East Africa Day 10 – Masai Mara to Kilimanjaro

We had to be out of the camp by 07:00 but was running 10 minutes late. On the way we took a stop overlooking the Great Rift Valley to take photographs. We were back in Nairobi at around 13:00 despite a 20 minute stop at another shop, and a 45 minute stop to get petrol.

The Great Rift Valley

Upon arrival at the Somak Lounge they served us fish and chips and prepared the flight paperwork for us. We then had to leave for the airport at 14:30, and we were waiting at the gate by 15:05. Strangely they didn’t mind water being taken through. The security desk confirmed that our existing Kenyan visa would get us through for transit when passing back through from Tanzania a week later.

The Nairobi airport is quite basic and the shops are overpriced. As an example, a box of quality street you’d expect to see in the UK for around £3.99 was 13USD. To be fair though this is pretty typical of airports all over the world.

When the gate opening time came there was no announcement like there had been for other flights; luckily we saw others going through the gate. It was then a 40 minute wait, 10 minutes after the gate had closed before there was any sign of boarding. We were then led across the tarmac, past several large planes until we reached a 68-seat plane with propellers.

To Kilimanjaro!

The flight landed 13 minutes early, and we had disembarked within minutes. Before entering the terminal you have to present your yellow fever vaccination card; I couldn’t remember where mine was (I did later find it), but they let me through anyway. For immigration you have to fill out a card, pay 50USD for the visa, go to one window and get the visa approved, your biometrics taken, and then proceed to another window to have it checked. Even though this process of going from one window to the next only took 15 minutes our luggage was waiting for us on the belt. We also by pure chance met up with a couple who would be on the same tour as us for the next week.

There was then a 45 minute drive to the Serena Mountain Lodge. Here I changed some money into Tanzanian Shillings and went for an evening meal at 20:45. It was a very slow served meal, especially compared to the Ashnil Mara Lodge. We sat talking to a couple on the same safari with Somak as us and didn’t leave the dining room until 23:15.

East Africa Day 9 – Masai Mara

Our day started with an early morning game drive before breakfast. Early on we came across a couple of lionesses resting in the tall grass. We stopped and photographed them for a few minutes before starting to drive off. Moments later, we’d only travelled 200 metres at best, we saw some antelopes bolting across the savannah in the direction of the lionesses. We knew they were done for, but our driver didn’t seem to realise what was happening. We urged him to reverse back, but in the blink of an eye one of the antelopes was gone, followed by its feet up sticking up in the air.

Lions eating an antelope

By the time we got back there the lionesses were already feasting on their kill with some ferocity. This was short lived though as three hyenas approached and challenged them for the meal. The hyenas dug straight in, fighting for the meat and soon after the hyenas had seen the lionesses off – with them slowly skulking back into the tall grasses. This left the hyenas to happily feast on their prize, and with each passing minute more hyenas arrived, followed by silver-backed Jackals and a lone vulture.

Challenged for the kill

At this point the noise from the hyenas was incredible – I’ve never heard anything like it. One of the jackals managed to get hold of some of the organs and dragged them off up the road and buried them for later whilst the others tried to sneak away with more meat. Some of gorged hyenas, bellies swollen from too much food, wandered off having satisfied their hunger.

Jackal

As the time went on the hyenas started to fight between themselves for the remaining meat and bones. Before we knew it there was nothing left, not bone or skin – they had eaten it all.

Hyenas feeding

The rest of the game drive was quiet and ended with a bush breakfast overlooking a hippo pool. As we arrived they gave us champagne, and the rest of the breakfast was buffet style. It’s quite surreal to sit having our breakfast in the middle of the Masai Mara surrounded by nothing but savannah, and watching hippopotami bathing in the Mara river.

Vulture

With the late breakfast and the heat I barely bothered with lunch, and spent the next few hours doing very little. Eventually 15:30 came and it was time for a pre-game drive drink. The drive itself was very unsuccessful as we didn’t really see anything.

It was so quiet that when we got to a high point of the Mara we were actually allowed to get out the vehicle for once and wander around. From this viewpoint we could see the savannah that made up the Masai Mara in Kenya, and the Serengeti in Tanzania. We saw some smoke billowing from the direction of the Serengeti and we were told it was the people of Tanzania trying to stop the wildebeest migrating back into Kenya. I suspect this wasn’t true though.

