Kenya 2013 – Nairobi & the Masai Mara

This was my second trip to Kenya, and it won’t be the last, Lord willing!  I adore this country.  After finishing a Habitat for Humanity Global Village build in Malawi, a few of us decided to go “on safari” in the Masai Mara.  After arriving uneventfully at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, our adventure began in the midst of hellish Nairobi traffic, which when you consider the significant opportunity for people watching, isn’t that bad.  Hopefully you are a patient person or at least enjoy the company you keep.  We arrived too late to connect to our flight to the Mara, so we spent the night at Macushla House.  After our journey on four wheels, this delightfully charming Inn felt like the most warm and welcome place in the whole of East Africa.

The gated house, originally designed as a duel residence, but turned boutique hotel, has an almost Mediterranean feel upon entering.  Tucked away gardens and rooms, each decorated with cool artwork, feel totally cozy and elegant at the same time.  The fires burning in the large wood burning fireplaces add to the movie-set feel while taking the chill out of the cool night air.  Ahhhh.  And then there is the food.  Fantastic.  And the staff.  Friendly, attentive and great conversationalists.  There’s also a swimming pool, in a beautifully landscaped yard, but we didn’t have time to enjoy it before our early morning departure from Kenya’s small, clean and well-organized Wilson Airport.  We flew Safarilink to the Mara saving many hours on a bumpy road.

Once we arrived at the Olkiombo Airstrip our Maasai guide, Moses, found us and escorted us to Basecamp Explorer, where we would spend the first two nights.  Not only is Basecamp Explorer a comfortable place to stay with super friendly staff and delicious food it also makes good sense.  Basecamp has 3 properties in the Mara and they are all founded upon the principles of sustainability which are ultimately the best for the environment and the community without asking the guest to sacrifice quality.  Moses and all his fellow guides  are Maasai and the Mara is their backyard.  They are highly experienced and qualified, but we think we got the best of the bunch, so go ahead and ask for Moses and tell him Staci Summers sent you.

We spent the next two nights at another of the three properties run by Basecamp, this one, a bush camp called Dorobo.  A small movable tented camp, without electricity and running water, Dorobo is a place where at first light you’ll head out on foot or in a Land Rover and might experience the thrill of seeing a baby gazelle newly birthed on the savannah as we did.  After breakfast you might be lucky enough to learn the art of archery from the man for whom the camp is named.  Lunch is served outside under a shady umbrella.  Have a solar hot water shower or nap if you like.  Head out again and enjoy your sundowner while you’re out watching for lions, hippo, buffalo and all their friends, while basking in the light of the setting sun.  Back “home” after a ridiculously delicious dinner, you might share stories and songs with your new friends around the campfire.  They have everything you need and nothing you don’t want.  Dorobo is a place that promises you’ll feel more a friend than a guest – and it delivers 100%.  Us ladies introduced our Maasai guides and watchmen to Tina Turner.  I think until you’ve sung “Proud Mary” with help from the deep guttural Maasai male voices hitting the chorus, you just haven’t lived.  A memory that I will take to my grave.

Consider the green Basecamp Explorer lodges for your next trip to the Mara.  I believe that you, the animals and the local people will be very happy you did!

TRAVELER TIPS:  When staying at Basecamp, DO keep you tent zippers locked as instructed, as monkeys or baboons will help themselves to your belongings if you don’t!  Also, ask to visit the local Maasai village or boma.  We paid $20 each but got quite a show and tour of the boma while learning lots about the traditional Masai way of life.  When staying at Dorobo, ask the man himself for an archery lesson (which is even more fun with Tusker).  And remember to visit the bathroom before you head into your tent to sleep.  It’s not always a good idea to go out in the middle of the night to go as the animals roam freely through the camp.  Not to worry however, if you need something, just flash your torch and one of the night watchmen will escort you!

If you need help with any of these bookings, I recommend you contact Melinda Rees at Best of Kenya.  She can help you pull it all together!

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