One of the top reasons I chose to visit Kenya is because of a place called Masai Mara, known for having one of the top safaris in Africa. I knew that if I was coming all the way across the world, I definitely wanted to dedicate a few days to see the amazing landscape and animals only found in a safari.
And so, I’m back from my safari adventure and have lots of share – this post will basically be a huge photo dump with some reflection at the end 🙂
Day 2: Drive to Masai Mara + change in scenery + evening game drive
I got picked up from my hostel at 8:30am and joined the group of 7 people from all different countries – we would be spending a lot of time together over the next few days in the safari van, so good thing everyone was very open and friendly off the bat!
The drive from Nairobi to Masai Mara was 5+ hours. Luckily we had some breaks including a lookout point of the Great Rift Valley.
And a lunch break too. It was really nice to try some authentic Kenyan food – but I kid you not, they made this EXACT same food every single meal of this tour, so I quickly got kind of sick of it.
Despite the long ride, I coudn’t help but stare outside my window at the scenery along the way. Coming from the bustling and developed Nairobi, the scene quickly changed to passing poorer, more basic villages. As we got closer to Masai Mara, I even noticed the villages turning extremely basic and rural, with people on the street tending livestock and living in mud houses. It was clear we were going to see a whole new side of Kenya on this safari.
Finally we made it to camp where we would stay the next two nights. I instantly fell in love with the earthy, remote, and basic feel of the camp. We were given tents with beds and running water, and they only turned on electricity for 6 hours a day – what more can you ask for? 😉
I decided to link up with a friend from my previous hostel, Rose from the Philippines – we hit it off right away!
After a short breather at camp, we were off again in the safari van for our first game drive! This one was a short 2-hour evening drive, just to get a feel of the Masai Mara park. The safari van had an open roof which allowed us to stand, sit and view as we pleased.
Masai Mara is a MASSIVE park in Kenya. We hardly made a dent the first day, but it definitely didn’t disappoint! I was surprised how densely full of animals was the park – it was my very first time seeing several animals, and that newby excitement made day 1 very exciting.
And a few familiar animals as well 🙂 It was cool to see these animals in their natural habitat versus zoos/sanctuaries/etc for once.
Highlight of the day, catching two lions mating! The male lion seemed to really enjoy himself. Apparently, when lions mate, they mate every 15 minutes for 7 days without food or water. 😛
We even saw some dead, eaten game.
After an exciting first safari and a long day of driving, we were all pooped. We had a quick dinner and I was sound in bed by 8:30.
Day 3: Full day in Masai Mara
The next day, we were up bright and early at 5:30am for breakfast and to head out for a full day safari.
I’m glad we got an early start because so many animals were out in the morning and the lighting was perfect for photos :).
Wildebeest in action.
Zebras were my favorite animal to watch. They are so beautiful and fun in person. I just love the detail on their skin.
We got lucky and saw several lions on this safari. This one in particular was a beautiful one. We even saw a mama lion chase a group of wildebeest to feed her young.
Lots of birds in the park too.
We saw a cheeetah! So surreal. This one had no fear and came straight to our van…I think it was only 3 feet away from me at one point.
Took a break at the river and spotted hippos from up top. They are massive and actually very dangerous, so we kept plenty of space.
Lots of elephant spotting. I loved this little family – look at that tiny baby underneath the mama ❤
Crazy story: we sat down to eat a picnic lunch, and after we finished we realized these lions were like 50 meters away from us the entire time…oops.
Since we had the full day, we made it around the entire park, including reaching the Tanzania and Kenya border. I guess I can say I’ve been to two African countries now 😉
Shoutout to our amazing driver who knew every inch of the park like the back of his hand. He knew so much about the animals and could actually predict their behavior.
Side note: safari driving is rough (as shown by this pic of us crossing a river, ha).
After the full day of driving, I was beyond dead. We were in the van for 12 HOURS. I’m not gonna lie…it was way too long for me, and I was really happy to reach our camp for a chill evening.
