“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller,” an Arab traveller, Ibn Batuta, once said. That is what happened when I visited Kenya recently.
I could say the highlight of the tour was my visit to the Masai Mara National Park, one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves renowned for its annual wildebeest migration, left me spellbound and speechless. The park hosts over two million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle, and has the highest lion density in the world. The Masai Mara park is about 5,400 to 5,500 feet above sea level and hosts over 95 species of mammals and about 570 bird species have so far been recorded.
The visit to Masai Mara was part of the the familiarisation tour organised by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB).
Throughout the five-day tour of key tourist attractions in Kenya, which brought together several travel writers, I had an memorable experience, but my stay at the Olare Mara Kempinski in the Masai Mara park takes the prize.
We arrived in Masai Mara after a forty-five minutes flight from the Wilson Airstrip in Nairobi. We landed at the Olkiombo Airstrip located in the middle of the park, and found our game driver waiting to take us to Olare Mara Kempinski, a 45-minute drive from the airstrip.
That is where the adrenaline pumping experience started; there were wild animals all over place, and with no clear and direct road. To matters worse, the drive forgot his bearings and we got lost on the way to our camp.
Looking back, I think that sensation of being lost with wild animals ready to make their feast on us was probably part of the epic adventure the KTB team had planned for us.
After that a tensed and sensational drive, we finally arrived at the Olare Mara Kempinski located in the conservancy; and were welcomed with song and dance performed by a four-man cultural troupe. We got so enticed that we tried some of the Masai high-jump dancing strokes.
The 12 deluxe tents, including a honeymoon suite with its own plunge pool, dot different corners of the camp.
Tastefully decorated, they consist of sweeping canvas tents, comfortable beds made from local wood, wide sofas and a luxurious base from which to gaze out over the majestic Olempalakae hill.
Well from the private deck of my tent (number 7), I could see buffaloes grazing on the other side of Mara River.
With the bully beast making constant war-like sounds, I was sometimes scared stiff to sit outside on the immaculate sofas even in daytime.
Logistics and planning must have be one of the strong points while hiring Fairman Muhingi, the camp manager.
Muhingi with his team were able to give us a five-star service in the camp that depends on thermal and solar energy for all it power need. We were happy to learn that as an eco–friendly resort, the camp had an organic garden and all our deliciously meals were prepared using homegrown vegetables.
I was happy to learn that the Olare Mara Kempinski facility encourages Kenyans and tourists from the region to visit, besides attracting international clients. In order to promote regional tourism, it is indeed necessary that high-end tourism facilities East Africa also offer affordable prices for locals.
As far as the game drive is concerned, the quality of trackers, rangers and guides is paramount for they need to be skilful and security-oriented. This came to the fore when a big family of elephants nearly encircled our jeep and most of us started saying our last prayers, but Raphael Mutula our guide was calm and composed throughout the whole experience. His composure restored strength in us and we realised that the elephants would not harm us if we stayed as calm, and just enjoyed their display.
Seeing the Big five (lions, elephants, buffaloes, rhinoceros and leopards), as well as many other wild animals of various sizes and stature was one of my memorable experiences. One morning during the tour, Mutula drove us to where a lion was devouring its prey while other hungry predators (hyenas and jackals) patiently waited for their turn.
Another highlight of our stay at the camp was the ability of the staff to call each single guest by his/her name and to improvise when necessary. At the eve of my birthday, I surprised with one of the most emotional birthday parties I could ever dream of, after a hot cup of tea taken by the bush fire while watching a family of hippos.
Whether during the exclusive bush breakfast, Sundowners, the visit to the Masai village or swimming following the afternoon game drives, my memories are filled with larger-than-life moments I will, for the rest of my life, cherish.
The author is a customer service consultant and the publisher of www. theservicemag.com