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Maasai Mara with the Girls

Maasai Mara with the Girls

After three of my girlfriends asked me separately if we had any trips going to Maasai Mara they could join, it only made sense to make a group trip for all of them.  What fun – a girly weekend safari!  And miracle of miracles, we found a weekend that everyone was free!

Marion flew in from Kigali for the safari, the rest of us are expats in Nairobi.  Michelle took an extra day off work for a truly decadent holiday and flew to the Maasai Mara on Thursday while the rest of us slummed it on the road on Friday.  Unfortunately that road doesn’t improve, but an emergency chocolate biscuit stop in Narok saw us through to Sekanani Gate.

It’s been several months since I did a game drive in Maasai Mara and I always get the feeling that Francis only sees the good stuff when I’m not with him.  But the afternoon game drive around to our camp was incredible!  We saw a cheetah, elephants, giraffes, and two lion couples on a double date.  Of course there were also topis, impalas and gazelles galore.

On Saturday morning we headed out with picnic breakfast for an early morning game drive.  One highlight was a couple of lionesses prowling through the bushes with their eyes on a herd of wildebeest.  But we probably spent more time watching a group of young hyenas playing in a river with a stick.  Just like domestic puppies, they gambolled in and out of the water fighting for the all-important branch.

We headed up to the airstrip at Keekorok for breakfast and on our way spotted a group of four Ground Hornbills.  Michelle had told us that she had an all female crew on her flight to Maasai Mara and just as we were expressing our delight at this leap forward for Kenya, a flight landed which again had two female pilots, different to Thursday’s crew, indicating Air Kenya’s great support for females in a male-dominated industry.  Way to go Air Kenya!

We returned to the camp for lunch by the river and a short period to relax before heading out again for the afternoon.  Zebras bathing in a dust bowl and Celia’s quest for the perfect baby zebra photo marked this game drive.  As did the rain!  But first we spotted a cheetah munching on a recently-hunted gazelle and then a very large group of ostriches.  We could see the rain ahead of us and realised we were heading straight for it, but there was no avoiding that – the camp was there!  And down it came.  Marion relished the fresh air, the strong wind and the first drops for as long as possible, but eventually was driven down and the roof closed.  Living in a city like Nairobi really makes a person appreciate the fresh air of the bush and we were all left revitalised after this weekend away.

On Sunday we had to head back however.  Marion and Celia again drove with us, while Michelle took an afternoon flight.  Not surprisingly, we didn’t see Michelle in the morning before we left.  As we drove over the bridge into the park we saw just how much rain had fallen the day before.  The almost-dry river had become a raging torrent.  If there had been much more rain, the bridge could have been washed away!  We had a final game drive before exiting the park and commencing the long drive back to Nairobi.  Meanwhile Michelle relaxed for the morning, had a late breakfast, and then got to enjoy a cocktail at one of the very fancy camps from where she was taking her plane back home.  We arrived home at the same time, but I don’t think I need to say whose travelling day I would prefer next time!

A 10 Day Safari with 16 Photographers

A 10 Day Safari with 16 Photographers

The message came the evening before that their flight was delayed by seven hours.  Initially I felt relief at not having to be at the airport at 5am.  But as I considered the impact to the whole itinerary, 5am became a much better proposition.  However, there wasn’t much to do but succumb to the whim of the airlines and so at lunchtime on 31 August 2016, I met 16 photographers from Hong Kong at Nairobi’s International Airport.

Breakfast booked at Safari Park Hotel turned into lunch, which turned into lunch boxes scoffed the car by the time the group bought sim cards, we found our vehicles in the mess of a carpark currently at JKIA, and then we delayed another hour by two trucks who decided to collide head on in the middle of the bypass.  That day, bypassing Nairobi was not quicker!

We arrived at Ol Pejeta finally after dark – not an ideal situation to say the least.  We checked into our tents at Sweet Waters Serena Camp and enjoyed the spectacle of several black rhino at the water hole just outside the dining room as we ate dinner.  OK, now the safari has started.

The next morning the group went out early for a game drive.  No sooner out of the gate then they saw a couple of lions.  This was the theme of the whole trip – this group had a good luck charm for animals (not for vehicles, but that’s another story!).  After breakfast, we stopped at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary before departing Ol Pejeta for Lake Bogoria.

