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Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

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We got back from our trip on Christmas Day and I have started the report. I will post the first part very soon, but in the meantime here are the first of the pictures - sorry I didn't put them together but if I waited until everything was finished I've no idea when it would be. Once I've posted this I'm obliged to make myself finish it fairly soon.... is the theory!

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=10hnymn7.4ttt7fr7&x=0&y=-aegjde

Our itinerary was supposed to be

Dec 7 Bangkok – Nairobi
Dec 8 Nairobi – Stanley
Dec 9-12 Meru NP- Elsa’s Kopje
Dec 13-14 Shaba NR – Sarova
Dec 15-17 Samburu NR – Serena
Dec 18-19 Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Sweetwaters
Dec 20-21 Aberdare NP – Tusk Camp
Dec 22 Mount Kenya NP – Mountain Lodge
Dec 23 Nairobi – Stanley
Dec 24 Day room at Stanley – Flight to Bangkok

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    Really enjoyed your pictures, I had to look at them twice. I lived vicariously through you to Adamson’s Falls and Elsa’s grave. Even though you still had some rain while in Meru NP it must have been better conditions, they were very discouraging about trying to go to Adamson’s Falls when we were there.

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    A gaggle of reports on Meru and more people going?

    By the way the pictures are chosen to illustrate the report for the most part (however, SOME of the blurry ones are supposed to be that way -honest!). I’ll post a link to the photos after Meru NP when I get the next part of the report done. In fact this part doesn’t even get to the end of the pictures.

    I am going to write far too much. This is a report that keeps growing and growing. Since that is rather sel-indulgent, for those who only want the “meat and potatoes” I will try to remember to put tangents in separate paragraphs and add a warning first … but forgive me if I forget. The first part was made particularly and deliberately long so it gave Patty and Joyce a chance to write up Meru first - I promise to speed up later.

    Itinerary (as we booked it!)
    Dec 7 Bangkok - Nairobi
    Dec 8 Stanley, Nairobi
    Dec 9-12 Elsa’s Kopje, Meru NP
    Dec 13-14 Sarova, Shaba NR
    Dec 15-17 Serena, Samburu/Buffalo Springs
    Dec 18-19 Sweetwaters, Ol Pejeta Conservancy
    Dec 20-21 Tusk Camp, Aberdare NP
    Dec 22 Mountain Lodge, Mount Kenya NP
    Dec 23 Stanley, Nairobi
    Dec 24 Day room at Stanley, night flight home


    Preamble… We started planning this trip as soon as we got back from Kenya last December. The planning thread is not of great interest but it’s at
    http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=4&tid=34739645

    Salient details are that we lost a $500 deposit at Il Ngwesi before we even set out (not their fault but it IS their policy… and our reasons for cancelling had nothing to do with the destination, which I still very much want to visit), that we chose Serena in Samburu because it appeared to be most accessible to the wildlife (both in terms of us getting out to see them, and them getting in to see us) and that Sweetwaters was a reluctantly-added last minute replacement for two of the nights at Il Ngwesi - the other went to a fourth night at in Meru NP. Oh, and my wife is terrified of small planes, but we were flying to Meru. In some cases there was no logic to this logic.

    Having planned for a year we were pretty excited in the few days before the trip and when bags were packed we missed a couple of things. Especially the charger for my portable hard drive. Oops!

    We flew Kenya Airways, which now has direct flights from Bangkok to Nairobi (9 hours!!). We went Business Class and it was good. Sort of a super-super-duper economy class, complete with seats that go 90% flat. Food and service and in-flight entertainment are at the “learning” stage but there was nothing unpleasant or inedible, and those seats meant a nice 5 hours of sleep. We landed at 4.40 a.m. and got straight through immigration to await our bags for 45 minutes (guess it’s a little early for the baggage handlers!). Someone from Eastern & Southern (ESS) was there to meet us and take us to the hotel.

    Our room at the Stanley was okay, but the second floor might be a bit noisy if you’re a light sleeper. I would stay there again for the sake of having the Thorn Tree downstairs and everything needed so convenient - camera stuff, food, souvenirs, books, decent coffee, a supermarket. Service is good, except in the Thorn Tree, where it is inexplicably slow … sometimes seems like every order has to be signed in triplicate before the waiter can fill it. But I still like the Thorn Tree. In the end I liked the hotel because it had a mix of African and tourist business and the staff were very friendly … doesn’t take much to please me, but it feels “lived in” and real if you know what I mean.

    After our nap we had a coffee and a pizza at the Thorn Tree (interesting and tasty and not the same as the pizzas on the room service menu of the hotel) and packed everything we would need for Meru into one bag since we were going to leave the other with Serah at the ESS offices and have our driver/guide (Julius - same man Patty uses… which is coincidental) bring it up with him later, since we were flying to Meru and using Elsa’s Kopje vehicles while there. We paid the remaining 80% of our costs to Serah and had a chat with her about everything but the trip (after a year corresponding by email there wasn’t much left to clarify). She did warn us that Meru and Shaba were pretty wet but told us if it stayed dry we should be able to do everything as planned, but that we might need to accept a day indoors somewhere along the way.

    WARNING … A KIND OF TANGENT (way more than you need to know about our experience at Nairobi Safari Walk) …………. We set off for a half-day tour with no agenda (my request since we couldn’t make up our minds exactly what to do). We started off with the Nairobi Safari Walk, and our driver didn’t take us inside, but that was fine because there was a ‘volunteer’ guide (that means you’re supposed to tip her, by the way) there to take us around. She was a student of (oops I forget, but it was relevant… zoology perhaps) and pleasant. She was a little formulaic at first but relaxed when she saw we were genuinely enjoying it and knew quite a bit about the animals and the place itself. And we DID enjoy it, surprisingly. I was expecting to be giving her the “let’s go to see the cheetahs now, nudge, nudge, wink, wink… is that my wallet in my pocket?.. Know what I mean?” after a polite viewing of a lonely hyena, a couple of sad giraffe and mangy, depressed lion (neither Nam Wan or I are zoo fans). However, the animals do have decent amount of space and by not spending much money on doing up the place they have left the animals with a pretty natural habitat (the Safari walk was created by building enclosures and walkways over a corner of the existing national park) where the vegetarians can actually graze on real trees, bushes and grass, and not just stand around waiting for feeding time. Of course seeing the Bongo (totally out of place) was sad and I’ll never really like seeing carnivores in captivity (except for our 8 cats) but what I saw was generally more interesting than depressing - they even have a walkway to take you to look over a waterhole in the unfenced national park, which would be nice in the dry season. We saw one “free” bushbuck… which I identified correctly from 100 m away (based on color, size, and location next to a bush, ) impressing both our guide and Nam Wan (although she showed this by making a snorting sound). The one-horned oryx is a dead ringer for a unicorn from the right angle - I just couldn’t bring myself to take such a corny picture but Nam Wan has no such “corn” problems and is proud owner of a few seconds of unicorn video - and the pygmy hippos are cute. It’s a zoo but it has its heart in the right place and it’s a lot better than sitting around the hotel - and all money to the KWS is probably well spent on what you are visiting Kenya for….which I can’t say about the bribes (oops… :-o I mean tips).

    So the last enclosure we came to was the cheetahs and our guide told us that some people asked to pet the cheetahs but it was totally forbidden to enter the cages with the cheetahs (they’re not kept in the cages - they have quite a large space to themselves - they just eat and possibly sleep in them in bad weather or for shade) and that any keeper who let us in would be fired if the bosses found out. I didn’t solicit this in any way, except to mention that we loved cheetahs early on in the tour- which is not solicitation but conversation - and if I hadn’t been “in the know” I’d have been totally confused and maybe just a little shocked that some tourists liked to go into the cages with large predators.. As it was, I knew what was up and responded “what a pity…. I bet my wife would have loved to pet the cheetahs“. However, she said, the bosses weren’t around today and so IF I wanted to go in she could ask the keeper and see if it was possible, but we would have to give him something for his trouble because he could lose his job over it. I assured her I understood what “something” was and that was that. I won’t go on about the cheetah petting experience, except to say that the cheetah was more interested in it’s dinner (waiting in the next cage) than us, but did indeed purr like a pussycat when you stroked him right. I didn’t tip the keepers but left the money with our guide - I gave them the same that I gave her and perhaps less than expected…but I am afraid this is corruption folks, and I am very ambiguous about it, despite being relatively used to it.

    DOUBLE WARNING …TANGENT WITHIN TANGENT (and not a feel-good conclusion either) …. I asked quite a few people about this cheetah hug thing while I was in Kenya… to try to find out what was going on. Although I don’t think this is the definitive answer, based on what I saw, what I heard before I went and what I heard while in Kenya the KWS has recently seriously considered ‘legalising’ the cheetah visits (it goes on at both the Safari Walk and the Orphanage) but decided against it. Instead they announced a strict ban on it and any keeper caught allowing tourists into the cages may indeed be fired. Although direct superiors are aware of it, they still seem to be turning a blind eye. I don’t really see any harm - at least at the safari walk the cheetahs have a decent space and are orphans designated to act as “ambassadors” (the safari walk is quite educational with a good guide and aims in part to teach local kids respect and love for their wildlife) and they are certainly not distressed by handling. They are a bit passive for cats but I saw the one we “met” immediately after and he seemed lively and normal, so I don’t suspect anyone of putting ganja in their kibble. However, although I do not know why KWS decided not to formalise things I do sympathise with KWS that since a decision has officially been made what is now going on is corruption within KWS and cannot be allowed (I mean that as a point of logic and not an edict!). I don’t know how much others pay in what was in no way a ‘tip’, but I do think there is a significant scam here and do not think KWS or the animals see the slightest benefit from it. There is no question of this being a case of us persuading the otherwise loyal keepers to make a little exception for us, pleeeease. We were solicited. Given that, I would be reluctant to do it again and I wouldn’t even mention it here if it was not already so well known. There may be another perspective but I think encouraging corruption in an organisation which protects the wildlife we love cannot be good. Oh and I think anyone can get themselves solicited at the Safari Walk with a nod and a wink … I don’t know about the Orphanage. Sorry, I am a bit cynical …. and Nam Wan enjoyed the experience tremendously - certainly one of the top 5 or so memories of the trip for her. Look upon it as “doing no real harm” if you wish….. J


    BACK FROM TANGENT
    After the Safari Walk, which had taken nearly three hours instead of the expected one we had a coffee and then visited the KWS shop at the entrance to Nairobi NP. It’s really quite good - lots of maps and guides for the national parks, and quite a bit of the stuff you‘d expect at a lodge gift shop. They even have a limited KWS clothing line! We spend a few thousand shillings there to unofficially ‘pay’ for the cheetah visit… and because we liked and needed the stuff. Visit it if you have the chance and perhaps your money will go to a better cause than if you spend it at the lodge gift shop.

    In the evening we decided to have a noisy and crowded night out, since we expected we’d be having pretty quiet evenings for the next few days. So we went to Carnivore. It was a Friday night and getting a taxi who would wait proved a little difficult and more expensive than it should have been but we got there in time (I booked via email a week in advance and if I hadn’t wouldn’t have got in that night - it was full until after 8.30). Everything was the same as last year but we got a good table this time by booking in advance. I wouldn’t say it was quiet (understatement) but we were next to the garden outside (and not in the “tour group” section of the garden) and the atmosphere was much better. If you drink wine by the bottle, not the glass, you’ll enjoy Carnivore more. It reminds me of German beer halls a bit and it’s certainly not the place for a romantic dinner, but it‘s fun for us. And since it was the first place we ever visited in Kenya outside the airport and our hotel it’s always going to be a bit nostalgic. I’d rather go somewhere else but Nam Wan loves it (and she likes oldies too). A place for lovers of Elvis rather than Disneyland, perhaps? ;-) We got back to the Stanley about 10 o’clock and there was a really good band doing African covers in the Thorn Tree (well it sounded fabulous after a couple of bottles of wine, so I am downgrading it to ‘very good’). We listened to them for a while but were tucked up in bed by 11.

    We woke up at 5.30 the next morning for our 8 o’clock flight and ordered a room service breakfast (they start serving at 6.30 downstairs). Ate and packed our one remaining bag - a suitcase - and went down to check out and get our ride to Wilson Airport for the flight to Meru NP. Were we excited? We were dancing down the stairs to the lobby!

    The plane left at 7.30 instead of the scheduled 8 because all four passengers were already checked in. The flight was uneventful but notable for Nam Wan for being the first time the Captain has both opened the door and done the in-flight service - sweets (candy) - she works on 747s and is still smiling about it. In addition, one of the other passengers was Thai, but a Kenyan resident. Two people out of four on a plane going to Meru are Thai - another sign we are going to have an unusual trip if I’d read the tea leaves.

