Long travel days are never great, but they are a necessity when traveling long distances. This day was particularly interesting because of the fact that the countries we were travelling in are both third world countries ( leaving Zimbabwe to Zambia ) Not a lot of technology and only 1 book and 1 pen to write down who comes in and out of both countries, not good for people with very little patience (June ). We arrived in Nairobi late at night and had to get up very early in the morning to start another long travel day, so it was early to bed!
Our group for this portion of the trip ( Kenya 7 days ) consisted of 2 other younger Canadians and a lovely couple from South Africa ( Jacques and Liz) Today our final destination was the Masai Mara National Park, 244km away, with the last 2 hours on the most bumpiest stretch of road we have ever been on! On route we stopped at a beautiful scenic lookout to view part of the Rift Valley which runs 6500km from Egypt to
Mozambique, which we ended up seeing several times on our travels. Arriving in the park we saw zebras, wildebeest, warthogs,buffalos and giraffes and their baby’s. These are called the
Masai giraffes- smaller than the ones we had seen previously, and their spots are more jagged and darker. As we left we were treated to another spectacular sighting of a leopard eating its kill in the tree and 2 cheetahs just hanging out in the open, another great day!!!
The next morning’s game drive found us viewing all the usual animals which by now we were getting quite used to seeing, but never getting bored of seeing them! This was why we came here, to see animals, and boy did we see them all!!! Leopards and Cheetahs were the most elusive so of course any sighting of these 2 was extremely special.
This morning we had the pleasure of seeing a big male lion eating a warthog, We were so close you could hear him crunching! Today we saw the Mariboo stork, so that completed our sightings of the Ugly Five – hyena, wildebeest, vulture, mariboo stork and the warthog. Although the warthog is pretty cute when they run with their tails pointing straight up!
Several afternoons, in between our game drives were spent looking around our “camps”. This day we attended a short lecture about the local Masai people and viewed many little birds on a “treetop viewing” area. You could not go out off the tented areas, because, well, we were surrounded by some animals that could kill us!
This evening’s game drive was again full of animals, with elephants and baby elephants being the centre of attraction. The way they all interact is so fascinating, so tender and caring. We saw all ages, they only develop their tusks at around 3 yrs of age, and there were many with no tusks and very small-so cute!! At one point we were so close we could hear the baby sucking on its mom when it was feeding! As we were heading home we came across a lion and lioness and the lion was getting a lesson in how to mate. The lion appeared to be young as he was not quite understanding what he was supposed to be doing!
She finally got frustrated and just walked away and laid down, it was amazing and funny at the same time. The beautiful part of this was that the sun was setting directly behind them with a very iconic African acacia tree in between, stunning! We saw many beautiful sunsets!!!
This morning we left for Lake Nakuru with a game drive on the way.
Lucky for us a cheetah was on the side of the road to say good-bye and then we found a lioness and a fresh wildebeest kill. Her 3 baby cubs were also with her and they were trying to “help her” drag her kill to the bushes. It was absolutely adorable how they were all jumping and playing around her and all she wanted to do was get her food to their den.
Another 2 hr drive on the same worst road ever. One reason we were told the road is so bad is to help deter people (tourists) coming in with regular cars. This forces people to use commercial land cruisers and professional guides who know the rules of how to view the animals. Some of the rules were to not deter the animals in their path, not stay with one animal for long periods of time, don’t go to them to get close-let them get as close as they want, and to stay on the marked paths. We felt that all our guides did a great job to get us the best spot without interfering with the animal. We saw a few jeeps going off the paths and were angered by this. In the Serengeti apparently they have cameras ( which we saw ) in certain places to catch the offenders.
As we entered Lake Nakaru we immediately saw another species of giraffe, the Rothschild, it has “white socks” , different type of pattern on its skin and it was again smaller than the first ones we saw. In the distance we saw 3 black rhinos, but they were pretty far away. Then we had an awesome sighting of a white rhino and her baby-just a few months old-amazing!!!
The baby was absolutely adorable-what a sight! Rhinos apparently use one spot as a “washroom” and on our way to our accommodations we came across 2 of them using this spot.
Lake Nakuru was advertised as the place to go to see massive amounts of pink flamingos. The day before our guide had informed us that there are actually very few flamingos here anymore due to the rising level of the lake so the food they eat are no longer there. We were all disappointed. It was still a beautiful place and we did see some rhinos and a few flamingos. On our way out, once again we saw the start of “the cycle of life” in the form of a pair of hyenas, maybe we were in Africa during mating season!
This morning we started another long drive down to Amboseli National Park, which has a fantastic view of Mount Kilimanjaro!!! Our guide had warned us that their is usually a thick cover of dust so you don’t actually see the peak very often, again disappointing. As we got close you could see just a bit of it peaking through the cover and when we arrived it burst through and WOW we were treated to a spectacular view! We were very lucky as every morning and every evening it cleared for us to see it!!! Just before we arrived at our camp for the next 2 nights
our guide mentioned that these accommodations were not as nice as the last few. Well..he was joking! Our “tents” were huge and luxurious!!! The “resort” was about 100 tents with a really nice swimming area and lounge. It was very sad that our group of 8 were the only people there!! (This happened twice to us). Our guide said tourism was down and this in part was due to the fact that a lot of people were scared to come to Africa because of terrorism.