The road to Lake Bogoria was quite a bit longer than we had remembered, or perhaps it became longer the more I wished we were there already!  A couple of the vehicles made it to the lake for sunset, but unfortunately one of the vehicles had a problem and was delayed.  Lake Bogoria Spa Resort, I’ll be honest, is not worth the money you pay.  They have the fortunate position of being the only hotel there so they can charge what they want without bothering about crazy things like customer service.  Which was a shame as the guests had had a long day and probably could have used some customer care from lodge staff when notifying them about the scorpions they found in their rooms.

Watching the sun rise over a lake full of flamingos redeemed Lake Bogoria however and the group spend a few hours taking photographs.  Sadly, the local children have somehow been “trained” to run into the water, scaring the flamingos so tourists can get a photo of the flock taking off.  But this disturbs the birds and they don’t return for several hours after such an event, so that is the end of any photography session.  It took some convincing of a few different groups of youths that our guests certainly did not want them scaring the flamingos!  One kid almost got through our watch, but got shouted down by 16 angry photographers!  I’m not sure how they learnt this behaviour, but I see it as a definite negative impact of tourism on the environment.

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After a late breakfast, we headed to Lake Naivasha, arriving at Enashipai in time for lunch.  Finally we were back on schedule after the flight delay.  In the afternoon we headed out on boats to Crescent Island.  We saw many many different species of water birds and the boatmen fed the Fish Eagles – another contrived tourist experience designed for good photos, but spectacular I’ll admit.  On Crescent Island we enjoyed a walking safari where we saw zebras, waterbucks, impalas, gazelles and wildebeest.

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And then the main event: the Maasai Mara!  We battled the road all the way to Governors Camp, arriving at the Private Camp in time for a BBQ lunch by the river.  This was to be our home for the next four nights, with no one but the hippos for neighbours.  The days were spent on game drives – some of the group opted to take picnic lunches to go further afield on a full day game drive, while others chose to go for shorter game drives and come back to the camp for lunch and siesta.  Six of them went hot air ballooning one morning.

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Again the group were blessed with incredible wildlife sightings, with wildebeest herds crossing the river almost every day.  We even saw a crocodile slyly take one down…. although to be honest I didn’t actually spot this event until I reviewed my video back in my tent that evening!  We also saw two lionesses try to get a young wildebeest.  But the wildebeest suddenly started fighting back, bucking it’s little horns at the lions and generally dancing around.  It must have become confused or disoriented as it emerged from the long grass because it started headbutting its own reflection on one of the vehicles!  The lionesses gave up on the little fighter and stalked off, probably in search of an easier meal.

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We returned to Nairobi for a night, where we stayed at Nairobi Serena Hotel.  In the morning it was a convenient stop to pause at a lookout for a view over the city centre before heading back out of the town to Amboseli National Park.  My highlight for the afternoon game drive was watching a Goliath Heron defend its catch against a greedy Fish Eagle.  The Fish Eagle got its come-uppance however when a plover took offence to it and dive-bombed the bigger bird.  The Fish Eagle still eyed off the Heron’s fish dinner while ducking from the aggressive plover.

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Mt Kilimanjaro revealed itself on the early morning game drive on the last day – a spectacular end to a packed ten-day safari.  We returned to Nairobi for dinner at the famous Carnivore restaurant before heading to the airport for a rather late flight home.

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The safari was not without it’s challenges, not least of which were several mechanical issues which can always be expected on Kenya’s poorly-maintained roads unfortunately.  The importance of an international guest reviewing ALL the information a tour operator sends was highlighted a few times when expectations were much higher than anyone could deliver (if you want to go to a national park please don’t expect a perfectly tarred road all the way!).  However, the wildlife sightings and scenery the group encountered over their ten days was about as good as it gets and they were incredibly lucky!  And we hope to welcome them again someday to experience some of Kenya’s lesser-known parks.

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“Absolutely relaxed and responsible safari!”

“Absolutely relaxed and responsible safari!”

In January, Jasmin and Josh became our first ever AirBnB guests.  Jasmin had been studying on exchange here in Kenya and her boyfriend Josh came to visit her at the end of semester so they could travel together.  After a week in Kenya, Jasmin’s brother Fabio also joined them and Jasmin and Fabio decided they wanted to go the Maasai Mara after Josh returned home.

