Masai Mara: inside Kenya’s most famous national reserves – News
It’s fascinating how often we grow up with certain images stuck in our minds for years. People and places we have heard and read but never seen. And it’s even more fascinating when we finally come face to face with the sights and sounds of the reality of that person or place without often realizing how much we have been secretly waiting for that exact moment to arrive.
Our trip to Kenya’s legendary Maasai Mara (also Masai Mara) earlier this month – my first in over 19 months, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic – as part of a team excursion to test the new cameras from Nikon, produced such a watershed moment. And it happened on the second day of our stay in the famous wildlife reserve when we were out hunting wild geese in the late evening in search of a rhino, the only member of the “Big five game” (see box ) that we had not spotted until then.
But while the rhinos underwent a rain check (and we ultimately didn’t see a single one), we had a moment to savor for a lifetime – that moment when a rainbow emerged above. of the distant horizon and distant mountains as dusk fell and the stillness of the night sky slowly began to descend over the vastness of a rain drenched Mara, as the locals like to call it. No flora, no fauna, nothing. Just open up the vanilla sky of July and the enormity of one of the world’s most famous meadows and the sublimity of it all to embrace with open arms.
Personally, this was my third time in Africa (after two previous trips to South Africa for cricket missions), but only the first time I had experienced a moment of magic like this. My reunion with an Africa I first saw years ago in an adventure book I read in college – Chander Pahar (Mountain of the Moon), the cult novel set at the start of the 20th century telling the story of a young Shankar Ray Choudhuri, an ordinary young Bengali, ends up landing the job of his dreams: exploring the wilderness of Africa while working as a clerk in a train station.
After a few months of laying the tracks, he encountered the first of many dangers in pre-World War I Africa: a man-eating lion. Later, he accepts a job as a station master at a desolate station in the middle of the Veldts, where he narrowly escapes a deadly black mamba before finally setting out on the path of a huge discovery.
For us – the team and myself – it was no less a journey of self-discovery, learning to connect with nature and its raging wild beasts, understanding their quirks, power and power. the beauty of their diversity, to know what survival out there in the wild takes, to see what it’s like to hunt in a pack and live in pride.
But if you’re shy like me, the predator kill you see will continue to haunt you until late into the night and the prey growls you hear will continue to resonate for as long as you can remember. Ask me and I’ll tell you how the images of the three cheetahs stalking a zebra (see photos) continue to permeate the mind, more than two weeks since we returned to our homes in Dubai.
Know the Big Five game
In Africa, the big five game animals are the lion, the leopard, the rhinoceros (black species from the south-central and white from the south), the elephant and the Cape buffalo. The Khaleej Times multimedia journalists during the trip had the chance to film them all except the rhinos. The term “Big Five” by big game hunters refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Each of the Big Five are examples of Africa’s charismatic megafauna, featured prominently in popular culture. They remain the most famous of Africa’s large animals found in many countries on the continent, including Kenya.
What is the Masai Mara?
Maasai Mara National Reserve is an area of unspoiled wild savannah in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border. Lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and hippos are among its most famous animals. A huge population of wildebeest fills its plains during their annual migration. What makes the Maasai Mara special is its magnificent landscape highlighted by its grassy plains and rolling hills, intertwined by rivers like the Mara. It was on the shores of Mara that we had a breakfast at sunrise while seeing hippos taking a majestic bath.
The Maasai Mara, also sometimes spelled Masai Mara, is known locally as the Mara and is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the region, who migrated to the region from the Nile basin. Mara means spotted in the Maasai language and it comes from the many small, bushy trees that dot the landscape, especially the acacia (see photo).
The Maasai Mara is one of Africa’s most famous and important wildlife and wilderness conservation areas, known worldwide for its exceptional populations of lions, African leopards, cheetahs and African bush elephants. It also hosts the Great Migration, often considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
The Maasai and their traditions
The Maasai people constitute a community that spans northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. As pastoralists, the community believes they own all the cattle in the world. The Maasai depend on their land to feed their livestock.
Tradition continues to play a major role in the lives of today’s Maasai, known for their tall stature, patterned shukas, and beaded embroidery. Most of them have now moved to work and earn a living, but some of them continue to hold onto their way of life and villages for the benefit of curious tourists, as we have discovered.
How to get there
The Maasai Mara is one of Africa’s most famous safari destinations. There are a number of tourist lodges and tent camps within or on the outskirts of the reserve and in the various separate reserves that line the main reserve. There are several airfields that serve the camps and lodges of the Maasai Mara, including the Ol Kiombo airstrip in which we used to fly on a 14-seat SafariLink plane, one of the many airlines that operate regular flights from Nairobi and elsewhere several times a day. . Several flights, including Emirates, Etihad and Air Kenya, connect United Arab Emirates airports to the Kenyan capital.
What you need to know
We left Dubai and current protocols require us to provide Covid-negative certificates before both trips and undergo a rapid PCR test upon our return to Dubai.
What is a game player?
Game drives are the most popular activity in the Maasai Mara, but other activities include hot air ballooning, nature walks, photo safaris, and cultural experiences. But there’s nothing like watching a herd of lions languish, at arm’s length, on the grassy plains on a sunny afternoon on a safari or a family of giraffes on their majestic morning walk.