Kenya certainly put the weather on for Lindsey this week! December is supposed to be a dry spell between the short rains and the long rains, but these days who wants to be involved in predicting weather?!
So it was a showery Sunday morning when Lindsey flew into Nairobi. Since the arrivals terminal burnt down in August, the interim measure means those waiting for passengers must stand outside. Once the rain starts however, the security guards move us inside. Then we are moved outside again when the rain stops….and inside once more when it starts raining again. Amidst this mess of people moving in and out are passengers trying to exit and/or find the sign with their name on it!
While Francis waited with the sign, I went looking in case she had come out while we were being herded to and fro. While asking one girl who appeared to fit the profile (Australian, late 20s, female), behind her popped up “I’m Lindsey.” So the first challenge of the day was solved: found the guest!
We were heading straight to Lake Nakuru National Park, but first needed a breakfast stop. Foolishly forgetting that is was Sunday, we also planned on exchanging money and going to the supermarket while at Village Market at 8.30am! We did succeed in getting breakfast, but the rest would have to wait.
As we drove through Limuru to the Rift Valley escarpment we were tempted by the vibrant colours of the apples, plums and (we suspect) rhubarb…. that is until we caught up with a truck belching exhaust over each fruit stand as it passed!
We made the obligatory stop at the lookout over the Great Rift Valley before getting to Nakuru. After dropping the admin assistant (me!) in town, Francis and Lindsey headed straight into the park.
What a treat for one’s first day on African soil! Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its rhino population and, unbeknownst to us, rhinos are Lindsey’s favourite animal! There was even a baby rhino. Plenty of flamingos were in the lake and close to the shore too. Giraffes were gracefully fighting – they swing their necks around to crash into each other. It almost looks like a dance as it is quite a slow movement, albeit with a hefty thud. They even saw a kill! A lilac-breasted roller took on a grasshopper and won.
The next day we drove the short distance to Lake Naivasha. After a traditional Kenyan lunch of beef stew, mung beans and chapatti, we continued around to Lake Oloiden, a small soda lake adjacent to fresh water Naivasha. More flamingos, plenty of hippos and many varieties of birds detracted from the drizzly weather.
We took Lindsey to our favourite pub for dinner for another traditional Kenyan meal: nyama choma, literally translates to BBQ meat. We enjoyed roast potatoes, mukimo (mashed potato with maize kernels and finely chopped kale mixed through), kachumbari (tomato and onion salad) and of course a cold Tusker, Kenya’s national beer.
On Tuesday morning we picked up local guide Mwangi and went to Wileli Conservancy for a walking safari. With so few predators, the conservancy is one of the few places in Kenya were you can be with the animals on foot. As they walked, Mwangi and Lindsey found themselves in the middle of a huge herd of giraffes! Who was looking at who now?
I joined Lindsey and Mwangi on what was to be a village walk, but became quite the hike. It’s school holidays, so children were everywhere and before long we were starting to feel like the Pied Pipers of Naivasha with our entourage chanting “How are you! How are you!” (Note that it’s not a question.) We climbed up a mountain on the other side of the village for a spectacular view over the lake, flower farms and Maasai villages dotting the hillsides.
Wednesday took us to the Maasai Mara, the trip’s grand finale. About an hour after Francis and Lindsey left for the afternoon game drive it started bucketing down with rain. At camp, we watched nervously as the river rose wondering if the tents would be washed away. I also quietly prayed that Francis wouldn’t get bogged! When they returned from the park safely, they were full of stories of seeing many other vehicles stuck in the mud (usually due to going off road in pursuit of animals, which is illegal so I’ll put it down to karma). But also stories of seeing a lion, a cheetah and more giraffes.
Yesterday Francis took Lindsey for a full day in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. And finally Lindsey had some luck with the weather – no rain all day! Some of the vehicles that were stuck the day before were still there, but the main highlight of the day was stumbling across a lion and lioness on their honeymoon. At the Mara River there was a newly-born hippo who had only arrived that morning. In fact baby animals seemed to be a theme for the day with baby elephants, a baby hyena and a very anxious Blacksmith Plover defending her nest … which she had built in the middle of the road. Towards the end of the day they even saw a Serval cat! I was quite jealous of that as I’ve never seen one.
This morning they went on one final game drive before visiting the village of Kimaru, a Maasai who works at Mara Explorers Camp where we were staying. The Maasai are fiercely proud of their culture and hold on to their traditional way of life in the face of globalisation and modernisation.
And so now we return to Nairobi for Lindsey to continue her African adventure to the south of the continent. It’s been quite a big week of wildlife and she has many more opportunities to see the magnificence of Africa over the next six weeks of her travels. Safari njema Lindsey and Asante sana for visiting us!