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We were able to find them two other travel buddies from Argentina so the four of them set off from Nairobi early one morning for a three day trip to Kenya’s top tourist destination.  They stayed at Mara Explorers and headed into the park almost immediately.  They spend the afternoon and all the next day in the game park watching wildlife.  Some of the group also went in for a final game drive on the last morning before returning to Nairobi.  That was the best game drive, because that was the time they saw lions on a hunt!

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Jasmin and Fabio came back and stayed a few more nights in our spare room before they went home, saying goodbye to the friends Jasmin had made during her semester here.  It was a pleasure to host Jasmin, Josh and Fabio both in our home and on safari and we hope they will return to Kenya again someday!

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Jasmin left us a lovely review on Trip Advisor: “Absolutely relaxed and responsible safari!”

Me and my brother made a safari to Masaai Mara. We already knew Francis and Tracey because we’ve spent some nights at their place in Rongai. They are really nice and helpful people and we had an amazing time with them. The safari to the Mara was one of the highlights of our time in Kenya.

I think Francis is a really good driver and I felt so relaxed in his car. This is important because it is quite a distance to the Mara park from Nairobi. Also in the park we felt that he really knows the area and that he exactly knew when he can drive through a waterhole (this time there were a lot of them) – we never got stuck. He also drove respectfully when animals were around, what I appreciated a lot. He really asked what we wanted and did not just stop at any souvenir shop like I knew it from other safari organizations (and I think can be a bit annoying). Finally, the place where we went for the two nights was also a great spot (The Mara explorer’s camps).

I totally recommend to travel with OTA because it is a small, really personal safari organization of such a nice couple with experience and knowledge.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294207-d3561827-r369153929-Overland_Travel_Adventures_Private_Day_Tours-Nairobi.html#
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Day Trip to Lake Naivasha

Day Trip to Lake Naivasha

How wonderful is it when a family member or friend moves abroad for a job opportunity?  Suddenly, questions of where to go for the next holiday are solved and that exotic destination becomes much more affordable (as you “live like a local”).  Well I’ve been living in Kenya for over four years and no one in my family has taken advantage of the situation.  Freda, on the other hand, is currently doing a four-week residency at a hospital north of Nairobi and her mother, sister and brother-in-law made the trek from the USA last week to visit her and experience Kenya.

But it wasn’t Freda who organized the day trip, rather Novem her sister connected with us.  We planned a wonderful day of walking safaris and a boat ride – fantastic activities for perfect Kenyan weather.  However it was November, when Kenya has less than perfect weather, and it became prudent to plan a rainy day alternative.  That would also be a nice day, albeit with activities that would be bearable in a drizzle, but not a storm.  Kenya is definitely a fair weather destination!

We agreed to decide which itinerary to go with when we met on the day and inspected the clouds together.  The forecast said there was a 100% chance of rain in Naivasha, but our local guide assured us the sky was clear.  So we took the chance and headed to the lake.

First stop was Hells Gate National Park.  The group opted to walk instead of embarking on the more popular cycling adventure.  On foot or on a bike, Hells Gate has some spectacular scenery and rock formations to marvel at.  And animals of course – they saw waterbuck, elands, zebras, buffalos, a secretary bird, impala, Thomson’s gazelle and so many warthogs.

After the early start and the hike, they were definitely ready for lunch which we enjoyed at a traditional restaurant in one of the lakeside villages.  The chef had prepared a selection of dishes so they could try a bit of everything.  We had beef stew, chicken, fish from the lake (Tilapia), rice, chapattis, ugali, zikuma wiki, and kachambari.

After the feast it was time to walk again.  This time we drive around the lake to Wileli Conservancy where there are a lot more animals than in Hells Gate.  There are not many predators in the Naivasha area, and so the herbivores can graze in relative peace and humans can mingle with them….to an extent!  As well as zebras, elands and impalas (which were getting boring now) the family saw giraffes.  It is so impressive getting close to giraffes when you are on foot.  You can see exactly how tall they are, but so gentle and graceful.

As we drive to and from Wileli Conservancy, we pass through a wildlife corridor, which must be my favourite kilometre of road in the whole of East Africa.  And this day was especially amazing!  We saw so many animals as we passed by: giraffes, impalas, elands, zebras and warthogs.  And the awesome thing was they were all grazing together in a Garden of Eden-style setting.  Usually you see groups of like animals together; it is less common to see many species all together.  Not today!

