After Dane put himself to bed, I followed suit in order to rest up for the coming days of fun.
We woke and traveled to the Masai Mara, the largest game reserve in Kenya, for our first safari adventure at the Naibor camp.
Our guide Davy met us on the dirt airstrip, put us in the safari Land Cruiser, and began our trip to the camp. It was quite lucky for us that the river was too high for the quick route so we were forced to take the long way there providing ample time for animal watching. Our first on-ground sighting was 4 lions; mom, 2 babies, and a huge male, followed by what we assumed were perhaps his two large brothers.
Simba is beautiful for sure. As we made our way through the Mara we came upon a leopard with her kill in the tree, something Davy assured us was spectacular since leopards tend to be very shy animals and many safari goers can go a whole safari without seeing one leopard.
The rest of the safari held up to the first day’s events quite well. The highlight for all of us was seeing a cheetah stalk and chase down a gazelle for herself and her daughter.
We came upon the cheetah one day when we traveled to the other side of the Mara. She and her daughter made their way slowly to a small hill not far from our car. Soon enough we realized that she was watching something downhill from our car; it turned out to be their lunch. We watched as she slowly jogged down the hill, watching the gazelle the whole time. She would jog a bit, and then crouch down and watch the gazelle, and jog a bit more, and crouch down, and pretty soon after she began the chase. She took off and everyone in our car started to freak out, as quietly as possible of course, saying "oh she’s going for it!", and with the blink of an eye she was sprinting full speed after the gazelle, making one sharp turn with the gazelle to bring it down.
With my mom’s expression of “holy Toledo!” Davy started the car and we sped down to the two leopards and their lunch to watch them feast. They ate only the meat of the gazelle as leopards tend to be quite clean and picky about their meat. As they feasted, the scavengers began to approach, aka the vultures, and wait for the meal to be finished so they could clean up the scraps. Being the diehard safariers we are, we waited through the whole thing, watching the leopards finish eating, followed by the complete clearing up of the of the kill by the vultures in a matter of about 5 minutes
The rest of the safari was amazing, elephants, giraffes, hippos, etc., all graced us with their presence and we enjoyed every second of it.
Each evening we went out for an afternoon game drive and at about 6pm Davy would stop the car and we would park our Land Cruiser just in time to watch the sunset and drink our sundowners, our equivalent of happy hour, only way better because we were sitting in the middle of one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Best sundowner was the second or third night where we came upon a pack of 2 female lions and their 8 cubs. We sat in the car, drinking our sundowners, watching the baby lions roll around and wrestle one another.
From here we traveled to Lake Nakuru where we spent two nights in a small cabin right off the dirt runway and next to the Rhino Sanctuary.
Here we saw rhinos, both white and black, along with the beautiful lake itself, home of the world’s largest flamingo population
. Kenya experienced two years of unbelievable draught beginning in 2007. The country is continuing to recover but the effects of the draught were felt countrywide as it lost about 90% of its livestock population in two years, a terrible detriment to a country comprised of mostly nomadic herders. The lake was by no means full but we could see the water level increasing even in our short time there and our guide was amazed by the increase in flamingos returning to the lake. He said the population was at about ¼ of its total but that is a great increase given that the population in the preceding year was almost non-existent.
Our third plane ride took us to northern Kenya, a place that tends to be drier than the first two, which was surprisingly green, thanks to the influx of rain that hit this area as well.
We stayed at a private lodge called Ol Malo, which differed from the first two in that the owners were able to provide a different type of safari experience. We were able to go for walking safaris, which was a nice break after sitting in a Land Cruiser for almost 7 days. In addition, the highlight of my time was being able to do safari on horseback.
Not only was I so excited to get back on a horse, it was amazing how much closer you can get to animals on a horse as opposed to in a car. My first ride was on the plains and at one point we had giraffes running in between our three horses, being extremely curious but only slightly afraid.
The second day I legged back up on Guinness, my horse from the first day, and we ventured down into the valley on about a 2.5 hour ride. We rode down the valley to a river where you could inter tube down some baby rapids and relax a little bit. In the late afternoon we took a much shorter route and headed back to the lodge just in time for some cocktails and dinner. Dane’s highlight from Ol Malo would probably be the trip to a local Manetta to visit the Samburu warriors.
They killed a goat and, as the main staples of the Samburu diet are milk, blood, and meat, they made a pool from the neck of the goat to catch the meat and drank it. Dane, being the adventurous one in the family, drank the blood as well. A great time was had by all.
The fourth destination was an island called Lamu just on the coast of the Indian Ocean, an ancient Muslim beach community that has remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
We picked the best day of the year to go since the first full day we were there, we got to see a solar eclipse in the morning above the Indian Ocean. The owners provided us with photo negatives on a piece of paper so we could enjoy the eclipse without killing our eyes, and we watched for almost two hours (off and on of course) until the moon completely covered the sun. Amazing! That day we made our way into the town of Lamu to enjoy the sights and sounds of a truly amazing, ancient city. The day was followed by an evening, probably designed for honeymooners which we were not, wherein we set sait for an evening boat ride at sunset. The best part of the ride was for sure the captains of another boat who had put together a rendition of some classic American songs such as Country Roads Take Me Home, Karma Chameleon, and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, with a random Christmas song thrown in there as well.
The third day I made the adventurous, and reflectively speaking, stupid decision of going deep-sea fishing with Dane. The first 2.5 hours I spent lying down, trying to sleep in an effort not to become ill. After the first 2.5 hours, my sea legs appeared and I felt much better; however, sadly no fish appeared and we returned to the mainland fishless and intoxicated. The last day we spent perusing the reefs and snorkeling, my first snorkeling experience that I certainly will not forget. We saw sea turtles, beautiful fish, and an octopus, that our guide put on his head to carry back to the boat and bbq; it was quite a sight. The next day we headed back to Nairobi for the end of the vacation…terribly sad. However, it was by far an experience I will never forget; I will definitely be returning to Kenya asap! Now back to reality and life in Senegal, an update on life there to come soon.
After 10 months seclusion in Senegal, I broke free for some quality family time traveling through Kenya searching for wild beasts and eating more than any human should in 2.5 weeks. The vacation began at 4pm on January 3, 2010 wherein I left Senegal on an overnight flight to Nairobi. I am terrified of flying, thanks to one bad flight in high school, however I certainly appreciate the effortlessness of getting on a plane, sitting, having people bring you food that doesn't look like sand, offering you drinks, and playing movies that make the time go by a little bit quicker. I slept most of the flight, with a row to myself I might add, and arrived rested and excited for the next 2.5 weeks of my time in Africa. A big van picked me up from the airport and took me to my first stop, the Ngong House just outside of Nairobi. I arrived to a lovely British lady sitting me by the fire and offering me freshly blended pineapple juice. From there, as it was about 630am when I arrived, I was directed to my lodgings, a beautiful 2-bedroom cabin with fireplace, wherein I went back to sleep for about 3 hours until shower and lunchtime. I spent the whole day by myself, which to some might have been annoying, but to me was amazing. After being in Senegal and not finding a second to myself, a whole day was a welcome break. At about 9pm that evening, my family arrived and the vacation truly began. We ate a spectacular dinner in the dining room which was followed by a much needed brother/sister bonding session of drinking, pool, and fun safari hats.