Published: January 23rd 2009
September 18th 2007
After crossing the border into Kenya from Uganda and jumping in the mini-vans we then had to endure a 12 hr journey to Nairobi, arriving at the Comfort hotel just before midnight. This journey was the worst journey we'd had so far, we were squished into these hot little mini-vans, with all our bags and barely any room to even breath...so we knew that the 12 hours weren't going to be great but things continued to get worse....
The roads were seriously pot-holed and we must have hit every single hole going. Swiss cheese is what sprang to mind! We stopped for a loo and snack break not long after leaving the border and found that there was a chicken trussed up in a plastic bag, in the sun in the front of our van (did I forget to mention that it was alive?!?!)!! As you can imagine, I was far from pleased but (luckily or unluckily) the chicken was getting off at this stop. We continued on our way only to be stopped by the police (!) as our driver was speeding (or somthing else illegal!) so we sat and waited in the increasingly hot vans for half an
hour while things were sorted. It was a little worrying but we were soon bouncing our way along the road again. We had one other stop at some hotel where we got to use the loos and dan and I rushed over to a nearby garage to get some provisions (at this point we didn't think we were going to get to Nairobi before Christmas!) and were again soon on the road for the final leg of the journey. However, things were still not going our way! The road we were supposed to be taking to get to our Nairobi had been closed for repair so we had to take another road alongside the original which was in an even worse state than the previous Swiss cheese roads had been in! To add to this, there was traffic galore so the going was exceptionally slow. Finally the traffic eased and we were on our way but as our road moved further from the one we should have been on, we head further into the bush and the middle of nowhere. There were no lights on the roads and now there was little traffic which made Dan and I feel a
little uneasy to say the least. But finally, at 10pm, we arrived at the Comfort Hotel, our accommodation for the night in Nairobi.
We were pleasently suprised by the Comfort Hotel as we had been told that it was basic, though we were slightly put off by the high security (bouncers and gates at every turn, rather reminicent of a prison!) and we were soon having a bite to eat before hitting the sack. Although we were incredibly tired, sleep did not come that easily with the music that was blaring out from across the street and the racket made by the all the people outside...now we understood the need for the high security!!
On the 25th, after a short lie in we were up, ready and at breakfast, eager to meet our new guide and to get on the road again (who'd have thought that we'd only been off it for 10 hours?!?). We were on our new bright orange Gecko's monster bus by 9am. It was pretty comfy with more chairs than we needed and 2 tables and lots and lots of windows! We met the newbees, Wayne and Shona from Oz, Jamie and Esme from
the UK and Eddie from the USA. They all seemed nice. We also met our new guide Paul, our driver Moses and our cook, also called Moses.
Things did not start out well with our new guide when he then gaves us another hour to kill while he and the two Moses' went and bought our food! It wasn't too bad because we did need to get some money out and some food of our own for the trip, but the hour turned from one into two, the second of which we all spent just sitting on the bus waiting. Finally at 11am we hit the road and started our journey to the Masai Mara.
We'd driven for most of the day, stopping every now again (it felt like every 5minutes!!) to visit one curio shop after another (Paul must have been making quite a tidy profit!), to see the view of the rift valley and to have some self-made sandwiches for lunch, until about 5pm when things took a turn for the worse. We'd just left a little rather dirty town where we'd stopped for petrol and a toilet break (Dan had also bought some muffins that
he didn't like so we gave them to some kids and their dad got really shirty with me because one of them didn't have one! Obviously they coulsn't share! Luckily we had one which we'd taken a bite from so we gave that to them and that made everyone happy!) and were back on the road again but not for long as we suddenly heard a massive bang and scraping noise. Moses stopped the bus pretty quickly and after a lot of crawling under the bus they worked out that the drive shaft had broken. It had been welded when it wasn't supposed to have been and all the bumpy roads had taken their toll on it! Paul decided that we should go back to the town we'd just left, spend the night there at a campsite and hope that it's be fixed in the morning. We were not at all impressed by this plan as it meant that we'd miss our morning safari and there was nothing to say that it'd even be fixed by the following day. So after a lot of discussing we ended up waiting for a mechanic to come and look at the part, take
it back to the town with him, fix it, and bring it back to fit it and then hopefully we could do the 5 or so hours drive that night. We had to wait 5 hours for the chap to return; we spent as much as possible of this time standing around outside but once it got dark we sat inside the bus in the dark. The locals were very interested in us and would wave at us as they passed by and point and stare as they went about their daily business. But we were able to get back onto the road again that evening and made our way rather gingerly to the entrance gates of the Masai Mara. We had to travel a short way through the Mara to our camp and on the way met a herd of elephants right next to the truck, which was pretty exciting and didn't instill absolutle fear in me for a change!
