BY Lisa Lindblad
September 19, 2013
In 1975 I stayed in Kenya’s Maasai Mara for 18 months living amongst the Maasai with all that entailed and making films. It was among the happiest times of my life.
Almost every year I return to East Africa and I try, even if for only a couple of days, to my home on the Olareorok River to drive the plains I once walked across. We have just returned from a glorious week in the Mara and, this time, I organized our stay differently. Rather than set up our own camp or to stay in one of the many permanent tented camps that now dot this wildlife rich country, I rented Topi House, a three bedroom “settler” house graced with a wide verandah, en suite bathrooms and, best of all, a remarkably kind, fun and happy staff. Salaash, our supremely gifted and gracious Maasai guide and driver anchored the trip with voluminous knowledge and intuitive spotting and driving; Nabala Semeyioi, the 20 year old head of household, an impressively committed high school drop out who I will assist in putting through the Mara guiding school; James and Rongo rounded out the staff with smiles and kindness. To me, the luxury of the bush is to have your own vehicle, your own guide, your own digs, and to be free to drive when and where you want. We had all of this at a fraction of the cost of some of the other more glamorous camps around.
While the simplicity of life in the bush is what enchants me, I never tire of wildlife encounters on the plains. The Mara is beyond rich in wildlife but, because of the density of visitors, the animals are extremely habituated. I cannot pretend that this does not concern me, but I have to admit that the animals’ comfort with vehicles makes for some extraordinary encounters. We spent an hour – alone – with a female leopard on the river bank; we sat with a black mane lion who mates with his consort for 21 seconds every 20 minutes for two weeks; we watched babies suckle and mamas roll around on dusty plains and in muddy holes; and we watched in amazement as a female cheetah jumped atop a landrover, stepped over the head of a photographer standing through the roof hatch in front of her, and dismounted off the hood of the vehicle. Here are some images, all taken by my son, Jeremy.