S: Africa 2012
BC: DEPARTED | KENYA | 11 JUN 2012
1: NAIROBI | KENYA | ARRIVED 3 JUN 2012 | is the capital and the largest city in Kenya. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cold water," the name of the Nairobi river.
2: This is it! Stephanie and Aaron's dream trip and the result of 10 years of planning. Landed in Nairobi after a LONG flight. Picked up at the airport by Jordan and taken to the hotel right across from the Israeli embassy. Big security. We met James from Kensington who went over our trip. Aaron was supposed to count the flamingos at Nakuru :) Nice hotel and good breakfast the next morning. We met Francis our guide in the morning and started out. Started our trip towards Aberdare National Park. On the ride we learned a little about Francis. He is from the Gikuyu tribe based int he central region of Kenya. They led the fight for independence. Francis lives in Nairobi but his home is by Mt Kenya. On the trip we stopped at a shop for restrooms. Steph ended up buying a statue. Not a bad price, first thing to carry home. Through town of Nyeri where we checked into Treetops at its sister property called Outspan. Steph learned that the 'cloak room' is not a place where one hangs coats. We had lunch and then for $10 each saw a demonstration of the traditional dances of the tribe of the Gikuyu. It was nice if a little campy. Steph danced in the last dance which was a harvest celebration dance. The others were to celebrate weddings and circumcision, which is a big deal. It is the step to manhood. Parents must determine when a boy is ready. Outspan is also where Lord Badin Powell lived his final days. He is buried in Nyeri. We passed on the tour of his residence. Did see his grave driving through Nyeri. Took a bus to Treetops.
4: TREETOPS We got to walk in for the last half kilometer. First animal sightings with what turned out to be common warthogs and cape buffalo. Treetops is billed as a sit and watch place. We also saw elephant and some brown back around the Treetops watering hole. Funny how many people are happy just watching animals from the third floor balcony. Game drives are even better. We thought ours was included and did get Kensington to pay for one. We paid for a second, which Kensington is reimbursing.
6: ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK We saw other animals on the drive including hyena, baboon, water buck and a giant forest hog, which was big - but no leopard! We met a family from the UK the night before. They saw three leopards over their visit! He happened to work for the British High Commission in counter terrorism. He was there on holiday with his wife and daughter. By chance we were there the night of the beacon lighting for the Queen's diamond jubilee. Lots of people and press. A rep from the lodge, the British High Commission and Kenya spoke. They then lit the first beacon of the celebration in the Commonwealth. Champagne on the house! After, Steph and I were interviewed by someone from Reuters about our thoughts on the whole event.
8: SWEETWATER / OL'PEJETA CONSERVANCY | Left for Sweetwater after two nights. Met Francis at Outspan and left. Stopped at the equator. There was someone who showed us the different ways water flows north and south of the equator. Didn't realize it flows straight on the equator. Then we looked in the small shops. The shopkeepers were pretty crafty, making it difficult to really buy something. We cut short any shopping and took a 20 km trip down a very rough road to Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Sweetwaters camp. Nicer than Treetops. Still a watering hole by restaurant. Tents were very nice and we could see animals right from our tent.
10: SWEETWATERS | chimpanzee sanctuary | 6 JUN 2012
11: The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary opened in 1993 in a negotiated agreement between the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Jane Goodall Institute. Over the last decade Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary has accepted chimpanzees rescued from traumatic situations bringing the total number of chimpanzees in the Sanctuary to 42. Poco was the first chimp we met and was clearly Steph's favorite. Also saw our first hippo in the river.
13: ol pejeta conservancy | Next we went on a game drive with Francis in the van. We saw a lot. Black rhino, zebra, jackal, more antelope, impala, warthogs and cape buffalo. And a cheetah! Steph saw a leopard's tail, but we couldn't find the rest of the leopard. We also visited Baraka, who is a blind black rhino. Dinner was very good at the restaurant. I paid with a large bill to get change in shillings. No more embarrassment after the tipping incident earlier! Checked wifi for 300 ksh and sent a note to Logan. Stayed up late with Steph hoping for animal activity. Some animals settling in and may have seen a cat waiting to attack. Tough to be sure in the dark and I was falling asleep - to Steph's chagrin. The hot water bottles they put in the beds worked well Steph had me sleep in her twin. We had her bottle, mine and the extra from Aaron's tent. I was actually sweating at one point in the night! Frozen morning led to nice breakfast with a pelican/stork peeking through the window at us.
