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Trip Report Stakerk Trip Report, Kenya, August 2006

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Thanks to the great advice of you Fodorites, we had a great trip to Kenya. Wife Mari, 26 year old daughter Marisa, and 18 year old son Sean had truly the "trip of a lifetime." We have done a fair amount of adventures, but this was amazing.

I am going to have to do this in installments so please forgive me. I thought I should get started or would never post.

Trip Planning

Mari’s family has a tradition of a family member who graduates from high school or college gets to pick the family trip for the summer. Marisa was graduating from college (at age 26 very successful at the “let’s see how long I can con my parents into putting me through college plan”) and Sean was graduating from high school. I knew my pocketbook was in trouble.

At first they came up with “we want rent an apartment in London for two weeks.” We had taken them there for the beginning of our Christmas vacation a couple of years ago. We told them that was not very creative.

They next did get creative. Marisa loves to go to Disneyland here in California. So they said British Airways has a round the world plane pass and they wanted to go to every Disneyland in the world. I told them that was creative all right. But they can go to Disneyland any time that they want here. (The price of the pass was surprisingly low by the way, about $3,500 for over $6,000 in flights.)

They responded with “how about Antarctica?” I commended them for their creativity but pointed out our summer is their winter.

I thought for a moment then asked what they would think about going to see the animals in Africa. Now Sean has wanted to go to Africa since he was a little boy. Marisa and Mari said great. And so my research began. (Note this was in January of this year.)

At first I looked at Namibia. Watering holes with lots of game congregating. However, I then learned about this wonderful Fodor’s forum. Our trip had a tight time window, Aug. 1 until the 21st. I posted an message on this forum and Jasher and Thit Cho encouraged us to go to the Mara in Kenya to see the Migration. (I have already thanked them, but thank you, thank you, thank you)

With the advent of the internet, I try to book my own trips. I figured out the best dates for the airfare. However, I quickly learned the camps are another matter. They usually force you to use a tour operator. (Serena hotels however would directly book and the price was very reasonable.)

Thanks to Sandi we also decided to go to Samburu to see the different wildlife and Kizingo at Lamu for a change of pace. (Mari was quite rightly afraid of, “if I see another wildebeest I am going to scream.”)

I sent inquiries over the Internet to every tour operator I could find. Some responded quickly, others I have yet to hear from. The prices were all over the place. Comparing apples to apples Southern Cross, Eastern and Southern, and African Serendipity (Sandi’s firm) were very close in price. I went with Southern Cross because they are pretty substantial and were the only firm that could get us confirmed reservations during the high demand time of August. (I actually emailed Wilderness Camps, Governor’s Camps and Kizingo to confirm.) I am paranoid and did not want to risk no one cancelling and our not having a place to stay. I have learned since I should not have been so concerned.

We decided on the itinerary also because we could fly from place to place and avoid the dusty, pot hole filled roads. (Added quite a bit to the price though).

Benjamin at Southern Cross was very helpful. I enjoyed working with him quite a bit. I probably drove him crazy though. (I have to plan every detail.)

We bought our plane tickets through Orbitz. We sent a deposit for half to Southern Cross (“They have been in business quite a while haven’t they?)

We then waited (and planned our packing list) and scoured this forum (in other words bugged you folks) for helpful advice for almost seven, long months.

Finally, the date for departure arrived.

LAX to London

We had a pretty uneventful flight from LAX to Heathrow on Aug. 5. Stayed at the Sheraton Skyline on the road along the airport. Pretty nice and very reasonable price because had booked over the internet and prepaid (just a bit over $100 for a room for the four of us). We took the Underground in to London for the afternoon and early evening to force us to stay awake.

We went to Kensington Palace first and enjoyed all the uniforms. We however did lose Mari for a while. Sean, the at times doofus 18 year old he is, had forgotten Mari and taken a bit of a side trip in the Palace and had asked him to wait for her. Pretty hilarious, we were really perplexed. She eventually exited after we had waited outside for some time.

Next, we fulfilled Mari's wish, a boat ride on the River Thames. We did the circular one from Westminster Pier. A lovely late afternoon, very enjoyable. We ended up being dropped off at Embankment. Went up the walk street and had a delightful Italian dinner (at quite unsurprisingly called Trattoria Italian Biagio). I lived in Italy for two years and was pleased, especially with the reasonable price (with your value added tax, things for you Europeans sure are expensive).

We then returned to our hotel via the Tube and a short bus ride. Took about an hour. I took an Ambien and conked right out. I slept well but awoke at 4 AM (8pm Los Angeles Time). I went to work out in their pretty nice exercise facility and my body was saying to me, "What are you doing to me?"

We got to Heathrow a couple of hours before the flight. Did not have to wait long to check our luggage and get through security. (I bet that has changed since.) They pulled both Mari and Sean out for special screening (a pretty good pat down). We had quite a bit of time to kill. It was amazing to pay almost $3 for a diet coke. Interesting in that they do not tell you the gate assignment until about 50 minutes before the flight. It took about 15 minutes just to get to the gate.

It is a long flight, about 10 hours?, to Nairobi. Flew on British Airways. Sat next to a very nice lady from Kenya. Was returning home for a visit. Working as a public health nurse in England. I guess they must be in short supply. Sad that her husband and children cannot join her yet. We saw that quite often, not much economic opportunity in Kenya. Very nice people but for some reason do not make a lot of money. I suspect they have problems with a lack of education and some corruption or inefficiencies in their government and other institutions.

Nairobi

Got out of customs and got our bags about 9:30 p.m. their time. Met by "Benson" and "Steve" from Southern Cross. Benjamin at Southern Cross had done a good job booking our trip. Steve drove us to the Stanley Hotel. Could see some pretty shady characters hanging out together downtown. Can see why were warned to not leave the hotel.

The Stanley was very nice. A bit dated but quaint. The rooms were certainly clean. You folks and the Air Kenya website had us all freaked out about our luggage and carry on not exceeding 20 kilos together and so we spent about an hour shifting stuff into two bags we were leaving at Wilson airport and loading up the "Rocco" vests of Marisa, Sean, and me.

That night between the stress of the repacking, the fact it was mid-day in California on my body clock, and I guess the excitement of seeing real african animals the next day, I spent one of the few nights of my life when I hardly slept at all. Maybe a hour total. (I had not taken an Ambien because I had slept so well in London, a major mistake. Next time I am going to pop one of those suckers for at least the first three nights. I can always check myself into rehab when I return to California.)

Mari made me promise to let you folks know she has a couple of bones to pick with the advice I had gotten on this forum. (Otherwise the advice was been perfect and really helped make it a marvelous trip for us.) Here is the first. We changed about $100 into kenya schillings at the hotel (got a pretty good exhange rate of 70 to 1, however got over 70 later at Little Gov. though.) We wished we had changed more, like over $1,000. Nearly all people and places took dollars. Some did not. However, many expressed displeasure and made it obvious they preferred schillings, especially smaller amounts, they said they do not get as good an exchange rate on bills less than $20 (about 65 to 1). I felt especially bad on smaller tips and buying souvenirs from the locals.

Note: the breakfast buffet at the Stanley was pretty good.

