Hear and Feel the Serengeti

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Nicky Fur­niss Im­ages © Nasikia Camps, istockphoto.com

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

to share.

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.

Rolling Plains

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.

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