We met Corinne in 2014 through an introduction from my old school principal. She started a school in Kitengela, near Nairobi, which Huntingtower (that’s my old school in Melbourne) supports. Sunrise of Africa School is founded on Christian Science principles, with over 300 students from pre-school to Class 8. Corinne and her husband George live in Kenya while their children Christoph and Michelle live abroad with their families. Every few years they all come together at the old house in Nairobi for Christmas. And in 2016 we were privileged to be part of their celebrations as they planned a safari to the Maasai Mara.
After booking in February, it was a long time coming, but finally we were gathered out the front of the house ready to go. But unfortunately, it was not to be. The road to the Maasai Mara is notoriously horrible, for inexplicable reasons given how much tourists pay the local county government to visit Kenya’s greatest game reserve! While we carried equipment, Michelle and George drove their own vehicles full of passengers. But when a suspension bush gave way, and some passengers were going a little green from the bumpy road, it was decided that the Maasai Mara was not to be the amazing Christmas safari after all. With long faces we parted ways – we continued as we had another family coming to join us the following day (stay tuned for the story of the Fink family trip!) while the Corvins returned to Nairobi.
Nairobi National Park
But all was not lost! On our return to Nairobi, we organised a day trip to Nairobi National Park. Administered by Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), the roads are in a much better state of repair, not to mention that it is located a mere 8km from the CBD! We met early in the morning and after battling our way through the ticket-buying bureaucracy (only took 20 minutes to buy 10 tickets!) we were on our game drive at last.
One of the first places we stopped was a waterhole where there are always a lot of water birds squawking around. Mattias said he thought he saw a hippo, but his dad wasn’t sure and when he asked Francis and I if there were hippos here we both said no …. Well we had never seen any there! But Mattias was right! And not just one hippo, but a few. His sister, Zoe, had been dying to see a hippo, so she was very happy with her big brother.
Despite this sighting, we still headed to the river where more hippos generally hang out. Lucky that we had seen the hippos in the first pool however – there were none where they were supposed to be. That’s why it’s called a “game” drive – it’s a like a game of hide-and-seek between humans and animals! We had brunch at the river and then they went for a walk with Humphrey the ranger to spot some crocs.
As we continued the game drive, we were rewarded with two rhinos, a lion and then a black-backed jackal right alongside the cars! The jackal simply trotted along unperturbed by our presence, at one point looking directly at James and Michelle’s car, so they got some great photos. We also got pretty close to some giraffes and watched as some impalas in a bachelor herd knocked horns as they fought for alpha status.
On 18 July 1989, President Moi and Dr Leakey (then head of KWS) sent a strong message to the world about poaching elephants for ivory. They burned 12 tonnes of the stuff, worth about US$1 million, in the Nairobi National Park. Today the Ivory Burning Site still remains with the ashes of those tusks as a reminder of Kenya’s stance on poaching. Although I had been to Nairobi National Park several times before, finally I visited this site for the first time with the Corvins. It was such an impressive move by Moi and Leakey, I only wish more governments today had the same courage.
And that was the day. We are still sorry we didn’t get the opportunity to show them the Maasai Mara, but we already have some great ideas for their next visit! Karibuni tena!!