National parks and Lakes
We made our last trip to the beautiful African continent in
1997. Now, in 1999, we have made plans to go on a trip which will take us
through Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. However, we won’t be visiting Uganda due to
the slaughter by Rwadan rebel forces of English and American tourists, who came
to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Instability and danger have spread
throughout Uganda which led KUMUKA to adapt their trip and follow the advice of
the English Foreign Office. We support this choice even though we would have
liked to be able to see the mountain gorillas.
Kenya and Tanzania
from 12-09-1999 until
The adapted itinerary takes us mainly along the lakes and
national parks of Kenya and Tanzania. We’ll be flying to Tanzania form Schiphol
airport together with Beate and Karla, whom we met on our last trip. We’ll go
in search of the rich Eastern African flora and fauna. Our preparations started at an early stage,
as they did last time.
Kumuka, African Holidays and the Rottink travel agency
helped us prepare wonderfully so we can go on our third big African adventure
well-prepared. We’ll be travelling with a truck and sleeping in tents again.
We’ll leave for Schiphol at 06.45 am and will arrive there
at 8.00 am which will leave us enough time to check in. We won’t have problems
with fully booked flights this time because we booked our seats in advance. We
agreed to meet Beate at the gate. Karla came from Belgium to our home address
yesterday. The four of us have a cup of coffee and we leave for the gate after
having had time to catch up with each other.
It’s the first time that we’ll fly over the African
landscape by daylight and when we’re finally over Africa the desert seems to be
endless. Our plain lands at 8.00 pm and we arrive at the Boulevard Hotel in
Nairobi at 9.30 pm. The pre-departure meeting has already taken place so we get
a bottle of water and go to sleep. We’re quite curious about our fellow
travellers but meeting them will have to wait until tomorrow.
13/9 Nairobi - Segana (Tana-river)
We get up at 06.45 am and wonder what this day will bring
us. After having had breakfast we prepare to leave. We’re sitting in the lobby
of the hotel and try to guess who is part of our travelling group and who
According to the schedule we were supposed to leave at 9.30
am but at 10.15 am we haven’t spotted any KUMUKA guides or any of our fellow
travellers. Then all of a sudden events start to unfold quickly. Prue, our
guide, enters the lobby wearing a safari hat lined with zebra fur. The people
who were at the pre-departure meeting huddle around her. Now we have to
introduce ourselves. After a quick recap on what was said yesterday and
inspecting our truck, MUZZA, we leave at 11.00 am. But before we leave Prue
introduces us to Shaun and Karanja who will be our driver and cook on this
trip. There are fifteen people in our international group eight of which will
make a ten week journey which has Harare, Zimbabwe as its final destination.
Once on our way, the first contacts are made and Prue tries
to get the mood going. Just before we enter Thika we have lunch by the side of
the road. It’s a great feeling to feel and hear the African wind blow around
you. Travelling in an open truck does have its drawbacks though. The music
cassette broke Steve tries to wind the tape that got out of the cassette up
again but the wind makes this very difficult while at the same time giving a
comical air to Steve’s attempts.
In the afternoon we reach our first campsite at Segana. The
campsite is situated on Tana river, which is the major river of Kenya. Here we
get more elaborate instructions about the truck, the adjusted itinerary and
tomorrow’s events which will include white water rafting. Apart from this
arrangements are made for the chores which we are supposed to do. We are split
up into four groups: A cooking group, a cleaning group, a group which cleans
the truck and a group with time off.
After an excellent diner we still sit in a circle. Prue asks
everyone to introduce themselves again and to tell the group about their daily
activities and their most beautiful experience in life so far.
If the first day is anything to go on the upcoming four
weeks are going to be wonderful. We get a positive first impression of KUMUKA
just as we did of Drifters. KUMUKA is Swahili for long journey. In Shona it
14/9 Tana river
After a good and substantial breakfast we play a game of
volleyball. After having gotten some instructions about the rules and dangers of
white water rafting we leave for the Tana river at 11.00 am. I am accompanied
on my adventure by Prue, Sally, Shanon, Steve, Matt and Nicole.
The river is shallow and the rocks come dangerously close at
times. We’ve got seven rapids ahead of us. The group works together well as
opposed to the one with which I went rafting on the Zambezi river, so the first
few rapids are a piece of cake. At one of the rapids with a two meter drop the
guide voluntarily decides to go surfing. Surfing is a term used by rafters to indicate that the boat gets stuck
in the rapid and the people in it are given a good shaking up. The process
repeats itself three times and at the second time the boat shoots out of the
rapid and I see Prue, who sits diagonally across me, hanging above me. She
can’t hold onto the boat anymore. I am about to get a ducking when we look each
other in the eye and lands on top of me after making a free fall. Together we
plunge into the deep to resurface gasping and spluttering ten metres further
along the river. We arrive at a waterfall after having tamed the longest rapid.
We get out of the boat and climb onto a rock next to the waterfall, where the
rest of the group is waiting for us. The guide has come up with a bold plan: To
jump off the rock, if you want to. Everyone’s adrenaline levels are up so all
decide to take a jump.
Once we’re back in the boat we position the boat across the
waterfall with its tip pointing straight toward the waterfall. Apparently
there’s a cave behind the waterfall. We try to make our way through the
waterfall with a supreme effort but we give up after three attempts. I’m at the
front of the boat and every time I try to make a rowing movement my paddle is
pushed backwards by the waterfall. Before continuing on our way we rest and
allow our shaking hands to calm down a bit. We’ve got two more rapids ahead of
us but before we get to those we put the boat at shore one more time where the
river has formed natural slide between two rocks. We take turns at sliding down
as spry puppies. After having slid down once we want more and when we slide
down in a line the children who by now have flocked to the shore are laughing
at us silly white people. I slide down once more and try to turn around in the
rapid so my tired body will be carried along the same current three times. In
this process only my yellow helmet is above the surface, a spectacle which
brought about a new bout of laughter. Prue was the one who was chiefly in
stitches until the evening.
Shortly after this we came across a rapid with small
differences in height but little room as well. We’re told to sit on the left
side of the boat. We do so too quickly as a result of which all but three
people fall into the water. Prue, Steve and I are under the boat. We disappear
under water and are driven into deeper water through a narrow gorge. With
surprise written all over our faces we climb back into the boat after which we
can finish our journey on a quieter note and enjoy the scenery.
Rafting on the Tana river is incomparable to rafting on the
Zambezi. Of course, the Zambezi has bigger rapids but the rocky Tana river is
attractive because of the marvellous scenery in which many birds live.
The people who didn’t go rafting spend the morning swimming
and entertaining themselves otherwise. At 1.00 pm they’ll leave camp for a warm
and exhausting climb to the waterfall where we will be passing by shortly. Once
we’re back at the campsite we get a chance to rest and have a nice beer. We sit
around the campfire and talk. The stories about our rafting trip are told
15/9 Segana (Tana river) – Timau
We leave for Timau at 9.00 am. The first part of the trip is
especially stunning. We pass several villages of various sizes. All villages
have many roadside shops, though. We’re approaching the Laikipia plateau and
Nanyuki, which is the herald of Mount Kenya. Kuki Gallman wrote about these
places in her book I Dreamed of Africa, which I read just before I came to
Africa. The trip is not long and all roads, except the one to Nanyuki, are passable.
Before we reach Nanyuki, we cross the equator. We are invited to come and look
at matches in a funnel filled with water. Twenty metres to the North of the
equator the match swirls clockwise and twenty metres to the south of the
equator it swirls anti-clockwise. Exactly on the equator the match lies perfectly
still in the water. It is fun to watch but no one could be warmed up for a
certificate. When we enter Nanyuki, we can see Mount Kenya with its top in the
clouds on the right side of the road. We continue our journey to Timau on a
road which has some level spaces. After some time we reach our campsite near
Timau. The Timau river lodge is situated at a height of 2000 metres and is
adjacent to the last piece of Kenyan highland rainforest on one side and to the
foot of Mount Kenya on the other. The tents are pitched and we have lunch
between scrounging geese, turkeys and common cranes. Soon after, we leave for a
hiking trip through the rainforest. It’s a substantial hike with our local
guide Francis, who walks at a brisk pace. Winding paths lead us through lush
surroundings. We are presented with hyena tracks, instructions on how to get
food and liquids in times of emergency and information about the fauna. We rest
at an open space in the rainforest. Just as we get on our way it starts to rain
and immediately a refreshing smell which is a delight to our noses rises from
the ground. Taking shelter is hardly worth our while so it doesn’t take us long
to get going again. We walk toward a few cliffs and before we know it Francis
is standing on a ledge and is encouraging us to join him which takes is more of
an effort for us than it was for him. There is an abyss at the other side of the
cliff. Someone suggested to go and sit on the ledge straddle-legged with a leg
at each side of the ledge. We let Francis take a picture of us on the ledge
while we are seated behind each other in a row. He walks across the ledge
nimbly so he can take photographs for nearly everyone. It a feast to the eye to see the way he takes
the pictures. Bent over and with the camera obliquely across his face he is
balancing while he tries to find the exposure lever. Standing in this pose he
keeps on asking “Where is the something?”
