“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.
I love Africa. After visiting South Africa in April, I was beyond excited to see what Kenya had to offer. Kenya did not disappoint. I committed to learn two Swahili words each day and am proud to say I am fluent. In twenty words. I also managed to crack some of the secret code that guides use when animals are spotted but they don’t want their clients to get excited. My guide both loved and hated my curiosity.
I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya after a really, really long flight from Sydney. Fortunately my body has become quite adept at airplane sleeping so I spent most of the flight behind closed lids. Then it was off to visit Nairobi’s three main tourist attractions. First stop, the Giraffe Center where you get to pet and feed giraffes. As giraffe saliva is an antiseptic, you ate encouraged to put a pellet in your mouth and the gentler of the giraffes will lick your face to get the pellet. Turns out it feels like exfoliation.
Next stop, a visit to the baby elephants. There is a group that rescues baby elephant that have fallen into wells or lost their mothers. They nurse them for a few years and then return them to the wild. And since elephant have near perfect memory, they come back often to visit. Here, I received the traditional blessing of an elephant throwing mud on me so I have that going for me. One last stop at the bomas, traditional huts made of cow dung and mud for the over 40 Kenyan tribes. While I asked tons of qurstions, jet lag had sat in and I retained none of it. The trip ended with a traditional music and dance section which I believe I enjoyed less than the visibly bored performers. So much for curiosity.
Day Two- FINALLY- off to Massai Mara, the savannah of Kenya, adjacent to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. And it was Migration, what some consider to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Over 2 million wildebeest, zebras, eland and gazelle walk from Tanzania to Massai Mara to feast on the plentiful grass. The noise is deafening which attracts the lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. Food is plentiful. I begged and begged to be let onto the savannah at night to witness the complete chaos of predators hunting the herbivores, I was rejected. I tried again and again and was rejected again and again. Someday my curiosity will be satisfied!
The next day was an early morning hot air balloon ride that words and photos cannot possibly describe. We headed off into the bush in complete darkness. In my imagination, we were walking amongst the nocturnal predators so I made sure I surrounded myself with people that looked as if they could run much slower than I. I am quite certain reality was a different but much less interesting story. We took off just as the sun was rising and flew for 90 minutes over the Massai Mara National Park, flying over hippos, lions, zebra, wildebeest, vultures, gazelles and more. Sometimes we were a few feet off the ground and other’s were spent soaring high above the savannah. We were so lucky to actually see migration in progress, wildebeest after wildebeest crossing the river. In a few weeks, so many wildebeest will have broken their legs crossing the river, that it will be filled with dead wildebeest with hyenas and vultures feasting on them. I am pretty certain I am glad we were here for the beginning of migration and not the end! A crash landing that spilled us out of our basket was followed by a champagne breakfast in the middle of the savannah with animals eating their breakfast around us. Of course, I ended up at the crazy person’s table that finished off the champagne and bloody mary’s and have moved to the rum before they forced us into a truck for a game drive! Best day of the trip.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and next morning in Massai Mara and managed to spot lions (mating- AWKWARD), elephants and buffalo, three of the Big Five. We also saw cheetahs, hippos (outside of our tents), a bazillion different birds, hyena, gazelle, fox, ostrich and tons more. Sadly, no leopard or rhino to round out the Big Five.
Time to head to Lake Nakuru for a really quick stay at a lodge. I checked into my room and unpacked a few items, turned around and saw a baboon trying to open my patio door. No, I did not let him in- even my curiosity knew better than to do that! We did manage to find rhinos here, but sadly, our last shot at leopards failed. At least I have South Africa and the plethora of leopards we found as a memory. A couple of Rangers then stopped by to talk about rhino and elephant poaching and the work they do to curtail it. Again, I begged to join them in their late night patrols but was rejected- something about insurance and safety and me not being qualified. Blah blah blah. I could totally handle it!
Then, to our last stop- Amboseli National Park at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro. Sadly, the mountain only showed the summit so I will have to come back to see the whole thing. Maybe then, I can talk someone into a night drive to settle my curiosity. We saw 6,593 elephant here (exaggeration by only a small amount) and finally the flamingos! A mother and child cheetah walked with us for about twenty minutes, one of the few animals I had not seen in South Africa.
All in all, I was quite pleased with Kenya, although if you could only do one safari, I would totally recommend South Africa over Kenya on an animal basis. Our Kenyan tour had an excellent guide and driver and the places we stayed had so much new and interesting food- many dishes I had never seen or tasted, but now love! I am quite certain that, in honor of the migration feast on the savannah, I ate my weight in new food each day.
And Kenya is proof that turnabouts are absolutely evil. So off to Egypt I go with some of my curiosity satisfied but oh so much more peaked!
Kwaheri and hakuna matata!