Azure Mara Haven, a Case of Love at First Sight?
“Azure Mara Haven? What is that?” We were surprised at the proposal from our trip organizer. Our stay at Masai Mara was promised (and booked) at the Sekenani Camp. The British camp operating for 20 years is a reputed property in Mara. The pictures and reviews in Tripadvisor had kept our hopes high for the eight months prior to our visit to Kenya, for Africa Safari. A long and bitter fight ensued with the Kenya Walking Survivors Safari which rocked our journey till Masai Mara. It was an arduous drive of six hours, crossing the great rift valley, the city of Narok on mostly bumpy roads. And it was not very pleasant.
The bitter taste lasted until we finished our quick sunset safari at the Mara reserve and reached the courtyard of the Azure Mara Haven. It was pitch dark at 7 pm. I have never seen the world so dark, so void of light. A man from reception came running in a traditional Maasai attire, a red Shuka with checkered and beaded jewellery and smiled showing all his teeth. The last bit of doubt in my mind was cleared and I knew I am in the land of Maasai, the tribe who believe they are the sole protectors of the universal cattle world!
We stayed here for three nights. We were allotted both tent accommodation and cottages. We were two couples, travelling for three nights and a safari guide cum driver accompanied us from Nairobi.
The property is situated by the banks of Talek river, which flowed meekly in August with water level touching the river bed and allowing a great path for the lions to cross and make a dirt trail aimed towards the cattle breed of the Maasai village. “Sorry, what did I hear? Come again?” I said!
From the reception to the tents, it was around 300 meters walk. Stars from the sky, dimly lit, show you the way. A security team is always on alert to escort guests and keep an eye towards the bush. We had Philip, the security personnel of the property, accompanying us from the reception. Philip, whose mother was a Maasai, spoke with us at length. Our conversation had elements from daily life, Maasai myths, Buddha (or a man who brought religious revolution in China), local politics, Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor (I know what you think!), Bahubali, wild animals and Lions!
“What do you do when you spot a lion nearby?” I asked.
“We make a Shoo-Shoo sound. Lion is scared of humans. It goes away.” Said Phillip.
You bet it goes away, I think in my mind! The next day, in the middle of the night, while our friends were busy taking care of the alcohol procured from Dubai duty-free, we heard a lion roar. A lion roar can be heard up to 8km and the sound seemed coming from just across the river.
Can you shoo a lion away?
The roar sent a chill down my spine. My DNA probably remembers the ancestor’s trauma from ages ago when they were foragers on African grassland. We freaked out and laughed and freaked out again! Sayantan, in his newly acquired self under the spell of Glenlivet, went out for star gazing. We torched the jungle next to the cottage and frantically searched for the big cat. Nothing was found!
While I write this, I was YouTubing lions’ roar to relive the moment but found none worthy. It was more like the MGM lion roaring, but in his natural habitat and without a man with a whip by its side.
Azure mara also gets visitors like herds of elephants, a few hippos (who live in the Talek river and fiercely territorial) and buffaloes. If you confront a buffalo, you better lie down on the ground to avoid some serious horn pokes! Though it may decide to kick your arse if the mood is not cool!
The resort has its accommodation dotting the river bank which, in turn, marks the start of the national park on the opposite bank. It is close to the Talek Gate. Hearing all these stories from Phillip I went to bed in the tent, only to wake up middle of the night a few times! I have stayed in tents before, on the top of a mountain, alone where wind breeze blew everything. yet at mara, I felt a surge of emotions every night.
The next day we were shifted to a cottage. The cottage was pretty with a small open bath in the balcony and huge glass window opening up to the forest. At night, I keep gazing outside, hoping a big cat may leap from the creeping tree branches.
Worried about safety: Azure Mara Haven provides with a safety locker in the room too!
Also read: Sunset at Masaimara, the stunning landscape!
You get used to with the jungle soon enough. During the day-long safari, we had spotted a herd of a lioness on a hunt and drove to the place only at a distance of one KM to have lunch. You know nature may be insanely powerful but not unjust at all. And you start to trust it, as a part of the system.
Azure Mara haven is a beautiful resort otherwise. The property has sound Indian tradition and influence. Not a single meal was served with beef in it (not that I dislike eating beef). The morning breakfast often had dhosa, to our sheer surprise.
The resort has a small pool which needs a bit more care and love. We decided to take a dip after a long day at the safari and the water was not the cleanest I had found in Africa. Though it makes for a great lounging place to witness the famous Mara sunset.
Azure mara had a traditional built of a fortress at the entrance and the keyholders are shaped on that same. You need to walk to the reception every time you are in need of internet. So, you want it or not, Masai Mara will be a digital detox for you at large!
At the reception, we were told that light goes off at 11:30 pm and we should not go out after that. We experienced the opposite but suggest you keep inside the room at night for your own safety.
The resort also makes for great night photography set. In fact, the whole of Mara does. Do come prepared if you are into it. the sky was full of starts, always.
Also read: A day trip to Amboseli from Nairobi, a rendezvous with Kilimanjaro and the African elephants!
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