Adventure in the Mara
By Johnson Ping’ua “Ping” Nkukuu, Legendary Maasai Guide + Enaidura Camp Owner
I walk like a normal day of any Guide ready to go and pick my Guests at Olonana camp in the Western Edge of the Mara. I left my Village in Namelok–Narok County early to travel three and half hours to my next destination. The journey was adventurous, I was driving an old Land Cruiser Pick-Up that most of the parts seemed from outside not to be working but I diligently worked on every single part of it to ensure it reached the destination. Like any traveler I put my journey into the grace of God and so to the protection.
My 2 year old was awake at 4:00am and we had tea together before he waved and said “Bye Baba” – little emotions of love and loneliness touched my heart. Two hours later I passed through the Loita Plains. On the right are the great and history-filled Lekanka Hills known for the huge and beautiful male lions.
It was a short drive before I reached Nkoilale (Small Town) where I made a right turn to the gate into the Naboisho Conservancy which is one of the best Conservancies in the Mara region and probably to me in the whole country. I reached Leopard Hill Camp on the Southern Most End of the conservancy. The Manager (William) and the Guest relation lady (Maria) were so welcoming. I freshened up quickly and by this time I was worried my old car cannot make it.
Good and well-conditioned cars are essential for any freelance Guide. At this time I was in touch with Murunya (Enaidura Camp Driver) to connect to a game viewer. I drove toward the Direction of Ilgila Barrier and by this time nothing was working in my Old Cruiser (The brakes and Clutch were gone, it was overheating, the Fan belt broke )…..
I was stuck briefly but not long after, Murunya arrived. It was 8:30amm and still had an hour and half to Olonana. The game viewer was like day and night compared to my Pick-up, it was a smooth ride. I dropped Murunya next to a village and I took direction towards 9Kms to the Main road. Shortly I had an issue – the vehicle stalled and I checked whether everything was working nicely but checking on the battery, the holder of the right terminal was worn out and gone. I tried to contact Murunya and any other Mechanic in vain, so I decided to walk to the nearby village(3kms).
1 Kilometre away from the vehicle I saw an Elephant in front and as if they were calling each other; they started coming from every direction. This seems to be a dream but I had to act quickly. I checked the wind direction, my heart was beating fast and of course having been used to only driving I learnt the need for exercises (a few thousand steps everyday).
My pace picked up every step I would go away from the elephants and the car. Despite approaching it was becoming meters far!! I remembered the famous words of Mandela, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” By this time I was closer to the road that connects Olare Orok Community and Talek Villages. I saw a motorbike coming and was relieved. By this time it was 10am and still one hour away from Olonana. I stopped the guys, they seemed friendly but alas they got a more serious issue than me. It happened after Mara Rianda to Talek in one crossings (tream) they got charged by a Buffalo and they fell down.
I hesitated to tell them my story but I asked “Can you take me to my car there (Pointing at Car)?” He answered “Yes”. We reached there and I pointed out the issue. He looked at me with a cheeky smile but with confidence and surety and said “….Hii ni kitu kidogo/this is nothing” I smiled……..I said for sure whoever who said that…“next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”
The road to Olonana was recently paved and smooth and not advisable for beginners or new drivers. I passed through Mara Rianda Shopping Centre –which is the fastest growing shopping centre – it looks so new every time I visit and the fences surrounding some of the villages are well improvised (Built with rocks essentially blocking off Elephants from Compounds).
At 10:45am I arrived at Olonana. The camp is first class and very formal. I picked the guests at the Main reception and briefed them on our onward Trip and the timings for our trip to Naboisho Leopard Hill. The group was very enthusiastic and very excited about their upcoming adventures.
We passed through the Musiara marsh through Rhino ridge and came across over 32 Mammals of which our best sighting was seeing the Nashipae Cheetah cubs (Namelok and Ngao). They just left their mum and seem to be doing well in hunting – they just killed a Thomson Gazelle and on the side were over 60 Vultures (4 Species). We spent the shortest time possible as we had a long trip ahead. We crossed Smelly Crossing and headed East to the famous 9km and North East towards Naboisho Conservancy.
On entering we went to the Community conservation area which is well managed with three main divisions: “The core, Livestock and Dual areas”. At first when you enter it someone may feel that the whole area is deserted, no wildlife, but once you get into the Dual and Core Area you will get to see the best wildlife. The first thing we spotted was a cheetah with 2 daughters (1Year old) -this is a famous cheetah (Naborr Daughter).
She was hunting but because of livestock and how the habitat was I found it hard for her to hunt. I suggested we get to camp first and come out immediately. We arrived at Leopard Hill which was a very interesting camp. William, Maria and other Staff warmly welcomed us, we checked in and the Rooms were Superb. One can be tempted not to go on a drive – I was assigned one of the best Guides room in the Mara though I can’t be tempted to stay without going on a drive.
But I loved it, I returned for lunch after checking in and one of my guests came over to where I was seated on the main area. I asked her, “How is your Room?” She said I can describe in one word – “Awesome”. I was so happy because after coming from Olonana the situation will be like day and night but Alas –Basecamp did a great job!! Well done to Basecamp and to The Wild Source.
We set out at 3:30pm and after 15 mins. we found the cheetah hunting. She looks very experienced and though limping, she was determined to bring down any prey available. To me I felt the limp was caused by a male Impala fight. She saw a group of Impalas (Males and 1 female) feeding. She watched carefully and after a few minutes she attacked, choosing the only female in the group and killing it. One baby seems not interested but the other and mum were feeding so fast signifying the presence of predators. After 10 minutes a hyena arrived and soon the female gave up.
We went back and had a very delicious African meal (Ugali, Chapati, kachumpari, spinach, Barbecued beef, chicken and lots of other assorted food). We enjoyed and we decided the next day will be a walking safari. We were all excited and ready for the encounter. At 5:30am we all got a wakeup call; it was a cool morning and the elated group were ready for the adventure.
Sandy and Kristen Purcell arrived first and the Birthday lady Lynn followed shortly as Craig engaged the staff. Marsha and Ted as always kept the group going. We passed through a dry river and afterwards introduced the 4 Maasai Warriors leading the group and gave them a briefing on the Trip. This reminded me of my days in &Beyond. It was fun! We followed the hippo trail and I could go a head of the group as we approached areas with wild animals. We could see elephants, giraffes, impalas, zebras and other animals at a distance.
Walking safaris are mostly for us to study small things that you couldn’t encounter on a drive.
I could point out some trees of high importance in Maasai community, the Ant lions, the foot prints and others. The undergrowth was bad and twice I got thorns penetrating my shoes. At one point Marsha asked “Ping what is wrong…are you alright ?” I responded “Am good” but you know am really having a rough time. We were all brave warriors as we trudged through the bushland to the Top of Leopard Hill. We rested as I gave them a talk about Naboisho conservancy, the Maasai People and the Mara game reserve.
We started our trail back to the Camp and I was keeping an eye on Sandy and Marsha who were the greatest explorers and a little apprehensive of our walk down the Hill. There were ragged rocks, dry river beds but we were a determined group. The view was breathtaking and this took me back to my time at Klein’s Camp walking with Simon Naylor, Tina, Martin, Philip, Cyst and many others
We stopped for some photo sessions and to rejuvenate which was awesome. I liked every moment of our walking safari – an achievement and great way to be close to nature….