Some people blog to be helpful to other travelers. They dutifully provide bus schedules, restaurant recommendations, referrals for guides and hotels for the rest of us. Alas, we have not been that kind of travel bloggers. We have been more concerned with trying to show the folks back home that we haven't gone soft in the head. But now, for the purposes of helping other travelers, I would like to share some of our experiences with the Masa Mara Safari in hopes that other travelers will could benefit from our experience.
We did a two night safari to the Masa Mara reserve in the middle of July. We went with Big Time Safari. And they were good. I'll tell you more about them, but first a few things to think about while planning your safari:
The Vehicle is probably fine.
Most Safari outfits use a pop-top matatu. It is a van with fewer, more comfortable seats and a roof that pops up to allow you to stand and look all around you while enjoying the shade and safety of the vehicle (think lions). For the purposes of a dry season (July) safari, this vehicle was fine. Maybe even ideal.
Number of Participants is important.
Ask how many people are going and how many they will take in a single vehicle. 2-4 would be ideal. Vans with more than 5 looked rather miserable. Not everyone fits in the pop top and the seating opportunities become more limited.
Quality of Co-Participants will impact your experience.
You will spend 3 days with these people. Make sure you do better than us in this department. We found ourselves confined with the most rude, vulgar and immature Spanish guys to ever grace this continent. I wish I could say it didn't affect our experience, but it did.
You will bother the animals.
About this we felt bad. And maybe you will too. Zebras sprinted from the road when we approached. Ostriches stopped their courtship dance when the van motored up to them. Even the sleeping lions woke up when we leered over them with many cameras. It didn't seem like a big deal until I understood just how many safari vehicles were in the park. Our car was one of 20 surrounding two leopards in a patch of bushes. The driving safari, in our experience, did disturb animals. This is something you should weigh out before you sign on.
Your Trip will be short, yet it will be long enough.
A "three day" safari really comes down to about 12 to 18 hours in the park. But consider that you will spend all your safari time driving around looking at animals. By the third morning, we had seen all we needed to see. In fact, a one day game drive would have sufficed. Keep in mind, that while you may spend 18 hours in the park, you will probably spend three full days in the car.
There are lots of safari companies.
We originally signed on to Safe Ride Safari. John picked us up in Narok at our hotel. When I asked how we would be returning to Nairobi (the other couple was continuing on) he asked if I had malaria and then told me not to worry about it and get back in the car. He was so rude, that within 10 minutes of being picked up, we agreed to take our backpacks out of the car and catch a bus back to Nairobi. We then realized that the guide/driver would greatly impact our experience. After that we insisted on talking to guides before signing on to a safari. All agencies were happy to call their drivers on their cell phones and let us talk to them. This gave us a gauge on niceness.
So in the end we visited Masa Mara with Big Time Safaris. George was our guide and driver. He was courteous and informative and gave the trip some good structure. He went out of his way to make sure we saw animals and got to observe different parts of the park. At times we were behind schedule which was a bit frustrating, but in the end it was fine. The camp was okay- a few more thoughtful details would have gone along way. The food was okay. We also spend sometime with another guide and driver named Abdi who would have been very good as well.
Mark and Juliah