The Maasai Mara National Reserve isn't too far from Nairobi as the crow flies, but the road gets progressively worse as you get closer. There's a big road being built with World Bank funding, but most of it isn't finished yet, meaning that you drive along a dirt track next to what will be the road, once they put tarmac on top of it. The final few miles to the camp are particularly bad, but this is apparently deliberate, as it goes through a number of local villages, and having cars speed along would mean traffic accidents. I couldn't help but wonder how much benefit all of the tourism and investment brings the locals, though.
The wildlife was most impressive: we saw The Big Five in a single day, which is apparently very unusual. I'm not sure, though, how the tourism is affecting things. Besides the obvious damage, like roads expanding and eroding, I wonder what the impact on the animals is of having these strange wheeled beasts all queueing up to look at them. The black rhino, above, was running at quite a pace through the grass (seemingly from nowhere to nowhere) until half a dozen Land Cruisers cut it off in a flanking movement orchestrated by radio. Everything then stopped for a good ten minutes: the animal didn't know where to go, and we all just sat there for a while before slowly driving away. I assume that a dozen more vehicles arrived shortly afterwards, but by then we were gone for lunch (and for me to nurse my bruises after being thrown around the back of the van).
The close-up pictures of lions aren't from a big long lens, either: there was a pack of around 25 vehicles on the road looking at them from a distance, when a school bus arrived and drove straight in, off the track, for a closer look. The buses have an official park ranger with them, so if they break the rules first, everybody else can as well without getting in to trouble, apparently. Maybe that's even a better thing: to have a few minutes of bothering the wildlife rather than an hour of everybody jockeying for the best legal position on, or at least close to, the road.
Still: we saw exciting lizards and moodily-lit gnu. And a million buffalo.