Hear and Feel the Serengeti
It was an unusual sight. A large Martial eagle perched on a log, its expansive wings pulled in front of it, almost in a self-embrace. To the right, two Tawny eagles, their eyes trained on something beneath its talons. Peering through the binoculars we made out the inert shape of a hyrax. It was a prize catch, and there was no way the Martial was going to share his lunch. I cannot help feeling the same way whenever I discover an amazing new place. I too want to wrap my arms around it and keep it all for myself. But then again, some discoveries are too good not
While the rolling plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park are famous for the annual wildebeest migration, they have also become almost as well known for the hordes of eager tourists who frequent it. It is thus an absolute luxury to find a spot in the park where you feel like you have the place entirely to yourself.
Kaskaz Mara Camp is just such a place. Situated in the northern reaches of the Serengeti, this area was off limits for many years due to fighting between the Maasai and Kuria people. Finally, through conservation education and the building of schools and dispensaries, the fighting ceased, and a few intrepid companies moved into the area, including Nasikia Camps, a family-run, Arusha-based company that initially made its mark with a number of mobile tented camps.
Kaskaz, while also tented, can be found here all year round. With an emphasis on creating as minimal a footprint as possible, all 10 of the suites – as well as the main lodge area, the office, and even the kitchen – are housed in tents, all arranged to take in the views of the plains as well as passing breezes. This is no camping holiday, however – wooden floors, queensized beds, and fully kitted-out bathrooms ensure that you will never think of a “tent” in the same way again!
Wildebeest are creatures of habit – so much so that the herds use the same 13 places to cross the Mara River every year. Several of these are located very close to the camp, making this the ideal base during migration season.
Even outside of migration season, there is much to see. Twitchers will be kept busy ticking “lifers” off their lists, while even the common birds – like the yellow-throated long claw – add colour to any game drive. Black-backed jackals were curious onlookers as we picnicked in the shade of the trees, clinking our G&TS and feasting on salads, roasted plantains, and steak. Giraffe, buffalo, and herds of elephants are common here, and the male of the species of perhaps East Africa’s most iconic antelope, the topi, can often be seen standing proudly atop a termite mound, in a pose that cannot say anything other than “Look at me!”
The staff at Kaskaz could not be more different from the vain topi. Yet you cannot help but marvel at their sheer enjoyment as they dance and sing – something that seems to happen regularly and spontaneously here! For welcomes and goodbyes, or just to celebrate another glorious African sunset – it is clear that the staff here love their jobs, and it is hard not to feel part of the family when their hospitality extends to inviting rhythm-challenged guests to join in.
Songs of welcome also await you at Nasikia Camps’ newest – and most luxurious – addition, Ehlane Plains. A short flight will take you from the Kogatende Airstrip to Seronera Airport where we were met with glasses of champagne by Donna Duggan, who started the tour operator, Maasai Wanderings, and its hospitality arm, Nasikia Camps, with her late husband Naseeb “Nas” Mfinanga.