That night, Rose and I had a heart-to-heart in our tent…I expressed to her how I was feeling a little down because Kenya wasn’t exactly what I imagined; I felt like I wasn’t “clicking” with the country, unlike my past solo trips when I would feel at home almost immediately. I truthfully was feeling demotivated and guilty that it was taking so long to adjust to life here, and I was feeling pretty doubtful for the rest of my trip…
Talking to Rose was a huge blessing. Rose told me she was feeling similarly (she was also in the beginning of her trip), but helped me gain a sense of adventure and stay positive. It honestly just helped to have someone validate the way I was feeling, and we both agreed to see the next 2 weeks as a completely different adventure and have zero expectations (I think the fact that reality didn’t meet my expectations was a big problem for me). I decided from that point I was going to stop comparing Kenya to my past solo trips, put my expectations aside, and just take everything for what it was.
Day 4: Masai Village visit + drive to Nakuru + major treat
The next morning, we packed our bags and left camp, as we had one last day together with something special planned. Remembering those very remote villages that so intrigued me on the ride to Masai Mara, I was so excited when I found out we were going to visit one! I had about a 800,000 questions to ask as my curiosity was through the roof about this group of people and their way of life.
I think I was also overly excited for this because we could stand/walk for a few hours and get out of the safari van.
We reached the Masai village and they welcomed us to their homes. All the males in the Masai village share the same grandfather, and they started off with a welcome dance. One part of the dance had the men jumping as high as they could, which signaled a tradition where the higher you jump, the less less cows you pay to your bride’s father as a gift for marriage.
The Masai village (and many others in Kenya) wear these red blankets as a way to protect themselves from animals, since they tend to stay away from red colors. It also makes it easier to spot each other from afar.
My two best friends from the safari – Rose from the Philippines and Adele from England ❤
We learned about the different vegetation and livestock of the village. Everything they eat and use is from the earth, and it’s common for the Masai people to live up to 110-120 years old because of their active, chemical-free lifestyle!
Taught us how to make a fire.
A very eye-opening part of the tour was visiting the houses the Masai people live in. I remembered seeing these all throughout our drive from Nairobi, and was dying to take a look inside.
It surprised me that the inside was even more basic than the outside. With only a fire and a tiny hole to illuminate the entire house, it was no more than 50 sq feet. I was grateful for the guide who was very open to my endless questioning. I was definitely “that” person who asked a billion questions on the tour. 😛
One interesting fact I learned was that the Masai men get circumcised at age 15, and afterwards they live in a forest for 5 years to learn about the Masai culture, dances, and how to hunt. They are allowed to return to the village after killing a lion themselves.
After the morning in the village, we were back on the road for another few hours with a lunch break in between. Before making it back to Nairobi, I split from the group since I was heading to Nakuru for one more safari day. I met up with a new group and said our goodbyes with the first – it was a short but wonderful time together!
After another two hours of driving, we made to our hotel in Nakuru, which ended up being a straight up resort! I felt hashtag blessed since I honestly don’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel or had my own room while solo traveling. This was a real treat. The rest of the day I spent chillaxing around the resort and getting to know my new group over dinner and drinks, as well as bonding with the hotel’s owner.
Now for some reflection…
I’m definitely glad I chose Masai Mara for my safari – it’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience in this very unique part of the world. However, I must admit, I don’t think I’ll do another safari ever again.
At this point in my traveling, I know what kinds of things make me happy, and that’s being as active as possible in nature. And safaris are just not that. After a long plane ride and then sitting for 3 days in the safari van, I was completely burnt out, and I wanted nothing more than to do something active for my next chapter.
I really try use this blog to focus on positive things (complaining is one of my pet peeves), but I also wanted to be real with my feelings and share how things are really going on this trip. I do think the first few days were pretty challenging from all the driving, jet lag, and generally not feeling super connected with the culture, but I’m really grateful for my conversation with Rose which gave me hope that things can turn around.
And so, I’m really trying to enter this next leg with an open heart to what Kenya has to offer and put all my expectations aside, but at the same time being selective with how I’m spending my time and actively seeking things that will feed my soul (i.e. more activity).