One of the most spectacular wildlife shows on the planet can be seen in the Masai Mara where the rolling green plains dotted with lone acacia trees play host to an astonishing amount of wild animals.
A welcoming party was waiting for us when we arrived at Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, a place we called home for most of last year while conducting research on wildlife tourism and conservation. The friendly shouts of jambo (hello) and karibu sana (welcome) made us feel like we had never left.
With its close ties to the surrounding villages Kichwa Tembo supports a number of community projects, including a pioneering bee-keeping project, school building and supplies and ongoing conservation lessons to local Maasai schoolchildren. There is also a clinic at the camp and HIV/AIDS awareness and education programs.
We went on game drives every day where we watched lion cubs play, elephants taking a dust bath, hyenas fighting over a zebra kill, giraffes towering above the trees, leopards lolling in the branches and huge herds of zebras, antelopes and buffaloes grazing on the savannah grasslands. The mornings were fresh and full of promise and the golden afternoon light was dazzling as dramatic storm clouds rolled in across the plains.
The mud in the Mara has been described as a mixture between quicksand and chewing gum and we got stuck a few times, once only about a hundred metres away from a large lion pride. Under the watchful gaze of the lions, two other safari cars sank into the mud while trying to pull us out, leaving guests and guides stranded until a tractor came to the rescue and towed us all to safety.
We spent some time with conservationist Anne Kent Taylor, a friend of ours who works tirelessly against the poaching of wildlife in the Masai Mara. Killing wild animals such as lions is illegal in Kenya and Marcus went on patrol with the anti-poaching team to get a glimpse of some of the dangers these brave rangers face on a daily basis.
We floated above the savannah on a sunrise balloon ride followed by a champagne breakfast on the plains, went for a walking safari to a hippo-filled pool in the Mara River, and dined out in style at a candlelit bush dinner under the stars, making the most of the mind-blowing wildlife experience of the Masai Mara.