The next point Mari wanted to have me pass along just happens to come next in time. Steve drove us to Wilson airport. We arrive with Marisa, Sean and I all loaded down with stuff in our Rocco vests. (I had done a trial run in California and mine weighed over 8 lbs.) The kids are complaining about the weight of the vests. We go to the baggage guys. We check into storage there the two bags with beach stuff for Lamu and stuff for the flight back. They then weighed our (four) bags for the flight to Samburu. Now note by this time from all the complaining I given up and told the family to pack whatever they needed in their duffel bags and was prepared to pay extra. I had noted the charge for excess weight was only a little over a dollar a pound. The bags weighed exactly the 60 kilos limit for the four of us. I was all set for them to weigh Mari's carryon and charge me for it. AND THEY DID NOT WEIGH THE CARRYON. THEY DID NOT WEIGH ANYONE'S CARRYON THEN OR AT ANY OTHER FLIGHT ON THE TRIP. Later in Samburu, the Mara, and Lamu they obviously weren't charging anyone for too much weight.

I thought my family was going to kill me. Oh well. I am one for following the rules. Let's just say that from that time forward the vests only had the valuable stuff in them.

However, we really did enjoy the vests for the photography and other stuff on the game drives. So many pockets. Took a while to learn where I had stowed each item but was great.

A fairly large plane arrives (40+ capacity). Mari has me ask if it is ours and am told no, ours is smaller (18 seats). Mari is not thrilled.

Our plane arrives late. But hey you folks prepared us to relax. Someone will be in Samburu waiting to pick us up.

We discover there are only seven of us on the flight. The four of us and a couple from northern California of all places and their adult son who works for the UN in Nairobi in construction. (I always wondered where our $3 billion goes each year.) They were even also going to Larsen’s Tented Camp!

We got in the plane and had plenty of seats. There was no door to the cockpit. The pilot (sounded Australian to me) turned around in his seat and gave us a very brief pre-flight briefing (I do not recall him telling me to turn off my cell phone, for which Benjamin at Southern Cross had kindly bought me a Celtel SIM card with 7,000 shillings ($100USD) in time on it.) He then passed back a bowl of mints for our inflight refreshment! Hilarious.

We had quite a long hold at the start of the runway to take off. Pilot said was waiting get clearance from air traffic control. They certainly took their time.

Finally we took off. Sean won our family contest of who would see the first African animal. He saw a giraffe bending down eating in what I assume was Nairobi National Park.

Off we went to Samburu.

MORE TO COME

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    Great start to your trip report. I have already watched some videos and looked at the pictures. I especially love the one with all of the jeeps at the crossing.

    I read in your report that they have bag storage at Wilson. Can you give me some more information on this? How long will they keep it and how much is it?

    Good to know about changing money right away.

    Thanks, Heather

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    Great start Kevin! I'm laughing out loud. Does Sean know you called him a "doofus" on an international travel forum? Glad you had a great family adventure and can't wait to read more! Already commented on the pics and videos, most excellent!
    Thanks, Dennis

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    Funny stuff Kevin. I like how the kids got taught how to make "sensible decisions".

    But Dennis, what did Sean call his Dad on whatever forums or blogs he contributes to for unnecessarily getting him to wear that weighted (and not particulalrly cool unless I'm missing something)vest?

    Glad you got those things off Mari's chest Kevin. Didn't you know that Sandi and Rocco have bets on with the Kenyan/Zambian ground staff about how many people they can persuade to dress in bulging safari vests laden with camera and electronic equipment each year? Don't let the secret out! ;-)

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    Heather:

    Bag storage at Wilson Airport was free. Rather quaint. They give you a handwritten note as a receipt. We used a small TSA approved lock to discourage casual theft. The guys looked very honest. I made sure I gave them a good tip for checking in and then also when we checked out.

    Aloha Dennis:

    Sean does not know about the doofus label ... yet. He is a great kid, very bright but typical 18 year old boy, at times a disconnect between that great brain and common sense.

    P.S. Mari and I going to our condo at Waikoloa on the Big Island this weekend, going to oversee some repairs.

    Kevin

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    I was glad to see this this morning, Kevin and I can't wait to read it! (just about finished Sandi's & then Julian's is next, followed by just a few 'small' ones - so the LONGER this one is the better!!!!)

    But I just know it will be a good one with your great sense of humour and style of writing!

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    That policy of announcing gates only shortly before flights had me hoofing for my last flight from Heathrow to Joburg. I think they waited until about 30 minutes before and I took a 10 minute pause from viewing the screen. It was too close for me.

    After looking at your pictures I was having deju vu. The running zebra taken from the balloon really jogged the memory. But I also noticed a whole lot more pictures than your previous picture post.

    Your kids really do look like you!

    Can you tell us more about the gerenuk that you photographed? How many did you see, etc?

    The wildebeest crossing shots are excellent. Are all the vehicles you photo'd watching the crossing?

    I loved the "giraffe tree." The baby cheetahs are precious.

    Don't dis that safari vest. I had a security guard compliment me on mine and ask where I got it!

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    I haven't been on safari in Kenya, but I'm with your family on the vest thing. I've been consistently underweight by almost 10 lbs. on both safaris. I guess it's 'cuz I don't have any pricey equipment?

    Great report!

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    Heather,

    ...if you have any extra baggage for storage, have your ground outfitter in Nairobi hold it for you. They do this all the time. When you return from the Mara to Wilson, your guide will either have it with him in the vehicle or it will be delivered to your hotel if staying in a day-room before your departure home. Arrange where/when with your ground outfitter.

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    Good to hear the trip went so well!

    He he, I can just see those murderous looks from the kids when they thought the vests were for nothing but do remember the airline simply reserves the right to weight and charge you for excess. It's not committing itself to do so! So you happened to be lucky and not get weighed/ charged but you could hardly have been expected to predict that!

    Oh and hey, hope you do make it the Antarctic one November/ December - we went in 2004 and it remains one of the best trips we've ever done! Would do it again in a second if I had the money!

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    Kevin, great introduction -- I also stayed at the Stanley on my last stopover in Nairobi (very reasonable, and nice sidewalk cafe). Looking forward to reading about the game viewing (I'm currently thinking about a return to East Africa for August, but I'm in the very early stages).

    Michael

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    Kevin-the weather on the big island has been nice this week, but it's always nicer in Waikoloa than Hilo. Wish I would have bought a condo there years ago when I had the chance! Have a good trip!

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    Love the videos. But I thought Samburu wasn't supposed to be crowded -- it looks like rush hour in the beginning of the leopard video. I guess leopards can draw a crowd anywhere.

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    Samburu

    As we took off over Nairobi I was struck by the disparity of wealth. Some areas appeared to be acres and acres of teeming corrugated metal building slums. Almost right next door would appear to be a small enclave of mansions with swimming pools with beautiful designs on the bottom.

    The flight was uneventful. I have a lapsed pilot’s license and so it was interesting to sit in the front row and look at the plane’s instruments. I can tell you the plane must not have been pressurized because we cruised at about 11,000 feet.

    We passed by a cloud shrouded mountain range on our right. The American from Nairobi thought it was the slopes of Mt. Kenya. However, I did not see any mountains on the left that would have been the Aberdares. When we later flew down to the Mara we flew over the Aberdares and so I remain confused. (I don’t know why I am boring you folks with this so back to hopefully more interesting stuff.)

    I had not yet seen an african animal. I am pretty excited. I say (probably repeated actually several times to the family that day) we are going to see some African wild animals today. WOW!

    And so I peered down at the green slopes short of the cloud trying to see something I could definitively say was African. Surely there must be some elephant I can see. NOTHING.

