Friday, November 26, 2010


Originally I was going to blog about Kenya and Tanzania as one entry but figured I would separate them. Our time in both countries is meant as a vacation from our vacation as we have said when describing it to others:-). The traveling that we have been doing hasn't always been easy. It takes a lot of work sometimes and the grind of the traveling can wear on you times too. The time in these two countries is a chance to see some amazing wildlife and scenery for a couple weeks while taking a break from the normal type of traveling we have been experiencing for the last 3 and a half months. Every part of our time here was arranged and paid for (minus a couple meals & tips) before we left the US. It actually made me a little nervous considering the expense involved because something could have happened along the way that could have kept us from this portion of our trip but we did buy some travel insurance that would have covered almost any type of disruption. To arrange for our safaris Alethea worked closely with a former colleague who has been leading groups to this part of the world for several years. They both did an excellent job planning our itinerary. We also reserved a place for the first five nights in the Cape Town, South Africa so we can ease back into our travel routine and have a place to stay once we arrive without having to worry about it while we are on safari.

Lake Nakuru 

I've really enjoyed our time in Kenya. It has gone very smooth. The only real hassle was when we transited through Cairo's airport which is a zoo. It was almost like we were the first transit passengers when we flew from Jordan on to our final destination of Nairobi. I have to keep in mind we are on a paid safari so everything should really go smooth versus the independent make up as we go type travel that we have been accustomed too. This being said the people of Kenya have been very nice even when we stop at tourist shop facilities for bathroom breaks. The hard sell for items has been pretty gentle and polite which is kind of amazing considering the level of abject poverty in this part of the world. Some of things I've liked besides the wildlife and scenery which I'll get to in a minute was the way that we traveled and our accommodations. In Kenya we had just one driver for 6 days which was nice considering that in Egypt we had 6 tour guides in 10 days. Our guide, Thomas, even knew our names and where we from when we were introduced in Nairobi. He traveled with us to each park. He was very personable and knowledgeable about the animals. I believe he has been a guide for 14 years. Another aspect that I liked where the variety of parks that we went too. The landscape in each of the parks were different as well as the animals within those parks. There was some overlap but a good deal of uniqueness too. 

Lion in tree at Nakuru

The parks or reserves that we visited were Nakuru National Park, Samburu National Reserve, and the Serena Mountain Lodge near Mt. Kenya. I'll briefly describe them. Nakuru is about a hour and a half northwest from Nairobi. Nakuru is a fenced in national park. It contained several species of animals including baboons, zebras, rhinos, flamingos, pelicans, gazelles, giraffes, zebras, and lions. It contains Lake Nakuru and was pretty lush with vegetation. The next park was the Samburu National Reserve which was 5 hours north of Nakuru. The roads to travel to this park where rough at times. The climate at Samburu is drier and hotter than Nakuru. The types of animals were the same except for orynx, dik dik's, warthogs, various birds, lizards, turtles, ostriches, elephants, crocodiles, hippos, and a leopard. We stayed two nights in Samburu versus one night for Nakuru. Samburu was quiet. Our lodge only had 60 rooms but wasn't busy at all. The electricity was even limited to 3 hours in the morning and 5 in the evening but it didn't matter much since we went on two 90 minute to 2 hour game drives per day. It even had a swimming pool that I used one day. I really enjoyed the amount of animals we saw there. The lions, elephants, and the one leopard we saw were my favorites. The Serena Mountain Lodge that we stayed at was a little over 4 hours southeast of Samburu. It is located up by Mt. Kenya at 7,200 feet elevation. The lodge is built around a natural salt lick water hole. the animals come to the lodge instead of you going out to the animals! There were all kinds of Sykes monkeys and some even climbed up on our deck. We got a quick view of Mt. Kenya which is the tallest in Kenya close to sunset. One interesting thing that they do at the lodge is during dinner a gentleman comes by with a clipboard and asked what animals you would like to see during the night. If one of their watchman see one that you select at the water hole then they will knock on your door and wake you. We thought it was funny that they had an animal viewing order form. Unfortunately though the animals that we selected must have had the night off because we did not receive a knock during the night.

I know I am being kind of repetitive but I've been very thoroughly impressed with the amount of wildlife we have seen. The pictures will have to do the talking. I was expecting to go on game drives for hours and only see a handful of animals but we saw numerous types of animals from beginning to end. We saw them in huge quantities except for the lions and leopards which are harder to find. We only saw one leopard but saw 4 lions at Nakuru and 3 lions in Samburu. The elephants at Sambura were something else. They are very smart animals that seemed pretty playful but they can be very aggressive if you get to close. Our driver kept his hand on the ignition to our van when we were stopped as they walked right by us. He knew when to start the van.

