Intimate experience: When it comes to game drives, you have your own vehicle and guide to take you through
Just recently, Mahali Mzuri was voted overall the best hotel in the world in the Travel and Leisure World’s Best Awards, and my wanderlust led me there, to experience some of the things that makes it renowned and on top of its game.
My safari began early in the morning with Safarilink, which has daily flights to the destination, stopping at any of the eight major airstrips in The Mara.
With all the Covid-19 protocols observed as it is now the norm, there we were up in the sky with Captain Shahid and his co-pilot Brian, who were gracious enough to explain some of the features we would come across along the way.
Though I love to keep to myself during travel, I was in great company with fellow travel buffs, busy chatting about our expectations all the way to Olare Orok Airstrip.
We arrived at lunchtime and after a sumptuous meal, it was time to check my tent, one of the 12 in the camp.
I was taken to the family one, complete with an en-suite private bath, cosy bedding, my own bottle of wine, as well as leather furniture just for lounging, and, what amazed me the most, expansive windows and doors that opened up to a gigantic deck, where I could catch some action, now that the migration is on, as I read or just relaxed.
In as much as we have the crossings at this time, which is one of the reasons I was in Masai Mara, one can opt to chill in the tent rather than venture out on a game drive to watch it all, and they will be just fine.
Another thing I liked was how one gets personalised service. For instance, when it comes to game drives, you have your own vehicle and guide to take you through, and it’s also in a conservancy, which in my view has plenty of wildlife.
Again, it’s easier to go off road for better photo ops. Having groups of other tourists with you, all trying to catch a glimpse of a cheetah, or leopard, and the best angle for a good shot, can be exhausting. In other instances, one just desires privacy for one reason or another.
In one of my game drives, I had an experienced guide, Betty Maita, who took me round the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and like an encyclopaedia, offered insightful details on the animals as well as plants around.
It was my first time actually, having a female guide, and it was amazing watching how skilfully she drove the Land Cruiser on the difficult terrain. She shared that when she was young, she used to go to camps, and loved how the guides took care of the guests.
Then, she met a traveller who inspired her young Maasai community members to go to school and learn how to be guides.
She was amongst the first female guides, as they were only three of them in the midst of 23 males.
Betty says being a female guide requires some level of toughness, especially when dealing with men in the field.
“You have to be tough to be respected in the field,” she tells me as she stops the 4x4 to explain more about a martial eagle that was perched on an acacia tree.
“But nowadays, they have learnt to respect me. I have also learnt how to deal with all types of clients,” she adds.
I was also driven by John Nchoe, who looked sharp dressed in his Maasai regalia.
“It is good to appreciate your culture. When guests see you comfy in your attire, you are actually promoting it to them,” he elucidated.
I think this is another reason the camp is top notch. It is the time they take to ensure each staff is well versed with the culture, and experienced in their work.
The cuisine too is personalised, and despite the camp being located in a remote area, meals are varied and detailed, with many ingredients and offerings one would expect of such a host.