    We then began our descent to Samburu. I continued to peer down and at times saw a herd or two of grazing animals but could not tell if they were just cattle.

    We then came in for a straight in landing. I thought I might see something as we got closer to the ground. Still NOTHING.

    We touched down landed on the gravel airstrip (haven’t done that in a while). As the plane braked to a stop, WHAMO there it was: some sort of gazelle about 50 meters away. I was so excited.

    WE ARE IN AFRICA! It was almost unreal. We are really here.

    The plane taxied back to the humble, gravel ramp. We got off the plane (more like waddled off with our Rocco vests) and grabbed our duffel bags after they were taken off the plane by the lone baggage handler there. (We noticed on later flights they usually flew on the flight. Where he came from I did not learn.) However, we had a problem. Where was Sean’s? Oh no. I had tried to watch them load all our bags on the plane. They had at least all been on the baggage cart together. I had actually seen at least Marisa’s in the baggage area. My heart sank. Uh oh, what will we do for Sean? How will we find it?

    However, the next moment to my relief someone remembered the plane had a baggage compartment in the nose and there it was. Phew!

    Both a driver and a guide from Wilderness Camps greeted us. They loaded our bags. The other folks were going in another vehicle. And so we took off.

    We were so excited to see the animals. We were going to see lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Oops wrong story.

    I think the first animal we came across was an impala or Grant’s gazelle. Can’t tell you because I was so excited (and also sleep deprived and jet lagged, I was definitely running on adrenaline.) The guide and driver were most unfortunate to get us because WE MADE THEM STOP FOR EVERY SINGLE ANIMAL WE SAW. Wow, there’s an impala! Wow, what is that? (A Grant’s gazelle). What are those two small antelope? “Dik Dik” (Dik Dik became our family’s favorite animal, Marisa snuck up on me just the other day, jabbed me with two fingers and said, “Dik dik attack!”) Also, most likely made the guide impart every bit of knowledge he had about every animal. It was probably like a cross examination the way I was asking questions. (I am an attorney).

    We crossed by bridge over the Ewaso Ngiro River. Wow, look at the baboons! More impala! More gazelle! More dik dik!

    We then came to the best part. Mari’s favorite animal as long as I have known her is the giraffe. She even did her animal pysch class project in college on the giraffe up at the Santa Barbara zoo. We rounded a corner and off to the side was a beautiful reticulated giraffe. Mari was just beaming. I was so happy to see the look on her face. Heaven on earth.

    Now after about nearly an hour of what should have been a 20-25 minute drive. The guide nicely observed we would be seeing lots of animals during our stay and we may want to get to camp to get settled in before lunch. We somewhat complied and only made them stop when we were seeing something for the first time.

    Our last stop was by the waterhole just outside of Larsen’s Tented Camp. We saw our first elephants. Even a couple of mud covered warthogs came trotting towards us. Just marvelous.

    I am sure to the relief of our two companions we finally entered the manned gate of the Camp. (The camp is surrounded by a electric fence.)

    I had read many times in the trip reports but had forgotten. We were greeted with cold towels to cool and clean us and also refreshing watermelon juice. Delightful.

    We were warmly greeted and assisted by Florence, the manager on duty during our stay. May I say we came to see the animals in Kenya, and they were even more wonderful than I had even dreamed of. However, I was even more impressed by the people. I know. The folks we come in contact with are paid to be nice to us. But this was different. What warm, loving people. The eyes are the windows to the soul and their inner beauty was radiated from their souls through their eyes. These are wonderful people.

    In addition, this was a nice place. Until just before we arrived, I had only heard that Larsens’s was not all that great of a place. Someone said something about the 1980's. However, just before we arrived I had heard it was under new management and had been refurbished. (I believe Mohammed from Sri Lanka had shared that in his report.)

    Bottom line: nice, really nice. I had prepared Mari for pretty low expectations. “You might have to use a pitcher of water and a wash basin. You have to order your hot water for a shower. They heat it up on a fire and use a ladder to pour it into a cistern above your tent. Smelly kerosene lamps at night” WRONG, very wrong, thankfully.

    Nice colored concrete tent floors, nice canvas, all tiled bathroom with flush toilet, granite sink countertop, and HOT AND COLD RUNNING WATER. To cap it off, 24 hour electricity, and they provide a blow dryer! (Convenient since in Nairobi I in my sleep deprived funk and excitement (we’re going to see African animals today!) had plugged Mari’s 110V dryer into a UK adapter for her but without a converter to 220V and so immediately fried it and had to throw it away .)

    Huge king sized bed. The head board is a bunch of shelves facing back towards to bathroom. One of which is a room safe. (I did not use. Did not trust it. Instead we used a small TSA lock to lock our valuables and camera in the footlocker at the foot of our beds. However, anytime we left the room we always carried around the neck holders for passport and cash. I carried most of the cash so a bit of a burden at first. I did not feel comfortable leaving stuff in the camp safe. What is to prevent an employee from stealing? Now, because I learned the people are so wonderful I would trust them. In the future, I think I would bring a banker’s bag with lock to prevent casual theft (I know, I repeat myself here.) for passports and cash and leave in camp safe.)

    Even more impressive (and we are pretty impressed) is the service. It is like they secretly took photos of us on arrival. Posted them on a board in the employee briefing room, and would have a staff meeting at 5 am each morning and chant over and over, “Kevin, Mari Marisa, and Sean Staker, Americans, staying three nights, Curlew and Rollers tents, don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol.” One morning at breakfast, I am eyeing the fruit laid out and one of the cooks comes out of the kitchen and says, “Good morning Mr. Staker. How was your visit to the village yesterday? I understand you are leaving us tomorrow.” This guy is only a cook! It was almost spooky.

    We had the same waiter, Henry, for every meal. Very nice. Spoke English but with the typical accent. It took us a few days to get used to the accent of Kenyans. He and another server would place our metal covered plates of the main course (even at breakfast) in front of us and pull the covers off with a flourish. I am easy to impress.

    The presentation of the food on the plate was also top notch. The food was pretty much high end almost gourmet stuff. Very, very good. Best of very good food on our trip.

    (Sorry I am so long winded. This is sort of stream of consciousness. I will try to be more brief.)

    Ahem. . . . We saw animals. Went to the Mara. Went to Lamu. Came home.

    Oops, probably too brief.

    Lunch at Larsen’s is outside under the trees, except when it is too windy. I assume it was their Summer because we were (just barely) above the equator. A perfect temperature.

    Food was very good. At every meal, even breakfast, had a nice young man in Samburu warrior dress. He looked fantastic. Other than looking great, his role seemed to be to hold a rock and make like he was about to throw it to scare off the vervet monkeys. (Yes, the ones with the males with fluorescent blue testicles. Sean thought that part of their anatomy was hilarious.)

    The monkeys were at first fun to watch trying to sneak up. They later took a liking to Marisa and Sean’s tent. We eventually viewed them as little rats. You must keep your tent zipped shut or they will run in and grab something. We had one even run up and had learned how to peel up the velcro on the tent flap. I had to shoo him off.

    Lunch was at 1 pm. I am a creature of habit. Usually have lunch at noon, but I got used to it.

    We then went to tents and got settled in. 3:30 pm came very quickly for our game drive. We had asked to have a guide assigned to us before arriving so we could bring gifts for his family. Francis was our guide (he is the guide pictured on the Larsen’s website, facilities page: http://www.wildernesslodges.co.ke/ )

    He was great. Accent took some getting used to. But very knowledgeable, very patient with us.

