A Travellerspoint blog

LEAVING KENYA

ARRIVING AT THE BEAUTIFUL SERENGETI

semi-overcast 28 °C

I did not intend to write or post today since we have no planned activities other than to leave our last location in Kenya and make the 9 hour journey to our first in Tanzania on the Serengeti. But, as I am driving along these very bumpy African roads soaking up all that is around me, my mind is racing with thoughts of what I have experienced. I do write primarily for myself and Isaac as a diary of our adventures so I felt compelled to pull out my laptop and try and get something down despite the almost impossibility of typing while being tossed side to side.

One thing I did not expect was to have my trip to Africa bring back so many memories of time with my father. I guess no matter where you live spending time hunting or searching, fishing, and understanding the wildlife and their habits requires the same skills and creates the same sense of community and respect. Spending the last 4 days with my guide on games drives reminded me of fishing and hunting with dad. The guides, just as dad does in his land, knows the habits and behaviours of each animal, they know that these change dependant of weather, water levels and threats and they are able to seek out the animals based on this knowledge. I also chuckled each time we passed another guide and they shared a friendly handshake, their successes, and pointed each other to the sought after target, similar to the nod and sign language on Gander river.

My time in the Mara also gave meaning to the need for fresh water in this region. No matter the time of day we saw small, very small children walking lonely roads holding containers in search of water. Women would be walking with buckets or barrels balanced on their heads far from the nearby village. Each time we pass a river someone is doing laundry, washing vegetables, or bathing and the water is commonly brown. Clean water is a luxury.

Kenya depends on tourists and boy do they milk it. Prices for souvenirs were outrageous. Isaac wanted to buy these 2 used pieces of wood that the Maasai use to make fire and they wanted $20.We eventually paid five after bringing the chief in on the deal but even that was too much. I am interested to see how Tanzania compares.

The service was outstanding. We were waited on hand and foot everywhere we have been. They sure get the importance of good service.

Women and children do most of the work and the men admit that.

Driving out of Kenya was really interesting as we had the chance to pass through many local villages. This was the Africa we imagined. Poor, simple and with many children yelling “mzungus” meaning white people. They know the tourists and hope to get candy.

The border crossing was pretty simple if you can call organized chaos simple. In Kenya we just needed a departure stamp but the line up was quite long and the town extremely chaotic. Never the less we were done in 15 minutes and crossed into Tanzania where we had to buy visas and clear immigration. We filled out a form, paid $50 each and somehow with no real idea what was happening we were granted entry for 3 months. I was the only one who had my picture and finger prints taken so I best behave.

At this point we switched vehicles and guides and said good bye to Albert and hello to Elle. We went for a toilet break. Although Kajal was not fussy about the Africa toilets, well none of us were really, she came along. Africa toilets are simply a hole in the middle of the concrete floor and I must admit my aim is not that good. I went first and excitedly said to Kajal, “oh no worries, it is a good one!” Funny how your perspective changes because my definition of a good one was a dirty Asian style toilet, the ones with the bowl in the floor.

We had about 30 minutes of pavement before hitting some of the worst dirt roads ever. They call it the African massage. Even I don’t need a 6 hour massage. We had lunch on the side of the road while being watched intently by the village kids who were delighted to take our leftovers.

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Many hours later after passing a few new friends on the sides of the road and a short stop at a hippo pool we arrived at our new location, the Serengeti Serena Lodge, overlooking the Serengeti. Unbelievable how spectacular our accommodations have been. It really feels like this is a dream.

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Here are our new accommodations and the view from our veranda

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Posted by curlygirl 09:13 Archived in Kenya Tagged animals africa tanzania adventures serengeti Comments (3)

BEST ZOO EVER

GAME DRIVE, PICNICS AND MAASAI VILLAGE

sunny 28 °C

I am going to try to keep this short because internet is limited but I have to share some of today’s pictures. I woke early to the most wonderful view from my veranda. I still can’t believe where we are. After an early breakfast we went for a full day safari stopping only for a picnic lunch under a tree like the tree of life at animal kingdom. It was considered a safe place to get out of the vehicle and it was wonderful. I did have to take advantage of a rare tree and take a pee. I am learning from the animals and marking my territory.

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Here are some of today’s highlights:

We watched 4 female lions hunt for a bunch of warthogs. They eventually chased them without success. Warthogs are so fast and the 2 adults and 4 babies ran so fast it was hilarious. We also learned that lions are quiet slow.

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We learned that hippos, giraffes and elephants spend the evening in the highlands and walk 10-15km each way every day to the watering holes. We had families of elephants walk right next to us and they don’t make a sound. Magnificent creatures.

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We actually saw lions mating. They mate for 7 days at a time and start with about 80 times a day and slowly decrease throughout the week.

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As you can see we saw tons on animals today. It is constant excitement.