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    Joyce... They weren't initally keen on us going either - it was actually our guide, Joseph, who persuaded Anthony to let us go.. although two days of reasonably dry weather helped. I'm not sure about the better weather - I'd guess more changeable might be a more accurate description. Sorry you couldn't get to Adamson's Falls - it's a a great journey - but you'd have seen even less game if you'd headed down that way. I think you did the right things given you were only there two nights.

    Thank you siro, but the credit goes to Meru NP. The light is fantastic for photographing birds if you get a good day - and absolutely miserable on a bad one ...on the downside.

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    Meru was green from the air and even greener on the ground once we had cleared the impala grazing on the runway to land. Grass was long and the bush was thick - so thick that even the dik-diks took a detour to get into it! The drive to Elsa’s Kopje made it clear game viewing was going to be challenging - apart from quite large numbers of dik-diks, impala, vulterine guinea fowl, sand grouse, helmeted guinea-fowl and ground squirrels we didn’t see anything. However it was beautiful and wild (they appear to have done a fantastic job of regenerating it, and at the moment may have felt they did TOO good a job) the sun was shining and there wasn’t another vehicle in sight.
    (In fact although the bush is always thick in Meru, it should be semi-desert in places, with the many rivers attracting lots of elephants and other game).

    We arrived at Elsa’s and were totally, suitably impressed. I will leave Patty to describe it, since we even had the same room and I do think she’s better at it than me ;-) I will say we were not as high up as I’d imagined. Although the kopje is very big, he elevation of the lodge is similar to the Serena in the Mara since it is built on the lower part of the kopje. Some of the views are getting partially obscured by trees too, but that’s about as critical as I can get. I guess the rooms are slightly more rustic than I expected but that was a plus for me - at least under the management of Anthony and Emma (a fairly young Kenyan couple who work hard to make sure you are taken care of in the way you want, within reason) the place is totally unpretentious. If you love nature and don’t mind spending the money, my recommendation would be unconditional. For me everything was perfect because the unexpected is a big part of the fun and the people at Elsa’s knew how to deal with the unexpected when it happened and wasn’t positive. Some people who had our experience might call it “lax”, but boo, hiss to them… I call it refreshing and relaxed. A real eye-opener for me that I might be a Cheli & Peacock type - still can’t believe I am, but I certainly very much like Elsa’s Kopje and all who sail in her.

    Of course we were already semi-celebrities when we arrived thanks to Patty and Mark’s treasure hunt for us. Anthony and Emma were sure we must be firm friends and were very surprised to find out we had never even met. I think they found this a bit mad, but they were very polite about it.

    At lunch Anthony asked us what we wanted to do that afternoon, but because of the “few drinks” the night before we weren’t feeling energetic and the bush we‘d seen was clearly the type that needed energy, so we ended up passing and slept until nearly 5. After a shower with a view we went for a sundowner in the sitting area of the main building and were later joined by Pu (the Thai woman) and her partner. Tables were put on the lawn for dinner and at least dessert was under the stars - it was cloudy - and we also ate with them that night. Food was great (no choice unless you request it, but that’s a choice isn’t it?) and with only 6 guests the ambience was something else. Quite a contrast to last night.

    Woke up at 4.45 after a restful night. No lions or much else - just regular bush sounds, which reinforced that we were going to have to work hard for our sightings. From what Anthony and our driver from the airstrip had told us the elephants were being seen rarely, and even then in small numbers, lions were around but seen sporadically due to the very long grass, and cheetahs hadn’t been seen for nearly a month (this is contradicted by what Patty said, but I guess they meant by anyone at Elsa’s). Leopards were being spotted every couple of days but basically we were being gently warned that they couldn’t promise us that much and that we should choose where to go on our game drives appropriately, especially since the roads were still pretty bad in places. Anthony recommended the rhino sanctuary since some guests had recently proved it was accessible, without rain (well done Patty, Mark, Joyce and Rod!!). From the “menu” of activities in each room, with approximate driving times, we’d chosen Adamson’s Falls and Elsa’s Grave as two places that we wanted to go. Anthony wasn’t initially keen on either since no-one had been for a while and he didn’t really know what the roads would be like; and the journeys were long too, without much chance of game. However, we insisted we were keen if the drivers were keen to give it a go, and we’d quite understand that if we got stuck we’d have to wait for the rescue truck . :D

    I woke up at 4.45 and found a dead mouse in our outdoor bathtub. No idea how it got there … perhaps dropped by a careless bird but there were no obvious wounds. After coffee in our room at 5.30 and a hot shower we went down to meet our driver. Unfortunately there’d been some kind of a mix up and we’d been assigned John, who had taken out Pu’s partner the evening before. Since Elsa’s policy is to assign the same driver throughout, and Pu’s partner was obviously quite taken with John, Anthony called up another driver (I should call them guides , and say all the guides at Elsa’a appear to be very good indeed, but with the roads the way they were it was their prowess behind the steering wheel that stood out for us!). In the end we had to swap our packed breakfast for their hot chocolate and take Joseph and his language of many colours. I will never know if under other circumstances we or anyone would have got Joseph as a guide (he‘s far the youngest and least experienced of the guides there and has a very strong accent, and I got the feeling somehow that he isn‘t first choice) but that is the kind of accident of fate which makes a trip…… I am quite sure none of the rest of this would have happened with anyone else. I have to write a little about Joseph since he is such a singular person . He says “bard” as in “that morn is a barder - he is lucking for bards in the boosh” but he is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, which was what we needed, and real fun to be with. Who cares if we didn’t always understand him.

    So we’re off at last! The roads are heavy and we don’t really expect to see much. After half an hour we see a herd of buffalo and it’s like wow! Buffalo! The animals are skittish here and even the buffalo scatter when they see us coming - here they run and then turn and face us off about 30-50 metres away, rather than stand their ground like they do in places they are more used to vehicles. After that we start to see more. We saw our first zebra, some impalas with calves, our first reticulated giraffe (also with a calf), our first warthogs (I told you expectations were low!!) and more interestingly three bat-eared foxes (“cute!” shouts Nam Wan). We also saw 4 different birds of prey (there are so many here) including my first martial eagle from close up. Basically though we’re seeing what is on the road in front of us, and then watching it walk or sprint away. We stopped at a large clearing for breakfast and scared off a small herd of eland with our arrival. A giraffe also runs for it when we arrive and we get the feeling we are the first people to visit here for weeks (not true of course, but we haven’t seen a single vehicle in two hours of driving). Joseph tells us that this usually a good place to spot animals because they come out of the bush to rest up. Breakfast is a fried egg sandwich, a sausage, cookies, fresh fruit salad and yoghurt. It’s all good, as is the coffee. The giraffe came back to watch us eating and so we did have wildlife with our breakfast - I am realising that we will have to be happy with sightings on a smaller scale and so take a picture of this. On the drive back we find some lion tracks, which is news since there have been no lion sightings for quite a few days apparently. We follow them but they disappear into the bush and off-roading is strictly forbidden in Meru. Joseph then stops and points, telling us “a curry bastarrrd” and indeed when I get my eyes focused there is a kori bustard in the grass. On the way back to the lodge it started to rain and we put the roof on the Landrover. Unfortunately, this vehicle was called up in a hurry this morning and it doesn’t seem quite waterproof, especially when the rain turns heavy and horizontal. Joseph gets soaked because of leaks and Nam Wan also gets wet on one side. It’s a bit of a shock - not part of our vision of our days at Elsa’s - but I am already getting the idea that going out is going to be a bit of an adventure - Nam Wan is still adjusting and is not amused.
    (To be fair Anthony apologised profusely for the roof and changed vehicle for us).

    One thing I noted is that when your vehicle comes in Anthony and/or Emma are always there to meet you and ask how things went. I found this to be a really nice touch.

    After getting dry and Nam Wan being cheered up by a wonderful lunch , she got worked up by the handiwork of Titus the butler (she used to “tidy“ the room before we left but we‘d always come back and find it tidier still - drove her mad, but I convinced her she shouldn’t complain about it - they already thought we were slightly nutty). In the evening we see some more zebra, giraffe and buffalo, plus a Coke’s hartebeest and a lesser kudu crossing the road - the kudu are like ghosts here- you just get hazy glimpses and then they are gone. It was a pretty uneventful drive. No predators. No elephants. We find out we have gone quite a bit further than we thought (Joseph is an adventure waiting to happen) and as it gets dark we realise we are still an hour from camp. Joseph gets out the spotlight, but Nam Wan is getting cold because she did not bring a jacket and (more importantly) needs a pee. Since she has never needed a bush pee before she decides that doing her first in the dark next to thick bush is not on and sulks a bit. We saw some impala, an eagle owl and a genet and get back to the lodge at 7.30. Nam Wan stomps off and I have a word with Joseph about the need to watch her face and not mine for cues. Under normal circumstances this could have been an awkward evening but Emma has a good listen to Nam Wan and before long she’s laughing and smiling and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. I tell the story because it’s the kind of place where this can happen. We have dinner in the restaurant tonight and an interesting chat over drinks with Anthony, who used to guide in Tsavo for a number of years. He reckons that elephants won’t ever charge you if you face them off and don‘t run - they’ll eventually go away - but I think the drink made him a little more emphatic on this point than he really wanted to be….he finally admitted that we probably shouldn’t test out this theory too much.

    We woke up at 5 on Monday and coffee was delivered as ordered at 5.30. Today we’re out right on 6.30 because we’re going to Adamson’s Falls, which is over 2 hours away. The trip has been okayed on the basis that there has been no sustained rain for two days now. Pretty soon we’re in think woodland, which in parts is breathtakingly green - almost shining. The tsetses are enjoying our visit tremendously having been starved of tourists for so long, but fortunately they are only in patches and Joseph puts his foot down when we hit them. We see literally hundreds of dik-diks -every 50 meters there’s a new couple in places - and the ever-present sand grouse (I have no idea why people hunt these birds with guns - you simply have to drive fast and grab them out of the air as they fly past) but there is generally very little game visible. If there was a herd of elephants 5 meters from the edge of the road we probably wouldn’t see them. Still, we’ll get to visit the Tana River and see Kora (entry to Kora NR is with special permission only and we were told “no”, but I have a plan). We are surprised to pass the equator - there is a little sign - and then we all see a silhouette in the middle of the road ahead. This is the first and only time I beat Joseph to the identification - cheetah! As we get closer the cheetah runs off the road and we think we’ve lost it, but then another two follow it from out of the bush, and when we get to where they “disappeared” we find there is a clearing and mama cheetah is using her toilet while two fairly mature cubs look on. We stop and enjoy the family for as long as it takes mum to finish her business and check us out and then the three of them disappear into the bush… and at the same time two more run across the road in front of us to join them. So that’s five, right? Joseph says four and so the record book at Elsa’s will say four (Nam Wan’s video is inconclusive) but I know there were five. J Anyway, cheetah just shouldn’t be here - it’s such thick bush - and they must have been migrating. Such a lucky sighting.

    This is a nice place to finish. I’ll follow with the rest of the day later.

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    You know it's going to be a promising trip report when it starts with the words "Our itinerary was supposed to be" :D

    Off to look through your photos and continue reading.

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    Kimburu, karibu nyumbani. Beautiful green, flowery pictures! The dikrenuk looks lovely and so does the curry bastard. The impala that’s not scared of jackals looks more like a Grant’s. Sad to see the last of the Grevy’s and the dead mouse. Interesting to read about an ambiguous cheetah hug. Looking forward to more, like your reflections on Elsa’s grave, your Kora plan and pictures of a real Denys Finch Hatton-style hat.

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    Glad you made it to the falls and Elsa's grave. I'm jealous you saw cheetah AND leopard AND lion and got photos of the bat eared foxes and lesser kudu, even if the latter is blurry. Like the geredik too. Loved the hyrax butts. I can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventure.

    Did you go to the orphanage or just the safari walk in Nairobi? We saw the 3 cheetahs at the orphanage but to make a long story short, decided not to inquire about petting them (I was going to do it purely for the purpose of gathering statistical data for Fodors and it was actually quite by accident that we ended up there in the first place). For some reason, no guide ever latched onto us as we went through the safari walk nor did we know that guides existed. I think it would've been interesting to have one along.

    Did Anthony tell you the story about the guests back in May whose vehicle got hung up on the river (Anthony was the driver) and had to climb onto the roof as the water came in? That might be why they're pretty conservative about advising guests where they should or shouldn't go :D

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    Nyamera. You are of course quite right that it is a grant's gazelle and not an impala. I did the captions very late at night!! I will change that one quickly before I lose my credibility.