    Only a couple minutes from the gate we saw grevy’s zebra, and oryx (along with the reticulated giraffe, we had already seen three of the “Samburu Five.”).

    Samburu is rather arid. Quite small, maybe only 15 kilometers across. But lots of game concentrated, I would assume because of the river. Vehicles have to stay on dirt tracks but they are literally everywhere (except high on the hillsides). You are at most maybe 200 meters from another road at any time. There were quite a few vehicles but so much game it was rarely a problem. We did not have a hang up about exclusivity. We just wanted to see the animals. Other vehicles were a problem only on the rare occasion they were blocking our view.

    We saw lots and lots of animals. We saw a herd of cape buffalo (now two of the big five). One looked at us quite intently and meanly really.

    However, I did drop the hint we wanted to see some big cats.

    The sun started to go down. We were supposed to be back in camp by 6:30. It was probably 6:40 or later. We were in sight of the camp. Mari looked to our left and in the fading light saw something and said, “what is that over there walking along?” This was a bit in the distance. Francis casually responded, “it’s a cheetah.” A a a a a cheetah! Whoa! We nearly shot out of our seats into outer space. Here was a cheetah nonchalantly walking along. I learned later they like to hunt in low light. He was on an intersecting course with us.

    We started taking lots of pictures, including video. I glanced at Mari. She was so happy. You could tell she was using all of her strength to not burst out into tears of joy. A very nice moment.

    Sure enough, Francis timed it so the cheetah had to almost go around our vehicle to cross the dirt road to camp. Marvelous. What pure joy! What rapture!

    We returned to camp. We thanked Francis profusely (and gave him a pretty good ($20) tip).

    We cleaned up and dinner was at eight in the dining tent. (Took a bit of getting used to for us early eating Americans.) The food and service was just plain excellent (although a bit annoying to have to pay upon departure for our soft drinks and even water.)

    We then fell into bed, exhausted but utterly happy. Mari had been afraid I would have been disappointed from experiencing so much from your photos and trip reports.

    Not so. Africa was better than we had even imagined.

    MORE TO COME.

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    Well, I couldn't stop to look at your pics. because I was enjoying your heartfelt report so much. You made me reminisce when speaking of your delight at seeing Mari's joy - your a good husband. I also got such a kick out of seeing my husband's absolute contentment when we were in Africa. It was indeed narcissistic pleasure to know that I had a hand in arranging such a wonderful trip.
    Your enthuisism is truly contagious - please continue with as many details as you can - we love them. thanks for sharing, Kevin.
    Now I shall go back to the pictures!
    Sherry

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    The only dissapointing thing in reading your report is my realizing that I will never again have a 'first time'.

    First time landing in Africa and first time seeing my first animal in the wild.

    Please keep going with the report!

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    This is not long winded at all. Plus your detailed observations will also be saved for you in the future as well as providing entertainment for those of us with a long way to go before we're back in Africa.

    I could feel your anticipation in trying to find that first animal--scouring the barren mountainside, disappointment when it's just cattle. Then I enjoyed your excitement when you had your first sighting despite not really knowing what it was. Who cares? It was wild!

    That's great you stretched your first ride into camp into an hour, wanting to look at every animal! Tarangire was my first park (with the Serengeti and Mara to come) and when I saw a wildebeest way in the distance I urged the driver to get close enough for a photo. When he declined, assuring me there would be many more, I was disappointed.

    Your make believe description of what must go on behind the scenes for the staff to learn everyone's name is perfect. Their memories are amazing.

    A cheetah at your first park. What a start. Looking forward to more.

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    I really enjoyed your Kenya Trip Report. We have a 23 day trip to Kenya and Tanzania booked for Jan 07. Your videos were great and so were the photographs. I can hardly wait to go.
    Thank you,
    Ruth Smith

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    Henry, our wonderful waiter, had asked us what time we wanted our wake up call for our 6:30 a.m game drive. We asked for 6 a.m.

    I finally had a good night’s sleep. (Took a Ambien, no need for rehab on return thank goodness.)

    However, I learned I should set my our alarm just before 6. Because Henry dutifully appeared on the veranda of our tent and called inside to wake us up. I thought he would just leave the hot chocolate on the table outside. I said thank you and bleerily started to get up. After about a minute, Henry let us know he was still there and needed to come inside with the stuff or the monkeys. I was rather embarassed at our ignorance. Not quite properly dressed I unzipped the tent flap and let him in. I had learned a lesson there. Set the alarm the next morning for 5:50 so I could somewhat dressed and ready to let him in.

    I thought it weird. Hot chocolate in hot steamy Africa. Well it was not hot or steamy that morning. A bit cool and quite dry (an arid area you will remember.) They actually gave us steamed milk and we put chocolate powder in. Very good!

    We hurried and got dressed and met Francis at 6:30 precisely. We were excited. What would we see today?

    We went back to the bridge at the park entrance and went to the other (south?) side of the river.

    We saw two male elephants tussling with each other (see videos). We also saw two giraffes pushing each other. We got a close look at a herd of Grevy’s zebra. Beautiful!

    We got back to camp by 9 am. It seemed like noon we had seen so much.

    Breakfast (as was always the case) was great. Cereals, fruit, juices, plus cooked choices.. I enjoyed the scrambled eggs with sausage and their (rather ham-like) bacon plus baked beans of all things.

    Unlike the Mara, there was not game drive until 4 pm. We had some time to relax (thank goodness actually). Mari, Sean and I played a very close game of Scrabble in the main dining and bar tent.

    We later met Francis a bit early at 3:30 p.m. so we could drive up to the Samburu manyatta (village) just outside the northern (Archer’s) gate of the park. We did a bit of a game drive along the way. In fact, it was obvious Francis knew exactly where to go up towards the foothills to find us a few Somali ostrich (another of the Samburu five). It thought they would not be much to see, just another big, bird. Wow! I was wrong. Beautiful. The feathers on the two males were so black and so white. We thought it ironic because we had just seen an exhibit of British colonial uniforms at Kensington Palace in London in which an exhibit talked about the white ostrich feathers of a traditional tropical uniform.

    Just outside the gate were the homes of the people. Most of them were not the traditional mud structures but pretty crude more modern dwellings. Somewhat pieced together. The elementary school buildings needed painting. I have never seen such poverty. Amazing we can be so rich and they so poor. But is material wealth happiness (hopefully I will remember to discuss later.)?

    Some people in western dress, other in native, very bright and beautiful.

    We came to the village. Interesting, a number of adult men on one side of parking lot under a palm frond arbor. Sitting and standing around not doing anything. Suspected they were not allowed in, when tourists there. Only young males in the village.

    Place at first had a bit of a feel of a tourist trap. Native “village” surrounded by a low wood branch fence, more to keep goats, than lions out. About 10 mud huts. Appeared some actually lived in.

    Greeted by a beautiful lady (in dress and appearance), Mariana, and a young 20's male, Elijah. He dutifully took our $80, $20 per person. She was our guide. She had been educated in a university. Excellent English, said she had returned to teach pre-school. Very nice and gracious (but a little pushy on occasion trying to get us to buy stuff.)

    We were then greeted by about 20 ladies (young and old) singing and dancing a welcome greeting. (See video) Beautiful clothing and jewelry. Very delightful.

