Masai Mara

Our camp was the last stop on the plane to Masai Mara, which meant that we took off and landed about 8 times over the course of an hour. Flying around Kenya in the hopper planes will get you over your fear of flying real fast.

The Mara is a reserve on steroids. There are animals everywhere you look. We arrived toward the end of the Wildebeest migration. Over 1 million of these animals were headed back to Tanzania. Standing in between them and their home base is the hippo and crocodile infested Mara River. This great migration is the reason we chose to visit Africa during this time. So needless to say we were really really really hoping to see a crossing. But that was scheduled for day 3, let get through days 1 and 2 first.

We stayed at Elephant Pepper Camp, a tented camp that was more luxurious than many of the hotels that I have stayed in. We stayed in the honeymoon tent, which was huge maybe even larger than our Gramercy apartment. We had great view of the plains and our tent was frequently visited by wildlife. Each morning we arose to the most dazzling sunrises that I have ever seen. Mr K. and I were living the high life.

The best part about the Mara was the game, it was everywhere you looked all I had to do was look outside of our tent to see zebras, wildebeests, gazelles and some pesky baboons, who I am pretty sure got a hold of our welcome champagne bottle and decided to spray it all over our porch while we were at lunch. Stupid monkeys.

We had two prides of lions and a cheetah mom and baby camped out about 5 minutes from camp. Each day we would check up on our lions and cheetahs. We spent a lot of time hanging out with them during our time at Elephant Pepper Camp. The mom and baby cheetah were the most active, always playing or walking in the tall grasses of the plains.

The animals also visited us at night while we were in our tents. I remember waking up and hearing “maaaaaaaaaaaa” “mmmmmaaah” I looked outside and there was a huge herd of Wildebeests grazing inches from our tent. How cool is that?!?! Then there was the night when we heard soft stomping sounds and loud ripping of vegetation. There was a heard of elephants feeding in the brush at the back of our tent! The scariest night was the night I was woken up by the lion roars. Two male lions were going back and forth with each other. There roars getting louder and fiercer as the fight went on. The next morning I asked George our guide if he heard the lions, he said he did and in the morning went to open his tent and there was a lion right outside! Later on our morning safari we saw one of the male lions badly limping into the brush. We figured that he was injured last night, and told the park rangers.

The animals that we saw didn’t seem to care that we were their watching them. They continued on with their daily lives as if we were just a part of the African plain. The cheetah mom even used our car as a vantage point, jumping up on the hood and surveying the area before jumping down to join her cub. There wasn’t always such a happy medium between tourist and wildlife, and in some places there is still a disconnect. We were told some horror stories from the native Nairobians about how pushy tourists would force their guides to drive right in between the animals and its hunted prey so they could get the “perfect action shot”, this perfect shot ruined the animals chance of making the kill, wasting the animals energy and lengthening the amount of time it went in between meals. The night drives would also terrorize the animals the truck’s spotlight giving away the animals position, letting the pray escape.

Mr.K and I wanted to go on safari so we could see the wildlife in their natural habitat while there are still some left to see. We became present to the delicate balance between man, animal and earth. And the relationships created by tourism, native tribes, and the animals. The reality is that we only have this one earth and to really appreciate it you need to go out and experience it, but be mindful not to trash it, because if we create too much damage to the environment and the animals – we will lose them for good.

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December 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Loisaba

12/3/10

We took a 6 hour “road” transfer from Samburu to Loisaba. Funny thing is we ran out of road after about 4 hours. Then it started to rain, so we slid around the muddy bumpy ground for about 3 hours passing various wildlife and a few overstuffed trucks with people clinging to the top and the sides. We also took a break for tea, in which we pulled off to the side of the road and our driver brought out the tea and cookies.

The rich green forests and bright flowers of Loisaba were quite a change from the dusty dry red sand and bare thorny trees of Samburu. We quickly learned that all this dense forestry made is pretty impossible for us to find animals. We drove around that place for two days and barely saw anything more than hyenas eating the dead elephant. But hey that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes. These animals aren’t paid to make special appearances every hour.

