‘Three days is not enough’ is what I kept mumbling to myself as I took in the soul-stirring views during my 2 night Mara flight safari with Vacay Holiday Deals.
You will share the same sentiments unless you plan to stay in this charming wilderness a little bit longer – there is so much to see and very little time.
Vacay Holiday Deals is known for its customer-centric approach, which was clearly demonstrated by the Reservations Manager, Leonorah who stopped at nothing to ensure that I had everything I needed before the trip. She booked my return flight and prepared my itinerary and my trip began in earnest on a bright Sunday morning.
Day 1: Base Camp Explorer
The first day of my mara flight safari began at Wilson Airport, where Mombasa Air Safari staff checked me in. Not only were the check in staff and baggage handlers outstanding in their customer service, the pilots expertly steered the aircraft and made sure that my luggage and I made it on time.
Right before departure, a fellow Mara bound traveller intimated to me how she had longed to visit Kenya on the recommendation of a coworker in Europe. This Mara flight safari would kick start her retirement and a visit to the Elephant Orphanage at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust would follow. Her Kenyan visit would then be crowned with a beach vacation in Diani. As fate would have it, we both alighted at different airstrips and our paths never crossed again.
The Mombasa Air Safari flight went on without incident and 45 minutes later, we landed at Ol Kiombo Airport in Masai Mara. A guide dressed in full Maasai regalia greeted me and directed me to a Safari Landcruiser where I boarded and began my 45-minute game drive to Base Camp Explorer where I would spend my first night.
I could see Maasai villages and a town centre complete with schools, hospitals and local bars until the road gave way to a gold rated eco camp nestled among green trees and lush vegetation. Base Camp Explorer welcomed me with open arms, a refreshing glass of juice and a hearty three-course meal.
The dining area is on a raised platform along the Talek River which in this dry season, unfortunately, has become a sand-filled river bed. However, that does not deter the animals from visiting the river bank. Baboons and monkeys will often stare longingly at you as you chomp down your meals but they do not approach.
You will also find yourself constantly serenaded by birdsong while you’re outside your tent or at the dining area. Across the bridge is the Mara Game Reserve, which sets the stage for the Great Wildebeest Migration every year.
Within the camp, there is the Obama forest, which former USA president Barrack and his family planted when they visited in 2006. Even though the rest of the Mara is dry at this time of year, Base Camp Explorer remains green. The water from the bio flush toilets in every tent serves the trees surrounding it. Everything is solar powered and the toiletries are organic, locally produced from local materials like avocado, thyme, lemon and macadamia oil. Base Camp not only conserves the environment but also empowers the local community by taking them through guide schools. 95% of the staff are recruited from Maasai Mara.
I opted out of the evening game drive into the Masai Mara and decided to watch the sunset from my tent terrace then sat down to a delectable dinner. Back at my tent, I could hear the calls of serval cats as the night wore on but I slept like an infant, knowing that morans had been stationed around the tents.
Day 2: Leopard Hill, Wilderness Camp & Eagle View Safari Camp
Shortly after breakfast, two guides, Mayone and Ben briefed me on my jam-packed itinerary. I only had 24 hours to experience each of the accommodations at Base Camp. After saying my goodbyes to the staff, I hopped into a Safari Landcruiser for a scenic game drive to Naboisho Conservancy.
Naboisho has a higher concentration of wildlife than the adjacent Maasai Mara National Park and the quality of game viewing is also high due to the limited number of guests. Grass eaters and carnivores could be seen throughout the conservancy as we went from one camp to the next.
We got to Leopard Hill where we were warmly received and proceeded to view the high-end tents at the camp. No motorized vehicles access this camp except for Base Camp Safari Landcruiser when they are bringing in guests from the airstrips nearby.
The first thing that you notice when you get here is the airy and spacious lounge overlooking the plains below. The yellow and brown hues of the camp only serve to give it a warm and inviting ambience. Adjacent to the dining area is a library full of safari books, posing a dilemma to the book worms who might find it hard to choose between staring into a book and taking in the breathtaking views from the terrace.
Leopard Hill tents have a sunroof for guests who prefer to sleep in the starlight. The terrace has an outdoor shower, bathtub and a fireplace for chilly nights.