    They showed us a home. Made with cow dung over branches. Cow hides on the bedroom floor. Dark but comfortable. Did not smell badly.

    Two young men then started a fire with just two sticks, twisting between the hands one of harder wood into one of softer wood. I had started fires as a Boy Scout with flint and steel. I knew how hard to do. This was pretty impressive. But could tell was pretty easy for them.

    (Have to take off for Hawaii to do some work on our condo. Will try to write more on the plane.)

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    Kevin,
    I’m enjoying your report. Your family has real entertainment value and you describe the safari feeling in a perfect way when you write about your wife beaming. It’s good that you remind people that the shilling is the national currency in Kenya. All details are very useful – don’t leave anything out.
    As you’re asking, “But is material wealth happiness (hopefully I will remember to discuss later.)?” Reading trip reports (not just yours) it sure seems like it is.

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    Next, they began a dance. I can’t remember what it symbolized. But they grabbed Mari, Marisa and Sean by the hand and had them join. It was pretty fun. It was amazing how they could move their heads and upper body forward and back like a chicken. I filmed.

    Next, they took us to a blacksmith demonstration. It was a bit lame. They used a hand bellows to heat up the fire, they put an already made spear blade into the fire and heated it red hot, then took it out and pounded on it a bit (not changing it at all). They then took the spear and led us to an adjoining area where about 10 village folk had blankets with stuff to sell. They added the spear to some other stuff for sale. The folk then pretty quickly inundated us offering things for sale. We had heard you were supposed to bargain, that paying what they asked was actually insulting. Sean immediately got into it (with $37 of my money I must add) and bought a spear, and two bracelets. I made it clear I was only filming things (and the money holder) and not interested in looking at anything. Mari and Marisa bought a few items of jewelry.


    I had heard they were indifferent in Kenya whether to accept Kenya schillings or U.S. dollars. From this place where a few folk asked if I had schillings to exchange for a $20 bill to other places where they said they preferred schillings, I wished I had bought more schillings (I am repeating myself, aren’t I).

    When we had walked in, we had passed a much larger circle of sellers where some other tourists were apparently wrapping up their visit. We then moved back near the entrance to the village to the larger circle of vendors. They looked so lovely in their colorful outfits. Just delightful (However kids were dressed in usually dirty western clothes, one three year old had on a dirty shirt with the Disney Mulan character on the front. I assume when you give clothes away to a thrift store, this is where the clothes end up they cannot sell.)

    Thankfully these ladies usually stayed behind their blankets and did not come up and accost us too much. Mariana the guide did get a bit assertive in trying to get us to buy more stuff.

    It felt sort of bad to bargain with them. Marisa and Mari wanted some more items of jewelry. They would for example start out at $22 dollars (in schillings) I would reply at $11 and we would settle at $17. They would then apply an exchange rate of about 70 schillings to the dollar. I would then pay in dollars. This would be for a very nice beaded necklace that I should be willing to pay a least $50 for. At times I would realize we were haggling over a dollar. I felt like an ugly American. I would then want to hand them what they were asking for plus another $5. I felt so guilty. I thought it would be great to come back some time. Bargain for and then buy some stuff, and then methodically hand each vendor an envelope and tell them to not open until we left and they would find a $20 bill in it (or better yet 1,500 schillings).

    I discovered a couple of them had for sale necklaces with the horn of our favorite animal, the Dik dik (Marisa, “Dik dik attack!”) I bought one from each. In total I believe we bought about $130 in stuff.

    We were ready to go. The ladies then took accompanied us out the entrance, singing a good bye song. We were really enjoying it. We were rather stupidly standing by the jeep until Francis told us to get in because they would not stop singing until we got in the vehicle. Mari and I felt pretty dumb.

    We overall really enjoyed the visit. We drove away with broad smiles on our faces.

    (Note: our guide Francis seemed to know many of the people. One would assume from his waiting with the vehicle many times waiting for his clients.)

    As we drove back to the gate to the Park, we saw some of the lady vendors (we assumed) walking back to their homes. The poverty was not so striking, I guess we were already getting used to it.

    One comment though. You could tell that wherever we went in Kenya the people were happy. They were at times literally dirt poor but content in their world. They had enough to eat and a family that loved them. I believe we in the West are less happy. I have surely learned in my work that money does not buy you happiness, in fact too much is a burden and causes more grief than benefit. Our possessions actually possess us at times. I have to fix the car. Clean the courtyard fountain. Keep the condo in Hawaii rented out. Keep viruses and spyware from the computer. On and on. Tasks that take time away from serving other people. The true key to happiness.

    I had had to call the office the night before using the camp phone at $24 for three minutes. I could not get reception on the Celtel network, even from the waterhole lookout from which I had heard from a friend of my sister was the best place.

    As we were returning from the village we were up in the foothills and I finally got cell service. I called back to the office and got things headed back in the right direction there. It was pretty weird to be talking to my lead assistant Vivian on her cell phone on her way to work in California as I am standing up in the back of the game vehicle looking at some game. Pretty wild.

    I also called my mother. “Hi mom, I’m in Africa” and then describing what we were seeing. Lot’s of fun. [I especially enjoy calling my mother from weird places in the world. I once called her early in the morning for me and late at night for her, from a TGV train hurtling across France. “Mom, this train must be doing at least 120 MPH. This is awesome!”]

    I only got reception once from the Camp lookout. On the other hand, I learned the camp staff all used Safaricom for their mobile service. I saw them answering their phones frequently and so must have had pretty good service. Note: the opposite was true in the Mara. Safaricom claims they have coverage over all of Kenya but staff down there said they all had Celtel because Safaricom was so bad. In fact, I bought some more time cards from a staff member at Little Governor’s who had a little business on the side selling them. I felt like I was buying drugs the way they were so discreet about it) Celtel worked fine in Lamu, even on the other side of the island at Kizingo. It was pretty wild to sit on the woven mat of their little gift shop hut just before dinner and give direction to my staff back in California (about 10 am their time).

    Returning to camp we saw lots of animals. Mari was just simply in heaven seeing many reticulated giraffes. The orange color of their markings is just so beautiful.

    Back camp after dark. They have guards to accompany you as you walk from place to place. I thought it weird a guard started following me as I went from the center of camp to the lookout (their waterhole is lit at night). He stood discreetly at the bottom of the stairs and followed close behind me with a flashlight as I walked back to the dining tent. The next day when I saw the staff chasing a bunch of baboons around the inside of the camp, I realized the electric fence was not a perfect barrier and was glad they were more cognizant of my safety than me.

    The next morning I was up at 5:50 and then dressed and ready for Henry with the hot chocolate stuff. (Boy I had felt stupid the morning before.) Still felt pretty rocky from jet lag. Running pretty much on adrenaline. Amazing how much we had experienced in just 42 hours in Samburu.

    By the way, I cannot imagine staying less than three nights at a camp like this, much less two nights. I guess because I like to settle in (and also take so long to unpack and then pack my stuff.)

    We then piled into the jeep (I’m sorry but game vehicle in getting a bit long to type.) Francis is really an ace guide. We were driving along the road parallel to the river towards the gate when he stopped the vehicle, backed up, and pointed down to the dusty road and said, “lion tracks.” Sure enough, there were some huge cat prints, this was either a lion or the biggest house cat on the planet.

    I had let him know I really wanted to see the Big Five, had seen two of the five (Ele and buffalo). Boy, those buffalo look mean. We also still needed to see a leopard and a rhino.

