Safari, Days 6-8: Ol Kinyei Conservancy and Our Safari Comes to an End

mara sunrise from a hot air balloon

We flew from Samburu to our final camp near the Masai Mara National Reserve. We saw all sorts of animals on our approach: zebras, elephants, wildebeests, all roaming around. In fact wildebeests had to be shooed off the field so we could land.

Our driver and guide George and Tim were waiting for us and we drove straight to the Porini Mara camp located in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. Wow! Every tent had fabulous views of the grassland and if we kept our eyes open, we would see the odd zebra or wildebeest stroll by. Our tent was quite spacious with a lovely bathroom (so weird to talk about lovely bathrooms in a tent!). As were the other camps, this was eco-friendly  and is ran on all solar power so they had a central charging station for electronic devices and no Internet. Cell coverage was spotty so were basically off the grid. It was kind of nice but weird.

lions at sunset in ol kinyei conservancyWe had a spectacular “sundowner” game drive on our first night at the Mara camp. We saw a pride of lions (who we watched while enjoying a glass of wine and some appetizers while they watched US while noshing on what looked like it was once a gazelle of some sort – you know, your basic circle of life experience), a family of cheetahs, a couple of jackals (who were very cute – IMHO jackals get a bum rap) and lots of wildebeests, zebras, cape buffalo, wart hogs (Pumba!) and lots of gazelles. The sunset was beautiful and just as the light was dimming we saw a giraffe and two more lions which made for the most wonderfully dramatic sunset shots we had seen yet. Every sunset has been amazing in it’s own way – there is something about the light here that just makes things feel, well, magical.

We were up at 4am on our second day in Ol Kinyei to drive an hour and a half to take a balloon ride over the Mara. Wow! Seeing the vast expanse of the Mara from the air gave us a real sense of the vastness of the space. We watched the sunrise (and sunrises turn out to be a spectacular as sunsets) then enjoyed a champagne breakfast al fresco in the middle of the Mara. Surreal!! We also realized how wonderful staying on the conservancies had been (versus in the parks). The Masai Mara National Reserve was MUCH more crowded – we saw our first traffic jam, in fact – about 15 vehicles all circling some cheetahs. We felt so grateful and happy that our drives were so peaceful – pretty much just us and the animals.

We went out in the afternoon for another game drive and saw more lions and cheetahs and zebras and warthogs and wildebeests, but no leopards. It felt bittersweet as we realized the safari was coming to an end. Our last dinner at the camp was lovely albeit wet so we didn’t get to enjoy a final bonfire, something we had grown to really enjoy.

Our last day on safari started off with an early morning game drive and a bit of a scare. Heavy rain the night before had caused the river near the camp to become impassable and we had some concerns about getting out in time to make our flight back to Nairobi. Once we got back to camp, Jackson the camp manager told us there was another longer route that was open so we rushed through breakfast, packed and headed out on our last bone-jarring 4-wheel drive ride in which once again our Apple Watches closed their exercise and movement circles. 🙂 . It felt like all the animals came out to say goodbye to us – we saw so many on the way to the airfield! We had an exciting (to us) final crossing over a wooden bridge that looked nowhere near sturdy enough for our truck but happily all ended well and we made our flight back to Nairobi.

More photos here.