Our day started before dawn (this is what they do in Africa!) as we crawled out of our delicious feather duvets and pulled on warm clothes before heading out into the pre-dawn chill and making our way over to our breakfast-with-a-view.
As we settled down into our chairs with steaming hot cups of coffee and tea clutched tightly in our hands, dawn began to break over the African savannah. It began slowly at first but then, like every sunset and rise in Africa, it gathered momentum and the sun broke, with gusto, over the horizon, heralding a new day.
Once we had eaten our fill, it was off to our open 4×4 and we headed off down the road to the golden plains below. We were greeted by buffalo, lion, impala and finally we reached the crossing point (yes, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration). What we witnessed was a tragic, moving, incredible and utterly unforgettable sight that will forever be imprinted on my husband and my memories. Thousands of wildebeest piling up on the banks of the river, each one reluctant to take the plunge. Finally one gathers the courage and then the flood gates open and the carnage begins – wildebeest after wildebeest leaps off the banks to get to the other side, dunking each other in the scuffle, enormous Nile crocodiles patrol the terrified swimmers and pick the weak ones off one by one…. Vultures the same. All I wanted to do was go and save them, shout at them saying ‘look behind you’, gosh this really is nature at it’s cruelest!
Exhilarated but devastated by what we had seen we headed back to Mara West for lunch. Over our utterly delicious meal we recounted what we had seen and marvelled at the cruelty of nature. However the activity for the afternoon was to lighten our hearts considerably – we set off to visit the school that Mara West’s owners had built. On arrival the headmaster proudly showed us around and told us how Mara West had built dormitories for the girls so that they could finish their education without being married off at an early age and how many guests – like us – supported the children through their school years. We then had a special surprise – the students filed out of their class rooms and conducted the most fantastic dance for us – we even got involved at the end! This was an equally incredible experience to the one that we had in the morning and we were truly moved by the effort that Mara West had made for their community.
As the day drew to a close we were exhausted, delighted and humbled by what we had seen and done and after another incredible, huge, meal we crawled under our duvets, snuggled up to our hot-water bottles and let the sounds of the African night lull us to sleep.
Pippa Strong writes on behalf of Advantage East Africa, and would like to thank everyone at Mara West for making her stay just magical and for the incredible work they do for everyone that lives up there.