    Don't ask "what credibility?" ;-)

    Patty.. we just went to the safari walk. The guide was there when we went in... I have no reason to think she was prearranged, but perhaps I'll check with Serah about that. Sorry you didn't get solicited - maybe you didn't have on appropriately dorky "safari gear"? I think havign a guide at the safari walk is a really good idea because there are a lot of little things about the animals (and even those particular animals) which it is interesting to know.

    Yes I think Anthony told us that story - in another context which I will come to later. Is that the same one where he had to winch them accross and the woman was totally miffed at being winched ... like, what was he going to do, build a bridge out of driftwood?

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    thanks for posting the story about the cheetah hug. We only went to the orphange in Nairobi, i didn't even think about the safari walk. There was no solicition of money at all, i offered some up to the person who used our camera.

    My sister in law has only lived in Nairobi about a year, and when she took her son last year they actually had someone there taking pictures of the people petting the cheetah and then they sold you the picture. Or they would just use your own camera and take your picture for free. maybe that was an experiment and KWS decided not to continue it.

    We also liked that KWS gift shop and if we weren't so jet lagged probably would have bought more. Rod does have a nice KWS ball cap now and he's gotten a few comments on it recently.

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    TANGENT: Well I should let everyone know what happened with the treasure hunt arranged by Patty. We found the first clue in our room pretty easily, as intended, and located the first of the plastic animals. The second clue directed us to the only place we would find dry hair, but after searching for a hairdryer for a while we realised there wasn't one and anyway, we didn't expect patty to make it THAT easy. Nam Wan remembered a little later that there was a hairdryer in the pool changing room, and she went to look for it. No luck, so i went to look for it... No! So was this a tremendously cryptic clue? We considered everything except anagrams, consulted Anthony and other guests, but in the end everyone concurred that it had to be in the changing room. But it wasn't there. Someone must have moved it.. or even taken it! We weren;t going to give up and so on day 3 we pressured Paul teh barman to confess that he knew where another piece might be hidden. He really wasn't going to tell us (don't know what Patty threatened him with) but after an hour or so of hot coals to the soles of the feet he told Anthony where he had seen Patty hiding one of the pieces - it the camel sculptures! (associated clue "ships of the desert"). Unfortunately this turned out to be the last clue and so we only had to locate one more animal (and I'd spotted the photo of George Adamson in reception immediately). This final message included congratulations and a recommendation not to wear thong underwear on the trip to Shaba - a dark warning indeed! Patty seemed to be suggesting she had tried this - or perhaps it was Mark or Rod? - and it was not comfortable. b( I asked Anthony about it and he looked a little unsure how to respond... but he was relieved we had finally got the treasure hunt finished ... or not quite yet. Since you can't follow clues backwards, we were still missing one, but the staff found it on the fourth day to much relief.

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    Yep, that's the same story.

    I didn't know you could do the cheetah hug at the safari walk too. That explains the differing descriptions and photos of their enclosure/environment posted here. I think you would've found the orphanage a bit depressing. The safari walk is much nicer in comparison.

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    Now I must chime in. Having done the cheetah hug both ways with Kennedy and been at Elsa's, met the couple that was stranded in the river (with Anthony); yes I must intervene! So help me God.

    Patty, you're amazing! Not knowing anything about this mystery hunt, I won't touch that. Anyway, where to start?

    Kennedy explained the "Cheetah Hug" to me like this. It's not a KWS sanctioned activity, OK. He's able to arrange it, but when there are officials in the park, they have to be discreet about it. It's not illegal. Kennedy doesn't have the keys to the enclosures. He's always met by the keepers who have the keys and they let us in. But it's also not a featured activity at the park. We're walking a fine line, but so far Kennedy has never been refused entry for us. So, when the coast is clear you get to hug the girls out in the open at the orphanage. When there's official activity in the park, they take you to hug Mr. Nice in the back enclosure of the Safari Walk. He doesn't live in this little fenced in space with a concrete table, but in a huge enclosure with his girl friend of many years, Mailu. Mr. Nice comes into this enclosure just to be petted by you (for a tip/fee/bribe to the keepers), which has been arranged by Kennedy in advance. Kennedy never knows which enclosure you will be assigned to as it depends on the activity in the park when you arrive. Hence the confusion. The girls are in the orphanage and Mr. Nice in the Safari Walk. They all have a decent enclosure spacewise, but cheetahs need a lot of open space to hunt; these cheetahs don't need to hunt for food. I'm not judging this either way.

    Back to Elsa's. Patty, did I tell you about Juan and Isabel? I met this Spanish couple last May on their honeymoon at Cottar's. They just came from Elsa's where I was heading next. Well, we hit it off and they were telling me about this horrifying experience they had leaving Elsa's. On the way to the airport, after heavy rains, the river was swollen. The guide drove across and made it, leaving them on the other side, returned and decided they could probably make it to catch their flight out. They got half way across, slid into the river in the rushing torrent and the vehicle floated away. Juan and Isabel scrambled onto the roof of the vehicle, their luggage floating out the windows and down the river. Isabel said she knew she was going to die. Help somehow arrived, a rope was suspended from their vehicle across the river onto a tree on the other side and they had to hand over hand escape the vehicle this way. Isabel wasn’t strong enough, but someone caught her and got her across; she can't remember how. She praised the crew for their quick response to save her life and the luggage. She told them to let it go, but they wouldn't. She begged me to convey the message to the manager at Elsa's not to fire the driver, that she was shook up but OK and very grateful. What she didn't know is that Anthony, the driver was the manager! He'd been there only about a week or so last May. When I told him later, (as I promised Isabel I would), we got a great kick out of this. Their clothing was washed and dried at Cottar's, but it took several days. We enjoyed each others company at Cottar's. They were a delightful couple. But what an experience for them! What a memorable honeymoon!

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    Kristina,
    Yes, you were the one who told me the story first. I then asked Anthony about it when we got to Elsa's. Anthony's version is somewhat less dramatic than Isabel's ;)

    He disputes the "vehicle floated away" part and says they simply got hung up on the bridge :D

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    It's always interesting to get more than one point of view. The truth probably rests somewhere in between Isabel's total terror in knowing that she was going to die and Anthony's experience with the bush. When we got there just a few days later, the water had receeded a lot and we could actually see the river crossing "bridge", which is nothing more than a raised platform of cement on the river bottom. You can't see it when the river is high, but the drivers know where it is. Also, at this particular point it curves a bit, which makes it tricky. Anthony said that the water was rising at the time and must have pushed him off this track. Also, with them in the car the second time he crossed, the car was heavier too. Anyway, nobody disputes that the vehicle was totally covered with water except for the rooftop and they had to be rescued by a rope. Isabel said also that the helpers swam out into the river to rescue their luggage. She was horrified at that as she didn't think they would survive. She didn't care about her stuff at that point. Juan didn't really say how he felt or I can't remember it. He took it all in stride and just worried about Isabel. They were both all shook up when they got to Cottars. Needless to say, they got a later flight. Duh! Anyway, we celebrated their rescue and marriage with a huge bottle of champagne at sundowners at Cottars. We were the only guests there at that time last May. We had different vehicles, but they insisted on us joining them for sundowners.

    I bet Anthony was surprised that you knew about this incident?

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    Kimburu,
    Your tangents give great insights. I like the extra info when I'm investigating a potential destination.

    That's an amazing honeymoon tale!

    Did you think 4 nights at Elsa's was about right? I'm glad you described it as unpretentious. Somehow I had gotten the opposite impression. Maybe cause of the legendary bathroom.

    So there really is a dikrenuk or a geredik? It's not just a joke? I saw the photo!

    The tortoise family was adorable and the vulturine guinea fowl were spectacular birds. Loved the spying baboon and displaying kori bustard. Nice yellow butterflies. A lovely photo of the two of you. And now I've seen that cute rock hyrax family in three different albums.

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    I can still see this post, in "post a reply" but hopefully it will not come up twice - if it does, this is the one to read:

    I'm having a lot of trouble posting - may be Fodor's and may be the loss of major undersea cables due to the earthquake off Taiwan... probably a combination.

    Anyway... Anthony seems to have a few versions of that story ... all essentially the same but with different "morals" perhaps? And I'm sure all of our versions of other people's versions are slightly different in the details - well, I've realised mine is - Anthony didn't say he winched her out , he said he carried her out I think... the winch was an idea he or I had for getting us across.... but I may still be getting mixed up - we had a lot of "water action" and subsequent discussion about it.

    Juan was probably right to keep his mouth shut. I've learned not to interfere with my wife's telling of a story too I should probably keep my mouth shut here.

    I am pretty sure that Anthony is correct that there was little danger of the Landrover being swept away, although less certain that his version of "no dnager" is completely accurate. The river is not wide and even IF you were really floating – as opposed to sinking to the bottom while moving sideways - you'd hit the bank and get stuck there...

    Kristina... you intervention is very welcome! Now I have learned that we met Mr. Nice at the safari walk! Didn’t know his name. Also you have cleared up why people who are going with Kennedy have such differing descriptions of where the cheetahs are kept. However, the people I talked to were sure the petting is now 100% officially forbidden, even though it still goes on for a price….. or for love – I can admit the possibility.

    Lynn...I am not sure if my tangents give great insight, but some may be worth exploring further with a little help from our friends who know more than me.

    I would love to tell you that there was rreally a "dikrenuk" and that I was the discoverer of this rare species, but I am afraid it was only a dik-dik which had learned to feed on its hind legs. I was hoping somebody might know if this was common - I suspect it probably isn't that unusual.

    Back to my story - which has been further livened by the rescue story...

    Apart from a couple of “ghost” kudus, more dik-diks and a growing number of tsetse flies we didn’t see much more on the way down to the Falls. It was thick woodland all the rest of the way… broken by the occasional stream or river … and then suddenly there is an intersection and a steel bridge in front of us, over the Tana River. This bridge is so incongruous out here so many miles from anywhere, and basically going to nowhere since Kora NP, which is on the other side of the bridge, is pretty much undeveloped. The bridge was built, along with a lot of the roads and other infrastructure in Meru NP, with money provided by French development agencies, the UN, IFAW and others. Although this infrastructure may eventually allow tourism throughout Meru NP, and neighboring Bisanadi NR and Kora NP, its main use at the moment is to enable KWS rangers to efficiently patrol this large area, and ensure the encroachment and poaching which ruined the park during the 80s and 90s does not recur. In fact the only vehicle we met coming down here or going back was a KWS supply truck – presumably returning from the Park HQ in Kora. For now Kora and Bisanadi remain essentially shut off to tourists – especially during the wet (but not animals, rangers or researchers). Although there is a camp site in Kora NP, and the compound in which George Adamson lived with his lions is still there, visits are certainly not encouraged (if you want to try you have to talk to the Senior Warden in Meru NP). Before I went I would have said this was not a good thing, but really Meru is basically so quiet and free of tourists already that there really isn’t a need to go to Kora until you’ve bored yourself of Meru first – which would take some time.

    Back to the tale…. Kora may be off-limits but like I said, we had a plan… so we drove out onto the bridge to admire the Tana and once there we had to cross – it’s single lane. We then asked the ranger on duty if we could turn out vehicle around there and he duly obliged by raising the barrier. So we can honestly say that we have visited Kora National Park (for all of 45 seconds) :D I got Joseph to stop so we could take a few pictures of the park and the very unexpected road sign there. It’s very thick woodland at that point, rather similar to Meru in that area of course. We returned to the permitted side and took a walk, admiring the broad, brown Tana River and the devastation it had caused along its banks recently. There were tree trunks 6 feet off the ground and 20 or so metres away from the banks of the river at what was already a “rainy season” level. Some trees had died with their roots totally exposed to the sun by the floods washing away the banks. We took pictures of the falls, better characterized as downhill rapids but very attractive thanks to the heavily wooded banks on the Kora side and the layered and sculpted black and grey stone. There’s a beach on the Meru side at that point and it’s truly a beautiful spot for a picnic, so that’s just what we had. Same breakfast again but no complaints from us. We ate, chatted, and then wandered over the rocks to stand next to the Falls, getting some “barding”, small animal and reptile spotting, and flora lessons along the way. After that Nam Wan finally got her first “bush pee” in this lovely spot – she doesn’t think twice now, although she did learn the hard way that you should try to make sure your feet are not downhill from your bottom. :-)

    The drive back to “civilization” - meaning the part of Meru NP in which you might occasionally see another vehicle – was uneventful. We tried to go along the river to Elsa’s grave but the road was too dodgy and so we turned back and came back basically the way we had come. I think this would be a great drive at a drier time, when the road along the river is passable.

