Heading to the Mara is always exciting, no matter what time of year you never know what you’re going to see – but you do know it’s going to be extraordinary. Having been spoilt enough to visit this amazing natural wonder many times I now try and avoid the busy season and travel between November and June, so it was with trepidation that I headed there from the coast a few days ago in the height of peak season. Of course I was heading straight into the heaving, galloping, dusty Wildebeest Migration and that in itself was a huge draw.
It did not disappoint, the Mara is always action packed due to the incredibly high density of predators compared to other areas of similar sizes in Africa, but when the Wildebeest Migration is there this action increases ten fold. Everywhere you look there’s something happening which looks like it’s been assembled by a Disney animator.
We stayed at Mara Expeditions Camp and were welcomed open armed by Stella, the charismatic manager who was warm and inviting, and made you feel immediately at home. The camp itself is very luxurious but informal and relaxed, there are no pretences here and the staff are attentive and efficient but happy and characterful at the same time. The location within a secluded part of the reserve means there are very few other vehicles, and all of those are from other luxury camps and lodges so behave properly around the wildlife. Within two hours we’d followed Fig the famous leopard as she hunted, and seen a cheetah with very small cubs. That was day one.
Our guides Edwin and John were hysterical – quick to laugh and joke, but with exceptional knowledge of their surroundings. They avoided large numbers of vehicles and found our own sightings including a hyena den with young cubs, and two topi fighting in the sunlit dust – a magical sight that will stay with me for a long time.
On our second morning we headed deeper into the reserve and down to the Mara River – John and Edwin could tell immediately which herds looked as if they would cross, and which didn’t. Mara Expeditions give each car a luxury professional grade camera which proved an absolute highlight, and Mara Plains give one with every room. Set up perfectly we did indeed see a small crossing of zebra and wildebeest before a large crocodile stopped the rest of the herd from continuing. We stayed as long as we could but eventually we were forced to head towards camp to catch a flight out to Nairobi, we were all relaxed, happy and content at this point and stopped lazily to watch a vast herd of wildebeest coming down off the hill towards the river. Without enough time to blink and in a cloud of dust and confusion a vast male lion stormed from the bushes and took a young wildebeest, which he then dragged back into the bushes to enjoy breakfast under the shady leaves of an acacia. All that took place in a matter of minutes…. But that’s the Mara for you.
Mara Expeditions has heart, soul and authenticity in buckets, the tents are wonderfully romantic in style and exceptionally comfortable – you only have to book three of the five tents to have the entire camp on exclusive use. Mara Plains next door is on a grander scale with large luxurious suites, and bathtubs that could be confused with swimming pools. Both are in two of the best locations the Mara has to offer and we will not be hesitating to recommend them to all of our clients.