GREAT APES & GREAT MIGRATION
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Best of East Africa safari to witness the Great Migration & hang with some great apes
10 days in two of Kenya's premier wilderness areas of Maasai Mara & Amboseli, before trekking with mountain gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park
Cheetah teaching cubs to hunt, balloon safari over plains, crocodiles ambushing crossing gnus, hanging with the massive Sabyinyo Silverback & his family.
Read our trip review below for a taste of what to expect...
EAST AFRICA WILD
ROB JANISCH | OCTOBER 2017
When one thinks of safari, especially the classic Redford-Streep version, one can only picture Kenya. Being the first in the business helped, but there is more to it than that. Kenya just has that thing... that essence that makes the travel experience there different from so many other places. It's partly the people, partly the landscapes, and partly just something that seems to blow in the wind there. But whatever it is, whether joining a Maasai family for a walk under the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, as we did today on the look out for the giant tuskers that call this area home, or heading out into the plains of the Mara, contiguous with the sweeping Serengeti to the south in search of the Great Migration - the experience here is just real... it gets under the skin and works on the level of resonance.
Witnessing the Great Migration - a fluid vast flow of gnus, zebras & gazelle (and attendant predators) that number in the millions together, in search of grazing - is one of those bucket-list wilderness travel experiences that becomes a little addictive. In the nice way. Like gin & tonic on safari. That kind of addictive. It's important to catch the various seasons of the migration, from the calving in the south early in the year, to the harrowing river crossings in the north later in the year. This is where we found ourselves last week, sitting on the edge of the Mara River watching, drop-jaw-like, as thousands of gnus leapt into the murky, crocodile-filled waters from the safety of the sand bank. The joy & ecstacy felt by all in the group as a battalion of gnu makes it across unscathed, is tempered with the helplessness felt as we watch the slow slink of the crocodile's back heading directly for the calf flailing in the deeper water. This is nature in the raw, untamed & wild (and yes, there's that slightly addictive quality again..!) Lying in bed that evening under the luxury canvas pavilion that was our camp, the bleating chorus of the gnus outside, and the gentle hum of the snoring humans inside, I felt strangely like this was how it must have once been for us all... astounded, and yet frightened by Mama Nature's many wild wonders. They say there are two types of adrenalin responses in humans: positive ones & negative ones. A day out on the plains in the Mara falls strongly in the former category.
Adrenalin as a trip mantra continues, as we head across the border (marked by the giant Lake Victoria) by fixed wing charter to Africa's heart, Rwanda - a country of such contrasts & paradox, that it often feels like you are travelling in a dream state there. The main feature is trekking to experience the hugely endangered mountain gorillas within the rainforests & bamboo thickets of Volcanoes National Park in the north. But Rwanda offers so much more that simply gorilla love. Kigali, the capital city & gateway to the country, is a fantastically cosmopolitan (& clean!) city with so much to see & do. The history of the country must be acknowledged, and for this the Genocide Memorial is a brilliantly curated mirror into the past, and a portal for a future of unity & peace. The markets & street stalls of downtown Kigali are worth some time, as are the many bars & cafes that dot the city. If Rwanda is the heart of Africa, Kigali holds its beat. And the quicker you slip into the rhythm of the heartbeat, the more enjoyable the experience becomes. To the east is Akagera National Park, another one of African Parks' successful conservation stories. To the south-west is Nyungwe Forest, with it's beautiful forests & resident chimpanzees. To the far west is Lake Kivu, the Como of the Congo some have called it!
But yes, the attention for us today was in the north, with our cousins in thick black fur. We were assigned the Sabyinyo family - each group gets one hour with a family per day, thus restricting numbers of humans interacting with these special creatures each day. The trek, whilst slightly strenuous, is made less so by the beauty of the views, the forests & the people working their fields outside the stone-walled perimeter of the park itself. And what about the gorillas..? An hour spent in the company of these gentle giants is something you will never forget. Never. Ever. Looking into their eyes, one can totally get Einstein's comment: look deep into nature & you will understand everything better...