    Being Joseph, even after the long drive back he just couldn’t resist taking a little detour on the way … just to check out the lion tracks again, seeing as it had been a lucky day so far. We found the tracks but no lion, and returned to the lodge.

    Lunch was below par today – just “very good”, and we had a pretty leisurely afternoon since we were heading out for a shorter game drive that evening, starting at 5 o’clock – probably taking in the hippo pool. We went for a swim - the water was really nice since this was the clearest and hottest day we had seen - and then read by the pool for a while before getting ready for the evening drive.

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    We left at 5 and Joseph decided he’d go a slightly different way (maybe finding the lions was still on his mind or maybe it was a shortcut). So we headed off across an area with a faint hint of a track visible somewhere under the grass, which was extremely thick and mostly about a metre high. The “road” we were on began to get pretty wet and so Joseph decided to use the “verge” - not worth getting stuck, especially since the bosses were going out for a romantic sundowner tonight (we were at 6 guests, and we were all pretty low maintenance). Suddenly the road seemed to disappear and I could see Joseph wondering whether to turn back or not (he knew the track was there, it was just that it had been completely overgrown to the point that you couldn’t see it anymore). And BANG! Nam Wan and the right rear of the Landrover disappeared momentarily from view and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee as she came back into view, and then they both disappeared again as the rear right hand wheel of the Landrover settled into a huge hole.

    After 30 seconds of the three of us shouting “are you sure you’re all right?” at each other, Nam Wan and I just broke out laughing. Joseph was still not sure it was okay (he may have been worried we were in shock) but a couple of hakuna matatas got him back in a good mood and he called for rescue – from the angle of the vehicle it was quite clear we weren’t going to drive out – the front wheels weren’t flat on the ground. Joseph got out to survey the damage and we looked over the edge to see what had happened and sure enough our rear wheel had fallen into a hole about the size of one of those big reclining armchairs beloved of couch potatoes – you could have hidden chair and couch potato in it quite comfortably. The Landrover was fortunately only slightly damaged since it was all earth and grass. We were told not to get out of the vehicle because there were a lot of ticks in the grass at the moment so we stayed put. After about 15 minutes Anthony, Emma and two friends showed up all dressed nicely for their sundowner, complete with picnic hamper. Of course they were very concerned at first, especially since we’d already been soaked and frozen on our game drives, but we were unhurt and smiling – Nam Wan was in the mood now and claimed later that driving into a hole was just what she needed to remind her that this was Africa and she loved it. Then Emma, who was nicely dressed in white trousers and a nice top for her sundowner fell in another hole on the way over to commiserate with us. With the grass being so long it was really wet down there and poor Emma’s white trousers turned into “sheer trousers with attractive red-brown and green patterns”. Surprisingly it was pretty easy to pull the Landrover out using Anthony’s and really, although I could tell we all thought there should be something else to do, there was absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all carry on our merry way – well, except perhaps for Emma who was going to be freezing by sundown if she stayed in those trousers.

    So we carried on with our game drive and the Landrover seemed not too much the worse for wear. We didn’t have much time left and Joseph was on strict “home before dark” instructions, so we didn’t get to see a lot in the end. But there was a beautiful sunset which we shared with some zebras and a displaying kori bustard, who was still displaying the next morning (could he have been at it since Patty’s visit?).

    We discussed the holes with Anthony and concluded they must have been part of a burrow system that had collapsed in the heavy rain. Anthony thanked us for taking it so well and pointed out the conservation value of helping to open up roads like that, because if they get overgrown and dangerous they could be lost forever, which would hurt tourism and therefore the chances of conserving the area long-term… I publicly think that was spinning it a bit too far, but am still secretly glad for my contribution to conservation. ;-) We had dinner on the lawn again, this time properly under stars, and decided it had been a very oddly perfect day.

    We decide to get up a little late on Tuesday (5.45) since we found we had more than enough time to have our coffee and a shower before our activity. Elsa’s grave is down near the backs of the … River, about 90 minutes drive. However, we are once again going through woodland and the tsetses are out in force this morning, so Joseph speeds a bit – they seem to like him even more than me. Nam Wan isn’t getting bitten much at all today – although they do keep on getting caught in her hair - and she claims it is because she is wearing a non-toxic lemongrass-based mosquito repellent. We both doubt her, but when we try it have to admit that it does seem to work – or that suddenly where there used to be tsetses there are none. Again we see no vehicles, and in this thick woodland, with all the tsetses, very few animals or birds. Although this is partially because we are going very fast, Joseph says you don’t ever see much game down here. The woods get less thick and we see a kopje which Joseph says is that used in the film “Born Free” and then a short time later the woodland opens up completely into a beautiful clearing next to the river – Elsa’s grave and the site of one of George Adamson’s camps (I note with Joseph there is always a lot of talk about George and little about Joy but this is George’s home turf so to speak and so perhaps that is not surprising). You can see the area in my pictures if you are interested – it is just like that – 80 meters or so of clear space next to the river, with Elsa’s grave at one end of it. Of course one comes down here to get all nostalgic, and a bit choky and sniffly - Elsa’s death is after all a sad story as told by George via Joy - but I have to say it was a very, very peaceful place here and almost worth coming in its own right – definitely so if you could combine it with a drive along the river to Adamson’s Falls.

    On the way back we took a different route, to “reopen” some more of the roads that hadn’t been used for a while, and with the good weather if felt as if we were leaving (due next day) at just the wrong time. On the way down we had seen a few lion tracks, and on the return we found more – we were able to see that it was a number of lions – maybe as many as five. We followed the tracks for a couple of miles – they were quite clear – until we came to the river again, where the trail went cold as the lions seemed to have walked onto the rocks on the banks of the river. Since there is a ford at that spot Joseph guessed that they had crossed the river – he said it was unlikely they would hang around on our side anyway because the game was thin and the tsetses would drive them nuts. Although it was disappointing not to find the lions, it had been a lot of fun tracking them in this way, guessing how old they were and so on. I’ll have to try this again sometime on foot. We gave up and drove up towards the Rojeweru River where we were going to have breakfast and then look for some more game – most of which we had seen near to, or north of that river. We visited a big baobab tree on the way, where Joseph showed us signs of poachers who had probably used it as a hideout in the 90s. On the way up we met another Elsa’s vehicle and they told us they had met a lion in the road half an hour ago. Since it had already left the road and disappeared into the bush, Joseph said he’d check it out after breakfast.

    After crossing the Rojeweru we visited a pool where we saw hippo and some colourful birds, including two types of kingfisher and two types of weaver. Baboons and vervets around too, of course. Our breakfast spot was only a very short distance up the road and as Joseph announced our arrival I switched my camera off since I was worried about my batteries (long story why). I rarely do this on a game drive, and of course as soon as I did Joseph stopped the Landrover and whispered ‘leopard’.. and there was a leopard sitting in the long grass right at the entrance to the “viewpoint” which was our picnic site, looking at us. I turned the camera on but it takes a couple of seconds for it to work and a couple more to check the settings, and then when I pointed at the leopard to shoot I couldn’t focus – the long grass was fooling the autofocus… aarrgh!… so I had to turn it to manual focus and SO SLOWLY the leopard came into clear view and I shot it. The moment I did the leopard got up and I watched it walk across the road (no chance to get another shot with it moving, manual focus on and the vehicle in the way) – and no way we were ever going to find it again in that bush. Phew... :-) And at the same time, I wish I had had more time to look at the leopard - I tried very hard on this trip to make sure I either shot once or twice and then viewed "in person", or viewed first and shot when I'd had my fill - it's too easy to see everything only through the lens and in the context of what might make a good photo. With the long grass making autofocus unreliable and "clear" shots nearly impossible at times... and the whole process slow... this proved difficult to maintain, and I missed a lot of shots doing it, but I'm glad I did (except in the case of the leopard).

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    Going off at another tangent .. but just a little way... the Cheli & Peacock Web site draws attention to the fact that there are now only 8 female Grevy's zebras left in Meru since the last male was killed by a lion, and that KWS currently has no plans to introduce more. This has been mentioned elsewhere and I asked about it while in Meru, but it seems that there is nothing more to the story - it is simply a case of KWS not seeing it as a priority comapred to other projects they ahve going, and so no funding is available now. Since there are currently no foals among the group of 8 (who we saw all together) Grevy's will become extinct In Meru NP soon, which is a real pity because they are not there unnaturally. Of course if the local lions have got a real taste for them their time may be extremely limited, and they may need quite a number to build up a sustainable herd. In both Aberdare NP and Ol Pejeta Conservancy we found that lion numbers had been deliberately reduced because prides had developed specialist skills for hunting locally rare animals (Bongo and Jackson's hartebeeste, respectively). I wondered if that was teh case in Meru NP, but the person I asked said there was no real evidence of that, and that it was more that the numbers were never that large to begin with (expert scientists were called in when Meru was being regenreated to calculate what numbers of everything would be required to make a balanced and stable ecosystem - for the most part the animals returned naturally as the park became a more secure area for them, or were already there, but in some cases there were imports of native species from elsewhere... but perhaps such calculations can never take evertything into account). Anthony seems to toss this information out relatively often in the hope that some guests will be in a position to fund a translocation from Lewa Downs, where Grevy's are bred for just this purpose... I didn't ask how much it would cost, but if anyone is interested I'm sure Anthony and Emma would arrange to throw in a couple of free nights in Elsa's oh-so-beautiful House to take the sting out of it ;-)

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    Enjoyed the rest of your photos. Looks like you toured the same village in Samburu I recognized some of the woman. I am will curious to read your opinion of it.

    You really have some nice bird photographs; I’m still wondering how you shot that liliac-breasted roller. And who’s kitty cat was that out on the road? You sure had good luck in finding the big cats. Also glad to see you really got to explore the Abedares the waterfall shots are great and the buffalos at the waterhole.

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    Thanks for the info on the Grevy's Zebra. The mother-baby vervet shots were adorable. Some very close closeups of the rhino. The gerenuk bookends were great. The running Jackson's Hartebeest was lovely.

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    Loved the hartebeest in action. Your Aberdare photos brought back very fond memories. Hope you enjoyed your time there. You have me daydreaming about a "next" Kenya trip already (Meru, Abedares, Tsavo West & East would be on the itinerary). What's the antelope in your Mountain Lodge photos? I can't wait for your "no Moses" day installment.

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    Sorry for not responding to comments - amd still having a lot of trouble posting or even reading.

    Lynn... 4 nights at Elsa's is probably just right if you like the sound of the park and Elsa's itself. If you are keen on long drives and picnics and taking the time to track the lions with the guides, etc. even longer would be fine. They do walks too when the ticks are not out in force. And if you like to sit and read/meditate in perfect solitude too, book a week!

    Joyce... the roller arrived and started dust-bathing in the road right in front of us while we were stopped to look at something else... easy.

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    We’d had good weather most of the time we’d been in Meru, despite a couple of very heavy showers and the constant threat of more serious stuff. However, on the last night I was woken at 2 a.m. by heavy rain. I got back to sleep but at 5 woke again and got up to have a look. Rain was dripping into the room and so I moved any stuff away from the area we appeared to have a leak in (a honeymooner wasn’t so lucky with his I-Pod; I got the impression these thatched roofs leak slightly if the rain is very heavy and sustained – attractive and generally reliable as they are). The rain continued until after 7 but really it didn’t seem that bad. Still we were glad that Julius from ESS (who had arrived the night before) had insisted we leave early rather than having a last game drive – he was worried about the weather. We packed up and had our first breakfast at Elsa’s – we’d had packed breakfasts every day. There’s very good muesli and the like, bread, pastries, toast and a cooked breakfast with eggs made to order. Basic stuff but fine. At 8.15 we were ready to leave. Goodbyes are warm at Elsa’s – we’d like to think they were especially warm for us, but I suspect this is just the way they do it – with some warmth and the sincere wish that you’ll be back this way soon. Anthony, Emma and Joseph waved us off and we’re finally on our way… off to Shaba. The roads are really quite wet and the minivan is slipping and sliding a bit – no cause for alarm though. We meet a car coming the other way and the driver stops to talk to Julius. Julius says he couldn’t get across the ford up ahead but not to worry, since we have a better set up for fording than he does. However, when we get to the ford he looks considerably more concerned – what was a trickle has become a bit of a torrent. It’s not that deep, but it is 3 times as wide as it was and moving very fast. We decide to wait because it’s not raining and some Elsa’s vehicles are coming behind us, taking staff on leave. When the Elsa’s vehicles arrive 10 minutes later, the water has already visibly risen. Everybody gets out and has a look, and thinks about it – after all they have a big truck there. But in the end nobody wants quite to take the risk – it’ll go down soon is the consensus so let’s wait. After a while Joseph and Anthony show up – guests are due to arrive at the airport and they need to see if they have a chance of getting to meet them. But the river just keeps on rising. Anthony twice tried to wade across – to see how powerful it was – but abandoned the attempts – just as well since we’d seen pretty big bits of trees hurtling past. When it started to rain again and we’d all been there about 4 hours it was decided we should all go back to Elsa’s and wait a couple of hours – the new arrivals had already been picked up by vehicles from Leopard Rock Lodge and taken for lunch. There was some reluctance to leave – it would be nearly an hour’s drive back to Elsa’s in this weather – and everyone was kind of slow to move. Then someone comes running with the news that the river behind us is rising rapidly now and we’d all better get across it quickly – we were actually on a kind of island between three rivers. We all jumped in the Landrovers – leaving the minivan – and found that the other river had indeed risen significantly and was moving very fast. Anthony got his Landrover across, taking the ford at an angle to compensate for the pressure of the water. He got across safely, if not comfortably. Joseph was driving us and we were find for two-thirds of the way, when the current suddenly started to take us rapidly with it. Although Nam Wan claims she was sure we were going to die, we of course made the bank with literally inches to spare – another foot to the left and we would not have been able to climb the bank due to it’s steepness. Whoooo!