After enjoying these entertaining moments we hike deeper
into the forest. We see the local people till a patch of deforested land. Some
of us watch this spectacle intently without realising that the rest of the
group is moving along. We catch on too late when our fellow hikers have
vanished without a trace. We choose a direction at the gamble. We whistle and
shout to no avail. Trying to estimate the right direction Prue, Kath, Roger,
Ellen and I walk on haphazardly. We rejoin the group at a small brook where
they’re busy crossing the brook by stepping on loose rocks. Everybody gets to
the other side dry enough even if they do have to use their hands and feet in
order to do so.
After a while we return to the campsite. Dusk has set in and
it is quite chilly. One after another we go in search of the shower. The guides
have a surprise for us: diner is being cooked and we can eat inside for once.
The rest of the evening is enjoyable and Francis is the centre of attention in
it. He teaches some of us how to dance African style. I take the opportunity
this evening to learn the names of the group members by heart. And it is a good
thing I do so because I don’t know a lot of them yet.
16/9 Timau - Sweetwaters Game Reserve
This morning the tasks of the four groups in the camp are
changed for the first time: I become a cook and Ellen has time off. This means
I have to get out of bed early and Ellen has to take the tent apart and store
it by herself.
We leave for Nanyuki at approximately 09.00 am. Once we’re
in Nanyuki people selling fruit and knickknacks flocked toward us. They have a
keen sense for picking out acquisitive tourists. Sharon is their victim. Even
socks serve as a means of exchange and after many bids from both sides the
merchants succeed in selling something. After having put the knickknacks in the
truck we leave for Cunninghams, which is a campsite on private territory near
Nanyuki. From there we drive to Sweetwaters Game Reserve.
We reach the gate of the twenty four thousand acre reserve
by driving two land rovers across dry and dusty roads. We see much wildlife on
these plains on which the Masai once lived. Against the backdrop of Mount
Kenya, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, hartebeests, impalas, Thomson gazelles,
bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants, oryxes, common elands and jackals brave the
heat of the midday sun.
The reserve also has a chimpanzee sanctuary, in which
chimpanzees, mostly with a sad past, are cared for in their natural habitat
which is surrounded by fences with electric wire. In the look-out visitors can read
dismal situations the animals have been rescued. We watch this sight with mixed
feelings. Fortunately, we are cheered up by seven Scandinavian tourists who are
all wearing identical topees and khaki clothes. They put a smile on our face
that the sight of the chimpanzees did not provide. In another part of the park
we pay a short visit to “Blow”, who was the model for the Lion King’s warthog,
Pumbaa. After our visit to “Blow” we go to see a hand reared black rhino. The
twenty-five-year-old rhino is ensconced among the acacia trees. This giant
passes the days of his life under a constant guard and oblivious to constant
This is not the side of Africa which we have enjoyed for
years but it does force you to face the facts about life here. Dusk has already
set in when we go back to Cunninghams. We have a drink around the campfire on
the private territory by the river and go to sleep afterwards.
17/9 Sweetwaters Game Reserve - Bushcamp
We take a bath in the river after breakfast. We don’t wash
very thoroughly be the water is very cold. We leave to travel further into the
north of Kenya according to schedule. We plan to go on a camel safari with
Samburu warriors on Sunday and Monday.
In Nanyuki, Muzza is parked in the same spot as the day
before and once again the merchants know where to find us. Under Karanja’s
supervision Nada, Keth and the two of us get groceries for the coming four
days. Tonight, we’re going to camp wild and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow
we are going on a camel safari, so we have to stock up well. After two hours,
we’ve got everything we need. We put everything in the truck and try to make a
short phone call to the Netherlands. It’s half an hour’s walk to the lodge
where we can phone, fax and e-mail while enjoying a milkshake.
We leave Nanyuki to go to Bobong at 12.30 pm. We don’t
expect we shall reach our destination today so we’ll probably sleep in the
forest tonight. During this afternoon’s ride we hope to come across a lot of
wildlife. In stunning surroundings we spot the first piece of wildlife.
Thomson’s gazelles, zebras and giraffes walk on the side of the road. After a
three-hour-drive we set up camp on the side of the only road to the north.
John, our local guide at Sweetwaters, recommended this place to Prue. We don’t
set up camp until disk because we attract much attention camping directly by
the side of the road.
Far off, a rock formation can be seen. We decide go over to
the formation and climb onto the rocks in order to kill time. That gives us a
chance to gather brushwood for tonight’s campfire. Once we get to the rocks
some of them turn out to be difficult to climb which makes Karla and Ellen
decide to stay on the ground. I reach the top even though at times I have to
conquer my fear and curse my choice to go to the top. The climb was worth the
effort but the thought of having to get down again is already going through my
head. We see three common elands from the top. I stay up on the rock standing
perfectly still and pretending casually to enjoy the view while the others move
down nimbly across the rocks. On the other side of the rock we see giraffes
moving in the distance with a herd of Arabian camels closer by. We see a man on
the road walking in our direction. At the same time we see a hyena walking by
just close to the rocks. The hyena walks toward the road and crosses it in
front of the unsuspecting man. Immediately, we realise that Ellen and Karla are
at the bottom of the rock too and we decide to go back. When I follow the path
my predecessors have made I find out that my anxiety about going down the rock
were unfounded. At the bottom of the rock both ladies are waiting for us,
blissfully unaware of the fact that a hyena just passed by them at a short
The man on the road comes to meet us. It turns out he is the
herdsman of the group of Arabian camels and we accept his invitation to come
and take a closer look. While we’re on our way to the herd the man warns us
that there are a lot of buffalos in this area. We get a dry mouth and have to
swallow hard at this announcement. Once we get to the Arabian camels the
herdsman asks us if we’d like some milk. An Arabian camel who is nursing her
young provides us with some milk and each of us takes a sip. The warm fluids
don’t taste bad at all, but I think it is taking things a bit far to gulp it
down. To the herdsman’s utter amazement, the rest of the group agrees with me.
We are surrounded by Arabian camels and I decide to film one of them. I follow
a young Arabian camel which is passing me by with my view finder. As if by
impulse, it decides to make a ninety degree turn and walk straight toward me. I
completely zoom the camera out. The young Arabian camel walks toward me with
his eyes fixed on the camera just to change its direction when it is a metre
away and slowly walk past me.
Dusk is setting in and the thought of the hyena is still
fresh in our minds. We decide to go back to the truck. On our way back we
gather some brushwood and wash ourselves in a small river that meanders through
the landscape near our camp. Tents are pitched quickly and another lovely meal
is cooked on the campfire. We are visited by two men during our preparations
for diner. Apparently we set up camp on private property on which camping isn’t
allowed. We are allowed to camp here this night because it’s too late to find
another camping spot, but Prue is to inform the other guides that camping isn’t
allowed in this area.
The sun has set and we hear hyenas laughing not too far
away. The zebras also make their presence know to us. After diner we are
gathered around the campfire and are enjoying a nice cool beer when Prue gets
up and walks toward the small river. The light of her flashlight is reflected
in the red eyes of a hyena which is separated from us by the small river and
disappears into the bushes again. Some of us are visibly shaken up by this
incident and shrink from leaving the safety of the tent to go to the bathroom
tonight. After some time everybody hits their sleeping bags. We hear hyenas and
zebras throughout the night.
18/9 Bushcamp - Bobong
We get up at sunrise and nearly the entire group decides to
go for a walk before breakfast is served. Prue is our guide as we try to make
our way through the bushes on the riverbank. We try to make as little noise as
possible despite the size of the group. We succeed in doing this, the result of
which is that we see a bushbuck, a Dik-Dik and several birds. The animals come
to the water to drink at this time of morning. We also find some dried out
buffalo and elephant droppings which indicate that these animals live in this
area. We hear the sound of a car coming toward us and decide to hide in the
bushes because we‘re not sure if we’re allowed to be here. The men in the back
of the car look around. When the car has disappeared we go back to the truck.
By the time we get back, breakfast is ready. After having
had breakfast we break up camp and leave for Bobong. We see giraffes, a Dik-Dik
and a big turtle along the bumpy road. It’s a hot day, so we immediately dive
into the pool once we arrive at the campsite, which is situated on top of a
hill and has a pool with a view on the vast plain ahead. Our two day camel
safari will start here tomorrow. We update our travel logs and relax by the
pool with a drink in our hand. Once again diner is fabulous thanks to Karanja.
