Suffice to say that as the plane banked over the Nairobi national park just outside the aforementioned capital of Kenya, we had mixed feelings, well, we would have if we weren’t sleeping on account of the 0320 departure. Everything we’d heard or read replaced Nairobi with “Nairobbery” and Mombasa with “Mug-basa” and made it seem like a formality we’d be robbed in broad daylight by a glue sniffing youngster. Couple the recent terror attacks and the fact we’d already had to fly to avoid the border tensions so we were unsure what to expect.
Thankfully, these reservations were shattered not long after stepping off the plane. After being greeted by friendly border control we were excitedly on our way to meet our Couchsurfing host and experience Kenya without preconception. What we found were friendly people, rich culture, staggering wildlife, spectacular scenery and a confusing reluctance to open the bus window, despite soaring temperatures.
Cecilia was an amazing host and after jumping on a local bus it wasn’t long until we were in the centre of Nairobi. We felt entirely safe, and after we’ve both travelled to multiple countries with sketchy reputations that preceded themselves and had great times, we felt slightly embarrassed to have fallen for all the negative press. We wandered the city and took in the impressive view from the top of the KICC tower, and ate some beautiful local seafood. The next day we made our way to a giraffe sanctuary where you can even feed them, with their curly tongues taking the pallets straight out of your hand, and to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Here, adorable little elephants are reared after their mothers have disappeared, died, or the worst, been affected by horrid little cretins called poachers. They have released around 200 back into east Kenyan national parks since being founded in 1977, and while seeing them play and roll in the the mud is great, the role it plays in reintroducing the adolescents back into the wild is the true marvel of the project. If you want to help them, you can donate, or even adopt one of the little suckers here.
After Nairobi we actually headed to the Maasai Mara, but more on that in a bit. Following that adventure, we headed on to Lake Naivasha for a couple of days. While there we went to Hell’s Gate National Park, one of, if not the only game reserve in Africa that you can freely walk, or in our case, cycle through. Going between dazzles of zebras, sounders of warthogs, obstinacies of buffaloes (yes those are all real collective nouns) and herds (lame) of gazelles, and the steep cliff that create the backdrop makes an almost surreal experience, being so close to what we usually think of as animals in zoo enclosures, although of course, it’s far more satisfying to see them wild and free.
Cecilia was not only a great host, she was also able to help sort a safari to the Maasai Mara, a truly remarkable game reserve. The Mara is home to all of the so called “Big 5”, a name coined by big game hunters as the hardest game to hunt on foot, consisting of Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo, assuring that the reserve can satiate any wildlife fans’ appetite. During our time there, not only was our accommodation, food and service fantastic, we had a great knowledgeable guide, and more importantly saw a ton of animals. The rolling plains, the hills and changing landscape were impressive, and far exceeded our exceptions, it, and its local residents were abundantly photogenic. So scroll to the bottom for a screed of pictures, but it would be nice of you to read the next paragraph.
Of all the big cats, elephants, hippos, buffaloes and giraffes one of the most impressive sightings was of a leopard sleeping in her tree, after dragging a carcass of her prey, a gazelle into the upper limbs of the tree. One of the sadder ones was a poor dik-dik, the worlds smallest antelope, in the same spot for all 3 days, waiting for his mate. They mate for life, and when one goes missing, or is eaten, the other waits in the same spot, until his or her own untimely death, for the never arriving return of their partner. Any time you got close to any of these creatures it was a powerful experience, you have to keep pinching yourself that this is real life, not a zoo, and these animals are the hunters and the hunted, predator and prey, battling it out in a fight for survival.
As we look to leave Kisumu, a small town on the shores of Lake Victoria, the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world, and also the source of the White Nile, we hope you’ll join us as our adventure takes us to Uganda, and beyond. Now, as promised, more safari pictures.
Until then, @catchustravelling on Instagram.