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Kenya Trip report 13th to 21st July 2006

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Africa has held a passion in me since childhood, having read so much and seen so many movies over the years, finally visiting Kenya with my family (myself, my wife and two daughters aged 12 and 9) was a beautiful experience. We made our booking through a Company in Nairobi called African Quest Safaris. Their teams excellent planning and organization of the trip made it so very smooth and easy. The package included pick up from Nairobi airport on 13th July morning, a full 9 days tour on full board basis, included all park fees, game drives, with exclusive use of a 7 seater safari minibus, and drop back at the airport on 21st July afternoon.

An album of my trip photographs may be seen at the following link

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?&mode=fromsite&collid=24107031211.54621131211.1154125483198&conn_speed=1

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    13th July Arrival, Nairobi and Samburu.

    Nairobi Airport:- Upon landing in Nairobi at 6.00 am we first had to get through immigration. As it had been prior indicated to us the visa was granted on arrival for a fee of US$ 50 per person and was done smoothly and efficiently. Nairobi airport is nothing much but okay. If one is planning to buy any duty free spirits or wines etc for use on ones trip don’t plan on picking it up at the Nairobi arrivals duty free shops as the prices were really quite high. Immediately after passing customs (no hassles whatsoever) we saw the African Quest rep Alice standing with a name board for us. She accompanied us outside to the car park where we were introduced to our driver guide Godfrey. We basically loaded and boarded our vehicle and took of on a long 6 hour drive to Samburu which is about 314km north of Nairobi. We had specially opted not to waste our time and money staying a night in Nairobi, and instead to do the long drive to Samburu directly from Nairobi airport, in spite of the fact that we would be quite tired after a 14 hour flight from Colombo and also considering our two children were with us. I was a bit worried how my kids would take this hard journey but surprisingly they handled it very well. I guess they were so exited. I had given them half an Avomine on the flight so that had helped them to also get some sleep on the plane. In fact on arrival in Samburu at 2.30 pm they also insisted on coming for the first afternoon game drive.

    Along the drive from Nairobi to Samburu one passes the equator near Nanyuki. In some places the road is good and other places it is quite rutty and potholed. After the small town of Isiolo, the last 20km to the lodge/reserve is a very rough road and quite an experience. There is one heck of a lot of dust so please pack your stuff especially cameras etc very well. The Samburu area actually has 3 game reserves in the vicinity, namely Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo springs. We actually stayed at the Sarova Shaba lodge which is inside the Shaba reserve. It is about a 40 mins drive from the Sarova Shaba lodge to the Samburu reserve gate.

    The Sarova Shaba lodge was fabulous and they gave us a very large and conformable suite room called the Born Free suite. The staff was very warm, friendly and courteous. I especially like to commend the front office desk clerk Raphael (your smile is etched in my memory), the chef Robert (superb action station pasta) and Commore (dreamer, nomadic musician and volunteer part time helper – never heard “Malaika sung quite like how you did it).

    Upon arrival at 2.30pm we had lunch, checked into the room and within a few minutes we were back in the vehicle and off on our first game drive within the Shaba reserve.

    The Shaba reserve has a lesser density of game than Samburu but somehow it is a classy place. One of the first animals we saw was Africa’s famous little dik dik which is a small little antelope, really very cute to look at and quite tiny in size. The sight of a startled dik dik scampering away from the roadside is something one will see all over Kenya. We saw many other birds and animals. Spurfowl, Superb Starlings, Lilac Breasted Rollers, a Gerenuk which is a slightly larger and very long necked antelope, Reticulated Giraffes (oh they are so very beautiful and unique to the Samburu area), and Grant’s gazelles with their creamy white buts. The Grants gazelle differs from the Thompson’s gazelle in that they do not have the striking black slash on the sides of their bodies, are a bit larger, and the males have longer horns. They also tend to be in a more cohesive and larger herd whereas the Thompson’s seem to be in a more scattered herd. We were searching for a lion when Godfrey got a tip off from another passing driver that a Leopard had been sighted a couple of km away so we raced off to the spot and low and behold we saw our first and only African Leopard for the whole trip. Panthera pardus, the most elusive of the cats was sitting on a rocky outcrop a fair distance off and was quite happy just sitting there and watching us watching him. One needed a good pair of binoculars to see him well. We watched him for about 20 minutes before he finally slinked away into the thorn bush thicket. I specifically say African leopard because we, being from Sri Lanka, have seen many leopards in my own country too. Sri Lanka is probably the best place in the world today to spot Leopards and the Yala game reserve in the deep south of the country is considered to have the highest concentration of Leopards anywhere in the world today. The Sri Lanka Leopard is very similar in looks to the African cousin; tends to be a tad larger in size but has very different behavior. In the Sri Lankan jungles he is the top predator as there are no lions, tigers or hyenas etc to fear so he seldom carries his kill up a tree. Nevertheless he is still a very elusive and cunning creature, quite difficult to see. (Sorry if I bored some of you with my interlude on the Sri Lankan leopard here)