This wraps up the Kenya portion of our safari. We had 5 nights/6 days here and really enjoyed it. I would recommend Kenya as a place to visit. It isn't necessarily cheap but worth it. I am writing this on our last day in Kenya although it may not get posted until we arrive in South Africa. We had internet access at our hotel for the first night in Nairobi but have been offline ever since. We are headed to Tanzania next. In the pre-trip research I did I found more positive reviews on Tanzania than I did about Kenya. It is going to be hard to beat Kenya but we'll see.


Link to photo album:

Daily Log

Sunday November 21st
Entry is kind of long but illustrates a long day of traveling. Spent the previous day and into the morning traveling. We drove 3 plus hours from Aqaba to Amman, Jordan. Flew from Amman to Cairo (we left 45 minutes late). At Cairo we ran into some administrative delays. We had a 5 hour sit so it didn't really matter. We disembarked the plan on the runway & were bused into the normal immigration area and not to the transit area. Alethea asked one person where we should go and he initially said upstairs then asked someone else and changed his mind and told us to wait in line. We then asked another person after waiting in a slow moving line for 20 plus minutes. He spent 5 plus minutes walking around asking other people and he took us upstairs and hailed down a bus to take us into another area for transit passengers. We were met by a member of Egypt Air who was working with Kenya Airways to process boarding passes. He was pretty nice and seemed competent. He took our passports and came back after 35 minutes to giver us our boarding passes. He also made sure our bags were matched onto the flight. Alethea went into a lounge while I walked around the airport for over a hour. I did exchange my Jordan Dinars & Egypt Pounds for $5 US dollars. We boarded our plane a little after the departure time of 11:25 pm. I was kind of disappointed with all the transit was handled. It was as if we were the first transit passengers in Egypt's history. We flew two hours to Khartoum, Sudan where we let off 2/3rds of the plane and picked up some more passengers but did have a full plane when we left. We then flew 2.5 hours to Nairobi. I slept a hour on the first leg and 2 hours on the final leg. We deplaned in Nairobi or at least attempted to but the jet bridge door to the terminal was locked an no one could unlock it. We walked back down the jet way on the tarmac and up another ramp. It then took us a hour to go through a slow moving immigration line. We then met up with our tour company and took a taxi to the hotel. We then took showers and a 2 hour nap. We then woke up and ate lunch at the hotel buffet. It was good. Spent a couple hours reading by the pool. We decided to rest and catch up on stuff. The hotel has free wireless access but we were only given one user ID & password so only one of us at a time can get online. We are scheduled to be picked up by our safari operator at 8 am tomorrow.
So far so good in Kenya. Weather is nice and less humid than I expected. The altitude is around 5,000 feet which surprised me. Didn't realize it was this high.

Monday November 22nd
Checked out of hotel at 8 am.
Met Rasheed from Pollman's in the hotel lobby @ 8 am. He introduced us to Thomas our guide. He knew our names & that we were from the US which is more than the Egypt guides knew each day.
Drove 3 hours to Nakuru. We stopped for a break about 1 hour into the drive when we first saw the Rift Valley. It was at at place with a gift shop. We were invited inside and received a soft sale approach. She wasn't too aggressive. Arrived in Nakuru Nation Park a couple hours later. Drove around and saw baboons, zebra, water buffalo, flamingos, pelicans, and rhinos from a distance. Can't believe we saw that many animals within a hour including numerous baboons.
Checked in at lodge around 12:30. Very nice. Better than I was expecting. Ate lunch around 1pm. It was a nice buffet lunch. I had more basic expectations but have been impressed so far. I knew we paid quite a bit for this but didn't think we would have it this nice.
Had a break from lunch until 4 pm. Looked at pictures I took in the morning. Took 137 pics before noon. Deleted over half within a few minutes. The scenery is beautiful here.
We met our driver shortly before 4 pm. We saw a whole lot of wildlife. We saw lions (4), giraffes, rhinos, hyaena, and birds in addition to water buffalo, gazelles and baboons that we saw earlier. We saw one adult male rhino that threaten to charge our van. The highlight though was seeing the lions. We saw one up in a tree. I cannot believe they can climb up in trees like they did.
I am amazed at how much wildlife we have seen on the first day. I figured it would take us several days to see the different types of animals that we have seen. I have taken around 300 pictures today alone although I'll probably have it narrowed down to below 100 before the day is over with. 

