Why did you pick Kicheche?
We chose it for its complete wilderness location and the fact that it was unfenced and small, with only a dozen tents. In Masai Mara, you can stay in five-star accommodation, too, but to be able to stay in a simple tent in the middle of pure jungle in Africa was something unique for my family. This camp is in a grove of wild olive trees. The staff were extremely hospitable and tried to make our stay very comfortable, though some things were a bit difficult.
Don’t they have a problem with water?
Water is at a premium. We were allotted 20 litres of hot water per couple for a bucket shower. The bucket is propped up on the roof and comes out of a shower head. It’s hard to shower in 10 litres and leave the other 10 for your spouse. Since we couldn’t drink water from the tap, we drank bottled water, which was exorbitant. We were paying an equivalent of Rs600 per litre of drinking water!
What about safety in a non-fenced place?
We felt completely safe. One night we had a bit of an interesting experience, when we heard a bunch of wild elephants outside our tent, but we weren’t scared. The unseasonal rain that arrived while we were there caused the only mishaps we had. We spent an average of three hours each day trying to get the safari jeep out of slush. And the final straw on the last day was when the whole wheel of our vehicle came off on our way to the airstrip, but luckily, we managed to hitch a ride there.
Did you see a lot of animals on the safaris?
We’d been to Corbett, Sariska and several other national parks in India, where the highlight is if you spot any animal. Mostly, the drive is through quiet, lush, thick growth and often you are left disappointed as there are few animal sightings. Africa is completely different. At the Masai Mara plains, you have flat grasslands and the amount of wildlife you see is astounding. Plus, the animals are easy to spot. We went on many safaris, at different times of the day. Some interesting moments were when we saw a lioness about to go on a kill and a pair of imperial gazelle courting. Of course you learn a lot too.
Any interesting titbits you learnt?
We learnt how to distinguish a female giraffe from a male. The female’s horns have a tuft of hair at the end, while the males have none. Also, we saw for ourselves that wild animals such as the lion don’t attack or kill unless they’re hungry. We noticed lions who wouldn’t budge an inch even though there were antelope in sight, purely because they didn’t need to eat. And, of course, we saw for ourselves that all the male animals are much better looking than the females.
Did you eat anything interesting?
Food was a mix of local African and international dishes. There was a lot of meat, far too much meat, even for a meat-eater like me. Two new meats I tried were crocodile and ostrich. Contrary to expectations, crocodile meat is soft and fish-like in texture. Ostrich, which one expects to be soft, is like beef. African food has a lot of Indian influences, so we found quite a bit of lentils (dals) and even some aloo sabji on the menu.
Any advice for safari enthusiasts?
Masai Mara is definitely worth going to. Five days is much too short. Anyone who goes should try and spend at least 10-12 days there. I’d like to go back, perhaps at a different time of the year, preferably during July-August, to witness the migration of millions of wildebeest.
(As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rahul Bhandare, 43, energy sector consultant, and his family went on a five-day vacation to the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, East Africa. They stayed at Kicheche Mara camp, within the wildlife park, reached by a one-hour flight in a twin-otter plane from Nairobi, Kenya