An exceptional March Mara Ride 2017

It’s been six weeks since Tristan passed away and we continue to miss him everyday.  Somehow, he is still very much present in all our lives, and no decision is made without thinking, what would Tristan say...his legacy will live on in exactly the way he would have wanted, and the safari that ran last month is testament to that…we know how delighted he’d have been to read the following…

 March Mara Safari 2017

Guide: Simon Kenyon

Assistant Guide: Megan Hodgson

‘With lots of rain in the south west of Kenya, the Mara is looking beautiful and green and it is absolutely teeming with wildlife.  Megan Hodgson and I were joined by seven clients from the US and the UK, three of whom were returning for their second safari with Offbeat. March is meant to be the low season in the Mara …

 We began with two nights on the banks of the Mara River at our Jua Kali camp. The river was very low but was rising while we were there as the rains started to fill up its tributaries in the Mau. Very large pods of hippo had congregated below the camp and they kept us all entertained with their chorus of snorting day and night!  Between the airstrip and camp the first morning we had already seen lion, elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, zebra, giraffe, impala, topi, wildebeest, Grants gazelle, Thompsons gazelle, jackal, hyena and baboons.  Quite a welcome to the Mara.

 Our first evening ride produced six lionesses who have taken up residency just behind camp.  They were fairly shy but soon relaxed and we were able to spend twenty minutes following them as they headed out on their evening hunt. A very exciting first ride, especially for the clients who had never been to Africa and this was their first safari, so to see lions from the back of a horse on your first day on safari is very special.

The evening then got even better - we got back to camp for a hot shower then jumped in the Landrover to head out for a sundowner on the plains.  As we reached the top of the hill, the six lionesses appeared and were definitely on the hunt. We followed them and just on dark one lioness brought down a topi calf. Whilst she was suffocating the calf the topi mother returned to try and chase the lioness off her calf. This act of bravery backfired on the female topi as the lioness left the calf and jumped on the mother.  This all happened thirty yards in front of our car. The calf had already been killed so we saw two kills in the space of thirty seconds. We then watched as the rest of the pride came to have their fill. Two of the lioness’ had cubs which we hadn't previously seen so a total of eleven lions were present at the topi kill. We returned to camp for dinner by the fire and to marvel at what we had just seen. This was, as we had to keep reminding ourselves, only the first day.

 We had some wonderful riding the second day around camp and crossed the Mara River.  We had some great canters on the ‘golf course like’ plains as the short green grass provided excellent going. We met the lion cubs and their mothers on our evening ride who were very relaxed and let us approach to thirty yards.

 On our third day we rode south crossing the Mara River to our camp on the top of the Siria Escarpment, on the very western edge of the Mara ecosystem. The river crossing was very exciting. The water was not very high so didn't pose a problem, however there were twenty fifteen foot crocodiles in our path. They all slunk into the river from where they were warming up on the sand and we tiptoed through!!  We had a wonderful picnic on the Kichwa Tembo lugga having just ridden through a herd of three hundred buffalo. These giant bovids are incredibly curious of the horses and try as they might to sneak up on you (not that three hundred one tonne beasts can do much sneaking!)

Post lunch we had a siesta and then mounted for our two hour ride up the escarpment to camp. We had been going less than twenty minutes when two black rhinos appeared in front of us. They were a mother and large calf and we approached to within thirty yards without them knowing as we had the wind in our favour and their eyesight is very poor.  We had now seen four of the big five from the back of a horse and we were still only on day three!  We made it to camp before the rain and looked out from our tents all the way to the eastern edge of the Mara where we would be riding in the next few days.

Leaving camp after breakfast we made our way down the escarpment and headed east.   We crossed the Mara for the last time and rode through the famous Leopard Gorge.   Unfortunately there were no leopards to be seen but lots of hyena peering down at us.

Big herds of elephant were seen feeding on the Acacia gerardii. Just before lunch we came across another pride of nine lions in a croton thicket.  These were mainly sub adult males who were born into the Offbeat pride and have now been kicked out by the pride males, forming a pride of their own.  They were very relaxed due to the fact they have seen the Offbeat horses since they were born and realise they pose no threat.  We left them in the shade and continued to our own picnic.  We were now in the Olare Orok valley, which in my mind might as well be the Garden of Eden.  It is incredibly beautiful with all of its wonderful fig trees and teeming with such a diversity of wild life.  We rode down the valley to our third camp nestled in amongst the fig trees in a bend of the river. The highlight of this area is the Offbeat lion pride. These lions have been seeing horses for the past 30 years and have become habituated to man on horseback.  They let you approach very closely enabling the most thrilling and unique experiences for the riders.  We explored the valley for the next couple of days on horseback, by vehicle and also on foot.  We saw a beautiful female cheetah and her cubs from the Landrover on the first day and then on the second we followed a different female cheetah as she successfully hunted and killed a male Thompson’s gazelle. This was all before lunch and was our third kill of the safari!

 

On our sixth day we left the Olare Orok camp site and headed east on our long ride to Olare Lamun.  This ride covers over 50km and has some wonderful plains for long canters.  We broke the long ride stopping for both a picnic breakfast and a picnic lunch on route, consisting of lamb chops and boerwors on the barbeque.  This enables us and the horses to have a couple of rests during the long ride.  Highlights of this moving ride are the large herds of giraffe and the Loita wildebeest migration.  This is smaller than the main Serengeti migration but we came across lots of wildebeest on their internal migration from the Loita hills in the east. Lots of long canters with the giraffe and wildebeest leave memories never to be forgotten and the urge to want to come back.

 We had two nights here at the Olare Lamun camp site under the sprawling Acacia kirkii trees and had some wonderful riding in this dry eastern corner of the Mara. We rode to our neighbouring Masai village and guests were able to see how theses nomadic people live amongst their livestock and how their lives are changing.   

Riding across the Mara on the back of a horse is an unbeatable adventure. With all the rain in the Mara we are set to have an amazing migration season. Hope you can join us on our next safari.’     By Simon Kenyon

We had the most incredible experience, made even better by Simon, Megan and the staff. The horses were tough, lively and mannerly. Betsy and I are working on coming back with friends to Offbeat Safaris in March 2018. Thanks again for organizing the best horse Safari.
— John Spence (March 2017)