Safari Kenya and Tanzania 2013

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Africa » Kenya
October 1st 2013
Published: October 3rd 2013
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Black Ibis Black Ibis Black Ibis

at Wildebeast Eco Camp Nairobi
4 weeks holiday to Kenya and Tanzania, September 2013

Day 1, September 5th

After an evening of packing my bags and booking the first night in Nairobi, Zubir our site driver picked me up at 8.15 to drop me off at Dubai national airport. After customs and some last minute shopping (malaria tablets and some other health care precautions) I went to the gate. Still 50 minutes before departure and I asked the friendly ground stewardesses if there was still some time. They told me boarding would start soon but they would wait for me. So I called my mom, off course she was worried but also enjoys my travels and she knows who I am….. After the call and boarding the plane left at 10.45. Next to me was sitting a Kenyan woman called Cheryl who studied the last 7 years in the USA and we chatted the whole trip about living as an expat in other countries. Some time ago Nairobi airport was struck by a huge fire and at arrival all officials where located in tents, visa and passport control. Cheryl had loads of luggage so I helped her a bit, outside her mom and family where waiting. They arranged a friend to drop me off at Wilde Beast Eco camp. Before we went there we stopped at a shopping mall on the way and arranged a phone card and Kenyan shillings. At the Wilde beast camp check in there where no big tents so I stayed in a 2 person tent for only 12 $ p/n so that was cheap. My new house in this green and quit oasis was impressive in such a large city. I was just in time to join the dinner which was surprisingly good…I expected way less! Minced pork in pepper sauce, mushrooms in creamy sauce, baked potatoes with vegies. As desert there was a delicious homemade cake. For dinner I joined a Australian family who are traveling already for months through Africa started in the south and moving up north. Their kids approx. 4 and 6 are awesome and cool and their favourite animal was surprisingly not the lion but the leopard. After dinner they went to their tent and I joined 4 people from England, one did a research about biomass in different forest types and CO2 related issues in Tanzania and Kenya and another investigated the weapon use, storage and control within police and army forces. Both researches where eye opening and interesting.

This place is close by the Nairobi national Park and I asked if Cheryl wanted to join me, the driver Joseph was willing to drive us around for the whole day (costing 80 $) so the first day was arranged.

Around 23.00 my bed was calling and I crawled in my tent and under the blanket, it was much colder they I would expect and in the night I grabbed my sleeping bag….maybe the difference between Dubai and the Kenian High lands was a bit too much.

Day 2, September 6th

As usual my eyes opened early and 7.00 I went out of bed, the surrounding was so green and the morning light shone through the trees. On the grass 2 black ibises where enjoying their breakfast so I joined them but in the restaurant with a view over the pond and bush with weaverbirds. A Spanish omelette, toast and some tea made me a man again. Cheryl and Joseph picked me up around 11.00 and we drove off to the park. I On the way we stopped to buy some food and drinks, at the gate we had to pay, a fee for Kenyan and a much higher fee for the tourist. In the beginning we did not see much in the park but when we drove deeper the first giraffe showed its long neck above the bush, and then more appeared. Some Thomson gazelle where grazing together with impalas. All animals can be seen in this park except the elephants, it is too expensive to enclose this park with a fence that withholds them in. Then Joseph asked me what I wanted to see and I said that the buffalo was an animal I really wanted to see. Some moments late I spotted movement on the hill side. It was a huge herd of buffalo and we drove there and when we stopped the car, the buffalo moved all around the car and came very close. These magnificent and very powerful (but ugly) animals deserve allot of respect. In the late afternoon we drove back and meet with Scott and Mare and later the four of us went to Carnivore a famous restaurant where you can eat as the name states allot of meat. It is an all you can eat place where the waiters walk by with meat and if you want they cut of a piece for you…after first trying all: Bush bock, crocodile, ostrich, goat, cow, warthog, chicken, buffalo and bull balls which taste different. My favourite where ostrich and buffalo beef of which I ate too much. When we finally put the flag down we heard local music from the opposite place and we had a look. First there were no tourists and it was a good band and we danced a bit. Around 1.00 we were back and it was bed time.

Day 3, September 7th

After waking up late and a good breakfast there was nothing planned for the day expect planning a safari. Also today my brother celebrates his 33 birth day so of course we called some time. Most of the safaris arranged from here where mostly sitting the whole day in the car….that was not really my idea of a safari and I looked into possibilities with Daniel the trip organiser. So we came to a safari of:

Day 1: Drive to Masai mara and in the evening a game drive.

Day 2: morning and afternoon game drive and then move to a Masai village were we would have a bush walk and overnight in the bush.

