Picnic at Maasai Mara, Kenya

Our ‘picnic’ at Maasai Mara was like no other and hence, requires a dedicated post. We were scheduled for the full-day safari that day, and Danielle had told us that he would make sure that our hotel (Read: Review of Keekorok Lodge) packed lunch for us. We didn’t even have to enquire…when we hopped into the jeep that morning, he cheerfully told us that we could drive deep into the Mara since food and water had been taken care of …And thus we set out to see the wonders of the beautiful Maasai Mara…..

At noon, when it was time for lunch, nay, the famed picnic at Maasai Mara, he drove us to a huge clearing where the grasses weren’t very tall and the trees were fewer. Driving up to more or less the centre of the clearing, he parked the jeep near an Acacia tree and announced that this would be our picnic spot. But not before telling us that while we could get down into the Mara, we couldn’t venture out even five steps owing to the safety requirements and the Mara rules. Lunch had to eaten right next to the jeep. We obeyed him like school kids…

Digging out a mat from the back of the jeep, Danielle laid it down by the side of the jeep and then placed our lunch boxes on the mat – Sandwiches, Grilled Chicken, Fruits, Eggs, Juice, Cookies — this picnic at Maasai Mara is like the Famous Five picnics, cried out our daughter. We looked at her thoroughly amused and nodding in agreement…quite an Enid Blyton picnic this…

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Here we were, sitting in the middle of one of the world’s wildest grounds, eating sandwiches, while birds flew down looking for crumbs, while elephants walked in the distant, while deers stood to see what we were and then ran away, while Danielle stood near the bonnet of the jeep looking out for the wilder animals, while we looked around 360 degrees to find only God’s creation, while it felt as if our very existence would be defined by this one moment when we were one with the Mara, while we thanked the Lord for this day and bread….

Dos and Don’ts of a Picnic at Maasai Mara, Kenya

  • DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT litter the Mara. Carry a bag along with you to carry back empty bottles, empty packets, food covers.
  • Cookies and bread crumbs can be given to the birds though, and that chicken bone can be thrown towards the waiting hyena or vulture. Mind you, only little items of food.
  • Do not venture out away from your jeep. Obey your guide, for he knows the Mara’s ways.

Full-day Safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Danielle, our guide, was keen that we go for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, reasoning that since we had already seen the Maasai Village (Read: Touring a Maasai Village) and had gone for the Sunset Safari the previous evening, a full-day safari was what would give us an ultimate experience. He reasoned that if we’d go for a safari after breakfast, come back to our lodge in Keekorok (Read: Review Keekorok Lodge) for lunch and then venture out once again post lunch, we could not go deep into the grassland. Instead, he reasoned, if we packed a dry lunch and set out in the morning just after breakfast, we would have a full eight hours in our hands that would allow us to go deep into the grasslands. That would open us to lot more adventure, he added. We saw his point, and readily agreed to set out immediately after breakfast the next day.

Getting ready for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya — Things you shouldn’t forget when setting out for a full-day safari in Maasai Mara:

  • We were in Maasai Mara over the Christmas holidays, and so, were advised to wear warm jackets and scarves while setting out since the morning air was still chilly.
  • However, as the day progressed and the sum climbed overhead, it got hotter. Hats and sunglasses had to be fished out of the bags.
  • With the sun high up, can the sun-screen be far behind? Regret for the next three months should you forget to carry it!
  • You are in Maasai Mara. Should you be told to carry your camera with an ‘assorted’ set of lenses?
  • No forgetting your binoculars either. Although, if you book a Safari company, like how we did, you will get a set of good binoculars for the span of the trip.
  • Danielle also got for us two books – one on the animals and the other, on the birds that you can see in Maasai Mara and Naivasha. Call it the ready reckoner!

And the million-dollar experience of a full-day safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya! It indeed is a million dollar experience. Nothing less! Since we had already seen four of the Big Five in our Sunset drive the previous evening, Danielle was relaxed and took it at a very easy pace, looking out for the star animals, going his own way instead of being a party to the others who were in a cavalcade. This showed us Maasai Mara almost exclusively. Alone. Without another human in sight. Really smart, Danielle showed us a leopard on a tree walking around when mush of the crowd were ogling over lions. We had already done that last evening. And were happy to ogle at the leopard and shoot him from all every angle possible.

