A “Bucket-list” Holiday of a Lifetime – Sentinel Mara Safari

September 2021

A feature blog from a member

Ian A W Macdonald and Jane E Wiltshire

{Editors note: Please click on images to see larger renditions}

Jane and I have enjoyed many holidays in African national parks and game reserves.  However, neither of us had ever managed to “go on safari” in Kenya. We both had independently decided that one place we simply HAD to visit before we got too old to do so, was the Mara Game Reserve in southern Kenya. It was top of the list on both our “Bucket Lists”!  We couldn’t have chosen a better place to “live the dream” than the exquisite Sentinel Mara camp overlooking the great Mara River just inside the north-western boundary of the Masai Mara National Game Reserve.

Picture 1. The view from Sentinel Mara over the Mara River with the western wall of the East African Great Rift Valley as the backdrop.

As committed conservationists it was so great to see how this tastefully styled tented safari camp built into the tall gallery forest had been designed so as to minimise its environmental impact. The entire camp ran on ecologically sound management approaches; for example, all the lighting was powered by solar panels and water was only heated to the “just-right” temperature for immediate use in the showers when these were requested.

Now that we are back home after our six-days in The Mara we have tried to analyse just why this safari was so VERY special. We have concluded that probably the single most important aspect was the genuine concern that EVERY member of the Sentinel Mara “A-team” showed towards us and the lengths to which they were prepared to go to meet all our requirements. The genuine friendship and courtesy we were shown made this the holiday of a lifetime.

Of course, the main focus of any African safari is the wildlife.. and my goodness….. isn’t the wildlife of the Mara something absolutely spectacular:

We saw lions every day, with much better views of the species than we have ever had before. We got to know two of the prides well, watched cubs playing with each other, suckling, bugging a mature male whom we assume was their dad and even saw the lionesses hunting on three separate occasions. The other three cat species we only saw once each but on every occasion we got to see them hunting . We also saw Spotted Hyaenas on numerous occasions and Black-backed Jackals twice – always as beautiful sightings.  Unparalleled sighting of predators in both our lifetime’s experience!

However, our main interest was the area’s spectacular birdlife and we got to identify some 166 species, several of them species we had looked forward to seeing for years.

The extraordinarily high productivity of these well-watered rangelands was evidenced by the large herds of grazing animals that we found on every game drive.  The high density of predators and scavengers, both mammals and birds, was also striking. These vast plains and their luxuriant wetland marshes “hum” with superabundant life! The generally open nature of the vegetation, coupled with the amazing visual acuity of our Maasai guide, Dominic, meant that we saw – and generally were able to photograph.-. an amazing number of spectacular wildlife species.

We spent as much time as we could out in the field – there was always so much of interest to see and to learn. And always our Sentinel Mara hosts were quite happy to tailor our programme to our wishes: “Wake-up” early morning coffee delivered to our tent before day break each day, always with a cheerful “Good Morning” from James, our dedicated tent attendant; early morning drives, sometimes breakfast out on the plains, and on other days enjoyed luxuriously back at camp watching the hippos cavorting in the river below: Delicious lunches, either in camp or taken as a picnic lunch enjoyed under an isolated tree in one of the far-flung corners  of this vast protected area, sundowners either out in the wilds or around the warming campfire back in camp… but always at the end of another amazing day there was a delicious four-course dinner served  in the tastefully decorated dining room tent.  We loved the way the expert camp chefs were prepared to give us the small portions that Jane and I favour – no unnecessary food wastage in keeping with the camps eco-ethic!

Spending six days in the Mara  at the superb Sentinel Mara Camp enabled us to begin to “get the feel” of this remarkable ecosystem: However, it wasn’t enough…we definitely will try to put a group together of like-minded people and get back for a “second helping”!

Ian AW Macdonald (macdonaldky18@planetcoms.co.za)  & Jane E Wiltshire (jane@valtrust.co.za

Leave a Reply