The Magical Mara
By Pete Burrell, Exodus Managing Director
My wife and I realised how important it is to both the people and wildlife for Kenya to once again be the top of everyone's list of safari destinations.
I cannot quite believe that 2008 is my twentieth year with Exodus. How did that happen? Many moons ago, during my GAP year, I explored the high mountain valleys and remote cultures of the Himalaya and loved it. Returning to the UK I tried my hardest to start a proper career (honest) but rapidly realised I had picked up an incurable strain of the "travel bug". As I could not get rid of it there was simply no option but to join a company that shared my passion.
Has that passion waned over the years? Well for all my travels, this spring I have once again been left astounded by the experiences that real travel can throw at you. Now "with family", half-term gave me the excuse to pack the bags with Nintendo's, colouring books, cricket bat, soft ball, sun hats and swimming costumes and rush to Heathrow for the overnight flight to Nairobi, Kenya. We were off on our very own 'Big Cat Safari' in the game parks of the beautiful Rift Valley. We all travelled in hope of good game and African sunsets, but were simply overwhelmed by the quality of wildlife sightings and the experience of being in the African bush. The appetizer was Nakuru N.P. one of the best places in the world to see both White and Black Rhino and equally famous for the thousands of pelicans and flamingoes that adorn the lake. However just when we thought you cannot possibly beat that we arrived in what many consider to be the best place on the planet to see big game, the Masai Mara. Lions, giraffe, elephant and zebra? Easy, and that was just the start. The sheer daily drama of the wild was played out in front of us with leopards, cheetah and lion all on kills, wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River, vultures and hyenas fighting for the scraps, and those sunsets….. all in the company of our knowledgeable and enlightening guide, Charles.
However, Kenya is not all about animals. The people have suffered recently with the post election violence and the resultant downturn in the economy. We took the chance to visit the school in Aitong that exodus supports and with everyone making a fuss over the kids, were invited into the local church to join in a very lively and colourful service. Whilst there, my wife and I realised how important it is to both the people and wildlife for Kenya to once again be the top of everyones list of safari destinations.
Enough of me-what did the family think you may ask? Well sitting at Nairobi airport in a slightly end of holiday solemn mood I got my children to list their own high five experiences, and those that they didn't enjoy. Here they are:
- The big cats: leopard, lion and cheetah!
- The swimming pool at one of the lodges.
- Sleeping in a tent without mum or dad.
- Hot chocolate and passion fruit for breakfast.
- Happy Family game spotting with their own binoculars. e.g. When a Warthog family were spotted, which one is the dad (the one with the tusks and big tum!) What are the kids called? (same as ours!) This then developed into seeing which one ran fastest. Hours of fun!
- The smell of Pelican pooh.
- Crocodiles attacking Zebra in the Mara River.
- Long drop toilets in Nakuru National Park.
- Finding out most Kenyans are Manchester United supporters.
- Going home too early!