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Published: September 16th 2010
The Safari Crew
Jambo, Jambo (hello) Kenya and Tanzania.
Our Qatar airlines flight from Morocco to Kenya via Tripoli and Dohar- a 25th century of Los Vegas with Oil and no concern for Electricity - was a long long flight but seemingly the only route from North to East Africa. This is a very modern airline with excellent cabin service reminicent of the heyday of Singapore and Lauda air.
First impressions of Nairobi was a grey dirty and dusty big city with the second biggest slum in the world after Soweto.
Our tourist hotel was surrounded with security and we were advised not to walk down into the city. Kidnapping, shootings and robbery are seemingly quite common and especially targetted at tourists. But after 24 hrs in the air we were quite happy to rest and not explore before our Peregrine representative would come to give us our trip briefing for the next two weeks.
Briefing completed all sounded so new and exciting. An early dinner with two of our fellow Safarites, Jane and Ralph (a Geoff West lookalike) from Perth and then some more rest before our early start the next morning.
By 7am we were on route in our 4x4 Toyota
Black Maned Male Lion
safari vehicle with section roof pop tops to stand up and observe from - the best we thought we saw anywhere in the next two weeks -and in it were our group of 5 safarites, Jane and Ralph, Jackie, a 60+ lady from Perth on her own- turned out a great scout- and as it turned out, to our amazing luck, Helen the only female Guide/Driver in Kenya.
Corrie took first turn in front with Helen and the rest got comfortable behind and off we headed through the unusually quiet Nairobi peak hour traffic. Helen advised us with a big smile gleaming through her eyes that the reason the traffic was so quiet today was that the locals were all in queues to cast their vote in the new constitution referendum - still not sure whether her smile was about the traffic ore the constitution vote - both were important to Helen.
The drive north to our first tented Safari camp was the first of many Kenyan "massages" - to say the roads need some help is an understatement - but what the Kenyans say is Polle Polle (slowly slowly).
Sangare was 3.75 hours North and an electric fenced private
Majestic King of the Beasts
game park. Within minutes of arriving we had our first sighting - a beautiful reticulated Giraffe, two herds of Gazelles and in the distance Zebras and all this before we had reached the camp. Our Safari tents were just everything you might imagine including the heart shaped rose petals on the bed, the mosquito net slung from a four poster, and a little deck overlooking the lake---- it was just everything plus the animals we had ever thought being on Safari would be like - and that just continued and got better throughout the following 2 weeks.
That afternoon we went on a game drive to Sol and observed not only a white Rhino family group of three but also a singular rare Black Rhino - lots of dreams to the roar of Lions that night.
In the morning after breakfast we went on a nature walk with rifle and also visited the caves where the Mau Mau tribe had been massacared in their hideout by the British.
This camp was only a short distance from the famous Treetops lodge where Princess Elizabeth was staying when her father died and she ascended to the throne of the Commonwealth.
What shall I do next?
we were off for another Kenyan Massage, with Helen very happy that the vote had been yes for the new constitution replacing the 47 year old one drafted by the British, to El Karama our second private Safari Conservancy and as with Sangare it was also owned by non tax paying British - but the new constitution changes this to repossess the land and charge lease fees for tourism activites on these conservancies for the benefit of Kenya.
Inside El Karama we had our first sighting of our first large herd of Elephants-so close we took a hundred photos at least - so exciting to be so close.
That night Joseph one of the guides took us spotlighting on our first night drive - we spotted lots of animals but our prize was our first (very shy) leopard moving through the bush in search of dinner. Next morning we dropped Joseph back at Nanyuki and had a full and clear sighting of Mt. Kenya - all 5,119 m- and then began heading west acroos the great Syrian to lower Africa Rift valley and through Helen's hometown to our third lodge, Mali Sabi.
Mali Sabi is a permanent tented camp which
The females at rest with the cubs
is part of the Ujima Foundation which is a training institute giving opportunity to the eldest girl of orphaned families between the ages of 17 and 23. Most of the trainees at Mali Sabi were woman who had no education or work experience and here they are taught over a year to become self reliant and skilled enough to be able to go out and get full time work to provide for their younger siblings - they were all beautiful girls and we felt humble and pleased to make any contribution we could to their futures. It is a great initiative and being well supported by the Swiss couple that own and run this accomodation.
From here we did our game drive down to Lake Nakuru. This is a soda lake - home to a massive number of Flamingos - up to 2 million on occasions and thousands of other birds. It is said to be and we agree the worlds greatest Ornithological spectacle. In addittion to seeing the sea of pink and white Flamingoes we had a incredible time spotting the big five all in one day. Other than the flamingos, our prize for this day was the 3 little
Hippos eat all night and lay around all day
Lion cubs sunning themselves on a big log, just before we headed out of the park. We also got to see a Rothchild Giraffe and by now we had decided that the "Kenyan Express" - the Worthog - was a big favourite with us.
