“Why do you always say Africa when I ask you what place on earth you find most exiting?” asked a good friend with a bit of frustration the other day and finished off by saying: “You have said that for the last 25 years I have known you.”
Because it is. As simple as that. Since I once upon a time started the life of travelling I have been fortunate to visit a bit more than half of the UN recognized countries on earth. And there´s no doubt, most of the thrilling and fascinating places of these are African. Why?
I have just come back from another extra ordinary journey to East Africa. And, even though I have been in this area quite a lot, every time I step off the plane in Nairobi on top of feeling thrilled, I almost feels like a home coming. I am not the only one who experiences this unique feeling. Some say it has to do with our origins as human beings. We do come home. I just feel at ease immediately and even though Nairobi has turned into a very busy and bustling city, I do believe I still feel the smell of the red earth of Africa. The reddest of them all.
This time we ended up first at Serena Hotel, a sign that a luxurious tour was in the happening. It was another Gentlemen´s Expedition with one of my very best friends, Jeff, and a team of invited guests. As always the best of people. All due to Jeff of course. Good people surround themselves generally with more good people. This time we had two ladies in the group, so let us call it Kensington Mixed Expedition 2015. No doubt, I immediately realized that this was the best group so far!
First stop was Mara West located on the top of the Oloolooloo Enscarpment. This luxury lodge is run by two extra ordinary human beings i have ever come across. Andy and Francis. And now their little one. Andy has been in Africa for years and he is a very interesting personality, one of these you most likely will only find in Africa nowadays. Unfortunately, because life becomes much more fun with people like him and his wife around.
Ebola has been a disaster for the tourist industry in East Africa. Even though it only hit West Africa, the Western world is still so ignorant about Africa, it condemns the whole mighty continent as a disaster area. Amazing how ignorant the Western world can be, even though we are in the 22nd Century and Internet is part of most people´s possibilities. Well, in reality it isn´t really a surprise, considering the media today is at its lowest due to the fact that most news outlets are run by the same corporations who want news to be seen their way. Africa is such an issue.
That withstanding, I can see some advantages with a greatly diminishing amount of tourists. I am thinking about the wildlife. It didn´t take long on the first safari to understand this fact. Even though this was during the rains, meaning high grass and water all over the place with the great wildlife spread out all over the park, we immediately came across three…yes, three….rhinos closer than I have ever seen them during my 25 years of visiting Masai Mara. Remember that there´s only 6 resident rhinos in this exclusive park, probably the best in the world. This time we followed them for a long time and eventually they would come so close one could see all of their beauty. For me, this was a true highlight in life.
But it wasn´t only the rhino which amazed this time. We saw a pride of 19 lions doing their own morning drive for a little breakfast drive. They walked south as a pride, but spread out and worked together, but they seemed tired after a night of hunting. All this happened very close to our vehicles. There were other tourists out there, but very, very few. And I see a great change compared to when i was first here back in 1989. In those days there were many backpackers with little money, like myself. Most from Australia, the UK, New Zealand and the US. There´s few tourists belonging to this group nowadays and I think it is turning into another Galapagos Island, where only the rich can afford to come. Today most of them from Russia and China, but also local tourists which makes me very happy to see. But I think this development is really, really bad in the long run. It is when you are a backpacker that you start sketching the way how you will see life in the future and if the backpackers don´t come, I fear for the wildlife and Africa. This is definitely not a good development. And being rich doesn´t mean you are intelligent. Most of the times, on the contrary.
Masai Mara is indeed a world class destination. It is accessible, still teaming with wildlife and it is very beautiful. A must. And there´s no better way than to sit on top of the Oloolooloo Escarpment overlooking this the greatest wildlife area on earth.
*Photo album from the journey here!