Crazy Matatus, Maasai Warriors & Big 5 of Africa in Kenya.
by Elena Levon
” Holy Matatu! “
Wow! What a crazy adventure this was! I can’t believe the amount of kind, honest, helpful, soulful people I have met here, in Kenya. I felt like I belonged, I felt at home.
People of this amazing country made me feel this way in every step of my journey here. Be it in places I was staying or on the streets of small towns. Everywhere you go you are welcomed and helped. What can I say, I’m hooked..
People and Nature of Masai Mara, Narok and Nairobi have left a big stamp on my life. My heart, mind and soul refuse to let them go…
- Traveled solo by several Matatu’s ( big and small, fast and crazy fast, dangerous and not ) from Nairobi -> Narok -> Maasai Mara and back.I refuse to come to Africa and jet from place to place with over the top safari gear, while butlers serve me a cup of coffee at my $1000 / per night luxury lodge. Then come home and tell everyone I’ve been to Africa.. really? Now, this is the REAL Africa and it’s people, it doesn’t get more real then that! Meet Matatu! I even came up with a new phrase — Holy Matatu! Seriously, I can bet anyone top dollar, that I am the only woman on the planet who can go from Hollywood red carpet in Beverly Hills –
to this Matatu in Kenya, in a blink of an eye.. and solo. I dare you!
- Met a lovely Kenyan lady Liliana on one of those Matatus, who replied to my, ” yes, I’m by myself on a matatu ” – ” Lady, you are CRAAAZYYY!!! ” in her beautiful accent. She has never seen a white person, especially a white woman by herself on one of those crazy things! : ) She asked me if I don’t mind being there and I replied ” Why should I mind, YOU don’t .. ” , she smiled and then added ” Now you are a TRUE KENYAN, now you are BLACK just like me ” — Now that’s what I call a real compliment!!
- We had a wonderful time, told stories, talked about our similarities and our differences, jokes and cried laughing about some of them. We parted friends and she invited me to her home as a guest, next time I’m in Kenya. — You don’t get this kind of experience and a story by flying over Kenya on a jet. ( I don’t care how low you get to fly )
- Stayed at the amazing camp in Masai Mara ” Oldarpoi Camp “
for a whopping $40/night ( everywhere else around National Park the prices start anywhere from $150-1500 or more per night, even though they breath the same air and see the same animals as the $40-$80 per night people … )
Oldarpoi Camp is located right outside of the Masai Mara National Park,
with stunning views of ” The Mara ” ,
kind and helpful staff and with a home atmosphere to match… when you come here, you don’t come as a guest, you are welcomed as part of their family.. - The camp is solely owned by the local Masai community and aims to bring transformational development socially and economically to the local Masai communities, turning them into self-reliant and self-sustaining communities, through profitable eco-tourism activities. — I highly recommend it!
By the way, all the high-end or not so high-end booking agencies, will NEVER tell you about camps such as this one, ( this is coming from someone who studied Tourism & Hospitality Business for 2 years ) because they get BIG bucks for promoting the hell out of their $ 1000 per night lodges with silk bedding and butlers. But hey, to each their own I guess.
But if you happen to be on a budget and still want to experience the amazing Masai Mara then Oldarpoi Camp is for you.
You can read more about Oldarpoi in the New York Times HERE or Tripadvisor.It felt good that the money I spend there went directly to Masai people and their children and didn’t go into a pocket of some wealthy businessman who couldn’t care less about the community.
- Got to dance with Masai men and women
- Made fire from scratch
- Visited Masai Village and visited a traditional Masai home
- Got a present from Masai warrior
- Saw every animal imaginable & the Big 5 of Africa in the Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve, which has been named one of the new Seventh Wonders of the World.
- Our car got chased by a Lion
- Had a picnic in a bush
- Danced around campfire with my new friends at Oldarpoi
- Shared local food ” Ugali “ with Masai
- Taught a Masai Warrior how to drink Vodka in a traditional Russian way. ( not a lot of people actually know how to drink it, there’s a specific way of drinking Russian Vodka… )
- Learned about Masai culture and it’s people ( for example ; they still drink milk with blood and have as many wives as they can afford … )
- Learned that a Lion who wins in a fight with another Lion for his lady, will kill the first litter that he will have with her, to make sure the other Lion’s genes vanish.. Wild and brutal!
- Thought I won’t survive the ride in a matutu from Mara to Narok, since the driver was speeding like crazy, on roads similar to some roads in Costa Rica ( people who’ve been there, know what I mean ) But I’m too damn stubborn to back off and get myself a comfortable taxi.
- I was asked to stay longer, even for free, but I had to leave Mara, cause I had plane tickets to go to other 2 countries. If I didn’t, I would have stayed longer for sure!
- Dear, Fridah, thank you for the beautiful necklace, Dear David, thank you for the beautiful bracelet and Dear Rouben, thank you for pressing on gas fast and saving me from the lion.. All of you, have brought happiness and love to my life. Thank you!
- Met a really helpful and kind young man on my matatu from Masai Mara to Narok, who helped me find my way around town and who said ” It’s nice to help ” He asked me If I’m afraid to which I replied ” I trust you “
- I was the only white person and the only traveler walking in Narok and in some parts of Nairobi.
- Saw the most beautiful view of Kenya at the Mai Mahiu with a sign that reads : ” Third World View, Welcome ” I laughed, because most “first world” countries would kill for a view like that!
- Met some amazing people at my now favorite Oasis in Kenya — Wildebeest Camp It’s a one of a kind place and I won’t stay anywhere else, next time I’m in Nairobi. It’s a peaceful and beautiful Oasis in the middle of a crazy busy city. I stayed here for $30 something per night ( you can even get a room here or a tent for even less than $ 30, but be sure to book early with them ) & breakfast included…
- Spend a night listening to music, talking, drinking, laughing with incredibly interesting people, who’s travel stories are way more interesting then mine! We had a blast! It felt so good to talk to people who are as passionate about travel, people, countries, adventure and world as I am.
- Tried some blue colored shots, that I sworn will never drink again! : )
Here’s my favorite Kenyan story –
If you click on any business, be it hotel or bar in Kenya on trip advisor’s site from USA it gives you an official warning about crime and safety issues in Kenya…
Well let me tell you just how ” unsafe ” it is …
This is a true story –
When i was staying at Oldarpoi camp in Masai Mara, I lost my torch that was a gift and it was special to me, however it wasn’t the end of the world and it was just a torch after all ..
With those thoughts I made my way from Masai Mara to Nairobi, where I was staying for 1 night at Wildebeest camp, before I had to fly to Zanzibar, Tanzania the following day. In the morning I was informed that someone came by from Masai Mara (Oldarpoi Camp) at 6 am and dropped of my lost torch!
What?!! Are you kidding me? Isn’t this the scary Kenya we are talking about?! Seriously, Nelson ( owner ) send one of his staff to DRIVE all the way from Mara to Nairobi ( about 5 hours if you’re lucky, so make it 10, cause he has to go back to Oldarpoi same day ) for my torch!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that god damn torch!
There, that’s the TRUE HEART of KENYA and Kenyan’s for ya! And I have met ONLY helpful and truly AMAZING people in Kenya!
ASANTE SANA KENYA!