After the dishes are washed we dance around the campfire during the flapping
ceremony. The flapping ceremony consists of nothing more than waving the
plates, bowls etc. around so they dry faster. The coming two days will be
tiring which is all the more reason for us to hit our sleeping bags early.
19/9 Bobong - Bushcamp
The preparation for
the camel safari consists of packing the bare essentials. We’re supposed to
take as little luggage with us as possible. The Arabian camels greet us in a
hilarious way while the Samburu warriors strap our luggage on the camels’
backs. Sally is especially frightened by the unwilling Arabian camels. Their
protest involves making a gurgling bleating sound which allows you to look into
the green, slimy mouth which is filled with brown teeth. All in all it’s not a
very appetizing sight.
We leave at approximately 9.30 a.m. We’ve got three Arabian
camels to carry our luggage and eight more to carry us which means there are
two groups which in turn walk or ride on the back of these strong headed
animals. We cross the Laikipia plateau accompanied by Samburu warriors and
armed guides. Wildlife comes close to the group because we’ve got the Arabian
camels with us: groups of zebras and hartebeests lead the way. Later, when the
group has been split in two, we ride by a buffalo standing less than seventy
five metres from us. It’s watching us form under the acacia tree under which
it’s hiding. You’d walk right past it if you weren’t on the alert, but that
wouldn’t be without any risk because unsuspecting passers by are attacked quite
frequently. Fortunately we as a group aren’t an easy target and the buffalo
decides to walk off. When we see hyena and lion paw prints we are al the more
alerted and realise it’s important that we stay together. Shortly after this,
we have our first break near a waterhole. The people who’ve been walking need
their break because it’s hot and the guides keep a steady pace. We have to make
sure we drink plenty of fluids.
We leave again when the other group has taken their places
on the backs of the Arabian camels. The zebras and hartebeests are leading the
way once more. Riding an Arabian camel isn’t particularly comfortable so it
doesn’t take long for my back and bottom to start bothering me. I change
positions regularly and after another hour and a half we get our second break.
We have lunch there at the riverside. We paddle in the river while two young
Samburus spy on us. The heat gives me a sudden nosebleed. Once we traded places
again and leave for our camping spot for the night, some clouds start coming
in. This makes the weather much cooler and the last part of the journey in
which my nose has stopped bleeding more bearable. During the journey, it’s
Sally of all people who is attacked by the Arabian camel which is walking
directly behind her which makes her jump off her own Arabian camel out of fear.
After another two hours, we’ve had it but fortunately that’s the exact moment
we arrive at our camping spot. We stretch a canvas out and make a campfire at a
rapid between a small and a larger waterfall. It’s been an exhaustive day and
Ellen gets her first blisters.
We rest a while by the Ewaso Narok river, which gives us an opportunity
to have a chat. After we had diner most of us decide to go to sleep. We try to
get some rest under the breathtaking starry sky, with our feet only a few
inches away from the river, and wonder what tomorrow will bring us.
20/9 Bushcamp - Bobong
We wake up at sunrise after having slept under a starry sky
with an occasional cloud. We spent the night in the middle of the forest
surrounded by the sound of swirling water. Of course a substantial and healthy
lunch is made here. The protesting Arabian camels are burdened with our luggage
again and then we leave for Bobong. I have blisters on my feet as well, but
since they’re not as bad as Ellen’s it’s better for her to ride the Arabian
camel the entire way back. The entire group has to walk through a mountainous
area, but after we crossed a small river and walked up an incline half of the
people in the group can mount the Arabian camels. We manage to get lost in the
first hundred metres. How on earth can we loose sight of eleven Arabian camels?
Well, you can do so easily in the bush. We find the rest of the group after a
while thanks to Prue´s searching skills. Again, there is much laughter when
half of the group gets on the Arabian camels. We have a long road ahead of us
but maybe we will be as lucky as we were yesterday and we will see much
We do not see much beside a few common duikers ducking away
and some fresh lion and hyena paw prints for the first few kilometres. We take our first break at a hippo pool.
There are fifteen hippos and many photos are taken. We continue our journey
after half an hour. We still do not see much wildlife but after a few more
kilometres we are asked to be quiet because a group of fifty elephants has been
spotted. John leads us around the group of elephants so we can approach them upwind.
We leave the Arabian camels behind and continue on foot. It does not take us
long to hear the first elephant noises. Shortly after this we see them too. We
have to walk around the elephants with a wide berth again because we might find
ourselves downwind otherwise. Further along the road we wait to see what will
happen. John is the first to go out exploring. He returns after ten minutes and
three of us are allowed to follow him. It does not take long before the rest of
the group can follow. John even says we have to hurry because we can see the
elephants cross a path if we hurry. It’s a lovely sight. Again, we try to get in
front of the group of elephants and succeed. Only this time we walk upwind. The
elephants are at a distance of a hundred metres. All of a sudden an elephant
runs out of the bushes at less than fifty metres distance. John makes a sign
which means we have to run away fast. The elephant examines us with spread
ears. After a few seconds the elephant rejoins the group without making any
further threats, so we can watch the group in peace. It’s impressive to see
these giant creatures from this perspective. We go back to the Arabian camels
and have lunch before we go on our way again. We expect to arrive at Bobong in
an hour. Nearly everybody is at the end of their tether. Walking in the heat
and sitting uncomfortably takes its toll.
We see another buffalo and two zebras. The latter are
blocking our path, but decide to let us pass when we’re at a distance of twenty
metres. We count the kilometres, minutes and seconds before we get to our
familiar camp, which we reach with dragging feet. The last fifty metres to the
camp are made up of a steep incline. We brave this barrier too after which we
see the familiar swimming pool and spots in the shade, both of which are used
to full advantage. All physical discomforts suddenly disappear when two ranch
employees offer us cold beers. This is the best beer I ever drank in my entire
life. We would not have wanted to miss these past couple of days even though
our feet are full of blisters and our bodies are terribly stiff. The first
memories are being exchanged by the side of the swimming pool. The main topics
of conversation were our run-in with the elephants and Sally and Lisa’s moments
Karanja offers me a nice cold beer when I’m taking a
delightful shower. It turns out that he himself has had enough of the stuff already.
The beer does not agree with him due to the strain of the last couple of day
and he cannot cook. This means that the cooking crew has to have to exert
themselves once again. Of course, everybody goes to their sleeping bags
immediately after diner.
21/9 Bobong - Lake Baringo
Today, we get up
earlier than normal without to much sore muscles. The only troubles we have to
deal with are sore feet and blisters. Our journey leads us through acacia bush
land. Again, people are waving to us in a friendly way. Slowly but surely, the
landscape gets greener and the soil get its distinctive red colour, which I
always associate with Kenya. We’re heading for Lake Baringo, which is one of
the lakes situated in the Rift Valley with a great variety of birds. Hippos and
crocodiles also live in this protected area. We pass through the gate as if we
were missionaries. The entrance fees are cheap.
Gibraltar Island is situated in Lake Baringo. It’s a quite
hot day which we can feel even better due to the difference in height of two
thousand metres going up to the lake. We camp at campsite Roberts and when we
arrive there I immediately go to the lake. I watch a crocodile which is in the
water together with Kath in tow. We walk along the shore of the lake for a
while being drawn to the sounds of a hippo, a yellow billed stork and a
pelican. All of a sudden a crocodile darts into the water and Kath is so
frightened she grabs hold of me. This only goes to you always have to be on the
alert which we definitely were not at that moment. We take the opportunity to
escape the heat at the campsite bar. It is too warm to do anything so we enjoy
a nice beer. Ellen is not so lucky: she’s part of the cooking crew and still
has to go shop for groceries. A boat trip on the lake is planned somewhere in
the afternoon. It is rescheduled to the end of the afternoon even though we
were advised not to do so because chances at hard winds are higher at the end
of the afternoon. Still, we decide to make the trip at 04.30 pm, for which we
have to pay. Firstly, the sun is low in the sky and shines toward us, which
makes it hard to see much and make photos. After half an hour the wind does
start to blow harder. We see flamingos, spoonbills, kingfishers, hamerkopfs,
crocodiles, fish eagles, hippos, pelicans and other birds which cannot be
identified. We go around the island and the wind keeps increasing in strength.
We are sitting in a long boat and more often than not waves splash over the
edge of the boat. This makes the craziest thoughts go through your head. We do
not see any crocodiles or hippos at this moment, but there are there. We
protect the cameras with our jumpers. The water fiercely beats against the bow,
clouds are gathering and it is starting to get dark. We huddle in the middle of
the lake to protect our cameras and do not take anything in of our
surroundings. Half an hour later we get into one of the lake’s lees. Along the
shore, we see a few big crocodiles and a yawning hippo getting ready to walk
onto the land. The crocodiles are chased back into the water by our guide.
Everything is done to make us as comfortable as possible.
After all of this we are ready to go back to the campsite,
but one of our boats breaks down which again causes quite some commotion at
this dusky time of day. The boat is towed along for the rest of the trip.
