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Secret reviewers

Posted on 28 Feb 2018 | 0 comments

We don’t need much of an excuse to go on safari, and when all the stars align to go on a trip with a good friend from Kenya after picking up Jon’s new Australian passport, we jump at the occasion. The added bonus was that Marcel was organising it all, so apart from booking flights to Nairobi we could sit back and relax, very different from the effort required to organise our usual weekend trips.

Another friend of Marcel, who lives in Switzerland at the moment, also flew over for a long weekend to join us. So on Friday afternoon we drove to the local domestic airport, and hopped on a plane to the Mara North Conservancy. The flights in Kenya are short and soon Marcel, Suzanne and the two of us were in the car, shared with 2 honeymooners from the US, on our way to the lodge. But whilst a direct drive to the lodge would take only 40 minutes, we of course took several hours to ensure we enjoyed the scenery and the animals en route.

Jon, Jude, Marcel and Suzanne with the stunning backdrop of the Mara North Conservancy

Jon, Jude, Marcel and Suzanne with the stunning backdrop of the Mara North Conservancy

a few stunning Schalow's turacos fly in as we are watching some young lion cubs play

a few stunning Schalow’s turacos fly in as we are watching some young lion cubs play

As Marcel is running a safari business in East Africa, he has to check out new lodges once in a while to see if he wants to send customers there. He is meticulous in getting the details right and would never send anybody to a place he hasn’t reviewed. And so he travels incognito to these lodges, experiencing first hand how they treat guests and the three of us were his assistants this weekend.

I have always wanted to be a secret reviewer and finally I had a chance! And when reviewing places which include a complimentary massage I am definitely not going to complain. But the highlight, as always on a safari for us, were the scenery and the animals. The show the animals put on every single day of the year is just incredible. Watching wildebeest being born and taking their first wobbly steps, only minutes after two hyenas kill an equally young wildebeest calf is powerful. The circle of life is nowhere more visible than in the animal kingdom.

a baby wildebeest is born

a baby wildebeest is born

within seconds he is on his feet, trying to get stable, trying to walk and even run

within seconds he is on his feet, trying to get stable, trying to walk and even run

baby wildebeest has his first drink

the baby wildebeest has his first drink

And however gruesome it may be to see the quick end of a short life when the wildebeest calf is outrun by the hyenas, and see the distress of the mother who runs in circles around the kill, you have to remember that the death of this wildebeest ensures life for the hyenas… A pregnant hyena galloped in, minutes after the perfectly executed kill by the two young males, and pulled rank. She simply chased them away, enjoying the fresh kill together with her own son. The end of the life for the wildebeest – one of almost 400,000 to be born this year – will ensure her own cubs have a good start in life.

hyena chasing the baby wildebeest

hyena chasing the baby wildebeest

the two young, male hyenas quickly trying to eat as much as they can. The little jackal manages to snatch bits of the kill too.

the two young, male hyenas quickly trying to eat as much as they can. The little jackal manages to snatch bits of the kill too.

There was evidence all around us of the circle of life, the zebra killed by lions, all with little cubs to feed, the martial eagle hunting for his next meal and the banded mongoose sticking together to defend themselves against this powerful avian predator. The young cubs, calves and chicks of all different sizes and shapes learning to stand up, walk, fly or catch their food. Parents looking after their young and teaching them the ropes, although many have strong instincts built in and know what to do already. It is an exhibition of life at its best, and we love the glimpses we are privileged to see when we are in the bush.

this little cub has eaten his belly full of the zebra his pride caught

this little cub has eaten his belly full of the zebra his pride caught

look closely and you can see the banded mongoose all huddled together to confuse the martial eagle. Grouped together like this means the martial eagle can't single out one mongoose to grab.

look closely and you can see the banded mongoose all huddled together to confuse the martial eagle. Grouped together like this means the martial eagle can’t single out one mongoose to grab.

We enjoyed bush breakfasts and night drives, massages and petting the (enormous) resident eland, the views from our villas and the sounds of the bush when the lights were out. We simply loved being out there again and sharing the weekend with old and new friends made it even more special.

breakfast in the middle of nowhere

breakfast in the middle of nowhere

as we are able to do night drives, we are lucky to spot some spring hares (African kangaroos)

as we are able to do night drives, we are lucky to spot some spring hares (African kangaroos)

another nocturnal sighting, this time a white-tailed mongoose

another nocturnal sighting, this time a white-tailed mongoose

two large-eared greater galagos looking down on us

two large-eared greater galagos looking down on us

On our way to the airstrip they had set up a table underneath a large tree in a bend of the famous Mara River, now a trickle compared to what she will be once the rains arrive and the millions of wildebeest that follow the rains want to cross it to access the fresh green grass on the other side. Eating our lunch in this spectacular setting made us want to forget we still had to fly home… But not much later we were whisked away, back to what we often call reality… we had lived another short dream and will be eagerly anticipating the next one!

great location for lunch, right on the Mara River

great location for lunch, right on the Mara River

The good

Night drives are allowed and included, giving us the chance to see life in the dark

Open vehicles for the game drives

Massages

Not so good

Location of the lodge meant half an hour drive was needed to get into the actual wildlife areas, this also effects the night drives

Quality of our guide was not what you would expect at a lodge of this caliber

The food was nice, but it should have been better, including looking after specific dietary requests

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