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Africa 2011

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Africa 2011 - Page Text Content

S: African Adventure 2011

FC: African Adventure 2011

1: Sep 22 to 24 Macey and the girls drove us to the airport where we met up with Marion & Donavon. We left about 7:00 pm and arrived in London at 11 am. Our flight to Kenya didn't leave until evening so we had booked a Yotel room for 4 hrs Flew overnight again and arrived in Nairobi at 6:30 am. It was a beautiful, sunny morning about 16 degrees. The Eco-Adventures group picked us up and took us to the Norfolk Hotel where we were met by Trish & Malcolm. Only 11 of us as 1 couple had to cancel. We have 3 vans driven by Patrick, Howard and Albert. Trish & Malcolm (our guides), Dorothy,Robert & Christine (Edmonton), Ken & Jane (Okotoks) and the 4 of us. We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon touring an elephant orphanage, giraffe centre and craft co-op centre. There were 13 baby elephants, from a few months to about 2 years old, being bottle fed at the Sheldrick orphanage and at the giraffe centre, we hand fed Rothschild's giraffes. Nairobi is a city of 3.5 million people with high unemployment, terrible traffic and it is not very clean. Our hotel was an oasis of peace and quiet, with 4 star luxury. | ROTHSCHILD GIRAFFE

2: Sep 25 We were on the road by. 7:45. It took a couple hrs to get out of Nairobi and it's suburbs. They are in the middle of building a new freeway which is being engineered and financed by China. We stopped at a market in Karatina to buy food for the orphanage which was our next stop. This was started to provide homes for children from HIV families and they originally had to care for a lot of very sick and often dying kids. However Kenya now has free HIV testing and drugs for all citizens so they have not had any new residents for several years and the children are all healthy and functioning very well now. We had a great visit and left several suitcases of clothing, toys etc as well as the food. Then it was on to the Mt Kenya Safari Club an extreme opposite in lifestyle and living conditions. Celebs like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman have stayed here and we were treated like royalty. Our room was a suite with a working fireplace, beautiful meals were included and our bed was turned down with hot water bottles while we were at dinner. Because of the high elevation, 7000 ft, it goes down to about 10 degrees C at night, but it warmed up to mid twenties in the day. When you drive thru neighbouring towns the natives are dressed in Parkas and toques. We took a walk around the grounds, saw monkeys and solved the hedge maze. There is a 9 hole golf course which criss-crosses the equator several times. Huge marabou storks, crowned cranes and sacred ibis are everywhere. | JAMBO!


4: Sep 26 Up early and travelled east on a very crude road to the Sweetwaters (Ol Pejeta) Reserve for our first game drive. We saw warthogs, impala, gazelles, waterbuck, hartebeest, 2 kinds of zebras and both black and white rhino. They have a blind black rhino in a special fenced off area that we got to feed. We also stopped at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee sanctuary where they provide a 250 acre home for rescued chimps from many countries. Chimps are not native to Kenya. On the way back to camp, we stopped on the side of the road at an Equator crossing. A young fellow did an amazing demo of how water flows down a drain in opposite directions about 15 meters on either side of the equator and directly downwards right on the equator. Photo opp!! After lunch at the Safari Club, we played Mahjong on the deck with an amazing view of Mt Kenya. | BLACK RHINO


6: Sep 27 Travelled up over the lush Kenyan highlands and then down into the arid and hot Samburu plains. We went past maize fields, potato patches in the ditches along the road, acres and acres of barley fields, huge greenhouses growing flowers and vegetables for Europe, tiny plots of tomatoes, beans, bananas etc. We stopped along the way at Subuiga School, where we visited the classrooms and dropped off donations. This school started 6 years ago with a handful of students and 1 classroom. Today over 500 children from the immediate area attend in classes from kindergarten to grade 8. We entered the Samburu National Reserve and started game watching as we drove to our camp - Samburu Intrepids. We saw elephants, giraffes, Grevy's zebra, gerenuk, oryx, impala and John was the first to spot a young female lion. This is the area where the story Born Free took place. The area has been in a drought for quite awhile so it is very dry and dusty except when you are close to the river. The camp is an amazing place. It is built right beside the Uaso Nyiro river, with our private raised permanent tents overlooking it. It has just been rebuilt after floods destroyed it in March 2010. There are lots of little vervet monkeys around and you have to really secure your tent so they don't get in. We have baboons around regularly and the Samburu tribes people come down to the river across from us to collect water, wash their clothes and bathe Temperatures are hot!!! - 32 to 37 in the day, cooling off to 15 at night if you are lucky. That's why we game drive just after sunrise or just before sunset. We had another game drive in the late afternoon and saw little dikdik, lots of giraffe, another female lion and kudu. Came back to camp to find an elephant just outside the gate. The food is wonderful...lots of fresh fruit and veggies all served in gourmet style.


