A Travellerspoint blog

Kenya

Masai Mara safari

Wonderful people, places and things

sunny 25 °C

We were picked up early from our hotel by the super friendly Esther and Gibson (our guide). After meeting our other safari companions at the office we left Nairobi for the Kenyan side of the Serengeti, the Masai Mara. The Mara river is on the border between Kenya and Tanzania and this is the river that is crossed during the great migration of wild animals from June to September each year. It is the grazers that cross back and forth between the countries looking for greener pastures and they are of course followed by the predators. There are animals in both National Parks all year round with the Masai Mara being the smaller of the 2 parks. We traveled as a team with a lovely couple from India and two young Japanese men. We shared laughter and cameras and binoculars for 2 nights and 3 days. Kellie's phone has been acting up for some time with regard to I Cloud storage and general photo storage so of course as we were driving to the camp her phone was full and wouldn't work. Since my phone is very limited and my camera can't be attached to anything to download the photos, Trudy from India graciously loaned Kellie her I Phone while they used her husband's. It is an amazing experience to see animals freely living in their natural environment. We saw lion prides, elephant herds, cheetahs, wildebeest, topi, hartebeest, eland, hippo, giraffe, gazelle, impala, water buffalo, zebra, baboon, monkey, etc. We did a late afternoon game drive upon arrival, a full day the second day and a dawn drive before leaving on day 3. We visited a Masai village near our camp and were shown their homes and some dancing in exchange for a fee and some souvenir shopping. Their homes are very dark and tiny and comprised of many rooms. There is a hole in the wall about 12 inches by 4 inches to let out the cook fire smoke and no natural light. The frame of the house is made of sticks which are then covered in cow dung - roof and all. There is a main room which can fit 3 people where the small cooking fire is. Off that is a master bed (part of the room) and two or three smaller rooms for the children and the baby sheep (for safety). The Masai's traditional territory was the Serengeti in Tanzania and Mara river lands in Kenya so both parks lie on their lands now straddling two countries. They are mainly herders of cow, sheep and goats and are often found illegally grazing their animals in the national parks. They produce a lot of beaded jewelry and carvings.

After returning to Nairobi, staying uptown this time on a free night garnered at a Best Western, we really had time for very little before repacking before bed for our early morning shuttle to Arusha in NE Tanzania. We did however venture out with Trudy and PK on a souvenir buying mission during the early evening. Braving the sidewalks of Nairobi where wares of all kinds were spread out leaving little walking room was an adventure. Since PK and Trudy are from New Delhi they were adept at avoiding street sales people as well as great bargainers. Trudy and Kellie tried to figure out how to get the photos she had taken from one phone to the other via cloud, email or What's App. This unfortunately didn't get fully sorted so some of the pictures and videos from our safari will be posted at a later date. Well, we were off to bed after a lovely Indian dinner in the Best Western restaurant. The next day we needed to get up for our early morning shuttle ride (approximately 5-6 hours) to enter our next country of Tanzania. Here are the photos we have been able to load and 2 short video clips.

Black rhino

Black rhino

Our safari group

Our safari group

Well hello there

Well hello there

Masai Mara giraffes

Masai Mara giraffes

Buzzards and vultures feeding on an eland

Buzzards and vultures feeding on an eland

Lion pride

Lion pride

https://youtu.be/SK5BX2o0A-c
https://youtu.be/PXiF0dQxuYY

Posted by kelshell 18:05 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Walking with the animals

Priceless

sunny 22 °C

We arrived in Kenya after flying from Sofia to Istanbul with an eight hour layover before flying on seven more hours to Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi. We had arranged a shuttle for our 2:00 a.m. landing but our shuttle wasn't waiting for us so a nice taxi driver called our hotel for us. He warned us that our hotel was newer but the area was rough. He was so right! The local neighborhood was set amongst streets (can they be called that?) which to us would be single really badly potholed dirt tracks. As we checked into our hotel, I (Kellie) was a bit discouraged to see that once again we had to go up stairs - 5 flights in total! There is just no getting away from this fact. In the mid morning when we awoke, the hustle and bustle of this predominantly light industrial area greeted us. We were in auto parts central with any car part you could wish for being dragged, carried, rolled or pushed. Since we had been advised to not venture out, even in the daytime, we needed to bite the bullet to find a bank machine as we had no Kenyan shillings. So out we went! We were definitely not in a tourist area and stood out like sore thumbs but the people were welcoming, friendly and very helpful. We wandered around, got some cash and arranged our matatu for Lake Naivasha for Wednesday.

Shelley and I were both prepared to take this local mode of transportation even though some were surprised we were going to take this squished in, fill all 14 seats (including large bags of corn or grain or whatever). Our destination was 1 hour and 40 minutes away and we couldn't resist the 300 Kenyan shilling price tag ($3.40). One of our worries though was the wait until the van got full, we just wanted to get on the road. Our van organizer Lydia, who was lovely, assured us "not long". Well, after waiting over 1 hour and a half in our seats, we got out of the van for a stretch. I guess we were definitely on Kenyan time, and we heard " hakuna matata" several times. When the van finally filled we were on our way. Driving through Nairobi it is like you may imagine, beautiful faces, densely populated, dirt, garbage, laughter, poverty... Such a mixture of things that it is difficult to describe. Given the area we were in, Shelley and I were both looking forward to leaving Nairobi and heading to nature and the animals and wildlife that Kenya is known for.