    Francis then dutifully circled the vehicle around and then through the area of bushes near the tracks. We looked very hard but did not find them. Oh well.

    We then proceeded to the south park gate and the bridge. As we pulled up to the bridge there were a couple of game vehicles stopped on it. We stopped just short of the bridge and watched the baboons play on the guard house. All of a sudden we saw the other vehicles take off and turn left (east I believe). Francis rather calmly put our vehicle in gear and we started across the bridge. I could see the other were really hauling. We began to follow them at a more leisurely but still quick (not like their insane) pace. They were really bouncing around along the track.

    I thought this might be interesting. I assumed we were after something. Francis was his usual taciturn self.

    We fairly quickly pulled up to a clearing with a few (maybe seven) vehicles around it. We came to a stop and Francis calmly said, “Leopard”. L L L L LEOPARD! Across the clearing I caught a glimpse of it walking behind a big tree. I pointed out to my family its tail sticking out still visible. HOLY MOLY!

    Just as we are really realizing what is going on (all this has taken maybe five seconds) and begin the focus on the tail. Cameras at the ready. As if on cue from the film director, the leopard comes around from behind the tree and STARTS WALKING STRAIGHT TOWARDS US.

    He walks up and glances up at us. He has to walk around the rear of our vehicle. I am so excited and happy I say, “I just want to bawl.” He then stops just on the other side and poses as as if for our cameras. I am surprised he is not bigger. I then rather stupidly say (you can hear this on the videotape), “he is a young one”. Francis later corrects me and tells me his is five years old. (It is amazing how they get to personally know the big cats).

    He then moved into the bushes. Francis then expertly and quickly whipped our vehicle around to the other side of the bushes (I now counted 18 vehicles in the area.) He stopped at the perfect spot to see the cat move past an opening and plop down leaving his tail visible. The vehicle behind us moved backwards for a better view that at least gave us a view through a bush of the leopard grooming himself. After a couple of minutes we left so others could get a look. WOW!

    We then wandered around the south side of the river. Everything else paled in comparison to the leopard.

    We stopped and looked at the baboons near the bridge. A cute youngster was particularly fun to watch. Very cute. Too bad they grow up to become such little monsters.

    On the north side of the river, another driver told Francis of a sight to see. We went a bit upcountry to the north and came upon a cheetah docilely sitting not more than 7 meters from the dirt track. Must not have been hungry, there was a herd of gazelle not more than 150 meters away.

    We felt so blessed to see such magnificent animals. We returned for breakfast, what a morning!

    MORE TO COME,

    Next the Game Walk: “The giraffes never cross the river, they are afraid of the crocodilles.”

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    Nyamera: You are correct, material wealth allowed us to go to Africa.

    However, I am in Hawaii at our condo. I spent all of today doing tasks to maintain our condo. In theory, I could have done something to serve another person today instead of looking for an ironing board cover and doing other selfish things.

    Just a thought

    Kevin from California

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    Kevin,

    You should not feel foolish about the young leopard comment. Using that standard of 7 cat/dog years for every 1 human year, that makes the cat only 35. I consider that quite young! Leopards seem to have a huge size range, regardless of age.

    The material wealth discussion is a good topic for this forum:
    http://www.simpleliving.net/forums/

    The fact that the Maasais were bargaining makes me think they were doing what they could to amass some more of that material wealth. I'm a poor bargainer and my level of wealth probably suffers as a result.

    I am glad your family appreciates the unique little antelope--the dik dik. I really like them too.

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    Kevin,
    I am thoroughly enjoying your report. Your impressions were so similar to mine and I feel like I am right there with you. I was a first-timer in March, and thus far an only-timer, but still dream of returning.
    The experience of Africa truly is life changing, I felt it every day while on safari. The one that lingers the strongest is, as you mentioned...who is better off? I too felt such a sense of peace and happiness from the people we encountered along the way. Since returning I have a strong desire to un-clutter my life, and give something of myself to others. Our lives are busy, busy, busy, and all the while we are missing out on the simple joys of life. I watched all of your wonderful videos and as impressive as they were the thing I notice most is the laughter of you and your family!
    Keep it coming, I'm enjoying the ride!
    Teri

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    Kevin and Teri,
    Most Kenyans are busy, busy, busy trying to feed, cloth and educate their families and not all are successful at this. I think 100% of the “happy” people you saw would be a lot happier if they had a condo to rent out, or sell. “Who is better off?” It just beggars belief that you can ask such a question. You have CHOICES. Sell your condos, give away all you money and try to survive on subsistence farming or street hawking, if you think that will make you happier – it won’t even if your families would stay with you and love you. You could sell the condos and other things that “possess you” and travel to Kenya and buy necklaces for the money. That would probably make you and the necklace sellers happier – just do it.
    To get some sense of reality you could read I Laugh So I Won’t Cry by Helena Halperin. This book, recommended by Jan here on Fodor’s contains interviews with normal Kenyan women, though wealthier women are overrepresented.

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    Kevin, I am enjoying both your trip report and hearing your thoughts about your experience. I know when I went to India earlier this year it really made me appreciate the material benefits I have in my life (and I am not at all rich by the standards of the area where I live!), and it also made me take a new, harder look at what it takes to make a person "happy" with their life. Of course most people living in developing countries would prefer to have more material and educational advantages (and I didn't get the impression you were saying otherwise). But still, it can be very inspiring to talk to someone who has a positive outlook on life, even while they are living with much, much less material wealth than we have and much more hardship in terms of just getting by. Maybe I am misreading you, but the impression I'm getting from your comments is that your trip to Africa influenced you to think differently about your own life, and I think that is a positive thing for any of us. I really like reading about what people take away from their safari experience, not just about what animals they see along the way.

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    Nyamera,

    I know I shouldn't get involved in this discussion, but...yikes, I just can't help myself.

    I think when people express shock or even what seems a kind of envy for "happy Africans" it's more because we who are so very privileged find it hard to imagine that we could ever smile given such despearate circumstances, e.g. very little in terms of material wealth and the trauma of little to no health care not to mention insurance, uncertain employment, very poor public school system, lack of opportunity for our children, etc.

    But of course, as fragile as humans are, most are also unbelievably resilient. Life is hard, and how much harder it would be if one never laughed, smiled, found things to lighten one's mood, people to love and so on. Poor people laugh while leading poor, difficult lives. I don't think anyone on this board is trying to suggest that somehow their poverty makes them happier in any way. Of course it's better to have a job, health insurance and a retirement fund. A good education. Personal safety and stable government. Hope for the future and the futures of loved one's as well as for humanity.

    Um, what was I saying again?

    Oh yeah, we as the fortunates, can choose to rid ourselves of the flotsam and jetsam, the vile excess that clutters our lives and alienates us. Doesn't have to mean throwing out one's retirement funds, houses and gourmet cheeses. But hopefully keeping our acquisitiveness in check will enable us to feel more free to pursue social and economic justice for those who haven't been lucky enough to be born in a certain place, in a certain country to certain parents.

    Now you're gonna tell me you're not one of the fortunates. If that is the case, my response is: Is there anything I can do to help? I am trying.

    Sorry to get in such a lather over this on your thread, Kevin. Carry on. ;)

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    Kevin,

    Go ahead and bare your soul or whatever else you wish. Travel at its best expands the mind and that process, when shared with others, can appear free wheeling and candid.