    In the fading light of the evening and on our way back to the lodge we saw more reticulated giraffes and our first African elephant, a lone, large grey bull with short thick tusks, standing just a few meters away from the road, quite unbothered by our presence. One of his heavily stained and worn tusks appeared broken and a slight show of musth was barely visible below the eyes. I felt he had freely roamed the length and breadth of this vast continent and wondered how he would fare with the elephant corridors being made available in the new Africa!

    Finally it was back to the lodge, showers, a sundowner for me, early dinner, early to bed and early to rise next morning.

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    14th July – Samburu.

    Our first full day in Africa, we woke early and left on safari at about 7.00am with a picnic box breakfast which we had prearranged the night before. This was recommended by Godfrey as it would allow us a long and uninterrupted morning game drive in Samburu reserve. We saw lots of animals, Grants gazelles, Oryx, Eland, Waterbuck, Reticulated Giraffes, Grevys Zebras (these too are unique to the Samburu area and have thinner narrow stripes and the markings are really most beautiful). We saw a huge crocodile. He was a fair distance away from the river and had tunneled himself in long grass near a family of baboons and was waiting for one of them to wander close enough. He was really a huge croc. We searched for lion but still no lion. We saw a vehicle stopped far off in the distance so our driver said we should investigate and this ended up in our first cheetah sighting. He was so well camouflaged that it took some serious searching to spot him. It was my wife who actually saw him first. He was so close, seated upright, hidden inside a bit of thorn scrub, fully taught and erect, muscles all tensed up, gazing steadily at a nearby heard of Thomson’s gazelles. We watched him stalk the gazelles for about an hour. He would ever so gingerly take a careful step forward, the forefoot almost pausing in mid step as he bit by bit got closer to the gazelle for the final dash. We felt lucky, that we would actually see him chase and probably kill. But the gazelles suddenly seemed to sense his presence and ran off up a small hill to the side and gazed at the cheetah intently from up there. Just then the cheetah which had by now exposed himself fully and run off a short distance seemed to find something in the ground and then came running back towards us with a small animal in his mouth. It was probably a small mouse or a hare, most definitely meat, and he took it into a scrubby thicket under a tree and hiding there devoured his little morsel. It was a most rewarding experience and we had our breakfasts while watching this action. This all happened on a flat plain pock marked by thorn thicket quite close to the Samburu airstrip. We saw a plane landing and taking off again and little later the new arrivals coming from the airport were treated to the cheetah sighting. Wow what a way to arrive! Later we went to the Samburu lodge for a toilet stop. My wife then went to the little curio shop at the Samburu lodge and we ended up spending about half an hour in this shop. It was a really good shop, fixed prices, top quality and later in our trip we regretted not having shopped more there. So if one looking for good shopping look at this shop. By the way I later learnt that the Samburu Lodge is part of the same chain that runs Keekorok Lodge in the Mara and Keekorok also had a excellent shop. They are run by the same ownership and both were very good. Most other lodges shops were disappointing. After this it was about a one hour ride back to Sarova Shaba for lunch.

    After and nice lunch, followed by a siesta, we were off again at 4.00pm for an afternoon game drive in the Shaba reserve. We saw very few animals this day, but fully compensated by another sighting of two cheetahs at very close quarters. They were sleeping, almost hiding in short thorny grass under an acacia tree. They seemed a young pair of brothers just separated from their mother and looked small, hungry and timid. We had been lucky with our cheetah sightings as seeing cheetah in the Samburu area is considered quite rare.

    Later we headed back to the Sarova Shaba lodge, showers, sundowners, dinner etc made for a most relaxing evening after a very satisfying day.