And then we saw lions mate! We did! No photos of that ‘porn’ moment only because the jeep zoomed at top speed to catch the act. We just couldn’t get our camera steady in all that excitement.

Lunch was in the middle of the Maara with elephants on one side and deers running around in another. Post lunch, Danielle drove us to the Mara river where you could see hippos and crocodiles completely owing the place, and visualize the great wildebeest migration that takes place in the middle of the year. We saw a dazzle of Zebras suspiciously looking at a pride of lions and seemingly ready for a run if it came to that. And then there was the Cheetah, who much have had just finished his lunch before we reached him, and looked so drowsy that he could doze off if we weren’t around. Hyenas waiting to leave the remnants of a hunt so that they could devour what was left. All this while, while vultures hovered around for their chance too. On our way back, we saw buffaloes, in thousands, moving out to another part of the grassland truly in search of ‘greener pastures’.

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And then there was that chance million dollar photo with the King who suddenly decided to come up to our jeep and check us out! We, needless to mention, did go bonkers. The driver of another jeep took our camera and got us this once-in-a-lifetime shot!

Full-day game drive in Maasai Mara

All this and many more, that evening we headed back to our lodge in complete daze. The vast grasslands and its beautiful inmates, the quiet, the action, the search, the sightings, Maasai Mara, this close and personal, was most gratifying and humbling……

Earth is so beautiful. Why are we human beings up in arms to destroy it?

Restaurant Review — Tonic in Mahalxmi, Mumbai

tonic in Mahalaxmi is Mumbai’s newest lounge abr, tucked away in the quiet lane that house Famous Studio, only a stone’s throw from Lower Parel bustling corporate houses. How convenient to drive just ‘round the corner’ for some specially crafted finger food and cocktails. Just what you’d need at the end of that stressful day at work!

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Choose from a whole spread of snacks at Tonic that go so so well with their signature drinks – Veg Mushroom Crostini Platter that was one of the most amazing we had had; Sweet Potato Fritter in Wasabi Mayo that makes potato chips pale into oblivion; Tie Me Up – a most amusing minced paneer wrapped in wanton threads, deep fried and served with chilly garlic sauce – we had not seen or eaten one such before; Assorted Seafood Crostini that had prawns and squid mixed with cheese, topped on a bread and baked – If you do not like too much cheese, request the chef to go easy on the cheese he mixes with the sea-fishes; Spicy Chicken slices Cracked and Crumbled that were good again and goes with heavy drinks; Baby Lamb Chilly, my favourite, that had just the right roast and sauce; a plateful of Soya Ginger Rawas if you love your fish so much; Cracker Jacket Prawn perfectly marinated and served with a heavenly sauce; Chicken Popcorns that are extremely juicy despite being deep fried; Veg Gyoza – a snack that is so exquisite that you will love it not only because it tastes good, but also because it looks so good; Thai spiced Chicken – how many different ways can the Chef present chicken to his patrons in tonic is what you start wondering by the time they serve you the Thai Chicken! Undoubtedly, Tonic caters to every tongue – be it the lover of India spices or the Oriental ones or the subtlety of the European dishes.

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At Tonic, the Chef’s creativity is perfectly complimented by the Bartender’s creativity! We tasted the above-mentioned food with some of the barman’s exclusive creations – Lemon Grass Mojito (yeah! A Thai Mojito); Sour Wishkey, that had lemon, and blended perfectly with some of the spicy snacks; Pomegranate Martini giving the Mumbaikars just the weapon to beat the heat and humidity; Rocky Blue Margarita and more….Of course they have the usual wines and beers and whiskeys….but, we’d beg you to try out their signature cocktails too. One most amusing aspect of their bar is the fact that Tonic serves its drinks in Batli (meaning, one bottle) or Barni (in Jars just right for 2-3 friends) and Balti (you guessed it! In a bucket, for that big group of friends)

Prices appeared to be competitive, considering you are in Mahalaxmi, one of those Mumbai’s topnotch addresses! Most of the snacks are between Rs 300-400; while the drinks drinks are with Rs 400.

