I had read so much advice on safaris before coming to the Masai Mara – when to go, what to wear, what to take, what to do, etc. However, some of the African safari tips were conflicting. Nearly everything I read said to wear camouflage safari clothes to blend in, yet a few people we met in Kenya said that wasn’t necessary. Most sources said binoculars were a must, yet a couple we’d met in Cape Town who’d just been on safari for three weeks said they hadn’t needed them.
I thought I’d get some tips from an expert, our guide Edward, who has been guiding for over 10 years, and working at the Sarova Mara for twice as long.
Q. Best time of year to go to the Masai Mara?
A. You can come all year and see animals. The time when you will see the most number of animals is the Great Migration, in June and July when the animals are moving; in August, September and October when they’re settled; and then in November when they’re returning to Tanzania. Cats are shy during the day when they’re sleeping, so the Migration is a good time to see lions when they come out to eat during the day.
Q. What should people take with them on safari?
A. Binoculars are important. A warm jumper as it can get cold in the morning and after the sun goes down. You can wear whatever clothes you want, but it’s a good idea to bring clothes that blend in – khaki, green, brown colours – as the animals can spot you in bright coloured clothes and they pay attention more.
Q. What photography gear should people bring?
A. Bring a wide range of lenses, short and long lenses, because sometimes we can get very close and sometimes we can’t.
Q. Should people do one long safari tour or base themselves somewhere, such as the Sarova Mara, and do game drives?
A. We’ve heard the longer tours called ‘The Roads of Kenya’ because people see more ashphalt than animals.
The longer tours suit young people and backpackers more, but for older people it’s best to stay in hotels and do a series of guided game drives. A good compromise is to do half day or full day drives, and combine a visit to a Masai Village and a walking safari. It depends on your interests and needs.
Q. Can a safari be dangerous?
A. Not if you follow the guide’s advice and the park’s rules. Don’t scream or shout. Remain quiet. Listen to your guide as they know the park’s guidelines and rules. Always stay in the car. If you have to change a flat tyre, stay close to the car. Guides have radios and can communicate with each other to get help.
Q. Why come to the Masai Mara?
A. It’s the only place in Africa where you can really see the Great Migration well. And that’s special. It’s the best place to see all of the Big Five, and we have black rhinos here.
Q. What kind of attitude should people come with?
A. They need to remember that the animals are wild, they are free, they are not in a zoo, so sometimes it’s difficult to spot them. Every drive is different. They should keep an open mind and their fingers crossed to avoid disappointment. If you’re set on seeing a leopard you might be disappointed if you don’t. The most important thing is to trust your guide as he knows where to find the animals and the best approach to take, and he’s there to do what’s in your interest. It’s best to be patient and to be flexible.
Q. My uncle asked me to find out if zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes? (Edward stops the car to show us some zebras.)
A. Look at the zebra’s belly. It’s white, and the black lines don’t appear to meet, so it looks like they’re white and they’ve put a jacket on. This is what most of the books will tell you. But if you look at their mouth, it’s black, and there is black on their belly also, so I think they’re black with white stripes.