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    15th July 2006 – Aberdare and the Ark

    After breakfast we left Sarova Shaba Lodge for Aberdare at about 8.00am. En route we had a photo and toilet stop at the equator. Lots of curio shops here, complete with hard selling shop owners and fleecing prices. I bought two small African paintings done on dried banana leaf for Ksh 750 each, which I later saw at the Keekorok Lodge shop for only Ksh 450. My daughter bought some bead bracelets etc nothing too expensive. The toilets here were quite clean. One of the shop owners here was asking us for a pen to exchange for something (barter) and my daughters having heard of such practices before we left had brought some pens and boxes of crayons to give as gifts to the Masai children etc. At the time we were not able to exchange a pen with the shop owner as the pens and crayons were still locked inside the big luggage and unloading it here to extricate a pen was not practical.

    Onwards from here it was to Aberdare National Park and the Ark. It starts with a visit to the Ark Country Club. On arrival there is a reception desk were you check in and hand over all you main luggage for storage in their luggage room. It was a very British stiff upper lip kind of place with a snobbish air about it. Lovely manicured gardens complete with gazelles and baboons etc milling about. You are given your lunch tickets, instructions to go to the back of the country club for the buffet lunch, and be back at the reception by 2.20pm for the bus transfer to the Ark Lodge. One is only allowed to keep a small overnight luggage for the Ark which also you tag and deposit with the reception upon check in, and this is later found in your room at the Ark. Lunch was good, the soup served to the table piping hot was very nice and the rest of the buffet was very sumptuous with a superb salad bar, hot dishes, deserts etc. It gets quite cool here as the elevation is now about 7000ft. After lunch we lazed around at the garden tables sitting out in the sun for a few minutes and then got back to the reception area to board the bus. Just like the ole story goes – we were herded two by two on board.

    The drive to the Ark lodge takes about 45 minutes and upon entering the Aberdare park gates the big bus stopped a couple of time to see some black and white Colobus monkeys. Real beauties these were. This was probably the best part of the whole Ark trip for me which otherwise was one small disappointment we had in an otherwise beautiful trip to Kenya. But I guess then one has to experience everything in life at least once. The Ark is a lodge, built to resemble a ship, next to a waterhole with viewing decks. Guests are brought in via an elevated walk way and once in you are basically locked in and game viewing is done either from the open viewing deck or through the glass panes of a closed viewing deck. The accommodation and rooms are tiny just like a ships cabin. It is miserably cold. I guess sitting in a "glass cage" and watching animals outside is not my cup of tea although it does offer many viewing opportunities it is just not wild enough for me. Also the tiny rooms and the whole experience was very sterile, a bit like going back to boarding school. One special point - the kids room had a leak of water coming in from the toilet in the room above (Room B15) which was very unpleasant. Dinner and breakfast was served at a fixed time only. Dinner was a sit down with a salad bar buffet. Breakfast a buffet and a long long queue for the hot eggs and we never got any. The sandy area in front of the water hole is actually called a salt lick. They actually sprinkle it with salt daily. The salt attracts the animals and the buffalo and elephants I saw all appeared to dig into the earth and eat the mud. If any interesting animals come to the water hole at night they ring a buzzer in your room, with one buzzer for elephant, two buzzers for rhino etc etc. We did see some elephants before dinner, and they did ring the buzzer for a black rhino later at night which I did not bother to go and look at. I also saw some hyenas, bushbucks, warthogs and some interesting birds. I was up at dawn and went to the closed deck at about 5.00am. I was the only guest there at the time and spent an hour chatting to the ranger on duty and that’s how I learnt about the salt and some other interesting tid bits. We were all glad to escape from the “prison” later after breakfast. The country club lunch interlude was however very nice. Maybe on a future visit I should fit in a round of fly fishing in Aberdare.