8: Sep 28 We are woken up each morning with a tray of hot drinks (coffee, tea or hot chocolate) and Biscuits. A game drive in the morning on the way to visit a traditional Samburu village. They are a nomadic tribe (closely related to the Masai) moving their village whenever they need to find better pasture for their livestock. Their diet consists of meat, milk and blood. With the drought situation in this area, they have a very hard life. Today's game highlights were a crocodile, ostrich, lots of elephants, a lioness with 2 nursing cubs, baboons, a cape buffalo, a newly born impala, a herd of Grevy's zebra, another lioness with 2 cubs and an eagle owl. On our evening drive, we went across the river into Buffalo Springs Reserve.




12: Sep 29 Our morning drive was before breakfast at 6:30. We left just as the sun was coming up and the first sighting was a pack of wild hunting dogs, who our guides said hadn't been spotted here for a couple years. Then we met another group who had seen a leopard, so all 3 of our vans plus a few others sat around a large bushed area waiting for the leopard to appear. It didn't!!! We spotted elephants, giraffe and impala before heading back towards camp. The drivers took us down a new trail. We saw the wild dogs again, all resting under the shade of a big tree. Then we drove a couple hundred yards and our guides stopped the vans and told us to get out. There were armed rangers who walked us around a corner and there was our brunch all set out under the trees, beside the river, with lodge staff there to serve us. Amazing!! While we were eating there were several groups of Samburu who came down to the river on the other side. They were collecting water in big containers and packing it back home on their donkeys. They were also washing clothes and bathing in a very silty river. We had a longer break between drives, so had a swim at the beautiful pool. It was very refreshing on such a hot day. The little monkeys are all around and come to drink at the pool when it gets quiet. The afternoon drive was another great success. We finally saw a leopard!! It took quite a bit of patience but he/she finally came out of the bush and sat and looked at us for 5 minutes or so. We saw the hunting dogs 1 last time as we were returning to camp at sunset. | CAPE HUNTING DOG | GENET


14: Sep 30 Time to pack up and say goodbye to Samburu and our Eco-Adventures guides - Albert, Howard and Patrick. They took us on a short game drive on our way to the airstrip. Then we boarded a 20 seater twin prop airplane and flew over central Kenya to the Masai Mara. We could see elephant and antelope as we took off and elephant, again, right beside the gravel landing strip when we arrived. We could also see herds of wildebeest, Just a tiny portion of the 1.5 million that are in the area as part of the migration. The landscape is quite different here - green grasslands with patches of bush and trees. Lots of watering holes and wild flowers in the grass. We went on a short game drive before lunch (because our tents weren't ready), and got a taste of what we will be seeing - 5 lions already, a large herd of buffalo, warthogs, gazelles and of course wildebeest. We have 2 assigned drive guides - James and Sammy. We are in open 6-8 passenger land cruisers that have rollback canvas tops and roll-up plastic windows and here the drivers can go off road to get real close to the animals. Our room is a permanent tent, very similar to Samburu except it is wider, with a queen sized bed. We overlook a large stream that has some deep holes. During lunch there was a short thunderstorm and we had to take cover. Lots of rain in a very short time - the first we have had on the trip. It is much cooler, probably low to mid twenties, but when the sun is out it still feels very hot. The 2nd game drive was at 3:30 and it was rainy, windy and cool. We have beautiful Masai red plaid blankets in the land rovers and they were all put to use. Sammy put on his toque! Despite the weather, we still saw elephants, hippo (our first), a family of 4 young Adult lions, jackals, hyena, waterbuck and topi.


