The Maasai Mara seen through the eyes of one of Africa’s finest guides.
Standing over six feet tall, a man swathed in a colourful Masai shuka strolled confidently toward us. Arms stretched out, welcoming us with a warm and friendly hug. Meet Jackson Looseyia, one of Africa’s finest field guides and former presenter of BBC’s Big Cat Live.
This recounts a day some years ago that my husband and I, frequent self drive visitors to the Mara were first introduced to Jackson. A man so passionate about the wildlife it was infectious. With a charm and charisma that could turn the hardiest of people to fall in love with the creatures he speaks so passionately about.
“Welcome to my office” he exclaimed in soft dulcet tones, as he gestured with a big smile and wide open arms to the vast open plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Introductions and fluid conversation followed, within minutes we were hanging on to his every word.
Despite catapulting into ‘stardom’ in the BBC’s ‘Big Cat’ series Jackson is certainly a man that refuses to let go of his humble upbringing in the Mara. Born into this game rich area in 1967, growing up as a true child of the wilderness. Learning the ways of the bush with his father, which later led him to become one of the Mara’s first field guides and today consistently voted as one of Africa’s top guides.
With such an upbringing in the Mara it is easy to see why he has become such a sought after guide, offering his guests a unique view of the Mara through his eyes.
Jackson is also a strong conservation advocate, actively involved in local wildlife projects and calls on his fellow communities to help protect this fragile ecosystem. He ‘wells up’ as we discuss the thought of a Mara without it’s famed wildlife.
Today Jackson continues to work as a professional freelance guide, lodge owner and advisor to visiting wildlife documentary and film crews. However, to Jackson it’s not just a job, but also a passion and a way of life that he can says he can never imagine leaving.
The Mara remains his home today, “It is part of my sole,” he says.
It’s also obvious he views the animals as an extension of his own family. Spending countless hours from dawn until dusk on the plains following the chronicles of the big cats.
We recall one particular early morning, as we were out tracking the roars of a male lion that belonged to ‘Notch’. A lion we had followed for many years and the ‘felid star’ of BBC’s Big Cat Diary.
His roars had bellowed long through the night. Lying wide-awake in our roof tent, begging for the time that we could leave and track him. Before dawn had even broken our mission began. Soon we were joined by the sounds of another vehicle, and around the corner Jackson appears. Bolt upright out of the roof-hatch and fixated in the direction of the roars.
“I just couldn’t sleep,” he said with the excitement likened to that of a child on Christmas morning. With words that followed to the effect of, “It is my day off but I must find my rafiki Notch”. He too had lay awake, wanting to catch up with an old friend. A dawn meeting of minds in search of the Mara’s magic that failed to disappoint!
It’s true that the Mara attracts a lot of attention as one of the world’s most famous reserves. So what does Jackson say about the best time to visit the Mara? It’s not just when the wildebeest’s hooves thunder dramatically across the plains from July to September, but often the months outside of this that Jackson speaks most passionately about. A time that provides a more unhurried experience and a time when he feels he can share his knowledge of the Mara more intimately.
The wildebeest may seek greener pastures but the big cats are still in residence, providing a photographer’s paradise year round.
If you are looking to experience the magic of the Mara in low season and would love to join Jackson on Safari then join a special small group tour offered by Wildlife Trails in February 2015, hosted by Jackson Looseyia and Sarah Skinner.