Author: Marden P.
Date of Trip: September 2010
Twenty-eight days in paradise is the only way to describe our Kenya safari. My wife and I, with another couple, spent the whole of September visiting most of the major wildlife areas in Kenya.
We flew into Nairobi and spent the first night and then drove to Mount Kenya. The Serena Mountain Lodge was a very good beginning to our safari. They have a water hole that is lit at night and that has an underground observtion blind that puts you right at eye level with the animals. The variety of animals isn’t great but it is a good place to start a safari. The food is good and the rooms nice.
Samburu was the next stop and it was marvelous for both the variety and the sheer number of animals. On our first two game drives we saw elephants, lions, leopards, cheetah, oryx, gerenuk, buffalo and a variety of antelope. The camp was rustic, long drop squat toilet and cold showers, but the tents were clean and the beds were quite comfortable. Pillows were horrible but we had our own.
While at Samburu we visited Buffalo Springs and since the bridge washed out, in the floods last spring, we had to drive around about to get there. There were not nearly as many animals as in Samburu and it was much drier.
Our next visit was to the Mt. Kenya Animal Orphanage where we got to see the results of their bongo antelope breeding program (see their website) and interact with a variety of animals that they are caring for. They have a herd of white zebra and a white rhino named Zulu. We only had three hours, to spend there, and it was not nearly enough time to do all we would have like to.
Sweet Waters tented camp was our home for the next couple of days. It is a beautiful facility and the food and staff were great. They have a chimp sanctuary where about 40 chimps, that have been rescued from danger and/or mistreatment, live in a 40+ acre wooded enclosure. There are both white and black rhino in good numbers. The highlight of our stay was watching a lion pride on a zebra kill. There were no other tourists around and we had almost an hour to watch them, a rare experience. We also saw a cheetah on the same drive. There were antelope, elephant, waterbuck, buffalo, bushbuck and a lot of other animals.
Lake Nakuru’s main attraction was flamingo, by the thousands, but we also saw giraffe (Rothchild), white rhino, elephants,a leopard, hyena, baboons and antelope. Lion Hill Lodge was nice but not special.
We drove to Robert’s Camp, at Lake Baringo, and were very disappointed in the camp. It was dirty, run down and there were little black ants everywhere. However, we had a great experience on the Lake. We went out in a motor skiff with two young native guides who did a marvelous job. They threw fish for the fish eagles and we got some great photos. There were many kinds of birds and we were able to get quite close to many of the nesting sites. Hippo and small crocs were easy to spot and the scenery was beautiful.
The only real disappointment of our trip was the Kakamega Forest. It was muddy and the trails were not very good. We had expected to see a number of birds but were very disappointed. A few Colobus monkeys, some butterflies and a few hornbills were all we saw. We returned to our hotel tired (six hours of walking), wet and hungry. The Jamindas Paradise Motel did not live up to its name. The shower was right over the toilet, the power went out during a thunder storm and the food was only fair.
We drove south to Lake Victoria but it is so polluted and dirty that we did not spend much time there. We were near Kismet and the lake may be different in other areas. We visited Ruma NP, which is off the beaten path, because we wanted to see Roan antelope, but our van broke down and we didn’t get to see much. By the time we got it repaired it was dark and we had to leave the park.
The Masai Mara was all that we had hoped for. Our camp was just outside the southeastern gate and it was not great(water problems and only so-so tents) but the game drives were wonderful. Some of the highlights were watching a mother lion move her new cubs to a new hiding place (again we were the only ones there), seeing the wildebeest crossing the Mara river, seeing an ostrich nest one morning and seeing the newly hatched chicks that evening, lions by the dozens, a mother cheetah and her two young cubs and some very young elephants learning to use their trunks. We also saw many birds including secretary, ground hornbill, African eagle, rollers, weavers, bee-eaters and etc. Jackal, mongoose, topi, hartebest, gazelle (both Grants and Thompsons), giraffe, hippo and crocs all put in an appearance for our cameras. The truely overwhelming image, that will remain forever with me, is the vast herds of Wildebeest and zebra moving in long snaky lines across the plains. The last night in the Mara it rained and the roads were so slick that we cancelled our evening game drive. The only bad weather we had during the whole trip.