    The roads were just pure mud by now and we were driving sections sideways, like crabs, with roaring engines… We just left the road at one point and used Elsa’s airstrip – which was like a swamp and was like driving on ice - but we made it back without getting stuck. Joseph seemed to be enjoying himself immensely – his passengers slightly less so. Back at Elsa’s we got a report. A French couple who were staying at the KWS bandas were stuck with us since they couldn’t get home. Elsa’s new guests were all at Leopard Rock Lodge having lunch. We had KWS rangers stranded with us too. Elsa’s staff would try again to make it out later. In the meantime, we’d all have lunch and have another go later in the afternoon.

    Throughout the afternoon we got reports as various people went out to check how things were. We’d know we were due an update when we saw Anthony in yet another set of clothes. By 4 it was clear it would be extremely risky to try and get out. The French couple would try again at 7 p.m. since their banda was just across the river, but we were going nowhere. Elsa’s new guests had been checked in at Leopard Rock Lodge already.

    I knew this was going to cost us because our itinerary meant we passed from Elsa’s care when Julius picked us up, rather than at the airfield. Serah called and she had already been in touch with Cheli & Peacock and Sarova (where we were booked to spend that night). The best she could do was a FB only rate of $450 for two (with rescue thrown in!) from Cheli & Peacock and a partial refund from Sarova (she eventually got us $150 back). Still, this was another blow to the shopping funds!

    So wet and feeling rather poor we followed an apologetic Anthony (he of course has no real say over who pays what) to our new room. However, it wasn’t a room - Emma had told Anthony to put us in the house – Elsa’s Private House that is – as a kind of “sorry”. I’d always thought of this as being away somewhere from the rest of Elsa’s and possibly a little sterile or “child friendly” but the place is near reception and absolutely fantastic. I don’t know quite where to start with it…

    I’ll tell a little more later …. Want to post this before the Internet gremlins strike again.

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    Life is bad Patty.. 5 days at Elsa’s Kopje … would I swap if for your flying though?

    The Private House is totally enclosed at the back for privacy and totally open at the front for the view. It is built in a gentle curve around the pool deck and lawn which border the private swimming pool (a dead ringer fro the main one) and surrounded by rocks and trees. The view is one of the better ones at Elsa’s, out to the Nyambeni Hills and the caldera. The rooms are big and beautifully furnished and decorated, with the twin bedroom being much the lesser of the two bedrooms (but still very, very nice for that). It’s light and bright for the most part and ever so tasteful. It has its own dining table and bar, and so you can live down here if you want, completely apart from everyone, with your house butler to take care of things. Around the pool on the rocks and trees there are even more hyraxes than elsewhere, including a white one - but not albino as far as I can tell - as if there are even special hyrax for the house. All the furniture is nicer, newer and better than that in the cottages and in fact I’d say it was quite a step up from the cottages to the house (which is saying something, and surely a matter of opinion). There is a beautiful big indoor bath with a view and an outdoor shower with an even better view. I could go on (it’s own library, the little lawn with its shady tree) but better just to say it’s just amazing. Even from the point of view of cost, while I could never afford to stay here as a couple, if I was in a foursome or with two kids who needed their own room I’d consider it something close to good value - seriously. And I doubt you’ll stay anywhere better in your life - different or more to your taste perhaps, but not better per se.

    By the way we did not get a discount so that I would write nice things about the Private House ;-) It just wowed us that much…

    After our rather arduous day, we spent the next 3 hours enjoying the minor royalty lifestyle, sampling our bar and watching the hyraxes, which are even less wary of people her than elsewhere around Elsa’s… one even came through the house to get to a tree on the other side of the pool… sniffing our shoes and Nam Wan’s foot on the way. We tore ourselves away to go to dinner and see what had happened to the Ferench couple and other refugees.

    Basically no-one had got anywhere and the stranded French couple had to stay the night (poor them… although I do not honestly know if they got a cottage or a place on a sofa somewhere, they could have found a worse place to get stuck!). The Elsa’s guests stuck on the other side were being put up by Leopard Rock Lodge - fortunately they had rooms available. We had another chat with Anthony and the French couple but left early since we had to try out the bath and the swimming pool. Both work perfectly and swimming in the starlight (the sky had cleared) has never been better.

    In the morning, we decided to make an early start - even though it was hard to tear ourselves away, there were other things to see. The roads were still wet but definitely better and we had a breakfast report that the French couple had made it across the rivers without problem. We drove out and found Julius’ minibus still where he’d left it and apparently none the worse for its night out, said our goodbyes to the lovely Joseph (who had managed to steer his guests’ game drive past us to check we were all okay and the minibus was going to start - not just for us; he is very fond of Julius too) and were on our way. The roads were pretty wet in places but we made it without any scares and were at the park gate by 9.30.

    So Meru? Great park. Even in the wet we saw cheetah, lion (twice), leopard, bat eared foxes, and everything you’d expect to see in a good reserve except for elephants (which were probably in Bisanadi rather than Angola…) and crocodiles - well I saw a young one scurrying across a ford so they are there - but including lesser kudu. We could have seen rhino if we had wanted to, but we had a full program without a visit to the rhino sanctuary and we were visiting Ol Pejeta anyway. Birds were great - I have read somewhere that it could be difficult to see them because of the heavy cover, and that was probably true, but we saw plenty, especially birds of prey. And the cover couldn’t have been much heavier. The scenery puts most places to shame - it might not be everyone’s preference for an African landscape, but it is gorgeous. If it hadn’t been so wet we’d have had even more diverse habitats. The animals are quite skittish for the most part but that makes it all the more exciting when you do get close and they are not so skittish as to make viewing or photography impossible - they just want a bit more space than most in the Mara or Samburu. Do nto expect to see what you’d see in the Mara - the places are not comparable. This is a game viewing destination requiring a bit of character - not much, it is very seductive ;-) Would I go back … in a heartbeat! Would I stay at Elsa’s Kopje? Frankly, I suspect Leopard Rock Lodge may be better located for game, but absolutely. My second choice would be the KWS bandas - although I didn‘t get to visit them as planned I got a report on the “poorer“ of the two sets of bandas from the stranded French couple and it sounded fine - although I’d maybe go for the ones at the gate which have more ‘amenities‘.

    Things to do if you do visit Elsa’s/Meru:

    Game drives: If you are set on making Meru into a game viewing destination, make game drives long and take a packed breakfast to get the most out of it - 4 hours at a time was not a long time.

    Adamson’s Falls - well worth the trip for the nature boy/girl - wild country.

    Elsa’s Grave - only for nostalgia - this is a pretty rough drive and you won’t see much… but if the roads allow it to be combined with Adamson’s Falls it’d be a very interesting way to come back from there.

    Bush walks - I couldn’t but maybe you can if you go in the dry.

    Swimming - don’t miss using the pool

    Night drives - KWS only extend your license to stay out until 8 p.m. or so (okay, anyone can get “lost” says Joseph, so let’s say 8.30). Nevertheless this is a really nice way to extend your game drives - be prepared for insect appetizers though if you are spotlighting. Nothing spectacular for us with all that thick bush, but others will be luckier.

    Sundowners - Elsa’s know where to go and what to do… leave it to them. Sunsets were not at their best while we were there but lovely nonetheless.

    Rojewero View Point (I think that’s the name).. Lovely picnic spot with benches by the river - again leave it to Elsa’s and you’ll probably end up here anyway.

    Relaxation - take the time to smell the roses and admire the views…..



    I think that part of my report has disappeared into the ether….to very briefly cover what is missing… we went on a night game drive (properly prepared this time) and found out we had to do our own spotlighting. We saw some impala, an owl, a bush baby and a lion … not much of a haul but it was fun despite the insects - if you are spotlighting while driving do not open your mouth ;-)

    The lion was the same as one we had seen the previous day on the way back from the leopard encounter - a young male with a short black mane - it is normally very hot in Meru.

    On the last evening we went for a sundowner - it was a memorable experience but I won’t give away the surprises….

    This report is getting VERY long - but I'll hop through Shaba and Samburu.

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    Patty... the antelope is a bushbuck... that's the one you mean? The males in the area of Mountain lodge have that lovely long dark brown coat and the nice stripes and spots.

    By the way, you are not considering that next Kenya trip for 2008 are you? that would jsut be too much.... our tentative plans have switched 2008 from Botswana to a week in Tsavo East and West, a week in Masaai Mara or Serengeti, and one other place (we're in dispute over that).

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    Yes, that's the one. I thought it might have been a type of bushbuck but wasn't sure.

    I have a hard time seriously thinking that far ahead, but 2008 is a possibility. You're not thinking of going in May are you?

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    Oh, and September Patty... so we'll be back to you scouting for us then? ;-)

    The drive to Shaba was "uneventful", although the road from Isiolo to Archer's Post is well worthy of mention. It is being relaid though. Julius told us that there was little game in Shaba and rather oddly blamed it on a movie that had been made there, involving explosions. Since Shaba NR is near to one of the areas where the British Army do their exercises and the Kenyan Army have a big base there, I wondered if something had got mixed up - but since he'd very recently spent a couple of days at Sarova with not much to do but catch up on the news (while waiting for Patty) I'll beleive him but admit I'm puzzled why they would allow a movie to be shot in Shaba.. hmmm

    Sarova was a bit of a shock coming after Elsa's Private House. Luckily there were only 16 guests the night we were there but the number of buildings, the enclosed rooms and the perfectly fine but comparatively "canned" service were all a bit of a shock. The swimming pool is talked of in places in glowing terms and it's nice... but I won't talk negatively about the Sarova because it was jsut a very strange eperience coming back to "civilisation" like this. The riverside setting is beautiful and the place looks very, very nice - sort of treehouse style without being built on trees. There are vervet monkeys, baboons and birds aplenty, and crocodiles in the river. I had a very nice walk around the property by myself. It's okay, but I can imagine it being used for a corporate event, and there's a TV in the bar (placed so you can ignore it, but it's there). And many things reminded me of the Stanley (also a Sarova now) which is fine, but not quite right for Shaba. I doubt I'll visit here again but if I had to no problem. Upstairs rooms have a better view I think.

    Shaba the reserve is really very, very pretty... and so, so photogenic. We didn't seem to be having a lot of luck with light but we still got nice pictures from there. We only went on a short evening drive and stuck to the main roads - still wary after Meru.The grass was long but we saw our first gerenuk - eating on four legs as most would be because there was simply no need to put in the effort with eveything so green - oryx, reticulated giraffe, impala and a couple of crowned cranes. Birding looked promising too, although nothing we hadn't seen in Meru. If you could spend time and get closish to some game here you'd get some great photos. Our plan had been to travel all the way to the far east of the reserve and then visit Joy's Camp for a sundowner (Emma from Elsa's had arranged it for us) but that plan was scuppered, so we'll never know what we might have found with the time. It's the only place I've felt I can't really say I visited it properly. It reamians an attractive place but I'd love to know if this "film" stuff was true...

    Next day we had a nice breakfast (much better than the Stanley!)and then packed and left for Samburu. We had debated having another drive in the morning but Nam Wan wanted to visit a Samburu village for shopping (and I felt she had some unfinished business with the Maa speakers from last year). She won! We went into Samburu via Archer's Post and the village we visited is just past the school on the right if you are going in.