Our journey continued on to Wilderness Camp, 45km away which caters for guests who seek a more authentic wildlife experience. This camp is so far-flung that your phone and other devices will be practically useless, which sets the scene for lots of serenity, game viewing and nature. Daring honeymooners and thrill seekers are known to enjoy this camp very much due to its remote location.
Unlike the other camps, tents at Wilderness Camp are not raised on a terrace. The tent is pitched on the ground and it is not uncommon to hear the rustling of leaves as you sleep. Wildlife does not trespass into tents or buildings but if you venture out of your shelter, a guide must accompany you for your safety. After a short stint here, we started our drive to Eagle View.
The minute my feet touched the ground, I was accosted by a Maasai lady, pretty as a picture, holding a tall glass of cold juice and some wet napkins to wipe off all the dirt and grime that I had accumulated on the drive.
Mayone and Ben, my two capable guides let me know that they would pick me up at 4:30 pm for an evening game drive through Naboisho. I could hardly wait since I had missed the early morning game drive.
But first things first, I checked into my tent, a large canvas establishment with a wooden terrace overlooking the animals grazing miles away. There were colourful chairs on the deck and I was tempted to sit there for a while and enjoy the view but the room beckoned me.
The tent was tastefully furnished with a wooden bed and sisal floor mat and lamp as well as a multi-coloured Kenyan kiondoo acting as a bin. I almost felt a pang of shame dropping my empty water bottle into it.
There was a luggage area where I placed my bags and a double bathroom vanity set. Inside the closet was a heavy blanket for guests who find the tent too cold (nights are chilly at the Mara) and raincoats and umbrella just in case there was a downpour.
After settling in, I sat down at the restaurant overlooking the Koiyaki River down below where warthogs frequented for a drink. Since the entire camp is nestled on a raised terrace, guests have an uninterrupted view of the Mara. Your eyes feast on the sprawling savannah as your mouth relishes the tasty offerings at the restaurant. The Camp Manager would often take breaks from his laptop to check on the guests and make sure that their stay was nothing short of memorable.
After lunch, I decided to relax on the terrace as I had earlier wished as I waited for my evening game drive.
If you are a game drive buff, Eagle View would be the perfect stay for you because you don’t have to go very far to see wildlife. Unlike the Mara Game Reserve where you have to travel for long distances to see wild game, guides at Naboisho only have to drive at most 15 km before they spot lions, elephants, gnus, impalas, gazelles, cheetahs and birds.
I had specifically asked the guides to take me to the elephants since I hadn’t seen one in the flesh before. I was stunned by how large these creatures were and how much they ravaged the shrubs in front of them. Warthogs, hippos, foxes, elands, giraffes and countless birds were fully on display. We settled down to some snacks and drinks as we watched the sun set over the plains and began our drive back to the camp after dark.
A three-course meal followed soon after. A bonfire was lit on the terrace where guests sat in a semicircle and learned more about the Maasai culture as they enjoyed drinks from the bar.
A few hours after dinner, a Maasai guard walked me safely to my room armed with a spear that would ward off any hippos, lions or other wild animals that would attempt to charge at us. All through the night, I could hear animal calls around my tent but all they did was lull me into a deep sleep that was only interrupted by the chirping of birds at daybreak.
Day 3: Nairobi
I was unsure whether animals were lurking around my tent, so I called out to my Maasai guard with a walkie talkie and he came to escort me to the reception. My Mara flight safari was slowly drawing to a close. After breakfast and almost poignant goodbyes to the staff, I made my way to the airstrip, an hour away.
Upon arrival, Mombasa Air Safari pilots received me and other passengers and whisked us to Nairobi. In 45 minutes, my three day Mara flight safari was over, but I had memories that would last a lifetime.
I spent 2 nights in different camps, however, you can have a travel agent customize a trip for you so that you can stay at the camp of your choice. Eagle View is perfect for those who want to get as much out of a game drive as possible, Leopard Hill Camp is a fitting glamping accommodation and Wilderness Camp caters for those who want a break from busyness, phones, screens and internet. If you’re going to Masai Mara by road, Base Camp Explorer would be glad to set you up in their spacious accommodations along the Talek River. All Base Camp accommodations offer early morning and evening game drives.