However, after five minutes the motor of the boat starts to work again and the
two boats are uncoupled again. The steering man in the boat accelerates to
quickly which makes the rope strung between the boats tighten. The guide in the
other boat just barely manages to get out of the way of the tightening rope and
prevents himself from falling into the water. Despite all this we safely arrive
at the landing place that we left two hour earlier. When we get to the campsite
it turns out that Karanja once again was not able to perform his duties. This
is turning into a problem fro Shaun and Prue. Karanja stayed with friends of
his in the village to make a night of it. Once more the cooking crew do a
terrific job preparing a perfect meal. We spend the evening at the bar playing
Lake Nakuru NP
22/9 Lake Baringo - Lake Nakuru
We leave Roberts campsite at 09.00 am. They tell us a group
of hippos grazed around the tents tonight. We did not notice anything but now
we know that the “camping at own risk” is not put up for nothing. We expect to
arrive at Lake Bogoria in less than an hour. The road is reasonably accessible
and we reach Lake Bogoria National Reserve in less than an hour, as we
At the gate the wardens try to make us pay 2000 Ksh for
taking cameras with us, but that won’t wash. We follow the road until we catch
our first glimpse of the 26,563 acre lake, which is surrounded by hot springs.
It is a pink glimpse because there are millions of flamingos in the lake. The
lake becomes more and more fascinating as we get closer to it and a pungent
odour is in the air. This odour is caused by flamingo droppings, growth of
algae and high temperatures. The pink blur slowly turns into separate
flamingos. The impalas and other animals do not get the attention they deserve
anymore. When we stop the truck at the side of the road for a moment, the
flamingos are treading in the water in order to gather speed and fly off to
another spot. We drive along the lake with pink fringes until we reach the
geysers. We get out of the truck and are able to come quite close to the
flamingos. Many funny moments in turn lead to many photographs. We boil the
eggs for our lunch in one of the puddles next to a hot spring.
We decide to take one of the more difficult routes out of
the park now that our stomachs are filled. It is time to seriously put Muzza
through the test. We drive over a mountain and out of the park over a nearly
inaccessible road. When we reach the summit we take one last look at the pink
lake. We are shaken up quite badly, but it is good to know that our four wheel
drive is up to the task. It is rather hot and we do not have the benefit of a
cool wind because we cannot drive fast. We reach sisal plantations after
driving through hardly uninhabited terrain. It is clear to us that we arrived
in an area which only has plantations in it. Sisal is used to make rope among
other things. We are driving on a tarmac road again when we notice that the
past few hours have taken their toll on Muzza. One of the tires is flat and
needs to be replaced. Just a few moments
after we come to a stand still we are joined by children and workers. Dark
clouds are coming in from a distance and it starts to rain just after we
changed the tire and put the canvas top over the car.
We continue our journey with another hour to go until we
reach Lake Nakuru. Our destination is the Kembu campsite, but first we have to
get some groceries. In Nakuru the first postcards are bought and mailed. We are
surrounded by curio merchants whom we have to keep at bay for an hour. Once we
reach the Kembu campsite it starts to rain again and we quickly put our tents
up. After we pitched the tents we go to the cosy bar. We go and sit by the
hearth with a gin tonic and a beer. The situation with Karanja is discussed
during diner. We do not exactly know what happened, but we are going to give
him one last chance. After diner we play a game of darts while enjoying a
drink. Prue tells us what we are going to do tomorrow during the game. We gladly
go to our tents early in order to be well rested for tomorrow’s day long game
drive. We are supposed to leave at 6 am.
23/9 Lake Nakuru National Park
We leave for Lake Nakuru NP at 6 am, as planned. It is a
twenty five minute drive from the campsite to the National Park. The sun rises
in our first few kilometres. It is still quite chilly. When we drive through
Nakuru, everybody is on their way to school or work. The children
enthusiastically wave at us. While Prue takes care of the formalities, we take
the canvas off the truck so everybody can take a good look around. Lake Nakuru
NP is a 21,744 acre park with a fence around it. White and black rhinos have been reintroduced
into the wild here. Other common animals in the park include Rothschild
giraffes, hippos, waterbucks, reedbucks, impalas, zebras, buffalos and warthogs.
Leopards also live in the park, but you will need much luck to spot one of
them. The largest part of the park is surrounded by steep cliffs. The lake in
the park is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Rift Valley. We have to stop
to let a group of buffalos cross the road just after we get into the park. You
hardly see them when they are in the woods, but now that we are standing still
and take a good look around we spot more and more buffalos that are hiding in
the vegetation. Further along some giraffes are eating leaves of an acacia
tree. We smell rotting flesh. We try to discover its source out of curiosity.
We cannot find anything and go on our way again. We drive through the park clockwise.
We drive through acacia bushes and along euphorbia, which are cactus like
trees. Every now and then we spot some impalas and warthogs, but mostly we see
tourist busses coming toward us. It is lovely to feel the wind on your skin
while you are sitting in a truck with an open roof and in which you
occasionally have to duck for the low acacia branches.
We leave the woodlands and drive toward the lake, where we
see buffalos and zebras. Later, we also spot impalas, Thomson’s gazelles and
more buffalos. In the distance we see another tourist truck standing still. A
grey giant is standing beside the truck. We decide to go to the truck. Two
rhinos are standing far away to our left, but we have set our sights on our
first discovery. We do not regret our decision. We arrive at the place where we
saw the truck and see another rhino stand beside the colossal rhino we first
saw. It is a young rhino that stays close to its mother the entire time. When
the young rhino suckles with its mother, soft moans can be heard from the car.
We count ourselves very lucky. When we drive on we see even more wildlife,
among which two more rhinos each with a young.
We reach a vantage point where we have a stunning view of
the park and have our belated breakfast. The temperature rises as the day draws
on. Apparently the wildlife has hid itself. We drive to the waterfall at the
back of the park where we wait until the worst heat is over. This gives us the
opportunity to lazy about in the grass. Luckily, some clouds come drifting in.
When we drive toward the lake we come through leopard territory. The vultures
in the trees and the air alert us to the presence of a carcass. We closely
watch the area, but this does not do us much good because we are not allowed to
leave the road. Again, we see wildlife that is common to the park. Then all of
a sudden, we see two enormous rhinos standing just by the side of the road.
Their size is very impressive when seen up close. We cannot complain about
rhino sightings: we saw twelve of the sixteen rhinos living in the park. The
day is drawing to a close and it is time to go back to the gate.
Back at the campsite, Karanja has outdone himself. We get an
excellent African meal. Apparently, he wants to use his last chance well. This
evening we go to sleep later than we would normally. We play some games while
enjoying a drink. Tomorrow we have a day off.
24-9 Kembu Campsite
Today we get a chance to rest ourselves. We lie in until 9.30
am which is quite late by our standard. After that we get our baggage from the
truck and start to do our first round of hand-washing. When our clothes are
clean and hanging out to dry, we phone home. We have delicious pancakes with
pieces of banana baked into them for brunch. After brunch we play a game of
badminton and a game of darts. Karla and Ellen are having their legs waxed and
they are not the only women to do so. Hardly any woman passes up on this chance
in Africa. There are many chameleons at the campsite. We did not see any of
them yesterday, but today some of them show themselves during the day.
It is a quiet day, up until the moment Karanja comes to ask
me for some money. It turns out that I am not the only one whom he asked for
money. He could not pay last night’s bill and has to find some money after he
failed at putting the drinks on someone else’s bill. Fortunately the barmaid
did not cooperate with Karanja’s plan and put everything on a separate bill.
Everybody is fed up by Karanja’s behaviour by now. Enough is enough and has to
pack his bags and in front of the entire group his bags are unpacked once more
to see if there are any stolen articles in them. After this is done, Shaun and
Andrew, who is the owner of the campsite, drop Karanja off at a small town four
kilometres away where he has to get on the bus to Nairobi. This series of
events casts a shadow over the day, but it is the only right solution there is.
With a good meal, punch and gin, vodka and African marihuana, we try to lighten
the mood. The alcohol is starting to work which makes some of us extremely cheerful.
All in all it is a good end to a dark day.
25/9 Kembu campsite - Naiberi river campsite
Today, we planned to leave at 10 am. Last night has claimed
its victims. Some of us have a headache, have to vomit or are bothered by
diarrhoea. Last night’s bill is paid literally as well as figuratively. We get
some groceries in Nakuru for the next few days. We drew lots for a dress-up at
the end of our four-week holiday. Everybody has to buy dress-up clothes for the
person on the lot we drew. We try to buy some clothes here in Nakuru because
you never know if you are going to get another chance to do so. All
arrangements are made within an hour.