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    Wait, I'm confused, who's scouting for who? I think you're planning a more northerly route, is that right? Ours is more to the south but perhaps we'll have some overlap.

    The shock you describe is similar to what we experienced when we arrived at Ol Tukai on our first trip.

    Sorry you didn't get to experience more of Shaba. It really is such a stunningly beautiful reserve.

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    I meant scouting Tsavo Patty - and remember we have "one other place" to be determined ;-)

    Yes, I do feel like I haven't really visited Shaba - certainly not the way I wanted. Did you hear any stories about "explosions" while you were there, by the way? It's a strange story.

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    we waited at the intersection of buffalo springs and the road to Shaba while waiting for Patty's van so we could caravan to Elsa'a and really noticed the British military coming from the road to Shaba. I asked Ben about them and he said they practice up in that area.

    i hope you will have more to report on the samburu village shopping trip

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    Oh, you meant September = you Kenya

    Not September = me Namibia

    Got it finally #-O

    I didn't hear any stories about explosions but there have been several films shot in Shaba though I don't know when the most recent one was.

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    So the village visit. I have a feeling that our perspective on village visits is slightly different from the norm. Firstly, we're there to shop - which has surprised the "villagers" both times. Secondly, we can bargain and are not too uncomfortable about it. Thirdly, we come from a country where tourists go on "village visits" like this and so we EXPECT things to be contrived.
    The Samburu village visit is indeed contrived, since there is a kind of script, but refreshingly some of the Samburu (like the masaai last year) don't follwo the script, so we had a couple of guys who were obviously not too keen on the jumping and really didn't get very far off the ground (and for some reason the men of this village are a little on the short side for Masaai anyway)and a woman who was loudly complaining about something during the dance - as with Joyce, Nam Wan was sent to dance with the women while I videoed it (I guess they found that white men really can't either jump or dance and so kind of gently discourage it). The rhythms and chants are genuine enough and it took Nam wan quite some time to get into the "groove" - it's one of those where you have to feel the rhythm in your pelvis if you're ever going to get it...but I thought she was doing okay by the end. In fact I was a little surprised she was so relaxed and enthusiastic about it all. After the dance we ewnt into the boma and were introduced to the schoolchildren and their teacher. This was a bit corny and I was going to tell Ben (the Samburu who guides visitors) that he shouldn't bother with the talk becuase we were here to shop - but I thought he teacher might be offended somehow so gave him 500 shillings and tried to get one of the kids to break off from his "hungry and in need" look ... got him, too. We then went into the house which Ben claimed was his own - and I'm sure it is. He told us that it was made of dung and sticks and skins, and and I commented that I ahd noticed the Samburu incorporate some modern materials into their houses too - mainly yellow plastic, which is presumably from an aid package delivered at some time... or perhaps they buy something that always comes wrapped in yellow plastic ...?? nam Wan posed for a picture with Ben in the hut and then we were ushered towards the shopping area. They had a pretty good selection and there was the same story as last year about each family having their own goods and us being steered to the elders' goods first. Nam Wan selected a couple of dozen things while I chatted with Ben and some of the other guys - who were getting a bit interested in us now (whether because we were obviously big shoppers or because we were obviously so relaxed and comfortable there I don't know) and asking Ben to ask us some questions. Nam Wan got back with her items and of course Ben wanted us to negotiate piece by piece. I told him we'd negotiate for "lots" buit not piece by piece or we wouldn't finish until sundown. We didn't negotiate much for the pieces sold by the old blacksmith, who was clearly important, and that went down very well, but really the rest of the shopping was rather overprices, even after cutting the prices by half. We were happy in the end though - so much so that Nam Wan paid 700 shillings for a 100 shilling ring (I already ahd the price down to 300 so I think she had taken a shine to one of the ladies, but she denies this and claims it was just that we'd spent enough time bargaining). Ben got our address and we his (we sent him a postcard later) and we were sung off to our car like great white hunters in a 40s Hollywood movie.

    So it was fun, we got some great video and we had done most of our shopping already while contributing a considerable amount to the community... which I think is a good idea if you want to keep reserves like Buffalo Springs and Samburu going (although we didn't overpay massively I hasten to add). I think I like the Samburu even more than the Masaai of further south and I'll have to spend some more time with tehm at some point.

    At the gate to Samburu Julius started telling us about the lioness and the oryx calves. I'd seen the Saba Douglas-Hamilton film about it and so knew more than Julius about what had happened (which he tried not to be miffed about - smartass mzungu) but I found out that Nam Wan had never heard the story. Of course she loved it. Did you know they took away the second of the oryx calves and it was raised in captivity and that the lioness has never been seen again... that's the story. Strangely some local people seemed to think Saba Douglas-Hamilton had been a real bitch just leaving them to die but others understood why she did it.... in any case it may be a subject you can get a group of safari guides a bit worked up about if you have the time and inclination.

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    Thanks for the village post, same samburu village and ben was also our guide. i hope you at least let them make fire for you. i think that was my favorite part of the village tour.

    Glad you did a lot of shopping there, they were probably still grumbling about those cheap americans that were there the week or so before you. In hindsight i should have bought more beaded jewerly cause i've given most of it away to friends.

    we didn't get the story at the gate about the lioness and the oryx calves.

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    Joyce..I will leave the story about the oryx and the lioness for your guide on your next trip. It is an amazing story.

    We did get to see them make fire, but the guy who was showing it couldn't do it quick enough for his fellow il moran and so he grabbed the sticks off him... :-O

    Yes, both you and I get Nam Wan's point now... and every gift comes with a story about where it was bought and a bit of inofrmation about the Masaai way of life... so it's worth so much more than something bought in a gift shop or at a gas station ...even if it is/appears to be the same stuff. The money isn't much really in that context.

    Hopefully this weekend I can make some progress with this report. I know there are people who want to know about "new, improved" Sweetwaters and about Tusk Camp...

    Hmmm... actually, since there are already so many trip reports about Samburu - including two recent ones, why don't I just skip a lot of detail?

    I can say that in the end we saw the usual stuff (and that's very good). It looked like it was going to be really disappointing for the first two days and then on the final day we saw everything we had hoped for... we went out into Buffalo Springs - towards the Swimming Pool if you are familiar with the area - and the elephants were coming back in reasonably large numbers - they hadn't been to Angola after all ;-) We also finally got to see gerenuk who were feeding on their hind legs at last - presumably because the bush cover is less in Buffalo Springs (in Samburu, as in Shaba, they had just been feeding on all fours because there was so much browse around). And we found three cheetahs out at the Swimming pool, just getting ready to either hunt or retire for the night - not as exciting as a chase or a swim, but really nice seeing the pussy cats getting dressed up for the evening. We couldn't get any good shots because the grass was so long and we didn't want to disturb them by getting too close (I could have done with one of BillH's 500m monster lenses too) but we arrived at teh best time and saw lots of good cat interation and communication as they decided when and where to go. They seemed to be three fully grown cubs, but Julius thought one was the mother - I'll trust him on that, since our video is inconclusive behaviour-wise and I certainly don't know yet how to estimate the ages of full-grown cheetahs from appearance alone.

    Before that we'd twice seen groups of three lionesses (and the back of a single lioness) but no males, and a good selection of various game, but mostly in lowish numbers - it was actually rather like on the plains of Meru but with more vehicles (many more vehicles). We'd seen a few elephants but nothing like the numbers I'd expected, and only someone else's sniff of a leopard. I like the park a lot - the only drawback is the number of vehicles there, although we managed to stay out of people's way most of the time, in Samburu there was no way if you found anything that you weren't going to have at least a couple more vehicles drawing up alongside within 5 or 10 minutes). On the bright side there were more eyes are so more things probably got spotted. Buffalo Springs seemed to be a lot better as far as vehicle concentrations go, and so I was glad that's actually where we had our best luck (one of the groups of lions was there too) contrary to expectations and the experience of others.

    In retrospect I think my expetations were very high and I am being a little negative about game sightings - we saw a lot in Samburu/ Buffalo Springs - there are animals all over the place and a fantastic selection of birds too. It's a kind of heaven, really - except heaven doesn;t have as many vehicles.

    The Serena is grudgingly recommended. It's fine, the setting is great and the location is very good for getting out and about. The rooms are pretty good and the chalets are attractive and set up so that you can't easily see one verandah from the next... in fact the best thing about it is sitting on your verandah by the river with only a low wall between you and the reserve, spotting the birds and monkeys... and in the dry I am sure a lot more besides. But they DO have an electric fence except for along the river and the place seems to be situated just outside the non-populated part of the Buffalo Springs Reserve, so you will see Samburu with cows when you drive out, or a couple of people walking down the road drinking a Pepsi. Service is also not up to Serena standards we've experienced elsewhere (it's quite impersonal) and they do still bait leopards. actually they keep quiet about this - it is not advertised or included in the briefing when you check in. Shame? An effort to add a bit of a surprise for people? Certainly made my eyes pop when I was scanning the opposite riverbank with my binoculars in the twilight and came across a leopard apparently hanging on a rope from a tree... of course it was hanging on the meat they had hung - playing around. Again, I make it sound bad and it's fine. There are many good things to see and do there and away from the pool it's really quiet and atmospheric. I doubt other places are really much better.... it's kind of symptomatic of Samburu I think.

    The camel rides at teh Serena are to be recommended if you are me and to be avoided if you are Nam Wan. The camel is big and rude and scratches itself if it feels like it -prepelling you forward - and the saddle is pretty authentic and rough, with just a bit of wood to hold on to. Also, the ride takes you out towards the local Samburu village, along the river, and once you get out there it all feels quite "real" (good for me, very bad for Nam Wan, especially when she got two big acacia thorns stuck in her leg). If you want small camels with comfortable, safe seating and a route that never takes you far enough away that you can't just jump off and stroll over to the bar, choose Sweetwaters. My (uneducated) advice would be that if you want a gentle taste of what a camel safari would be like (without the walking) choose Serena. All I can say is that I enjoyed it but I do know why people walk most of the time on a camel safari.

    Here are today's tangents or "asides". After Meru, where you always stopped or at least waved and said "morning" when you came across someone, it was quite a shock to be rebuffed when I asked a couple who we were stopped next to on a game drive while Julius exchanged sightings with a friend if they were looking for the lions too Everyone in that area was looking for the lions that morning because the rangers had seen them at 5.30 and the drivers had heard about it at breakfast). Once I realised what was going on... and nobody had found the lions yet ... I thought it was a polite thing to say ... like "good morning - nice day". But they cut me dead. Since I was not looking particularly wild that morning and hadn't given them the evil eye or anything, my question to Miss Manners would be... was this perhaps perceived as an embarrassing faux pas in the context of a rather crowded area of a reserve? Would the correct reaction to being face to face at three feet been to have stared determinedly the other way, as they were trying to do? I may actually be looking for an answer here. ;-)

    And about "Hunting with Henry"... Julius kept his radio off for most of the trip, which was good because neither of us really like it and the end result was always going to be a pack of minbuses. However, Samburu was proving very disappointing and although we were covering the ground and following the leads he'd picked up, no-one was having much luck at all with either cats or elephants. So he decided to hunt with his old friend Henry and occasionally with a third vehicle, and we had a "radio hunt" for about an hour every drive after that. I really don't like having the radio on but in these circumstances - really once the big cats lay down you couldn't see them at all - we must have stopped to check out pale coloured boulders in the distance 15 times! One day we drove past location A and 60 meters of so later Julius stops and says we have a flat and he'll have to change it. We were tempted to get out and stretch our legs, but since the grass was long and it would obviously be a distraction to him keeping an eye on us, we didn't. It took 5 minutes or so to change the tire and we carried on with our drive. About half an hour later henry came on the radio to say he'd found the lions and so we turned right, right again and found a crowd of minbuses right at Location A... they were only 10 meters or so off the road and so they must have been able to see Julius change the tyre...one had a fresh wound that looked like it had been inflicted by a horn too, and so might not have been in a good mood. So do think before you get out of the vehicle next to long grass - even if you have broken down -there really are bad-tempered lions lying in it. :-o

    Anyway, the radio hunt was a success for us three times out of four - although the cheetahs were a pure chance thing and actually nothing to do with the radio - we were both heading that way because of the elephants and Henry happened to have got in front of us because we were in raptures over the gerenuks. Given that I guess in the circumstances I was glad we did it, but in normal circumstances I think I'd rather miss some things than have the damn thing on all the time. On balance maybe the way it was done - for shortish periods between friends, in a reserve where we were going to keep on coming across other vehicles anyway - was all right. If what people say about some drivers having it on all the time is true, people are missing out - it's a rush hunting and finding big cats, even with noise and static, but it wasn't such a rush when we arrived and found that there were already five vehcles there and the lion was walking down the road being pursued by a mini-convoy - especially when the first vehicle got too close and the lion went off the road and disappeared into the bushes. This is "old news" but I thought I'd mention it.

