A Travellerspoint blog

Kenya

Come on Safari with Me!

Kenya


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We arrived in Africa during the annual wildebeest migration and knew we wanted to head out on safari
right away. Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park spreads out over the border into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve and is the premier place to see big game in East Africa. At this time every year an estimated 2 million wildebeest and two hundred thousand zebras follow the rains into the Masi Mara in natures largest animal migration. With great excitement and anticipation we signed on to a four day safari. Our itinerary consisted to three game drives in the Masai Mara and a 4th game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. The later being famed for it pink flamingos and white and black rhinos.

Booking the trip was easy to do in Nairobi and far less expensive than some of the trips we had looked at online. We were able to keep the cost down by going with a group of others who wanted a similar itinerary and were not afraid of sharing the experience with others. So after 4 days exploring Nairobi and getting a feel for Kenya we set out. The ride out to the Mara brought us in and out of the great rift valley…
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The first view of the Rift Valley

Being in this trip for the long term we had to once again opt for the budget option with our safari. This meant going with strangers as opposed to in a private vehicle, camping outside the park instead of inside, and less luxurious accommodations. On our arrival at the camp we could not have been more pleased with the lower standards. Our tents were more like cabanas, our camp was right on the unfenced edge of the park with wildebeest and zebras in plain sight, and our company was more than enjoyable.

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Our tents on the edge of the park
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Meghan in the “White Elephant”

Everyone in our group were on their first African safari and we all were giddy as we piled in for the afternoon drive. Our ride was a 4WD van with a large pop up top that allowed for everyone to stand and have a unobstructed view while being protected from the sun. Almost all the other vehicles we saw in the park were of the same design and all painted white. The terrain was all gently rolling grassland with a spider web of dirt trails spreading out in all directions. You could see other vans off in the distance and we came to refer to them as “white elephants“. Queue the Animas. As soon as we got started it was like a scene out of Lion King. It started out with African Buffalo, Wildebeest, Gazelles, Zebras, Giraffes and Impallas. We saw Hartebeest, Topi, and the curios little Dik Dik. Then came the Female lion, almost camouflaged in the tall grass if it was not for the bloody zebra she was devouring that gave her away. Less than an hour into our fist day and it was on! The wildlife was prolific during our entire drive and ended in a climax when we saw a female lion give chase to a pack of zebras. She did not make the kill but the thrill of the chase was amazing. Life and death in a few hours on the African savannah.
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Impala
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Zebras… all in a line just as they like to be
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Lion, resting after the big zebra meal
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Munslers on Safari
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On the hunt. Are the zebras all looking at one guy for a reason?

Up and out the next morning at 8am, we would spend the entire day in the Mara, taking lunch along the famous Mara river. This is the river highlighted in the Planet Earth series by the BBC in which the thousands of wildebeest challenge the crocodiles in crossing from one side of the park to the other. It was quiet when we visited, the wildebeest come in waves and the last wave was only a few days before, more would cross in the coming days. A friendly Kenyan park ranger, with large rifle, lead us to the bank of the river and with in a few meters of the sleeping crocs. Simply put, Nile crocodiles are HUGE. Along the banks lay the remains of many wildebeest that either fell victim to the crocs or more simply broke a leg and drowned (they cross in enormous numbers for safety) Living side by side in relative peace with the crocs are the awkward hippopotamus. Quite graceful in the water, these beasts look out of place when walking on land. Huge bodies supported by four stubby legs make these animals look very precarious when walking. We spotted a few new animals such as baboons, warthogs, a cheetah, and the massive African Elephants. Seeing a family of Elephants plod their way across an open plain of tall grass is something out of this world. They are so big and lumber along so slowly when not disturbed it almost felt like we were watching dinosaurs. We encountered three different groups during the day and saw babies, young ones at play, and humongous full grown adults. I was more impressed by the elephants than I expected. Seeing them on the savanna was something else.
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Big Bird
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Wildebeest aplenty
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Young elephants at play
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Savana
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Crikey!
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The big pile of turds on the far bank are lazy Hippo’s

We finished our day with a trip to a Masai Village. The Masai people are probably the most famous of all of Africa’s tribes and although comprise less then 5% of East Africa’s population, they are the quintessential tribe one envisions when thinking of Africa. The tribe is very proud and the men and women still wear traditional dress. The village we visited was just a short walk from the gate to the Mara. The village “accepts” visitors in the afternoons and shows them a couple of songs and dance and then led us around the village (literally 10-12 mud huts in a circle) The entire village was surrounded by a thick circular fence of thorny bushes. The livestock was all kept inside at night to protect them from lions. We learned that at the age of 15 boys were circumcised and then sent out to live in the bush for at least three years learning to become a man. They did this in groups and at the end of the three years each group had to kill a lion using nothing more than a spear, club, and knife! This is still carried out to this day, Amazing.
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Masi Woman
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Youngsters looking after Youngsters in the Masai village.

