On July 28, we had to get up at 4 am. A guard came to the tent for a wake up call and had to leave us a lantern since it was too early for the power to be on. He came back to escort us to the main dining area/reception area. We had a very bumpy early morning ride in a Land Rover to Keekorok Lodge. On the way we saw some animals. We saw a jackal and a mongoose. We also saw some disoriented zebras. We were told by the driver that he has to be careful because zebras get confused by car headlights and charge the car. No good. We had to get up so early for our balloon ride over the Mara. Not cheap (used Balloon Safaris ltd.) and I thought Dmitri would have a heart attack when we paid for it, but it was so wonderful. Truly a spectacular experience. And (almost) worth getting up so early for.

Fire ’em up! Nothing like a heavy does of propane at dawn to get you woken up in a hurry. I love the smell of propane in the morning. It smells like…propane.
Were in not for the goober behind us with no sense of honeymoon timing, this would be the best picture from our trip. Excuse me sir, could you take a step back?

After the balloon ride, we were all taken for a champagne breakfast in the bush. Wonderful. Now that’s what I’m talking about! We rode back to Keekorok with some Brits. After all that champagne, we had to have our driver make a pit stop. The British girl had a wonderfully funny remark, “I can’t believe we just had a wee in the middle of the fucking Masai Mara.” Very funny, but well-needed and after that we enjoyed the rest of the ride back. On the way, we saw a lioness about 10 feet away from us. She was so beautiful. She was watching a gnu and it looked like she might have attacked him, but we distracted her with all of our picture taking. Her ears kept twitching as she heard the click of the cameras.

Champagne brunch on the ground, 20 feet from the Tanzanian border. Most of our table mates were American medical staff stationed on a base at Naples.
This lioness was right there as we drove back from the balloon landing site. She’s maybe 13 feet from our jeep. This shot is from the sunroof with a fellow passenger in front of me for scale. The lioness was stalking a gnu about 40 feet away, but the gnu spooked and ran off.
At the Carnivore, flag up means “bring the dead animals!”

Our balloon pilot was Gary, a Brit based near Mombasa. Very funny and wry. There was an interesting group from Naples in our balloon—a group of Americans on a military base there. Up in the balloon, we saw animal formations from high above. We went up to 2500 feet. What a spectacular view. We saw across the border to the Serengeti. And our balloon actually landed in Tanzania. The hour+ flight ended with a fairly violent and exciting “landing.” It was very windy out and we hit a small tree on the way down. I got a nasty bump on my head. More Survivor trivia—Gary, the pilot, has met Mark Burnett and let on that a Survivor reward is a balloon ride.

There were actually four balloons floating around at once. Each had 12 passengers and a pilot. We saw the sun rise in mid flight and the land and the critters below came into sight. Pretty spectacular plains and just hundreds of thousands of animals.
We got up pretty high. The pilot said 4,000 feet. It’s amazing how quiet it is up there. If I had a telephoto, you’d see that there was a pride of lions at that river bend down there, feasting on some unfortunate gnu.
We actually had a rough landing, being dragged along the ground for about 50 feet on our sides, smashing into a tree. For some reason, this seemed like fun at the time.

That afternoon, after a nap, we took an afternoon game drive. Fred wanted us to see hippos, but it was rainy and the roads were impassable. This was technically the end of our jumping safari. The next day we headed back to Nairobi. Too late, we learned how to bargain although the prices were out of wack, especially after we had seen how cheap wood carvings were in Bali.

Back at the Holiday Inn, we had another lunch at Spurs and were happy to be out of the car. No more jolting. We went to one last curio stall and each got a carved wooden animal—a rhino for Dmitri and a gazelle for me.
That night we had dinner at Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi. Very cool place-kicks ass of Hard Rock Café. There are rotating waiters with meat skewers. Dmitri was very excited by all the sauces to dip the different meats in. They have a flag system. If the flag is up, bring on the meat. We tried ostrich, croc, and waterbuck. And chicken and pork. I also tried a dawa, this vodka and honey drink. Blech! Anyway, it was a wonderful concept. We thoroughly enjoyed our last night in Nairobi.