The grand finale of the day was a boat trip on Lake Oloiden.  This little lake is adjacent to Lake Naivasha with a 5 metre inlet/outlet separating the two.  The fun fact about these lakes is that Naivasha is fresh while Oloiden is salty.  This is the boat ride you take if you want to see hippos, which they certainly did.

Lake Oloidon (6)

Novem, Chris, Freda and Lek, it was wonderful to spend the day with you.  And a few days later in Nairobi National Park.  We hope to see you again …. for a longer safari next time!

If you want your own Lake Naivasha experience, join OTA’s 13 Day Wildlife Wonder Safari in January 2017.  Covering three of East Africa’s premier game parks, this trip circuits southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.  Watching wildlife and visiting communities of different cultures, this trip shows all sides of life in East Africa!  Email tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com for more information.

A Maasai Blessing, Skumfidus and Sparklers

A Maasai Blessing, Skumfidus and Sparklers

Skumfidus has to be one of the coolest words ever!  I learnt that it’s the Danish word for “marshmallow” when we took the Finke family on safari at the end of December.  Hanne, Jacob and their three children have recently moved to Nairobi for Jacob’s job and Hanne’s parents, sisters and their children came to visit for Christmas.  Hanne contacted us to help plan a safari that would suit 14 people over three generations and here’s their story to give you ideas for your own family holiday.

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Maasai Mara Safari

On December 28, six adults and eight children arrived at Mara Explorers Camp in time for lunch.  It had been a long drive and everyone was ready for some food and to stretch their legs.  After lunch there was the option to go for a walk with the Maasai to explore the area which some of the group did.  The rest found their tents, sleeping bags, luggage and a pool table and settled in.

The next day everyone spent all day game driving in the park.  We had prepared a scavenger hunt for the children with a lucky dip prize if they spotted everything on the list.  When they returned in the evening everyone of course got a prize and they had all written a bonus item on the bottom of the page: a cheetah!  We celebrated a successful day of wildlife watching by toasting marshmallows on the campfire.  That’s when I learnt the Danish word for marshmallow: skumfidus.

Seek shade for picnic lunch in the Maasai Mara

Seeking shade for picnic lunch in the Maasai Mara

Elephant, Maasai Mara

Elephant, Maasai Mara

Game driving in the Maasai Mara

Game driving in the Maasai Mara

Grandma and Grandpa went for a hot air balloon flight early the next morning.  Watching the sunrise over the savannah is one of the most magical experiences you can have in Kenya.

Maasai Culture

When they returned, we headed for Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp.  The wildlife in the Maasai Mara had been pretty amazing, but Maji Moto was the highlight of this trip.  On arrival our Maasai hosts gave us shukas (the blankets Maasai wear) and performed a welcome dance.  The Maasai are famous for jumping as part of their dance and of course audience participation is a must.  Afterwards, we were shown to our “huts”.  The accommodation at Maji Moto is Maasai-style mud huts, which are very comfortable and attractive.

Maasai dancing

Maasai dancing

Once we lost the heat of the sun we went for a walk to the hot springs where women from the area collect water.  Some of our guests tried carrying the jerry cans and were full of admiration for the women who carry them several kilometres every day.  Next we walked up a rocky outcrop to watch the sun set.

"Maji Moto" means "hot water" for the hot springs

“Maji Moto” means “hot water” for the hot springs

In the morning, the family went for a walk up the nearby hill and then visited the widows’ village.  When a Maasai man passes away he leaves multiple wives with no financial means.  The Maasai Cultural Camp supports the widows with some of the profits from the visitors going to the women.  When guests visit the widows’ village they can see traditional Maasai life and visit the traditional healer.  Along the way the Maasai guys made the children spears and practiced throwing them.  For the rest of the trip, the spears came everywhere… we had to break the news to the kids that they probably wouldn’t be allowed to take them on the plane home.

Visiting the Widows' Village

Visiting the Widows’ Village

Warrior training at Maji Moto

Warrior training at Maji Moto

But the afternoon was to bring the absolute highlight of the whole five days.  We hiked four kilometres to the Ol Pul Bush Camp.  When we arrived at the clearing we found large beds made from leaves and a white goat tethered near the bushes.  We knew we were to be roasting a goat for dinner, but I hadn’t really thought though the whole process.  The kids were totally into it, except for Mathilde who I hung out with while her brother came and terrorised us with the goat’s head and other gross stuff boys do!  They all helped with the skinning and the butchering and even drank the blood straight from the neck!

ceremonial goat killing

Ceremonial goat killing

Drinking the blood

Drinking the blood

It was a long day!

