Samburu, Kenya

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 13, 2012

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 3, 2012 Saturday

Samburu National Reserve

Travel to Samburu National Reserve (224 mile), check into our lodge for lunch. A late afternoon game drive with possible sighting of species which are seldom seen elsewhere, including Grevy's zebras, reticulated giraffes and blue-legged Somali ostriches.

Well, finally got laid down and ready for sleep at 12:30 am this morning. Now it is 6:10 am and showered, shaved, and ready to head down to breakfast. Didn't get anywhere near enough sleep, but hopefully will be able to get a little shut eye in the van on our 5 hour trip to our next destination…..hopefully!

I remember reading about hard beds when I was doing some research about the places we would be staying. Here at the Nairobi Serena Hotel they are definitely pretty hard. Do you remember when you might have had an older bed where the box spring didn’t quite have what it used to and you added a piece of plywood between the mattress and the box spring?? Well that is kind of what the mattress felt like, but after the nearly 24 hours of travel I think I could have slept on the floor! Ha.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday about the food on the Delta direct flight to Amsterdam. It wasn’t too bad, and we got two meals along with snacks and drinks, no extra charge. On the KLM flight I though the food wasn’t nearly as good. One meal I ended up eating only the desert. I tried the special chicken which had some kind of ginger sause…couldn’t eat it. Tried the salad. Had something on the bottom and lettuce over the top….couldn’t eat it. Finally ate the desert which was some kind of white stuff on the bottom and 4 bonbons on top. Okay I could eat that. Ha. Also ate the cheese and crackers. The breakfast meal was some kind of scrambled egg inside of a wrap. Not so good. Dinner was a pizza wrap, not the best but eatable. Did get a nice Bailey Irish Cream and it was very good. Didn’t help me get sleepy, but I felt better after it. Okay, off to breakfast. Will write more tonight.

Three vans were waiting for us at the Nairobi Serena hotel lobby this morning (Saturday). We departed about 7:45 am. Got to Ashnil Samburu hotel after a 5 hour drive. Only the very last part of the drive was on gravel road with the rest of the way  paved. We made two stops along the way, one at a small village store where they sold many "African" items and had a nice display of antique items. Lots of batik and items made out of ebony etc. I bought a nice ebony elephant for $20. The price started out at $60. I think I was close to "best price" because he wouldn’t take $15. Kathy bought a bowl made from malachite and brass. Kathy’s bowl started out at $60 each and was purchased for $20.

We saw lots of poverty and places that reminded Kathy and I of Egypt and China. K: The countryside went from nasty urban to tropical to dry savannah.  The tropical areas were hilly and reminded me of interior Bali.  J: I took lots of random pictures out the van windows along the way. We also saw lots of schools, I have never seen so many schools in a country before, from primary to middle, to high school with separate ones for boys and girls. Colleges as well.  Schooling begins at age 6 (sometimes preschool) and is free for the equivalent of elementary and middle school. After that, the family must pay. The other thing we noticed was the high number of churches. 70% of the people here are Christian. Most of remaining are Muslim. Our driver/guide is a trained guide, attending 2 years of university schooling and then must take a test. He speaks Swahili, English, Japanese, and French.

He mentioned there are 42 major tribes within Kenya. The two major tribes are Samburu and Masai.  The “resort” we are staying in tonight is in Samburu country. They are a pastoral, nomadic people and they are famous for their bead work. Eat mostly vegetarian, but occasionally goat. 

At 4 pm we headed out in our vans for a safari. I should mention that each van holds 6 people with 3 seats on one side and 3 on the other. Each person gets a window seat. The top of the van also opens up when we are out looking for wildlife. The same driver and van will be with each of us for the entire trip, which means they will be with us for about 7 days.  (K here) Our first game drive was a success!  I’m not sure what was more exciting…the troop of baboons with babies, or the gigantic giraffes munching on the top of acacia trees.  The giraffes made for an absolutely stunning visual. I must admit, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel about seeing the wildlife here vs at the zoo or Wildlife Safari.  Well the answer is clear…seeing the scale of everything is what makes it so impressive.  The land is so vast!  While the giraffes were HUGE, they were small relative to their surroundings.  It was a magnificent sight.  And of course, the baboons made for quite a memory as they wandered around our vans. There was a most definite alpha male, and several moms and babies.  Thrilling.  Then there were Ibex, gazelles of various types, monkeys, oh yes the ostriches were fantastic.  They are gigantic birds!  We also saw something called a dik-dik which looks just like a deer, but in miniature. There were a few other animals of which I have forgotten most of the name of. Maybe tomorrow we will use a sheet I copied of various animals we might see so that we can remember them better.

