Day three…Safari…Beyond our wildest dreams…The Big Five…Accomplished in our first 10 hours on safari!

Up close and personal! We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from this lion. Much to our surprise we never felt frightened or at risk at close-range to any of these big animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show.  Many more lion photos including a graphic kill and mating shots will follow in posts to come.

Anderson, our guide at the Olonana at the Sanctuary Retreat has far surpassed our hopes and expectations in ensuring that we have a memorable safari experience in our short three days at the camp. 

Had the expense, not been $5000 including air, all-inclusive, we surely would have stayed longer.  Maybe someday we’ll return to the Masai Mara and Olonana.

At this point, we don’t flinch over the cost. There is no amount of money that could have provided us with a more life-changing and valuable experience that which we’ve had thus far; 19 hours on safari in the 49 hours since we arrived on Saturday.

Encountering these creatures from close proximity was Anderson’s goal. In most cases, we were within 25 feet of any of the animals in our photo.  Notice, this older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk. Anderson expected this one to be around 60 years old, close to his life expectancy.

With one more safari remaining tonight, we’ll begin to wind down, pack to return to Diani Beach on the tiny plane, with plans to continue to relive this experience over and over for years to come.  Now we know that safaris will be an integral part of our ongoing travels.

The Big Five…we had few expectations.  Now wanting to be the typical traveler, we made no requirements to Anderson that we accomplish this treasured undertaking that most safari attendees get stuck in their heads.

The Big Five may vary by certain standards.  In Africa, it’s listed as follows:

1.  Elephant
2.  Black Rhino
3.  Cape Buffalo
4.  Leopard
5.  Lion (particularly the male lion)

Leopards are nocturnal and seldom seen during daylight hours. We were so excited to see this leopard to round out the Big Five sightings in the first 10 hours we were on safari. 

There’s so much to tell, I almost don’t know where to begin. With limited time and connectivity, we’ll continue as we have over the past few days, as many photos as we can with less dialogue.

But, there’s a story here from beginning to end that we’re anxious to tell, the rich experience of the gift of nature, the local people who regard it with reverence and, our own discovery of that which has remained inside us that is finally let free.  We’ll never be the same, neither of us.

At this point in time, there are only 30 remaining rhinos in Kenya with 10 in the Masai Mara. So far we’ve seen 5 of these elusive and endangered animals.  Lots more photos of rhinos and babies to follow.

When returning to Diani Beach, we’ll begin that story with many more photos as well as our own personal journey of a life-changing adventure we’ll never forget.

We took these photos posted today of The Big Five in our first 10 hours on safari.  That story is but a small portion of the treasures we beheld day by day as we bounced around over winding rocky uneven road without concern or thought to any discomfort.

This old cape buffalo was covered with flies and mud, huddled close in the hot sun with other family members and friends. Most likely he was what Anderson referred to as the Retired Generals, male buffaloes who was been banned from the herd for life, having lost for dominance in battle with other males. The males hang out together in small groups for safety reasons.

We will highlight many additional photos of The Big Five and the many other amazing animals that we discovered each day on safari. 

By the way, as we write this, we’re sitting in the outdoor restaurant at the lodge, soon to go on our second safari of the day. Across the river, we see giraffes and impalas (photos coming soon) and in the river, playful baby hippos. Ah, this is living!

Please come back as this story continues to unfold. Thanks to all of our readers for their comments and email messages and of course, for following along with us.

Day one, safari…Beyond our wildest dreams….

Anderson, our safari guide took us on an unplanned 90-minute safari rather than wait at the airstrip for another couple to arrive on a later flight. This was one of the first photos we took along the Mara River.  Our tent is located on the banks of the river where the hippos will awaken us with their hysterical morning calls. We couldn’t believe our eyes or our ears
Anderson referred to this ostracized male cape buffaloes (one of the Big Five) as Retired Generals. They lost the battle for dominance and are forced out of the herd to fen for themselves for the rest of their lives. Kind of sad.  He gave us a nice pose, hungry not only for vegetation but also for attention.
I love warthogs. They are funny, actually quite friendly. Vegetarians, they amble around for the tiniest morsels. They are delightful to watch.  Please pinch me! I can’t believe we are in the Masai Mara. We missed the Great Migration by one week. We’re not at all disappointed with what we’ve seen on the first day!

As we write and post photos, we make a valiant effort to take our readers through the step by step process of following our journey each step of the way.

