Hippos and Giraffe Poo
Trip Start Oct 25, 2012
19Trip End Nov 17, 2012
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So, Tuesday morning arrived and we were picked up at Natural Oak Apartments by our safari guide, George. He was fantastic. We were not travelling in a jeep or taxi (the taxi firm that have been running us around also set up this safari) but in a sort of camper van with plenty of comfy seats. George, as it turned out was excellent company with a very fine sense of humour and a great sense for what would be good for us to see.
We drove for about an hour and a half, heading North-Westish out of Nairobi. This took us to the amazing sight of the Rift Valley. I had read about it in novels and travel guides but even being aware of how beautiful it was meant to be did not prepare me for the first sight. It was truly breathtaking. We drove along an escarpment in the valley wall and were able to take in the views for over 9 miles. The escarpment had been designed and built by a lady Italian engineer in the 1940s. It was a huge success and made her name but her boyfriend became extremely jealous and murdered her! Thus spake George, our guide, which immediately sparked off a discussion in which Ella and Isaac tried to think of what ways she might have died.
We could see a strange mix of the old and the new as we took in traditional Masai dwellings nestled into the valley edge while a few miles away were giant satellite dishes. The whole valley is volcanic in origin and there are still active hot springs and geysers in the area. A large percentage of Kenya's power comes from geothermal energy and they are increasing this all the time as they try to find more environmentally friendly ways of producing electricity.
We stopped off for some photos and drinks then continued on our way to Lake Naivasha, our first proper stop on our safari journey.
It took another hour or so to get to the lake, passing by more beautiful scenery, including arid planes, blue mountains in the distance and extinct volcanoes like Mt Longanot looming high in the foreground. We got to Crescent Camp by midday and so decided to have lunch before braving the boat ride. Well, if you're going to get eaten by a hippo you may as well do it on a full stomach!
As we walked towards the lake, we crossed some very rickety, small bridges through swampland and then came to the 'jetty' where we were to get into the boat - a small motorboat with five seats and a space for the pilot. This part of the lake was densely covered in water hyacinth which is very beautiful to see but, as Nero knows, not very easy to get a boat through. After some punting and imaginative use of the motor our pilot managed to get us out of the shallows and onto the lake proper. It was a really beautiful place (it seems that I am using that word a lot but there really is no other way of putting it!). Our pilot, whose name we never did find out was very good at spotting where the hippos were hiding in the water but not so good when it came to social etiquette. Every time Pip, who was closest to him, tried to ask a question he shouted, "What?" In a very off putting manor. Hs answers were curt and he never offered information voluntarily but that did not deter Pip from getting some good info from him. Only the use of a darkened room and an angle-poise lamp would have made him more forthcoming! He did, to his credit though, get us very close in to some of the Hippo pods. It was incredibly difficult to see them in the water but he had a knack of finding them and once we had spotted them they were very impressive to see. We also got to see very many birds including pelicans of different sorts, ibis, black and white kingfishers and storks.
About half way through the boat ride we stopped off at Crescent Island where we were given an impromptu tour by a local fisherman who was much more personable. He had a host of interesting information to share with us and took us through the trees to a spot where we got to be about 100 feet away from some giraffes. He told us that you can tell the sex of a giraffe from its droppings. We were amazed and Ella, always interested in this sort of thing, asked how. It turns out that giraffe ladies like to stand still and do the necessary in a neat and discreet pile, while the males (typically for their gender) just keep walking as there are things to be getting on with! We also got pretty close to some zebra, wildebeest and water buck. It was one of those experiences that simply left you in awe. To be so close to these animals in their natural habitat as opposed to being behind a fence in the zoo was remarkable.
After that we got back into the boat and went looking for some more hippos. On the way our surly guide had his one redeeming moment when he pointed out a Fish Eagle perching on a branch at the side of the lake. He brought to boat over to about 100m offshore then produced a fish he had got from the fishermen. He gave an almighty whistle and threw the fish into the lake. The Fish Eagle instantly flew off its branch and swooped towards us, grabbing the fish in its huge claws and soaring off again to the trees. The kids were so excited by this because they had seen this on Deadly 60 and were amazed to see it in real life.
We spotted some more hippos on our return, some a little closer than even our pilot had expected! Once back on dry land we got back into the Mystery Machine and headed north again for our first night at Milele Resort, our sleeping quarters for the next couple of nights.
We had completed the first day of our safari and had been blown away by the amazing things we had seen.
But it was only the warmup for the main event on Wednesday.