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With a jazzy interiors, cool lighting, two huge screens, and comfortable seating, Tonic, as I said earlier, is the best place to unwind and be pampered with good food and drinks. Should you be hungry after all those snacks that you’d have downed with the drinks, you can go upstairs to Auriga for dinner. But, as I mentioned, should you be hungry….

(Jayanta and I were invited to Tonic for a review of their food and drink offerings)

Hotel Review — Keekorok Lodge in Maasai Mara, Kenya

At Maasai Mara, we were staying at the famous Keekorok Lodge. Famous, because it was the first-ever property to be built right in the middle of the grasslands; has, over the years had scores of celebrities as guests; and is a property that has no fencing. That essentially means, you can have ‘wild’ visitors anytime. We did hear the hippos grunt in the middle of the night….the standard instructions at the hotel is that after dark, if you eed to venture out either to the restaurant or towards your room, you need to call the reception. They send guards who escort you…Truly exciting….

How was the experience of staying at the Keekorok Lodge? Lovely! The reception, restaurant and memorabilia store is located in the central building made of stones and done up in a complete African décor. The rooms spread out from both sides of the main building, and overlook either the pool or the indoor garden or the reserve. Our room was to the left from the main entrance, with a clear view of the national park in front. We could actually see deers running in the not-so-distant grasslands while we sat sipping tea/coffee in our verandah. Then there were the beautiful, every hued winged visitors, the mongooses….

They also have a big pond for hippos within the Lodge area with viewing facilities and a Hippo ‘Bar’.

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How is the food at Keekorok Lodge? The food, however, was extremely average…their spread not as good as the Sopa Resorts in Naivasha, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Even tea time. Frankly, was majorly disappointed with the food.

The do have a well-stocked bar, the expenses of which is not covered in the regular rates. That means, if you drink anything from the bar, you pay separately for it!

Internet Facilities at Keekorok Lodge? internet is available but not free at the Keekorok. The rates are quite obscene and we didn’t subscribe to it. So, more or less, we stayed disconnected when at Maasai Mara!

Final Word: Baring the food, we loved every aspect of our stay in Keekorok, and would recommend..

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari

Maasai Mara sunset safari, nay, game drive, starts two hours before sunset time and carries on a little after the sun is down. What is a game drive, did you ask? Game drives are the safaris. Every sighting of an animal in Maasai land is referred to as ‘game’, and hence, ‘game drive’.

We rushed to our hotel, Keekorok Lodge, for lunch after our tour of the Maasai village. It was a little after 2pm and Danielle, our guide and driver, gave us time until 4pm to freshen up and eat, before we set out for the sunset game drive.

Sightings on our Maasai Mara sunset safari

Almost as if to welcome us in Maasai Mara, we found a giraffe standing right next to the road. And although we had seen many in Naivasha, the one at Maasai Mara looked special to us. Closer.

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Danielle was, however, focussed on showing us a few of the Big Five – Lion, Elephants, Leopard, Rhinoceros and Buffaloes. And so, without stopping longer in front of the giraffe, made his way into the grassland. There, he said, were all of them, in their herds, amongst their own. We were excited!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

But didn’t have to go beyond a few kilometres before we sighted the first of the Big Five – Elephants. With their massive ears, this was, clearly, what we had never seen before. One, and then the whole family, crossing the road in front of us. We stood in our jeep, gaping in wonder!

Elephant in Maasai Mara

And then, soon after, second of the Big Five – Buffaloes. We have to admit, we weren’t very excited about seeing them, after all, we see so many buffaloes back home in India all the time. But changed our mind when Danielle told us that these buffaloes were like no other — big, strong, powerful and extremely dangerous, these buffaloes can even kill lions! Really? All right, then they deserve to be one of the Big Five, we agreed!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Though still bright, the sun was on its way towards the western horizon. Danielle, didn’t want to close the day without showing us the King – Lions. And strained his eyes towards clearings, trees. Sure enough, he soon sighted one, and drove us there. Sitting there, just like how a king should sit, we watched in delight at the King in his land. Jayanta went bonkers with his camera, while Danielle smiled in deep satisfaction. Allowing us another ten minutes, he drove us further inside to discover three more lions sleeping!