I also found Loisaba to be more of an activities wilderness lodge offering helicopter safaris, white water rafting, camel and horseback safaris, croquet, etc. There was plenty of other options if you don’t feel like doing your typical safari. Did I mention this place has its own airstrip??

One of the highlights was dinner with Allistar, the camp manager and Humpries, the pilot. When you think of old british safari – these two should come to mind. Dressed the part one in a shearling vest, the other wearing oodles of scarves draped around his neck. They were a laugh riot. Telling crazy stories of crash landing planes out on the african planes and luring honeybadgers into the main lodge and then barricading it into the library with pillows and couch cushions.

The brilliance of Loisaba are the Starbeds. We were able to book one night in these allusive beds, and were escorted to our digs via camels. My camel was not fond of the muddy slopes and would throw a fit every time we needed to descend down the trail. Riding the camels was a very earthy experience. We were able to get closer to the animals than we were on horseback.

We sipped on a cocktail and then headed out for a night game drive, along with an armed guard whose leisurely placement of his loaded gun was almost as scary as being lost in the pitch black darkness of the African jungle. Yes, I said lost. We were off roading it in search of leopards and sometime after the sun went go we got pretty freakin lost. We ended up running into a huge heard of frightened elephants hiding the tiniest baby I have ever seen.

 After another delicious dinner and some drinks around the bonfire we headed up to our starbed. Unfortunately, the sky was a bit cloudy that night so the start were muted. It was also unfortunate that it started to rain in the middle of the night and Mr. K had to get our of bed and wheel it back into the hut.

 P.s. Did I mention that our guide Lawrence named a hybrid species of monkey? It was a cross between a Gabon and a Baboon.

December 6, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Memorable Moments In Samburu

12/3/10

  • Mr. K spotting the leopard mom and cub sitting in the trees guarding their porcupine kill, after a long morning of driving around seeing nothing.
  • Having our bush breakfast invaded by the blue baller monkeys, watching Chris and Simon throw rock and sticks to scare them away, Mr. K jumping and running at above mentioned blue baller, blue baller hissing and snapping his teeth at Mr. K and me thinking we are about to experience Outbreak part 4.
  • The genet cat
  • tiny baby elephant running around his mom trumpeting
  • sipping wine poolside after our massages
  • agitated male elephant on the hunt for his runaway female
  • lions sitting in a tree
  • bush baby
  • feeding Garys
  • sunsets with wine and bitings
  • being in awe and very awkward with the singing Masai married ladies

December 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.

Genet Cat Genet Cat What are They Feeding You…

12/3/10

Over Thanksgiving I visited my grandma who told me that I should take a journal on every trip, so I can take notes on where I’ve been and remember the memories that were made there. So for that reason I’m going to finish up the summary of our Africa trip.

At Saruni, we were told stories of a genet cat who was infamous for sneaking into rooms and eating the cookies brought with the  tea. Everyone who worked there seemed to have a story of this genet cat, so of course Mr. K and I devised a plot to meet this wild “pet”.

Our last night in Saruni we had a yummy dinner in our room accompanied by champagne and wine. Half way through the champagne we decided to create a cookie trail leading from our front door into our dining room to lure the genet cat in. Mr. K kept a secret stash of tea cookies in a pocket of his safari vest. We broke apart one cookie and trailed the pieces into the room. No luck. The only thing eating the cookies by the end of dinner were ants. I toss the cookies bits outside the front door.

Later on we head into the bedroom. Once we are safe and secure inside of our mosquito net bed we begin to hear the oddest noise. A mix of scratching and clicking. Mr. K bravely gets out of bed to investigate (remember we have no walls to protect us on one side of our room).

He gets his headlamp switches it on and sees the genet cat sitting comfortably in the chair biting a hole through his safari vest to get at the cookies. He sees Mr. K and scurries from the room. So of course I jump out of bed put on a headlamp and make a cookie trail to see if he will come back. He does. Fearlessly entering our room and the spot lights of our headlamps and walks around eating all of the cookie crumbs, making a leisurely exit.

In the morning Sylvester pointed out that there were hyena tracks all the front entry way to our room. Perhaps they like cookies too.

December 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Travel. Leave a comment.