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    Very interesting, especially the tangents. You’ll need a better hat on your next trip. I almost don’t have time to read trip reports, but I might be able to go to Kenya in June.

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    Wow! Great report and beautiful pictures. I really loved the little tortoise family - so cute. And your river adventures brings back memories.

    Sound like a great trip - thanks for taking the time to report!

    Cyn

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    Glad you are still here all .... and NYAMERA! An announcement! I'm so honoured it is on this thread too (or is your strategy to hide it where no-ne will ever find it?). We will be keeping our fingers crossed in Bangkok.

    I went to Sweetwaters/Ol Pejeta with fairly low expectations. We were only going there because we had had to cancel our planned visit to Il Ngwesi. In turn, Sweetwaters (and another night at Elsa’s Kopje) had only been selected as a replacement because my wife had an understandable fixation with seeing a place with the same name as her (Nam Wan means sweetwater in Thai). However, I was very pleasantly surprised by Sweetwaters and (especially) Ol Pejeta in which it is located. While it is clear that Ol Pejeta used to be a farm, down to the hedgerows in places, it is definitely not a farm now. There is quite a lot of game and a number of laudable initiatives, all of which you can help to support while enjoying yourself enormously.

    We had booked a tent in front of the waterhole of course, but when we arrived were told they only had a twin tent (5) that would not be ready for a few hours. They were very apologetic and offered tent 19 instead, which had a double bed. I didn’t think that 19 sounded like a good deal but went to check it out and found that the location down there was quiet and that there were zebra and impala right in front of the tent. I also worked out that because of the position of the fenced driveway into to Sweetwaters, most animals would come this way to the waterhole. We decided to go for it (the waterhole had very little action anyway it seemed) and it was an excellent decision. Most of the animals do come that way and in fact a lot of animals hang around in that area (tents 17-21) for most of the day and night - it’s a kind of gathering spot before and after visiting the waterhole and salt lick. So it can actually be a better place than the waterhole for seeing the animals. From our tent we saw zebras suckling and fighting, gazelles and impalas stotting (and an excited zebra apparently trying to stot with them - they’re not very good at it, by the way) impalas practice-fighting, and a gang of mixed herbivores seeing off a lone hyena. We also saw a bushbaby and a significant number of birds - nothing too exciting for the twitcher but very pleasant nonetheless. There were also an amazing number of warthog young (what is the young of a warthog called? I forget.) which I assume is because of the lack of lions - explained later - and absence of cheetah (except for Toki, who is doing very well and living a completely fee life now, if anyone was wondering. The best thing is that there are animals nearly all day and night and the whole time the backdrop is Mount Kenya. White-tailed mongooses and buffalo also come this way after dark on their way to do their stuff at the waterhole and the giraffes come to drink via a break in the bush directly in view, so there’s time to get your camera and take up a position behind a tree or in the hide that functions as a bar sometimes (the waterhole bar was not open while we were there - presumably because the very wet weather meant there were not so many nocturnal visitors).

    The tents appear to be the same as they ever were (from other people’s photos) perhaps with new bathrooms and there are certainly too many of them (40 now). They are a little close together too, but they are nice inside and we were not ever annoyed by the sound of someone else inside their tent. Not to be confused with the $400 + per night tented camps but nothing at all wrong with them as accommodation. Service is very good and the food is fine. The drawback is that it is used by the tour groups and you never quite know what you are going to get... again more later.

    There are a lot of activities on offer at Sweetwaters, some of which are a bit different, and having been here I’d recommend it as a “rest stop” during a long trip when the morning and evening game drive routine might get a little repetitive. We only did one game drive with Julius here in over 2 days. For us the length of time was perfect.

    Did I mention it's a very pretty place?

    On the first afternoon we asked Julius to take us to see Morani the tame rhino at 4. We arrived at the same time as a Chinese group (ever see someone wearing a suit on safari? I have!) and a few others - Julius told us this was a busy time because Morani comes up at the rangers' post to have his early evening snack of sugar cane and vitamin-infused kibble, and it would be better to come back the next morning. As it turned out Morani had smelled some rhino that day and was in a very bad mood, so nobody was allowed to get closer than 3 meters and he had to be fed constantly while people were there. Apparently Morani is really upset by the scent of other rhino - both a natural thing and perhaps a bit personal in Moranai’s case since he was castrated in a fight with the last rhino he met. :-o We didn’t stay long but we had a look around the little display about Ol Pejeta and its animals that they have there. It is set up for kids but is quite interesting all the same - go and have a look if you are there.

    We then went on a short game drive, seeing some things but nothing really interesting except for a couple of breeding Jackson’s widowbirds (during breeding season the males grow a very long tail and display by bouncing up and down in the grass as if they have a little trampoline down there - very entertaining and very pretty). While we were watching the second one Julius saw another of his sandy rocks in the grass but this one suddenly got up and started walking towards us! It turned out to be one of the tracked lions with a radio collar (note that radio collar does not mean tame). She walked right past us and we noticed from her belly that she appeared to have cubs.

    That night we sat outside our tent and had a bottle of wine we had bought at a supermarket in Nanyuki (surprisingly good, but maybe it was where it was drunk). There were no guests in the tents on either side of us and it was really pretty idyllic there. There are spotlights switched on both near where we were and at the waterhole and so with binoculars you can see everything going on at night in a very large area. We joined the zebras, waterbuck and impalas in getting excited when they sensed a predator and laughed when we saw it was a white-tailed mongoose. Ooh, scary! We also got to see how much the herbivores feed during the night and how little they actually really sleep - good textbook stuff - and after visiting the very cosy bar for a nightcap and a warm-up in front of the fire, we slept happily.

    In the morning we got up at 5.30, had a shower and headed up to the main house for coffee before our lion tracking. The other two who were supposed to come with us had cancelled so we once again had our own private vehicle. The tracking is done in an open-topped vehicle with a driver and the tracker with his tracking device and while they do not guarantee success, because they track the lions most days and usually know where they were the day before my impression was they don’t fail often. I also got the impression that despite the relatively small numbers at Ol Pejeta people get to see lions quite often if they use the Serena vehicles, since their general location is known to the drivers via these trackers.
    (By the way number of lions is because one of the permanent prides of lions were relocated after they developed a specialisation in killing the endangered - in Kenya- Jackson’s hartebeest).

    We were trying to find the largest pride on Ol Pejeta and although we were not successful we saw three black rhino, two white rhino and one of the Jackson’s hartebeest - arguably we were lucky but it is just as likely that going out with the rangers who are responsible for protecting these animals has its rewards). After 80 minutes or so I think (discussion was in Swahili) they decided that the large pride were too far away and that we would follow the other signal they had picked up of a lioness with cubs who was a member of this pride but separated herself from them for a lot of the time while she looked after her cubs. After half an hour of looking for ways through thick bush off road in a steep valley the signal got strong enough that the machine was turned off and we started using our eyes. The bush was really thick here along the banks of a stream and it took us a couple of minutes before one of the rangers spotted the resting female - even though she was only 10 meters away. There was no sign of the cubs, but when we manoeuvred into a better position to take photos of the lioness Nam Wan (who had been looking ONLY for cubs since the moment they were metioned) spotted something running away in the grass. They were hiding from us, although the mother seemed totally unconcerned by our presence. We then saw the cubs jumping over the stream about 50 meters away from us and after that heard their little yelps, calling for their mother. She obliged and jumped over the stream herself to join them and they all came to get a comforting lick and a drink of milk from her. After 5 minutes of watching the cubs suckling and playing, the rangers asked if we’d had enough since we shouldn’t disturb them, and we left. (By the way, we did actually disturb the cubs much more than was intended because the rangers hadn’t been able to see the lioness for the thick bush and long grass - we should have spotted the lioness from further away and then we could have comfortably watched from there, but because we didn’t spot the lioness until we were nearly on top of her we’d obviously spooked the cubs a bit at first).

    Re the authenticity of this experience,
    “real” tracking would involve much greater distances since animals can wander out of Ol Pejeta and into the rest of the Laikipia area, and the ones they want most to find are those furthest away, and so this lion tracking is a little bit contrived from a certain perspective. However, I assure you that the rangers do take notes and pay attention to the condition of the animals they see and you really are using the signals to find the lions, which are wild and free and not confined or totally habituated (clearly no lion growing up solely on Ol Pejeta is going to have a big fear of humans but this is way beyond a safari park experience). It’s great fun, you’re helping to fund the important long-term project of studying predator movement in Laikipia, and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Nam Wan suggested that we'd been taken on a wild goose chase for show when they knew where the cubs were all along, and the tracking device wasn't even turned on. I did not think that was the case and she agreed with me when I took her back through the events of the morning (I just mention it because the rangers are not all that communicative and people might have similar thoughts).

    In the afternoon we went to the chimpanzee sanctuary. It’s not exactly a feel-good place because all the horror stories of the chimps there are displayed for you to see, but there are happy endings to most of these stories and it’s nice to see the chimps and learn about them if (like me) you have not yet had the opportunity to do that elsewhere. Of course it would be immeasurably nicer to see them free in their natural habitat, but that can’t be for these guys and girls and they form a relatively happy colony. Personally, I would not go to Ol Pejeta specifically to see the chimps, but if you are there then do it - I don’t think you’ll regret you did - unless you really want to bury your head in the sand about what man does to animals. We also went to see Morani again. He was out in one of his 90 acre paddocks that morning and so we had to track him - or rather the ranger who acted as our guide did. Julius had timed the trip so we were the only ones visiting and it was really quite an unexpected little buzz to track a rhino on foot - even if it was that overgrown baby, Morani. It took us about 25 minutes to find him, following his tracks and freshly flattened vegetation, because he had moved since the rangers had last seen him. Anyway, he was in a good mood and we petted him a bit (he doesn't purr - in fact I don;t think he feels it) and took some photos. He is very tame, but he is huge and I nearly had a heart attack when I was taking a close up of his mouth and he stirred and snorted. Morani certainly isn’t a real wildlife experience but I think he’s a great ambassador for his species and if you encounter him in his paddock rather than at feeding time it’s a very nice experience. Just the walk in the bush is neat, actually.

    That afternoon a large group with a number of kids checked in and we had people on both sides again (Serena had tried to put them all together away from us and another “quiet” couple but they insisted on moving - and I don’t blame them since the tents at the back on stilts are clearly inferior as far as view goes). Tent 18 was our concern since there were two parents and two kids in it. At first it was okay - the kids came down to the tent with Mum and were pretty quiet. However, Dad was clearly intent on making sure the kids “HAD A GOOD TIME” and had decided that this had to involve a lot of noise. The guy shouted rather than spoke to his kids, ran with them up by the ditch, went jogging with them in the morning (despite the fact that the rules say “no jogging” for obvious reasons) and every time he spooked all the animals and sent the birds scattering …… and I don’t think he ever even noticed. When he took the kids to stand close to the waterhole he just strode across the grass to the benches they have for observing the action close up, chatting loudly to the kids the whole way. Of course when he got there he had two maribou storks and a duck left to observe close up and I’ll guarantee you he’ll be complaining that you don’t see much at Sweetwaters and it’s a waste of money ;-)

    Sweetwaters bar is really nice in the evening. It is cosy and intimate with an open fire, interesting photos on the wall and a barman who’ll chat with you. Reminded me of the bars in small Scottish country hotels - very much “white” Kenya. The singer goes in there at night too and so you can request Jambo Bwana and sing along to your heart’s content. It’s quiet too (if you don’t sing Jambo Bwana) … why does nobody go to the bar for a drink at Serena properties? The prices are high for Kenya at 300-500 shillings a drink, but it’s not THAT bad.

    Oh an remember to tip the rangers when you visit Morani - these guys have a hard time babysitting a moody, 32-year old, 1200kg baby. He has to be guarded 24 hours and so that means they have to know roughly where he is at all times, missing sleep if he insists on having a restless night. Plus they've got the other black rhino to wory about. The attitude of the guy I talked to was pretty good about it - even though I asked him a few leading questions inviting him to have a real moan.

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    Still reading and enjoying. I call warthog young piglets but don't know if that's correct. Did you hear anything about a new 10 tent camp being built on Sweetwaters reserve?

    Nyamera,
    Hope you make it back to Kenya in June!

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    Ok, now -
    What a shame about the dad with the kids - makes one wonder why they were there. But what a nice thing to be able to pet the Rhino - not someting I would have ever thought about being able to do. Is their skin like an elephants - spikey hair?