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    16th July – Nakuru

    Leaving the Ark we drove to Lake Nakuru which is about 4 hours drive. En route we passed the beautiful Thompson Falls where we had a short stopover. Near the viewpoint there were two exquisitely dressed Kikuyu tribe people in full regalia. They offered to stand for a photo for Ksh 200 which I bargained and agreed at Ksh 100. They were very polite and the man told me that he was a medicine man who does circumcisions, and the woman told me she was a midwife. From Thompson falls the drive takes you down through the Rift Valley and there are some beautiful viewpoints from the top of the escarpment. We stopped at a viewpoint with some small curio shops about. One of the shop owners tried to sell us a small soapstone painted wall plate for Ksh 500, for which I offered Ksh 200 and left it (did not buy). He was a bit rude to me when I offered him only Ksh 200. My wife was quite sad as she liked the plate to hang in our patio, however later on in Nairobi we saw the same plates selling for only Ksh 70. (Now my wife was very happy and bought 3 plates in a set.) From the Rift valley we descended the escarpment and drove on to Nakuru, entering the Lake Nakuru National Park from the Lanet gate, and few minutes from the gate we arrived at Sarova Lion Hill Lodge in time for lunch. Lion Hill Nakuru is a super place with a great view of flamingoes through the fever trees, though rooms a bit basic it was all in all the usual Sarova standard of welcome and friendliness with excellent food again. The one game drive we had was fantastic to see mainly the flamingos and white rhinos. We also went up to a viewpoint called Baboon cliff from where we had a superb view over the lake with the ethereal mass of pink flamingos. We also saw the Rothschild’s Giraffe here. I wish I had a second day to explore Nakuru more and search for a leopard.

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    17th July – 20th July 3 nights in Masai Mara at Sarova Mara Tented Camp

    We left Nakuru after breakfast and drove to the Masai Mara. It is long drive and took about 5 hours. Road is very bad most of the way. Stopped at Narok, the last big town, where there is a good supermarket and stocked up on plenty of mineral water etc. Then, on to the Mara. The plains are so beautiful. The last 40km of road to the Sekenani gate is a rough road and hard driving. We saw gazelles, giraffes etc on the road. Masai herd boys with their cattle and goats can be seen as well.

    The Sekenani gate is a busy place and lots of mainly women Masai vendors mob your vehicle to sell you there wares. Later my wife bought some wooden giraffes and bead necklaces etc from them at reasonable prices but one needs to bargain hard. A small wooden giraffe about 12 inches tall started at Ksh 500 and sold for Ksh 100. You need to smile and bargain smiling. Be careful as they put their hands inside the vehicles, several of them together from all sides, so one must be alert.

    Sarova Mara Tented Camp is just 2 km from the Sekenani gate, is fabulous and like a dream. The tent was so well appointed and luxurious, excellent staff attitude, and superb food. All the Sarovas had excellent food, not that food is overly important to me. I personally eat very little, most days just fruit for breakfast, a soup and bun for lunch, but with kids and family a buffet is quick and easy to cater to every ones tastes. It pays to exert some self control and discipline and eat light when on safari because then one can be more active and alert and enjoy the safaris more. Our tent was in the newly refurbished section and in front of a water hole/pond so we saw lots of birds here. Kids enjoyed bringing back a bread roll from the buffets and feeding bread bits to the fish.

    That first afternoon we went on a game drive at 4.00pm. We headed towards the Talek area. We saw our first Lions for the trip, two large males, with big manes lazing by a water hole. We saw and watched them for a while and photographed them well. We saw lots of other game. The plains zebra has much broader stripes and is also very beautiful. Later we saw two lionesses. They seemed to be starting an evening hunt as they were up and active gazing at game from a distance.

    It was discussed and decided that the next day we take a picnic box lunch and head off on a full days game drive. This would allow us greater range and we planned to go to the Mara Triangle and the Mara river.

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    18th July – Masai village visit and full day game drive in Masai Mara.

    After an early breakfast we left with our picnic box lunches.

    We first headed to a Masai village to see some of the culture. One has to negotiate with the village chief on a price before entering. The chief in the village where we visited started of at Ksh 5000 and after some hard bargaining I settled at Ksh 3000 (about US$ 40). I think I paid too much and could have settled for Ksh 1500. In return they showed us the whole village, did several dances dressed in colourful clothes, showed us how they make fire, and an intimate tour inside one of their huts. It was generally a good experience especially for the kids. The chief also told me that I may take as much photos as I liked. The finale was a visit to the village curio shops which consisted of several small stalls. Prices were ridiculously exorbitant and we did not buy anything. Quality of merchandise also seemed very poor.