Our last day in Masai Mara was a short morning drive. We left camp at 6:30 am to get into the park early as most activity happens around dawn and dusk. We were only on the park 20 minutes when we found a male lion sitting just off the road. We were incredibly close, no zoom lens required! Just past the male was the rest of the pride, two females and six cubs! They were out in the open in a dirt patch and we had a perfect view. The cubs were running around wrestling with each other wile the females lazily watched after. This was the highlight of the trip and we sat for a good time observing their behavior. Peter, our driver, tipped us off to turn around and the big male was walking right towards us. It was a National Geographic moment. The great lion with its long mane proudly making its way through the golden grass of the savanna straight towards us. We were in between him and the rest of the pride which I thought might be a problem. Nope! He walked right in front of our van! It was so close you felt like you could reach out and touch… or umm…and get your arm chewed off. Later we spotted another cheetah. This one was on the move and we got to watch him stalk a gazelle. We did not get to see the cheetah go in for the kill but to see one sprint, reaching speeds of up to 70 MPH where each stride is up to 23 feet would have been fantastic. Perhaps we will see that on another Safari. The last day was truly the icing on our Masai Mara cake and we all had big grins as we left the park.
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Most of the Pride
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One of the little ones took a break a few feet from our van
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Papa walks past the white elephants unfazed.
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Cheetah on the prowl

Our next day was spent in Lake Nakuru National Park were thousands of pink flamingos blanket the shoreline while a large concentration of Black and White rhinos crash through the surrounding forests. The morning was shrouded in mist as we entered the park in the early am. Baboons owned the road as we slowly made our way past an army of them making their way in the opposite direction. Here everything was green and lush. Zebras and gazelles came in and out of focus in the heavy mist as we approached the lake. A lone Fish Eagle stood guard on a branch of the last tree we passed before breaking out into a large open area surrounding the lake were a distinct line of pink hugged the shoreline. I have never seen so many birds. The flamingos were the star attraction here but an array of storks, pelicans, eagles, and many other birds were on display as well. The shoreline disappeared into the distance and the uninterrupted pink boarder disappeared with it. Later in the day the mist lifted and the view and the color of the flamingos was incredible. We spotted a black rhino laying in the grass alongside the lake and later spotted a male and female White Rhino. The white rhino is not really white, the name has something to do with the Dutch name that sounds like the English word white. These were significantly larger than the black ones, I read that they are the 2nd largest land animal behind the elephant.
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Misty Morning
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Doing the Flamingo…Looney birds in the front, flamingos in the back.
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A small representation of the thousands of Flamingos
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For all my friends that love the white rhino!

We opted not to take the ride back into Nairobi with the rest of the safari crew but to continue on our own to Lake Baringo. Let me introduce the matatu. It is like playing the how many people can you fit in a phone booth game on wheels. Mini vans ply the roadways bursting with passengers and parcels in every direction imaginable. We piled in until their was no more possible room, and then 4 more people got in for the three hour ride. Roberts Camp is set right on the shore of Lake Baringo and we were able to set up our newly acquired tent right only a few feet from the crocodile and hippo infested waters. We questioned if it was safe enough after signing a waiver at check in but went ahead with it anyway. It was not long before we heard and then spotted a good sized crock thrashing about in the waters directly in front of us! We never saw the hippos but could here them snorting about after dark from the safety of our thin nylon tent. We did get a report from an couple who ran into them on the way back to their banda from the bar. We did not do much in out time their other than read and sit buy the lake listening and observing the prolific bird population. Lake Baringo is home to some 450 bird species and we kept on spotting new birds all the time. The birdsong in the mornings was almost deafening, a symphony of unique calls like an alarm clock without a snooze button. The small town just beyond Roberts camp was called Kampi ya Samaki. It was not more than a collection of roadside shanties along a short strip of asphalt maybe 100 yards long. Here we had our first taste of Kenya’s hospitality when I met Dennis while walking in. He gave me the short tour showing me were I could get anything I might need and sent me on my way with out the expected sales pitch. When I returned the next day he found Meghan and I on the street and once again showed us a good place to eat and then sat with us telling us about the town.
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Camp and…
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Crocodiles
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Kampi ya Samaki
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Early morning light on Lake Baringo

We woke before sunrise on our last day to catch the early matatu out of Kampi ya Samaki. We waited for about an hour at a roadside stop in front of a shanty hotel sipping tea and eating donuts from the towns baker. Once again we were impressed with how friendly people were and had company and conversation during our wait. The Matatu finally came in the form of a pickup truck and we reluctantly climbed into the back. Before too long I counted 17 adults in the back of the truck which is impressive enough before you consider the fact that their was also a bicycle, our bags, and about six 10 gallon drums! Perhaps we will opt for better transportation in a few days when we make the trip over the boarder in to Uganda.

More Shots from Masai Mara and Lake Baringo if you have not seen enough…
We are going to try putting video in the blog... let us know if it works. Keep in mind this is taken with our little point and shoot camera and is not the best quality.

Lion chasing zebra's
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Thompsons Gazelle
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Late afternoon sun rays and Giraffe on the horizon
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Mangey Wildebeest
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Posing Cheetah from the 2nd day
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Elephant
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Wildebeest spread out across the Mara
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Giraffe
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Wildebeest at one of the smaller rivers
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Carnage on the Mara River
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Love those Elephants
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Heartbeast and Wharthogs
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Cape Buffalo
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Masia Man demonstrating the local way to make fire
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Masai market
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Female lions wrestling
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Young lions on the lookout
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Male lion making his way towords us
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Morning on the Mara
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Zebras at Lake Nakuru
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Fish Eagle
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Flamingos, lake Nakuru
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Black Rhino
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Hornbill at Lake Baringo
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Notice the croc in the water on the right behing the sign
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Lake Baringo
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Waiting for the Matatu in Kampi ya Samaki
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On the pickup. I thought it was full when I took the picture... Little did I know.

Posted by pmunson 00:08 Archived in Kenya Comments (4)

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