Me in the Masai Mara

When we got back the electricity wasn’t yet working which meant sitting in the dark for a few minutes until they turned the generators on. For the evening meal the whole group sat around a fire followed by having food together for one last time.

Our trip through Kenya was at an end and we’d soon be moving on to Tanzania.

East Africa Day 8 – Naivasha to Masai Mara

The day for travelling to the Masai Mara was finally upon us. This was one of the places I’d insisted had to be part of the trip due to it being an iconic part of Africa. We were told to be ready for 07:30 yet the other group was told 07:00 so ended up rushing anyway just in case. The breakfast was a buffet pretty much the same as we’d come to expect.

At some point during the previous day I’d lost my cap; I looked everywhere in the room and even searched my suitcase and backpack thoroughly in hope of finding it. Fortunately someone had handed it into reception, meaning I’d left it in the lobby when we arrived the previous day. Considering it had been with me to a large number of countries I didn’t really want to lose it.

Mantled Guereza (Colobus guereza)

Outside the hotel were a number of colobus monkeys; we’d seen one previously on the way to the Ark, but that one had been impossible to photograph. These were quite numerous and were sitting around, some of them eating, and others just watching from the roof of the building.

Along the drive was the usual stop at a Curios shop to use their facilities and allow people to buy souvenirs. This stop took 50 minutes instead of the planned 5-10 minutes due to our driver being stuck in a queue to get petrol. This was apparently down to a fuel shortage in that town, the last before reaching the Masai Mara. We didn’t know that at the time and it felt like we’d been left there – other tour groups had turned up and left in the time we were waiting.

Not long after leaving the town we also ran out of tarmaced road, having to travel the rest of the way on bumpy dirt tracks. This part of the journey lasted around an hour, but we eventually made it to the gate into the National Park. At the gate there were locals once again trying to sell their wares, and this time they just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Shame we didn’t know the Swahili for it.

Hyena

Not long after entering the park we saw an injured lioness resting underneath a tree. Despite her injury she seemed to be in a better state than the one we saw in Samburu. Not that long afterwards we saw a hyena crossing the path – we hadn’t expected to see one of these during the day as they hunt mostly at night.

After this the drive went on a while winding all over the place, but eventually we arrived at the Ashnil Mara camp. Once again these were tents, though this one was slightly less substantial in terms of building material. In addition to the mosquito net over the door, the beds had individual mosquito nets too. On the far side of the tent it had a balcony overlooking a river.

Almost immediately we then had to have lunch, by the time were done this gave us just over an hour until the drinks before the afternoon game drive at 16:00.So once again it was a rush to get camera equipment ready for a game drive. After a couple of unlucky drives in Samburu we were hopeful of seeing species we had not yet seen.

This drive was quite eventful; as we approached a steep path that led down to the river my friend joked that because the driver was on the phone he was probably on the phone to the RAC for when he gets stuck in a river in about 5 minutes time.

Stuck in the river

Surprisingly we did go down to the river, and sure enough we did get stuck as the vehicle slid sideways further into the water. After several attempts to move we realised we were totally stuck in the river. I was imagining us being stuck there for hours and missing the rest of our game drive.

The driver then got out and started to put loose rocks under the wheels to try and give them something solid to get traction on. By this time at least 3 other vehicles had joined us and their drivers had gotten out to help too.

Eventually they realised the rock approach was not going to work, so the driver of the Land Cruiser got his passengers out (bear in mind we’d seen lions about) and got a tow rope out. This would have helped if the Land Cruiser hadn’t got stuck; but with the other drivers pushing they got that one freed and managed to fasten the tow rope to ours.

Masai Giraffes

It took a couple of attempts due to the steep bank, but eventually they managed to jolt us back a few metres. Our driver then had another go at crossing the river and was finally able to cross. We made a further two crossings after this, but for only one of them did we get stuck again (followed by the driver exclaiming “oh no!). This time though he was able to get it out by himself. In the meantime we stayed in the vehicle and watched the hippos in the water just a few metres away. The smell coming from the water was incredibly bad.

Lions feasting on a hippo

Not long later we came across a male lion before realising there were a further two behind us that were eating a hippo that had apparently been killed by one of the males the night before. There were quite a few other vehicles watching too as the lions took turns to rip the soft insides out of this hippo.

