The trip starts with 2 days of air travel to get to Nairobi. I had an 8 hour layover in London. I had never been to England before (although it is on the list of places I want to visit). I thought this would be a good opportunity to see a little of the city. However, that was not meant to be. My flight was two hours late arriving in London. Days rooms were being provide for us so I thought I drop off my carry on luggage and head into town. Unfortunately, the shuttle only ran every half hour and I must have just missed one. Eventually, I got to the hotel and asked how to get into London. The clerk said to go back to the airport and catch the tube. We were told to we needed to get to the airport two hours before our flight. There just wasn't enough time to go back to the airport, into London, and back to the airport again. I also had a 45 minute layover in Paris where we never even got off the plane. But I can say I was in Paris.
I would like to be able to tell you something about Nairobi, but I can't. I didn't see much of it. The guides told us not to walk around the city or we would be mugged. The clerks in the hotel said the same thing. They harped on it so much that I never left the hotel except with the group. There was also a little civil unrest going on. It was an election year and there had been riots a couple weeks before I was there. Elections are different in Kenya. There is no specific date for the election. It just must be completed sometime in a given year, which means it is usually near the end of the year.
The first day we went to see Karen Blixen's farm (Out of Africa) and the Giraffe Manor. There was one more thing that at the moment slips my mind. As you will see in my travelogues, seeing historical sites doesn't interest me very much. I don't really remember much about Karen Blixen's farm except I was there. Now the Giraffe Manor was really cool. In theory the giraffe are wild. In any case they are not fenced in, but once they get used to being fed they don't stray too far from easy food. Anyhow, they have what look like huge rabbit pellets that you can feed the giraffe. Once you finishing feeding them, if you continue to stand near the rail a giraffe will eventually come along and bop you in the head with his nose. It is rather surprising the first time it happens. It doesn't hurt but it is not a gentle little tap either. It is a very strong suggestion that you go get more pellets for him.
Next we went to the Aberdares and spent a night at The Ark. They have a viewing area over looking a salt lick that attracts many animals. This is where I saw my first wild elephant, water buffalo, rhinos, and hyena. Unfortunately, it was foggy and dark. I took foggy pictures of the elephant but by the time the water buffalo, rhinos, and hyena turned up I knew it was a lost cause. It was the middle of the night and I didn't have any high speed film. If you are going on this trip, take a couple rolls of 1000 asa film for this night. You are not allowed to use your flashes here, and the truth is the animals are too far away for a flash to do you any good anyway. Watching the hyena circle the elephants was fabulous. This was where I discovered how beautiful hyena really are. I have video from this night, but even the video is a little shaky. I have never seen so many moths in my life. Every time they flew in front of the lens the camera tried to focus on them. I can't tell you how long I tried to film like that until it finally dawned on me to use manual focus. (One more note. I HATE MOTHS. I know they can't bite me, but I can't stand them. It is a testament to how much I like watching and photographing animals that I even went out on the deck. You literally could not step on the deck without stepping on several months. They were constantly flying into you and buzzing in your ear. There had to be millions of them.)
We spent the next two nights in Samburu. This was my favorite park of the trip. Our first game drive was on the way into the park. I remember seeing lots of elephant and impala. I also saw my first wild leopard. I have a couple pictures of him although you need a magnifying glass to see him. The lodge we stayed at baited a leopard in that evening. They hung a hunk of meat from a tree that was across the river from the lodge. It is rather embarrassing to admit how long I video taped that leopard sitting in a tree. It is excruciatingly boring for me to watch the tape let alone anyone else. Minute after minute of a leopard sitting in the same position, occasionally flicking its tail. Maybe that's why I prefer still pictures, it doesn't take hours to look through them.
The next day we went on three games drives and saw many more animals. I saw my first wild lions on the very first game drive of the day. There were three relatively lazy male lions. They were actually rather boring just sunning themselves in the morning light. There were only two vans left. The other van had finally had enough and backup to turn around. That was when things got interesting. They got stuck. The lions went from looking like large house cats lazing in the sun to predators instantly. Their heads immediately came up and they stared intently at the van. The driver of the van cracked the door and the lions went to their feet. The driver shut the door. A couple minutes later the lions sat down but their attention was still on the van. Our driver put our van between the lions and the second van and got on the radio to call another van back to help. A few minutes later a herd of impala wandered by on the opposite side of the lions. While the lions were paying attention the the impala the drivers of the three vans pushed out the van that was stuck and we all went on our way.
