Self drive safari in Masai Mara - what to be aware of?
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Mar 19, 2013 3:02 AM Last Post By: itchyfeet38
Nov 18, 2012 4:33 PM
Self drive safari in Masai Mara - what to be aware of?Me and some friends are renting a jeep and heading for Masai Mara on the 23rd of December - and plan on looking at animals and stuff untill the 25th. We'll be staying at a "private" campsite via the Mara Triangle (http://maratriangle.org/) and are organizing every thing on out own - or trying to anyway...
'Cause... There are a lot of things to be aware of. We got a lot of things down. We'll rent some camping Equipment, stock up on water and food in Narok, get a driver for the park, get some rangers to keep guard at night...
But all that aside. What haven't we thought of? Any good advice? Need to know/nice to know? Any recommendations?
Any help would be much appreciated!
Thanks a million.
Nov 19, 2012 1:37 AM
Nov 19, 2012 2:56 AM
2I have done what you're planning to - you will have a fantastic time.
The main thing to remember is that you will have to be entirely self-sufficient. The campsite is just a patch of ground. No water, no facilities. So you will need:
Plenty of drinking water
Food - presumably enough for you and your driver and possibly the rangers. (We were alone so I don't know what the protocol is here). Remember the basics eg salt, pepper, cooking oil.
Everything you need for cooking. Think it through step by step. Will you build a fire? If so, you need wood, firelighters, matches. What will you cook on/in? Do you need a stand for pots? A grill? Plates, cutlery, cups etc etc. Dish clothes, washing up liquid....
Water for washing pots and yourselves. Get some big plastic jerry cans.
Lights for when you are in camp. Head torches are good for moving around but you will want at least one lamp.
For toilet - a small shovel, toilet paper and a lighter so you can burn the paper.
I would also bring mammal and bird id books, binoculars (one set for each - sharing doesn't work when you see something exciting...)
Alarm to wake you up before the sun.
Don't be paranoid in camp but be aware - these are unfenced camps and there could be a lion under the next bush. Don't stray from the car/tent at dawn/dusk or at night. We had hyena and elephant in camp with us. If you see anything to worry you close by get in the car.
Don't leave anything out at night and especially dirty pots - hyena will come and often carry them off. Put anything loose in the car - they sometimes take shoes and things like that.
Don't leave it until Narok for food - stock up in Nairobi. Very little choice in Narok.
Bring cash for the park fees ($ probably easiest) - the card machine doesn't always work.
Serena Lodge is in the park and will probably not be too far from your camp. You can get lunch/drinks there if you want and also buy fuel and top up your water supply.
Any questions feel free to come back to me.
Nov 19, 2012 1:03 PM
3Thank you so much! That was very, very useful. We'll try to stock up as much as possible in Nairobi on beforehand but I think we will need to get some food in Narok. Is it completely hopeless? Or plain stupid?
I think I'll have some more questions later on. I could imagine so anyway... ;-) This has been very helpfull so far! :-)
Does anyone else have something to add?
Nov 19, 2012 1:23 PM
4In Narok you'll get smallish local stores so you will almost certainly be able to get some basics like rice, oil, tins. By comparison Nairobi will have big international supermarkets (Carrefour for example) where (for a price) you can buy anything you could in Europe or the US.
Are you worrying about keeping things fresh? If so you could try and get hold of a cool box or insulated bag (you'll get these in big supermarkets like Naukumatt) and add bags of ice. If you are careful and don't open it too often it will last 4 or 5 days just like a fridge (also means cold drinks which is nice).
Even if you don't get a cool box at least in Nairobi you can buy nice dried/tinned goods and also wine and make some nice meals. Even if you don't want to cook on a fire it is nice to have one - usually you're not allowed to scavenge wood in a national park but again you'll be able to buy a bag of wood at supermarkets and some fuel stations.
Any other questions let me know.
Nov 19, 2012 2:41 PM
5I note that you intend to self-drive. If you have not driven in that part of the world before, you're best advised to exercise extra caution. For example, do not (under any circumstances) travel between towns after dark. Also, bear in mind that roadside breakdown cover/ rescue is virtually non-existent in Kenya.
Nov 20, 2012 1:50 PM
6Thank you for your great advice! We'l keep it all in mind.
I do have one specific question. I arrive in Nairobi at the train station on the 21st of december. My friend will arrive at the airport the same morning. The day after, the 22nd, we will have our rented car delivered at our hostel in the morning, stock up on things for the safari, go pick up our 2nd friend from the airport and drive straight to Narok from there.