The road to Eldoret is not spectacular. The journey takes
longer than we planned and many people get some more sleep. We quickly pitch
our tents when we arrive at the campsite so we can enjoy a lovely gin-tonic and
a rum cola. The campsite burned down at Christmas of 1998. The walls are up
again and the roof is covered with plastic. Photos and banner of other in
Overlanders show that this campsite can be a nice place to stay. We eat an
Indonesian meal, after I have bought a shirt made of a Masai robe. We do not
have to cook ourselves. This has nothing to do with Karanja’s departure but
more with the fact that the food at this campsite is very good. After diner, we
shoot some pool and play a game of darts after which we have a vodka challenge.
This means that fifteen people have to drink one bottle of vodka as quickly as
they can. The record is set at 23.41 seconds. After three attempts, it takes us 27.60
seconds. This means we finish at sixth place, which is not good enough for an
honourable mention in the high scores.
26/9 Naiberi river campsite - Mount Elgon NP
We have to make a trip of a few hours to reach today’s
destination. Just before we reach Mount Elgon we pass through Kitale. In our
opinion, the friendliest people in all of Africa live here. When the truck
passes by, nearly all people wave at us. We arrive at the gate of the park at 1
pm. We have to wait quite long before we can go in. Mount Elgon is not visited
as often as other parks by tourists. Mount Elgon is a 41, 816 acre park with
grottos that are visited by elephants and buffalos which eat mineral salts
there. We want to walk to one of the grottos this afternoon. The Ebola virus
allegedly broke out in one of these grottos in the past. At the gate, Prue was
told that it will start to rain in the afternoon, so our trip to the grottos is
moved to tomorrow morning. This gives us enough time to have an extensive lunch
and try to discover wildlife near the campsite by ourselves. We were expressly
told not to wander too far into the park. We reach the place where we will
sleep and are greeted by a group of ten waterbucks. There is much wildlife in
the park: there are at least four hundred bush elephants, waterbucks, giant
forest hogs, leopards, buffalos, baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and
several species of antelope.
After we pitched the tents, Ellen, Beate, Karla and I decide
to go for a short walk. We already feel lost when we are just a few metres into
the forest. We make use of path that animals made. All of a sudden, we hear a
large branch snap, which means that a large animal is close by. We do not see
it but apparently it did see or hear us because we hear it running away fast.
We decide to go back. Once we are back at the campsite, I decide to walk into
the opposite direction for a while. Again, I hear a branch snap, this time high
up in the trees. I once more walk into the bush and I catch a glimpse of a
black and white colobus monkey which is jumping away into the forest. I decide
to wait for a while to see if the animal will return. My patience is not
rewarded. On my way back I see a few baboons. The animals in this park are
shier which can probably be explained by the fact that the park is visited by
so few tourists.
In the meantime clouds have gathered and a thundershower
erupted. We look at photos Prue took on her previous journeys to Africa during
the rain. We also start making preparations for diner. Matt and I go out to
spot wildlife after the shower passed by. The two of us calmly walk together
without making much noise. We see a bushbuck and a waterbuck. The waterbuck
stares at us for a long time but eventually walks into the forest. We go back
to the camp with a sense of satisfaction. Dusk is setting in and Beate, Steve
and I talk about the animals Matt and I came across. Beate got curious because
of my stories, so we set out together to see if we can spot more wildlife. We
do not have to wait long until a large male waterbuck appears. The animal already picked up our scent but it
cannot see us because we are hiding behind a tree. Approximately two hundred
metres further along we see nine female waterbucks. Dusk is setting in fast now
and we decide to return quickly to the camp. When we get back to the campsite,
we just missed the serving of soup, but we do not mind. Our encounter with the
waterbucks was very special. We go to our tents under a marvellous starry sky
with the call of the black and white colobus monkeys lulling us to sleep.
27/9 Mount Elgon NP - Kakamega Forest
The delayed foottrip to the Citum cave and the Makingeni cave
starts today at 9 am. We gobble our breakfasts down and are able to leave
according to schedule because our guides arrive right on time. The group is
quite loud on when we make our way to the caves and we assume that we will not
see much wildlife on this trip. The baboons and black and white colobus monkeys
quickly disappear into the forest once we come closer. We are hiking up Mount
Elgon, which is a steady ascent, when the guide asks us to be quiet. A female
buffalo and her young are standing at a short distance. The rest of the herd
stands at a short distance of the mother and her young at less than twenty five
metres from us. It is a bit scary but we use our time to get the herd on film.
We do not see any more wildlife before we get to the caves,
but the forest is magnificent, which makes the fatigue that is setting in more
bearable. We have to negotiate a stiff climb before we get to the grottos. We
are panting and sweating heavily when we reach the first grotto. It is somewhat
of a miracle that the elephants and buffalos use the same path to get their
minerals from the caves, but their pawprints are proof that they do so. We can
catch our breath in the cool cave. We have to climb again to reach the second
cave. Fatigue is clearly increasing, but a waterfall in front of the grotto and
the view make up for much of the effort even though we are dog-tired. The
guides ask us if we want to go further up, but we decide to go back to the
campsite. The group divides itself in two on the way back. The first group
still hopes to see some wildlife and are not disappointed. We see a waterbuck,
buffalos, a bushbuck, several species of monkeys and a common duiker. So,
despite the chatterboxes in the second group the amount of wildlife we see is
not too bad.
When we reach the campsite, the people who did not go with
us already packed the tents so we can leave almost immediately after lunch. We
hope to reach Kakamega Forest before dark. Once we arrive in Kakamega, we buy
some charcoal by the side of the road. Lisa suffers from diarrhoea and she
needs to go badly, but it is not quiet enough here to squat behind a tree. We
ask children where the lavatory is in Swahili, but when the words “wapi choo”
the children have a laughing fit. However, they do direct us toward the house
of the lady who sold charcoal to us. She
chases the children who run after Lisa away so Lisa can use the lavatory in
peace. We take a left turn on the outskirts of Kakamega and drive down a very
bumpy road with more potholes than level patches. Our campsite is situated at
the edge of Kakamega Forest and is little more than a patch of forest. It does
not amount to much, really. It is warm and damp, which is no surprise since we
are very near the rainforest. We will take a walk through the rainforest
tomorrow. We wonder if it is going to be as exerting as this morning’s hike. In
any case, Ellen will not be joining us because the blisters on her feet have
become quite large.
28/9 Kakamega Forest - Kisumu
We leave at 07.00 am for a trip through the only area with
lowland rainforest that is left in Kenya. The 11,040 acres rainforest is a
remnant of the Congo Basin. Kakamega is the eastern most part of rainforest
where wildlife can still be found and is unique to this part of Kenya. Tourist
do not often visit this beautiful stretch of rainforest surrounded by
plantations which has an average rainfall of 200 millimetres a year. When we leave the campsite we walk straight
into the rainforest where we immediately are witness to a fierce feud between
two blue monkey families. We also meet the agile and shy and black and white
colobus monkeys again, which stay high up in the trees.
We get an extensive talk about the flora and fauna of the
area. There all sorts of medicinal plants: some cure a sore throat, others help
against fever. There are even plants which cure prostate cancer and snakebites.
The pace of the two-hour walk fortunately is not too high, so maybe Ellen could
have joined us even though she has blisters on her feet. At the end of our trip
we spot a large colony of safari ants. These extremely aggressive ants attack
everything that blocks their way. When we get back, it turns out that a second
hike to a lookout point has been planned. I decide to stay with Ellen and
together with Prue and Sharon we prepare lunch for the entire group. When the
others return, they tell us the hike was exhausting, so I do not regret not
coming along at all.
We leave for Lake Victoria. We get two flat tires just
barely after we left the bumpy road just outside of Kakamega. The tires are
changed in a downpour accompanied by thunder. The rain stops just as the
finishing touches to the changing of the tires are made. We arrive in Kisumu in
the middle of the afternoon. Kisumu is situated at Lake Victoria and is the
third largest city of Kenya. The streets of Kisumu are very busy. We take a
detour to Kisumu Beach, where our campsite is located. It is a simple campsite
and we can think of more beautiful places to stay on the shores of Lake Victoria.
This part of the lake is the only one we get to see. Dusk sets in fast and
heavy rains and thunder come in. It is still raining when we go to sleep, but
we hardly notice the rain because we almost immediately fall asleep.
29/9 Kisumu - Lake Naivasha
We leave Lake Victoria behind us at 6 am. We go to Lake
Naivasha via Nakuru. The sun is just rising when we drive out of Kisumu. The
scenery is varied. We pass by hills, tea plantations and lakes. In Nakuru, we
get groceries for the upcoming days and buy some knick knacks to boot. The
negotiations are conducted slowly, but with much humour. They eventually result
in the purchase of a leather bag and two bookends. We still have twenty eight
miles to go to Lake Naivasha.
