Masai Mara National Reserve (day 1) – the most famous park in Kenya

Even before we arrived in Kenya, we heard amazing things about Masai Mara National Reserve. “It´s the most amazing in Africa”; “The only one in Kenya that is basically guaranteed that you will easily spot the big 5”; “That´s the only park you really need to visit in the country”.

Well, I can´t say everything we heard is true, because I lack knowledge on the matter. Also, in the end, when comparing all the parks we visited, we thought all of them were special in different ways. As a matter of fact, we managed to see the big 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino) even before we reached Masai Mara. Still, we were extremely excited to spend 3 days in the most famous reserve of Kenya, and see with our own eyes what amazed so many that had been there before.

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The beautiful plains of Masai Mara and a lonely giraffe

Indeed, you have to be very excited to get there, because…let me tell you….those roads….they will treat you the best African massage of your life, in case you like it rough. I think having the experience of traveling throughout Brazil by car for many years did help me to survive the road from Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara. But I could tell Mathias couldn´t have been a second longer in that car.

It´s funny though, that no matter what you go through in those roads in between parks, when you arrive at your destination, you just forget about every aching bone in your body or your desperate need to pee. After we crossed the Masai Mara gate, the imposing boundless plains opened before our eyes leaving us marvelled.

Masai Mara welcomed us with giraffes, zebras, Thomson gazelles and wildebeests. It was the first time we saw wildebeest in our trip – I was so excited about it. Aren´t they just fascinating? Such an uniquely shaped face. I had seen documentaries about their migration after the wet season (around May-June) from Masai Mara into the Serengueti (the extension of Masai Mara, already in Tanzania), and I was amazed by it. Since we were there in November, the ones we saw were blue wildebeest who were non-migratory.

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The blue wildebeest

We also saw many bones lying around, especially buffalo skulls, which made us really excited for seeing lions! We had to wait though, because after crossing the gates, our goal was to reach our hotel, where we would stay for the next 3 nights. Since we were jumping from one super cool hotel to the other, we couldn´t wait to see how the next one would be….and it didn´t disappoint AT ALL! In fact, little did we know, we were about to stay at the hotel that would become our favorite from this whole vacation and, no joke, the hotel of my dreams.

Now, each person has their own definition of what a dream vacation is like. My African dreams were filled with small sustainable hotels, where we would stay in rustic but comfortable tented rooms, totally integrated with nature, without harming it. When going on a safari, I never imagined staying at resorts or sleeping in luxurious 4-walled rooms. My dream was to stay as connected to nature as I could, like the 1920´s safaris used to be, when people had mobile camps and would watch the sunset sipping on drinks in the middle of the savannah. At dark, people would gather around a bonfire and share what they had seen during that day. Sadly, hunting was a big part of safaris back then. But, nowadays, camping in the middle of a national park, having animal sounds as your bedtime lullaby, basically meant cherishing nature at its best.

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The arrival at Basecamp Mara
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The restaurant area

Basecamp Mara hotel made my African dream come true. Actually, it even upgraded it with a few features. The tented camp is located inside Masai Mara Reserve. There are no fences, just a natural barrier – a trench – partially separating the hotel from the wild animals. Thus, to cross to the hotel grounds, you have to walk on a pretty shaky suspended bridge. To some, this might be frightening. Well, I thought it was super cool!!

The first thing you see is the bar, the kitchen and the restaurant area. All of the hotel´s structures are tented, giving you that “mobile camp” feeling from the safari´s golden age. The restaurant part was my favorite! It overlooked the national reserve, so you could see giraffes in the horizon or even warthogs eating close by. And the monkeys….don´t even get me started! They are all over the camp and if you don´t watch out…you will be sharing a meal, lol. We saw monkeys steal food from tables and from the kitchen counter three times. I´m not complaining though! This is, after all, their territory. These episodes earned us great laughter! By the way, the food served there is homey and absolutely delicious!

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Veggie lasagna at Basecamp Mara. They always had a vegetarian dish to offer.
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Inside the restaurant area

The accommodation was another pleasant surprise for us. The tents are so big and comfortable, beautifully decorated with a rustic flair. The big plus is that there´s an outdoor shower, where you can enjoy the water looking at the park. It´s also possible that monkeys will keep you company, playing on top of the branches around you! Wow. Just wow.

Don´t forget to check out the reception area, the only place where yo can get WiFi connection. It´s also tented and decorated with Masai art. There´s actually a Masai village right behind the hotel grounds. One of the features we loved the most about this hotel, is that 98% of the staff comes from this village. Talk about integrating the community into the thriving eco-tourism of the region!

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Tent balcony
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The bedroom

If you want to read my honest review of Basecamp Mara on Trip Advisor, click here.

After lunch and a little bit of rest, we went on our first official game drive in Masai Mara. We saw hyenas, a cheetah, 3 lions and many lionesses. Hearing the lionesses communicate was just amazing. But I gotta say, I enjoyed the national reserve´s landscape as much as I enjoyed seeing the wild animals. When the colors start changing into sunset ones, it´s the most beautiful horizon view.

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A yawning lioness

Back at the hotel, we loved to watch the sun go down from the restaurant´s deck, sipping on South African wine . Before the day light was completely out, a Masai came to light up a bonfire for us. Oh man…Watching the night fall on us, with animals in the horizon and the warmth of the fire was one of the most magical moments of my life. Little by little the stars appear, the wild sounds are turned up and added to the background of the fire cracking. You turn back and you see the tented restaurant only lit up with two fireplaces and oil lamps.

I had no doubt I was inside my wildest African dream.

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Our favorite thing to do at the hotel: drinking wine at the restaurant´s deck area, overlooking Masai Mara
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The restaurant at night
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Storytelling by the bonfire

 

Keep on dreaming with me, by clicking on the video below!

 

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