Destination: Kenya’s Masai Mara

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There are certain experiences in life one dreams of doing. As long as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of going on a true African Safari. The type of safari you see in countless nature documentaries. The type of safari where you see animals big and small interacting within the environment as they have for thousands of years. Truth is there are very few places left in Africa where you can experience this. The whole continent is experiencing a population explosion like no other place on earth. Animals and their habitat are disappearing fast. Kenya’s Masai Mara is one of the last few places where you can still go and experience a true safari, but even its future is uncertain…

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We departed early in the morning for the 6 ½ hour journey to the Mara. Honestly, leaving Elsamere on Lake Naivasha was bittersweet. On one hand I was so excited to leave for the Mara, but on the other I was extremely sad leaving behind the grateful staff and experiences we all shared there.

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The drive was quite different than the one to Naivasha. Halfway through you hit a dirt road filled with giant potholes (I can say though I enjoyed the bumpy ride). The sad part about this though is that this was once protected and part of the Mara. Unfortunately now it has been taken over by humans and their livestock.

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This picture is for all you birders out there! We saw quite an array of avian friends along the way.

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I felt as if I was driving down a back country road in Idaho. The scenery at a first glance was surprisingly similar.

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And there it was: My first real glimpse of the Masai Mara. I was speechless and completely overwhelmed at the same time. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

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Notice those brown dots? As we drove closer and closer to the Mara we realized how the land surrounding the reserve had been completely taken over by livestock. The grass was short and the land eroded from all the invasive residents. Livestock overgraze the plains and prevent native herbivores from flourishing there.

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Just outside the Mara near our camp is a town called Talek. The town is comprised of run-down colorful buildings, stray dogs, and people. You can completely understand now why there is human and animal conflict in and around the Mara. (Courtesy of africatravelresource.com)

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The urban development in Talek is uncontrolled and its population is at an all-time high. (Courtesy of Martina Zucchini)

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After traveling through Talek we reached the gate which marks the entrance of our camp Ilkeliani. (Courtesy of africatravelresource.com)

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Unlike our camp at Lake Naivasha, Ilkeliani had tents spread out around the camp. Walking to my tent I had no idea of what to expect…

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My jaw dropped! This is where I would be staying for the next three nights in Africa! I couldn’t believe it. Complete with a bathroom and warm running water, Ilkeliani was paradise.

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What was so incredible about Ilkeliani was the location. Our tent was located right on the bank of the Talek River and right across it was the Masai Mara.

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Less than 5 minutes in we had our first encounter with a local resident. This is a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill.

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Ilkeliani has an observation deck overlooking the Mara.

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And what a view it was. Words can’t even explain how I felt at this very moment. All the years of dreaming, all the months of anticipation, I just could not believe that I had finally made it.

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We had a pretty packed schedule. An hour after arriving we were scheduled to visit a local Maasai Village. This was the first time I had ever been able to ride in an open-air safari vehicle. Can you see my excitement?

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At first I think the Maasai were a little scared of my crazy hair!

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They greeted us with a fantastic song and dance. Click the link to see more http://www.kivitv.com/goodmorninglive/144625515.html

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The Maasai are extremely resourceful. They can make fire with only sticks and cow dung.

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They live in huts made of kneaded cow dung, sticks, and mud.

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Here I am pictured with a Maasai Warrior outside his home.

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At the end of our tour the women and children had tables full of authentic Maasai bracelets, necklaces, spoons, and spears for sale.

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3,250 shillings well spent! What a way to end another day in Africa. A special thanks goes out to the Maasai for allowing us to visit their village.