    It generated some more good comments from Nyamara and that insightful dog of Kyle's. Leely's flotsam/jetsam comment alone was worth the effort to log on.

    You may indeed start finding that less is more and how nice your kids are sure to be pondering such questions as well.

    Now back to acquiring material wealth...

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    Kevin,
    Please don't just "stick to the story." My favorite part of trip reports is the impressions, emotions and opinions people come away with.
    I, like you, came away with a sense of focusing on the important things in life and a renewed appreciation for the priviledges I have.
    Teri

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    Hi all,

    Different Teri here, but I happen to agree with her. I'm just starting to plan my trip in 2008 and particularly appreciate your more personal experiences. No detail is too mundane for me....
    Secondly, after reading this trip report (and viewing the photos and videos) I've come way with one main impression...what am amazing thing Kevin has done by giving his kids the opportunity to experience a different culture and become better "citizens of the world".
    Just a newbie's impression...
    Teri

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    Kevin, do continue sharing your impressions. To me you and Teri did come across as very stupid and spoilt Fodorites (as I sometimes do myself in posts about conditioner etc), but now Leely has explained that you experienced “shock that seems like envy”, and I can almost understand what that is. As I’d already heard that people can laugh while leading poor, difficult lives I have not had that kind of experience in Kenya. And, I’ve met so many more unhappy and desperate people in Kenya than I have in any other place where I’ve only stayed for a short time, that my experience must be very different from what most Fodorites seem to experience. Anyway, Africa has only made me more desperate to “amass wealth”.
    Leely, I got the impression you’ve seen some envy in my comments and yes there is a lot of it, the "condo thing" was really too much and being possessed by such a dwelling would at a certain time have made my life take a radically more positive turn. Though, as I was born in the right place to have all opportunities, not having houses, retirement funds or future safaris is completely due to my personal ineptitude. I will ask for some (Africa related) business advice – if I dare.



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    Kevin,

    Like what everyone said, please keep sharing your personal thoughts. As great as animals and monuments are, your personal feelings and emotions are what MAKE a trip.

    You are going through the feelings most Westerners go through the first time going to a "developing nation".

    You see Poor People(tm) and you want to race out and help and save everyone. You feel guilty for complaining that the pool guy isn't doing a good enough job getting out the leaves... OK, most Americans don't even have a pool... but even the tiny things we take for granted, clean water, decent healthcare, microwave oven in our kitchen, are seen as luxuries by a great part of the world's population.

    So yes, after my trip to Cambodia and seeing land mine victims begging for food, kids who have clearly neven seen a dentist in their lives and ramshackle housing. I came home a deeper and more profound person. I then went out and blew a bunch of my AOL stock options on a gas guzzling SUV I didn't need. ;)

    Then I went to India & the poverty was worse.

    After going to Africa last year. I was a little more calloused to it all. My wife was wringing her hands over the poor women & children of Rwanda.

    Many of my friends say "I could never go to a country like that and see all those poor people". Of course they drive right over the poor and disadvantaged here in this country.

    After several trips through various nations I have a mixture of feelings. I certainly don't ascribe any special happiness to the poor. They certainly would rather have our possesions and more importantly the CHOICES that come with them. Let's face it, my house & things don't truly 'own' me. Any time I want I can CHOOSE to walk away.

    (OK, I am rambling and not sure what my point is...) but I also differentiate between 'poor' that I saw in the mountains of Cuzco. They had simple brick homes with no electricity. But they there was plenty of food that could be grown. They didn't have much, but had what they needed. This is very different from a family living in a flithy shantytown in Delhi or Nairobi.

    Not sure what I ended up saying here... except keep going Kevin.

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    Game Walk

    At Larsen’s there is no game drive after breakfast, wanting to maximize our experience we signed up for a game walk. The cost was an amazingly low $10 per person. At 10 am, Mari, Sean and I met two rangers armed with automatic weapons and dressed in camoflauge fatigues. (Marisa stayed behind nursing an ankle injury.) We were still pretty stoked from seeing the leopard (how is that for a California surfer term from the 60's).

    It was pretty wild to walk out through the gates into the wilds of Africa. I thought I hope these guys know what they are doing. Just these two fellows separate us from getting trampled by an elephant or eaten by a lion. (I figured the odds were pretty low but still we were out in the wild.)

    They spoke English okay (really thick accents though). Very nice gentlemen. At first they were pretty fixated on stopping at every pile of animal droppings and having us try to deduce (really guess) the type of animal. I got the first three right but guessing average after that was pretty low. I can tell you one thing, the tiny dik dik sure poop a lot to mark the corner of their territory.

    It was getting a bit warm but a wind kicked up that kept us from getting uncomfortable. We walked over to the river just east of camp. Nothing remarkable other than WE ARE WALKING IN THE WILD IN AFRICA. We talked about how amazing it was to think we were in Los Angeles just a few days before. (The 405 freeway is probably far more dangerous than our little walk.)


    The river goes along and then turns to the left (the north) and so we cut inland to walk across the plain to the river on the other side.

    We came upon a herd of Grant’s gazelle they moved a bit, we wary, but not too concerned with us. On the other hand, when an oryx and and a couple of warthog spotted us from a very long distance, at least 400 meters away, if not more, they ran like heck from our view.

    As we walked along, we could just barely see some giraffes in the distance, over near the river beyond, peering at us over the occasional bush. They had obviously seen us long before we could even see them at all. They were looking at us like, “what in the heck are you humans doing outside of your vehicles.” Very wary, but also very curious.

    Five circled to our left as we approached. One got separated from the others to our right.

    The five then stopped along our left. They then started walking towards us. They looked quite puzzled with us but very interested. Remember Mari loves giraffes. I thought she was going to break down sobbing with tears of joy. They got so close I, I am sure in my ignorance, started to get concerned. Maybe they were going to come running up and kick me in the head or something. I asked the guards when how close they would come until they shot off their guns to scare them off. They very kindly surpressed their amusement with me. This was cool, very cool to have them so close.

    We then walked on. We could see the giraffes circle behind us and go towards the river over near the camp. The one on our right went to join them.

    We came upon the upper skull and attached horns of an impala. The rangers has us each grab and hold for a picture.

    We arrived at the river where it has curved to our left. Just beautiful and idyllic. However in my typical paranoia I did not get too close to the water for fear of crocodilles. We did see a few along the way, but pretty small (compared to the monsters we saw in the Mara.)

    We then cut back inland across the bend in the river towards where the giraffes had gone. When we got somewhat near we stopped and could see two of the giraffes peering at us over the trees (I not talkin’ bushes but trees) between us and the river. Amazing!

    They then took off to our left. We then walked towards the river to try to find the others. As we approached the rangers exclaimed, “they have crossed the river! Oh look there is one still crossing.” We hurried to the riverbank to see three on the other side of the river and one about half way across. Simply awesome to watch him make his way across, at times having to strongly pull his hooves out of the mud.


    The rangers said they had never seen a giraffe cross the river. They believed because of the crocodilles. I felt a bit bad we had scared them across. But they seemed okay, and on reflection now I imagine that the giraffes may cross at times (the rangers may have been overdramatizing)

    We then started to walk back on the river to camp. We started to walk a bit inland so we could return to the gate and who was there to greet us. Those other two giraffes! The last we had seen them they were hightailing the opposite direction. They had circled once again around us! I guess they were pretty curious about us. When we approached (they were between us and the gate) they took off again.

