Self drive to the Maasai Mara, No 4×4’s necessary

The quintessential safari photo has that beautiful  African sunset, one acacia tree, and a 4×4 Landcruiser, and happy people wearing khaki outfits.  Right? If that comes to mind when you think of Maasai Mara, you need to visit Castel Mara camp on the outskirts of the Sekenani gate for a reset.  

So let’s go back to the beginning. The journey starts in Nairobi on a cold, foggy Tuesday morning. It was so ominous and dark, that we missed the turnoff the highway onto Mai Mahiu road.  We turned back and joined the Mai Mahiu behind tens of trucks and trailers – some spewing black smoke*. One the descent started, the fog cleared up almost immediately revealing the fantastic view of the Rift Valley and beyond. 

The drive to the floor of the valley was rather short and we got onto the Narok road en route to the promised camp quickly.  Fully tanked, ready snacks, and a rhumba playlist loaded it was time to hit the road proper on the flat and straight Mai Mahiu – Suswa stretch. 

Fresh from CMC Motors for service, the ford was pulling hard with its 160-ish horses, engine purring like a kitten with the barely audible turbo whistling now and then. It’s really easy to go over the speed limit if one forgets to keep an eye on the speedometer. Also, watch out for that goat or cow that will cross the road as you approach. The landscape got more interesting and greener as we closed in on Narok for a brief stopover. Breakfast. 

The stopover wasn’t that short after all. We decided to walk about the town’s thoroughfare. With its narrow crowded streets, zero sidewalks, the highest number of cars per km2 after Nairobi, and definitely the greatest choma we have ever had. When we walked in, we were slightly disappointed when they told us that the choma wasn’t “mbuzi”. However, they assured us that it was the best nyama we would ever have and we gave them a chance. 

We ended up stuffing ourselves on the a kilo of the sweetest – juiciest beef choma ever made for 700 bob. There’s is simply no words to describe the taste. We also saw this cool camper truck on a world tour by a french couple, a really interesting trip documented on their website BYC Tour

 The rest of the drive from Narok to Sekenani was an easy 100km, like a Ferre Gola playlist, We drove through places with those beautiful Maa names like Ole-rai, Esupetai, Ilturisho, and Nkoilale until we got to Sekenani.  Only disappointing part of the drive is that the new road is already under repairs on a small section. Hopefully, the rest of it remains intact. 

Our promised camp was a mere 2 km from the highway on a road that is more of a cattle track and just like that, we were in Siana Conservancy and into Castel Mara camp. No land cruisers were necessary to get there. 

Your city 1300cc car will make it there, with no trouble at all. Have you been to the mara? Have you always thought that you needed an offroad vehicle to enjoy one of the world’s greatest game parks? 

Look out for the next post when I detail what the experience at Castel Mara was like. 

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