From there we moved on to where a lioness had just caught a fairly young buffalo she must have managed to separate from the herd. We watched for quite some time as she laid on her back holding the buffaloes head down trying to suffocate it. Eventually she turned it over and put her whole man over its mouth to stop it from breathing. Once killed she let out a low noise to let her cubs know that dinner was ready.

Lioness suffocating a buffalo

We then headed back as the sun set after one of the most eventful and longest game drives yet. It didn’t leave much time before dinner, but that didn’t bother me – I was quite pleased with what we had seen. When we got back housekeeping had lowered the mosquito nets ready to keep the insects out. The evening meal was served very quickly with each course being replaced with the next with literally no pause in between.

Giraffes “worshipping” a windsock

This had been one of the most eventful and brilliant days of the trip so far.

East Africa Day 7 – Aberdares to Lake Naivasha

At 05:30 I gave up trying to sleep and went to watch the wildlife at the pool from the ground floor (deck D). After an hour one of the staff walked down the corridors with a xylophone to wake everyone up. Breakfast at the Ark was served at 07:00; it was probably the most basic breakfast yet with the most exciting thing being toast made from very dry bread. Just 50 minutes later we were getting onto the bus back to Aberdares Country club.

It was a long drive after that to reach our next destination with stops along the way. Our first stop was at Thomson’s Falls, a waterfall on the Ewaso Ng’iro river named after a famous explorer of Africa. Everywhere you go here there are signs to indicate additional charges, such as if you’d like to sit on the grass, or use a picnic bench, or go up to the edge to see over the falls – even the childrens playground has an additional charge.

Thomson’s Falls

After some fast, and at times dubious driving we got to the town of Nakura. Here we waited for 20 minutes at a petrol station due to our driver not having the required smart card. The other driver had one for his half the group so it seemed odd that ours was being driven to us from Nairobi. It was this other Somak representative being held up in traffic that caused a delay.

Lunch was at the Lake Nakura Lodge and was swift. As it was a buffet it meant we could eat at our own pace, which was lucky as we needed to be out quickly in order to make it for a boat trip. The food there was quite good, though the desserts were far better than their mains.

Flamingoes

After lunch we had a very quick game drive around Lake Nakura where we got to see a White Rhinoceros, and both lesser and greater flamingoes. Apparently there used to be a lot more but one year when the water was a lot higher than normal they could not use the lake and most never returned after that. On the way out of the park we also encountered more zebra where we saw one which was approximately 1 week old.

Zebra

Zebra and young

Once on the main road it was supposed to be a 1 hour drive according to our itinerary, but even with our driver doing mostly in excess of 100kmph we only just made it for 16:20, just as the last boat was getting ready to leave. I don’t believe it’s possible to do that drive in 1 hour so if you do a similar trip it’s worth keeping that in mind.

Lake Nakura

The boat trip on Lake Naivasha was an optional excursion costing 40USD. If we’d had the money in Kenyan shillings it would have worked out a little cheaper. As soon as we arrived and had paid at the reception we were handed life jackets and boarded a small boat equipped with an outboard motor. Whilst moving around we saw various species of birds such as herons, egrets, and kingfishers. More importantly we saw numerous hippopotami poking their heads out of the water.

Masai Giraffe

The boat ride then moved on to Crescent Island where the Audrey Hepburn film, “Out of Africa” was filmed. For the production they’d moved numerous animals to the island, but after filming only moved the lions back. This meant once we’d made landfall we were able to see Sacred Ibis, black-faced vervet monkeys, Masai Giraffe (including one which was only a couple of months old), zebra, wildebeest and various types of antelope.

Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis)

On this island you could get really close to the animals, and it was on foot, which was a nice change. On the way back we photographed a Fish Eagle diving into the water to grab a fish. Sadly I didn’t manage to get a decent picture as I couldn’t focus the lens quick enough at the distance we were at.

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

We then saw a baby hippopotamus on the side of the bank eating grass – an excellent opportunity to get a good photo. Apparently it’s also quite rare to see them leave the water during the day, though I guess as it wasn’t too far off sunset we shouldn’t have been too surprised.

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

As the sun started to set we arrived at the Lake Naivasha Sopa. When checking in we were told we would not be allowed outside in the dark for our own safety. As there are hippos in the area all travel had to be done with a security guard. The hotel itself was brilliant though, both in terms of decor and facilities.