The accommodation we booked was called Guesthouse Jane in their tree house. It is a place on a property that has other guest rooms. Our place was for the budget traveler and we were excited to actually see what it would be like. We were pleasantly surprised to find a raised basic cottage type room that you entered by ascending a ladder-type structure. Inside was a room filled with bunk beds that you climbed a ladder to access and one bed only three steps up. We had a small room with a toilet and sink (when I say small I mean I practically have to stand on the toilet to close the wooden door). But, it worked. Our shower was outside below this raised structure. Our beds were equipped with mosquito nets and we did have electricity. Not quite glamping, but great for less than $20 per person a night, including breakfast. Shelley and I arranged for a taxi that afternoon to take us to a private animal sanctuary on Crescent Island. We did not know what to expect, and we were definitely in for a treat! We were surprised to discover that we were left to walk around the grounds. We could meet up with a guide along the way, or just go on our own. So, away we went.

I think we were both thinking, what kind of animals are we actually going to see walking alone here? Then, boom several zebras appeared to our right. We both looked at each other, jaws dropped at this amazing sight. We stopped for a while to take this in. Once we started walking again we met up with a guide who stayed with us explaining everything we were seeing. The list included Thompson's gazelles, impalas, wildebeests, water bucks, giraffes, zebras, eagles, superb starlings, ibis, guinea fowl to name a few. We had gotten here later in the afternoon and only had a few hours before the animal sanctuary closed - 6:30 is nightfall here! We would have enjoyed spending a whole day! Our up close and personal experience was a once in a lifetime experience we won't forget. The following day we hired a taxi for the day and set off for Lake Oloiden to see hippos and flamingoes. Unfortunately we found out that the flamingoes stopped coming last year. Bummer! But we saw three hippo heads coming up for air so waited patiently on the shore for about an hour for them to come out to bask. Since it was cloudy they didn't come out so we got back in the car and proceeded to our next destination, Crater Lake. We paid for lunch here which included the conservation area fee. After a nice lunch on the lake we were instructed how to hike around the lake and up the crater to the conservation area. We were to meet our driver at a parking lot in the conservation area. We set off, seeing beautiful birds and butterflies on the confusing unmarked trail system. We were told we might be lucky enough to even see a leopard! And it's safe! After a few twists and turns we finally made our way upward (Kellie was a trooper) and came out to the Savannah. We followed his instructions to go through the fence and saw a few zebras, gazelles, impalas and warthogs. We didn't see a parking lot anywhere. We walked and walked and walked. We finally realized that we were lost and headed toward some buildings down a road. Two men working at a water plant came out to talk to us and kindly called our driver who had to be instructed step by step while he literally drove cross country to reach us. We were miles away and almost at our first destination! Everyone got a kick out of our situation, including us!

On Friday we decided to take a boat ride on Lake Naivasha. We took a matatu to a local public beach where we were met by two men who happened to have a boat! And even though we had been overcharged for the matatu, these young men actually quoted the local price. They were both very knowledgeable about the surrounding wildlife, especially the birds. Before getting into the boat they took us to an area where we saw Marabu storks.These birds were massive both in body size and beak. These birds would hang around the fish cleaning area awaiting scraps, or trying to be thieves. It was odd but wonderful being so close to such large birds. They were not afraid of us at all. As we entered the boat we were assured we would see many types of birds, hippos, and possibly even watch a Fish Eagle swooping to catch a fish. Lake Naivasha is not a very deep lake, and is fresh water fed, which of course means no flamingoes, sorry Shelley. While maneuvering through the water, we spotted several species of birds including: white storks, Egrets, white pelicans, bald eagles, and even went to the living area of cormorants (including both black and white headed), where we saw trees teeming with these birds. In addition to viewing this vast selection of birds (the area bosts over 400 species), the boat came about 100 feet away from a yawning hippo! I wish I was ready with my camera to catch this site, but sadly I was not. Their jaw opening is as you would imagine, just like a National Geographic photograph. At this point the boat pulled into a shore area where we disembarked and made our way slowly to an area where there was a hippo heading into the water. Despite its massive size, it was surprisingly graceful. We also managed to walk a bit further to see a second hippo on land feeding. We were told that in this area, hippos are sometimes coaxed out of the water with food so tourists can see more than just their heads peeking out of the water. Hippos usually stay in the water, and typically only come out at night, or occassionally come out to bask in the hot African sun. One of our guides also told me that in the family of hippos me saw, there is only one male. If another male hippo is born, he is often killed by the father. At times the mother hippo can send the male away. Talk about male domination.