    Cyn

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    kimburu, you've really got me down about Samburu. I just can't seem to wrap my brain around a good introductory safari to Kenya. Not that I have one in the offing, but in my imagination my next East Africa trip will be Rwanda/Kenya.

    A terrific report, as I've said before (and will undoubtedly say again).

    Nyamera, tell us where when how!?! I will send you a new umbrella.

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    Leely... I am really sorry that I got you down about Samburu. It wasn't my intention - but mine is a warts and all tale. We did actually enjoy Samburu, as every other place we visited - the only problem with a good introductory safari to Kenya is that you can't go everywhere! What a happy problem. There are so many animals in Samburu and its such a pretty place. If it's any consolation I should have mentioned that part of the problem was that some of the roads were impassable due to the rains which meant everyone had to use fewer roads, causing more meetings. Ad if there had been more easy sightings available the "track game by listening to the radio" gang would have been more spread out. Keep in mind the last and best day that we had in Buffalo Springs there were only two other vans (Henry and a hanger-on) coming out our way and we all used different routes to the Swimming pool, giving us a much, much better experience. Also, we were totally spoilt before this... we had not seen more than two other vehicles per game drive for the previous six days... spoilt brats complaining - that's us!

    Patty... I didn;t hear anything about the new camp - it would be fantastic if Sweetwaters was a 10 tent camp, though.

    Cyn, rhino skin seems harder than elephant skin, and not hairy. And yes I do live in Bangkok.... and good red wine is indeed expensive and difficult to find ;-) Where are you staying in Bangkok?

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    kimburu:
    First night we land we'll stay at the airport, the next few weeks we'll do some traveling around Thailand, and eventually end up back to BKK at the Oriental for about a week. I should be getting my itinierary posted this week over on the Aisa board, and would love your input if you have the time.

    Rhinos are so interesting to me - they look both ferocious and sweet all at the same time.

    Cyn

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    Hi Kimburu -- I'm really enjoying your report. Honestly, I love it when people write about what they didn't like so much, as well as what they loved about their travels. I especially appreciate your thoughts on Sweetwaters, since we'll have a day and a half there next September and I'm interested in some of those "alternate" activities to mix things up a bit. Looking forward to reading more, thanks!

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    ”Hoglets” is a good word, but according to Google it’s mostly used about little hedgehogs.

    I’ve got a horrible teaching job that I’m not qualified for at all, but I’m earning “a lot of money” and as long as I’m not fired because of complete incompetence I’m going to Kenya on the 18 – 20 June and staying for 3 weeks. As I’ll only have this horrible job until 15 June I can’t spend Fodorite style money. I want to return to the Mara to see the topis and also go to some park that I haven’t visited yet. When I’ll get the time I’ll post asking for advice. I’ll definitely need an umbrella.

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    Qualifications are over-rated Nyamera. Hope you can hang in there until June.

    So finally, we move on to Tusk Camp...
    The drive from Sweetwaters to Aberdare NP was relatively short but we stopped at the equator (I'm not sure why, because Sweetwaters is right on the equator anyway, but Julius thought Nam Wan wanted to stop and she thought I wanted to stop and so we stopped until we worked out that nobody actually wanted to stop there). We also stopped off in Nyeri to pick up our cook. We couldn't find any postcards at the equator, despite there being 20 souvenir shops, but we got some at a bookshop in Nyeri, which is in a beautiful location, built around a valley (you can see this most clearly from Aberdare NP at night) but manages against the odds to be no more than reasonably attractive. It's certainly a good place to get supplies, cash and so on, but because of the way it's built around the valley/ hillside, it may take longer than you expect to get into and out of town. We picked up our cook for the next 2-3 days there - ESS had suggested we take a cook with us to Tusk Camp (as if we were doing camping with them) and we'd agreed that sounded like a good idea. Although we were disappointed not to try Julius' cooking, I don't think he was very keen. Cook Weston was a clown and good company over the next three days. Since he normally caters for camping trips he has a lot of campfire stories and patter, some of which is credible and some of which is bush legend. Apart from being entertaining, his cooking is pretty good one-flame, two-pots stuff (not up to Elsa’s Kopje but occasionally inspired and you won't go hungry).

    I had expected to enter Aberdare NP by the isolated entrance next to Tusk Camp but we had to drive around to the Park HQ to arrange a ranger to accompany us the next day and so we had a little bit of a drive around the lower Salient (where Treetops and the Ark are located. We’d thought the bush was thick in Meru, but realized quickly in the Salient what thick bush really meant. Quite seriously, the only way we could have seen animals in the Salient was if they were on the road or one of the paths or clearings. Green!

    At the HQ we met a German couple who were going to camp at the camp site near to Tusk Camp for a night before a night at the Ark, so we’d have neighbours (3 km away buy road, closer as the crow flies). As we moved up through the forest towards Tusk Camp we still didn’t really know what to expect. When we got there we were very, very pleasantly surprised. There are four separate huts, two of which are adjacent and form the bathroom, kitchen and living/dining room complex. The others are divided into four bedrooms. There is also a circular tin hut for your porters but since we had the van we didn’t need that. The bathroom has a shower (with hot water provided you check the caretaker has enough wood to make a fire for the boiler) and a flush toilet, which to conserve water you are entreated not to use unless “necessary” … Since there was an outside long drop toilet, Nam Wan and I debated what might make a flush toilet “necessary” and concluded that it was “necessary” to her while I was happy to use the long drop, which has a “stable door” with two gates meaning that it can easily be converted to a toilet with a view over towards Mount Kenya… lovely, and very clean. I will not eulogise more because some people might be eating as they read this, but suffice to say if you are the type who likes to take a good book with you this will be a delight.

    The bedrooms are small and functional, but the beds are comfortable enough, and bedding and towels of dubious quality but certain cleanliness are provided. Despite very cold nighttime temperatures (we are up at over 7000 feet) and nobody to bring us a hot water bottle we slept like babies here. The kitchen is not well equipped but has shelves and space for food preparation as well as running water. The other room has a dining table with four chairs and then four rather worn armchairs around a fireplace, which the caretaker comes and sets for you in the evening. There is no electricity but 4 kerosene lanterns are provided and that was fine for us. This place is great…

    I quickly got out onto the lawn to check for signs of life. The buffalo dung is fresh, as is that of a smaller animal (hare possibly), but the elephant dung is a couple of days old…. okay I didn’t really know this, but Julius and I decided between us that it was that old ;-) No sign of the rhino that is reputed to feed here sometimes. Since the lawn area is pretty small this is quite exciting stuff.

    After checking things out I decided to go out for a drive with Julius. Nam Wan decided to stay at camp and relax. This was the “everybody’s seeing elephants except for Paul” period that would last until 10.30 the following day.

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    The roads in Aberdare NP are very good, and although Mount Kenya and Meru on teh other side had been having lots of rain over the past few days it hadn't reached here for teh most part, so while it certainly wasn't dry the main tracks were in good condition and it was possible to go down some of the smaller tracks for a way -until we reached a spot where the sun didn't shine and the water was still standing. We were on the lookout for elephants since we had heard from the rangers that a large number were in the Salient (they tend to spend the rainy season in the lowlands - including on people's farms if they can get through the fence - and head up into the highlands in the dry, but there are always elephants in both parts of the park). We weren't seeing much except for bushbuck and some birds of prey, a couple of warthogs (not even bush pigs I think, a few buffalo and a couple of unidentified animals - were they kudu, were they reedbuck, were they imagination - just ghosts of glimpses. No elephants. Nevertheless it was a lovely drive - the park is hilly and beautiful and there are enough open spaces to allow a view from time to time - and every view is a stunner up here! We turned around just before 6 to head back, crossing a lovely mountain stream (you just cannot believe this is Kenya). We followed a loan hyena up the road for a while and then it ran off as we met the German couple. Of course they'd just seen a herd of elephants on the road about 500 meters from where we'd turned around, and reported that they'd met a ranger who had also just seen elephants... we were just a little high... but it was too late to go back. At the entrance to Tusk Camp we found a hyena lying by the side of teh road who was obviously used to people - we guessed she was waiting for after dinner to see if we had a careless chef and she was so laissez faire about people I'm sure she was a sometimes dinner guest at Tusk Camp. She wouldn't be eating with us though - cookie was much too fastiduous about keeping his kitchen clean and his food and waste locked in boxes. Disappointed we went back to camp, consoled that at least I'd seen more than if I'd stayed in camp and that tomorrow we'd be out the whole day.

    When we arrived back at camp there was a bit of ascene. The Germans were there grinning from ear to ear, there was a lot of talking and geticulating going on between cookie and the caretaker and Nam Wan was looking breathless. "Did you see the elephants?" she asked me. What elephants? "The ones on the road just over there? Have they gone? The Germans saw them". Turns out a large group of elephants had come out of teh bush just in front of the camp and crossed to the bush on the other side - slowly. They'd finally disappeared from view of the road literally a minute before we arrived. The caretaker had come to get Nam Wan and told her to bring her camera, so she'd filmed the whole thing from the road. It's a classic movie because she had just frozen when she realised what she was doing - standing in the middle of the road filming an ever-growing group of elephants 30 meters away. There was no cover but she was comfortable that the caretaker and Cookie knew what they were doing. They did... when she turned the camera to locate them there's a classic shot of the two of them crouhed down peering around a bush at the elephants, looking pensively at Nam Wan - Cookie later told me he thought she was quite brave but knew what SHE was doing (remember we'd only met a few hours before). The soundtrack on the tape consists of the sounds of the elephants crashing through the bush and short high pitched little sounds coming out of Nam Wan's mouth. She says she's never been so scared and so excited in her life but somehow looking through the lens made it bearable and she knew she had to get the shots... that's the spirit! Anyway, looking at the tape the elephants were very relaxed.

    So that's the sad story of the day everybody saw elephants except Paul and Julius who were looking for them, and perhaps there's a lesson there.

    Aftert he excitement the caretaker set the fire and we had a sundowner on the porch (they even have a little porch - how good is that for $100 per night for the camp?)and got a hot shower before dinner, which was packet soup (yuck, but of course it always tastes fine at night at 7000 feet) a stew with lots of vegetables with pasta - good - and fruit. Real camping food but quite okay.

    After dinner I went out "spotlighting" with my torch in the grounds and saw a civet and three hares. There were lots of hyenas around and although I could see the lights of Nyeri way down in the valley there was no sense that we were anywhere but vompletely in the bush. We then shared a bottle of wine with Cookie while Julius had his ginger beer and told some stories in front of the fire. Nam Wan also persuaded Julius to come to Thailand - she thinks, but I bet he says that to all the girls. ;-) With his beanie on in the firelight we realise that Julius bears more than a passing resemblance to Samuel L Jackson... or was that just the wine? Anyway it was a really nice evening and made us think really hard about doing some camping next time (okay, comfortable camping ... but it's a big step forward for Nam Wan when the only stumbling block left is the toilets) ... and most of all deciding that the next time is not going to be very far in the future at all. After watching the stars until we started to shiver uncontrollably we went to bed.

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    I've been waiting for this part. How exciting to have the eles in front of the camp!

    It sounds like Tusk Camp would be booked by only one party at the time, is that correct? After staying at Tusk Camp and seeing Fishing Lodge, which would you recommend?

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    Yes, Patty...only one party - it's all yours. That's a difficult question about which one. The Fishing Lodges (there are two) are real houses with way more luxury, as the price suggests. They are really convenient for the high moors and the waterfall circuit, so if you were planning on hiking or fishing it's the place to be - especially since there is a hiking trail and a river right there. There is a clearer view because the vegetation is not thick in that area - in fact it is pretty reminiscient of European highlands right there - just with very strange plants, elephants, buffalo and the like. Fishing Lodge is more isolated (except for your neighbours, if any, you are miles from anyone) whereas Tusk Camp is a couple of km away from a park entrance and a camp site and you can actually se the boundary fence 100m away. You can also see the lights of Nyeri, but as I mentioned that does not really detract that much from the experience - it is far enough away that it doesn't affect the star gazing. Fishing Lodge is quite exposed and it is certainly colder and wetter up there (we were chilled and wet up there at the same time our caretaker could have been sunbathing down at Tusk Camp). Tusk Camp is really convenient for the Salient and that is where there is more wildlife is. I would probably stay at TYusk Camp again, but having said that if it was full and I got shunted to Fishing Lodge I would not be too disappointed. It's win-win.

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    Not giving up - just taking a rest after managing to get to Tusk Camp and add it to places reviewed on Fodor's. Will round up the last 3 days (uneventful) soon. Am busy doing my Namibian bookings at the moment.. will post my itinerary today for no good reason.

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