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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.