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Three down, Danielle was excited! And got greedy too. Drove us further down for the fourth of the Five. Voila! A Rhino! An old one though, which could hardly move, we were now ecstatic – we had already seen four of the Five in a span of an hour. Danielle, of course, was smiling from ear to ear, with that lovely African twinkle in his eyes!!!

Maasai Mara Sunset Game Drive (110)

By now, the sun had climbed further down. We slowly made our way back to the hotel, saying to ourselves that we keep the Leopard for the next day. As we drove back, we came by baby elephants, antelopes, a Hyena, vultures, zebras, all types of deers and birds. But Danielle wouldn’t call it a day yet. He was still on the lookout. And found a Cheetah for us. Lying down, as if tired and done for the day, we gazed at him from the distance.

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And soon signed off our Maasai Mara sunset safari by driving off into the famous Maasai sunset in the backdrop of the lovely Acacia tree!

Maasai Mara Sunset Safari/Game Drive

Watch a Maasai Dance in a Maasai Village, Kenya

When on the Maasai village tour, the Maasai tribesmen showed us their traditional dance form. The Maasai dance.

The menfolk stood in a semi-circle, with their spears and machetes in their hands, and jumped as they sang their tribal songs. The group leader, or the one who sang best, led the team, while the rest provided the harmony.

Watch the video that we took while they regaled us with their song and dance.

They sang three extremely rhythmic songs – standing and watching them in their own land, with no sign of ‘modern-day’ civilization for miles on end, felt like we had been transported back into time by a time machine. Pristine, innocent, clean – life at its simple best!

Tour of a Maasai Village in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Tour of a Maasai Village had been scheduled for our second day at Maasai Mara. But since our drive from Naivasha was a rather quick one, we reached dot at noon. We weren’t very hungry yet. Danielle therefore suggested we stop by the Maasai village. He reasoned that this way, we would have the whole day for the Maasai Mara game drive the next day. We readily agreed with him.

The Maasai Village is right outside the Maasai Mara National Park. Therefore, it does make sense to tour the village just before you enter the Park or post your stay at the Park.

Clearly, the Maasais are used to visitors. No sooner do you get out of your jeep, than the Maasai women swarm you with offers to buy their traditional jewellery and wares. We politely turned them down saying that we’d look at their stuff on our way back from the village tour.

As we made our way towards the village, Danielle explained that the village is actually a cluster of about 10-15 huts, with a courtyard in the middle and belongs to the extended family of the village chief. Soon we were joined by the chief’s son – a tall, lanky fellow with a broad smile, carrying the Maasai spear and dressed in the blazing reds of the Maasai land. About 6-7 of his friends accompanied him and stayed with us until the end of the tour.

What can you see on a tour of the Maasai Village? From how the Maasais live to what they eat and drink, to how they pray and sing and dance. The chief’s son actually took us inside his hut and showed us how they cook and where they sleep. We couldn’t believe our ears when he told us that they actually drink the blood of buffaloes, and explained to us in detail how they cut the vein of the buffaloes to draw out the blood and nurse them back to normal. Basics. We realized that Maasais use for survival whatever resource they have in that vast Savannah grassland filled with wild animals.

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Once outside, the Maasai men danced to a traditional Maasai song (Video of the Maasai dance), showed us man’s first discovery – how to light a fire the Maasai way. Here is the video showing exactly how. Boy! Were we completely mesmerized!

The chief was an old man, hunched, walking with the help of a stick and oblivious to the interest he was generating. His son told us that he had 13 wives and 36 children. And all of them lived in complete harmony in this village! Around us, we found most of the women either busy cooking, managing kids or helping with the repair of the huts. The men-folk wandered around the tourists as guides.

We were in for luck that noon. The village was celebrating the wedding of two of its boys. The brides had already arrived and were sitting under the marriage tents. We were ecstatic. Not only could we see a Maasai wedding, but also see its men and women in their wedding regalia. These photographs are a testimony of that elation!

Maasai Village Tour – Information you may find useful

  • The tour usually lasts for about an hour or a little more.
  • It cost us 3000 Kenyan Shillings. They had quoted 5000 though.
  • Buy the artefacts and jewelry from the Maasai women. Negotiate well. Almost 50% of what they quote. Even then, they are cheaper than the handicrafts shops elsewhere.