While at Mali Sabi we did a nature walk into the Menengai Crater - a volcanic calderer which is 8-10ks in diameter and 485m deep - and our guide shared with us some of the stories of Voodoo and Witchcraft which are still believed of the crater and it's surrounds.
Abundant "Kenyan massages" this day as we drove towards the jewel in the crown - Masi Mara. The drive took us through the Rift Valley on a Sunday and so many people were heading to church in their finery that we got a good cross section of 'sunday best' clothing. Beyond them were our first sighting of the Masi people - walking, walking and walking - all wearing their bright red or purple colours to protect then from the predatory animals, with many, including very young boys, shepherding large herds of goats .
Before arriving at our tented camp we stopped off at one of the
Sunrise in Southern Kenya
Masi villages for an educational cultural experience. After payment of our US$ fees we were quickly surrounded and greeted by the men in their ceremonial costumes who insisted that some of us should dance with them! Looked best to do as you were told and join in the spirit and Ian has the video footage. We were then treated to a welcome dance from the unmarried women and they then led us into the fenced village and the chiefs house and Ian and Ralph were seated on the master bed while us girls were seated on a bench. It was a very small dung walled hut of 4mx4m and not only did his wives and children live in there but also the milking animals for the family - quiet an experience lots of flies and smells as all animals live each night inside the fences of the village to protect them from Lions. We were then herded into a coraled area for a high pressure craft shopping experience which was hard to resist.
We are now sporting two Masi bracelets (Ian is looking very African these days!).
Accomodation whilst in the Mara was an intimate tented camp set up
Flying Safari over the Masi Mara
and staffed entirely by Masi men from within the local community. Each tent had an enclosed bucket shower which was filled on request. Tents had solar lighting and a small supply of water for washing needs. That afternoon we had an incredible game drive on the Mara spotting three Cheetahs and two prides of Lions including the famous Black maned male Lion and our favourites the beautiful Worthogs which we managed to see going down on their knees for a feed, reversing into their holes/homes and running out at full speed from their underground homes. Can't wait to see Lion King again.
Next morning at 5am we awoke to our trusty iPhone alarm and soon after one of the Masi men came to escort us past any waiting Lions (in the dark as they do) to the gate to meet Jackie for our drive over to Figtree lodge where they begin the hot air ballon adventures. We were allocated light blue boarding passes and had such fun as we watched our pilot Jim "Kim" from Korea with 16 years experience, fire up the ballon to take us up in the dawnlight. Such an amazing thing to watch and experience. Then
Elephant herd from the baloon - protecting the little one in the middle.
at sunrise and for the next 1 hour and 15 minutes we silently (except for gas to keep us afloat intermittently) floated 21 km across the Mara. This would have to go down as one of lifes very special experiences. Mr Kim's experience showed through as we floated over herds of Elephants circling to protect their baby calves, hippos and Crocs in the river looked up, Hyenas and Worthogs running and chasing here and there, and thousands and thousands of Wildebeast took no notice, and then spotted here and there to top it off were the ongoing sightings of Giraffes, Zebras and Gazelles.
Due to the winds we overshot the Mara river for our landing skirting the crocadiles on the banks and were doubly spoiled with a Safari ride to our Champagne breakfast spotting 2 groups of preying Lions either side of the River. Eventually we rejoined Helen Jane and Ralph who seemed to be serious and a little bored with our champagne breakfast stories and headed back towards the river to try and see a Mimi migration crossing of the Widebeast and Zebras. We did get to see where and how the herds cross but unfortunately until one begins with
Giraffes are so Elegant we watched them for hours
a jump nothing happens and that was the case on this particular day. We then headed up to find our one little Arcacia tree to sit under for our picnic lunch and then spent the afternoon on a game drive before home for sundowners and dinner.
Next day Jane and Ralph took a flight back to Nairobi but the toughies, us and Jackie settled for a nice big "Kenyan massage" -Polle Polle.
After a days rest and a bit of washing and correspondence and a real massage we repacked our bags ready to head off for our week in Tanzania.
Funny that in Tanzania they have a similar massage as in Kenya but a Chinese contractor is working on a good new road but not ready yet so we got the temporary road next to the new one in construction and only for 6 hours and 300 ks in a 12 sestet minibus until we hit Arusha the number two city in Tanzania.
On route we exited Kenya and entered Tanzania at the Namanga border post threading our way through a melée of all sorts of travellers to pas by the distant Mt Kilamanjaro and on to Arusha
Wildebeast at the end of their migration north
for lunch at the Arusha hotel and our briefing for the week ahead, as many other tourist groups arrived and departed from this Safari hub.
Into another special 4x4 safari vehicle with Frederick our guide and driver for a short 3 hour drive through the village of Mto Wa Mbu before we began our climb up slopes of the 6000 mile long rift valley again to arrive at the lodge set on the precipitous edge of the valley overlooking the Alkaline Lake Manyara.