My question is: Where would it make sense for us to stay? We just need a basic twin bed room at a hostel, but what area would it make sense to stay in? It seems the Nairobian traffic is absolutely horrible, so if we'd try to avoid that, shouldn't we try to stay close to the airport? And are there supermarkets nearby? And cheap hostels?
From the info I've given - what would you think makes the most sense?
Nov 20, 2012 2:18 PM
7You'll have to drive through Nairobi to get on the road to Narok. Have to say I don't envy you.Nairobi is the one city in the world I wouldn't like to drive in! There are plenty of supermarkets in Nairobi. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time. As Mwenyeji says its really not a good idea to drive in rural areas after dark. The road from Narok is very poor so give yourself plenty of time to get to the gates. You can't drive in the parks after dark either.
I've travelled and driven in many many parts of the world but wouldn't contemplate the journey you are planning. Kenya isn't the easiest of places for the kind of trip you are planning. Good luck!
Nov 20, 2012 2:26 PM
8Thanks for our quick reply. Sounds like we may have to reconsider a few things. If you were to be realistic, how would we best get to Masai Mara at the best time? Should we delay ourselves and not leave for Narok until the next day? Or simply stop somewhere on our way there? Are there any cities/villages that are closer to the park, where we could spend a night in case we do delay our departure from Nairobi (and then may be able to get further on the first days drive).
I've said it before, but will say it again. Thanks a lot!
Nov 20, 2012 2:34 PM
Nov 20, 2012 2:35 PM
10Hmm you probably need someone who knows Nairobi better than I do for this...
I can however, vouch for the fact that driving there is a nightmare - especially if you don't know exactly where you're going.
For that reason I would probably rely on taxis to get you and your friends from the station/airport (otherwise you may find that picking your friend up turns into an all day event).
If it were me I would locate the road out towards Narok on the map (try Google Maps) and see if you can find somewhere to stay that gives you relatively easy access to it. Then get you, your friends and your car delivered there.
There are lots of big malls/shopping centres around and all will have a big supermarket.
Another idea is to bring a GPS. If you have a Garmin you can buy online software called Tracks4Africa for not much money and it will help a lot navigating if you are on your own. It is designed for overland travelers. It will also help you around the Mara.
By the way the road out towards Narok goes down the escarpment into the Rift Valley. It is quite a dramatic ride. You'll see what I mean :-)
For the Triangle you need to head for the furthest gate (Oloololo) . Allow 6 hours from Nairobi.
Nov 20, 2012 2:52 PM
11Also check that you can pay park fees at the gate. It changed this year and in theory is meant to be paid at Equity Bank in Naoribi. I say in theory because we added an extra person to our group at short notice and I guess we must have paid for her at the gate. She was Kenyan though so don't know if it made a difference.
Nov 21, 2012 2:12 PM
12Quote: Where would it make sense for us to stay? We just need a basic twin bed room at a hostel, but what area would it make sense to stay in? It seems the Nairobian traffic is absolutely horrible, so if we'd try to avoid that, shouldn't we try to stay close to the airport? And are there supermarkets nearby? And cheap hostels? (End Quote)
(1) You are between a rock and a hard place. This is because the airport and road leading out to Naivasha / Narok are at diametrically opposite ends of the city centre - and the city centre is where traffic is at a permanent stand-still. So even if you stay close to the airport, you will still have to negotiate your way through it all to Westlands, Kangemi and beyond in order leave the city (and its traffic!) behind.
(2) There are many tiny supermarkets dotted in the Embakasi Area - but if you want a decent, well stocked supermarket, your best chance is Nakumatt. There is one at City Cabanas but if you use the regular road between the airport and the city centre (i.i Mombasa Road), it is on the wrong side of the dual carriage way - and trust me - when you see the traffic queues, you will realise it is not a good idea to "lose your position in the queue" by exiting your own carriageway and finding your way to a shop on the other carriageway! You could try getting to it using the Airport North Road though. The other closest good supermarket is Nakumatt (Nyayo Stadium) - which again is on the wrong side of the carriageway - but slightly better access because there are two roundabouts within close proximity that will enable you to manoeuvre between the two sides of the carriageway - if other drivers allow you to get into their lanes....
(3) If you have to shop in Nairobi - and only after picking your friend up - I do not think you will be able to put Nairobi behind you until after midday. However I am more concerned about the fact you will be starting a long distance journey on a rented car that you have not tried and tested. Kenyan Car hire companies are world re-known for their notoriety in unroadworthy vehicles.....
Nov 22, 2012 2:28 AM
Sorry, no advice here.
I am traveling alone in africa and plan to be in Kenya in december. I was wondering if you have room for one more person.
If so you can send me a message.
Thanks and good luck.
Nov 22, 2012 5:25 AM
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