Contiki East Africa Safari – Day 5: Maasai Mara
We woke up early the following morning for a sunrise game drive of Masai Mara before we had to leave for Lake Elementaita. Some people didn’t sleep that well, including myself, as baboons had infiltrated the gated fence and were having lots of fun on the roofs of people’s tents throughout the night. The camp staff kept chasing them away, but they kept coming back. You need to take it in stride, though, because I was expecting this to be a different trip than I am used to! Also, when else can you say you were woken up by baboons?
The following morning, my camera focus still wasn’t working although I thought I fixed it, so I was only able to take pictures of animals when I zoomed all the way out (so bear with the below if they are not super crisp). The first animals we came across were hyenas, which are just as ugly as you would think, but they were hanging out with vultures – a natural pairing.
We then drove past a lioness who was enjoying her first kill of the morning, a zebra, with one of her cubs. There was a male lion nearby, sleeping.
After another half hour, we drove past another male and female lion who either had just completed their marathon mating ritual or the male had just been rejected by the female. He walked away and kept walking through safari vehicles as they followed him. In some ways, you could say that it truly was the “walk of shame”.
Then, Haron and Dennis, our Contiki drivers, heard what we were waiting for – a leopard had been spotted. We booked it to the place they were spotted and eventually found a hoard of cars around one spot. We could not get close enough to see the leopard because two cars were blocking the view, despite the fact that there were over 15 cars waiting to see it. Just as we were about to give up hope, Haron exchanged some words with one of the drivers blocking the way and, five minutes later, the car reluctantly backed up allowing his vehicle to get in and see the leopard. Shortly thereafter, he backed up and our driver, Dennis, moved into the spot allowing us to see it. It was in a bush, very hidden, but we did see it (you may be able to spot it below). That meant that we did it – we had seen the Big Five in our first three days in the park. A huge accomplishment!
With that success, we hit the road out of Maasai Mara and towards Lake Elementiata!
On the way from Masai Mara to Lake Elementaita, we stopped at the same souvenir shop that we stopped at on the way in. I knew I wanted a carved lion, so I decided to make the purchase, and have it mailed home as they offered that service. I wasn’t thrilled with the price I paid, but negotiated the best I could and was able to knock off about 20%. Shipping was relatively expensive at ~$75, but the lion was quite heavy. I did get them to throw in a smaller elephant at a cheaper price than they originally told me. All in all, the package was probably about 15 kilos. I decided to bite the bullet because Contiki stops at that location every time, so if there was an issue with it arriving damaged, I could send a picture and they would send it to me again free of charge. Supposedly, this had been done before. (Edit: It did break en route to the USA, so they did send me a new one and it was money well spent).
After about a 4 hour drive, we arrived in Lake Elementaita. I think it is more of a summer hotspot, but I was really not a fan of it. The rooms were very nice and comfortable, but it rained part of the afternoon we were there and was quite foggy. There were a lot of bugs as well, but no mosquito nets around the beds which was a change from our accommodations in Masai Mara!
We arrived and had a late lunch, we were actually the only group there, so it was nice to have the whole pace to ourselves. I guess tourism at the lake is down, both due to COVID and the fact that it is their winter, but at least we were able to guarantee some sort of income to the staff. After lunch, we went back to our rooms to relax and I was able to send my laundry away to be cleaned. I had intentionally packed lighter knowing that I would need to do laundry at least two times. You paid by the item, but it was really inexpensive – $2 for most shirts and pants and $1 for underwear and socks. My whole laundry bill was ~$18. It beat carrying around 2.5 weeks of clothes!
After sending my laundry away, I went back to meet up with some of the group at the bar where we had a relaxing conversation for a few hours before heading to a bonfire the staff prepared for us. I was concerned I would contaminate my newly cleaned clothes with the smell of the bonfire, but they didn’t smell at all!
After about an hour or so of chatting around the fire, dinner was served. The buffet was great, as all buffets have been so far on the trip, complete with soup, rice, potatoes, two kinds of meat, and dessert. The nice thing about this Contiki is 99% of the meals were included – all you needed to do was pay for your own drinks (i.e. water, soda, beer, alcohol).
After dinner, most of the group went back to their rooms to sleep, but I decided to stay up a bit longer. One of my traveling companions found out it was my birthday and bought me and our guide, Haron, a Jameson which we used to celebrate!
We then went back to the bonfire with a few people since I wasn’t ready to call it a night. After about an hour, we all bid each other good night and headed back to our rooms for the night.