Jane saddling up in the Mara – September, 2013
I couldn’t wait for my trip in September with Safaris Unlimited – an eight-night horseback safari in the Masai Mara at peak migration. An overnight Kenya Airways flight and an early morning arrival to the warm tones of a brass band. What a welcome! Oh no, Salvation Army dignitaries just ahead of us. A nice beginning nonetheless. A smooth transfer followed by a briefing from Maureen who runs the office, and then a short flight from Nairobi and we were landing in the Masai Mara! We were met by Gordie Church and his guide James, who pointed out wildlife to left, right and also above, for the birders!
After a delicious lunch we settled into our tents which were very well appointed, particularly for a mobile camp which was to accompany us from one side of the Mara to the other. Highlights included really bright solar powered reading lamps. Fortunately, they lasted the full week because we did have unusual patterns of weather. Most days we were cantering ahead of the grey skies or pulling on waterproofs – always a risky thing to do on a new horse as some take off at the sound of flapping clothing.
The horses were a pleasure to ride. They were surefooted, fit and in beautiful condition bearing in mind this was their last ride of the season. When galloping across the plains, they didn’t race or take offence to being ridden away from the herd. No wonder they were happy horses – they were fed well, groomed carefully and had well-fitting tack with brand new numnahs. No saddle sores for horse or rider. This was in part thanks to Felicia (who is engaged to be married to Gordie next March). Every horse is special to her and it shows. She checks on them regularly as well as being back-up rider and an excellent host, matching Gordie in the story telling after dinner or around the campfires.
The only major mis-hap was the horsebox getting stuck in black cotton soil and when rescuing it, another vehicle burnt a clutch. Not good when you’re miles from a workshop. We wondered why the extended siesta during one particularly long full-day ride with dark threatening skies rolling in. In the event, it was nearly dusk when we arrived at camp in a magical valley greeted by a happy, smiling crew. They were still running around putting up tents and helping the chef and her team to produce another delicious meal. This day summed up the pride which every member of the team displayed in their service.
Safaris Unlimited showed unlimited amounts of care when it came to looking after not only the guests, but the horses, vehicles, equipment and staff alike. A good recommendation for both riders or those looking to do a non-riding private photographic or family safari with Gordie and Felicia.
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