Lake Naivasha Sopa

After a quick shower we went to dinner at 19:30. When we were shown to our table apparently we sat at the wrong one, but we weren’t told that until later. The food there was quite varied and was one of the best to date on this trip. We then of course had to get security to escort us back.

East Africa Day 6 – The Ark

As it was a 07:00 departure it was necessary to get up at 05:55 to have time to finish packing. However even though we were told breakfast was from 06:00 when we got to the dining area we were then told it’d be another 30 minutes. By the time the breakfast was ready it had gone from being dark out to being daylight. We were then on the road more or less on time, though not quite due to the late breakfast.

At the Equator – Nanyuki

On the drive from Samburu to Aberdares we went back the way we had come a few days before. This time however we stopped at the equator where we saw them demonstrate the Coriolis effect on water in both hemispheres and on the equatorial line. We were then expected to look around shops for the second time that morning. I didn’t buy anything though as they were far too pushy – they kept interrupting our guide who was telling us about the equator so that they could try and sell us things. At the first stop prior to this we were there for an excessive 40 minutes, left to wander around the shop.

We got to Aberdares Country Club at approximately 12:00, and after checking in there for the Ark we waited for lunch. We had to leave our suitcases behind at the Country Club as you can’t take much to the Ark. This meant taking my camera bag and trying to take my wash bag along with it.

Lunch was around 13:00 and was followed by another short wait before getting onto a larger bus for a 40 minute drive. Once in Aberdares National Park we saw a Colobus (Mounted Guezira), more warthogs, and a couple of African Cape Buffaloes. The bus stopped at the top of some stairs that led down to some boardwalks.

African Cape Buffalo

Before venturing down onto the boardwalks we first had to have a briefing of what would happen and were then led down to the Ark where we were shown to our rooms. My room was probably one the best located ones as it was on the top floor and overlooked the drinking pool from two windows.

The Ark

Around the pool there were small African Elephants (which the guide incorrectly identified as forest elephants – but you don’t get them in this part of Kenya), many buffaloes, herons, coots, a waterbuck, and warthogs. You could also view these from various viewing balconies on each floor, and from a hide at ground level.

To improve the number of animals drinking at the pool they also scatter salt on the ground, supplementing what was already there. If there are any sightings there is the option to be alerted via a buzzer in the rooms. The more buzzes there are, the rarer the animal being sighted, or there is a sign of an impending kill.

Hartlaub’s Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi)

Next on the itinerary was a bird watching session from the boardwalk. On this we saw numerous species of bird inclusive of a rare Hartlaub’s Turaco, a bush baby, an African Ground squirrel, and snipes. This left just enough time for a shower before the talk about Aberdares National Park. This time I was able to get some warm water unlike the previous two places.

Bush baby

As with previous days the evening meal was at 19:30. I had Italian Minestrone Soup, pasta, and mango strudel. It was a very nice meal, and one of the most enjoyable of the trip to date. Whilst waiting for the soup to arrived we saw a white tailed mongoose. After we’d eaten there were then bush babies and these cat like creatures on the fire escape outside.

Sunset at the Ark

I was then in the hide until about 22:45 watching hyenas, and a large number of elephants arriving. The arrival of the ten or more hyenas caused the bushbucks to leave the area fast as well. As we were told we’d be woken for any sightings I decided to go bed.

East Africa Day 5 – Samburu

Getting up at 06:00 was surprisingly okay; we were hopeful that we’d see a big cat in the morning’s drive as we’d not seen one the day before. Before the game drive they once again served tea and coffee – fuel to keep people going until breakfast was served after the drive. Almost immediately once out of the gate we saw more elephants, though that was all we saw throughout the drive apart from a solitary giraffe, a silver-backed jackal, and a kite. Our driver had hoped to find us a leopard and for a while was following lioness tracks, but alas neither could be found.

Almost immediately once out of the gate we saw more elephants, though that was all we saw throughout the drive apart from a solitary giraffe, a silver-backed jackal, and a kite. Our driver had hoped to find us a leopard and for a while was following lioness tracks, but alas neither could be found.

Olive Baboon (Papio anubis) with a baby

Unlike previous days it was not a buffet breakfast, but it did include juice and tea so at least there wasn’t the extra expense the other meals had. I went with the cooked breakfast option and it was actually very good, as was the mango juice. As I finished my breakfast there was a large number of baboons start to walk past the fence and the occasional one crossing into the camp. I did of course run back to the tent to grab my camera to get a couple of photos before they disappeared.

