Masai Mara, Kenya; Day 2

You know when friends or family take a big trip and come back with a ton of photos of scenery and nature and show them off. They would always say, ‘the pictures just don’t do it justice’. Well, this is one of those posts. What a truly amazing day of adventures we had.

Our alarm went off at 3:30am. Our early mornings are benefiting from Kenya being 4 hours ahead of Thailand time and us still not adjusted. So it was really painful, but perhaps not as bad as it could have been. The kids got up with very little complaint even though we didn’t tell them why we had to be up so early – just that it was a surprise.

We drove 90 minutes through the game reserve in the dark and arrived at our destination just as the sky was beginning to brighten. The large green and yellow striped blob on the ground gave away the game and Suaram guessed that we were doing – Sunrise hot air balloon Safari! This was on Tiffany’s wish list and we thought the kids would love it. CreeperPuppy was pretty out of his mind with excitement while we waited to go up.

We were in a 16 person basket and took off shortly before sunrise. The wind was very light so we didn’t go far but none of us had ever done an untethered hot air balloon ride so we didn’t care. Brian and Tiffany loved the panoramic views when we flew high and the overhead perspective on the animals when we were low – it all just blew us away.

15 giraffe out for a sunrise stroll
A companion balloon for the morning ride

Suaram and CreeperPuppy loved the views but thought the burner was way too loud and scary. CreeperKitty agreed and also confirmed he is no fan of heights. But they all saw some interesting things and were very excited when the pilot spotted some lions from the air. We were too far away to see them before we landed but headed straight for them once we got in the trucks. It was 5 lionesses, no male, no cubs but they were beautiful. As we arrived and the sun started hitting them they moved into the bushes for some shade. There were also some hyenas and a jackal hanging around trying to give them some trouble but the lions paid no attention.

Then it was a champagne breakfast on the Savana – how cool is that? At this point we’d been up for 4.5 hours so anything would have been good but we had custom omelets, crepes, choice of cereal, bacon and sausage and lots of juice and coffee. The weather was beautiful and the whole experience was a treat. It was definitely a budget splurge it felt like a once in a lifetime treat.

You’d think that would be enough adventure for the day but not so. The balloon ride had taken us to the north central part of the park so our guide came and picked us up and we started exploring from there. We saw roaming herds of elephants, some ostrich, families of warthogs and baboons. We also watched two leopards and some hyenas trying to steal each others’ lunch. The leopard got it in the end and we got a great photo opportunity.

We headed southwest to the edge of Tanzania and the Serengeti. Masai Mara and the Serengeti are a single ecosystem so wildlife moves freely between the two and in the summer millions of wildebeest will migrate north into the Masai Mara from there.

Kenya Tanzania border markers

We then went to a spot on the Mara River where hundreds of hippos make their home plus a fair few crocodiles.

We shot some photos and then had a picnic lunch overlooking a family of hippos. The box lunch was the biggest we’ve ever seen. It came in pie box and each one had: a cheese sandwich, a piece of chicken, a bag of chips, a small container of juice, an apple, an orange, a hard boiled egg, a small packet of cookies and a bottle of water. Of course we couldn’t eat it all but it gave us the burst of energy we needed to push through the afternoon.

We took a mostly direct 3 hour path back to camp – stopping to see a gorgeous male lion hanging with his lady, two lionesses sleeping in the shade (including one about to have cubs any day) and a large male cheetah relaxing in the grass. Plus so many elephants, giraffe, zebra, antelope, wildebeest and warthogs we stopped taking pictures and just enjoyed watching them.

We had an amazing long day. We were all tired and ready for it to be done but also wanted it to go on forever. In all we spent 10 hours today floating over or driving the plains of the Masai Mara. The peace and wonder of the wide open spaces and animals going about their lives was breathtaking. It is truly a special place and we’re thankful to those who created it and maintain it.

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