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After many hours driving around we went to visit a Maasai village. I no longer want to be a wife. Mud huts, they drink blood with water and men have up to 10 wives. One of the distinctive things that the Maasai do is jump. Good jumpers entice many girlfriends. It is clear Isaac will only have a few. LOL. Good for him and Jackson for giving it a go.

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Any way. Not much time but I wanted to share a few pictures. As I type there is a zebra about 10 feet away. It never gets old.

Posted by curlygirl 08:03 Archived in Kenya Tagged animals africa safari adventures Comments (6)

BIRTHDAY SURPRISES AND MAASAI WARRIOR

VISITING THE MAASAI MARA – PART ONE

sunny 28 °C

We started our day with a wonderful surprise. Without us knowing, the staff at the lodge brought out a birthday cake for Jackson’s 14th birthday and broke out in song. It was so beautiful and heartfelt. We were all in tears. They sang a Swahili birthday song and walk around our table for at least 10 minutes. We loved it but our guide was a little annoyed that we were 30 minutes late to leave for our six hour drive to Maasai Mara.

Although the drive was long it was interesting and well worth it. Along the way we saw tons of cattle. There were so many herds of sheep herded by boys who looked to be no older than 10 and then thousands of cows who were cared for by the older boys. At least 10 times we had to stop because of animals in the road ranging from sheep and Thompson gazelles to zebras. As we drove toward the gates of our lodge we were greeted by giraffes, zebras and many other animal that roam freely even inside the camp. After been shown our wonderful accommodations we were treated to a four course lunch. Because it is low season we almost have the place almost to ourselves. The beautiful Mara West Lodge may just be the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. Remember when I said our last place had five star tents well they were not, these are five star tents. We were given cell phones to call the desk any time we want to move as we have to be accompanied by armed workers in case of the animals. My escort tonight was a beautiful Maasai warrior armed with a bow and arrow. Isaac thought this was cool. I just thought it was yummy. He came all the way to our veranda and he and I had a great chat about why he never went to school, how Maasai life is changing and what they are trying to change. Isaac thought we both talked a lot. Did you know the Maasai can take more than one wife? Hmmmm.

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We did get out for a short game drive today and we can already tell this will be amazing. Although we were not searching for the giraffes and elephants we kept getting glimpses in the distance. At one point, we saw the silhouette of a giraffe walking along the horizon. It could have seriously been a back drop for a movie. Today’s animal highlights were the lions, the crocs and the crested cranes but we saw so much else.

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Tonight we had another delicious meal with a planned birthday cake for Jackson and so were treated to some more song over dessert. This has been a surreal experience. As I sit in bed writing this I can hear all sorts of noises outside but none that I am going to investigate. At least I know the baboons have gone to bed. Guess I should too before the power is cut.

Posted by curlygirl 16.04.2014 06:51 Archived in Kenya Tagged animals africa safari adventures Comments (2)

I WANT A HIPPOPATAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS....

AND A RHINO, AND A ZEBRA, AND MAYBE TO STAY FOREVER IN AFRICA.

overcast 20 °C

I am writing this just as I have finished a delicious Indian buffet lunch at The Flamingo Tented Camp at Lake Nakuru. It was served with custom made Naan bread cooked in front of us in a Tandor oven Yes, these are the five start tents I was referring to and they did not fail to disappoint. I just have to say that the service so far makes me feel like a character on Downton Abbey. Kenya used to be a British Colony and they seem to have hung on to the formalities. At our last hotel they almost held their breath if we tried to put our own napkin on our laps. Seem to be much the same here. This is not a complaint. Any way, our drive this morning was about 3 hours in our very cool Land Cruiser with our guide Albert. Along the way we passed lots of small villages and the outskirts were certainly poorer than the areas of the city that we saw. Most of the drive was through farm land where coffee grows in the highland and corn in the lower areas. We had an amazing view of the Riff Valley. We passed thousand of goats and sheep and as we got within an hour of Nakuru we saw antelope, impalas and many zebras hanging on the sides of the road. How cool is that? They are so beautiful. Approaching the park, we saw herds of buffalos that are the most aggressive of the park animals.

Our lodgings are gorgeous as are the grounds. The bathrooms are amazing with hot water in the mornings and evening and electricity 24 hours a day. This would be glamping at its finest. As we sit on our beds under the mosquito nets we are listening to our first rain or rather thunder and lightening. It is lovely. Albert assures us that the rains only affect the cats, the rest enjoy the cooling of the air. We can also hear birds and animals that are lurking just outside the gates. Unfortunately we only have one night here.

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We are heading out at 4 pm on our first game drive. Unfortunately because of the changing climate and heavy rains last year much of the park has flooded. The biggest impact is that the millions of flamingos that used to live in the lake have left. Still, we have hopes of seeing some along with the Rothschild giraffes, white and black rhinos and more zebras this afternoon.

