Mara Intrepids, our fourth stop, was also in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, close enough to Ashnil Mara (our previous camp) to be driven there. This bonus ride gave us another peek at local life, the reality beyond our insulated and curated camp experience…important reminder of where we were. We passed very modest houses, children walking to school in their uniforms, and boys herding goats.
Our favorite camp
When we arrived we were surprised to see a lawn — actual grass! — and someone mowing it. We knew instantly that we had stepped up on the luxury scale. The staff was the friendliest; the tents were large and nicely appointed, the outdoor dining patio, bar, and lounge area were lovely; the menu was excellent with the fanciest desserts; and our safari drivers, Joab and Samson, were beyond endearing. This turned out to be our favorite camp.
The camp borders the Talek River and our tents were right on that perimeter, very close to a rope bridge. We didn’t have to leave our porch to see wildlife. In the morning, mongoose scurried around under my tent. We were entertained daily by noisy hippos sloshing and monkeys trying to sneak across the bridge into the camp. They employ a special guard armed with a slingshot whose job is to keep these little rascals at bay. Our game drives to the Mara River gave us abundant hippo and crocodile sightings.
Of course we left the porch! We took two game drives each day and, like in the other camps, we saw plenty of zebras, wildebeests, water buffalo, elephants, antelopes, hyenas, giraffes, warthogs and an occasional cheetah, but LIONS were the big excitement — lots and lots of lions — in all aspects of their lives. Moms searching for prey, babies cuddling, adolescents wrestling, and many of them just sleeping, oblivious to the swarms of flies. We watched one couple on their honeymoon mating in the bushes.
The lookout tower
The camp also borders the Olkiombo airstrip and has a three-story wildlife lookout tower where you can watch the animals and planes come and go. You might see a lion or buffalo lying close to (or on) the runway. The tower is another favorite playground for the monkeys.
A Maasai chief runs the children’s Adventure Camp but also serves as the director (or ringmaster) for many other activities. He meets and greets the guests, leads nature walks, and gives educational presentations. He has an outgoing and engaging personality, with a distinct sense of humor… kinda like a cross between Henny Youngman and a tribal elder. To me, he personified the camp, giving it a light-hearted, happy vibe.
Mara Intrepids has a nightly educational program. We were able to attend one lecture on the Maasai culture. It was given by the Chief (of course!) in a conference room/hut. He was in full Maasai dress using PowerPoint slides and a laser pointer, an embodiment of the conflicts between the traditional customs and modern influences he discussed.
It was hard to leave this camp — we felt so comfortable and welcome. We also knew that our African adventure was coming to an end. Our safari guide drove us to the neighboring airstrip for our commuter plane back to Nairobi, where we would spend another day and night in the Nairobi Tented Camp.
Our flight was delayed an hour and our guide, Joab, stayed with us to ensure that we were safely delivered to the right plane …and then he stood and waved to us from the ground until we were (tearfully) out of sight. We keep in touch through Facebook.