Archive for the ‘Kenya’ Category

Big Cats

Posted: September 18, 2015 in Africa, Kenya
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well, we’re home, but as you have probably noticed, not much blogging happened this trip! As I’m heading to the US tomorrow for 3 weeks, it’s not likely I’ll catch up too soon. However I have managed to collect a few photos from this trip. These are just a few of our favourites, to whet your appetite. Today’s gallery is the big cats – lions, leopards & cheetah. Magnificent creatures!

It is now the end of our first week, and what a week it has been! We left the Maasai Mara this morning after an exhausting but unforgettable 5 days. We went for a game drive every morning early, leaving before dawn to catch that ‘golden light’ photographers are so fond of. We ate a picnic breakfast in a clearing where our guides assured us there were no lions lurking. The goal was to get back to camp by 11am but we were always late, held up by yet another photo op and got back just in time for lunch, a very short siesta and to head out on another game drive mid afternoon until there was no more light. The roads (if you can call them that) are terrible, and we were glad of our expert driver/guides! But as we bounced and rattled over the savannah with our eyes peeled for wildlife we were very aware of what a privilege it is to be in this place. Every day there were new and exciting sightings and hundreds of photos to sort (and cull!).

Today we had a leisurely start – breakfast at 7.15. What a luxury! We were up early and packed ready to leave the Mara and head for our next location. But there was a big treat in store first. While our luggage was driven to Sleeping Warrior Camp at Lake Elementaita, we were left at the tiny Olkiombo Airstrip in the Mara, where two 6-seater Cessnas were waiting for us. These planes were specially customised for us – two of the seats and one door were removed,  and we were flown two at a time over the Maasai Mara to photograph from above. Flying with the doors off was a little nerve-wracking, especially when we banked steeply to that side, but it was also incredibly exciting and the views were amazing. I wish I could post some photos but our internet is not up to it – be assured I will share some as soon as I get back to Doha. We also got some amazing video footage, as Keith bravely clamped his Go-Pro to the tail of the plane and recorded the whole flight.Seeing the enormous herds of Wildebeest from above gave a greater understanding of the sheer numbers of beasts, and you could see their formations as they gathered en masse, followed in single file, or  gathered near the river crossing. Our flights lasted about 30 minutes, and then the doors & seats were reinstalled and we flew to Sleeping Warrior Camp. This time I got to sit in the co-pilot seat which was fun and something I’ve never done before.

______________

The above was written several days ago. My intention to blog daily, or even frequently, has been impeded by slow or absent internet and falling in to bed exhausted at the end of every day! I will post this now, while I can, and will try to catch up very soon!

Magical Kenya

Posted: September 5, 2015 in Africa, Kenya
Tags: , ,

We are half way through day 4 and this is the first moment I’ve had to sit & write! As expected we are having an amazing time seeing amazing things in amazing places. As I write this I am sitting on the verandah at our lodge (Mara Ngenche Camp) looking over the Mara River. I can hear countless birds in the surrounding bush, and there are around 20 hippos basking on a sandbank in the river. This morning I was woken early by the sound of an elephant feeding just outside our tent (it sounds like tearing grass, in case you are wondering). This is Kenya!

We are spending the first 5 days in the Maasai Mara. The trip is timed to coincide with the annual wildebeest migration. The whole area is teeming with wildlife. We’ve seen wildebeest (of course), zebra, gazelles, hippos, lions, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, eland, impala, topi, crocodiles, eagles, vultures and more. We’ve watched a lioness tending the cutest cubs imaginable, around 1 month old. We saw a cheetah kill a small gazelle and drag it to a safe place for her 3 cubs to feed on. We waited a long time peering into a gully because  we heard a rumour that there was a leopard in there, and we rewarded by a close encounter with that most magnificent animal. We watched hippos basking in mud and fighing one another.

But this is the Migration Safari and the sheer numbers of wildebeest and zebra is mind boggling. We drive through plains covered with animals stretching to the horizon in every direction. Impossible to count, for the most part they are quietly grazing in the long grass, and we all are just gob-smacked to be here and in the midst of it all. The money shot, the holy grail is to see a “crossing” – the spectacle of massive numbers of wildebeest and zebra crossing the river, hoping to escape the jaws of the hungry crocodile who lie in wait. From watching the National Geographic Channel I imagined there was a steady stream of animals crossing the river untill they all reached the other side, but in fact most of the time they just mill about. While they are in this area they can cross back and forth several times, or not at all. Eventually they do all get across, but you need some good fortune to be in the right place at the right time for a crossing.

Fortune did indeed smile upon us and on our first day no less. We sat by the river for some time watching animals come down to the river to drink and think about crossing only to pull back at the last minute. We could see at least a dozen crocs on the river banks. Large numbers of animals were gathering, when suddenly one took the plunge and jumped in, That was all it took, and soon hundreds were following and we had pole position.  It was an awe-inspiring sight!! We saw a couple of large crocs take out an unfortunate wildebeest or two, and though we felt sorry for the animal we got great photos!