14: Heading to | NAKURU
15: LAKE NAKURU Left for Nakuru. Apparently a little late since Francis made a point that we leave for Masai Mara promptly at 7:30. Long ride to Nakuru over some bad roads. One was a 'shortcut' that almost wasn't a road. It was through a section of cattle land recently purchased from white landowners. The plan is to bring irrigation from Mt Kenya to the area. The people will have 5 acre plots to farm. The Flamingo Hill camp was one up on Sweetwater. Very nice with bathroom in tent again, mosquito netting around a big bed.
17: Game drive after lunch. Shorter than others, but saw birds, including flamingos, white rhino, baboons and a lion! Snoozing in a tree. We watched forever. Almost saw another. A large group of baboons hit the trees because of something. It was near a lion sighting earlier in the day, but the lion must have been down low in the bush. Neat to see the baboons call the warning and climb. The big ones were watching the spot but we couldn't see anything. Not high enough apparently. Waiting for dinner we listen to a frog croaking loudly just outside our tent. The security at the camp kept following Aaron. I think it was just to keep him safe since he was walking alone. Steph had different thoughts and therefore sat up half the night watching Aaron's tent.
18: We left on time for the LONGER ride to Masai Mara. We arrived at 3:30 or so. Rough ride the last 4 hours. The van started making noises on the trip. Sounded like a stabilizer bar maybe. Francis said everything looked to be where it was supposed to be. I'm guessing it will need tightened at some point, but I don't think we'll be stranded. We had to back track once and crossed two locations where Francis said "cross your fingers." One was a small river. Steph didn't care much for that one. But we made it. We ate 'lunch' at 4 and decided on dinner at 8. We skipped today's game drive. On the way in we saw some stuff including a hyena at a kill. Also some mongoose, wildebeest, topi hartebeest, giraffe laying down, eland, and lots of Maasai herding cattle and goats. | MAASAI MARA
20: MAASAI MARA Game drive at 6:30. Not as successful as we hoped. Almost stuck a couple of times. Francis even commented at the end about it. He hasn't volunteered that before. I think he was actually nervous a couple of times. Aaron and I had lunch mostly without Steph who was listening to monkeys fight hoping to see them. Afternoon game drive went much like the first. Many areas were too wet and rutted for our rear wheel drive van. Ground clearance is the big issue. I'm pretty amazed at what Francis can do with this car. We did see a hippo, which was pretty exciting. Big light show at night as a storm blew through at dinner. More sight and sound than actual rain. We got just a little rain. Enough to cancel the fire, but not much else.
22: Next morning's game drive held promise. To the west of camp there were hyena fighting to take a kill from a lion. We could see them running around but I couldn't catch a good photo due to the mist. The rain was apparently harder elsewhere. So wet that we couldn't get to spot we saw. Also couldn't get to other areas of the park. Did see four lionesses walking back from a night hunt. We followed them to the spot where they laid down to sleep off the day. Very cool!
24: We paid for a game drive from the camp to see what else we could see in a different vehicle. It was a LandCruiser and Francis came along. We crossed one river we had been unable to cross and then followed it. We saw hippos in the river and one croc. Things we couldn't see include the Mara river. Apparently a good place to see crocs. I'm a little disappointed, but it was still an amazing trip! On the way home we drove by a small chapel (Francis pointed it out). It was there in honor of the Italians that built the road we are on. It was in 1942 during the war. The area was captured by the British. Francis was not aware if the Italians built the road on their own or at the direction of their captors. Steph remembered that her Nonno was in the Italian army and went to Africa during the war. We're wondering if maybe he built the road we are on. The road climbs out of the Great Rift Valley (beautiful view) 42 km before Nairobi.
26: AMAZING TRIP The trip home was another long one. 32 hours from Nairobi to Columbus! But we got in our McDonald's! Planning note: Schedule an overnight layover when flying that long. Definitely worth it!