During the second game drive there was an optional visit to a local village. Since I would have missed most of a game drive in order to see the village I passed it up. I went to Africa to see the animals and I wasn't about to pass up a moment of it! (I am sure that there are people who can't imagine passing up the opportunity to see a native village, but I will never understand them.) If I had gone to see the village I would have missed seeing the cheetahs after their morning feast. I love cheetahs and seeing them up close was one of the many highlights of the trip. We came upon them as they were finishing off their kill. Afterwards they spent a great deal of time cleaning each other off. Watching them you just wanted to go and sit by them and pet them. They looked so peaceful and cuddly. Luckily my brain controlled my impulse, although the driver claims that cheetah don't kill men, I wouldn't want to test that theory.
On the last game drive we got to see a leopard up close. When the first van found it, it was up in a tree eating its kill. By the time we got there it had drag its kill down into some brush near the tree. You could barely see it if you looked real hard, I have pictures to prove it. For several minutes it stayed in the brush crunching on the bones of its kill. Its powerful jaws breaking bone is an interesting sound. Kind of like large branches being snapped in two. After about 10 or 15 minutes it came out of the brush and carried its kill up a tree. It draped what was left of its dinner over a branch and then wandered around the tree. The only word for it was spectacular.
From Samburu we went to Lake Nakuru to see the flamingo's. I had visions of taking panoramic photos of thousands of flamingo. Unfortunately, it was so foggy you could only sort of see flamingo shadows if you tried real hard. Still, the highlight of my trip occurred here. A four week old baby rhino play fighting with his mother. Watching him charge his mother with that little stub of a horn was truly amusing. She humored him by swinging her horn in his general direction. I could have watched them for hours.
On our way to Masai Mara we stopped at Lake Naivasha. We took a short boat ride to see the hippos. There was a baby hippo riding on his mothers back. It was fun watching them submerge only to reappear a few minutes later. However, we were never really close enough to get good pictures. Of course I would have had a better chance of it if I had taken higher speed film. But I bought the film that was on sale and saved $28. Pretty stupid. Oh, well, hind sight is twenty twenty and I'll never make that mistake again. (I could have bought some high speed film from one of the hotels, but I couldn't bring myself to spend $16 for one roll of 36 exp. film.)
Masai Mara was our last game park. The hotel we stayed at here fed the hyenas every night. Listening to the vocalizations of the hyenas as they waited for dinner to be served was really something. I have no pictures of this either. That slow speed film again. From reading this you might think I missed multitudes of shots because of that film. I really didn't. If I had been missing all kinds of shots I would have sprung for the expensive film. However, I did miss several shots I would love to have.
I took a hot air balloon ride here. I had decided to pass this up when I was planning the trip. I had taken a hot air balloon ride in Phoenix a couple years ago and didn't think much of it and it was only one third the price. However, my travel agent had taken a similar trip several years ago and just raved about the balloon ride. So I gave it a try. I figured if I saw lots of animals it might be worth it. It wasn't. I didn't see that many animals and the ride itself was they same as it had been in Phoenix. The only way I would recommend this would be if you happened to be there during the great migration. Then it might be worthwhile.
The grass was much taller in Masai Mara which made seeing and photographing the animals much harder. It seems to me we where closer to the animals in Samburu, but that may be because of the grass length. We were a couple weeks too early for the great migration. If we had been a couple weeks later I am sure I think I would have liked Masai Mara better than Samburu.
During the afternoon game drive we found a new born giraffe with its mother. Some of the vans arrived before it had stood up for the first time. By the time my van got there it was standing rather shakily in the bushes. I didn't even notice it at first. It was still wet and you could see its umbilical cord draped over its rump. Watching its mother nozzle it other to get its first meal was a real treat.
On out last game drive of the trip we came upon a pride of lions. At first it looked like there where only four or five lion. Then we drove around the back of the rock they were sunning themselves on. There were lion everywhere. I thought we were going to run over a few. They didn't seem to mind they truck at all. They would just slowing get up and saunter out onto the rock. There was a large male there. After three or four trucks arrived he got up and positioned himself between his pride and the trucks. He basically ignored us and I am still not sure if he just preferred lying in the grass or if it he was protecting his pride. Watching the lions as the sun set was the perfect finale for our trip.
From Masai Mara we went back to Nairobi. We had our last dinner together at the Carnivore restaurant. An experience you shouldn't miss. I won't tell you that the food was out of this world. It wasn't, it was just average. However it is a very unique experience. They cook three different game animals every night along with beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. They bring big skewers of meat to the table and you can have a piece of anything and everything you want. The night we were there they served zebra, bush buck, and hartebeest.
There are just a few more things I would like to tell anyone planning to take a trip like this.
Animals of Montana
Gifts made with my photos
Books from Amazon.com