Check out more photos of the Maasai Village tour on our Facebook page — Wheels On Our Feet on FB

How Maasai Tribesmen in Maasai Villages Light Fire

While touring a Maasai village in Maasai Mara, the tribesmen showed us how they light fire.

They use two pieces of wood — one, soft and is like a stick, while the other, is flat and hard with little holes that can fit the stick. Drawing out a dagger, they rub the soft stick on the hard wood, and in under 15 seconds, you can see smoke. Little embers that gather around the dagger are then taken to dried grasses and twigs. With some bit of blowing, the grasses catch fire almost instantly.

Watch and be amazed at how early man did it, and how some parts of the world are still doing it.

One-Day Itinerary of Naivasha in Kenya

Naivasha’s bio-diversity will bowl you over. If planning a trip to Kenya, Naivasha, then, is a must! One day/one night is good enough, unless you want to spend more time hiking and trekking at the Hell’s Gate National Park. Here is a suggested one-day itinerary at Naivasha that you may find useful.

How to reach Naivasha? Drive down from Nairobi to Naivasha. It is a scenic two and a half hour drive with a pit stop at the Rift Valley View Point. We took the B3 Escarpment Road that had been built, Danielle explained, by Italian prisoners during the 2nd World War. Read all that you would need to know about the Nairobi to Naivasha drive

Best place to stay in Naivasha – We stayed at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort and loved every bit of the property. Sprawling, well-spaced out, green with its own resident wild-life, Sopa resort gives you the Kenya experience.

One-day Itinerary of Naivasha: Here’s what all you can see and do when at Naivasha for a day. Click on the links to read in details about every place.

  • Boat Ride on Lake Naivasha – Bird-watching is the biggest draw of Naivasha, and the best way to see the beautiful winged creatures is a two-hour boat-ride. And what’s more, if your boatman is smart, he will also show you how eagles prey for fishes on the lake. An experience, you will not forget in a long long time…
  • Walk in the woods of Lake Naivasha — The woods bordering Lake Naivasha are also as much a treasure trove. Away for the swamps and the hippos, our boatman made his way through a clearing to anchor the boat and take us for a walk into the woods around the lake to show us giraffes, zebras and deers…we saw them all, in large numbers.
  • Tour of the Hell’s Gate National Park: The tour can take up to two hours or more depending upon your interest levels. A vast open area barring the cliffs, with dry grass Hell’s Gate got its name from the passage created by the steep walls of two very high cliffs in the national park. In prehistoric times, he said, a river flowed through this gap. The river has long since dried up. And the gap got christened as the Hell’s Gate.

One-Day Itinerary of Nairobi, Kenya

Have a day to spare in Nairobi after your business meetings? Or, as was the case with us, landed in Nairobi (read about — Visa, Immigration & other requirements at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi) in the morning and will spend a day there before being picked up for the Naivasha-Masai Mara tour the next morning? Here then, is answering your question, “How to best spend 24 hours in Nairobi?”

Have breakfast in your hotel! We stayed at the hotel Sarovar Panifric and here is a review of the place – Review of Hotel Sarovar Panifric in Nairobi

Post breakfast, time to get an experience of what Kenya offers best – its rich wildlife! Go for a tour of the David Sheldrick Elephant Centre

And then, a tour of the Giraffe Centre where you can feed giraffes and get kissed by them!! :-D

All that feeding, kissing done, you’d be hungry by now. Head for lunch at Nairobi’s most famous restaurant, Carnivore! What do you get here? A feast of both regular and exotic meats ….Carnivore’s barbeque section will bowl you over. Guaranteed.

Post lunch, how about an experience of the Kenyan culture and lifestyle? Head to the Bomas of Kenya Show to see how Kenyans live, sing, dance, make merry…

By now, it will be close to evening. You could head out to the shopping district if you want to buy Kenyan artefacts for your house. We decided to skip shopping right at the beginning of the trip. For, we figured, there would be ample opportunity at Naivasha and Masai Mara for the authentic stuff.

Travel and food stories from around the world, through the eyes/lenses of a Mumbai-based husband-wife-daughter trio…

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