17: Oct 1 We heard a few animal noises in the night, which Trish later identified as hyena. Just like in Samburu, our tent steward brings us hot chocolate and cookies as a wake up call. This morning that was at 6:00 am and we were at the gate by 6:30 for a sunrise game drive. Just as we left the gate there were 2 leopards out for their morning stroll. What a way to start the morning! We also saw 3 older lion cubs and later, a mother lion and her cub at a recent kill of a topi. They were feeding and then drug it off into the bush. We got a good look at Masai giraffe, jackals and hippos right next to the vehicle river crossing. We came back to camp for a late breakfast and then went to our tent for some down time. I was making a list of all the animals we had seen on our drive when I heard splashing in the river below our tent. I hurried outside to see a hippo coming out of a pool about 50 ft from us. Thankfully there was a big electric fence between us. On the late morning drive we saw over 20 hippos in the river, a hornbill with a snake in his mouth, giraffe, hyena and waterbuck. Then it was time for lunch and another drive at 3:30. We were asking our drivers for a cheetah sighting and that's just what we got!! As well as a mating pair of lions, crowned cranes doing their dance, hyenas, a leopard and a beautiful African sunset as we arrived back at camp. In the night we could here the hippo out of the water, munching on grass just outside the fence. There were also lions calling and hyena too. | LEOPARD



21: Oct 2 7 of our group went hot air ballooning this morning. So that left Trish, Malcolm and us. We decided to do an extended morning game drive, taking a boxed breakfast with us. So with Sammy, we headed out further from camp. As we left, there was a large herd of wildebeest on the airstrip, but it was too early for any flights so no one was chasing them away. Our first sighting was a large group of hyena (14 or so) feeding on a wildebeest and there were over 50 vultures waiting around for their turn to eat. Also a pair of jackals. Next we watched a herd of wildebeests cross the river. Then we saw an old, scarred and not very healthy male lion amble by. Sammy scouted out a nice, safe, open spot and we stopped for our breakfast. There were wildebeest, zebra and gazelle a few hundred yards away and a 360 degree view of the Mara, as we sat on rocks, eating. Sammy had spotted a couple jeeps stopped not far from us, so we headed over to find out what they were looking at. It was a cheetah, sitting on a termite mound, enjoying the view. By now there were about 7 vehicles there. We got a few nice pictures, 3 of the jeeps left and then she started to move. She got very close to 1 pop-up jeep and jumped on the roof. Now she had an even better view!! It was incredible and thankfully she didn't choose our vehicle. We were there for about 15 minutes before she finally jumped down and walked away. Probably a once in a lifetime sighting. On the way back to camp, we saw topi standing on termite mounds and a mom and dad warthog with 5 tiny piglets. It was any amazing 5 hrs!! On our late afternoon drive we went south of camp for the first time. Sammy spotted a lion about a mile away, so we started following her. Then a thunderstorm hit. We quickly put the roof and sides on the jeep and waited until the rain stopped. The lion had disappeared by this time but Sammy wouldn't give up and about a half later we spotted her in the trees with 3 little cubs (only about a month old). Eventually she brought them out in the open for us to get a good look. | SUPERB STARLING