We arrived at the camp pretty late, about 12am, but dinner was prepared for for us so all we had to do was sit down and eat before heading to bed. Each couple had a permanent tent had
two single beds, a little table and two chairs on a small veranda out the front. There were communal facilities that were a bit of a walk away but weren't bad at all, even though the toilets flushed only when they felt like it and the hot water ran out pretty fast!
The following day we were up around 7am, had breakfast and were ready to leave for our morning safari around 8-8.30am. Again, Dan and I weren't best pleased because we'd missed the best animal spotting time of the day but we thought we'd give Paul a break, thinking that this was a one off!
The Masai Mara was different to anything we'd seen so far; this was the type of African bush that we'd been expecting all along: grassland as far as the eye could see with the occassional tree or shrub and herds and herds of zebra and wildebeest (although nowhere near as many as during the migration but still an awful lot more than we'd seen before!).
Over our two day and two evening safaris we saw a plethora of widlife; as mentioned above, we saw zebra and wildebeest by the bucket load,
plenty of impala, a few elephants though mostly from a distance (thank goodness!), giraffes, ostrich (even a couple mating which was interesting!), warthogs, baboons, Thompson's gazelle, buffalo, marabou stork, topi, some vultures on a kill and we even had a few lion sightings and a sighting of a serval!!!
We had an amazing sighting of two male lions and a lioness lounging in a bush near a watering hole. It was late in the morning and they looked like they'd just fed so they were crashed out and didn't look interested in moving for a good few hours at least!! Our actually view of them was not particularly great as there was quite a few leaves in the way but we were pretty close as Moses was keen to please. Our sighting got even better though when an unsuspecting zebra dared to drink out of the watering hole. The lioness spotted the zebra and actually began to stalk it before our very eyes! We couldn't believe our luck!! The zebra continued to drink the water and entered it, possibly hoping to cross to the otherside, without any knowledge that the lioness was behind the bank! We watched as the
lioness stalked the zebra until it finally spotted her and made a splash for freedom. The lioness chased after it but gave up after only a few paces, which could have been due to her very full and large belly! We didn't mind though; we'd seen a stalking and a chase and we're quite pleased that we hadn't seen a kill (although Dan did think that it would have been pretty cool!)!.
Unfortunately our other lion sightings weren't quite as exciting but any lion sighting's better than none!! Our first lion sighting was of a couple of young males crashed out under a bush by the side of the track. On our second day we stopped next to a lioness lying on a small mound but she was surrounded by other jeeps and was keen on looking at something in the opposite direction to where we sat! Therefore, we left her alone (well as alone as she could be with about half a dozen jeeps!) and went in search of other wildlife. And we were lucky enough to come across a serval stalking through the long grass. We saw another serval later in the trip ......
we would visit one of the lodges (just a tad more posh than our tents!) in the Mara where we'd stop for some reason unknown to us! Probably so that Paul could receive some more commission when we visited the shop!! Having said that, the shop was pretty amazing and we did spend a few bob in there! And there were some exceptionally gorgeous bronze wildlife items but alas, we couldn't aford them!! There was also some friendly wildlife around the grounds that kept Dan and I entertained while we were waiting for everyone else. There were some very pretty birds (I'm sure Dan can tell you their names!) and plenty of vervet monkeys that were definitely not afraid of us and enjoyed posing for photos! On our second visit to the lodge we also ventured through the gardens and down to a watering hole there, where there were hippos and plenty of bird life. That visit we also had to wait for Wayne and Shona who'd spent the morning on a hot air balloon flight over the mara and had even seen a cheetah!