Day 3: full day in the village and a long bush walk with the Masai.

Day 4: drive back by a lake.

Scott and Mare also found this a nice trip and joined.

For the rest a relaxing day full of drinks and food.

Day 4, September 8th

A day to Nairobi down town. After 7.00 waking up again and reading a book in the morning sun with fatty (the house dog, and yes it’s his real name) at my feet for some hours. I joined the others for breakfast when they woke up too. Two scrambled eggs on toast are good in the morning and at 10.30 we were ready and walked with 5 persons to the main road to catch a taxi. Soon we had one and all five fitted in. First stop was the Masai market, this was an harassing experience. At a certain moment 7 people were pushing themselves up to me and the same happened to the others…I raised my voice a bit and told them all in a still friendly but insisting way to leave us and if we needed help we would call for them. And luckily they listened and we could enjoy the market on our own. From the Market we walked down town and saw allot of children skating and running in a closed parking lot. We ate a hamburger and went to the KICC tower where you have a 360 degree view over Nairobi. Nobody wanted to pay to get up except one researcher and me. The view was nice and a guide explained everything about the history, development etc. After a stroll around we went back to the camp and after dinner I went to sleep early because tomorrow its safari time!

Day 5, September 9th

6.30 waking up and packing my bags and say goodbye to my nice small house. After breakfast we left around 8.00 the Wilde beast eco lodge and drove to the west in the direction to the Great Rift Valley. The difference between people in Nairobi and outside was big but similar as my experience in Nigeria. At a view point at the great rift valley most tourists stopped and the locals made use of this. We asked a man to make a picture of the three of us. He asked immediately for money, I gave him some and 5 minutes later he came back and asked me again just out of the blue for money…this is the negative side of mass tourism areas. Our next stop was the Masai capitol Narok where we did some shopping of food and Scott needed a hat. We drove on and after Narok the asphalted road stopped and we drove over dirt roads dragging a dust cloud behind us. It was very dry and soon we saw the first Thomson and Greater gazelle. By crossing a river we entered the park (I think illegally) and the game drive started. First small herds of zebra, harte beast and gazelle but when we drove deeper into the Masai Mara National Park the herds grew larger. We drove to a location where several cars were standing and we saw a lioness with two cubs. She seemed in stress by the cars who blocked her way. I asked the driver to keep some distance and we enjoyed the moment with a little double feeling of knowing she was carrying her cubs to protect them. But our driver did not block the lioness her path and after 20 minutes watching her we drove off. Then we drove along a river bed and saw two lions, an older female and a young male. They were 50m apart when suddenly the young male came in action and the female stood up. She lowered her head and exposed her huge teeth with a growl. The male approached her and she made a charge to the young male who wisely backed off. Then it started to rain and the access on roads became less and some moment we had to drive through the grass to keep track on the tires. In the rain we saw a group of 8 elephants, a young was hiding for the rain under the large tusks and trunk of her mother. The tusks gleamed in the rain and the grey skin became dark from above. They saw us and mother and calf walked through the rain straight to the car. They came close to about 10 meter and passed on the front of the vehicle it gave a rush, natures beauty. The rain made most roads less accessible but we reached a valley where the large herds of the big migrations where. These herds of zebra and wildebeest stretch as far as the eye can see.

Then we left the park and drove to a camp close to the entrance, after preparing our beds and dropping our backpacks the food was ready. The lovely African food with the delicious veggies and meat surprises me again and again. Grouping up with other travellers we enjoyed the evening.

Day 6, September 10th

6:00 the alarm went and breakfast (pancakes and sausage) was ready, and 6:30 we all were in the van for a full day of Safari. As we saw most of the common game the day before we could drive a bit faster skipping the impala species and zebras looking for the carnivores. After half an hour drive we saw 5 hyenas, first it looked like they scavenged the plain but when we drove closer we say there was a wildebeest killed which they ate. We were quit close and it was amazing to see how the hyena with his powerful jaw dragged the carcass away. Everybody was silent and enjoyed this true nature. Later we came across a huge rock python who erected his body full in the air to smell us. The python crossed the road and again we were luck and close. As if this was not enough we came across a male lion eating, when we drove across a bush we saw the remaining family, another bigger male and some females laying in the bush. Then a lioness started to flirt with the big male, he opened his powerful mouth and showed his fangs. Then he stood up and the lioness crawled close to the ground and they mated like 10 meters in front of our car. After enjoying the lion family for about one hour and to many photos later we drove off. Then our driver got a call and we drove to another location, there was a cheetah in the field. First walking and then disappearing in the grass. While driving to our lunch location we saw 3 big black ground horn bills, these huge black birds remind me always to my first African visit in South Africa.

