After leaving Mombasa, we traveled to the Great Rift Valley to go on a safari. The Masai Mara is a national park in Kenya's southwest corner, directly across the border from Tanzania's Serengeti. It's located a bumpy day's drive down what I guess used to be a highway - but despite being remote it's a very popular tourist destination.
Safaris are probably the most famous element of any African vacation; still, I wasn't sure what to expect. It mostly consists of careening around the landscape in a white van looking for animals and occasionally peeking out of the popped top to get a close look at wildlife. Freelance van drivers alert each other to sightings via a CB radio, so whenever something interesting is found, it soon has a crowd of white vans surrounding it on all sides. Without exception, no one is to leave their vehicle, and there's often a good reason for that.
Our driver, a longtime veteran, consistently impressed us with his ability to beat the crowds to the most interesting animals. In one evening and one morning, we saw a pride of lions, two cheetahs, a group of male lions munching on a water buffalo kill, and several groups of elephants, giraffes, and other animals. We were very lucky to see so much in such a short time.
We stayed overnight just outside the park in a camp of permanent tent sites run by the local people, the Masai. Once semi-nomadic cattle-herders, these people now focus largely on selling things to tourists. We paid a fee to get a tour of their combination village/cattle pasture, see a traditional dance, and be run once more through their hard-sell market/gift shop area.
We returned to Nairobi for our last few days, where we visited Anne's homestay and toured her University. I bought a festive banner depicting the recently-elected American president and son of Kenya Barack Obama, which now hangs in my living room.