26: Oct 3 Our last full day on the Mara and we were all thinking that it might be a bit of a let down after all our amazing sightings here already. But no, we were in for more! The first came as John was surveying the distance with his binoculars and yelled "Rhino!!". Sammy replied "Hippo?" and John said "No, rhino!!!" and then we were off at top speed. It was a big male, out in the open and we got very close to him. There are only 40 in the whole Mara (1500 sq km) so we were very lucky. We traveled a bit further and saw a couple adolescent lions walking out of the bush, then there were 2 more, then more until 9 of them walked right past our jeep. 2 sat down in the shade of the jeep and they were within touching distance. Next it was on to the Mara river, to hopefully see some of the migrating wildebeests & zebras cross the river. There was a large group of wildebeests milling around but they couldn't make up their minds to cross. But all of sudden, they started to move and it was an amazing sight. Approx 6000 animals crossed in a very short time. There were hippos in the water at the same time, as well as a few crocs on the banks, but all the animals got across safely. Then it stopped...the couple hundred that were left, just turned around and went back to where they had been grazing. This had all happened before 9 am!!! We stopped a little way down the river bank, got out of our vehicles and walked to the edge off the bank to see some of the Nile Crocodiles sleeping on the other side. Some of them were at least 15 ft long and weighed over 1000 lbs. They can go 6 months between feedings, and will sometimes kill just for sport. We had breakfast in a clearing not far from the river. Trish showed us calcium rich hyena scat with flowers growing around it. On the way back to camp we had a close sighting of a lazy cheetah. The late afternoon drive would be our last on the Mara. We saw several groups of lions, banded mongoose, jackal and a new species of antelope, red buck. There was a beautiful sunset as we came back. When it was time for dinner, our restaurant host said we were going on a special night walk, in search of the elusive white hippo. He led us down a long candle lit path to a clearing where our dinner table was set up under the stars. A lovely ending to our wonderful stay at Mara Intrepids. The hippo was back when we got to our tent and in the morning a cape buffalo and a warthog were at the river's edge right below us.

27: Val's shadow!!! | BLACK RHINO




32: Oct 4 Travel day....we got to sleep in and didn't have to leave until 9:30. Sammy & James drove us to the airstrip and we said our goodbyes. We had an hour flight to Nairobi. Elizabeth, from Eco Adventures, met us with bagged lunches and visited with us until our flight to Kilimanjaro left. A small bout of the African travel sickness hit me during the short flight and I was very glad to get back to earth. Christine and Jane have also been suffering. Our Tanzanian guides, Nixon & Exhaud, met us at the airport and took us to our overnight stay at the Arumeru Lodge, near Arusha. We experienced one of their frequent power blackouts, which happen on a daily basis. | YELLOW HORNBILL | JOHN THE BAPTIST & ST FRANCES OF ASSISSI

33: Oct 5 We drove thru Arusha, a very busy African city, then thru rich agricultural areas in the highlands (bananas, coffee, vegetables) and then very dry pasture areas where the Masai were out herding their cows and goats. We arrived at the Ngorongoro Crater conservation area. It is 2500 sq km inside a continuous crater rim that is 1000 ft high. The animals here do not migrate. We are staying 2 nights at Sopa Lodge which is on the crater rim. We just got checked in and then left to go down into the crater for our first game drive. At first it looks like a huge wide open, empty plain, but in our first 2 1/2 hrs we saw: ostrich, grants and Thompson gazelle, zebra, cheetah, lions, warthogs, wildebeest, hyena, jackal and cape buffalo - WOW!! Vehicles are not allowed off the trails, so you have to be lucky to get a close sighting. | BAOBAB TREE

35: Oct 6 We left at 6:15 for a full day in the crater. Our first major sighting was a pride of 10 lions, including 4 small cubs. Then it was rhino - a female with a young one that were quite far away. There are only 30-35 in the park, so we were quite excited. Next we spotted a lioness who had just taken down a zebra and was suffocating it. Just then a big male came along and started to eat her kill. She just backed off and let him. Then hyenas, jackals and vultures started to arrive, but they all had to wait their turns too. We stopped to eat our boxed breakfasts beside a hippo pool. There were 20 or so hippo just relaxing in the middle of the pool. Then we were off to the other side of the crater, passing by the lake which is mostly dried up. There were a few hundred flamingo in the very center, but that is only a small fraction of what will be here if the rainy season brings them much needed moisture. Also drove by 2 male lions, sleeping by the road. There is a forested area on the western side and we spotted 2 more adult rhino, again quite far away. We stopped for lunch at a clearing in the forest and there were 2 elephants within a couple hundred yards. Then on the way back we saw about a dozen jeeps stopped up ahead. It was our 3rd rhino sighting of the day. This time a lone adult but close enough to get pictures. 5 rhino in one short day!!!