On our way to the Masai Village “Ngoswani Village” where we would stay 3 days we drove by the famous river in the “Great Migration” documentations. This valley shaped terrain was impressive and death buffalo in the river killed by crocs or died from exhaustion by climbing the steep river banks. Further where there groups of hippo and crocs in the river enjoying the sun. Crossing a plain we saw a cheetah with two young cubs taking cover in a nearby bush. When arriving at the Massai Village it was really small, luckily not what I had seen on the tourist brochures in Nairobi. We had two hours to place the two tents, we were not allowed to sleep in the town.

Our place was about one kilometre from the town in a circle where the man have their meetings and man evenings. Because there was no “kraal” wooden barrier around us there would stay some body to keep the fire burning and this person was armed with a spear to guarantee our safety. For our visit the village would kill a sheep, this was a special occasion and the man where enthusiast. The sheep was killed by Peter by means of suffocation, it was strange to see how respectful this was. He told us that he knew this sheep from lamb, and they more or less bring it to sleep….and if you believe it or not it really looked like that. Then they took a part of the skin from the neck and collected the blood. When the kidneys came out Peter called for me, I was making pictures of the whole event. He translated to me that the town older offered the kidneys to us, this is a part of meat with special tradition and it is for the guests. They cut it out and it has to be eaten raw and still warm, this seemed to me a big honour so I ate it. And really it did not taste bad!

After the butchery we went with Justice and Peter for a 2 hour walk through the bush and grazing fields. They both had their spears with them, this land is not dominated by man but wildlife and Masai live here together. A herd boy came curios to look at the strange white people. Justice was talking to him firmly but I did not understand what was going on…..then Justige grabbed the kid of about 14 years old. He said: Harold hold him…I took the small arm in my hand and the kids eyes grew big…… What surprised me he was not looking at my face but at my hand touching his arm. Justice and Peter fell in a big laugh and the kid and me looked at each other not understanding, the kid still horrified. This kid had never seen a white person, and believed that a touch of a white man would turn him white to as a disease. When walking back we saw impalas and gazelle but on foot this is an amazing feeling. Your part of the land, not a visitor in a car.

Back at the tents the sheep meet was above the fire and the meal was ready. In this setting with a campfire in the African savannah it tasted perfect. We were sitting around the campfire but only Peter and Justice spoke English so communication was difficult. Peter told us a story when he was a massai warrior of about 15 years old. He and 9 other warriors were called to a town where a lion killed several sheep. The warriors prepared an ambush, when the big old male lion showed up Peter was the first to run in with his spear and killed him. He still has the mane and made a hat from it. During all the stories we were eating the meet, impressive how much meet these guys can eat. Sitting at the campfire I heard elephants and hyenas. Then I needed to use a toilet, I ask the guys: well toilet time, can I walk safely in the bush? Peter translated this and all were laughing and one gave his spear and said something. Apparently he said: you have two hands, one spear and ….. make the choice wisely what to use at the right time.

Standing there alone with a spear next to me and hearing hyenas not too far away was a thrill….then it was also bed time.

Day 7, 11th September

As most mornings I woke up early, excited about what the day would bring I went out the tent and said hi to the two man who watched over the fire. Armed with my camera I walked close by our camp to see the morning wildlife. Near the town I met Justice, he invited me in the town for a tea. Of course an opportunity like this I could not refuse and we walked into the town where everything is made for the safety and benefit for their cattle. The small hut made of wood cow dung and clay had only two small windows. There are two main rooms, one for the little cattle like lambs and chickens who otherwise would be food for the birds of prey. The other room was filled with two beds, a cocking place. I had the honour to sit on an empty paint can and Justice and his wife sat on the bed. His wife was really young and beautiful. I can imagine her life is hard with a new born son and one of 2 years, the cattle and her husband has to work outside the town. He is responsible to bring in money for the whole town, something the massai don’t really know, they still pay everything with cattle.

