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.
Ever since my mother returned from her safari in Tanzania I have had some serious wanderlust for the same experience. She loved it and the photos she brought back were simply incredible!
You gave me something to day dream about today…
I remember Maggie, on our safari. We came upon a zebra that a pride of lions had killed, and were eating. She asked:
‘Don’t they feed them?’
I must say Jacob, the guide, was very diplomatic in his reply. But, he did turn his eyes towards Heaven!
Jen Laceda says
Oh man. Ever since I saw movie and read the book, Out of Africa, I’ve been dreaming of such a trip!
Terence Carter says
We prefer to call it zebra carpaccio ;)
Great Information! I’m ready to go!
Lara Dunston says
Contact Agnes (details above) if you want someone to coordinate it all for you. She’s based in Nairobi so has local knowledge/contacts.
Lara Dunston says
I’m so glad. This experience really made us wonder why we left it to so long to do a safari. I can understand how easily people get hooked. We met one Canadian couple who spent 3 weeks on safari!
Lara Dunston says
Me too, but somehow we just never had the opportunity to get there til now. Our travels are directed by our work, and it’s kind of a catch-22 in that it’s difficult to get a commission unless you have the experience. Now we do, we’re itching to go back! Next year perhaps. Terence is pretty keen on returning to volunteer at the Colobus Trust at Diani Beach.
Safari is incredible and I never expected to experience it in my lifetime. But then hubby got a job in Tanzania and there we were, watching lions recover from a kill and my daughter was only 4 months old! Priceless.
Lara Dunston says
It is a priceless experience, isn’t it? Makes it hard to ever visit a zoo afterwards. I’m dying to do it again.