    After this we headed off on the full day game drive. In the Mara the drivers often leave the main tracks and drive on obscure tracks in the grass. They also often communicate on the CB radio with other drivers to locate difficult to see animals. We saw more Lions near Keekorok, and then we saw vultures and moved in close to see the vultures squabbling over a fresh lion kill. There were Ruppels vultures, Nubian vultures and Common vultures some picking the eyes out of the carcass, some with their long necks deep inside the carcass. It was an ugly but interesting sight. Later we saw even more lions including a lovely sighting of two lionesses with cubs. We drove on southwards till we reached the Tanzanian border post. I have a photo of wildebeest actually inside Tanzania taken from this spot. You are allowed to alight from your vehicle here. There were thousands of wildebeest and all the wildebeest were moving purposefully in one direction. Some trotting, some walking, a few of the males prancing about. There were thousands along with lots of zebra as well. We turned up north from the Tanzanian border post and came to the Mara river at the New Mara Bridge. There is a Kenya Wild life service post here. Also some rudimentary hole in the ground toilets which my wife and kids used. We saw our first Hippos from the bridge. Driving on past the bridge we kept stopping at view points over the river and saw more hippos. Then we saw a huge crocodile. It was really huge and has me going gah gah! I have seen lots of big crocs in Sri Lanka before, big saltwater crocodiles just like in Australia, but this Mara river beast, actually a nile crocodile (Crocodilus niloticus) is unbelievable in size.

    It was about 1.30pm now and we were talking about a suitable picnic spot. That is when Godfrey said that he felt there might be a river crossing today. He drove on a bit more and there was the crossing point with thousands of wildebeest lined along the bank as far as the eye can see. Some other vehicles were also stopped and waiting here hoping to see a crossing. The banks are really quite high, maybe about 6 m high and the wildebeest use these channels made by the hippos to come down to the water. Several wildebeest come down to the water and mill about some drinking generally all looking very restless. You can clearly see their instinctive urge to cross the river. They seem very aware and nervous of the crocs. One or two crocs appear and they are all up the bank again. They are now moving up along the bank, the whole line is moving. Godfrey says they may cross at another place further up river so after waiting about 45 minutes in one spot he pulls out and moves to another spot about a km away. Some of the other vehicles stopped and waiting also follow us and we all re locate together. The drivers are all very good and they all corporate with each other very well. At the new point some wildebeest are already down the bank, some drinking, some milling about. One could sense their restlessness. It is now 2.30pm and Godfrey says we must wait and delay lunch as chances are looking very good. He explains to me that when the animals all start grunting and groaning so loudly it means they will cross soon. My kids are very good and they make no fuss. Zaineb my elder daughter stands by with the video camcorder and she is fully ready waiting excitedly. Durriyah, my wife is busy getting out some crackers and cheese for us to all munch. Godfrey definitely has a sweet tooth and loves the homemade fudge toffee we have brought along. I settle for a Foxes mint and recheck the settings on my camera. It is hot and dusty, but not too hot. The breeze has a coolness to it. I tell Godfrey that my view of the wildebeest milling about below on the opposite bank is impeded by some trees and bushes so after some discussion he reverses yet again and repositions a few feet away. Now we have an excellent view. Suddenly Durriyah shouts excitedly “their going…. they’ve started, they are in the water, they are crossing….”, I shout back “where?” The wildebeest on the opposite bank below are still just milling about. Then I saw it – the had jumped in from a different spot and we can see it through the trees. My bean bag gets into position and my Canon 30D fires away on burst mode. A few shots, then I gather my thoughts and tell Godfrey that our view is not clear. If we reposition back to our earlier spot it might be better. We discuss hurriedly. Godfrey reverses out and puts us back in place at our earlier spot, just 5 yards away from where we are. Oh boy now do we have a fantastic view. More photos, lots more photos. The canon 30D fires at 5 fps, while my daughter Zaineb videos the whole thing. It’s a most unbelievable sight. No crocs seem to attack them. They are going, going, going, jumping in off a rock in a frenzy and going, going, going. I put my camera down and decide to just enjoy this feast for the senses with my Leica binoculars. The squirming mass of wildebeest coming down the narrow hippo channel look like crawling maggots squeezing through a small opening. We see one or two injured looking ones in the water. Some look just confused and don’t seem to know which way to go. After some time, about 20 mins, they suddeny stop jumping in and the crossing stops. We think it is all over now and are about to leave for Godfey’s special picnic spot. That is when I spot this huge croc swimming with a carcass in his mouth, below the surface. He must have got it on the near bank where we could not see. A smaller croc challenges him and there is a small splash. I sense some action and mount the bean bag and Canon up again. As I watch through the lens I see another huge croc coming towards the one with the carcass. These are both two big bus size brutes. As I watch through the lens they meet and the water explodes. My finger presses down on the Canons shutter release in full burst mode. The carcass is tossed high in the air as they fight over it, but the one already holding it in its jaws never lets it go dashes away even scrambling over a large log with the other croc in pursuit.