After the tea and an interesting talk about our differences Justice and I walked back to our tents. Scott and Mare just woke up and we had breakfast, beans in tomato sauce, eggs and a form of pancake near the campfire. This was especially for us prepared, I felt guilty for this. This are luxury items….Then we prepared for our day walk with Justice. When I filled my camelback with water Justice said we only go for a couple hours. Then it appeared he only drinks one cup of water during the day. In the beginning during the walk we saw several herds of cattle and Thomson gazelle, greater gazelle and bushbuck who observed us as we did them. Walking uphill the view became breath taking, at the top we had our break with a view over the whole valley. When we started our way back Justice pointed a fresh urine spot of buffalo and the tracks went towards the nearby bush. Slowly we backed up and moved away from the bush. Then he told us that there are only two animals he feared in the bush. One was the buffalo who are so unpredictable in dense bush and extremely aggressive, the second is the elephant. On our way down the view was stunning when we crossed a dry riverbed there were lots of tracks in the sand. 10 meters further was the stomach content of a zebra who was killed by lions. The sand was disturbed and there was lots of blood in the sand filling the air with a copper smell. The grass in the stomach was still wet so the kill was very fresh and probably the lions were hiding in the bush around us. So we did not stop to long at this place to avoid angry lions. Then we heard movement in the bush, in the threes where baboons watching over us. We continued but the bush where dense, at an open spot we saw a boy herding cows. He was surprised and shocked to see the Muzunghu (white man) in the bush. Not even 100 meters further we saw very fresh elephant prints, the fine print of the soles was clearly to see. On the field behind where lots of antelope, gazelle and when passing a bush a herd of zebra showed up in the distance. To walk between these wild animals, smelling them and being part of it is amazing. Close by the camp we had a nice look on the mountain behind the village, there I spotted movement and a closer look there were 23 elephants moving up the slope. They had passed our camp on less than 1 kilometre and we could smell them.

During our midday break I took some time for myself to reflect this beautiful culture to our busy life, looking for the differences and similarities. While sitting on a three pushed over by an elephant I got lost in my thoughts. Peter and a boy walked up to me and I was out of my own little world. The boy was 15 years old and requested by the town oldest to have a talk with me. But he does not speak English so Peter translates all. This was interesting for both and I asked him what he wanted to know. First he asked if I was married, my answer “No” was surprising him. And he asked if I was sick or from a cursed family, so I explained him our “free” way of living. And I explained him we have boys his age who have never touched a cow our a goat, they even believe milk comes from the supermarket. And plenty of people want to eat meat but don’t want to know it was alive once….Then we talked about their and our way of herding cows. He walks daily 15 kilometres to a water hole and back and then many kilometres to find grass. This year it was extremely dry and the town was making an important decision. The herds and a group of man had to leave for 2 or 3 months until the rains came back. When explaining him we build huge houses bigger than their town for the cows and cut the grass for them and bring it to the cows. Twice a day the cow walks himself to a machine to be milked without a person present. And that 2 people can have up to 200 or 300 cows this way. He started to shake his head disapproving and he said “that is not good for the cows, it’s sad”. And he is right, this young boy without any education opened my eyes. We can build houses, control the seas and economically farm animals but we lost something bigger! Our way of living, the real life and being close to nature. After some more topics the boy agreed he preferred to live in the Massai in his small hut….Don’t forget herding cows is a huge responsibility for the whole town. This is their most valuable cattle and reflects the status of the whole town including all families. But this is his last year as a herd boy he told me proudly. Next year it was his time to be chosen to become a warrior and later a man.

The town elder calls the boy or boys to him who are ready to become warriors. After receiving their approval they leave the town and stay out for the whole night. With first sunlight they walk back to the town naked. He has to wait in front of the town without water and clothes. When the town elder gives the sign everybody gathers for the ceremony and the boy has to stand with his legs wide for the circumcision. He is not allowed to make a sound or make sudden movements, if he does he will be abandoned by the town. Then the boys say good bye and move out in the world to be a massai warrior what means to fight neighbour tribes, protect herds and towns for 3 or more years. They have no possessions but are maintained by the towns they serve and pass.

In the Afternoon we had our visit to the town and a visit to the school. Scott and Mare where blown by the way of living and felt disturbed. Myself seen this in south Africa and Nigeria it hits you hard. But the school they are building for the smallest children who cannot walk the 7 to 8 kilometres to the nearby school get class here. Now the kids sat on the ground by lack of chairs.

Then all the herds came in from all sides and the young lams got reunited with their mother and cheeps got milked. While walking back all of us walked in silence blown by the events of the day. Back at the campfire we talked allot and enjoyed a nice meal. During the night we lay back in the grass and looked at the stars of the southern world. Several falling stars crossed the sky and then it was bed time.

Day 8, 12th of September

After an amazing sleep, breakfast we packed the tents. On our way back to Nairobi we passed a lake in the great valley that Scott and Mare wanted to see. This swamp covered lake was so rich of wildlife. Only from the sides you can’t really enjoy it to the fullest. Around 16:00 back at the Wilde beast camp and after moving in a tent and a good long shower we enjoyed a dinner. In the evening a new group was sitting there with all nice stories on their own. After some Tuskers I crawled in my bed.