For lunch we'd head back to the camp, eat and get sorted and ready
for our late afternoon/evening drive. One afternoon we were also treated to a visit to a local Masai village where we were priviledged to see a typical Masai dance by women of the village as well as being allowed to see inside the Masai huts and able to ask the people questions. After all this, the women and children from the village prepared a small maket for us where we could have a look at their items for sale and buy anything we liked and then we visited the local school and some children who went there. This was all very interesting and we enjoyed meeting these Masai people very much. It showed us a completely different way of living. One evening we also had a visit from a group of the Masai warriors who danced for us. Again this was really interesting but we missed out on some wildlife viewing time (which, as I'm sure you are well aware by now is what we were there for!!) and because they were a little late setting up we ended up watching most of it in the dark and suprisingly, the rain! But we enjoyed it all the same. On our
way back to our tent though we had a bit of a suprise! We only had a small torch so couldn't really see where we were walking but luckily I just managed to spot the snake as I was about to step on it and stumbled over it instead! I was a little shocked and pretty scared and when I yelled out snake no one believed me until they caught sight of it slithering away in the torch light. Over dinner we described what we'd seen to Paul and he told me that I'd just escaped a black mamba. Now here's a little information on the black mamba: Black mambas are highly venomous, one of the most venomous in the world! With most snake bites you have an amount of time to receive help before death, we were told in South Africa that this time is seven steps....you can walk only seven steps and that's it! They can delivier up to 400mg of venom per bite and only 15mg is deadly for a human!! EEK! Not good news!! Well, after this, I thought I'd been darn lucky. Such a close brush with death and yet I was still alive and
kicking! This was surely a life changing experience....maybe there was a purpose to my life on earth...however, this was not the case. After visiting a snake park/zoo/whatever you'd like to call it, we quickly realised that my brush with death had been no more than a brush with a flu type sickness. Oh well, I certainly felt relieved but it does kind of take something away from the story of my brush with one of the deadliest snakes in the world!!
So we left the Masai Mara on the 28th. After a mini mini game drive on our way to the gate we started our journey to Lake Naivasha. We were supposed to be heading to the Lake Nakuru National Park but for some reason known only to Paul we travelled to Lake Naivasha instead! This journey was particularly great; the roads were bumpy and dusty (for a change!) and the going was slow but we arrived there with plenty of time to visit Elsamere, the former home of Joy Adamson. Joy Adamson is best known for writing the book 'Born Free' about her and her husband George's exceptional relationship with the lioness Elsa. I admit that on visiting
Elsamere I had little knowledge of Joy Adamson and her life with Elsa and work for conservation but after watching a short documentary on her life and seeing all the items in her house I am keen to know more and vow to read 'Born Free' when I get home.
We had tea and cakes in the lovely garden at Elsamere and left just as it began to rain. And it certainly did rain!! We arrived at our camp site but the torrential down pour had put us all off of camping! Paul managed to get us some rooms sorted for a little extra money and although this meant that we didn't have to put up any tents in the downpour, we still had to get all our bags and stuff (and by this point we'd certainly collected some stuff!!!) to our room and we all got pretty soaked in the process!! (Though not as soaked as the pour group of people who'd gotten their tents up before the rain had started!) After a quick shower we joined the guys in the bar, then had dinner and hit the sack.
The following morning the sun was shining and
the rain had stopped. We headed down to the Lake and were split into two boats to head out onto the lake. Before we even hit the water we had a great sighting of an African Fish Eagle and were lucky to have a second sighting on returning to shore. Being on the water was lovely, and for once I didn't suffer from any sickness! We motored along the shoreline not far from it to look for hippos and we saw quite a few. Because it was early in the morning and hippos come out of the water to feed at night we could see them along the shoreline, through the reeds. A couple of them came surging out into the water which was pretty cool to see and they'd then bob around with just their eyes and ears above the water. This was all great until one big one started to move towards us and then disappeared under the water. At first we're all still smiling and then it dawns on us that this very large animal could turn the boat over with ease and being the most dangerous animal in Africa we all became quite worried. Our guide
wasn't too bothered at first but even he soon began to panic a little and he started to turn us around and motor away as quickly as possible!!! However, as I'm sitting here writing this, you know that we survived and weren't attacked by the hippo!! For the rest of the trip we saw quite a lot of bird life, pelicans, cormorants and Egyptian geese, we also saw a giraffe drinking from the lake and another awesome sighting was that of two waterbuck who came charging into the Lake full pelt and fought with eachother in the water in front of us! One buck gave up before long but it was amazing to see!