So far Kenyan food has been just okay. Most everything has an unusual flavor that I can’t quite determine and I haven’t much cared for it. Maybe it will grow on us as we eat more of it.

Tomorrow we leave for an early morning safari at 6:30 am. Getting up at 5:45. After the photo safari we come back and have breakfast. Marian has asked if any people want to go on a trip to a local village for an additional $30 each. Kathy and I are going along with 6 others of the 16. Hope it turns out that it is worth it. Will let you know tomorrow.

Good Night!

November 4, 2012 Sunday

Samburu National Reserve

Morning and late afternoon game drives.

Following is a combo of J and K comments.

We awoke at 5:45 am to prepare for our 6:30 am photo safari. Neither Kathy or I slept very well last night, both being awake somewhere around 2 am because the fan in our room suddenly was off. They turn off the generators here sometime about midnight and restart them around 5 am. I (JB) got a little sick during the night with a mild form or Montezuma’s revenge. I took a couple of Immodium AD hoping that would help. When we got up I took a couple more hoping I would feel good enough to go on the safari. As it turns out I did and what a great safari it turned out to be. Right out the entrance we came upon the troop of baboons, hanging out (literally and figuratively) in the grass and trees. We then came across a herd of 15 elephants which included smaller baby elephants.  It was absolutely an incredible sight! We came upon them very suddenly as they were walking along silently and so majestically in single file along a dry creek bank. They wandered around us getting as close as 20-25’ away. You can’t imagine how impressive these animals are when you are up close to them. We watched them for maybe 45 minutes, just eating grass and lazily moving around the vans that might have been in their way. We all got some wonderful pictures needless to say. About half way through their visit my camera’s battery went dead. A little bit longer and Kathy’s went dead. Thankfully we have all agreed that we should share our pictures and videos. After we left the elephants to travel on in peace our driver said that another van in our group had spied some spotted leopards! This is too much to ask for! It turns out that the leopard is the most elusive of the big game and not often seen by the tourist as I guess they don’t like being the center of attention! Our drivers all communicated via radio about the leopard sighting.  Suddenly our driver veered off the path and straight up the hillside.  The chase was on!  Some of us got good looks at two leopards. One appeared to be a little larger so we wonder if it was a mama and cub.  We followed them in our vans and got fleeting glimpses of the two of them as we continued off road. It was a thrilling adventure, even for our driver!  Along the way, we saw lots of other animals of which we have seen before. I had taken along a list of animals that we might see and here is the list that we have already seen: Dik-Dik, Eland, Fish Eagle, Gerenuk, Grant’s Gazelle, Grey Heron, Hippo (I’ll talk more about that later), Impala, Spectacular Starling, Ostrich, Olive Baboon,  Reticulated Giraffe, Thompson’s Gazelle, Zebra, Weaver bird, rabbit, and the Vervet Monkey. Whew, what a list huh? I can’t believe all that we have seen. We are even beginning to be able to recognize and name many of the smaller animals now. Oh, the hippo! Right near our lodge, our driver spotted what looked like a big rock just off shore in the river. We haven’t seen all of it yet as it persists in staying mostly in the river with only it’s back showing, and his nose once in a while. Our driver says not to worry that we will see lots of hippos in Masi Mara.

We returned to the camp and had just sat down to each breakfast and who walks up to the electric fence around the camp??? But a large elephant again. We could see a few others off in the distance, but just one that came close. He/She just stood around eating and as Kathy described…seemed to be showing off. Flapping it’s ears, turning sideways, etc. Later we determined it to be a large male elephant because of his big….well you know…package!

