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Tent camping in Kenya

Updated on October 26, 2011
Cape Buffalo
Cape Buffalo
Bull African elephant
Bull African elephant
A Kecheche tent with two double beds and a bathroom
A Kecheche tent with two double beds and a bathroom
Spotted, or laughing, hyena awaking from a nap
Spotted, or laughing, hyena awaking from a nap
Lioness, still panting after just killing a zebra...........
Lioness, still panting after just killing a zebra...........
.....and the zebra she killed
.....and the zebra she killed
Adult male olive baboon eating a baby Thompson's gazelle
Adult male olive baboon eating a baby Thompson's gazelle

As the sun was setting on my first evening in the Mara, our Maasai guide halted the jeep in the middle of the savanna. It was during the wildlife migration, but the zebra and wildebeest had stopped moving for the night. Wildebeest moved away from the jeep, forming a continuous ring, circling the jeep about 300 yards out. Their throaty calls echoed over the landscape. The guide made me a gin and tonic and, as I took my first sip, I realized this was the most memorable evening I had ever spent in my life.

One of the nights I was there, a herd of elephants walked through the camp amongst the tents. None of us knew a thing until we were told in the morning. For its size, an elephant has to be the quietest mammal of all, when it wants to be.

The Camp

I only spent two days in the Mara, but it was absolutely wonderful. I stayed at Kicheche Camp, one of the many tent camps in the Mara. The food was very good and my guide, a Maasai, was very knowledgeable. I was as interested in the birds as I was the large mammals, and our guide knew them all. The tents were quite luxurious, and they were built on a wooden platform. There was a bathroom in the tent with a flush toilet and a shower. Water supply, however, was limited. When you wanted a shower in the evening, you rang the Maasai worker who brought you a bucket of hot water, which he poured into the overhead shower. There was enough water for about 1 ½ showers, so if you are sharing the tent with someone, shower first or shower together. Plus, this makes the stories from the trip that much better.

The Migration

I was there in September, which was getting towards the end of the mammal migration, but there was still much to see. The big deal at that time of year is to watch the wildebeest, zebra, and Thompson’s gazelles cross the Mara River on their way to greener grass on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. Of course, crocodiles 3-4 meters long are lying in wait in the river to snag whatever they can. We saw two adult wildebeests pulled under by crocs as they tried to cross. Wildebeest carcasses littered the sandbars in the river, while hundreds of African white-backed vultures and Ruppell’s griffon vultures swarmed about the feast at their feet.

In addition to the migrating herds, we saw cheetah with cub, lions of the Marsh Pride (of Big Cat Diary fame), jackals, hyena, buffalo, warthog, spotted hyena, hippos, giraffe, olive baboons, and several species of antelope. We also tallied several dozen species of birds, with the Southern ground-hornbills and Common ostrich probably of greatest interest to me.

Maasai Village

Our guide, Meeshak, took us to a Maasai village to spend a couple of hours. We toured one of their smoke-filled huts, and purchased some souvenirs to take home from women in the clan. Meeshak was happy to report that when he was a young boy, he was chosen to go the English school, where he was educated. Later, he was trained to be a wildlife guide. Those young men not given this opportunity attend the traditional “warrior school” in their tribe. At the time I was there, Meeshak’s father was in the process of procuring him his first wife. Meeshak had little influence over this choice, although he told me he would be allowed to negotiate who his second wife would be. I love my wife dearly, but why a man would want more than one is difficult to grasp.

So now I am hooked. I want to return to East Africa and to see everything. Two days in the Mara is simply not enough. But the trip is not inexpensive. When I was there, the 2-day trip cost about $800, which included the flight from Nairobi to the Mara. There is a high season and a low season, but the high season is during the migration, which is a major reason for going there. There are many interesting places to visit in the world, and I want to see them all. But I would return to the Mara in a heart beat.

All photos were taken by DrTom. And for great travel deals, see DrTom's Travel Shoppe.


Maasai women in the village
Maasai women in the village
Sun setting over the Mara
Sun setting over the Mara

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      Mark 8 years ago

      I check it out.

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