We arrive at Fisherman’s campsite at about 3.30 pm. Another
downpour breaks out just before we reach Naivasha, but fortunately we manage to
get the canvas over Muzza in the nick of time. Prue and Shaun, who were in
front of us, were not as lucky and they are soaked when they get out of the
truck at the campsite. Fisherman’s campsite is an excellent site to stay at for
the upcoming three nights. It is well-maintained and perfectly situated at the
shore of the Naivasha lake, which is situated just a few metres from our tents.
The only thing which separates us from the hippos is an electric wire. This
campsite will be the starting point of our trips to Elsamere, Cresent Island
and Hell’s Gate National Park. We have diner and a drink in the cosy bar.
Tomorrow we will visit Elsamere and Crescent Island.
30/9 Lake Naivasha (Crescent Island and Elsamere)
After giving some thought to our program, we decide to visit
Crescent Island in the morning. We rent a boat and go to the island, which is inhabited
by giraffes, impalas, Thomson’s gazelles and wildebeest, along the shore of the
lake. Along the lake’s shore, the reedy border of the lake holds a variety of birds.
We see reed cormorants, African fish-eagles, kingfishers, pelicans, a few
flamingos and a hippo.
We can already see the first giraffes as we get closer to
the island. Once we get out of the boat, we can come very close to the animals
because they are used to humans and because there are no predators on the
island. We immediately come across giraffes after our arrival. There is little
more than ten metres between us and these lovely animals. Some of them just
stay put with their young by their side while others stare curiously at the
group. Many photographs are taken because it is so much fun to see the giraffes
going about their daily business. We walk around the island in this way for a
while and everywhere we go the animals are not shy at all. We are glad that we
chose to spend the morning in this way. The people who stayed at the campsite
are really missing out. This trip is really worthwhile, unlike the boat trip we
took on Lake Baringo.
In the afternoon, we visit Elsamere, which is the final
resting place of Joy Adamson. Together with her husband, George, she fought to
protect animals across the globe but especially in Kenya. One of her most
famous books is about the lioness Elsa. We watch a video documentary about her
life and enjoy a genuinely English afternoon tea. The conservation centre is
situated at a marvellous place, an acacia forest right at Lake Naivasha. She
described the search for her home like this “For years I had been looking for a
house where George and I could live. Eventually I found a place that seemed to
combine all we wished for. It would be impossible to imagine a more attractive
site for a home. We decided to call our home Elsamere.” Unfortunately, Adamson
was not able to enjoy the perfect view for long because she died shortly after
she and her husband bought the house. The garden is still visited daily by
black and white colobus monkeys as it was when Joy Adamson still was able to
enjoy all of this herself. On our way back we book bicycles for tomorrow when
we will pay a visit to Hell’s Gate National Park.
Hell's Gate NP
1/10 Hell’s Gate National Park
We get on our bikes at 8.30 am, and not at 8.00 am as we
planned, to go to Hell’s Gate National Park. Children wave at us as we make our
way to Hell’s Gate NP. The park is situated at three kilometres from our
campsite and it is one of the few national parks in which you can hike or cycle
without a guide, even though there are buffalos, cheetahs and hyenas about. The
wardens at the gate want to know what the identification number of my passport
is. I do not know it by heart, but when they ask me if I really do not know it
and say I have to fill it in on the form I answer “well I do know it now” and
fill in a number at random. The wardens have a good laugh about my behaviour
but the way I handled it suits them just fine, so after dealing with these mock
formalities we can go on our way.
When you enter the park you immediately see Fischer’s Tower,
which is a tower of rocks created by a volcanic eruption. Somewhat further
along we see zebras, warthogs and hartebeests walk by. Beate, Karla, Ellen and
I decide to go in the direction of these animals while the rest of the group
cycles straight ahead. After we passed the zebras, warthogs and hartebeests, we
see hyena trails. We decide to get off our bikes and walk for a while. We
cannot come as close to these animals as we could to the ones that we
encountered yesterday. It is quite a special experience to be cycling among
wildlife. Fatigue is starting to take its toll, but still Beate and I decide to
go to a look-out while Ellen and Karla will go to Fischer’s Tower, where we
will meet them again.
Once our small group is complete we continue on our way
under the watchful eye of zebras, hartebeests and giraffes. When we come to a
fork in the road we decide to take the left-hand side. The landscape changes
and we decide to follow the tracks of other cyclists. Exhaustion is beginning
to really set in and we follow the track until we reach the next fork, which
turns out to not be on the map. We do not discover this until later after we
negotiated some particularly nasty inclines, and by that time we want to get
back to the exit as soon as possible. However, the road back is terribly tiring
and we rest for a while at the gate of the park. We hop back on our cycles
after a quarter of an hour to complete the last stage of our trip which,
according to the gatekeeper, was another seven kilometres. This is a tarmac road but it still has
inclines. After a while, we get to a second gate which turns out to be the main
entrance of the park. Before we reach the second gate we see giraffes and
zebras cross the road which makes up for a lot. We still have three kilometres
to go which we struggle to cover. After nearly overheating and thinking three
times that we negotiated the last incline we finally reach the campsite. When
we get there, Nada, who left the group, is the only one who has already
returned. We immediately head to the bar to have a cola and a beer. We feel
much better after a refreshing shower and while Ellen starts diner I go to the
bar to get my level of fluids up. Slowly but surely, everyone is starting to
trickle into the campsite each of them with different stories about what they
did today. After diner, we go directly to the bar and we decide to go to the
tents at 8.30 pm to catch up on our lack of sleep.
2/10 Naivasha - Masai Mara
Today we are leaving for the Masai Mara at 7.00 am. We slept
well last night, despite yesterday’s physical exertion. I woke up for a short
while because of a cramp in my hamstring. We leave Naivasha in full career and
after we passed through Narok, the landscape changes and the first contours of
the Masai Mara come into sight. Beside some members of the Masai people we see
wildebeests, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles.
Before we reach the gate of the Masai Mara, we visit a Masai
village, which unfortunately is too commercially oriented. Maybe we as tourists
are to blame for this development. Still, we make some photographs although the
commercial atmosphere puts a blot on the picture. We do not stay in the village
for long and soon we reach the gate of the Masai Mara. We use the opportunity
to take a game drive as we make our way to the Riverside campsite. We see
wildebeests, zebras, impalas, hartebeests, warthogs, topis, elephants, giraffes
and many more animals. After the worst heat of the day is over and the tents
are pitched, we make another game drive in the evening. Prue will not be
joining us because she has a bout of malaria. Before we leave, we make
arrangements for a hot air balloon flight. There are just two places left on
the flight so we try to find another balloonist. We will find out if all went
well when we get back from our game drive. We do have much luck with our search
for wildlife. However, we have to be patient in order to see big wildlife.
After driving around for a while we see common wildlife. Less common for
tourists is the sight of mating zebras and that of a young elephant playing
with its trunk. Later on we pass by hyenas and reach a group of cars where we see
two cheetahs coming toward us by walking among the cars. It is a pity that
twenty cars are blocking our view, but that is typical of the Masai Mara. We
have a short moment to take pictures and make video recordings. A funny sight
is provided by a cheetah which jumps on the spare tyre of one of the cars. The
people in the car plunge into the car out of fear. We watch this scene for a
while but then to decide to go on. The day is drawing to a close and we decide
to head back to the campsite. The sunset is absolutely splendid. We see four
hyenas, buffalos and wildebeests, which are abundant in the park, zebras and
the animals which I mentioned before.
Once we get back, it turns out that no more than two persons
can make a hot air balloon flight the next morning which means that we have to
draw lots. Beate and Ellen are the lucky ones, but Ellen lets me go in her
place. The rest of the group will be going on a game drive. We leave at 5.30 am
tomorrow morning so we hit the hay early. This does not do us a lot of good
though, because four Englishmen make such a racket that we cannot get to sleep
until 2.00 am.
3/10 Masai Mara - Nairobi
James wakes us up at 5.00 am. We quickly freshen up, have a
cup of coffee and got o the balloon. Before we leave, we hear that another
person in our group can join us because someone has dropped out. Lots are drawn
again and this time Matt is the lucky one. We go up in the balloon at sunrise.
We do not see the wildlife we saw yesterday, at first, but later on we see Thomson’s
gazelles, topis and elephants. Apparently, the big herds of wildebeests and
zebras have disappeared because the migration to the Serengeti is nearly over.
It is a wonderful experience to see the animals from another angle while you
are floating above the plains and narrow rivers. Slowly but surely, the
giraffes, hyenas and zebras are starting to come out of their hiding places as
well. The hot air balloon flight takes about an hour and a half. A quarter of
an hour before we land, we see an enormous herd of wildebeest walking to the
Mara river where they will cross over into the Serengeti where the impending
rain will provide for them. It is a spectacular sight to see the herd disperses
because the sound of the burner of the balloon startles them and see them become
one groups again after the balloon floats away.
