Masai Mara Safari - Spotting The Leopard
By Lauren Rocklin @ The Parking Spot
In our search for an extraordinary honeymoon experience, my husband and I chose a combination of a visit to Masai Mara in Kenya and a weeklong stay on the fabulous island of Zanzibar. We selected September for our honeymoon because that was the month we got married, but also because at that time of year, the Masai Mara is known for the Great Migration. The Great Migration is the biggest mammal trek in the world, where a massive herd of animals, primarily wildebeest, travel across the Serengeti and Masai Mara in search of food and water. Our trip exceeded our wildest expectations and brought us face-to-face with breathtaking sights.
After we spent a week lounging on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar, sampling fresh seafood and local dishes, visiting Freddie Mercury’s house in Stonetown (now a museum ), and recovering from our wedding festivities, we were off to the safari portion of our trip. We flew via Nairobi to Masai Mara on Safarilink Airlines , and were in for one of the most unique landing experiences of our lives. As our plane descended towards Masai Mara, we could see the vastness of the savannah and abundance of wildlife from the window. Upon approaching the runway, which is really just a strip of dirt, our pilot announced a slight delay to ensure no animals were in the way. Watching as zebras, wildebeests, and giraffes made way for our landing, we got a taste of the excitement waiting for us during our visit to the park.
Kenyan Safari in Masai Mara
Upon touching down in Masai Mara, we were warmly welcomed by our tour guide, Akash, from the andBeyond Kichwa Tembo camp, where we would be staying for the next few days. From the moment we met him, it was clear that he possessed an unparalleled knowledge and passion for the Masai Mara. With his infectious enthusiasm and deep respect for nature, Akash became our fearless guide, navigating the park and our endless questions with the utmost confidence and expertise.
During three days of game drives, we saw a variety of spectacular creatures: elephants, giraffes, hippos, the endangered black rhino, lions, wildebeest and more wildebeest, monkeys, gazelles, hyenas, crocodiles, baboons, vultures, and warthogs. Akash expertly avoided driving over 3-week-old lion cubs playing in the high grass, which could have been a disaster for both them and us given the protective lioness was just a few paces ahead.
We witnessed a warthog fight on full display during dinner at our camp, with one vying for the other’s precious baby. We saw a wildebeest fall right into a crocodile’s trap while trying to cross a river. But alas, we could not find the elusive leopard. Known for its unparalleled speed and grace, Akash assured us the leopard was a sight to be seen, and that he would not let us return home without witnessing its beauty. Akash imparted his knowledge on us about what to look and listen for, and we all eagerly scanned the horizon for a glimpse of this magnificent predator.
Time To Go Home
After three incredible days of exploration, we found ourselves at the airport, which is a gazebo, waiting for our plane to return us to Nairobi. It was a bittersweet moment, as we were ready to return home but not quite ready to say goodbye to this wonderfully unique place, and still wishing for that leopard sighting. Luck was on our side. Our plane had not yet arrived for the same reason our inbound plane was delayed, as there were too many animals on the airstrip. Akash seized the opportunity to whisk us back into his Land Rover and off to a nearby area of the savannah. Immediately, we see a group of baboons in a frenzy, barking and wahooing loudly and angrily.
Akash quietly points up ahead. We follow his gaze and out of seemingly nowhere to us observers, a leopard races by our vehicle, chasing after his or her next meal. What a sight to be seen! The leopard is the ultimate in speed, grace, and beauty with its muscular shape adorned with striking spots. We were left awestruck.
We returned to the airport, all our wishes for the trip now fulfilled, and were soon on our way. From animal encounters on the runway to an elusive leopard sighting, our journey through Masai Mara was an experience we will cherish forever. As we boarded the plane to return to Nairobi, our hearts were filled with gratitude for our incredible journey.
Traveling can be full of unexpected disappointments , surprises and encounters, but parking your car for your trip should be free of them. Next time you are planning an extended vacation, make a reservation at The Parking Spot to lock in an affordable rate and guarantee a space. The Parking Spot shuttles may look leopard-like with their big bold spots, but I promise they are much easier to find when you need one.