Female Lion (Panthera Leo)

At 10:00 we were back on the road heading to a Samburu tribe’s village. Moments after leaving camp we saw our first lioness wandering near the riverbank. She looked a little ragged though indicating she may have had a tough dry season with very little in the way of food. Before we’d even left the park we also encountered a crèche of 15 ostrich young being protected by an adult male and female. The female led the way whilst the male guarded the rear.

Me with a Samburu tribe

Once out the park the drive to the village was quite short, and it was an unexpected 30USD to go in; we hadn’t been told this beforehand, though it did go towards the needs of the whole tribe. We were welcomed by the chief, who was probably the eldest in the tribe and had elongated ears from ear piercings. They then did a “lion dance” and asked us to join in. I didn’t do any of the dancing, but I did have my photo taken with them.

A Samburu tribe’s camp

The women of the village then started to sing as they brought us into the village. We were then told about their way of life and shown inside one of their huts. It had two “mattresses” made of leather on top of the soil and a small fire for cooking maize and beans. The young men of the village don’t eat there though, they have to go out into the bush to eat their food. It is considered shameful for them to be seen eating inside the village.

This then took us on to learn about their education system and they asked for a donation towards sending their children to school – apparently a years education for a single child costs 2000 Kenyan shillings. They then demonstrated how they make fire from sticks and donkey excrement. There was then two opportunities to buy souvenirs from them. I had planned on buying from them, but after the entrance fee I decided against it as I hadn’t brought much money out with me for this tour.

When we got back to the camp it was lunchtime, and this time it was a buffet style. As we ate, elephants bathed in the river and drank. One thing I did note though was that the elephants also left their waste in the same place they drank and washed. Probably not the best of ideas, but it didn’t seem to bother them. As both elephants were bulls I did expect some conflict there, but they were quite laid back and just kept to themselves.

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

The next game drive was at 16:00; once again we didn’t really see anything – just animals we’d seen before but in fewer quantities. This did give us the chance to photograph more birds though such as the Secretary Bird and a Tawny eagle. We got back just after 18:30 as the sun was setting.

African Elephant Eye

Whilst showering I heard an elephant; it was the first time we’d heard one as when we encountered them earlier they were quiet. This time though, although we could hear them, we couldn’t see them. Before going for the evening meal I stopped by the gift shop and bought a tribal mask for 900KS and a fridge magnet for 350KS. This worked out as around 15USD so wasn’t a bad price; I would have bought a t-shirt too, but they had none in my size.

Sunsets on an Eland herd in Samburu

The evening meal was another buffet so I tried as many different foods as I could, all of it being quite tasty. This included their desserts where one tasted a little like a marshmallow. My friend bought a drink, but they tried to get away without giving him his change. He was a little miffed by this point so wasn’t going to let it pass and made sure he got it.

As the evening came to an end it was time to pack again ready to move on, but this wasn’t made easy by the lights flickering on and off. Apparently the generator doesn’t get switched off until midnight so we weren’t sure what was causing it.

East Africa Day 4 – Aberdares to Samburu

Finally I could have a lie in and didn’t get up until 07:40. I’d been bitten by an insect overnight though – hopefully not by a mosquito, though even if I had been I’d hope the anti-malaria tablets would work okay.

After breakfast we wandered up the hill behind the villa, looking for a tree hyrax that had been heard over night, but couldn’t find it. We did come across a tin hut at the top though where there was a large water tank – presumably a place for staff to stay. By 09:10 we were back on the road and heading to the Samburu National Park.

Mount Kenya

On our way there we crossed the equator back into the Northern hemisphere but we didn’t stop, apparently we’d do that in a couple of days time. We did however stop to take photographs of Mount Kenya as the skies had cleared considerably during the course of the morning. There was then a further stop at a shop so people could make purchases or use the facilities.

African Curios Shop

At the entrance to the Buffalo Springs reserve there are large zebra coloured gates, and whilst waiting there for the driver to pay for the entry it didn’t take long for people selling their wares to quickly descend on us and try to sell goods through the window.

Samburu

The road to the Ashnil Samburu tented camp was incredibly bumpy and at the speed the driver was going at the tyres were kicking up a lot of dust and stones. This made it easy to understand why the windscreen was chipped. On being welcomed to the camp we were given grape juice; as we drank it Black-faced vervet monkeys started to approach us. It was great fun to see some monkeys and I even managed to get some photos of one carrying a baby monkey whilst waiting for our room keys.

