my mouth. When they didn’t even look up at us, I realised that we posed no threat to them and they were more than happy to be in our company. After watching the family for what seemed like hours we had to make our way back to the lodge for dinner.
A superb dinner and a drink around the camp fire with the sun setting, was a perfect end to the day. I really felt privileged at being able to watch these magnificent animals in their natural environment. I had seen impalas, giraffes, elephants, zebras, wildebeest, topi and buffalo and was looking forward to the next day and what other adventures lay ahead.
The following day, we started the morning driving through the bush making our way to lookout point where we would be able to eat our own bush breakfast looking out over the Mara. On the way up, I spotted two cheetahs’ – apparently something of a rarity. On the way back down to the lodge, we were stopped by two rangers and asked to get out of the vehicle and follow them through the grass. Very reluctantly I obliged and started walking. One of the rangers turned and pointed at this rather large lump of grey on the floor. At first glance you would be forgiven for mistaking it as a rather large boulder, but on further investigation it was in fact a rhino. As soon as it heard us it started to get up and move around. I’ve never seen a group of adults run so fast! I hedged my bets and stayed with the ranger, watching this great animal wander aimlessly around obviously upset at having is morning nap disturbed. Back in to the vehicle, we were told that rhino’s can’t see anything over four foot away. The magnificent stories of coming face to face with a two tonne rhino in the wild and standing within six feet of him are kind of lost when you then realise that he couldn’t even see us! As we made our way back to the lodge I realised how much I would miss the Mara with all it’s people and animals. It brings you back to reality and makes you think about the world you live in.
The flight back to Mombasa is just under two and I was looking forward to relaxing back at Mnarani Club. After another three days, it was time to head home. I knew I would miss the Kenyan people with their warm and friendly smiles and their shouts of laughter, and I would, of course miss the animals (especially the baby lion cubs, although perhaps not the hippos!).
As we landed at Gatwick on rain soaked tarmac, I really felt that I had been part of a true African adventure.