Game Drive Number One

I have no idea how to explain what it is like to see animals in the wild. Well obviously we have all seen animals in the wild but to see these animals is amazing. I think it is because I have only ever seen things like these on an episode of Lorne Greene when I was a kid. Let’s just say we had an amazing first adventure. The rain stopped just before we headed out and minus a small shower, it stayed away. The result of that was fresh misty air that was fragrant. Almost as soon as we left our lodge we saw tons of buffalo, baboons, zebra, antelope and impalas. It never ended. Although it is almost unheard of to see a hippopotamus here at Nukuru since the lake came up, guess who spotted one in the middle of a buffalo herd. Me! So cool. His mouth was huge as he munched on the grass. Apparently the animals come out to feed after the rain in order to get the water as well. We were also lucky enough to see a rhino. We lost our minds. This is a white rhino and the only difference between the white and black rhinos are the shape of the mouth not the colour. It is believed that the white rhino was actually called wide rhino for it wide mouth which got translated into white. We actually saw 5 more but from further away. One of the other highlights for the kids was when we were chased by a buffalo. It was hilarious.

We are so glad not to be here with tons of tourists and a million jeeps. We had so much time to stop and stare. We could not have asked for a better day. I have such respect for wildlife photographers because it is impossible to great shots. The animals rarely stay still, you are stretch up over the roof of a jeep and can not get out without taking your life in your hands, we are all moving about and shaking the jeep, water droplets fall on your lens and sometimes you just have to put down your camera and be in awe missing the only possible shot. I did my best.

We are just about to head to supper. We have been provided flashlights but an armed guard will be escorting us just in case we encounter an animal. Too funny. Isaac is beat. He has been smiling from ear to ear all day and really loved the buffalo charging event. He is however absolutely terrified of the spiders in our tent and has been squealing like a girl from the shower for the last 15 minutes. Imagine finding that to be the scariest creature of the day.

The little birds on the backs and head of the buffalo are called oxpeckers and they pick the insects of the buffalo. The monkeys are called vervet monkeys and that poor baby could not get its mother to share her snack. The zebras may have just stolen my heart from the giraffes. Sigh. Tomorrow it is a 6 hours drive the Masai Mara for two. No idea about the internet there. Maybe same as here, just in the lobby. Hakuna matata! (They really say that),

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Posted by curlygirl 10:43 Archived in Kenya Tagged africa safari adventures Comments (5)

NECKING WITH GIRAFFES AND ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE

MORE PLEASANT SURPRISES IN NAIROBI

sunny 25 °C

I can’t believe that I ever said that I just wanted to get out of Nairobi. We have the most wonderful day. This was the first official day of our tour and we were picked up by our driver at 9 to visit the Giraffe Center. This center is a Kenya conservation center that has played a huge role is saving the Rothschild giraffe population and is used today to educate Kenyan children on conservation. We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the giraffes, feeding them, kissing them and learning about them. Did you know that giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as a human? They are huge and we were able to hold a piece and several other pieces of giraffe bone. The femur weighs a ton! After letting one of the giraffes completely lick my face we learned that their saliva is antiseptic and used medically by natives. By the way, necking is the way the giraffes fight thrusting their necks against each other. I was just making out with mine. I feel completely in love with these magnificent creatures.

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Our next stop was just as special visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which adopts orphaned baby elephants and raises them until they are three years old and then reintegrates them into the wild. What a terrific organization. It is only opened for visitors for 1 hour a day so the animals do not get used to crowds. We were treated to the feeding session of all the elephants including the new babies who were only a few months old up to the 3 years olds. There are a couple of older ones as well. The workers sleep in the huts with the elephants, rotating each day so the babies don’t get too attached to one human. The adjustment of losing their mother is so difficult it would be traumatic if they got attach to a worker and he took time off. This was so much fun watching the elephants play and interact. The wee ones seemed so timid while the teens were rambunctious…sound familiar?

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Our next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum. Here we visited Karen’s house and the set of the movie “Out of Africa” which was about her life. The grounds were just gorgeous and the sun was shining. I could easily live there.

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Our last stop of the day was the Kazuri Bead Factory. Unfortunately the factory, which only employs single mothers in need of work, was closed because it was Sunday. They say it is amazing to watch the woman work side by side singing and hand rolling and hand painting every bead. None the less we had great respect for this fair trade organization that offers fair wages, free health care for the woman and their families and reasonable working hours. We did our part and bought a few things.

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A truly magical day. I was laughing and crying all day. Everyone loved it. Our stay in Nairobi was excellent and this hotel is so beautiful. Ernest Hemmingway used to hang out here amongst many other famous authors. They also have a Lord Baden-Powell room as a tribute to the scouter who spent his last days in Kenya.

Our safari starts tomorrow. No idea when I will have internet again. Supposedly our next hotel with the tents has internet in the lobby so I will do my best. Haya Safari!

PS. This website was down all day so I was unable to post until this morning. Enjoy.

Posted by curlygirl 20:15 Archived in Kenya Tagged elephant africa center adventures orphanage david sheldrick girraffe Comments (2)

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