Female Adult Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and baby

Each of the sleeping areas are like large tents with a wooden frame, with material covers for each wall. It does help to have the wind blast through the tent as standing outside in the sun gets very warm very quickly. The entire camp is surrounded by an electric fence which is used to deter animals from coming into the camp and apparently it’s powered by solar panels. However, monkeys can still get in and out by crossing over the trees, burrowing under, or being brave enough to jump over. Despite this they are kept away from any food in the dining area by one of the naturalists wielding a catapult.

Ashnil Samburu tent

It seems wrong for them to fire things at the monkeys to keep them away, but I can understand why they do it – it stops the monkeys from becoming lazy and not looking for food. If they were to become dependent on the food from tourists they could easily become pests and to lose the skills to find food for themselves – which would hurt their population and upset another delicate ecosystem.

Driving across the Samburu National Park

After dropping off suitcases it was lunch time. This was a set menu where I had lamb kebabs with rice, and an apple mousse-like dessert. Throughout this time various species of bird including kingfishers and starlings kept flying up to us. After eating I went over to the monkeys to get a few photographs of them before the afternoon game drive.

Savannah (African) Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

The afternoon game drive started at 16:00, with tea and coffee served before it started. Almost immediately we saw an elephant feeding. As the drive went on we saw various species of birds and eventually a whole herd of elephants. The tracks that are driven down are very bumpy and kick up a lot of dust, yet the others in the vehicle still had the windows open despite being able to stand and look through the roof (which they were doing).

Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)

For the first part of the drive we followed the dried up river and saw gazelle and impala grazing near it. On the other side we saw giraffes, two types of zebra, ostrich (both male and female) and yet more impala like animals, including an Oryx.

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

It was a great game drive, but it would have been nice to have stopped for some of the birds as well and not just the big mammals. We arrived back at camp as the sun was setting and had time to dust down our equipment and shower before dinner. The showers were cold again and by cold I do mean the temperature of a cold water tap in England, whereas the cold option for the shower felt like it had been chilled.

Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi)

The evening meal was another set meal; from the options available I went for a vegetable soup for starter, a steak for mains, and a very small portion of a crumble for dessert. I think the crumble was actually more like a cheesecake. After the food one of the ones dressed in the traditional clothes of the Samburu tribe then played a flute that only had two holes for notes. It was then an early night ready for an early game drive the next day.

One of the amazing things about the savannah is how it comes to life at night. You could hear bull frogs croaking and others croaking back a response. There were various other animals you could hear too, and you could see the insects crowding around the lights. As the tent could get quite warm we opted to keep the curtains open and the mosquito net in place.

East Africa Day 3 – Aberdares

The day started at 06:15 with a more sizeable breakfast than the day before; and this time it was included in the price of the tour. By 07:30 we were on our way to the Somak lounge which again was only 15 minutes away in rush hour traffic. At this point it seemed everything was 15 minutes away from the Nairobi Serena Hotel.

African Curios Shop

Along the way from Nairobi to Aberdares we saw a convict chain gang being put to work to dig away at an embankment on the roadside. This was the first time I’d seen something like that, previously I thought it was the territory of American movies, not real life. It was a long drive to Aberdares, but we did have a 25 minute stop just outside Karantina at an African Curios shop. This stop was primarily for stretching your legs but some of the group took the opportunity to buy souvenirs. Before that there had been a stop with an officer carrying a rifle where the driver was questioned about vehicle condition and frequency of travel down that road. Apparently these armed stops are just a survey about widening the road. They obviously take their road planning very seriously. We were back on the road by 10:50, and into the Aberdares Country Club by 12:00. It was quite a winding path to find the rooms, and they were quite basic but sufficient for a one night stay.

Me and some Giraffes

Lunch was served at 12:45 and once again there was no drink included with the meal – so much for all inclusive. I’d have expected to have paid for subsequent drinks, but not the first. Previous trips I’d been on included one drink per meal, so it would have been nice to have been forewarned. The food was quite a reasonable selection and the desserts were even better. Afterwards I went for a quick swim before the 16:00 nature walk. Around the swimming pool there were male and female peacocks wandering around and occasionally drinking from the pool as well.

Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus)

The nature walk went quite a distance from the country club, but this was it’s advantage. Although we’d seen warthogs wandering around,that was it in terms of mammals. In going further away we did see a few more birds and we got our first sighting of a large mammal as we saw a herd of zebra. In amongst the zebra were large warthogs, but also a solitary impala. We saw these all run a little – I’m not sure though if this was because they knew we were watching them.

The path eventually led to a large clearing where we could see a few impala in the distance, but more importantly we could get close to giraffes. This was a small family of them which included some young. We spent quite some time photographing these, and got back to the club for just after 18:00.

Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) running away

The evening meal ran from 19:30 to 21:30, and the meal actually did take that long. The first course, was a Thai beef salad, followed by a potato and leek soup. For the main course I chose Moroccan Chicken which came with basic vegetables and two roast potatoes.

For dessert I had an apple tart which obviously contained apple, but also contained raisins and some sort of puff pastry.

One of the nice things about being out in the wild is that you can hear so many different animals calling and you get a better view of the stars in the night sky.

Aberdare Country Club at Night

East Africa Day 2 – Nairobi City Tour

My attempts to sleep failed for the most part so when we landed at 06:10 local time I was quite tired. At first we queued to get a visa before we found out that you had to first fill in a form. This was mostly the same as what we’d already had to fill in for the entry form. The visa could be paid for in several currencies, so instead of paying 50USD we paid 30GBP – it makes sense to use the best rate. By the time the luggage appeared and we met the Somak representative over an hour had passed since landing.

The hotel and pool

Nairobi Serena Hotel

The drive to the hotel took only 15 minutes and we passed a site of pilgrimage where people were gathering for the upcoming election and praying. The hotel interior was quite nice – and gave an idea of the culture, or at least what their culture was like before Western influence. As we’d not had a proper breakfast on the plane we opted to have one at the hotel. There was a lot of choice, and quite a few different juices (including wine). Breakfast though was incredibly expensive for what little we ate – it came to 30USD per head. The bill didn’t come that quickly either, we were asked to wait outside by the pool until they had time. So we got to spend 20 minutes watching birds fly over head, attempting in vain to photograph them.

As our city tour didn’t start until 14:00 there was then time to try and get a few hours sleep before starting. The start of the city tour was at a museum where we met up with a local guide who would show us around the museum and snake pit. Photography is allowed inside except for where the paintings are, one of the many different sections covering different aspects of Kenya. The first section concentrates on tribal culture but then moves on to the wildlife with a large area for the mammals, and then row after row of birds. There is then more about the culture before moving on to their history, covering their occupation by different nations, their participation in World War 2 and their independence.

Sculpture in front of the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya

Nairobi National Museum

Next to the museum is a snake pit with many different species – some out in the open, but some are protected behind glass. You can also find tortoises and crocodiles in this area, some of them being species imported from the US; an alligator inclusive. The snakes were quite cool to see, and there was a good variety in both size, colour, and those which are either venomous or constrictors.

Nairobi Railway Station

The city tour then continued by road with the driver pointing out a lot of their important buildings or anything of interest. At one point the minibus drove down a crowded pavement to get to a railway station that no longer gets used much. It seemed to do this to avoid the larger coaches that were in the area. As we slowly moved past all the pedestrians, the driver asked us to lock the windows – he’d already locked the doors. It’s something that seemed mad, but it seemed none of the locals were bothered too much by it. We then headed back to the hotel with a 1hr30 break before dinner.

At 18:30 we headed to the infamous carnivore restaurant which surprisingly was only a 10-15 minute drive away from the hotel. As you enter there is the fire that they cook the meat on spits with. To start with soup is served; they didn’t say what it was but it tasted like leak. This is then followed with them bringing out salad and sauces, along with a hot plate for your meal that started with a jacket potato. The waiters then arrive one by one with spits to move meat on to your plate. At the rate they were coming round your plate would empty faster than you could empty it. When you’ve had enough you remove the flag from your table marker to show you’ve “surrendered”. By the time we were done we’d had a chicken, chicken wings, chicken leg, pork ribs, lamb, beef, pork sausage, beef sausage, crocodile, ostrich meatballs, fried chicken gizzards, and ox testicle. After this the meats were repeating so we surrendered and finished with a nice cheesecake.

The Carnivore Restaurant

Although early, it was finally chance to have a proper rest.