African Safari Adventures with andBeyond

 

Ethel with Masai Warrior

Ethel with Masai Warrior

African Safari Adventures with andBeyond

By Ethel DeMarr

WAVEJourney contributor, Ethel DeMarr, and her husband, Terry, share their story from a trip with andBeyond to see the great migration in Africa.

“I had a farm in Africa.” by Karen Blixen

Africans say that once the dust of Africa enters your nostrils, you will return many times. It must be true. This was our third trip, and if we are lucky it will not be our last. The magic and the tragic of Africa weave their spell around you, luring you back.

Our journey started in Nairobi, Kenya. We stayed in a nearby suburb named Karen, after Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame. The Karen suburb was once her large coffee plantation. It is now the home of wealthy Kenyans and expatriates from all over the world, as well as small boutique hotels, such as the House of Waine.

House of Waine in Karen, Kenya

House of Waine in Karen, Kenya

From this location, we were close to several top attractions in the Nairobi area: Karen Blixen’s house/museum, the elephant orphanage and the giraffe reserve. Each of these is worth a visit, and unless you are a Vulcan, the baby elephants will melt your heart.

Orphan Elephants and Their Keeper

Orphan Elephants and Their Keeper

But the bush was calling. So we were soon off to the Masai Mara, our first stop of our 10- day safari. Our tour company, andBeyond (&Beyond), had arranged for us to fly out to their camp, Kichwa Tembo (head of the elephant), located in the Mara triangle. Traveling in Africa involves flying in small planes and landing at tiny dirt strips in the middle of nowhere, so one must abandon all fear of flying.

There are several “airlines” serving these remote strips, and we were often surprised to find dozens of land rovers dropping off and picking up travelers in the middle of nowhere. We even started to recognize the pilots by name as they flew us from camp to camp. One pilot, Jean Pierre, had been a guest in a camp with us three years ago! We had a great reunion. The bush is a small world.

Masai Mara means spotted land belonging to the Masai people. From the air you can see the expansive plains dotted with the occasional acacia tree. We could also see the vast herds of zebra and wildebeest who had already crossed the Mara River from the Serengeti, and we could see the herds moving in that direction. We were excited by the prospect of witnessing this great migration.

Greeted by Staff at andBeyond

Greeted by Staff at andBeyond

We were greeted by our &Beyond hosts, along with handsome Masai warriors wrapped in their brilliant red plaid blankets (said to have come from some early Scottish adventurers). Then after generous refreshments, and meeting our fellow adventurers, we were loaded into the ubiquitous Land Rovers for the drive to camp.

andBeyond Refreshments

andBeyond Refreshments

Just getting to camp was an adventure. We passed elephant families with adorable youngsters, funny warthogs running with their tails up in the air and thousands of zebra, wildebeest and a wide variety of antelopes and birds. When we arrived at camp, the staff had gathered to greet us with Masai songs of welcome and cool drinks. This ritual was repeated at all three camps we visited. The people are warm, welcoming, open and very kind. Certainly, they are a principle reason we love Africa.

Viewing Elephants While on Safari

Viewing Elephants While on Safari

The Masai have been living here for generations, tending to their cattle and raising strong warriors who must kill a lion with a spear to prove their manhood. As if that is not enough, they must endure circumcision at the age of fifteen without a cry of pain or even a grimace. If you see a person with tiny scars under their eyes, you know they cried too much as a baby. When you meet the Masai working in the luxury camps as butlers, cooks and guides, it is hard to believe that they continue to live in their humble village huts as they have for generations.

The Elusive Leopard

The Elusive Leopard

In Kenya, the young warriors no longer kill lions, but this practice endures in Tanzania. We had guides who shared their stories with us. Masai in both countries practice polygamy legally, and a man’s wealth is measured by the number of cattle he owns and the number of wives. The Masai believe that all cattle in the world belong to them. I would like to see them test that theory in Texas! But never ask a Masai how many cows he has. That is rude.

Of course the lure of a safari is the animals. Over our 10 days at three different camps, we spent hours everyday driving to find animals. The guides and trackers are so in tune with their environment that they can see animals where we cannot. It is hard to explain the thrill (not to mention anxiety) of sitting just feet from a lioness feasting on a baby zebra, or finding yourself in the middle of elephants and giraffes.

Lioness Feasting on a Zebra

Lioness Feasting on a Zebra

A major highlight was seeing hundreds of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River. The chaos, confusion, dust and noise was unforgettable. We saw two huge crocodiles grab a baby zebra and a wildebeest, dragging them underwater. You have probably seen this on TV. I was so stressed trying to direct the babies away from the crocodiles!

Great Migration

Great Migration

Spotting the large cats causes your heart to race faster as you sense the raw power and great intelligence they possess, and we were very close to many lions, leopards and cheetahs. One night we enjoyed cocktails and a bonfire out in the bush with our guide and two other guests, and we had a great time drinking gin and tonics well past dark. After we loaded up in the range rover, we found that a huge pride of 24 lions was lurking in the darkness, all around our bonfire! Spooky and thrilling to see so many lions!

Cheetah

Cheetah

Seeing these unique animals and learning about their lives is a privilege and a great blessing. Without the creation of the national parks and preserves throughout Africa, these animals may have been lost to us. Certainly, they are still facing challenges from poachers and encroachment.

Many dedicated people have dedicated their lives to the survival of these magnificent creatures. We selected & Beyond because of their commitment to conservation and sustainability for the regions around their camps.

andBeyond Luxury Tent

andBeyond Luxury Tent

We enjoyed three camps, one in the Masai Mara in Kenya, and two in Tanzania’s Serengeti. All were staffed with warm, welcoming people, luxurious accommodations, and excellent food. At each camp we were assigned a “butler” who took care of our room, laundry and waited on our table at meals. They brought us coffee in the early mornings before game viewing and learned our likes and dislikes quickly. They even tried to teach us Swahili! Think “Downton Abbey” in the bush! Joshua, Moses and Marko were delightful personalities, and we truly hated leaving them.

On Safari with andBeyond

On Safari with andBeyond

Our guides were the keys to our days in the bush. They could find animals and birds where we could not see anything. Our every question was answered and every need was meet. Bush lunches and cocktails were always gourmet and beyond our expectations! They taught us about the animals, birds, geology and shared their culture with us. Often we learned of their dreams and aspirations and of the many challenges they face. We became their biggest fans! We were so excited to learn that one of our butlers from a previous trip, M’Sami, had promoted to guide since we were last in Africa. We had a chance to visit with him and offer our congratulations. &Beyond offers these opportunities to its employees.

Leaving Africa was difficult, but we are already thinking of our next trip. We are thinking of our friends there, and of the new friends we will meet.

If You Go:

Read More Travel Tips and Tales from Ethel and Terry DeMarr’s Adventures:

 

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