We woke up Thursday morning full of investment ideas and enthusiasm for doing business in Kenya, but put them on hold as we boarded our Safari buses for a 5 hour drive out to the Masai Mara, one of Kenya’s largest game reserves and contiguous to the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Our drive took us through the Rift Valley which looks like the landscape in the animated classic The Land Before Time (which I can’t wait to go home and watch again), past trinket shops (don’t tell them you’re from New York, I’m convinced they charge a 2x premium for anything you try to buy. Ohio or Budapest might be a better place of origin for bargaining), Chinese camps (they’re building a railway) and litter strewn villages. Once at the gates of the Masai Mara, our jeeps were surrounded by Masai women hawking the same trinkets we had seen at the Masai Market in Nairobi and every souvenir shop along the way, granted these were at a slightly lower price.
Once inside the park, we arrived at the Mara Sarova where we all had cozy, clean safarai tents and beds with romantic mosquito netting.
Our guides successfully found all 5 of the ‘Big 5’ – finding a leopard enjoying a gazelle the last day, just before arriving at the airport. Giraffes are still my favorite – though baby elephants are simply too cute and lazy papa lions are so beautiful to watch that you can see why they get the ladies to do all the hunting for them.
We also had a visit to a traditional Masai village. Though it seemed as if they were just putting on a show just for the tourists, it was a pretty great show. Yes, they actually live in mud/cow dung huts and herd cattle still, but some also wear sneakers and store bought clothes. Their diet is still totally veg-free, consisting of maize for the kids and milk and blood for the adults. They showed us how to start a fire with sticks and then tried to get us to buy more of the same souvenirs we had been seeing for the last week. I would have bought the beaded jewelry they were wearing, but not any of the mass-produced pieces (where is the Masai souvenir factory? ).
The higher the Masai men jump – the more they impress the ladies.
We left the Masai Mara early this morning and upon arriving in Nairobi, our group parted ways. Some heading home for block week and others continuing on to other adventures. This was 100% one of the best trips I have ever taken. I got to know classmates I had never spoken with before and saw a part of the world I had only imagined. Kenya and the rest of East Africa is ripe for investment and certainly full of opportunity for any B-school graduate.