We spent the next night at Sopa’s Lake Naivasha Lodge. It was a beautiful place with the best rooms of any place we stayed. Food was excellent and the grounds harbored giraffe, buffalo, waterbuck and hippos. All of which you could view in the company of a guide. The following morning we took a boat ride on the lake and saw many water birds and hippo.
We changed our guide/driver and vehicle before setting out for Amboseli. The van we had been using had serious mechanical problems and so we were happy to get a new van but the guide was another matter. We had very much enjoyed Julius, our first guide, but our experience with Benard was not nearly as good. However we still had some great experiences.
Amboseli means “devil winds” and that is a pretty accurate discription. I asked one of the camp staff “if the wind always blew like this”? He answered, “Sometimes less, sometimes more, but always blows, YES!” Even though there is a lot of dust there are some very wet and lush areas. The marshy areas are fed by springs and attract many elephants. We saw literally hundreds of elephants. The herds often contained everything from very young babies to huge old bulls. There were many water birds including crowned cranes, storks, herons, egrets, spoonbills, geese and ducks. We visited a hyena den with about twenty-five inhabitants from very young pups to fully mature adults. We were close to Kilimanjaro but it was so cloudy and dusty that we weren’t able to get good pictures. We saw a cheetah, on a fallen tree, with two gazelle feeding toward him. We waited with baited breath for him to make a kill but he totally ignored them and just let them walk past. There were many lions but they weren’t doing much except what lions do best-SLEEP.
Tsavo West and the Kilaguni Safari Lodge were the extremes of our safari. The lodge was wonderful, in every way. The rooms were great, the grounds were beautiful, the food was marvelous and plentiful, the staff was very helpful and outgoing, and then there was the waterhole. It was right outside our room and very near the dining area and we enjoyed a constant parade of animals. During dinner we would see elephants, zebra, eland, waterbuck and giraffe drinking and playing at the water. The baboons, jackal, impala, and birds would provide entertainment at lunch. Breakfast might bring anything. Lions killed a buffalo right by the lodge one night and the next day hyena, jackal and vultures were swarming over the kill. The problem is that the rest of the park didn’t provide much in the way of animals. There were elephants, kudu, dik-dik, and we did see a klipspringer, but not much else. The scenery was rather spectacular with many lot of lava flows and mountains, including views of Kilimanjaro.
Tsavo East was the last place we visited and provided a wonderful ending to a great safari. We stayed at Masharik Camp which was wonderful. It is not as fancy as some we stayed at but it was a favorite in many ways. The rooms were comfortable, clean and everything worked. Dinner was around the camp fire and the food was good. The owners were very helpful and friendly. Early morning brought baboons, dik-dik and a variety of birds to visit. The game drives provided some of our most memorable moments of the safari. We saw a pair of lions mating and were they only ones present. One old bull elephant had the largest tusks I have seen on my three trips to Africa. They were so long the touched the ground and were worn flat on the bottom from dragging when he walked. We saw both a cheetah and a leopard and again were the only tourists there. We found a jackal den and watched four half-grown pups play, saw another ostrich family with about 25 chicks, and watched a lion pride with two young cubs plaing together, not just sleeping, but playing. We also saw giraffe, waterbuck, gerenuk, an African Hoopoe, croc, hippo, and impala. The elephants were everywhere and appeared red from the dust they sprayed over themselves. One evening I counted 85 elephants in one area and didn’t use my binoculars to do so.
I hope you enjoy my report a tiny fraction of how much I enjoyed the real thing. If I can answer questions or offer futher information please feel free to contact me. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org