Why is Mara North one of the best places to go on safari in Kenya?
Mara North, safari
22 Jan 2018
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Mara North, located in the Masai Mara, is we believe, one of the best places to go on a Kenyan safari holiday... and here's why.
We knew they were out there, somewhere in the darkness. The panting was coming closer, and the tell-tale crunch of dry grass beneath huge padded feet suddenly seemed very loud. As a roar shattered the night I discreetly shuffled away from the edge of the open-sided safari vehicle, wondering if my blankets would protect me from the pride of lions running alongside us. They were out hunting for breakfast, and I hoped we weren’t on the menu. Our Maasai guide, Lemeria chuckled quietly and reassured me that we were completely safe. So long as we didn’t alight from the jeep. I made a mental note not to take a walk until we were back at the lodge.
It was one of the most terrifying yet exhilarating moments of my life. Of course the fear was all in my head, mainly because I could hear but not see the lions, yet the adrenaline and excitement was real. It’s something that has stayed with me ever since, and I feel so grateful to have had this experience.
So why is Mara North such a good safari location?
Abundance of Animals
If you’re going on your first safari, or are keen to tick lots of species off your list, then Mara North is an ideal location. We visited in January during the short dry season, which meant there was lots of activity at watering holes, and down at the river.
In some places we were almost tripping over animals, they were everywhere, and we just couldn’t believe how easy it was to find them. Our particular favourites were the hippos cooling off down in the Mara River.
Variety of Wildlife
Safari-goers always have something at the top of their sightings list. Perhaps a rare nocturnal animal, maybe a lion in action, or even a vulture to see if they really are as intimidating as those in Ice Age (spoiler alert, they are!). I didn’t have a list, but I was desperate to see a hyena. Sure, they’re some of the nastiest beasts on earth, but I’d never seen one before and hoped that by the end of our 4-day stay at Saruni Mara I might have a chance of an encounter.
As soon as we stepped off the tiny bush plane onto the dirt airstrip my wish came true. There were two of them, playing chase and sprinting through the bush without a care in the world. Our guides laughed as I scrabbled for my camera, and suggested we’d be seeing plenty more. Indeed, on our way to the lodge we spotted no less than 40 hyenas, most of them basking the shade of lone trees to escape the mid-day heat. Just minutes into our trip my mission was well and truly accomplished!
High chances of seeing elusive animals
Quite content with my lions, hyenas and hippos I wasn’t expecting our game drives to really top what we’d already seen. Yet they just kept on giving. Towards the end of our second day we spotted a cheetah (or rather Lemeria did, we’d never have noticed it hidden away in the grass!) having a stand-off with a lion.
The cheetah had accidently walked into the territory of a lioness and we watched them for 10 minutes, hardly daring to breathe. You see, lions and cheetahs don’t mix. The former sometimes kills the latter and they are rarely seen together. Even Lemeria was trying not to jump up and down in excitement. This wasn’t something many people ever witness, even locals!
We also managed to see week old lion cubs (ahhh), eagles, and finally a leopard on the way to the air strip after our stay. It emerged from a woodland and stalked right in front of our vehicle, not even giving us a second glance. What a perfect send-off!
Best bush breakfasts ever?
We’ve enjoyed some good breakfasts during our travels, but I’m not sure any can beat eating sausages and pancakes on a riverbank whilst watching hippos.
Or munching fresh fruit whilst a family of elephants trundled by in the distance, closely followed by several giraffes. Magical.
Far less crowded than the Masai Mara
Everyone makes a bee-line for the Masai Mara for safari, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s one of the best places in the world to go on safari. Yet if like us you prefer a little more peace and exclusivity, then head to one of the conservancies, like Mara North. Here you won’t be competing with dozens of other safari vehicles for the best sightings, or get fed up of seeing more jeeps than giraffes. We occasionally saw other groups out on the horizon, but most of the time it was just us and the wilderness. Which is just how it should be.
A safari in Mara North is about so much more than just ticking animal sightings off a list, although that is something you can do very easily here. It’s about moments like our night drive with the lions, which I didn’t want to end even though my hair was standing on end and my knuckles ached from holding on so tightly to the seat in front. It’s about experiencing something unique and far removed from your everyday life, something that your friends and colleagues back home won’t be able to even begin to relate to. It’s about discovering that safaris are indeed as exciting as you always believed, because in the Mara, anything is possible.