Distance: 72km (Cumulative: 13 160km)
Moving time: 6:22
Average speed: 11km/h
Road surface: 30% Gravel, 70% 4x4 Two-spoor tracks
Kimana (Sand river) Public Campsite - R390 p.p
No facilities, no fencing, between wildlife by river
Caro set an alarm for 06:00, but as it still looked pitch black outside we snoozed until 06:30. We quickly got up and just put on warm clothes. By 06:40 we were in the Trust’s Land Cruiser with Marias behind the wheel. Within the first 500m, just going down the escarpment from the office Hugo saw a lion cub. A few meters further Marias spotted the rest of his siblings/friends where they were chasing jackal away from their catch.
We continued past hundreds of wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, impala and topi. Suddenly Marias exclaimed: “There’s the guy I was looking for!”. On the other side of the river lied a huge male lion. We crossed to his side an Marias stopped real close. On the other side (where we came from) there were three lionesses.
From there Marias followed the dung trial of an Elephant until Caro finally spotted them. The last stop before returning was at a river with three or four Hippos who wasn’t impressed with us and promptly swam away. On the way we also added Giraffe, Hyena, Warthog and several birds to our list of early morning sightings in the conservancy. We almost felt like we could skip the Masai Mara as we already saw so much without even having to pay for it.
We got back to the office at 08:17. We packed almost everything away last night, so after a quick breakfast and closing the tent we were ready to leave. We gave the trust a small donation and thanked everyone for the amazing time we had before leaving at 09:00.
The Maa Trust is really doing an amazing job uplifting the Maasai community while at the same time protecting the wildlife. We encourage anyone who’s in the area to pay them a visit and to support their efforts. One can also contact them via their website for more information or to help with donations.
We got to Talek a few minutes later and went to the gate to find out if we can pay with credit card. We couldn’t, but luckily there is an ATM in Talek. We actually only wanted to enter the Maasai Mara after 12:00 so that we have enough time tomorrow to reach the Mara Triangle.
We checked out the Crocodile Camp close to the gate and they let us wait at their bar until we wanted to leave. The campsite looks really nice and it would’ve made the perfect camping spot had the Maa Trust not been so generous as to let us stay with them.
We entered the Talek gate at 12:40 after handing over 24 900 KES ($80 p.p. entrance fee, $30 p.p camping and 700 KES for the vehicle. About R3000 in total). We asked to camp at Sand River like Stan and Ortelius did, but our receipt showed Kimana Campsite which they said is close to the old Sand River border. As we entered the reserve we realised that we actually had no idea how to go about it. We only had our small GPS which isn’t great for planning routes, just for entering destinations.
We thus decided to just take random turn-offs until we had to set a destination to get to the campsite. The amount of game is difficult to describe.
The landscape is also so much different to what we are used to when watching game in South Africa. Close to the entrance gate it felt like we were on a massive golf course (short green grass) full of wildebeest and zebra as far as the eye can see. The further we went from the gate the taller the grass got. We saw some elephants and giraffe, but mostly just the hundreds of zebra and wildebeest. Was it not for the challenging 4×4 routes we took down and up steep river banks we would have gotten bored.
It started to get late so we set the GPS to take us to the Sand River Gate. We, however, drove straight into a rangers village. We asked them whether they knew where Kimana is, they did but according to them it is outside the reserve passed the Sekenani gate. This obviously worried us a bit, but we decided to still head to the Sand River Gate to ask what is going on there. We followed some more 4×4 tracks through tall grass and over a koppie with magnificent views into the Serengeti. We got to the abandoned border post with all the roofless staff accommodation and stopped at the gate. A lone ranger came out who was super friendly. We told him we asked to camp here. He said we are more than welcome we can choose between a tree close to the other buildings or the tree on the other side of the river (through the border gate) about 500m away. We said we’ll take the one across the river, but first wanted to do another short drive as it was only 17:00. When asked whether we wanted a ranger to protect us during the night we politely declined, which he accepted.
Just as we left it started to rain, but we could still see clear skies ahead of us. Hugo wanted to turn around, but Caro said we might as well finish the circle route. Seconds later Hugo spotted a lioness in the distance. We stopped and saw another one. We tried to take pictures, but they were so far it was just a blur and Hugo who had to open his window was getting soaked. We read somewhere that you are allowed to follow big cats off the road, but there was no way to get closer from where we were standing. We watched a while more and then drove off. About 400m further we saw a road turning right, we followed it and to our surprise it lead to within 50m of where the lions were lying. There were three lionesses, two older cubs and two baby cubs. We turned of the ignition and watched them play for almost 30 minutes. The rain had stopped as quickly as it started, so we could watch with open windows.
We finally left and finished the circle route, getting to our camping spot at 18:10. In record time we jumped out of the car, opened the tent, boiled water for a bath, bathed, made dinner and got into the tent. Caro didn’t want to take any chances with the lions or other big cats potentially lurking around. Hugo did, however, get her to at least sit still for a few minutes to just enjoy the sunset and the beauty of the surroundings while sipping on a Serengeti beer.
We took up our laptops to the tent to sort out today’s photos and to work on the journal. We probably fell asleep around 22:00.