The Car will stop near the Mara Reserve gates to pay for your forest entrance fees.
And in a second you would be seeing hands full with items/souveniers and different trinkets pushed to you.
Remeber two things :
Once you roll down your windows and accept them you would be forced to offer a price ------
Fun Alternatives: This price that you need to offer can be around 40 % of their asking price. Never settle for anything more than half the price they ask.
USD and KSH are both accepted.
You are free to go once the driver returns.
Do not take direct photographs of the Masais without asking for their permission, especially their women
You usually find them near the Mara Reserve Gates and in their villages.
DO not photograph them since they would make a real fuss about it and you would need to shell out money as per their wish.
Fun Alternatives: Once you are in the village and have paid for the entrance money, you are free to take any pictures after asking.
Masai Merchandise: Sales benefit their SCHOOLS
Well, our experience with MICS Travel was not as the most responsible safari organizer.
I had initially booked for a 6 person team to visit Kenya during August 2011.
We had initially paid for 30% of the money.
But for reasons out of our control, we had to cancel the trip before the stipulated 15 days and informed Peter, the owner on mail and got confirmation that the money would be reurned in a couple of weeks time.
TIll end October, Peter did not refund our money.
Unique Suggestions: Ultimately we replanned our trip and got back to planning it out with Peter. This time with only me and family - a team of 2 Adults and a child.
On landing at Nairobi, we found out that MICS basically works with Otsyula TRavels for all NAirobi, Mount Kenya and Masai Mara packages; while the Tsavo, Ambiselli and Mombassa trip are the ones they themselves organize.
We were not able to stay at the costly OLUMARAI camp which we had booked, because of some rains which didnt permit us to reach the camp. We were rather put up at the cheaper Nymubu Camp.
The third day we thus requested to let us move to the similar MARA Sentrim Camp when our guide and drivers couldnt take us to OLUMARA camp.
The other option we gave them was to provide us with any basic accomodation at NAivasha instead to which we were supposed to move the next day anyway. Peter just switched off his phone and couldnt be reached for a full day and a half of the next.
Ultimately we booked a budget hotel on our own for the changed plan of staying the earlier night at Naivasha.
Rather, the team at OTSYULA travels were with us. Lawrence, our fantastic driver and friend went out of his way to find a comfortable place at Naivasha for us. He was always on or before time for the whole three days for our trips and game drivers. They also work with Kuntaai, a very well experienced Masai Guide.
The owners of OTSYULA TRAVELS, Tony and Clive even came down and met us at Naivasha the next day to understand and help us and check on our arrangements.
It was very nice of them : Tony and Clive to do so. My best wishes to them
Fun Alternatives: Book with OTSYULA TRAVELS instead :
The website is here : http://otsyula.com
This is run by Tony a Kenyan and Clive a Britisher. They are very friendly guys and have a fantastic driver guide named Lawrence.
Our best wishes to them.
Seen above with Lawrence our driver and Kuntaai our Masai Guide. Both are fantastic guys.
The last pic is of Tony the tall guy with Lawrence, and Clive viewed from behind.
I really really really wanted a beautiful, tall giraffe carving to bring back home with me. And when I say tall, I mean 5 to 8 feet, ideally. Not quite the real height of those guys, but definitely a sizable object. There were many shops in Nairobi and I thought getting out of the city would provide some better bargains. Not quite the case. On these dusty roads toward the safari park, there's only a couple places to stop and use a bathroom and of course, you must walk through this gift shop store to get outside and the tour guide drivers are all friends with the store employees, so its one giant shopping trap with no prices marked and tons of intense haggling. I ultimately did get my giraffe here and after most price comparisons, figured I got an "ok" deal, not a great deal, by any means, and that was after almost 45 minutes of bargaining, walking out, being followed, renegotiating and opting for a slightly smaller piece.
Unique Suggestions: I am happy with "Felix", my giraffe. He looks nice in my apartment surrounded by green plants, but my recommendation is this: Walk into those places, use the restroom and get out again without shopping!
Fun Alternatives: Surprisingly, the prices at regular gift shops were comparable (and often seemed to be better quality or at least equal). Just because a nice gift shop exists and has prices marked, on an item, a bargain can often be made anyway. Its worth asking!
And not all gift shops are alike. In the town of Karen, very upscale and trendy, you're going to be paying a premium no matter what! But the gift shop in our very nice 4 star hotel had some of the best prices. Having the luxury to shop around before making a decision is ideal, but in the absence of that, try to get to know the hotel concierge or a local and get their opinion on what's a fair price and get suggestions on where to go!
Also note for large gift items like I was considering, there are options to ship back to the US or abroad, but it can be very pricey. Make sure to discuss this up front, so you can consider that price in your total and again, possibly use some tactics for better negotiating with all the info up front.
There are many safari cars in Masai Mara. A queue of safari cars can be the result when exciting events occur, like f.ex when lions or other carnivore animals are hunting. The drivers communicate with VHF radio. It makes a lot of noise when 10-15 safari cars encircle the animals.
Your guide, no matter how much you beg and plead, will make the obligatory shopping stop.
This will be disguised as a bathroom or drink stop.