37: Oct 7 It started raining in the night and was foggy and drizzling when we went for breakfast. No chance to get a picture of the sun rising over the crater or the beautiful swimming pool almost on the rim's edge. By the time we got to the park gates, the rain had stopped and the fog had lifted. We drove to a village at Mosquito Creek and were taken on a tour by Frederick. He told us about the over 120 tribes in Tanzania and how their government has successfully encouraged a program of socialism so that all are included and respected. It is called Ujamaa. We walked thru acres of banana groves which were inter-planted with vegetables. Each family would have 1 acre to care for and profit from. We visited a wood carving shop, run by a tribe from Mozambique, where they showed us their skills and sold us some carvings and bowls. Then we visited a painting studio where we learned about their craft and all ended up buying 'Tinga Tinga' style paintings. We also made a stop to learn about and sample Banana Beer. The street vendors were very aggressive but we made it back to the jeeps safely, where Nixon and Exhaud had bought red bananas for us to try. The Masai tribe who are some of the original inhabitants, have been forced to the lands outside of town to find grazing for their herds. Here it was very dry and dusty - not much vegetation for the cows and goats to eat. We drove back to Arusha, thru crowded city streets, past markets and traffic chaos, to the Arusha Hotel. It is located right next to a clock tower which marks the center of Africa, half way between Cairo and Capetown. We enjoyed a farewell dinner with our group, as the other 7 are leaving for home tomorrow.





42: Ode to Our Safari By Malcolm Lund (Kenya and Tanzania – Sept/Oct 2011) From Alberta we came, we intrepid eleven, On an African safari, our holiday heaven. We flew for what seemed like days and days, And finally arrived, in a bit of a haze. In Nairobi, we were smitten with thirteen baby ellies, And learned the Kenyan manner of filling our bellies. Amid the bustle, the Norfolk was a peaceful oasis, And for our safari to come was just the starting basis. Upcountry we would travel with Albert, Patrick and Howard, To the Safari Club, above which Mount Kenya towered. At Sweetwaters, we visited the chimp sanctuary, And fed a blind rhino, though a few remained wary. Soon we said goodbye to our friendly bartender and waiter, And headed north again, back across the equator. At the children’s home and school we stopped for a quick meet and greet, Then it was on to Samburu and some real African heat. We quickly settled in to the daily game drive schedule, With just enough spare time to cool off in the pool. Among all the other game, big cats had us all agog. But how magical was that pack of Cape hunting dog?

43: Too soon we said goodbye and loaded up on a Twin Otter, For our next stop in Masai Mara, where we prayed it wasn’t hotter. There Sammy and James showed us around the vast plains, And kept us (mostly) dry from the afternoon rains. We really couldn’t ask for a better four days: The great migration all around, whichever way we’d gaze. The Big Five before breakfast, plus a river crossing that was nuts; I’m still 100% convinced we all had horseshoes up our butts. A couple puddle-jumps again, and we bade Kenya farewell, To see if we could fall under Tanzania’s spell. We met Nickson and Exaud, our guides extraordinaire, And even found a lodge that had Wi-Fi in the air. We drove through Masai country up to Ngorongoro, Where the lions tasted flesh, but the zebras only sorrow. Herds of wild game stretched for many kilometres: Some saw only mammals, but there were also hoopoes and bee-eaters. On our penultimate day, once more we hit the road. At Mto-wa-Mbu, through banana groves we strode. Here the shoppers emerged, haggling over prices without fear, But only a few dared sample the local banana beer. Now as we enjoy our last supper together, Our thoughts wander from Africa, perhaps to our Alberta fall weather. We hope you’ve enjoyed our grand journey, and maybe learned a few new words? Just know that next time, you will all be looking at birds!

44: Oct 8 A major travel day!!! Breakfast at 6:30 in Arusha, picked up at 6:45 by Exhaud and driven to the Kiliminjaro airport. It rained most of the way there, so no photos of the mountain. Then we flew to Nairobi where we were met by Gerald and Patrick and taken out for lunch. Back to the airport and on a plane that stopped in Bujumbura, Burundi before taking us to Kigali, Rwanda. Our Volcanoes Safari guide, Vincent met us at the airport and took us to the beautiful Hotel Serena for the night. Kigali is a beautiful and clean city. Good roads, traffic lights with count down displays, motorcyclists who wear helmets, well manicured parks and absolutely no litter on the streets. The last Saturday of each month is designated as clean-up day, when all citizens including the president are out on the streets and in the parks picking up litter. | KIGALI ROUND-ABOUT | CHECKING HOCKEY SCORES BEFORE HEADING TO THE AIRPORT