    It is now about 3.00pm and we finally leave for our picnic lunch. Godfrey takes us to the gorgeous spot under a tree which reminds me of the movie “Out of Africa”. We eat here as we see the distant plains of the Serengeti. We can see some bush fires burning on the Tanzanian side and Godfrey explains that it is done by the irresponsible Tanzanians to expedite river crossings at the Grumeti to satisfy tourists. I did not comment.

    We then drove back to Sarova. It was a long drive back, and on the way we saw more Lions, and lots of game on the beautiful Masai Mara plains. Late in the evening it rained a bit. Oh boy what a day!

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    19th July – After an early breakfast we left for a long morning game drive towards the Sand river area. Halfway to Keekorok Godfrey picked up a tip on the CB and suddenly started driving quite fast. I knew he was onto something but in his usual style he would not tell us too much leaving whatever is was as a surprise. Later he told me that he did not like to raise a clients hopes as nothing is guaranteed until actually sighted. Nearer to Keekorok he drove off the road on an obscure track – Black Rhino. This was another very rare sighting for the Mara. He was really big, black, with a big horn, and beautiful with 3 ox peckers on his back. We watched him only for a few minutes from a short distance before he ambled away into the bush. The sand river area was heavy with game, even denser than we had seen the day before towards the Mara river. We saw another lion kill with vultures on the carcass, however our search for the lions was not fruitful. A short while later we saw 3 cheetah on the plains. They were hunting wildebeest and we actually saw them chasing in fully cry, however Godfrey remarked that he doubted that even 3 cheetah together could not bring down a full grown wildebeest easily. I got more beautiful photos.

    Later we drove to the Keekorok lodge for a stop. This was another beautiful lodge and is without an electric fence unlike the Sarova where we stayed. The curio shop is very good and my wife and I spent some time here buying a few T shirts and gifts for family and friends home.

    We returned to Sarova for lunch, after lunch a siesta and then a afternoon game drive at 4.00pm. This time we headed towards the Sopa area hoping to find some lions and maybe a leopard. However it rained this evening and the game drive was a bit disappointing. Even then we did see game, including some elephants, and silver backed jackals

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    20th July – Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge

    We left after breakfast for Naivasha and I was most sad to leave the Masai Mara. The road to Naivasha is the same as the one to Nairobi for most of the way and then it branches of to Naivasha. The last one hour to Naivasha is unbelievably dusty. We survived and reach the Naivasha Sopa Lodge. This was a good hotel, large spread out place, very large and very good room, good food, but staff are not so friendly and a bit like security guards with a military attitude. They staff are not bad but just very stiff. I however charmed a few people and they loosened up eventually. They have a huge garden leading to the lake about 400m out in front. We were warned not to leave our room in the evening to even come to dinner without an escort because real big and possibly dangerous, wild hippos roam the grounds after dark. There are phones in the rooms and one has to call the reception for an escort. Initially this sounded very awkward to me, however I later learnt that the escorts really come very quickly and in the evening during dinner time they are walking all over just outside the rooms so this was not a hassle at all. We had a boat ride and visit to Crescent island pre arranged. The hotel has its own jetty and boats. The boats have a covered top and are powered by a 25hp tiller controlled outboard that pushes it along reasonably well. However there was one serious problem – the water is way too shallow and the boat cannot even get within 50m of the jetty without getting stuck in soft mud. There are hippos visible near the jetty and although the boatman kept reassuring me I was not happy. Being an avid angler and owner of 2 boats and a jet ski I am familiar with messing about in boats and I was distinctively unhappy with the situation. The boatman had to struggle and pole the boat through the mud to get out to reasonably deeper water. He later told me that this was not normal and the water level in Lake Naivasha has dropped sharply in the past one year and this was big problem. Anyways we finally pulled out and took a little boat ride and saw lots of hippo families. Jackson the boatman/guide was very confident with the hippos but my kids were a bit nervous so he did not pull to close. We also saw a large flock of Great White Pelicans feeding. Then we went on to Crescent island. The same shallow water and stuck in mud story here again. Jackson had to actually wade into the mud and struggle to get the boat to the small jetty with me levering it along with the pole.