Day 9, 13th of September

Waking up early out of habit I grabbed my travel book and planned the coming days a bit. After breakfast with a group we started our first Tuskers and other drinks. One of this group a Spanish girl we are really on one line with our travels and what we value. For Lunch we walked to the supermarket and did some shopping, eating and drinking and that was the day.

Day 10, 14th of September

8:00 Breakfast time with my new partner in crime, dreaming about travels to make and travels we have made. Then it was time to leave Wilde beast behind me and by public bus I drove to Nairobi down town and from there a bus to Tanzania. This long ride through developed agricultural land was nice and I met some nice people. One who offered me to bring to a place of his friend where I could stay, he owned a hostel. So 21:00 we finally arrived in Arusha in Sakani Campsite. Apparently I was the only guest and there was no food….welcome in traveling of the beaten tracks. So I asked if the owner wanted to join me for a meal and together we went to a hotel with a restaurant along the road. But it is clear this is not Kenia, all is just a bit less, most people don’t speak English.

Day 11, 15th of September

Being the only guest would not make my travel plans easier and contact with fellow travellers is always more fun. When I informed the owner he had a surprise that I could hook up with a group who started their safari to the Serengeti, Nogorongoro crater and a lake. 2 of these locations where on my to visit list so I packed my bags and spend 5 hours exploring the city of Arusha and around 16:00 left towards the safari group I was joining.

At 16:00 I met the Tanzanian “Speedy Gonzales” and I had my first flying lessons in a car. While flying over dirt roads for 2 hours. Finally we arrived in a small town near Nogorongoro park and to my surprise my tent was already put up and the food was already on the table. My new traveling buddy’s where: Bas and Selma a Dutch couple and Kim an Aan two South Korean guys. After the food we talked a long time before we went to our tents.

Day 12, 16th of September

Yesterday we heard breakfast would be served early around 7:00 and this was true but then we had to wait until 9:00 for nu clear reason. This was a bit bad management but well this is Africa so you can fight it or relax and read a book…well my travel buddy’s did the first while I did the last! But then when we left and arrived in the park the 4x4 climbed the narrow road to the crater rim. This drive through dense forests was complete different than most of Africa what I have seen before…looks more like Thailand to be honest. On the crater rim was a lookout point and the crater and plane spread open over the whole crater floor. In the distance, far below herds moved around and a dust cloud moved near the lake. But all this had to wait, first the Serengeti was on the list. This was a 2 hour drive on a complete straight road over the plains of the massai mara. Our car got overheated and we had to refill the carburettor while we enjoyed lunch and became an attraction for the masai nearby. Then we entered the gates in the middle of nothing, only flat grass land as far as the eye reaches. Just through the gates wildlife changed directly, like the animals knew this this land is safe for them compared the land where the masai herd their cattle. First we saw Gazelle, Impalas and Heart beasts and many bird species as the always elegant secretary bird walking the grass hunting for snakes and lizards. But also the dirty Buzzard and ostrich scanned the dry yellow grass for a meal. One hour driving through this grassland a so called “Koppie” came out of the land. This are crops of rock formed long ago when this area was volcanic and large rocks got thrown through the air forming the landscape. Then the land flooded creating the flat plane. And when the soft soil erodes away leaving these grey statues standing in the middle of nothing.

On top of the koppie was a lookout post with 360 degree view. It is impossible to realize that this far stretching dry, yellow brown grass land turns completely green within weeks when the rains return. And the 100.000 wildebeests, hartebeests and zebra followed by the carnivores moved back. Driving deeper in the Serengeti more rock out crops dotted the plains. Then close by a koppie and a river the wildlife increased and we followed the oasis of green along the river. On a koppie a male lion was sleeping, the lionesses almost invisible in the brown grass kept an eye on us. Then we heard some noise and our car was between 6 lion cubs and their mothers. The lion cubs playing and teasing each other in the shadow of the rock. When we got totally focussed on these little playful cats a loud roar went as s shock trough your body and a big male lion stood up from the grass. It is the mating season and that is what he went to do and we left them to it.

Crossing a small river some saddle beak storks stood in a small lake. And while driving back another group of lions lay under a tree. These had so many cubs we could not count them, amazing how all these animals live in harmony together. But time had passed fast and we hurried to our campsite. I heard about this campsite from a girl in Wildebeast camp, she told me that a group of lions had killed a buffalo during the night inside the camp and due to the available water from the washrooms the lions had no need to move on….so about 23 lions were all over the campsite. This was 2 weeks earlier and in my mind I hoped to see / experience this myself. It would be the ultimate safari experience!

When arrived at the campsite and while we put up our tents the food was prepared. During the dessert we heard hyenas very close, that whooping sound always gives me the shivers.

Additional photos below
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