We are also nearing the Mara river where vultures and marabou
storks wait for us. After floating over a few bends of the river, we land at
one bend where we are witness to just how chaotic the crossing of the river by
the herd of wildebeests must have been. The dead bodies of several wildebeests
are floating in the river. The vultures and marabou storks feast on the pungent
flesh. The crocodiles lie well-fed among the carrion. At the moment we see this
scene, tables are being set for a champagne buffet. It is a somewhat strange
and unreal experience to see the champagne, scrambled eggs with vegetables,
bacon, pancakes, white beans, sausages and rolls displayed on the table. The
buffet ends with a cup of coffee or, for some, a bloody Mary or a gin tonic.
After all of this, we go on a game drive to end the morning,
but we do not see much. The sighting of some cheetahs is one of the highlights
of the game drive. When we get back to the starting point of our trip the rest
of the group picks us up and we go on our way to Nairobi. When we drive out of
the Masai Mara we use the opportunity to make a final game drive. We see the
common wildlife and two hyenas. So we have not seen any lions in the Masai
Mara. Can this be true? It seems as if the lions are at our beck and call,
because we see a lioness just before we drive through the gate. She only has
eyes for a few zebras, but she decides to walk and walk toward our truck away
after assessing her chances.
We leave the Masai Mara for Nairobi. On our way there we buy
a heavy and big statue of a Masai couple, carved out of beautiful wood. The
merchant drives a hard bargain but still it is fun to do. I manage to get the
initial price of $600 to drop to under $100, not in the last place because the
owner needs money quickly. It is a game in which I occasionally walk off and
say that I am afraid we will not reach an agreement. At one point, I am already
standing at the truck ready to get in with the motor running again, when the
merchant comes and grabs me by the shoulder and asks me to come into the shop one
last time. The merchant tells me that I drive a hard bargain and that his boss
will not be pleased, but he does wrap the statue. Now we have to drag along
twenty kilos for some days to come. We get into the truck being pleased with
our asset and knowing that the statue would not have been sold if the price had
been to low. We arrive in Nairobi at 5.00 pm and have a lovely meal at a
campsite with a Dutch manager. Tomorrow we will leave for Arusha at 8.00 am.
4/10 Nairobi - Arusha
We leave for the Tanzanian border after a good night’s
sleep. The estimated arrival time is 4.00 pm. We reach the border at 1.00 pm
where Masai women badger us in order to sell their knick-knacks. They start out
with offering to trade their merchandise for T-shirts, pets and pens, but you
still have to pay when you accept the offer. We quickly dispense with the
formalities at the border after which we see a big mountain in the distance. We
arrive in Arusha at approximately 4.00 pm, after having stopped for lunch. Now
we are in Arusha, it is time to quickly get some essential groceries, but first
we have to book our return trip to Nairobi on the Arusha – Nairobi shuttle.
Then it is time to get some more bric-a-brac: Masai sandals and a wooden bowl.
When we get back to Muzza, Prue asks us if anyone would
volunteer to get some groceries for the group at the supermarket. Steve and I sign
up. When Prue walks into the supermarket after a few minutes we do not even
have half of what we had on our shopping list because some items have to be
brought in from other shops. When all our groceries have been brought in, we
pay. The boss orders the clerks to put the groceries into the truck because of
the bulk of it and because of the amount of money we spent. When we get outside
everything is neatly stacked into a mini van with the words “Church for a
Mission” on the sides. Steve, Prue, I get in the back and assume we will be
taken to our own truck. When we have waited for quite some time, we ask the
clerk when the driver is coming in. He answers that he thought this was our van.
So there we are, sitting in someone else’s truck with three days’ worth of food
for seventeen persons. Then a man walks up to the van who says he has to mind
the van. The owner of the van is in a shop further down the road. So, we have
to unload all our groceries under the watchful eye of the shop staff. All
parties involved have a hearty laugh about the situation. The owner of the car
did not notice that anything out of the ordinary happened to his car, which is
probably just as well because a large amount of liquor in a van whit the
imprint “Church for a Mission” is odd to say the least. It is already 6.00 pm
when we are ready to go to the Snakepark campsite. This evening we will stay up
until midnight and drink to Steve on his birthday.
5/10 Arusha - Serengeti NP
Today we leave for the Serengeti, but first we have a good
lie-in and eat breakfast in peace and quiet. Some of us are going to do some
shopping in Arusha. Together with Steve and Karla, Ellen and I are going to get
a nice cup of coffee at the bar. The campsite has a small park with crocodiles,
snakes, other reptiles and birds of prey. We finish our cup of coffee and have
a look in the park. We hear during the morning that Prue has gone to hospital
to have her malaria treated, so she will not be joining us in the Serengeti.
When the group is together again, we hear that Shannon’s purse has been stolen.
She had much cash money and cheques in it. We leave for the Serengeti after
everything is packed into the truck and Shannon made the necessary
The road is much better than it was two years ago. We set up
camp just before we reach the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The campsite where
we sleep is situated in a small village. The houses are covered in red dust
which is blown up into the air by the cars that pass by the village. I go into
the village together with Sheryl, Steve and Beate. The ladies heared that they
can buy sarongs here for only two thousand Tanzanian shillings.
6/10 Serengeti NP
We leave early in the morning today. After a short drive we
reach the gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The sky is rather overcast
and the only view we have at the top of the crater is that of the clouds.
Later, when we descend form the crater on the side of the Serengeti, the sun
shows itself again and immediately does its work. The weather gets much warmer.
We arrive ahead of schedule and plan to go into the park at 2.00 pm. So we can
make use of our permit, which is valid for twenty-four hours, to make a long
game drive tomorrow morning. Besides that we probably will not see much
wildlife in the hottest part of the day, so we first visit Olduvai Gorge where
three-million-year old human and animal remains have been found. Many of the
animals that were found are extinct, but they are relatives of the elephant,
buffalo and other animals. After spending an hour in the museum we go to
Swifting Sand, which is a lava sand dune that moves fifteen to twenty metres a
year. We reach the Serengeti gate at 2.00 pm. We make a game drive before we
pitch our tents at dusk. We have fond memories of the Serengeti. After we had
lunch and dealt with the formalities at the gate, we go to a look out from
which you have a marvellous view of the plains of the park. The Serengeti is a
14, 763 square kilometre park and also interconnects to the surrounding parks.
At the moment the park is very dry and dusty and the grass that remains in it
is withered and yellow.
We first see Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles followed by
topis, warthogs and a lion. Further down the road, a hyena quickly gets out of
our way and two giraffes are peacefully eating acacia leaves. The closer we get
to the Seronera Area, the more wildlife we see. We can add hartebeests, zebras,
elephants and other animals to our list. While we are watching the elephants, a
leopard darts across the road. We shift our attention just in time to see it
disappear among the bushes. Now it is time for us to go to Seronera Lodge where
a hot air balloon flight over the plains of the Serengeti will be booked for
Karla and Nada, who could not go on the flight in the Masai Mara. Dark clouds
are coming in and the darkness is setting in fast, so we decide to go back to
the campsite. Over night in the wild starts with a hot meal. We hear the sounds
of lions and hyenas and wonder if we are in for a quiet night or not.
7/10 Serengeti NP - Ngorongoro Crater
We wake up at 5.30 am after a good night’s sleep in which we
were occasionally woken up by the sounds of hyenas and lions. We have a simple
breakfast and we leave at 6.45 am for a game drive that will last until 2.00
pm. Initially, the amount of wildlife we see is small. Does this mean that we
were extremely lucky last year? We rarely see zebras and other common wildlife.
After driving to and fro for a while we reach an open space.
Then, all of a sudden we see a group of more than twenty hyenas of all sizes
and ages. One is chewing on a zebra’s head, the other on a zebra’s leg. The
young hyenas play with each other one moment and are at each other’s throats
another. There is much activity around our truck. One hyena is munching off a
skull and keeps competition at bay. Another hyena is curious and comes to
investigate what is going on around the truck at a distance of less than two
metres. This scene is the beginning of an exceptional morning.
Shortly after this, we spot a herd of elephants, which again
consists of animals of all sizes and ages and which brims with activity. A
young elephant follows his mother whilst suckling. Two adolescent elephants are
having a stand-off while a very young elephants is trying to get control over
its trunk. The herd comes ever closer. At a certain point we even have to get
back a little because one of the young elephants is very curious and comes so
close to Muzza that we can nearly touch it. The herd crosses the dirt road in
single file. Our driver is talking to his colleague in the other car. This
raising of voices alerts a grown elephant which charges toward the car. She
stops its attack just in front of the car with its ears spread. We take due
warning. We see the last elephant of the herd cross the road while we wait
until the elephant will let us through. We drive along for a while until Ellen
spots four lions. There are off in the distance but it is clear that they are
following each other in single file. We put our foot down and approach the
lions. Some Thomson’s gazelles are watching the lions from the rear, in a way
which makes it clear for us that they know the lions will not attack them.