    Crescent Island is a small island which has no predators and is actually a private game reserve. There are many birds, plus zebra, various antelope, and some Giraffe about and one can actually walk in close quarters with the animals here. We were met by a resident guide called Moses who turned out to be very good. It was only then that I learnt that the movie Out Of Africa was filmed here. They have the actual airstrip where Robert Redford lands the small plane and we walked along this. The guide told us that one of the giraffes had just given birth two weeks earlier and he took us on a walk to try and see the giraffe babies. We finally saw them and one of the babies still had the umbilical cord still hanging from its belly. It was lovely walking with and following the Giraffes. We finally got back to the boat and after the same struggles with the shallow water and mud, with an interesting hippo watching us from not too far off, we made it back to the hotel. Dinner was good and we slept well – this was our last night in Kenya.

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    21st July – Nairobi and flight back home.

    We left Naivasha in the morning after breakfast and headed to Nairobi city. The road was very good. We headed straight for the Zanzibar Curio Shop which I had heard about from a friend. It turned out to be a excellent place, and we did some shopping buying a beautiful pair of carved rosewood statues. The workmanship was exquisite and the price about 10% of what was offered at most of the roadside curio shops we had seen.

    Next and last on our itinerary was a farewell lunch at the famous Carnivore restaurant where one is served all kinds of BBQ game meats. I had heard that virtually every tourist to Nairobi is taken to this place and fed before leaving and that the experience is a must see, however I was always very apprehensive and had agreed only because I felt it was a novel and fun experience for my kids. It turned out to be a very colorful and lively place with a lovely unique style of its own, but personally not my cup of tea. Like they say one must experience everything at least once. Some of the exotic meats offered included ostrich, crocodile, and camel. I only ate a tiny piece of lamb and chicken.

    After lunch we headed off to the airport for our 4.30pm flight home.

    I would like to specially comment on our driver/guide Godfrey who was really excellent. I feel lost for words to praise him sufficiently. He was excellent, tolerant and kind with kids, drove so well and skillfully on the rough roads considering I am normally an impossibly nervous back seat passenger. He was educated and had good knowledge of the places we visited and shared my deep interest in wildlife, nature and photography with great enthusiasm which greatly enhanced my experience.

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    Mohammed:

    So glad you all had such a fantastic trip.

    Your bird pictures, particularly some of the pelican pictures, are fantastic.
    Thanks for sharing your first African experiences. I'll bet you are already planning a return trip!

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    Mohammed:

    Wow - great report and photos! I really like your family shots - esp at the equator - looks like everybody had a good time. And I loved your cheetahs and the gerenuk!

    Thanks for taking the time to share!

    Cyn

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    Mohammed,

    All things considered, would you recommend a boat trip from the Naivasha Sopa and a walk on Crescent Island? Or is it too much hassle for what it's actually worth?

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    Hi Simbakubwa,

    Lake Naivasha is nice especially visiting Crescent Island and walking with the giraffes was very nice for the kids, however, in retrospect, if had a choice I would have spent another night in the Masai Mara.

    I have also now updates the photalbum with comments to the photos.

    http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=b2opcbv.p3c0ekr&Uy=-pl3x6t&Ux=0

    Hope you have a great trip.

    Regards
    Mohammed


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    Mohammed,
    I am so glad to hear that you had no problems landing early in Nairobi, and taking off right away on your safari. We are doing the same, to meet up with friends already there, and I was concerned about how tired we would be, after such a long flight and time difference. Good to know it worked out!
    Thank you for a great report!
    Cindy from California

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    Mohammed,
    Thanks for your report and photos. It looks like a perfect family trip. I really liked the reticulated giraffes, the weaverbird and sunbird, the pelican landing, the topi chewing the cud, the crossing, the crocs, the black rhino in the Mara!, the baby giraffes, the hippo eye to eye and the family photos. The pigs at Aberdares are giant forest hogs.
    When will you return to Africa?

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    Mohammed,
    I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your detailed report-felt like I was there.
    Too bad you didn't enjoy the ARK.I was there years ago and had such fun all night watching the animals interact [especially a sly hyena family] Your Sri Lankan leopard story was cool-THANKS-great job. -Thomas

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    Mohammed

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Great pictures esp.the birds. Incidentally, we will be staying at the Ark and the Sarova lodges at Shaba, Lake Nakuru and the Mara.We will be staying at Mt. Kenya Safari Club instead of your Lake Naivasha. Our boys are almost of the same ages (9 and 14) as your girls.Thanks so much for your report since we will be doing almost a similar circuit.

