Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sand River Maasai Mara Tented Camp

Keekorak Airstrip, Maasai Mara National Reserve
We departed the Laikipia plains and flew southwest to the Maasai Mara National Reserve on the 16 of April.  The Mara became a National Reserve in 1974.  It is contiguous with the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and the Kenya government wanted to take advantage of the tourist attraction known as The Great Migration.  The Great Migration takes place year-round as zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and other plains game follow the rains and the good grass.  And, of course, where the plains game goes, the big cats (lion, leopard, and cheetah) are sure to follow.  The circle begins (or ends) in the southern Serengeti from December to May and reaches its peak in the Mara from October to November.  Without hyperbole, I can say that it is the most stunning display of wildlife to be seen on earth.  Because there's always migration going on at some point between the Serengeti and the Mara, it makes for a perfect vacation from May through the winter. The equator passes through the center of Kenya so the temperature typically doesn't vary much.  Much of the country is also at altitude; if you can read the Keekorok sign you can tell it is over 5500 feet.  There are two rainy seasons, however, the short rains in the fall and the long rains in the spring and the long rains are the only time not recommended to visit, although we saw all the game we could handle.  If the Great Migration is not on your bucket list, it should be!

Room at Sand River Masai Mara Tented Camp
Of the three camps we visited on our Study Tour, the Sand River Tented Camp was my favorite.  The 16 spacious tents are spread out along the banks of the Sand River which marks the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania.  Since the surrounding area is not fenced, wildlife can wander freely through the entire area.  Each tent is furnished in a style matching early 20th-century colonial furnishings evoking the romance of early explorers, complete with a Hemingway-style writing desk in the sitting room, canopied beds, and a huge footed bathtub.  Perhaps it was the bathtub which made it my favorite since a hot bath qualifies as my cure for whatever ails you.  If a bathtub isn't to your taste, however, Sand River tents also offer an outside shower. 
Hippo in the river

While it doesn't have the great soaring vistas of Loisaba, Sand River is the perfect place to sit with a sundowner on your patio while watching hippos wallowing in the river waters and monkeys jumping through the trees on the opposite bank.  The river was running high since we were there at the height of the long rains which have been particularly heavy this year.     

We had all booked a sunrise balloon ride over the Mara for the next morning and after signing documents and getting a briefing on the balloon adventure, we all went to bed early.  We were to leave the Sand River Camp at 4:30 the next morning and were told to expect an hour's drive to the balloon launching.  We were really looking forward to the adventure.  Little did we know how much and what kind of adventure awaited us.

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