Tuesday November 23rd
Woke up @ 5:45 am. Ate breakfast @ 6:30 am.
Drove from Nakuru to Samburu starting @ 7 am. Arrived @ 1:30 pm
Ate lunch, rested and had quick cup of team before meeting Thomas for our 4 pm game viewing.
We saw warthogs, elephants, crocodiles, a hippo, lions, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, & birds. We saw three lions. We got real close. Two of them walked by our van by only a couple of feet. We saw one dragging around a fresh kill. We believe it to be a warthog. We saw elephants for the first time. We saw two full herds plus some stragglers here and there. The hippo we saw never got out of the water. The crocodile just sat there. We saw one approx 3 year old lion getting ready to start a hunt by a pack of antelope. The antelope were a few hundred meters away. They were all starting back in the directions of the lion. Very good sightseeing day. Very impressed.
Lodge is nice. Electricity is on only from 5:30 am to 8:00 am and then from 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm. They have 60 huts. It would make a great place for a small solar farm to power the place.
On the drive up we passed a small checkpoint. Saw a road that went to Somalia which still has no government. The road we were on before we turned off was heading to Ethiopia.
Other interesting sight was when we checked out in Nakuru in the morning there were porters stationed outside guests rooms so when they opened the door they were available to carry bags and earn a tip ($1 US per porter).

Wednesday November 24th
Woke up @ 6 am to go on a safari @ 6:30. Didn't see too much at first. Did see some elephants up close and some giraffes drinking water which was kind of neat. We were back by around 8:15 am to eat breakfast.
Hand washed some clothes after breakfast
Swam and lounged by the pool for about a hour
Drank beer at bar
Ate lunch
Edited pictures
Went for a safari @ 4 pm. Didn't see much for first 45 minutes. We then ran across some ostriches which are not that common. We then saw a pack of elephants heading back to the highlands for the evening. Saw a baby nursing on its mother. Then saw another pack walk real close to our car. We then saw a third pack with a baby who was very playful. Most of them walked by us to the river. Saw the dominant male. We were sort of heading back when we heard over the radio that a leopard had been spotted. We drove pretty fast to get over to it. It was sitting in a tree. Very beautiful. I'm glad we saw it. I took several pictures. We then drove back to lodge and got in about 10 minutes after the 6:30 pm curfew. You can get fined if not back at the lodge by 6:30 pm.

Thursday November 25th
Woke up @ 6:15. Ate breakfast and checked out of lodge by 8 am.
Drove to Mountain Lodge by Mt. Kenya. Took 4.5 hours
First bathroom stop involved a sales pitch and demonstration of some wood carvings.
Stopped at equator for pictures and demonstration of water flowing clockwise and counterclockwise. Person doing the demonstration tried to sell us a certificate stating we had been at the equator for $8 USD. We said no but tipped him $1 USD for the show. We were then escorted to a shop to look at some wood products. Since my spork broke I bought a wooden spoon/fork combo for $1USD. He first tried to sell it for $10USD! We haggled and he wouldn't come down so I walked away and he sold it to me for $1 USD. He said he was selling it to me at the price because he needed lunch money.
Checked into the lodge around 12:35 pm. To see the animals the lodge is built around a large watering hole so the animals come to you. It is also at 7,200 ft. elevation and was much cooler than Samburu was. We are only here one night before driving to Nairobi tomorrow. There was a nature walk available at 3 pm for 90 minutes but it cost $30 USD per person which is too much plus we've seen a lot nature already. I'd rather buy a beer & keep and eye on the watering hole.
Also forgot to mention that it is Thanksgiving back in the US. Happy Thanksgiving!
Around 3:30 pm we saw a whole bunch of monkeys invade the property by the watering hole. Eventually a couple walked by our deck which is I believe on the 3rd floor.
Spent a hour on my blog
Watched animals and viewed Mt. Kenya and drank hot tea for a couple hours on the deck until dinner
Had a very good dinner.
During dinner a gentleman came by with a clipboard and you can check off what animal you would like to see and if they spot it during the night they will knock on your door. It was an ordering form for animal viewing! We almost checked the wrong room since we sometimes lose track of all of our room numbers.
Attended the 9 pm slide show.

Friday November 26th
Alarm went off @ 6:15 am
Ate breakfast and checked out of hotel by 8 am
Drove 3.5 hours to Nairobi's Wilson airport. Ride was fine until we got to the Nairobi area. Stop and go traffic and detours. Our driver actually barely tapped another car but no real damage. We kept going.
Arrived at airport about 11:35
Said our goodbyes to Thomas and checked in.
Airport terminal was real small and we drove up to it.
Cleared customs
Waited for plane, flight was at 12:45 pm. Flight left a few minutes late, plane was a single engine 10 seat plane but only had 6 passenger and two pilots. It was somewhat of a bumpy flight at times. Couldn't see Mt. Kilimanjaro since it was so cloudy. Was kind of neat since I got to see the pilots fly. I pretty much starred at the radar and other instruments to see what they were looking at. Flight lasted 50 minutes.
End of Kenya blog :-)