46: Oct 9 Vincent picked us up at 7:30 and we headed north to Uganda. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa and we could see why. Every square foot of workable land is put to use and there is a constant stream of people along the roadways. We ran into a traffic jam caused by a truck/bus crash ahead of us. So we got to stop and watch the locals as they were walking and biking by us. The next adventure was at the border. First we had to stand in line to get our passports stamps as we exited Rwanda, then we walked a hundred yards and had to stand in line again to get approved for entrance into Uganda. The whole process took about 45 min and in all that time, in the hundreds and hundreds of people we saw, we were the only white faces. The only thing that really changes when you cross the border, is that there is lots of garbage and litter along the road. The countryside is still the same, rolling steep hills completely covered with small fields, houses and sometimes villages. In Uganda you do see more livestock grazing with some pasture land. At about 2pm we left the pavement and then drove almost 3 hrs up and down hills over rough and at times, very rough roads until we arrived at Bwindi and the entrance to the Impenetrable Forest. All of a sudden there is no more cultivated land - just a beautiful, dense, green rainforest all the way up the steep hills. We are staying at Volcanoes Lodge and each have our own private hut with a balcony overlooking the forest. They are named after Gorillas, ours is BOB!


48: Oct 10 Breakfast at the lodge and then Vincent drove us a couple miles to the park entrance. We were introduced to our guide, Zephora, our porters Abel and Olivia, and told that we were assigned to the Rushegura gorilla family. They are a group of 22 led by a large silverback, We were very lucky and only had to hike for less than hour before the advanced guides let us know they were just a short distance into the forest. They were very close to the banana grove of a small village and Zephora told us that they probably had their sights on getting in to eat the tender banana stocks. The first encounter was with Kafuruka, who came right towards us and actually grabbed hold of my arm. We had been told not to make eye contact, so I just looked down at the ground and he moved on. We spent over an hour with the group, seeing at least 15 and getting really good views of the big silverback, the second ranked male, Kabukojo, a few females, several youngsters and 2 babies. An amazing experience and we were finished by 10:30. All our worries about having to hike in the jungle for hours and hours were unfounded, at least for today. We had taken a basket lunch with us, so we came back to the Lodge and ate on our balcony. Then we were treated to complimentary massages -absolutely wonderful. Followed by a relaxing afternoon and evening - something that hasn't happened very often on this trip. | "BOB"

49: Where we were headed | Where we came from



52: Oct 11 Our second day of gorilla trekking. This time were were led by Sunday to see the M group, which only has 6 members. They were the first family to be habituated in Bwindi National Park. We were joined by a young couple from Calgary, Tonya & David (who are also staying at Volcanoes Lodge) and 2 British freelance photographers, Brian & Nicola. We only hired one porter today, Augustine, and he really earned his pay. We hiked for 3 hours up a very steep hillside before we met the trackers who had finally found the gorillas. They used their machetes to blaze a trail through the very dense rain forest and without Augustine to help me up and down the steep, rocky and slippery spots, I never would have made it. We found 4 of the 6 members and 3 of them came right out of the bush and sat within 6 feet of us. It was a totally different experience from the day before and the hour that we were allotted viewing went by quickly. We ate our lunch in the forest and then took another 2 hours to hike back down to civilization. A long and exhausting day.



55: Oct 12 Time for the long trip home. We left the lodge at 8:30 and this time it was a little quicker back to Kigali. We had time to visit the Genocide Memorial Museum, gardens and mass graves before going to the airport. Over 250,000, mostly unidentified, Rwandans are buried here. It was a very powerful and educational display. Today Rwanda seems to be a stable, busy and productive country, but you wonder how all that hatred and violence can really be forgiven and forgotten. We left Kigali airport at 6:30 and arrived in Nairobi at 9pm. Then we had a 2 1/2 hr wait before getting on a 9 hr flight to London. We spent 6hrs at Heathrow and then a 9 hr flight home. All in all about 40 hrs since we left the lodge in Bwindi, Uganda. This has been such an amazing trip - more than we could have ever hoped for.

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  • Title: Africa 2011
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