After our trip on the lake we had breaky and packed up before beginning our journey to the Lake Nakuru National Park. This journey wasn't too bad, although for some of it we had to bump along a very dusty little track right alongside the newly tarmacked road which we couldn't use! We arrived at Lake Nakuru and set up camp. The camping site was inside the park itself which was pretty cool and there were loads of baboons all around the camp and you
had to be pretty careful with your stuff otherwise it might be stolen! When we came back from one safari the little monkeys (literally) were all over our tents, and they were even using the porch of Doug and Janine's tent as a trampoline!!!! Very amusing to watch!!
Once our tents were all sorted we headed out on an evening safari.
On our safaris around the lake we saw buffalo, ostrich, marabou stork, giraffe, waterbuck, warthogs (mating!), Thompson gazelle, rhino (one even had a baby with it!)and even a few eland. The best part of the safari though was the lake which was teaming with flamingos! Obviously this is the reason why we visited the lake in the first place. This is a soda lake which is rich in alage, what flamingoes feed on and attracts large quantities of them to the Lake. We spent a fair time on the beach photographing the flamingoes and looking at the other birdlife around. And even got to see some hyenas hanging around on the shore looking for a bite to eat! And saw one attempting at catch a flamingo as well! We drove to the top of a very steep
hill at one point and had an amazing view of the lake. From here we were lucky enough to witness a hyena actually make a kill in the lake after a fair amount of running and flying.
On the 30th we left Lake Nakuru and headed back to Nairobi. We spent that night again at the Comfort Hotel, and as before, it wasn't exactly a quiet nights sleep!! But we did splash out on a nice meal at a restaurant called Carnivore. This is, as the name suggests, a rather meat orientated restaurant and they served things like alligator (or maybe crocodile, I'm not sure which!) and ostrich as well as the usual meats and they bring them around on large squewers and keep bringing them around until you burst! However, they also do a very good vegetarian menu as well so we were all happy. It was a very nice restaurant and we both had a really good time that evening.
The following day, 31st we had breakfast with the group and then had to say some slightly tearful goodbyes. Janine and Doug were leaving the tour here as were the Goobers(!). We then headed down to
the still bright orange Geckos bus and met the next lot of newbees. There were only 4 of us from the previous group (Wayne, Shona, Dan and I) and only 4 newbees (Jenna, Daz, Amanda and Matt) so the bus was pretty empty but it was nice because it meant that there was loads of room to look out of the windows and plenty of room to stretch out as well.
We hit the road pretty much on time but Paul had fooled us as just as we were on our way out of Nairobi we stopped at a shopping centre to buy our food!! We must have spent a good hour or two here and while it allowed us to buy a few bits ourselves it was pretty bad time keeping and planning really and again we weren't too pleased!
But finally we were on the road again. After travelling for most of the day, with a stop at the border and a stop at a very nice curio shop just inside Tanzania where we also had sandwiches for lunch as well, we arrived at Arusha. Arusha was just as had been described in our travel notes
- the 'safari capital', throbbing with activity with plenty of safaris heading in and out of the town. We didn't stop in the town this time but but continued just outside of the town to a campsite that was adjacent to a snake park (!?!) and a Masai museum. As we arrived when the sun was setting, we didn't have time to visit either but just set up out tents and got sorted for dinner. We had dinner in the dark that evening, all sat on our little camp chairs, before washing up then heading to bed. Paul and the two Moses' slept on he bus as usual.
The following morning, the 1st September, we were up when it was still dark and rushed to get our showers in before everyone else got up and used all the hot water. We then had breaky (with the usual discussion of whether Mamite is better than Vegemite!), packed up our tents and hit the road again for the last stretch to the Serengeti National Park.