After following the lions and gazelles for a while, we set off on our own way
again. After about five minutes, we see a cheetah walk along the water. We go
to a place where we have a better view of the animal when a lion menacingly
draws near to the cheetah. The cheetah sees the lion and keeps its distance.
These animals are each other’s rivals and if the lion has the chance to kill
the cheetah it will certainly not pass up on the chance to do so. The lion is
still threatening the cheetah who makes a run for its money and disappears.
Now, the lion, which is looking for food, walks past the truck to a flock of
vultures which he chases away after which he sees to the disposal of the carrion.
Not much was left of it because the lion almost immediately is on the look out
for some more food. We use this moment to carry on with our game drive.
We see three lions further along the road: two adult males
with beautifully full manes and a female. One of the males lies by a tree,
apart from the other two, and we see why when we wait for a while: the other
two lions are mating. It is the first time we are privileged enough to witness
this scene. On the first day of mating, the lions mate every five minutes, on
the last day they do so every ten minutes. We get to see the lions mate three
times while the other lion is watching and probably biding his time.
After observing this spectacle, we leave for Seronera Lodge to
pick up the people who went on the hot air balloon flight. The time of
departure from the park draws ever nearer. We use the time we have left to spot
some more wildlife. Again, we see a lion which spies on Thomson’s gazelles and
zebras as they are drinking at the waterhole. A crocodile is in the water and
is within striking distance. The animals are frightened and keep on running
away to return hesitantly for another sip. All of a sudden, the lion attacks at
a moment that was unexpected for us because the animals stood closer to the
lion earlier on. It is spectacular sight to see the lion chase its prey.
However, the result for the lion is unsatisfactory. We drive on to the gate and
see a leopard in a far off tree. Last time we were also lucky enough to see a
leopard in tree, but then we stood right in front of the tree. A cheetah chases
its prey far behind the tree, but this hunt is unsuccessful too. Once again,
our trip through the Serengeti was a success.
It is nearly 2.00 pm and we are coming closer to the gate.
We see lions basking in the sun on a kopje just before we leave the park. This
makes for a suitable farewell to a beautiful National Park where we saw much
wildlife despite the drought and the lack of large herds of animals. We have
lunch near the gate and go on our way to Ngorongoro crater. We hope to witness
more memorable scenes in the crater. It will be hard to find a day to match
this one. We sleep on the edge of the crater. A warm day and night are followed
by a cold day and night.
8/10 Ngorongoro Crater- Tarangire NP
We awake early on Ellen’s birthday after sleeping in the
cold on the lips of the crater. We descend the crater wall at 7.00 am. It is
still chilly when we reach the bottom of the crater. We can immediately see
that the water level of the crater lake is higher than it was two years ago.
Flamingos walk along the water’s edge. We make a right turn into the acacia bush
while Thomson’s gazelles run to the open plain.
Further along the road we see two rhinos in the reed. They
are not clearly visible but their heads and rump stick out of the fringe of
reeds, which is dancing in the wind. At the same moment a lioness and her cub
appear at the other side of the truck. It is difficult to choose at which side
to watch the wildlife. When we reach the edge of the bush we see an elephant
with enormous tusks at the left hand side of the road. We admire the giant from
a distance of less than ten metres as he eats off an acacia tree.
We pass by vervet monkeys, hyenas, jackals, lions, zebras
and most of the common sorts of antelopes. We are obviously in more luck than
at our last visit to the crater. We drive along the lake’s edge and see how a
jackal chases off a hyena. We also see a hippo surrounded by flamingos. We go
on our way to the back of the crater. After we passed by a large herd of
wildebeests we see a hyena munch on something and spot some lions lazing about on
a rock. After these encounters we see less wildlife.
We take a break by a secluded stream. Some of us go and sit
under a tree to eat when they are suddenly attacked by a few black kites. The
birds of prey hover over the picknickers to go on and swoop down in order to
take the sandwich from the picknickers’ hands. Now that we are convinced that
this is not a good spot to have lunch, we leave for the acacia bush. A gigantic
elephant with enormous tusks comes walking toward us just before we reach the
bush. Its tusks are the biggest tusks we saw in all the three years we went to
Africa. It is an impressive sight. It is time to have lunch. We prepare some
rolls in an open space in the bush. It does not take long for the vervet
monkeys to pay us a visit. We try to ward them off when they get to close, but
they do not accept this and regularly launch an attack on us. This means we do
not get a chance to sit quietly.
When we ascend the crater wall to leave we have a lovely
view of the crater. We set off to Tarangire NP and stop at a few tourist shops
on our way to the park. Prices of knick-knacks have sky rocketed in this area
due to the many American tourist who visit this area, so it is no use trying to
bargain here. When we reach Arusha we take a right to Tarangire NP. We meet
Prue again at the campsite near the park where we will be spending the night.
It is good to see her safe and well. We celebrate the reunion and the birthdays
of the last few days.
9/10 Tarangire NP - Arusha
We leave for Tarangire NP at 6.00 am. We were told that it
is a beautiful park where all animals, except the rhino, live so we are very
curious to see which animals we will spot. When we arrive at the park, we have
to wait a short while for the boss to arrive. After ten minutes we can enter
the park. The scenery is indeed marvellous. We see our first elephant walking
in the distance, which seems to be uneasy. The animal passes by while
protesting loudly and spreading its ears. Later on, we see giraffes having
breakfast by the side of the road. During our drive we see lion pawprints, so
we watch the surroundings extra carefully. We see waterbucks, zebras and many
birds. We make a game drive of two hours in the 642.460 acre park that is known
for its large elephant population and great amount of baobab trees.
We have breakfast in the truck near a partly dried up river.
Shaun, Prue and Ed make breakfast. The roll I get has so much peanut butter on
it that it takes some effort for me to eat it. We have to stay in the truck and
can only leave Muzza for a short visit to the bathroom. We go on after
Unfortunately the lions remain hidden but we do get to feast
our eyes on the elephants. We greatly enjoy our game drive, despite the fact
that we do not see any big cats. Around noon time, we stop at a lodge for
coffee. From the terrace, we have a lovely view of the plain which is full of
wildlife flocking to the river to drink. We use this stop to catch up on our
lack of sleep caused by us getting up early. After everyone has assembled at
the truck, we leave fo0r Arusha to go and pitch our tents at the familiar
Snakepark campsite. This will be our last night in a tent this year. We will
take the shuttle to Nairobi tomorrow. The evening will be devoted to the
dress-up party which I mentioned before. We dress up and have diner in a
restaurant and a drink at the bar. Ellen and I do not stay up late because we
are both exhausted.
10/10 Arusha - Nairobi
We leave Snakepark early to go to Arusha. After a short but
emotional farewell we leave the travellers who make a ten week journey. We have
a good trip by shuttle to Nairobi and arrive at the boulevard hotel there at
the beginning of the afternoon. In the shuttle, most of us have caught up on
our lack of sleep. After we checked in, we have a bite to eat at a restaurant
at the pool. We use the rest of the day to arrange our luggage better.
Tonight we will be going to the Carnivore, which may be the
most famous restaurant in the whole of Africa. We enjoy an excellent meal,
especially the meat. Hartebeest, zebra and more wildlife is served at a great
We go home in a dilapidated taxi. We hear the bottom of the
car scrape against the tarmac every time we hit a bump in the road. We get to
the hotel without having an accident and go to bed.
Today is all about getting through the day, which we try to
do by playing tennis at the tennis court of the hotel. Steve and Nicole are our
adversaries. We try to keep the ball in the court despite its dingy appearance
and the handicap of having tennis rackets which have been nearly sawed in half.
We say goodbye to Beate at the end of the morning, because she will be flying
home sooner than we will. In the afternoon, we go shopping in the vicinity of
the hotel. It takes us a few hours to buy some knick knacks and bags made out
of baobab bark. The bargaining is so much fun that time flies by. Apart from
this, this day is a quiet one on which we occasionally wish we were already
home. Then finally, it is time to go to the airport. We hope that we will not
have any trouble getting the twenty kilo statue through customs. Fortunately,
the formalities at customs do not cause any problems and the statue is stored
in the luggage department of the KLM staff.
We have a good flight and land at Schiphol airport after six hours. It is
prohibited to land before 6.00 am so as not to cause noise nuisance. We say
goodbye to Karla after we collected our luggage. This leaves her just enough
time to catch the train to Brussels. We drink a cup of coffee to our farewell
together with Nicole. This is the end of our third African adventure which
lasted for four weeks and in which we saw and experienced many new things.
Despite the fact that we still want to go back and see the gorillas, we did not
feel like we missed out on something for one moment during the trip. So that is
a god sign.
This travelogue is translated by Mijke
van de Wiel
| Mijke van de Wiel
|| Mijke has a bachelor digree
|| American literature