It was a long day!

The elder Maasai gave Grandpa a blessing for his birthday.  Traditional brew was served to the adults – it’s made from honeycomb and Francis’ drink even had a bee in it, just to prove the point I guess.  And then the Maasai and the Danes sang their respective traditional songs for New Year and danced while the meat roasted on the biggest campfire ever.  Being New Years Eve, sparklers were compulsory and Karen distributed them to everyone.  As we held them to the fire they started sparkling, as they do.  But the Maasai had never experienced sparklers and got quite a start when they started sparkling!

New Years Eve around the fire

New Years Eve around the fire

Sleeping under the stars

Sleeping under the stars

It really was a unique way to bring in the New Year and to celebrate a special birthday.  And it was wonderful for the cousins to have the opportunity to have such an experience together when they have been missing playing together since Hanne and Jacob relocated to Kenya.

Are you looking for a special safari for your family?  Whether you are living in Kenya and have relatives visiting or you are all living in the same town but looking for a chance to reconnect, we would love to help you plan a holiday to remember.  Contact us today by emailing tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.

Fantastic safari for 3 generations – Masaai Mara and Masaai cultural stay (Maji Moto)

Review by Hanne Finke Ferdinand

Going on safari in Kenya for the first time as a family group of 14 aged between 5 and 72 years makes for a challenge in organising. Tracey at OTA immediately made us feel safe by listening, suggesting, thinking along with us and very quickly providing an itinerary that made it a lot easier to grasp what an adventure it would be – even within our limited budget!
We had 2 amazing days in the Maasai Mara – camping in a really nice little campground and with delicious camper-food cooked and served by Tracey. The kids enjoyed the space to play, sit by the fire and run around when we were not stuck in the car watching amazing sceneries and wild animals in the Mara.
Afterwards 2 amazing days with Maasai in Maji Moto – warrior training, community projects, widow village, herbal medicine, bonfire without paper and matches, ceremonial goat killing, singing, dancing, sleeping under the stars in the bush etc. We learned SO much about the culture and young as well as old had the best of times.
THANK you OTA for finding these pearls for us in the jungle of lodges and camps in Kenya.

We would recommend OTA for your family adventure at any time!!!

Bonfire fun and singing

Bonfire fun and singing

Confessions of a Safari Operator

Confessions of a Safari Operator

It’s true, not every safari runs perfectly – gasp!  We rely on machines (i.e. vehicles) and they are just as fallible as humans – another gasp!  In August we had a trip that could have gone a bit smoother.  And, as I take a deep breath to calm my nerves about sharing a less than perfect safari with the big wide world, I hope that it will help you with your own expectations of travelling in Africa.

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Africa is unpredictable.  We tell our guests this about 37 times in our pre-trip documentation as they prepare for their tour.  The roads are bad, the police are disruptive, weather patterns are changing, and of course it’s called a “game drive” for good reason – either you win the game or the animals do, depending on who spots who first!  But as the safari operator, we don’t actually want to believe that we can’t predict (and prevent) what will happen.  Of course contingencies are in place to minimise the impact of any unpredictability on the guest.  But it still pains us to have to use those contingencies.

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We hosted a large family group of nine in August: two parents, four sons and three wives.  They wanted to travel all together in one vehicle so we decided the best vehicle for them was a small overland truck.  The itinerary was five days – three in Maasai Mara and two in Amboseli.  It had been planned for several months and everyone was excited.

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Arriving in Kenya

The first hitch came on arrival.  The people arrived but the luggage didn’t.  Not a single piece of luggage from the whole group was in Nairobi when they landed.  I’m still not sure how that could happen, but it did.  The luggage was to arrive on the same flight the next day and so they requested a later departure to Maasai Mara.  We were to leave at 8am but by the time they returned to the airport and retrieved the luggage, it was 4pm!  And in a truck it’s a long, slow drive anywhere, let alone the bumpy road down to the Mara.