On arriving at the park with had to wait in the carpark for Paul to get all our entrance fees etc sorted. It wasn't too
bad though as there was plenty of wildlife around for us to look at and for me to try and photograph. There were loads of pretty birds that we're hanging around in the hope of getting a scrap of food and plenty of little rodents (mice or gerbils or something) in the bushes as well which were pretty tame too. Once everthing was sorted we had our first mini drive through the park to our campsite which was inside the park with no fences or any protection from the animals. There was our group and another there at the same time (we'd seen the group before, they were on a similar tour to us) and we had our tents set out around a small building that Moses used for cooking the food. The facilities weren't great, we had to walk through some mud to get to this little toilet block where there was just two toilets each and a sink.
The Serengeti was amazing; similar to the Masai Mara but even flatter, just grass and grass as far as the eye could see. There were also 'kopjes' or rocky outcrops here which there hadn't been in the Masai Mara.
The herds were also not as large or frequent here. We had two morning and two evening safaris while here, although it was a mission to try and persuade Paul to actually leave at a decent hour in the morning!! He was pretty lazy and I think most people wouldn't know any different but we were having none of it!!!!
We had some good sightings while on the safaris. We saw elephants, impala, Thompson's and Grants gazelle, giraffe, buffalo (Wayne was desperate to get a picture of all 5 big game and this was the last one to add to his collection!), hippo, bat-eared fox, had a close sighting of a black backed jackal and even a sighting of a family with tiny baby jackals, topi, baboons, ostrich, vervets, quite a few hyenas - one on a kill, another with a baby fighting off another hyena, a couple by the side of the road very close to some tiny lion cubs, another serval (although Paul disagreed and there were arguments about this for days!!), a serval and kittens, warthogs and a cheetah scouting from the top of a mound.
One of the best sightings was a leopard that
was relaxing on one of the kopjes'. There were a few other jeeps around but we'd arrived pretty early so we had a good spot. We watched the leopard for a good 30 minutes at least and even though it was quite far away we got to see it lying there, sitting up, yawning and walking around as well until it finally disappeared over the otherside of the outcrop. We were all really pleased to have seen a leopard at last!!
Another great sighting was of a lioness also on an outcrop. She was right at the top stood out against the sky which was really dark grey. As with the leopard we got to watch her lying there and then get up and stretch and yawn. She looked heavily pregnant so we decided that she had probably left her pride to give birth.
The best sighting we had was of a pride of lions out on the plains. We spotted a large male, two females and a number of cubs on the right side of the bus so we stopped to watch them for a while. They were quite far off to start with but then they
walked towards us, the lioness and cubs in front followed by the male. The sighting got even better when the pride began to stalk a herd of buffalo!! We we egging them on and couldn't believe that the buffalo had no idea that they were surrounded by lions hidden in the grass! The time was ticking though as the sun was setting and we needed to be getting back to our camp so we were all watching on the edges of our seats desperate to see the lions make a move but unfrotunately they took too long and we had to head off :(
We had one other lion sighting and this was of a lioness lying under the back of jeep full of tourists! The jeep couldn't go anywhere and other jeeps were crowding around to see her. She was obviously trying to keep out of the sun and didn't seem that keen to move! We left her still sitting under the jeep and don't know when or if she ever moved!
One evening we headed to a near by lodge where we had a drink and checked out the residential hyraxes who were very cute but
did taint the air with a slight tinge of urine! The lodge looked amazing and we'd definitely visit there again!! That evening it began to rain so on returning to the camp we huddled under an awning for dinner and then headed to bed. It was nice to fall asleep listening to the rain on the tent.
That morning we had a very nice suprise, hyena tracks around our dining table and they'd even chewed up our washing up liquid bottle! I was just gutted that I'd slept through it all and missed them!!
After our final morning's game drive we headed to the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is a volcanic crater about 20km wide and is described as a microcosm of Africa (so our trip notes describes it as).The journey itself wasn't actually that bad but Jenna and Amanda started to feel really unwell and then so did Matt. The guys were seriously ill; we had to keep stopping by the side of the road as they were in a bad way. Shone then started to feel unwell (though Wayne told her it was travel sickness!). Dan and I were getting quite worried and this was
not a good time to be getting ill!
