The joy of a wildlife safari is to see the unseen, hear the unheard and feel the unfelt, it is to escape the urban sprawl, only to be captivated by the energy of the wild. Feeling the cool crisp air so pure that it hurts your lungs, listening to the sounds of nature from rumbling of elephants, to the skittish cry of a zebra to the roars of lion, the wilderness is home to all of this. It is truly an overwhelming experience for your senses and once you get used to it, it will be really difficult to enjoy anything else as much.
To make your safari experience enjoyable, it is important that you choose your game park and lodge carefully. It can really make or break the experience. I chose Masai Mara because of the open savannahs, ‘big skies’, the density of game, variety of bird life, the tall red-robed Masai people and over all, the spirit of the place. The Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. It’s a great place to see the Big Five of African game in their natural surroundings. We also looked into many properties before finalising Governors Camp in Masai Mara.
On a safari holiday it seems that the animals are roaming freely, but there are usually barriers within which they have to stay if they are in a game park. In Masai Mara there are no fences because it is a game reserve. This geographical fact means that you are seeing the animals in their most natural state, behaving as they have since time immemorial.
The Governors camp is situated within the reserve and is not fenced, which means animals prowl around freely, its like you are a part of a Discovery or NatGeo series. We were right in the middle of forest, literally surrounded by wildlife and amazing scenery with the river flowing past the camp, somewhat disconcertingly with a few crocs on the loose; we could not have asked for a better setting.
The Camp in itself is quite luxurious with total of 37 tents lining the riverbank, with uninterrupted views over the Mara River, its water teeming with bird-life, hippos and crocodiles. Some tents alo have views across the sweeping plains. The spacious and luxurious en-suite safari tents are entirely under canvas with large comfortable beds and hot shower in the bathroom. Each have their own private verandah, where you can watch and listen to birds and you may even see larger animals , which wander into camp. It is quite possible to wake up to the sound of hippo feeding on the grass outside your tent. For the first time, it felt like we were a part of someone else’s environment and that the one’s in control were not inside the tent, but outside.
The camp was set up to host and entertain the governor’s guests, and the service till date is par excellence. The rangers who know their work extremely well. Our ranger literally had the keen eyes of a hawk and was completely aware of the animal sounds and movements . He was with us on all safaris so he ensured that we saw the big 5 and explored a new terrain and had nee experiences on every safari, this maintained consistency and there wasn’t any lag in communication per se. The safari was an enriching experience with his in depth knowledge of the animals from their diet to their mating habits.
While swapping stories in the evening over drinks, the manager of the property speaks to each guest and makes sure they are comfortable. He had stories to last for days and you never miss the TV and internet. The manager also takes pain to introduce you to other guests, who are almost as keen as you to know about your safari sightings for the day.
Askaris (security guards) escort you back and forth from your tent to the reception area. They ensure that we or animals don’t interfere with each other and no problem is caused, but it is quite an experience to wake up in the night hearing a munching noise from hippo or feel elephants scratching themselves against the tent.
Governors camp works like a well oiled machine, working to give you the best possible Safari experience. It’s like clockwork, where you will always find someone to-
Wake you early in the morning with a hot beverage; Escort you to your jeep for a morning safari; chase a kill or spar elephants for you; arrange a bush breakfast overlooking the crocodile infested river; guide you to local tribe and village; serve you cocktails and appetising lunch; plan your sun downer by the river; lay down a lavish spread of dinner; escort you back to your camp.
The setting sure is captivating. Imagine enjoying a breakfast or lunch al fresco dining under a canopy of large old trees, when suddenly you notice giraffes grazing on shrubs literally a few meters from you or in the distance, imagine yourself catching a glimpse of lone elephants slowly making their way ahead. This is a daily reality for this camp.
In the evening, hippos walk through the camp, while diners savour their evening meals. The dining tent and the bar tent are the centre of the camp. A traditional campfire is lit at sunset and after dinner, you’d best enjoy sitting around the campfire, reminiscing the safari. Gas and paraffin lamps are used for lighting.