We woke up this morning to a gorgeous view of the mountain through our French doors in our room, what a way to start the day! The interesting thing in this park is that all the animals head down to the watering holes from the outskirts of the park in the morning and then back again at night, except for the lions and hippos. The lions basically stay around the watering holes and let their “food” come to them, evolution is wonderful! So funny enough, the flamingos that we didn’t see at the previous park have all migrated tot his park and it was glorious seeing them.
We witnessed 2 huge flocks flying above the water, so many that the sky looked pink, truly an amazing sight!! This was another highlight of the trip. Our free time this afternoon was spent at the swimming pool enjoying the sun and having a drink. Larry had noticed a few days before that our camera had been acting funny, but then all of a sudden it went back to normal. As we were relaxing Larry discovered that our camera had not been reading our new memory card and we had lost the last 3 days of pictures!!! Well that was very upsetting, but the good thing was that Jacques had a very nice camera and was standing beside Larry taking the exact same pictures, so he of course said that he would send us his shots if we were not able to retrieve the pictures once we got home. ( my cousins husband in Germany owns a computer IT company and he tried to retrieve them and could not)
This afternoon’s game drive was all about elephants!!! There was a large marsh where they would walk in up to their necks so all you could see was the top of them, it was so cool!!! The babies were even cuter, as all you could see was their head and trunk!!! I could have sat there for hours just watching them!! The unique thing with this park is that at certain spots if you were lucky, you could get photos of the animals and then Kilimanjaro in the background, it was breathtakingly beautiful!
Today was another travel day. Of course on the way out of the park we saw many animals with several great elephant sightings, I ( June) might have to say they are my favourite!! Just as we were leaving the park we saw a Gerenuk-also known as the giraffe gazelle-very strange looking. Our Kenya part of the trip was over and we said good-bye to our travel mates and were handed over to our next guide for Tanzania, Phil. He picked us up on the Kenyan side and helped us navigate our way across the border into Tanzania. Well, we thought our last border crossing was interesting, this was insane!! Checking in and out, no correct lines, and lots of confusion!! We were glad to have Phil with us! A 2 hr drive through Masai country and the Rift Valley went very quickly. Our new guide was really great! ( much better than our Kenyan guide, who we didn’t think was all that great ) We arrived at our beautiful guest house just on the outskirts of Arusha with enough time to relax and have a drink at the pool before meeting our new travel mates. Gadventures always has a “briefing” time where you meet everyone and are briefed about what to expect. Our companions for this part were 2 younger women, 1 from Sweden-Tess and 1 from Australia-Mel, both turned out to be wonderful!! Mel had just spent the last 5 days trekking up Kilimanjaro, very impressive!!!! ( we were slightly envious) We learned that she had prepared for 9 months, which involved going into pressurized a “altitude room’ to acclimatize herself and lots of time in the gym with a trainer! She was pretty happy with herself with what she had accomplished and we agreed with her!
This whole trip was booked through Gadventures and we had decided to do an upgrade to their “comfort” level ( nicer accommodations ) , which is affiliated with National Geographic. Throughout the trip we had several “cultural” activities( meeting the local people, home cooked meals ) and a few lectures about animals from conversationalists, in particular the hyena, cheetah and the rhino.
Today we did a Tanzanian village cultural tour, which included a visit to a small banana farm, rice farm, the local pub (where we drank banana beer) and a fantastic home cooked meal with all the local food-priceless! We then headed out to an actual masai village where the people live in very small mud huts, sometimes up to 7 people! Gadventures also has their own non-profit foundation called, Planeterra. This initiative here involves helping the women get clean, “modern clean burning
stoves” put in their homes. Since they cook in the huts, which do not have chimneys, all the smoke stays in the hut. With this new stove it takes less fuel (wood) and the smoke can exit through a new chimney. It really is life changing for the women. Also, for every $ that is donated Gadventure matches it. Once again, it made us realize how fortunate we are to live where we live. We both particularly enjoyed this part of the trip, lots of things to make you think about life. Our lodge for the evening was called the Rift Valley Photographic Lodge, we had to drive across a dried up lake ( Lake Manyara ) to get there! Each individual “hut” was designed to look like a Masai hut, but it was very luxurious inside! The sad part about having all these beautiful tents and lodges, was that we didn’t spend very much time in them, although it was nice to sleep in such luxury!
