During our week in the Mara, we woke up very early everyday, around 7am. We’d have breakfast at the main lodge and then meet our guide Tinka by the jeep to begin our morning safari game drive. Tinka, having grown up in the Mara, is very in tune with the landscape and animals. He knows which bushes would have a higher chance of finding a lion with its prey behind it. His keen observation of the animals enables him to accurately predict where we would find a cheetah, or a herd of elephants. His calm demeanor and patience also put us at ease when we are in close proximity to the animals. There were some very close encounters with predators like lions and cheetahs which would’ve been nerve wrecking had it not been for Tinka’s cool attitude towards the situation!
Bush dining is a must-have experience in a safari, and Tinka organized 2 separate bush lunches for us in the Mara. What is bush dining, you may wonder. It is essentially a fancy picnic dining experience in the wild. That’s right, a picnic smack in the wild where all the animals freely roam. While it may sound terrifying because one might imagine a hungry, ferocious lion charging towards you while you’re eating in their territory, it really is a very safe and fun way to experience the savannah. Tinka picked areas that were in a wide open space, which makes it easy to spot any predators around us. He also assured us that these predators are much more interested in preying on and feasting on zebras and wildebeests, not pastas and salads. 😆 For one of our bush picnics, we set up right next to the river, surrounding ourselves by hippos and crocodiles!
Another unforgettable activity that we did was a hot air balloon ride above the Mara. Personally, I had always wanted to experience a hot air balloon ride, but never found the motivation to wake up at 4am for it. But, having traveled all the way to the Mara with my favorite people, the 3:30am wake up call felt well worth it this time! We decided to make it a girls’ activity and had Brian stay behind with Brady. The early morning was indeed brutal, and it took us some time to feel truly awake, but once we got onto the hot air balloon, the excitement overcame us! Wind was a bit of an issue during take off, but thanks to an army of local men that helped, we successfully ascended up and over the Mara!
Let me just say, that if there’s a place to splurge on a hot air balloon ride, it would be the Mara. Seeing the lush landscapes and the roaming animals from above was completely magical. Add onto that magic an incredible sunrise and it will surely go down as one of those moments that you want to freeze and preserve forever. I loved every minute of it, and am so glad we did it!
After our balloon landed, we walked into a bush breakfast that was set up for us. It was so fun to be welcomed by singing, champagne, and beautifully set tables!
While all the activities I mentioned above were memorable and astounding in their own special ways, if I had to pick one favorite thing we got to do in the Mara, it would be the day that we got to visit a local Maasai village and engaged with people there. Tinka took us to a nearby village where a tribe of Maasai people welcomed us. They taught us a few of their tribal chants and dances, and even taught Brady how to make fire in the traditional way of rubbing two sticks together and igniting dry elephant dung. We also visited their small village school and got to play with the children during their recess time.
Getting to immerse into the local’s lifestyle and culture is truly the best part of traveling for us! We even got to meet a few of Tinka’s children when we passed by their school one day and gave them a ride home. They were so giddy and excited to meet us and tried their best to use their limited english to ask us questions. We were equally excited to meet them and their enthusiastic spirit gave us so much joy!
On our last night at Saruni, the staff prepared the most wonderful bush dinner for us right on their property. We started with some delicious hors d’oeuvres around a glowing fire, followed by a sumptuous meal underneath the stars. It was the most incredible way to end our time in the Mara!
Thank you to the entire staff at Saruni for the attentiveness and care during our stay there, and for the lovely birthday celebration for our Brady Boo!