There’s an excellent variety available for breakfast from cooked English breakfast, french toast, fresh baked bread, condiments, pancakes, a good choice of fruit and a lovely blend of freshly squeezed juices. I would recommend the bush breakfast – which combines the 2 morning safaris and breakfast is served along a crocodile infested river or under a tree on top of a plateau. Lunch and dinner are feasts made up of tasty choices. Eating a 5 course meal on a white cotton table cloth whilst overlooking the Mara river, watching hippos and baboons is how we typically spent lunch hour here. It is hard to imagine such a elegant setting in the middle of a game park. on Sundays Indian curry is served for lunch.
Governors Camp offers 3 game viewing safaris in custom built 4WD vehicles, departing early morning, mid morning as well as in the afternoon with experienced rangers in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. They also have excursions from all Governors’ Camp properties in the Masai Mara, some of them are-
- Hot Air Balloon Safaris,
- Masai Cultural Visits,
- Lake Victoria day trips, Great Wildebeest Migration,
- Specialist guiding: ornithology,
- Champagne Bush Breakfasts, Bush Dinners and Sundowners.
Governor’s Camp has a great bar perched on a cliff, overlooking a watering hole, which attracts lot of animals. It is an excellent spot to watch animals, relax, play board games, and sway to african beats. They serve almost all cocktails and prices are reasonable too. You can also opt for a spa treatment in camp. In the tents, the beds are extremely comfortable and they place hot water bottles at night to keep you warm throughout. Showers have hot and cold water so you aren’t in the wild even though, you literally are, in the wild.
The setting of the property within the main reserve with no fence ensures a wholesome safari experience. We saw many things on our three day visit to the masai mara reserve
– Massive herds of wildebeest and zebra were grazing out on the grasslands, its an extra ordinary sight to see these ordinary animals in wild. All acting in sync to the slightest of roar from distance.
– We saw a zebra calf pulled down by crocodiless into the river, while crossing it. The parent zebra, kept looking for its brood for atleast an hour and crossed this river twice to find the missing baby. We could feel the emotions in its grunts. The sight evoked mixed emotions and the taught us a little about Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory.
– There was rare sighting of a leopard taking its kill to the top of tree. The leopard is known to be the only animal, which can feast on rotten carcass. It takes its kill to the top of tree and survives on it for weeks.
– We got close to a tigress and her cubs. It was endearing to see the tigress being protective for her little ones. They had just finished their meal and are too lazy to move.
-We went to the Masai village, met the local tribe, had a chat about their culture and rituals.
What remains unbeatable, however, was the Sundowner. It was made special by our ranger. He kept it as a surprise for the last day, parked the vehicle at a secluded spot with never-ending views of the plains and the river gushing by the side. He went ahead and set up a table cloth on a rock and placed champagne with flute glasses and cheese over it. Thats it! It was as simple as that. We still talk about the experience, when we silently sat there on the rock with glasses in our hand, watching animals in the river, crocs lying there with their mouths open and setting sun. It was as natural as it could have been. We got mildly inebriated, but I bet we can blame it on both, the wine and nature.
We headed back to a tiny airstrip with some unforgettable memories and new-found respect for nature and its inhabitants after a three day trip, which seemed to have passed rather quickly.
Governors Aviation operates flights twice daily flights from Nairobi Wilson Airport to Musiara Airstrip (duration approx. 45 minutes). Clients are met on arrival and transferred by vehicle to the camp (duration approx. 15 minutes). Return flights from Musiara Airstrip to Nairobi Wilson Airport twice daily.
Road transfer: Is possible from Nairobi. The Duration is approx. 6 hours (depending upon road conditions)
Hole in your Wallet: ZAR: 5376 ZAR: 25,807
Internet/ Television: There are no televisions and Wi-Fi signal is limited to the main reception area. They do have a laptop with internet connection, which can be useful for some urgent work. Contrary to the sweeping popular and incorrect beliefs about linguistics in Africa the staff speaks excellent English and is extremely polite.
The author of this article only profiles properties he has visited and where he would like to go again, without blinking an eye or changing anything about it. The author paid for himself and is not reliant on junkets, during the visit. Any property is reviewed on five parameters, which are:
Setting: The property needs to have its own personality.
Service: I like being looked after, without the staff being intrusive.
Food: Has to be sumptuous, even if there are limited options.
Facilities: No minimum requirement but should have basic comforts that should add to the character of the place.
USP: There has to be one unique quality, which makes it different than the other offerings out there.