[OPINION] Inside the wonder and majesty of the Maasai Mara
Everyone has a bucket list. Visiting the Maasai Mara in Kenya has always been at the top of mine. When I got the chance to visit the area, I jumped at it.
After a short 45-minute flight from Nairobi, we landed in the middle of the Maasai Mara. This is what the African bush looks like in the books we read while growing up. Kilometres of raw untouched natural landscapes, with animals as far as you can see.
The South African-owned and managed Wild-Eye camp on the Mara River was my home for the week, and I felt rather emotional when I had to leave the place that had such a big impact on me in such a short time.
It was not only the fact that I was staying in a comfortable tent, with five families of hippos as my neighbours (who often woke me up at night to get a bite of the grass underneath the tent) but what made this trip truly memorable was the people.
I was left in awe of the Masaai people who received us so warmly in their home. Nothing was ever too much to ask for and every day was met with smiles all around.
The knowledge these people have of the area and environment is just incredible and it adds to the experience. I also believe the fact that I stayed in the bush with the people and the animals made this the most unforgettable experience of my life. There is no way that staying in a lodge with 200 other people would have given me the same feeling of being one with nature than this incredible camp and staff did.
I made new friends. I learnt so much about a new tribe and left with so much respect for the people who reminded me to just slow down and remember what life is really all about.
WATCH: Meeting a Maasai warrior
I have always loved animals and nature and will choose bush over beach any day. What I saw in the Mara in just a week, blew my mind and I wonder if any of the local South African parks will ever be enough for me again.
Not a day went by where we did not see at least three of the Big 5. There were no traffic jams at sightings, no attitude when park rangers gave orders and complete and total respect for nature.
At any given time there are antelope, elephant and general game everywhere you look. An abundance of big cats and, of course, the wildebeest and zebra population.
The area is known for the Great Migration – one of the 8 natural wonders of the world. This natural phenomena – during which hundreds of thousands of wildebeest cross over to the Serengeti - usually happens between July and October. I felt so blessed and lucky to experience a river crossing in the middle of November – experts say this is because of a change in rainfall patterns in the area.
We experienced nature at its best. Some sightings were easier to watch than others, but it is exactly that – nature.
I keep asking myself why the Masai Mara had such a massive impact on me. It comes down to respect. Between the people and the animals, the environment and the area. I believe we have a lot to learn from the area and its people.
After visiting one of the best national reserves in the world, the wonder that is the Masai Mara is still on my bucket list – as there is so much more to see and experience.
Christa Eybers is an award-winning multi-media producer at Eyewitness News. Follow her on Instagram: @ChristaEybersMedia