    We leave for Kenya on the 11th. The boys and I are just eating, sleeping and talking of Kenya. Major excitement as this is our first safari.I am almost certain that we will be going back to other parts of Africa soon.


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    Hi Whiz,

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip in Kenya. I sure did. I have travelled 5 continents but Kenya was special - it is fantastic.

    BTW, I have not been to Mt Kenya Safari Club, but just in case you are not aware, I heard that they have a jacket and tie dress code for dinner. Other that this formality, I also heard it is a great place to relax.

    Regards
    Mohammed

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    Great report! It was nice to see your photos before. However, they are even more enjoyable with your great comments!

    We are going to Samburu, the Mara, and then Lamu Island next week. Your report has been the crowning touch in preparing us for our trip.

    Thanks very much,

    Kevin from California

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    excellent report Mohammed.

    Another strike against those Aberdares lodges. Yeah watching some elephants licking salt out of mud just can't compare to seeing them walk across the Mara.

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    I missed this when you first posted. Interesting tidbit on the Sri Lankan leopard. What a start at Samburu with leopard and hunting cheetah. The Mara crossing was very exciting to read about. Three more cheetahs!

    I think 2 days at Nakuru would be a good idea too. I did only one.

    What a wonderful family trip. Will check out the photos later.

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    Mohammed,

    I hope you are still checking in and see this. Can you give a few more details on Crescent Island? (or anyone) How long did you stay? How long did it take you to get there from your accommodations? Can you only do guided walks? Anything else.

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    Hi there,

    This refers to your posting some days back on Fodors travel forums asking me some questions on Crescent Island. I am sorry it took so long to reply but I only saw your posting and question today and thought it best to email you back.

    Crescent Island is on lake Naivasha and we stayed at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge. The lodge is sprawled out on a very large extent of land and from the reception area/rooms it is about 5 to 7 mins walk to the lake shore where they have a small boat jetty. The rooms are also a bit of a walk from the reception area. The lodge and rooms are very good, but staff was a bit stiff. The lodge operates its own boat ride service from the jetty. The lake has lots of hippos in it and hippos visit the hotel grounds after dark so after 6.00pm you have to call for a escort to even go to dinner. The boat ride is from the hotel jetty and takes about a 45 mins to Crescent island. Along the way you see plenty of hippos and pelicans. You can do the boat ride only without going to crescent island also. At crescent Island you do a walking safari. Basically on landing you are met by a ranger/guide who takes you on a walk. There are no predators on the island. You see giraffes, various gazelles, antelopes, zebra etc. There are supposed to be some colobus monkeys but we did not see any. I stayed there one night and one night is more than enough. In fact I would recommend to do this as a stopover en route from Mara to Nairobi and not stay the night but this would be a long day, however the effort would give one an extra full day in the Mara instead. Jus my 0.02! Hope this helps. If you need any more infor please do not hesitate to ask me.

    You can see my pictures at my web site now http://www.abidally.com/mp/AfricaGallery

    Regards
    Mohammed Abidally
    (Sri Lanka)

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    Mohammed....thanks so much for posting the link to this report. You have written beautifully and the report is very helpful with my trip planning. I had never heard of Crescent Island, but now I plan to include it on our itinerary.

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    We stayed at the Lake Naivasha Country Club for 2 nights after 9 nights in the Masai Mara. It was a short boat ride to Crescent Island, 10 minutes and we had no trouble at the pier, deep water and easy exit. Moses was an excellent guide and really knew his birds. Our stay here was for the birders in the family, and we were all impressed with the fish eagles. Our boat guide brought fish to feed them and they would answer his calls and swoop down and pick up the fish. Gorgeous grounds, trees, roses, huge swimming pool ( warmest one we had in Kenya). It was a nice rest at the end of our trip. This was an add on to our trip because I couldn't get the flight home that I wanted. Crescent Island was interesting, but we wouldn't do it again. The birding around the Country Club was great!

    Agree that 2 nights were lovely at Lake Nakuru. One night would have been too rushed. Saw the big 4 there, including tree climbing lions.

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