What you need to know:
- The Mara is now more accessible than ever making it a very attractive option for a getaway.
- If you had visited even a year ago, the state of the road was so terrible that you would have sworn never to go by road again.
- The migration is on till November, so if you’d still like to catch it, you have a bit of time. Otherwise, you will have to wait until this time next year.
It would seem that Kenyans have been dying to leave their homes, because while trying to get accommodation in the Mara, at least four places that we called beforehand were fully booked. One would also think that everyone is coming out broke from lockdown, but if what I saw in Maasai Mara is anything to go by, people have been inkling to hit the road. That, and the fact that this would have ideally been a high international tourism season and accommodation costs might have been out of reach, but you can get really good deals now.
The Mara is now more accessible than ever making it a very attractive option for a getaway. If you had visited even a year ago, the state of the road was so terrible that you would have sworn never to go by road again. Today, however, the road from Narok Town to the Sekenani Main Gate is tarmacked all the way making for a smooth ride, and the perfect excuse to bundle your squad into the car and get going. The drive from Nairobi took us six hours, with stops in between.
The park is also teeming with wildlife this time of the year, and the key attraction for me was the great wildebeest migration which I had never witnessed before this trip. This natural phenomenon is the largest animal migration in the world with up to two million animals, particularly wildebeest and some zebra migrating in a clockwise direction across the ecosystems of the Serengeti and Mara. The fact that I lived in Kenya, had even visited the Mara a few times, yet had only seen this migration on National Geographic…it was time to go.
Zebras and wildebeest seem to be besties as they are always grazing together. In a land of predators, perhaps an extra pair of eyes is always best. Being creatures of habit, wildebeest follow the same migratory path every year and so our driver knew which lookout point to go to for a sighting. True enough, we found a spot on the Mara River and on the opposite banks there were what could easily be up to a thousand wildebeest waiting to cross. It was spectacular. I thought that once at the river they would just go across, but boy did they take their sweet time!
We waited for two hours. They just stood there starring at the water, then sometimes seemed to change their mind and turn back or move to a separate spot, only to go back to where they were initially. It seemed like a very confused process. Then two wildebeest would go down a 15 feet wall into the water, and our guide told us that they were scouting to ensure that it was safe for the entire herd to follow. Packs of hippos watched from a distance while hungry crocodiles inched closer. Then the two leaders jumped into the water and started to half jump- half swim across, and a large gust of dust gathered behind them as hundreds of wildebeest, in a single orderly file, jumped after them and went across. Most made it safely, but a few were injured. Later we would see dead wildebeest floating downstream being feasted on by vultures. The predators in the wild also seemed to be having a good hunting season as we saw a few half-eaten prey lying about.
If you visit the Mara, please learn to be patient. The idea is to blend into the environment, not to disrupt the natural order. There were so many cars and some almost ruined the sighting for everyone else by just not observing basic safari etiquette.
The next day, back at the lookout spot for a second sighting, we saw Olympic champion and World Record Holder, Eliud Kipchoge who was in Maasai Mara having recently been named the Destination Ambassador for Kenya both locally and internationally.
The migration is apparently on till November, so if you’d still like to catch it, you have a bit of time. Otherwise, you will have to wait until this time next year.