If all that wasn’t enough, we were up at 4 yesterday morning to take a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the Mara!!

Gotta go, I’m being called for lunch. The food here is gourmet and another of the highlights!

PS. The internet here is pretty patchy and slow. I will post this (when I can get online) without any photos but will try to get some images up as soon as I can.

Our next adventure

Posted: August 20, 2015 in Africa, Kenya

We had such an amazing time in 2011 on our African safari with Chris Bray photography we couldn’t resist the chance to do another, especially when this one includes seeing the great wildebeest migration! We booked this trip about 2 years ago and it’s finally almost here!

Here’s a little taste of what we will be seeing.

As before I hope to be able to blog regularly. If you would like to follow our adventures, this is the place. We will be there from August 31 for 2 weeks. See you there!

Video Summary of the Trip

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Kenya

Here is a video prepared by Chris & Jess (mostly Jess) of our two weeks in Kenya.

The next chapter

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Kenya, Tanzania

We are sitting on a plane, flying from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. We have farewelled Kenya, and all our fellow travellers, sadly. We leave with mixed feelings, sad that the safari is over, looking forward to our next destination, and keen for some down time after a very packed two weeks. We loved every minute of it, it was an amazing, unforgettable adventure. But I’m getting ahead of myself – I’d better fill you in on our last day.

Having still failed in our quest to see the elusive leopard, we added in an unscheduled extra game drive before breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, the sunrise was especially gorgeous, and we just enjoyed being in the park for the very last time. We saw lots of animals, and even spotted a few new birds we hadn’t seen before (that is, our guide John spots them and then we see them), but no leopard. I’m quite sure there were dozens of leopards around, but they saw us first!

Of course it would have been nice to get a good photo of a leopard, but we saw and experienced so much, that there was no possibility of disappointment. I have over 10,000 photos to sort through, and innumerable wonderful memories. We counted at least 48 different animal species and 96 birds that we did see, the highlight (if I had to pick one) being our close encounter with the lion, and every day had its special moments.

We enjoyed one more delicious breakfast by the river bank, and piled into our cars. But the fun wasn’t over yet. Very soon we arrived at a traditional Samburu village. The Samburu are similar to Maasai but live in the north of Kenya. They descended, we were told, from two brothers who settled on either side of Mt Kenya. So their appearance & traditions are similar, but not the same. For one thing, they talk really really fast! They are traditionally nomadic people, but have settled more permanently in recent times so that their children can attend schools. They still live a subsistence existence relying on cattle and living in basic huts made of wood, cow dung & cattle hide. During drought times, the cows die and they have no other income. So they have opened up to tourism and hence we were invited to visit.

We were greeted by the tribal chief, who spoke very good English, and then welcomed by singing and dancing. We were encouraged to take photos, which we did, although it did seem a little voyeuristic. Then they took us inside one of their huts which was much bigger than it looked on the outside, but had no furniture and was very primitive. There was a kitchen area with a fire – no chimney as the smoke from the fire helps deter mosquitoes. There was a small pile of cooking pots, and lots of cow hides on the floor. There was also an old man sleeping on the floor, which was rather odd, and we felt very intrusive. They showed us how to make fire the traditional way, then there was a marketplace set up & we were “encouraged” to purchase something to help support the village. And we all did. Mostly jewellery & carvings, and we are getting better at haggling – though we will never get as good as the locals.

It seems the people are bridging two cultures quite well. One of the Samburu making fire looked quite sheepish when his mobile phone went off! Everyone in Kenya seems to have a mobile phone, even though many of them don’t have electricity at home, so we haven’t quite figured out how they charge them. And one man borrowed a digital camera from one of our group & looked very comfortable with it.

If you remember I wrote about the lack of apparent road rules, but said that I felt comfortable in the traffic chaos. Well, I take it all back! We hurtled back to Nairobi, tackling potholes, bicycles, pedestrians, goats, donkey carts & other drivers in cars, buses & trucks at (apparently) breakneck speed. The close we got to Nairobi, the heavier the traffic, and there was more roadwork and even less adherence to any semblance of lane markings. How there aren’t more collisions I’ll never know. In once incident we saw a car overtaking on a curve in front of on-coming traffic. There clearly wasn’t room, so he just drove onto the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, without slowing down in the slightest. Scary stuff. (Mum, Dad, our driver was excellent and we made it in one piece!)

There seems to be quite a major road building program around Nairobi. When it is finished it should make a big difference, but meanwhile there is even more chaos than usual and it is a complete nightmare. I will never complain about Sydney traffic again! (Actually I probably will – but I shouldn’t).

We eventually arrived at our hotel for the night, after a long day in the car. We chatted and reminisced about our holiday, and our photos and the photo albums (Storybooks) we are all going to make. Our accommodation wasn’t quite up to the standard we have become used to, but we spent very little time there. We all gathered at the nearby Roasters Restaurant for an evening of food & fun & farewells. We were up early to head to the airport for our flight to Tanzania – and now you are all caught up. Except we are not on the plane any more – the flight was so short I only got one paragraph written before we started to descend – and it has taken me until now to get some internet access.

