My partner and I returned from our honeymoon in Kenya and Zanzibar this week. We had set our hearts on a safari about a year ago but knew that after all the wedding planning we would need some time to relax too and so decided on Zanzibar. We started our little adventure with one night in Nairobi followed by three nights at the Governor’s main Camp in the Masai Mara and finished with 6 nights in Zanzibar.
We landed on a dusty strip in the Mara and travelled less that five minutes to our camp. Despite the very short transfer we couldn’t believe the number of animals we could already see including impala, Thompsons gazelles, baboons, warthogs and waterbucks.
Our camp had no fences and so the animals of the Masai Mara were able to walk as freely through the camp as we were. Our first experience of this was checking-in while a giraffe grazed in the area used for lunch. Giraffes are one of my favourite animals, I couldn’t think of a better start to our stay here! Throughout our stay many other animals joined us in the camp too, including several warthogs with their young, more giraffe, elephants, hippos, mongooses, baboons and a lion.
The Governor’s Camps were all eco-friendly having received silver and gold eco-tourism ratings. Log burners were used to heat water, dinner was by candlelight and solar panels powered electricity to the tents.
We were taken to our tent which overlooked the beautiful Mara river, by a ranger who pointed out the hippos wallowing in the sunshine and a mother with her young calf directly opposite us. This little hippo and its Mum were such a highlight for us, we loved watching them between game drives and fortunately they stayed directly opposite our tent for the whole of our short stay here.
Our first morning was an early one (4.30) for our hot air balloon ride but it was completely worth it. We were incredibly lucky to visit when we did as we were just in time to witness the spectacular great migration – the annual migration of zebra, wildebeest and other grazers travelling in their thousands from Tanzania into Kenya in search of further pastures. The balloon ride allowed us to fully appreciate the vastness of the Masai Mara and witness the incredible journey taken by wildlife during their migration. I would recommend this experience to anyone, particularly those lucky enough to be visiting during this fantastic natural event!
En-route back to the camp we were so fortunate as to be in the right place at the right time- we came across a black rhino… with her calf! With as few as 35 of these beautiful animals estimated to still exists in the 1,510 km2 (583 sq miles) Masai Mara, I hadn’t dared to hope to see rhino let alone a mother and her calf! Even speaking to locals many had never seen a calf and by the end of this trip we were incredibly fortunate to have seen five black rhinos in total, a whole 7th of those which still call the Masai Mara their home.
By the time that we had returned to the camp at lunch time we had seen four of the big five; black rhinos, water buffalo’s, elephants and lions (in the form of a bachelor group of 6), all that remained was the elusive leopard. We spoke to other visitors some of whom were on their 4th visits and had still never seen this beautiful cat and so despite hoping we never actually expected to see one. However, on our final drive of the day our guide, Anthony, was able to discover one, a female but she kept herself well within the thick bush where the car couldn’t go. Unable to get a clear view of her we drove round to the other side of the thick bush in the hopes of seeing her better only to have our hopes met in the most incredible way- she had two cubs! The brother and sister were happily strolling around and playing completely in the open. We enjoyed watching these for a long time until they also eventually returned to the cover and protection of the thick trees with their mother.
But it’s not all about the big five! There are many incredible animals living on these plains which I consider myself very lucky to have had the experience of watching in the wild. Other highlights of our trip included a pack of roughly 15 spotted hyenas with their recently caught breakfast, a pair of lioness sisters with two six-week-old cubs, a wildebeest overpowering and escaping from two lionesses and a cheetah with four 6-month-old cubs. In addition to this we visited a Maasai tribe and were able to dance with them, learn to make fire using their traditional methods, see how they build their homes and learn about their history and traditions.
We managed to achieve so much during our short time here (the highlights are endless) and hopefully we will be lucky enough to return in the future.
There is so much wildlife to appreciate on and around this island particularly as it is surrounded by coral reefs. Snorkelling and diving were very popular and rock pools scattered along the beaches even displayed a small amount of the incredible variety of life which existed within these waters. The Jozani Forest is home to endangered Zanzibar red colubus and we saw many a plated lizard, red squirrel, yellow headed dwarf gecko, flying fox and Zanzibar day gecko.
Despite being very warm during our stay sadly the winds were too strong for the small excursion boats to handle and so we weren’t able to do all of the trips we had planned such as dolphin watching and visiting aldabra tortoises on Prison Island. However, we did visit Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond a community-based NGO est 1993. Here local villagers have inspiringly taken the conservation of Zanzibar’s turtles into their own hands. Hawksbill turtles and green sea turtles have been hunted in this area for their shells and meat for years and are often caught in fishing nets.
The conservation pond offers a safe area to rehabilitate injured sea turtles while educating local fishermen against catching sea turtles deliberately and encourage their safe release if accidentally caught. The group also
- Carry out regular beach cleans
- Patrol beaches
- Organise tourism activities
- Protect nests
- Educate the community
- Release rehabilitated turtles
Our guide informed us that the island doesn’t recycle plastic and so this group inspires the community to reuse plastic in many inventive ways from making furniture to using it for planting. Plastic could be seen strewn across the beaches by tourists at the end of each day highlighting how essential the groups beach cleans also are.
We had the amazing experience of feeding and stroking the recovering turtles, seeing the babies and learned so much from our guide, they achieve an incredible amount with their limited resources.
I had the most incredible time throughout this trip and cannot recommend it enough. We must have taken close to 2000 photos and videos across our whole time in Africa, I hope you enjoy looking at the few included in this blog!