We arrived at our new camp on the edge of the crater as the sun started to go down. The first things we saw there was a massive elephant right in the camping grounds, and turns out that it was standing right where we were to put up our tents! Excellent idea, I don't think!!! We also camped about 10mins walk away from the bathrooms, there were showers as well this time though temperamental hot water, which wasn't a great idea for those that were ill. Shona finally completely succumbed to the sickness and those that were ill went straight to bed. The rest of us had a quick dinner (still pretty worried about getting ill) but enjoyed the surrounding which were beautiful. We were even visited by a zebra who must have been stepping over our guide ropes and heard a hyena really close by (I had a little look for it but couldn't see it and didn't fancy going to far from the group!). After dinner and showers it was straight to bed, and it was an awful night! While desperately trying to get to sleep we heard the
sickness Daz, and it was not a pretty sound! Dan and I were absolutely terrified and we were sure we would get it, we even requested a bowl from Paul as we didn't want it to end up all over our tent like it had for Daz and Matt! I was paranoid all night long that I could feel it coming on but luckily we made it to the morning without being visited by either the sickness or an elephant!
Everyone was a little better the following day and keen to go on safari, unfortunately Paul had provided us with one land rover and one mini van when we'd paid for two land rovers. We were pretty ticked off by this and put our foot down but still ended up heading to the park entrance in the mini van. The surroundings were beautiful, completely different to the Serengeti or Masai Mara as it was all misty, more like Rwanda. At the entrance we had more problems because Paul hadn't paid for two vehicles so only one could enter. We had to sit there while they sorted it out, and by sorting it out I mean while they decided to
squish us all into one vehicle, and we'd been hoping to keep away from the sick people!!
Eventually we were able to start our safari. The crater was, again, beautiful. You could see all the way across it, which made it feel quite small, but it was a beautiful setting surrounded by lush green forests. We saw quite a lot of wildlife, elephants (some really massive males with huge tusks, just what Wayne had wanted!), zebra, wildebeest, hyena (even two mating), a hippo, some Thompson's and Grants gazelle and even a black Rhino (the guide told us we'd seen one but it blatantly wasn't but then we did see one!) which are highly endangered and we hadn't seen them any where else. The only problem was that the cars radiator kept over heating so our guide had to keep getting out and topping it up with water which didn't make for quick progress!! Luckily though, our second vehicle arrived about halfway through our safari so we ended up back in our trusty mini van!
Although we didn't see any lions, on leaving the crater we did feel as though we have done it really. It was beautiful and
definitely an experience(!) but compared to the other safari's we'd been on it felt like quite a small area and you couldn't get away from the other jeeps. It was also very badly organised which had been quite frustrating!
We left the crater after our morning drive and headed to the campsite we'd prevoiusly visited near the snake park. That afternoon we visited the Lake Manyara National Park which is particularly known for its 'tree-climbing' lions, though even eagle-eyed Dan couldn't spot one of these for us!! However, we did see flamingoes, wildebeest, elephants (two babies who were playing together which was just SO cute!), impala, baboons and a couple of Dik Diks. That evening we had dinner at the snake park (don't ask!) and then hit the sack.
The next morning, the 5th, before heading off we visited the snake park which was actually quite interesting and Dan even got to hold a snake (though not a black mamba!) and then we visited the Masai museum which was also pretty interesting. We then headed on to Arusha and the journey wasn't too bad at all, especially as everyone was feeling a lot better. We arrived in Arusha
and had time to change up some money and buy a few curios before getting ready for dinner that evening. We didn't stay in the hotel that night but headed to a nice little restaurant that Paul reccommended where there was live music and pretty good food. We had a great evening there before heading back to bed.
The following morning, the 6th, we had a little lie in, enjoyed the hot showers and then had breakfast. Wayne, Shona, Dan and I then packed our bits onto the bus before saying good bye to the rest of the group who were heading to Mt Kilimanjaro instead. The journey back was pretty quiet and long, though Dan and I managed to spend a fortune in the really nice curio shop on the border! We arrived back at the Comfort Hotel that evening and enjoyed a very nice last meal with Wayne and Shona.
There are more photos below