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The late departure meant that we were driving at night, which is something we never want to do, especially through the bush.  We finally arrived at midnight and the camp staff were so wonderful!  We had kept in communication with them throughout the evening and they kept dinner for us and served it very graciously at that hour.  Lesson learnt though: next time we won’t depart for Maasai Mara so late and instead leave very early the next day.

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Safari Begins

The next day our morning game drive didn’t start very early as everyone was tired from the previous night.  But Francis took them off around 8am and they spotted lions almost immediately.  A truck gives you more height and they got a great sighting of the pride in the grass.  Shortly after that though, the truck stopped.  And nothing Francis did would move it.  Again the camp staff were amazing and supplied a vehicle so our guests could continue with their game drive.  Then they supplied another emergency vehicle to tow the truck out of the park.

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Francis pulled the engine apart at the camp and discovered the piston had, as he described it, “turned into githeri” (a traditional Kenyan dish of stewed beans and maize, i.e. small round pieces in a bowl).  The trouble with engines is that, even if you regularly service them, there are things inside that you can’t see and that will fall apart with enough bumping along on these fabulous Kenyan roads.  (I recently discovered in Australia that bushes are something that are replaced every twenty years or so.  In Kenya we replace them after almost every trip down to the Maasai Mara!)

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So that was the end of the truck for this trip.  We organised a replacement vehicle to get the group back to Nairobi the following day.  The itinerary continued for the guests as planned, fortunately.  The only issue was that there was now no space for Francis and I in this back-up vehicle.  We tried to hitch a ride on the road nearest the camp, but it’s a quiet road so we didn’t have much luck.  So we got a motorbike taxi (boda boda) across the savannah (outside the park!) to the main gate of Maasai Mara where we would find more traffic.  I have to admit that the motorbike ride has been a highlight of my time in Kenya!  We have driven that route before, but on a motorbike it was something else!  Beautiful scenery, through Maasai villages, across rivers, wow it was stunning!

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Somehow we arrived in Nairobi before the guests, despite our waiting for a lift, and then getting public transport in Nairobi to their accommodation.  But they had a much more leisurely trip, stopping at the Rift Valley lookout, visiting a Maasai village and having lunch en route.  Nevertheless, they were as surprised to see us waiting for them as we were.  We made the arrangements for Amboseli the next day and called it a night.

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Amboseli

Thank goodness the second half of the trip went smoothly!  We had to split them into two smaller vehicles and they switched up their seating arrangements for the two days to spend time with everyone.  They saw hyenas, elephants, a large herd of buffalo in the swamp, saddle-billed stork, zebras, a big flock of ostriches, and of course Mt Kilimanjaro.  They also climbed up lookout hill for sweeping views over the park.

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All’s well that ends well and there really was minimal disruption to the safari for the guests.  It was just my own mortification that got in the way of me enjoying myself.  But Francis always tells me soberly that “Anything can happen” and he is right.  Perhaps we will add that to “Africa is unpredictable” in the trip preparation documents.

Please share your experiences of travel that hasn’t gone exactly to plan – help me realise that not only can anything happen, but anything can happen to anyone!

And if you would like your own well-planned but unpredictable African adventure please get in touch: tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.

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Darcy’s Kenyan Safari

Darcy’s Kenyan Safari

Amboseli campsite

Darcy is very lucky.  She has college friends scattered throughout the globe, making vacations with her two teenagers both affordable and exciting.  For the summer of 2015, Darcy decided to visit her friend who was on assignment in Kenya.  The friend contacted us first (expatriates are understandably protective of their visitors) and on passing the screening test we started planning with Darcy for the big adventure.

She had nine days for safari and, as with most family groups, the budget wasn’t excessive.  We agreed on a camping trip to keep the price down, with accommodation at her friend’s house for the nights in Nairobi.  The itinerary covered Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Naivasha and finished with white-water rafting on the Tana River.

Wildlife Escapades in Amboseli

Amboseli was the first stop of their safari and the campsite unfortunately isn’t the best in Kenya, so it was a bit of a leap off the deep end into the Kenyan bush and camping scene.  But waking up at dawn and peering out the tent to a crystal clear view of Mt Kilimanjaro somewhat makes up for the lower comfort levels.  On their game drive they saw ostriches, crowned cranes, a Goliath heron and hippos.  But the highlight must surely be the baby elephants playing in the mud.  They jostled for position, but once lying down in the bath they were not moving for their friends!

