Graphic designer Pallavi Nopany and her husband, Arjun Rao, visited Kenya for their 4th wedding anniversary. Here, Pallavi shares her favourite memories from her trip and tells us exactly why she fell in love with Africa.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
My husband whisked me away on a surprise vacation to Africa earlier this year for an unforgettable experience. Whatever notions I had about Africa so far had been derived from watching the Lion King, and boy was the experience a real Hakuna Matata and and an extraordinary adventure.
We spent all our time at Kenya in the plains of the Masai Mara, exploring its rolling grasslands through every sunrise and sunset. The safaris, the weather, the people and the surreal surroundings were never something I would have dreamed of witnessing.
Here are my favourite memories from the trip:
The Adventurous Plane Ride
To get from Nairobi to Mara, we hopped on Air Kenya, and into a small 15 seater non-pressured air cabin where we could look down and immediately spot giraffes, zebras and antelopes frolicking in the plains. It was a spectacular ride, and was also our introduction to the cheeky African sense of humour; the security briefing for the flight was “there are 4 exits on the plane, 2 up ahead at the cockpit and 2 behind. So if you see us jump, you know what to do!”
Oh, the safaris. One cannot expect in their wildest dreams how exhilarating the experience is being out there in the wild open plains, under the equatorial blue skies, watching the sunrise, the thundering rainclouds and the miles of rolling hills. The animals are a hefty bonus to this already surreal atmosphere.
The first animals to welcome you are hordes of curious zebra, with their rather bountiful posteriors greeting you with a quiet nod of their head before they resume the business of further fattening their behinds.
These smelly fellows look adorably cute, but are in fact the most dangerous creatures of the Mara. Stand in their path to the water and they will trample you! It’s because their skin is extremely sensitive to the sun that they need to be submerged at all times of the day. They seemed very content in the water, happily ignoring the sulphurous, smelly dirtiness of it!
This is simply one of those experiences one must experience in their lifetime. To be in front of a wild spirit like that, some of them deigning to look at you, some of them curious about you, is thrilling and humbling, and one cannot help but be in awe of their grace.
Such is the pride in their swagger and poise in their stance that one cannot be but in admiration and fear of their presence. The cubs however, are the cutest things one can see, curious little cherubs who come prancing around you with their deep blue eyes and twitching whiskers and ears.
The Other Animals
The topi, antelopes, Thompson gazelles, Kori bustards, wild boar, warthogs and wildebeest abound in the plains, frolicking, playing, and grazing. There were miniature deer that, fully grown, were the size of rabbits, and families of gazelles skipping along everywhere you looked.
The hyenas and foxes – which usual are the token villains in fairytales and Disney movies – were actually charming and cute, hanging around the lions on the periphery, waiting to get the scraps. This little fellow – a silverback fox fearlessly followed the aforementioned male lion, who was on his morning walk outside my room.
As we spent more time in the Mara, we realized how our perception of the environment changed too. On the first day, we were only trying to spot the animals with our eyes, but by the fifth, we were unconsciously using all our senses to spot them; listening for the chattering of monkeys to tell if lions were nearby and smelling the sulphur in the air to know that there was a hippo in the vicinity, for instance.
And this is how, they say, that through nature, one learns to be more aware, and connect with oneself.
The hot air balloon ride
A smooth, sailing magical morning was spent on a hot air balloon ride, followed by a hot breakfast al fresco in the plains.
While it is always a bit gloomy when its time for a holiday to end, we actually shed a few tears when it was time for us to leave this time. I hope to go back some day, and be able to witness more of the magnificent, unspoiled nature that lies there, which one could easily term as paradise – but its not, its better than that, its our marvelous mother earth, untouched and immaculate.
If you’d like to experience the wonderful wilderness of Kenya, JOIN US THIS DECEMBER on an adventure to Kenya. We’ll go on safaris to spot all the animals mentioned above, plus see the pink flamingos of Lake Nakaru, and meet Masai warriors. Comment below for more information.
Words and pictures by Pallavi Nopany, a graphic designer and partner at a boutique design firm, www.packof2.com. Her husband Arjun Rao is a partner at the Champions Tennis League, and CEO of Whatbox Entertainment. They are based in the urban forests of Bangalore, having visited Africa on the occasion of their 4th wedding anniversary.