The flight was uneventful, except we got a great view of Mt Kilimanjaro above the clouds as we passed over it. But I’m a little worried about the return trip. Apparently the airline (Precision Air) is known locally as Imprecision Air, and it is unusual for all one’s luggage to arrive at the destination. We had been told by the Tanzanian consulate in Australia that we should have obtained a visa before departure, and were a little worried. But there was a visa counter, we paid our money $US50 each) and our passports were stamped. Very straightforward, and it meant we avoided the much longer queue for those who had visas already. We found a taxi immediately and were on our way to Mike & Katie’s before we knew it. Well, sort of… We were in a taxi, but the driver spoke no English & could not understand the instructions Mike had sent us. Several phone calls, dirt roads & wrong turns later we eventually arrived, much to our relief.

Mike & Katie Taylor, with their children Harry, Miriam & Sam, are Australian missionaries working at the Munguishi Bible College here in Tanzania, near Arusha. The college trains local pastors to equip them to go back to their own churches. We are staying in a little guest house attached to the college. The accommodation is basic but very comfortable, and we are surrounded by lush tropical gardens, with mango trees & banana palms & bougainvillea and lots of other unidentified greenery – it’s a welcome change from the dry dustiness of Kenya. By the time we arrived yesterday, had some lunch & unpacked we were ready for a nanna nap. We had a quiet evening in, catching up & sharing safari stories. (They haven’t seen a leopard either). Looking forward to a very different sort of week. Just about to head to church which is going to be a very different experience, given that it is all in Swahili. I’ll let you know.

PS. Chris has posted a great video summing up our trip. Jess spent most of the safari working on it & she did a great job. Click here to watch it & enjoy.

4 out of 5 ain’t bad

Posted: January 20, 2011 in Kenya

People talk about the “Big 5” of Africa – 5 animals that are on the must see list. These are lion, elephant, cape buffalo, rhino & leopard. Actually it dates from the days of big game hunting, when these 5 animals were considered the most difficult to kill, but these days it is shooting of a different kind. We have seen all of these, but didn’t get a photo of the brief leopard sighting, so I’m not counting it. We have one more game drive, tomorrow morning before breakfast, so haven’t quite given up hope! But leopards are nocturnal, and very well camouflaged, so the odds are not in our favour.

This morning we woke even earlier than usual – but not intentionally. As this camp runs on a generator, the power is turned off at 11pm, and comes back on at 5am. We went to sleep after 11pm, and everything was dark, so guess who didn’t think to turn the lights off & got woken at 5am. Oh well, at least we weren’t late for the morning cuppa before heading out at 6. We ate breakfast in the car and were out driving until 12, and then again from 3.30 till about 7pm.  It is getting harder to spot new species since we have seen so much already, but we are always on the quest for the perfect photograph of course. We img_4130were entertained for some time by some very young animals – we saw a family of elephants with 3 youngsters of different ages, the youngest being only about 2 months old. We also watched some very young vervet monkeys img_4138playing – one was so tiny he was still bald, and looked rather Gollum-like, but was still very cute. Actually it was a day for cute animals – the dik-dik and the gerenuk are both extremely cute – everyone wants to take one home for a pet.

The driving around is all about spotting animals, but we are enjoying the landscape too. It is very dry & sandy, but there is lots of vegetation, and the park is surrounded by a ring of low volcanic hills which are very attractive. Also we enjoy chatting with our driver/guides and learning about the local wildlife but also about life in Kenya. And actually we enjoy seeing the species we have already snapped, and just watching them without the pressure of taking the perfect photo.

img_9293

In the hot middle of the day we rested at Elephant Bedroom Camp. It is very shady here, and with plenty of comfortable chairs, and animals to look at, it seemed the perfect place to while away an hour or two. We ate lunch during that time, sitting by the banks of the river. The meals here are amazing, really modern cuisine, attractively presented. Very plentiful but not over the top. In fact there is pretty much nothing to complain about here. When we arrived yesterday we were greeted (as we have been at everywhere we stayed) with a wet cloth & a cool glass of juice. So welcome after the dusty bumpy roads. I think this is a custom we really should introduce at home! Here we got not only the towel & juice, but also fruit kebabs & some BBQ beef on sticks as well. Feeling very pampered!

img_4505While we were at lunch we watched as an elephant wandered up from the river bank and headed for our tent. He stopped just outside it to munch on some leaves. That’s not something you see every day. As I write I am listening to the sounds of baboons playing & doing whatever baboons do. There is a semi-tame Oryx (called Maria!!) who wanders in and out of the campsite. What a place!

img_9361Today was also Keith’s birthday, a fact which did not escape the rest of the group. He was greeted (at 6am) by lots of “happy birthday”s, which was nice, but the highlight came at dinner when the entire kitchen staff danced around the table “playing” on various kitchen implements and singing in Swahili. They brought him a birthday cake which said Happy Birthday in Samburu (the local dialect), and then led us in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. A very exotic birthday indeed – it will be hard to top that in the near future!