Early up again for the first of our Tanzanian safaris in the Lake Manyara NP. The picturesque lake is home to Pelicans and Flamingos surrounded by lots of Baboons and Velvet monkeys and the Masi Giraffe which is different to the Reticulated and Rothchild as it is darker but still has the beautiful long eyelashes.
We departed after lunch for the wide open dry grass plains of the Serengeti, world renowned for hosting the largest migration in the world. A semi annual event - north then south - this migration comes on the top ten list of the natural travel wonders of the world. Around October nearly 2 million Herbivores ( mainly the blue Wildebeast) travel from the
Elephants we also watched for hours
northern hills in Kenya to the southern plains by crossing the Mara river in pursuit of the rains and hence sweet grass with high nutrition. In April they then return north through Lake Victoria and once again cross the Mara river as the southern plains dry out. This phenomenen is called the circular migration. Over 250000 Wildebeast alone will die along the journey from Tanzania to Masi Mara across the border in Kenya -500 miles. The deaths are caused by injury exhaustion but mainly predation from territorial Lion families. This migration is as old as the history of mankind but still manages to touch the life of any who see even a part of it and that we did.
Just to top off this phenomena there is an equally spectacular piece of the Wildebeasts life cycle that also takes your breath away as in February/March they are part of wild lifes most amazing spectakles when for 2 to 3 weeks 90% of the female Wildebeast give birth flooding the plains with hundreds of thousands of new born calves each year. A strange docile looking character but without any doubt an integral part of the Serengeti ecosystem.
That night we stayed
This one 2 metres eyball to eyeball
in the Serengeti lodge overlooking the humbling enormity of the endless plains and next day we spent the whole day on Safari on the Serengeti having an amazing sighting of a lioness and two cubs with the male tagging along setting up for a morning predation on either Gazalles or Water Buffalo (two of their favourites). We also had a close encounter with an Elephant that morning who was considering a charge on our vehicle - quiet scary when he looked us in the eye from a metre away. We also observed tbushbucks, dic dics , Rhinos and a Leopard up a tree with his recent kill up a tree three over to protect it from vultures and Hyenas and rother scavenges - an amazing circle of life. At this point in time we had seen the beginning of many chases for a kill but we had not seen the finality - maybe something we will see later along our journey.
The next day we headed into the Ngorongoro conservation area and on route had a stop at the Olduvai gorge - an archeological site dating back 3.6 million years and is famous for the discovery of fossilized Homo Habilis
Elephant herds are doing well with lots of young
dated 1.7million years which were found only in 1969. After this we sped to our 1 night of 5 star luxury and upgrade - due to overbooking - at a very new lodge; the Bilia Kempinski. We enjoyed our 14 hours here with swim in the pool which overlapped into a watering hole for yhe animals which we enjoyed while swimming in the pool and then a bubble bath for C - to say that we made the most of our time here was correct.
Unfortunately farewell the next morning and then descended 600 metres onto the Ngorongoro Crater floor. This crater is the remnants of an ancient Volcano and within it's 300square Km is a remarkable concentration of wildlife and it is often touted as a veritable garden of Eden. Unfortunately no Giraffes and only 23 Black Rhinos but we saw prides of Lions abundant herds of all the main animals and a prolific array of bird life but the highlight for the day was a group od 3 ostrich and eventually only one male and one female going through the most beautiful mating ritual you could ever imagine. With wings at full stretch to show their rich plumage, it was like a Ballet that ended in a bountiful "bonk" - he and she both looked very proud of themselves - a rare and unique sighting due to our guide having us in the right place at the right time knowing what the lead up challenge and chase away of the other male had signaled.
Lunch this day was beside an Alkaline lake with the Hippos well in sight and on arrival all Safari vehicles were sprayed to keep the Tetsi flies away and so not carry away the flies to infect cattle on the plains with sleeping sickness. With time limited in the crater to 6 hours we started our ascent to the volcano edge lodge for sundowners and dinner.
Bidding farewell to the Ngorongoro area we travelled our way back down the rift valley passing by the Nomadic Masi people to our final Tanzanian safari park Tarangire. This lies to the south of the Masi lands and is defined by large open Savanahs dotted with the ever present Arcasia trees, sculptured Euphorbia and large Baobabs ( a little like our Boab), and the Tarangire river running through the centre. This park is the home to 4000 Elephants -the largest concentration in the world and with the beautiful wide river forms a refuge during the dry season for many migratory animals, giving it a wildlife concentration second only to Ngorongoro Crater in the world.
We enjoyed sundowners with Fredrick overlooking the river with herds of Elephant pushing through the water and then drove back to the lodge as the sun was setting through the Acacias and the Baobabs while we enjoyed the closing night air around us as we stood heads out the top of the vehicle craning for a last sighting as we realised our East African safari was coming to an end.
Next morning we began our 9 hour "Tanzanian/Kenyan massage" to Nairobi with Jackie, and fortunately it was a Land cruiser instead of a mini bus for 6 hours - Jane and Ralph took flight to Zanzibar while Jackie and us headed to Central Africa and the Gorillas.
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