Tuesday, July 14, 2009
If I could sum up my safari in one word, I'd have to say INCREDIBLE!!! I can honestly say that it was the best trip I have ever taken in my life. I would highly recommend that everyone go at some point in your life if you get the chance.
Our trip began around 9am on Friday when a group of 17 of us left Eldoret and headed towards Masai Mara National Reserve, which is where our safari would take place. The drive was about 7-8 hours on sometimes paved/sometimes not so paved roads. I thought the drive itself was very interesting. The scenery was beautiful, and on top of that, we passed through a lot of small towns that gave me a much better feel for what the Kenyan culture was like. There were lots of people on the side of the road, some of whom were herding their goats or cows, others who were selling thier crops or simply just walking or lying down in the hot sun. We also drove by a few tea fields that were filled with workers harvesting the tea leaves. That was definitely a sight to see. I've never seen anything like it in back in the states.
We arrived at Masai Mara around 5pm, at which time we entered the park and went for a quick game drive (aka safari). The park is that is filled with tons of wildlife and spans a pretty large area, so our plan was to take a short game drive on Friday and Sunday and then drive all day Saturday in order to see as much as possible. Our lodge was a quaint little place called Fig Tree Camp, which was located inside the park. The rooms are actually "luxury tents", consisting of a large tent with three twin beds in it. The tent has a bathroom attached to the back with a full shower. When I say luxury tent, I mean luxury tent. It actually looks pretty comparable to a hotel room. The only difference is, it really is a tent. So, you have to un-zip the tent to get in and out, and you can hear the nature around you all night long b/c there are no walls to block it out. It was extremely nice, and I found it peaceful sleeping to the sounds of the outdoors all night. I actually think I want to live in one of these tents when I come home!
Our game drives were amazing. In just one weekend, we managed to see impalas, gazelles, zebras, hippos, vultures, lions, cheetahs, ostriches, hienas, elephants, wildebeasts, buffalos, giraffe and baboons. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things too. On our last day, we actually saw a family of cheetahs hunt down a gazelle for breakfast. I'm not sure how I felt about seeing it, but it was definitely a good picture of nature at its best. All together, the safari was unreal. I can't even put into words how amazing it was to witness firsthand the natural beauty that exists in Masai Mara. Everything there is picturesque, and it will take your breath away over and over again. One of my favorite feelings in life is being amongst something so grand that it makes me feel exceptionally small. I got that feeling when standing at the top of Devil's Throat in Iguazu Falls when I was in Argentina; I get it when I go to mass in the Basilica at Notre Dame; and I definitely got it during the safari this past weekend. It truly was an experience I will never forget.
In addition to the safari, we managed to make our way into a Maasai village on Saturday evening. The Maasai people are a large African tribe that live in the region surrounding Masai Mara. Getting a tour of one of their villages was very interesting. They live in man-made huts, make their own clothes, and hunt their own food. As is true of many of the African tribes here, they also have their own language, tribal dances, and cultural traditions. We were able to see some of the dances and hear the meaning behind them, which was definitely a highlight of our visit. I have posted a few pictures from the Maasai village for you to see. They will give you a better idea of what the Maasai are really like. Naturally, I gravitated towards the children, so there a few pictures of some of the kids I saw there. At the end of our tour of the Maasai village, we got a chance to purchase some typical jewelry and souveniers that the Maasai people hand-make. And yes, Uncle Joey, I bought some of the necklaces that you wanted!!
Well, that's pretty much all about the safari. I could say a lot more, but to be honest, words just do not do it justice. As I stated in my very first blog entry, coming to Africa has been a life-long dream of mine, but before I left to come here, I found myself wondering why. I never really had any good reasons why I wanted to come here, I just did. I wasn't exactly sure what was drawing to this continent. Well, this weekend I got my answer. Africa is absolutely beautiful. Everything about it--the landscape, the wildlife, the culture, the poverty--is so pure. It speaks to you when you see it. It's very hard to explain, but I wish all of you were here to experience it with me.
It's about time for dinner, so I'm going to get going. I hope you enjoyed my brief recap of the safari. The pictures should help give you a better idea of what it was like. Have a great rest of the day and please take care. God bless you all.