After our experiences today, we are tempted to get right to the safari, as we know many of you’d prefer. Our arrival in itself was an adventure all of its own, not a story we could easily forgo.

So, in light of this, today, we’ll tell the story of our arrival at Camp Olonana of Sanctuary Retreats, an over a two-hour flight on a tiny rickety old plane including notes and photos from the flight and to whet your appetite for the treasures of safari a few of our photos from our over first four hours on safari on the first day.

Without a doubt, we’ll be posting photos every day, perhaps twice a day. There’s no Internet connection in our tent. In order to post, we have to sit in the lobby of the main building of the camp.  With six hours a day on safari, the slow connection at the camp (not surprising), we’ll have no choice but to continue to post photos after we return to Diani Beach with a better connection.

In the first 90 minutes, we took almost 100 great photos. This afternoon we took hundreds more.  Bear with us, you’ll see most of them over the next week. As a matter of fact, we can’t wait to share them.

For now, we’re pooped and at 8:02 pm have yet to eat dinner. Soon, we’ll stop for dinner which ends at 9:30 pm. We’ll be going out on safari for a breakfast picnic at 6:30 am. We’ll be back with more photos tomorrow afternoon.

Traveling to the Masai Mara by plane

Our tiny 19 seat plane. Yes, I know, it could have been smaller.
The plane was fueled by using a hand crank typically used in WW2, according to Tom’s recollection of history.
View from the plane after leveling off.
Yes, that’s Mount Kilimanjaro, as viewed from the tiny single engine plane.
The inside of the plane was so small, it was difficult to get a good shot maneuvering around the other passengers, since we were on the opposite side.
This pristine lake was like a mirror.
Muddy rivers.

I’d never flown on a small plane. Oh, yes, opportunities were presented from time to time. But, I always dismissed them without a moment’s consideration.

Only recently, I’d begun to feel more at ease flying in commercial jumbo jets after the long flights we’ve tackled in this past year. I’ve had no desire to tackle the puddle jumper concept.

This appeared to be some type of horse farm.  Look at the reflection of our plane on the ground! What a sight!  I couldn’t believe we were inside that tiny thing!

When we’d decided to travel the world almost two years ago, I anticipated that it was time to let go of some of my irrational fears. As we planned our itinerary, I contemplating a few of the rational fears realizing it was time to let some of the fears waft away.

More muddy rivers.

With a torn shoulder injury escalating during the planning stages with no desire to have surgery to remedy it, I decided to forgo more physically challenging events and settle for combatting some other fears which included flying in small planes.

After three takes off and three landings, we finally arrived to meet our guide, Anderson who’s lived in the Masai Mara region all of his life. What a guy!  We loved him the moment we met him!

This morning as I sat in my confining worn-out seat which included a number of tears and lumps in the rickety 19 seat plane, I found that I needed a diversion more distracting than reading mindless drivel on my phone.

My knees still a little wobbly from the flights.  I was thrilled to be on the ground, meeting our guide Anderson for our time in Onolana.  At that point, I knew I’d have be less fearful on the return flight.

Instead, I began to write on the “legal pad” app on my smartphone hoping to divert my attention from my usual overthinking, worrying, and speculation.

Tom was engrossed in a book on his phone, oblivious to any concerns, mine or his, occasionally looking my way, thrilled that my nails weren’t digging into his hand.

A person could spend a lifetime trying to analyze why one has such fears and others do not. Never having to combat small plane fear in the past leaves me with little interest or inclination to pursue answers at this point in life. Thinking I could bypass the necessity of facing it, I now knew the time had come in our travels to face a simple fact: either we get there in one piece or we don’t.

This is one situation I cannot control. There’s no going online and researching an answer, resulting in a bullet point list of myriad possibilities to consider, ultimately sharing those in a post.

All I could do is fly on the little plane with a determined attitude, saying a few prayers, while hoping this old beat up prop plane will make it safely to the Maasai Mara and the necessary two additional stops along the way resulting in three “ups and downs” until we arrived.

A half-hour into the two-hour flight, Tom alerted me to stand up to walk to the front of the plane to take a photo of Mount Kilimanjaro. I did. He did.

This, dear readers, is why we do this. The excitement of that which we had an opportunity to behold allayed my fears and I felt at peace. 

We’ll be back with many more amazing photos of our safari, the fabulous resort, the outstanding food, the flawless service, and smemorable experience that fulfills a lifelong dream.