Wow. So Scott and I just had one of the best weekend of our lives, just below the weekend we got married of course! This is going to be so hard to put into words, so instead we’re just going to bombard you with pictures. So, grab a cup a chai, sit back, and enjoy!
Last Friday morning we left Tenwek for the Masai Mara. The Masai Mara, in southwest Kenya, is Kenya’s (and possibly all of Africa) most famous game reserve and safari destination. After a two-hour and fifteen minute drive (most of which was on a rocky dirt road) we arrived at our lodge, Ngerende Island Lodge which is almost completely surrounded by the Mara River with many hippos and crocodiles living in the river. Ngerende is a luxurious safari lodge that normally we would not be able to afford, however, they graciously provide Tenwek missionaries with an incredible discount. Before our car had even come to a stop, we were greeted by these guys.
One of the Masai warriors promptly took our camera and clicked away snapping many photos and even doing a few short films as they led us to the lodge.
Upon reaching the lodge entrance they did their traditional Masai dance which involves jumping as high as one possibly can. You can watch this video to see them jump and here their chanting song.
Then they had us give it a try!
After this traditional dance, the Masai all shook our hands goodbye and when we turned towards the lodge we were greeted with cool washcloths scented with eucalyptus oil to wipe the dust from our hands and faces, and given a glass with freshly made mango-pineapple juice with a sprig of mint. Once finished with our juice, our own personal private butler, Evans, showed us to our tent. Well, maybe I should say “tent” as it is really more of a luxury suite!
After getting settled in our room, Evans (our butler) met us at the lodge to lead us to our lunch destination. He arranged for us to have our first lunch at Ngerende under a beautiful thatched roof hut overlooking the Mara River with dozens of hippos lazily basking in the sun or soaking in the river. We had a wonderful lunch with a Mediterranean feta salad, a grilled duck stir fry, and strawberry mouse for dessert!
Here is a video of the hippos, please note that Scott and I crack up and laugh every time we watch this video because we think we sound so flaky! It is at a great cost to my personal pride to post this here, but I am doing so at Scott’s request so you can see the hippos.
After our tasty and refreshing private lunch, we were ready to get back in a car and bounce along rocky terrain, only this time we would be on a game drive discovering animals in the wild! We met Matthew, our guide and game driver, and he took us on our first ever safari! We saw thousands of animals and took so many pictures, but we will just share a few to give a general idea of the drive.
We then went to a rhino reserve where we got out of the car and walked with a park ranger to see the rhinos. . .who were not in a fence!
At the end of our game drive we were taken back to the lodge and our “tent” where Evans had filled our bath with steaming hot water, bubbles, and amazing smelling Eucalyptus oils. He also started a crackling fire in our fireplace so our suite was warm and cozy when we got back. The bath felt like I was at a spa. The heat of the bath did wonders to loosen up tense muscles from a day of driving on dirt “roads,” the smell of the bath oils were calming, and the occasional grunts, snorts, and bellows from the hippos in the river below were an amusing reminder that I was on safari in Africa. By the time I reluctantly left that soaking tub of bliss, I only had time to sit in front of the fire in a leather, wing-backed chair for a full five seconds before Scott, hungry and ever puntual, pulled me up and out the door to enjoy an amazing five course dinner in the lodge served to us by Evans.
The next morning, Saturday morning, we woke up early, had our three course breakfast at 6:30AM and left for the Maasai Mara on an all-day game drive where we hoped to see a wildebeest crossing. Again, here is a tiny sampling of a few of the things we saw:
In this video you can see the lion cubs squirming and working hard to get their fill of milk.
We came across a group of wildebeests standing on our path and soon we had the whole heard on the move running away from our car. It felt like we were herding cattle. Below is a video.
The Great Wildebeest/Zebra Migration
The great migration is deemed one of the seven natural wonders of the world! Each year, 2-3 million wildebeests (and hundreds of thousands of zebra) migrate from the Sarengeti in Tanzania, into the Masai Mara in search of vegetation and water. As they arrive in the Mara, they have to cross the treacherous Mara River. In the river lurks many massive Nile Crocodiles, ready to devour these animals. The migration occurs annually, typically in August-September. During these months, the Mara savannah is literally carpeted with zebra and wildebeests. When groups of animals reach the river, they often will stand at the banks for days before proceeding to cross. Therefore, it makes witnessing this spectacle very hit or miss, as nobody knows which days they will cross. Well, we arrived at the river and there were thousands of wildebeests and zebra. We parked our vehicle, and waited hopefully (yet trying not to get our hopes up too much) that we could be one of the lucky ones to witness this. Sure enough, after about 45 minutes of waiting, one brave zebra decided to go for it and took the plunge, thereby opening the floodgates. We watched in awe as thousands of zebra and wildebeests braved the water to cross to the other side. In the process, we watched as two wildebeests were taken by crocodiles, and another broke his right hind leg and was unable to make it past the shore of the river. After watching the crossing for about 45 minutes, a woman in our safari van actually had to hold back a few tears as this was a one of her dreams to see the crossing, and here she was experiencing it. It really was an amazing thrill. Here are a few pics and a short video clip:
Here’s a video of the crossing to give you a better idea.
After viewing the various animals and the river crossing all morning, we had worked up quite an appetite. We were told that we would be having lunch in the Mara, which we figured would include a picnic/sack lunch type of deal. To our surprise we were brought to a beautiful spot under the shade tree with views of the river, as well as views of the many animals roaming the plains. Even Evans was there to greet us and serve us an octopus/seaweed delicious salad, a chicken and Sobe noodle main dish, and finished with an amazing grilled pineapple dessert.
After lunch, we resumed our safari and continued to be wowed by all that we saw. Here are a few more pics:
So, perhaps I should put a warning before this video that it may not be suitable for all audiences. This is a video of the cheetah ripping flesh out of the young eland.
After an amazing day on safari, we eventually made it back to the lodge, and again, Evans had a hot bath prepared. We got cleaned up and made our way to dinner where we had stuffed peppers with a delicious filling involving mushrooms (Scott’s favorite), smooth potato leak soup with our names written in the soup, frozen grapes in a wine granita, roasted turkey, and finished with a lemon panna cotta. Yum!!
We woke up early the next morning, Evans gave us hot cups of chai, and we headed out for our final game drive. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise, and of course, countless animals. Here are just a few more pics:
We again loved seeing all of the beautiful surroundings and animals. We were brought back to the lodge, where Evans surprised us by having a private table set for us at another beautiful setting right on top of the Mara river. We were treated to multiple fresh, tropical fruit smoothies (all grown on site), eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, pancakes, toast, tea, fresh fruit, and a yogurt parfait. After we could eat no more, we finally had to pack up, and head home. We were so sad to leave and joked many times that day that we needed to devise a way to stay forever. It was an amazing weekend getaway, and something that neither of us will ever forget! Thanks for viewing some of our pictures.