Seeing the hippos was a great sight, and we also circled around Crescent island where we saw giraffes, water bucks, and huge buffalos from the water's edge. After the shoreline views of Crescent Island, we went to where our boat captain was going to feed the fish eagles some fish that we purchased on our way from local fisherman dragging their nets in Lake Naivasha. Our guide stopped the boat, whistled a few times to get the fish eagle's attention, then threw the fish into the air. As it landed in the water a large fish eagle swooped down and grabbed it in it's talons and flew away with the free snack. This snack was not free for us, we spent 150 kshillings (less than $2.00) and it was worth every penny! Soon after this we headed back to shore feeling very satisfied with the bird sightngs and of course the hippos. We thanked our guides for a wonderful experience and headed on our way back. Knowing that there were only two cheap options for transport back to town, we opted to try a boda-boda, which is basically jumping on the back of a motorcycle, like the native Kenyans, and hoping for the best. Shelley and I had our two motorcycle drivers drop us at the only souvenir shop we had seen, where we met a lovely lady and purchased some Kenyan made crafts. The owner of the shop offered us a ride back to our hotel as he was heading into town. All in all a great day experiencing life on Lake Naivasha, as well traveling Kenyan style.

On Saturday we waited at our guesthouse to ride back to Nairobi with the owner. Despite having the whole day, the WiFi was so slow that we could not upload much. Now back in Nairobi we are needing to sleep for our safari tomorrow morning so will post what we have. Off to the Masai Mara .....

View of Lake Naivasha from Crescent Island

View of Lake Naivasha from Crescent Island


Walking in Nairobi

Walking in Nairobi

KelShel selfie in the matatu

KelShel selfie in the matatu

Acacia trees on Crescent Island

Acacia trees on Crescent Island

Walking beside the zebras

Walking beside the zebras

Monkey sighting

Monkey sighting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJpcb2Giabc
https://youtu.be/xezIomwS7vw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP9wQPinis0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W6-oC06u3A

Posted by kelshell 18:20 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

A shitload of shillings

New currencies and other musings

sunny 26 °C

So we did a blog in Mongolia about all the things we found interesting about the country. Here we will give some interesting tidbits about our travel overall. By the way we are in Nairobi now and since it is highly recommended that we stay inside at night we have some time so here we go....

  • once you've seen a Cyrillic alphabet and figured out how to count letters and see commonalities you can find your way around (Russia, Mongolia and Bulgaria are Cyrillic)
  • we have to find a common reference point in Canadian for money for each country we visit. So we always pick 5 and 10 dollars so we can estimate costs - example in Kenya right now 1000 shillings is about 11.80 so at least it gives us a quick reference. Changing currencies regularly has us saying,"so $5 is this much in (tugrik, rubles, krona, lira, euro, koruna, forint, lei and lev) so far and now shillings.
  • not all toilet flushers are created equal - leaving one country and entering the next where you pulled up on the knob on the tank to flush results in lifting off the whole lid in the next; as for toilets there are the pay toilets, which does not mean paper; train and bus toilets - maybe/maybe not and Kellie has become quite good at charades to ask for toilet paper from train conductors - use your imagination; some have seats and some do not; some with seats have shoe prints on them - these are not squats ladies; most in Eastern Europe are co-ed; and some have very little water in the bowl and a high shelf for doing stool samples way easier.
  • door locks - what should be a simple lock and unlock procedure for 2 university grads.... "You try, now you try; it's 2 turns; pull it out part way; don't put it in all the way; try it twice it works better" - oh how the eavesdroppers must laugh - if they understand English.
  • asking for directions - reactions range from running away to getting in the rental car and directing from the back seat
  • towels and pillows- really matter! Some towels have given us exfoliation treatments
  • stairs and elevators that don't quite go to the top! And if your room is on the 3rd floor it is really on the 5th floor.
  • subway stations that make you go down and then back up - hmmm!
  • laundry - well we have had access to only two washing machines so far on this trip, which makes for a lot hand washing in bathroom sinks. There isn't usually a day that goes by where either Shelley or my underwear are hanging somewhere in the room. Often we tell hotel cleaning staff just to skip our rooms given the various pantaloons that are a strewn
  • trusting others - to trust or not to trust, that becomes a constant thought. Even though we would like to think strangers are offering assistance out of kindness, and maybe some are, we do find ourselves being extremely wary when all we would like to do is relax and be ourselves
  • coffee - its hard to get a good cup! Even in Eastern Europe and we have even come to rely on Nescafe 3 in 1 ( which is our Mongolia discovery, which is coffee, artificial creamer, and sugar all in one thin sleeve of tastiness)
  • trains, planes and automobiles - so many inconsistent rules regarding security (liquids must be in plastic bags/no bag/no one cares), carry-on weight for baggage may not be applied, Turkish Airlines still rocks!
  • jewellery, natural make up and shoe stores - very prolific everywhere. Shelley has been laughing at the outrageous shoes (to her) worn with tights, shorts, pants, dresses - who would wear that with that! And the stilettos and high wedge shoes on cobblestones and uneven pavement - and no broken ankles! Shelley has become a jewellery junkie and is keeping up with Kellie in this department! Most countries seem to have their individual special gems so it's a lot of fun!

Well we are off to sleep - Lake Naivasha shuttle experience first thing tomorrow. Should be an interesting adventure!

Posted by kelshell 16:49 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

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