You will soon notice him stopping ONLY at shopping venues where the restroom in in the back - waaaaaaaaaay back behind a virtual obstacle course of trinkets, wares, carvings, pictures and various other sundries designed to make you strike up bargaining.
Shop vendors are very adept at making you feel obligated to shop in their store after you've utilized their rest room and face it, after a 4 - 6 hour bumpy ride, down a horribly built road with your bladder feeling as it will burst at any given time, you're apt to agree to anything if only they will let you make it to the end of that tunnel...
Unique Suggestions: make NO eye contact, with ANYONE! Do NOT ask for directions to the bathroom. Instead, look for arrows, crude pictures resembling a man or woman or, other such male/female symbol to indicate the general direction of the bathroom.
Trust me, it will be in the waaaaaaaay back of the shop.
You might as well save your shopping til you've emptied your body and you have a clearer mind as your driver will be no where to be found after you've finished, having conviniently sneaked off to God only knows where on the property hoping to give you enough time to be pressured into a sale for which he will make a commission!
If you wish to enter into barter or, should you be caught eyeing something, under no circumstances pay more than 50% original asking price - sometimes as low as 40%!
Enter into bartering in the following manner:
They: Hello Meeester; US $120.00
You: WHAT!?! NO thanks! I had trhe same thing offered to me in the Mara for 20 dollars!
They: No, no no meester, they cheap, mine good, you name price
You: I already did, 20 dollars!
They: ok ok, i come up, you come down...I say 80.00
You: Nah, I say 40.00, final price
They: No meester, i need more, i tell you, mine is good, name new price. I say 70.00
You: Ok, 55.00 final answer
They: NO meester, 70.00
You: Goodbye, not interested (you walk away)
They: $#$*(!#$# (Swahili for God knows wat) but chasing after you...Ok meester ok, 50.00!
Fun Alternatives: Alternative is: Do as little drinking as possible. If you must use the bathroom, let your guide know you have NO interest in buying. You wish to continue on your way as soon as you're done.
Walk past everyone on way in and out (it is not considered rude to ignore - it comes with the territory of being a vendor).
Jump right back into the van and refuse to move!
Although "sold" as an authentic, working Masai village; one later finds out that few if any Masaai actually live in such places. Only an ocassional nomadic elder tending to his goats and cattle.
Most now own cellphones, have computer access and attend public school.
They conviniently show up for scheduled tourist trips to sell their wares, talk about Masaai culture and do traditional dancing.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve is constantly full of tourists so to get a shot of some animals without the glimpse of other vehicles can be challenging. I pity the animals when they get cornered by them too. So, try to relax and take your time and not always push for the Big 5
A trip to Maasai Village is an optional itinerary in your safari tour package. However, you will need to pay US$25 to the Maasai chief or the one who greets you before you can enter the village. That's a hefty sum to pay since what you will get is a tour of the village made of cow dung & wood including plus a welcoming Maasai dance by the village warriors
As you walk through the village, some Maasai people will approach you to sell their handicraft e.g Masai cape, glass bead jewellery and animal tooth or claws (lions or other big cats) apparently killed by the Maasai warrior in a ritual to prove their manhood
Don't be fooled, this people are no way backwards. They've been exposed to commercial and foreigners for decades
Unique Suggestions: Take as many pictures as you can of the village and the Maasai people because elsewhere, you will have to pay should you want to take their picture
At the end of your Maasai village visit, you are herded into an enclosure at the back of the village compound, where a souvenir market is laid out.
Unique Suggestions: I will say that I didn't fin the salespeople particularly pushy, they let us browse in peace. It is probably quite a good place to acquire that 'must-have' souvenir for the side board!
If you want to photograph the Maasai people you encounter by the park gates, be prepared to have to pay. Even if you are taking pictures of birds in the trees, they will claim that you were photographing them and will come running over to claim their payment!
Fun Alternatives: If you visit a Maasai village - which I recommend you do - you can take as many pictures you like of the people, so don't bother to take candid shots along the road, wait until you get to the village.
Now I know what the lion felt like being surrounded by tourists - as soon as we stopped to have our tickets checked at the park gate, our vehicle was surrounded by hawkers. They are very persistent and will stick their wares right up into your face. If you are in an enclosed vehicle, make sure you close the windows at this stage. Unless you want to buy something of course.
The Masai Mara is a very popular tourist destination, and you will often find that you are not alone once some game has been spotted. The poor animals may be surrounded by as many as 20 safari vehicles.
Unique Suggestions: As you can see from this picture, the majority of the vehicles obeyed the rules and stuck to the tracks. Our driver didn't - he drove right up to the lion. It meant that we could get some nice photos with all the other trucks in it, but all their photos would feature us! Ce la vie!
LOOK at these folks! We never saw anyone of them that were happy! Thats because we had the BEST!!!!! LAND-ROVER!!!!! None of these people were taking any pics! AMAZING!
Unique Suggestions: GET A REAL TRUCK!
Fun Alternatives: GET A REAL TRUCK!
During your visit to the Maasai village, there will be a display of the Maasai warriors jumping, and afterwards you will be expected to take part in the jumping ceremony. Be prepared!