Crowned Cranes Amboseli

Fish Eagles

Ostriches

Meanwhile, back at camp, I was fighting baboons.  The biggest baboon in Kenya (I’m sure!) came to check out the food boxes that we had thought were secure enough.  As he sauntered by on all fours, he looked to be about the size of a lion.  The secure boxes were nothing for him.  He crushed the lid of the balsamic vinegar, but must not have liked the taste.  He emptied the coffee tin, also probably not to his taste.  Finally he took off with the five-pack of 2-minute noodles – there is definitely no accounting for taste!  The Maasai who work at the camp heard my girly screams and came to assist, but a bit too late.  The baboon disappeared, but dropped noodles as he left which the Maasai rescued for me.  After that, we put the food boxes in their lockable, baboon-proof shed.  However, it seemed it wasn’t only the baboons I had to watch for; the cook’s assistant didn’t realise some food was ours and nearly got my cabbage (I caught it just in time!).

Safari in Maasai Mara

We returned to Nairobi for the night before heading to the Maasai Mara.  The road was especially rough down to the Mara and poor Darcy was a little green when we finally arrived.  In the afternoon they went for a walk up to the escarpment with the local Maasai for a stunning view over the game reserve.

Buffalo

Darcy, Faye and Kelton spent a full day in the park with Francis, enjoying a picnic lunch in the savannah.  They saw elephants, hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, and the most amazing leopard sighting ever.  It was sitting up in a sausage tree, but as they watched, the leopard descended the tree giving a clear view of this magnificent and most elusive creature.  They had already seen another leopard earlier in the morning sitting in a leafy tree, so they were already having an above average game drive, but this was a big cherry on top.

Darcy Faye Kelton Maasai Mara

Darcy Faye Kelton picnic Maasai Mara

Giraffe Maasai Mara

Leopard Maasai Mara

 

Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes

Next stop was Kembu Camp for pizza night!  There was a large group from one of Nairobi’s international schools there as well, but Faye and Kelton were a bit shy to interact, preferring to stay cosy around the open fire with Darcy, Francis and I (which I can definitely understand, as it gets pretty cold there).  The pizza oven and open fire are not the only reasons we were at Kembu though; it is also convenient for reaching Lake Nakuru National Park, which we did the next day.  Buffalos wallowing in the mud, elands covered in oxpeckers (birds who feast on the ticks that dwell in the fur of most of Africa’s wildlife), giraffes, baboons and zebras were the highlights of the day.  They got all the way down to Makalia Falls at the south end of the park.

Faye Darcy Kelton Makalia Falls

That evening we arrived at Fish Eagle Inn on the shore of Lake Naivasha in the pouring rain.  The appeal of pitching tents in the downpour was not high and so they opted to upgrade to a room.  Cycling in Hells Gate National Park had been earmarked in the planning stages as something they definitely wanted to do and so that was the plan for the following day.  It is certainly a highlight of many a Kenyan safari!

The bicycles were selected and they rode the 2km on to the gate while we drove ahead to sort out the entry fees.  Unfortunately, when they got to the gate, Kelton was very unwell and continuing for a full day’s cycle was not going to be pleasant.  So we changed it to a drive in the park with a few stops along the way.  First we stopped at Fisher’s Tower, where Faye and Darcy tried their hand at rock-climbing.  Darcy made it all the way to the top!  We continued all the way to the gorge where the family went for a walk with the ranger through the gorge.  Francis and I found a checkers board with plastic bottle lids for checkers on one of the picnic tables.  Luckily Kelton returned in time to save me from embarrassment as he took my place against Francis.

Faye Hells Gate

The white-water rafting was to be the last activity before returning to Nairobi.  But it wasn’t to be.  Kelton wasn’t getting any better and rafting was the last thing he felt he could do.  It was a shame because it had been him that had been the most excited about it in the lead up.  So instead we went back early so he could get to a doctor.  They still had a trip to the coast organised and it was generally agreed that it would be way better for him to be able to enjoy his time there, rather than jeopardise it further with a rafting excursion.

All ended well and they had a wonderful time at the beach!  It was great travelling with Darcy, Faye and Kelton and we do hope they will return someday.

If you would like to plan the ultimate family safari in Kenya, please contact OTA via email: tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com.  Or visit our website www.ota-responsibletravel.com.

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