Updated: Oct 17, 2022
Now that you've booked your ticket to Kenya, you've begun to wonder what your first safari will be like. Your excitement really begins to mount when you arrive at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. If possible, schedule a flight that arrives early in the morning to avoid long lines at immigration. If your flight lands in the evening, you will be taken to a hotel to spend the night. The next morning, you'll be driven to the smaller Wilson Airport where you will board a commuter plane bound for the Maasai Mara. If your international flight arrives in the early morning, you will fly the same day. During the 50 minute flight from Wilson Airport to the Maasai Mara, you'll first pass over the city of Nairobi, population 5.1 million, and then the vast plains of Eastern Kenya. Looking down you'll see squiggles of rivers with bushy trees and wallowing hippos. Large expanses of open space are dotted with acacia trees, elephants, buffalos, giraffes and zebras. You're having a safari in the sky! The Maasai Mara actually sits inside a crater. Elevation is 5,000-6,200 ft above sea level so you're apt to see volcanic rock strewn about. The water in Mara is highly mineralized, which is perfect for the animals. You'll see the evidence in the strange clumps of rocks that look like concrete. Temperatures are pleasantly mild, 70's and 80's fahrenheit, and fairly consistent all year round. Mornings and evenings are cool, 50's and 60's fahrenheit so layers are the way to go. The cool mornings quickly warm up and soon you'll be peeling off your jacket and enjoying the breezes in the vehicle. A typical day in the Mara usually involves a game drive at sunrise and another before sundown, with meals either in the bush or at camp. Animals in the conservancies and reserve live freely in an unfenced 1,160 square mile area. Everyday there are new surprises, no safari is ever the same. It's exciting to wonder what you will see: stumbling upon a lion sleeping under a bush or witnessing an elusive leopard stalking its prey. It's always a joy to see the babies--baby elephants, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, hyenas, wildebeests, hippos, topis, buffalos, antelope, just to name a few. Colorful birds, butterflies, rock formations, swaying grasses, and the varied plants and trees make everywhere you look a virtual paradise. After landing on one of the dirt airstrips in the Mara, you'll be driven by safari car to your camp. Your long journey will be rewarded by some much needed relaxation in your screened-in tent. And if your tent has a makuti roof made of palm leaves, like Mara Napa, you'll be comfortable inside even when it's 80 degrees outside. If you're lucky, you may see some wild animals wandering around your camp. You needn't fear that they will enter your tent, however. They are naturally wary of humans. The only exception is the curious, cuddly mongoose or the mischievous, sugar-loving baboon. Even these are not aggressive. Keep your tent zipped up with zipper pulls at the highest point and you will not be bothered by them. In addition, camps have Maasai guards to monitor the comings and goings of the animals.
When booking your safari, look for camps that are channeling a large portion of their resources into the local community or conservation efforts. At Mara Napa, you can feel especially good that every dollar you spend for lodging and safaris directly benefits the Maasai community, the wildlife, and their habitat. In addition, guests are offered an opportunity for hands-on changemaking. Helping to refurbish a local school, creating a recycling center, installing a water source for livestock and community members, or upgrading a maternity clinic are just a few of the ways guests can make a positive impact while simultaneously enjoying the magic of the Mara wildlife and Maasai culture.
The Maasai Mara is a truly magical place like nowhere else on earth. It is sure to delight you and soothe your soul. Here, is a place that has remained relatively untouched by the hand of man. Breathe deeply, the air is pure and clean. Rest fully, there are no demands to be met. Find the joy of just being alive. You are in the birthplace of humankind. The profundity of all that is Mara will seep into your very bones and you will return home changed, for the better.