After breakfast we did an extra trip into a nomadic Samburu village. This cost us $30 each extra. Only 8 of us went. We tried to leave the park by the normal route, but had to turn around because with the rain we have been getting the water had risen too high for us to ford the river like we would normally have done. Along the way we saw our first zebra.  It was quite large, larger than a good sized horse. We arrived at the village and were greeted by the village ladies and they sang us two songs. Then  the men did a dance which included jumping high into the air. Just like we have all seen on TV. Pretty impressive jumpers I have to say! Apparently, the higher they jump, the more desirable they are to the ladies.  The women asked for volunteers from the group to go and dance with them. No one volunteered so the guide pointed to Kathy and said how about you? It was fun to see her doing the two step and thrusting her chin up and out following the lead of the other women. After the dancing etc we were led into the compound and shown how their daily life evolves. We were taken into one of the small huts where a single family would live and cook their meals. A little smoky, but certainly doable on a daily basis. It appears from what we heard and saw that the women are responsible for most of the hard work. They must build and disassemble the housing when they move from one site to another following the available grass for their animals. They also do all the cooking and taking care of the children. They also make the jewelry. Interesting to see, and supposedly is an actual working village, but we aren’t convince. As we left they tried to get you to buy some of their items they made like necklaces, carvings of animals etc. Prices seemed very high at 2000-3000 shillings which is about $23-35. Kathy bought a cow horn necklace for $10. What a negotiator!

On the return trip to our camp we came across a half of a Grand Grazelle up in a tree. Adohyo, our driver, said it was likely a kill made by the leopards and placed there so it could come back later and finish eating it. Again, absolutely incredible!

We still have another safari to do this evening. Oh, by the way I am feeling much better and nothing more has developed!

On this evenings safari we saw lots of little Dik-Dik’s, Gerenuk, Grant’s Gazelles, Impalas, Giraffe, and 2 zebras. Our big adventure for the evening turned out that our van got stuck in a big mud hole. Within an hour of us leaving for the safari we had a huge downpour and made the areas around our “tents” like a lake. This added more water in the holes on the road. As we were going thru this big long pool all of a sudden the tires started spinning. Oh oh, sounds like we are stuck. Tried backing and forwarding in the hole, but it felt like we were just getting deeper. To make the matters worse we were right next to the dead gazelle we had seen earlier. Our driver had to call for help. Brought a couple more vans up, got tow cables from each and proceeded to try to pull us out. The key word here is “try”! He and a couple other drivers are now out walking around just below the dead gazelle. I’m thinking we need to keep a look out in case the leopard decides to come back now to finish dinner. Had to give up on the second van pulling us out. By now there are 8 safari vans all around us. One of those was a Range Rover with 4-wheel drive. He comes up, they attach the cables to him and with no effort he finally pulls us out. Fortunately the Leopard never made an appearance. Whew! It was exciting and certainly added interest to our evening safari. The other excitement was that one of the zebras was a rare type and only are 4000 left in the world. Quite an adventure for the evening!

We have now seen 2 of the Big Five.

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perry on

impressive, keep up on the native food, tell me how it is. have fun. will talk to you when you get home.

Elaine on

At first, I was glad I wasn't there. Long flight, poverty, scam artists, etc. Now I'm a little jealous because apparently the animals are more exciting than on TV and you've got a wild and crazy driver chasing leopards.

Lee on

Sounds awesome. Wish we were there with you...that scam artist would have been toast! Animals sound so exciting. Don't forget: need lots of Rhino pix when you run into them. They are testy so don't walk up and say Boo.

Joan on

Wow, so much to see! Would love to see photos, especially of Kathy dancing!

Gayle on

Another exciting trip! Looking forward to reading all about it.

Dorothy on

We love reading a about your adventures! Thanks so much for sharing! Can't wait to see the pictures.

Carolyn on

Sounds like y'all are having a wonderful trip. Can't wait for the next installment!

Janet on

Thanks for including me in your adventures.

sue on

I love your blog. Very interesting and entertaining. You two are having an amazing adventure.

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