Today our final destination was the Serengeti!!! But on the way we drove up the Rift Valley and stopped on top of the Ngorongoro Crater, which is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera, a Unesco Wold Heritage site and it was formed 2-3 million years ago, WOW! We were very excited about our next stop as it was the Olduvai Gorge. In 1959, the
first discovery was found proving the evolution of man through 4 different species over 2 million years. It was absolutely amazing standing and looking at this archeological site where proof of human evolution was discovered. Once inside the Serengeti there was a very tired lioness and a lion. Our guide was sure had they had just finished some lovemaking, it was so cute, she was exhausted and he seemed ready for some more! The highlight of our game drive today was 3 lions lazing around under a tree, so tired only 1 lifted his head when we pulled up. Our tented camp in the Serengeti was probably the best.
It literally was in the middle of nowhere with NO fences around us to keep animals out! Upon our arrival we were told that supper would be a little late due to an elephant wrecking most of the kitchen and the head chef’s tent earlier in the day, quite a welcome!!! Even with that we had an excellent meal and the best chocolate dessert I have ever had! We got a look at the damage the next day and the elephant certainly did some damage. Apparently the head chef was so scared he was refusing to come back again!
It was a VERY early morning, as today was our hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, we were very excited!!! When we arrived at the launch site it was very windy and it was doubtful we were actually going to go up. Within 10 min the wind subsided a bit and it was decided that we would go! This was our 2nd hot air balloon ride and it did not disappoint us! From the air we saw lions, cheetahs, hippos, wart hogs and buffalo!!!
It was stunning!!! Unfortunately because it was a bit to windy the ride only lasted half an hour, but we had a very exciting “crash” landing followed by the traditional champagne toast. The ride also included “breakfast in the Serengeti” which was so lovely!!This was where we probably had the nicest “loo with a view”! The food wasn’t the best but we had unlimited, very good champagne which Tess and I took full advantage of!!! We were drunk by 10 am, sober by 2pm and slightly hungover by 3pm!! On the game drive today we had an amazing sighting of a leopard
sleeping in a tree with his kill hanging beside him. We had brought some wine with us and invited Mel and Tess over to our “patio” to enjoy it with us. While we were waiting for them we noticed there were several giraffe and buffalo within 10 meters from our tent! It was only a short distance that they had to walk to us, but buffalo are the most dangerous of the Big Five so of course I was a little nervous. They didn’t even notice them and they arrived safely and we had a nice time drinking! I should mention at this point that at all of our tented camps we always had a local Masai tribesman walk us to and from dinner. I should also mention that the only “weapon” they had was a stick, so not sure what that means 🙂
After 2 wonderful nights in our Serengeti tents we had to leave 🙁 We had several great sightings of lions and lioness on our way out. As we were driving we noticed 4 elephants in the distance walking toward us so we stopped at the side of the road and just waited and watched them walk toward us, absolutely amazing, these HUGE mammals just walking so gracefully-it was magical! Tonight we stayed in tents built on stilts, where we watched a beautiful sunset on Tess and Mel’s balcony drinking scotch and wine.
Our last day of safari 🙁 This morning’s game drive was down in the Ngorogoro Crater and on the drive down we were stopped by an elephant who was standing in the road eating from the bushes on the side. It did not look like he was in a hurry so we watched him for a few minutes and then did some “off road” driving to get around him. That, is a “detour” on safari! It was extremely cold this morning, but the scenery was beautiful!! Clouds hovering around the crater, but
clear blue skies everywhere else. Lots of animal sightings including some rhinos, so once again we completed our Big 5. We had a very interesting viewing of a male ostrich who was doing his “mating” dance which consisted of him strutting around and waving/flapping his giant wings. The males skin turns pink during mating season so he was quite beautiful. Weird thing was there was no female around as far as we could see, only another male. We had another long, but nice, drive back to Arusha. We all decided to go out to a restaurant in town and enjoyed a lovely last night.
Today we got to sleep-in till 7:30!!!yeah! We then enjoyed a nice long breakfast with Tess. Today there was a total solar eclipse happening across the southern part of Africa, so we were hoping to catch at least a glimpse of it. Unfortunately if was cloudy, but on the way to catch our shuttle we looked up and there was a break in the clouds and we saw a moment of a partial eclipse, it was beautiful! This time when we crossed the crazy border back into Kenya we had to do it on our own, it was even more crazy, and I ( June ) was very stressed! We arrived safely to our Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi, which was lovely, but no where to eat or more importantly, no alcohol! We survived.
Our last day in Africa! Through a connection from a Stitch Graphix client, Leigh Steckly, we had an opportunity to have a local tour of a suburb of Nairobi, Eastleigh. Our guide, Sonny, works with, and mentors mostly youth in a Mennonite sponsored community centre there. It was quite shocking, to say the least. We had arrived on
Friday around noon, so the streets were all closed and hundreds of men were finishing up there prayers on the streets. This was primarily a Muslim and Somalia area. It appeared to us that this area was the slums, but Sonny said we didn’t have time to go the actual slums. We had a tour of the center, had a lovely Ethiopian lunch and met several of the youth that Sonny works with. We always felt safe, but it was very strange being the ONLY white people on the streets. Once again it has made us think about things a little differently and made us real happy that we are Canadians. Sonny then drove us to the airport and we left for Germany.