An article in the inflight magazine spoke of the decline in the number of lions in Africa, a reduction of over 40% in the last 20 years alone. In the 1940’s lion numbers were estimated at about 450,000 – todays estimate is 20,000. The main reason for this is the growing human population. So it was heartening to come across a number of lions on our short visit to the Mara recently, including a pride of 6 young males. When I mentioned the article to our guide, he explained how well the Mara Triangle is managed and that is the reason why we had seen so many lions on our safari.
Human encroachment was very evident, when we left the Mara a few days later, as our plane touched down at a number of other airstrips (on the edge of the conservation area) and we saw herds of Maasai cattle, sheep and goats and huge areas of over grazing.
Born Free and other wildlife conservation bodies are working at protecting the lions. In Amboseli, Born Free are building lion-proof bomas for the Maasai to keep their cattle kraaled at night.
When it comes to any safari experience, it is really down to ‘location, location, location’ and Mara Serena Safari Lodge certainly does have the most incredible location in the heart of the Mara Triangle. Built on a ‘kopje’, all rooms (built in the style of Maasai mayattas) overlook the Mara plains and the Mara River – an ideal look out point, particularly during the migration.
My previous visit to Mara Serena must have been in about 2006, so I was looking forward to seeing the changes to the lodge. I was not disappointed, on arrival at the lodge, the cavernous reception area with glass walls, is incredibly impressive. The dark gloomy interior has been replaced with natural light and the incredible views can be enjoyed from every part of the main building.
My favourite spot at Mara Serena is the pool, with plenty of seating and lovely views over the plains. This feels like an oasis, with the amazing variety of birdlife, lizards, mongoose and even the occasional bushbuck. Towering over the pool are the most beautiful Fever Trees.
We enjoyed a few safaris and saw plenty of elephants, lions, buffalo and plains game. The birdlife was good to. We spent time trawling the border region, with views over the Serengeti looking for some elusive cheetah, and enjoyed breakfast watching Hippos argue over their space in the river.
The highlight though was the hot air balloon safari. The preparation was slightly more challenging than expected, with unusual gusts of wind and a hippo or two getting a bit too close for comfort. We finally took off over the Mara River and watched the sunrise. Eyeballing the occasional eagle, and swooping over elephants, lions and various other animals. Some less bothered than others by our presence.
One last game drive and then sadly it was time to leave.