The weekend of 8th to 9th June 2013 was my first time in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, one of the most beautiful and magnificent places I have ever been to. Words can’t explain its beauty and vastness. Although this was my first visit, it will definitely not be my last. If you’re looking for the perfect destination for a weekend gateway, family vacation, or even a honeymoon, Mara is the place to go.
As we were in the waiting area for our flight to the Mara, my friend and I noticed that most of the tourists were foreigners from outside East Africa. In the one night and two days we spent there, more than three hotel workers told us separately, “tumefurai kuona watu wetu hapa” – Swahili for “we’re happy that we have some of our people here.” They were genuinely happy that Kenyans went to enjoy the weekend in the Mara. Some people kept asking where we are from, and all we were thinking was that we’re just ordinary girls from Nairobi.
Mara was relaxing and I felt rejuvenated after my two days there, though I wished I had had about a week. I’m sure even then that I still would not want to leave. The hotel service was amazing but most memorable was the two game drives, one in the evening and the other in the morning. We saw buffalos, giraffes, lions, hyenas, elephants, gazelles, monkeys, hippos, and ostriches, all in the wild, their natural home, which made it even more beautiful.
The Tourist Board launched a campaign called Magical Kenya to encourage both local and international tourism, but emphasizes local tourism. It is important to note that it is cheaper for locals to visit destinations in Kenya. For instance, the Masai Mara game park entry is 1,200 Kenyan shillings, which is approximately 15 US Dollars for east Africans, while it costs exactly 70 US Dollars for non East Africans.
It is my hope that more people, especially young people, will take time to travel their country to know and enjoy its beauty. You can join a church mission, go visit your ancestral home, plan with friends to watch a rugby game in Nakuru or Mombasa, take a day trip to a lake – my point is, just save up, plan to leave Nairobi and tour Kenya. A day or two is not as expensive as we imagine. The problem is that we all try to plan our vacations over Christmas break or when it’s the high season, when all hotels and guest houses charge almost double or even triple the amazing prices of the low season.
Maybe I am biased because I love to travel, but as the saying goes, “A travelled child knows better than the old man who sits at home.”
By: Hannah Ondiek, the Regional Director at World Youth Alliance Africa.