Death comes in the night (and at a discount) on safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara
- Last Updated: 11:52 PM, April 30, 2012
- Posted: 4:17 PM, April 30, 2012
The setting: Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, a warm March evening. Warm enough that I can’t figure out why the guy who brings me my towels has zipped up all the flaps on the tent. No, I want some air in here.
I unzipped the big front flap — it's maybe 10’ x 7’ — and hook it to the outside roof ledge. That’s better. I leave only the mosquito-netting flap closed. I want to feel the breeze, and hear the animals off in the distance. We’re safe — there’s an electric fence between them and us. I tuck into bed and drift off to sleep.
Then: What is that? I’m startled awake by a frantic, desperate clawing on the side of the tent. It jumps at it, trying to scale the thing, emitting a very deep, low grunting.
Something’s trying to break in — and it’s not human.
I sit straight up, my heart pounding. I wake my sleeping guy. Whatever the thing is, it jumps back down and begins slamming into the wall of the tent, clawing and trying to rip through the canvas 2 feet from where we lay.
Then it gets worse. Slinking across the wooden porch, a few feet from our bed, is the shadow of an animal more terrifying than whatever it is that is trying to claw its way in. Lion? Leopard? The lights suddenly go out all over camp. It’s midnight — electricity is shut down. It is now pitch black. There’s a beast on one side of our tent, a big cat in front, and we’ve got nothing but mosquito netting for protection.
Welcome to my Groupon discount safari.
There are two things that I’ve wanted to do for the longest time: Take a safari (way too expensive) and try one of those vacations sold at deep discounts on Groupon.com.
So, when a deal from Odyssey Safaris came up on the site — Kenya at 40 percent off! — I immediately inquired. Odyssey’s co-owner, Mark Cahill, was most helpful on the phone and through email. For about $3,600 per person, my guy and I would get an eight-night safari traveling nearly 1,000 miles through Nairobi. Total cost for two: $7,200 with airfare.
To save even more, we flew from New York using miles and got to deduct $1,900. Final cost for two people for an eight-day safari: $5,300.
This is what Odyssey offered: Day one, we’d be met at the airport and driven to the luxurious Safari Park Hotel. Next morning, we’d meet our group (who quickly became our new BFF’s) in the lobby. From there we’d be assigned with four others to a Jeep with a driver/guide who’d be with us for the entire trip.
Our trip, including visits at Masai, Nukuru and Sambur villages, would begin with a drive to the Samburu National Reserve, home to massive elephant and ape populations, alligators, big cats, zebras, ostriches, oryx and giraffes.