Thursday, 3 January 2019

Masai Mara

We were picked up at 8am sharp by &Beyond and taken to Wilson airport, a secondary airport for domestic flights. There were a multiple of small charter companies or regional airlines. Our flight to the Maasai Mara was with Safarilink who had its own 1 building terminal. &beyond checked us in and all our luggage including hand carry was weighed.  To our relief, we came well below the 15kg per person limit. We had 14kg to spare as a group=freedom to shop! We had strict instructions to only bring soft bags but we saw people with hard cases…not sure if this was because it was low season or if different flights had different requirements. No matter, everyone was happy because there was wifi in the terminal! After the quick check in, we were given red boarding cards which felt like getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. We were the first group to board, although it didn’t make much of a difference as the plane could only take 12! We were told that the plane would be making a few stops on various airstrips and to remember to get off at the first.

Safarilink Terminal at Wilson Airport

The red ticket!

We're there!

The plane took off and landed early at the airstrip. As a result we had to wait nearly 30 minutes for our transfers to the &Beyond Kichwa Tembo Lodge. We were picked up by Massek, our guide for our stay. He apologised and whisked us away. We went through the usual check in process, enjoyed our lunch buffet and then taken to our “tents”. Finally…we felt like we back into routine including the obligatory post swim lunch, as well as the pre-evening game drive afternoon tea!

Airstrip and nothing else but savannah around you!

One of the many lounge areas at &Beyond Kichwa Tembo

Just immediately below

The outdoor lounges overlooking the Mara

Salad bar at lunch

The meat station

Out "tent"! Super luxurious....

The outdoor area

The vanity area leading to...

A toilet with a view!

and a shower with a view!

And of course, no self respecting African safari lodge would be without a pool with a view

Before we set off, we received profuse apologies from the &Beyond team for the late pick up as well as the string of “poor experiences” including an email from our travel agent. They were mortified that we had to wait and that the flight staff should have informed the lodge. We assured that we were ok…With Massek and Dennis (the Chin’s guide), we worked out a plan for our stay at the Masai Mara. They gave us an introduction the company, gave us an orientation talk and then asked us what we hoped to see. The final list came to…seeing a leopard, a male lion up close, a cheetah run, a lion hunting, and a porcupine. They had their work cut out for them! Although we travelled “together”, we had our own jeep.

The excitement started as soon we set off! Massek was like a bush fortune teller. He would predict things happening which gave us a chance to actually look int the right direction! What happened over the following few hours was like watching a real-life documentary being played out on the open plains of the savannah. Massek pointed to us the giraffes tense body position and told us to follow the direction of their gazes where lo and behold…we saw a lion cub. Shortly after, the cub moved to lead us to the rest of pride. We followed the pride to watch them edge a cheetah edged out of his hunting ground. We followed the cheetah watching him be constantly on the lookout for easy prey, marking out territory all the while being sabotaged by ostrich and cranes. Unfortunately the cheetah was also being followed by a hyena. The cheetah spotted an isolated mum and baby gazelle and started to chase only to be thwarted by the sight of the lazy hyena waiting to steal his kill. Thus he gave up his chase and disappeared into the thicket. It was exhausting just watching! That was one of the wish list items fulfilled. Cheetah run…tick!

Our guides told us that we were lucky. We saw 2 out of the 9 black rhinos in the park, as well as the less commonly seen bushbuck. After our requisite sun-downer, we also saw a white tailed mongoose and 2 porcupines (which we later found out was also not commonly seen)! That’s item 2…tick!

We returned at 8pm and went to dinner straight away. It was buffet style again with soup as started served at the table. It was a relief to be able to pick what you felt like eating and not feel pressured to eat everything because it was included! Back at the tent, we were surprised with hot water bottles in our bed a bottle of wine with an apology note which was very sweet.

Look at the giraffes all looking in the same direction

All watching this!

Very tense....

Our cheetah friend

The darn hyena just following in the background

Massek preparing our drinks and the children's hot chocolates

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