    In sum, the game walk at Larsen’s was very very enjoyable. Quite an adventure for us. Would highly recommend it.

    MORE TO FOLLOW

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    Trip report continued

    That afternoon at first we drove along the river because the sun had come out (the prior two days had been overcast and pleasantly cool) and it was a bit hot. We finally saw a kudu, a mother and child, that had come down from the nearby hills to drink at the river. We saw lots of other game. When it cooled down we drove into the foothills. We happened upon 15 giraffe feeding in a group on just a couple of trees. Mari, of course, was in heaven.

    Apparently an Abercrombie and Kent group had arrived. I understand they pay a lot of money for their trip. The folk did seem pretty well to do. Seems their only advantage was a nature talk around the campfire before dinner. However, ate the same food and stayed in same tents as us lesser folk.

    Day 4 in Kenya, Friday, Aug. 11th

    Finally, a good night’s sleep. Had breakfast at an early 7:30 a.m. and got packed. So no game drive (we thought). Our flight to the Mara was at 10 a.m. Only takes 30 minutes at most to drive to airstrip. Francis was anxious to leave as soon as possible. We got delayed a bit with last minute shopping by the girls. Note, they had an OK gift shop at Larsen’s. Had some essentials like film for camera, toiletries. I did not know but Francis had told everyone else in family there might be something to see.

    We bid farewell to Florence the great manager on duty when we were there and Henry our very nice waiter (so kind and patient).

    We hightailed it along the road. We came around one corner and found out why Francis was in a hurry. There just off the road between us and the river was a pair of lions mating. WOW! DOUBLE WOW! We got to see our lions all right (I had not been worried about seeing some because I assumed we would see plenty in the Mara.) The male was huge. Very loud. Lots of roaring. Not very romantic though. However, simply magnificent creatures. Amazing to be so close to such a dangerous animal with no glass or bars between us. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. (Interesting also how in the Mara it became, “oh nice, there’s another lion.”)

    We gave some gifts to Francis. We had gotten the word wrong from the camp. We had bought stuff for two daughters, ends up the oldest is a son, age 13. Hence, instead of giving to the camp staff as we intended, we gave him for his son an official World Cup soccer ball. Francis was a pretty low key dude but his eyes gave away his pleasure for his son. [Sorry, forgot to say before when we visited the Samburu village we gave the guide (a teacher) lots of pens, markers, stickers, and math and vocabulary flash cards. My family was pleased each time we got rid of a set of flash cards, pretty heavy to lug around.)

    This time a big plane arrived (40+ capacity). Mari a bit relieved. This time the plane was pretty full. We bid goodbye to Francis. Interesting to see him greet the next group of guests arriving. A constant flow, hope we don’t bore the guides. We will certainly remember him, for eternity most likely, our first African guide.

    We then took off for the Masai Mara.

    MORE TO COME

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    Mating lions, nice find.

    Wayne, I have the same thoughts about A&K.
    Kind of like Na-na-na-nana. How immature and petty of me.

    Kevin, you could probably have even eaves dropped on the nature talk.

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    Hi! I am stakerk's (kevin's) daughter. Here is a something to add to his trip report that he didn't know.

    It was me who was buying something in the gift shop as Francis, our guide, waited impatiently at the vehicle. Once we were done I headed to the game vehicle.

    As I got there Francis whispered to me "You can't keep the lions waiting." My eyes got really big and then I knew what he was so antsy about. The treasured lion we had not seen, and my dad had been harrassing Francis about finding, was here.

    So we hopped in the game vehicle and sped off.

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    OFF TO THE MARA

    We flew south and the rather arid landscape turned quite green, especially over what I assume are the Aberdares Mountains. Hopefully the terrible drought has ended.

    We had heard the plane might make a few stops until we arrived at the Musiara airstrip in the Mara. Had not anticipated having to get off the plane at the first stop, Siana Springs. We were informed another plane, one coming from Nairobi, would take us to our destination. Made sure our bags got off with us. (This time a baggage guy was on the plane.)

    Sure enough after about 15 minutes in came another big plane. A few folk got off and we got on. I had the pleasure of sitting in the front across from a very nice gentleman. He told us about the London airplane terrorist plot. We had just missed the chaos at Heathrow by a few days. Phew!

    It ends up his name is Ruby (spelling?) and he said he is a member of the family that owns the Sarova hotel chain. He lives in Dubai and has auto parts plants in Dubai and Kenya. Ruby said there were so many tourists in the Mara that he and his aunt (who was going on her first safari) could not find a place to stay to the Sarova Mara Camp and so had to stay at our camp, Little Governors. Very nice gentleman, wish I had had more time to get to know him.

    We stopped at one airstrip along the way. Sort of weird for such a big turboprop plane to fly just a few minutes and then land again.

    We finally arrived at the Musiara airstrip. We expected to be greeted by Simon. (I had again asked before arrival for assignment of a guide and word of his family situation so we could bring some appropriate gifts.) Instead, we were greeted warmly by Joshua, who informed us he would be our guide for the day. That Simon had the day off. No problem.

    We drove to Little Governor’s Camp across the flat plains of the Mara. It looked just like the pictures and Eben’s video of the drive. We were in an open vehicle again. A beautiful day. Sun out with some poofy clouds.

    Now we did not actually drive to Little Governor’s. Instead we drove to a dirt roundabout across the river from the camp. The airstrip and most of the game driving is on the east side of the Mara River, the camp is on the westside. This then made for the fun experience (I knew of this from Eben’s video on his website, http://media.go-safari.com/go-safari/LittleGov.wmv ) of walking down to the river, getting in a small boat, that is then pulled across the river by a staff member using a rope strung across the river. Takes a bit of agility to safely get in the boat. You fall in the river and I assume something is nearby to gobble you up. Pretty cool. On the other bank, you walk up some stairs to the camp level.

    We found Little Governor’s to be a delightful camp. Everything we had hoped it would be. The tents, food, and service were a slight notch below the excellence of Larsen’s in the Samburu. However, the great draw is that it is on a marsh. Because of the threat from animals, a ranger accompanied us every time we came up from or went down to the river.

    Now I must admit I has initially disappointed because there was not a herd of elephants there to greet us. However, the next day that was to change.

    They have a nice outdoor brunch for lunch. Please note, before I forget, every place we stayed had a delightful cream soup as the first course of lunch and dinner. A great start to each meal.

    At lunch, LG usually had something barbecued (pork, turkey, lamb, etc.), some good salads (we began to get pretty brave and started eating fresh vegetables, we had been pretty spooked about staying away from uncooked vegetables. Marisa did miss an afternoon game drive most likely because of our boldness.) However, the best part was their desserts. Always excellent, especially each day they had a fruit mousse that had to be some of the best stuff we had ever eaten in our lives. Light and very delicious.

    We got settled in. No electricity in the tents but hey at least we had hot and cold running water. (Again, I had my wife prepared for ordering hot water.) We were conveniently in the two tents closest to the reception area and so charging batteries was not a problem.

    That afternoon we had a great game drive with Joshua. (Remember, we had to go take the little boat across the river to get to the vehicle. Felt a bit more confident getting the boat)

    We saw the first of many topi and hartebeest. We thought the male topi standing on the termite mounds to show they rule a territory was rather amusing. They seemed to be pretty close together at times and not ruling much of a territory.

    We also saw the first wildebeest. The first of MANY wildebeest. However, Joshua said only about a quarter of them had arrived. If I understood him correctly, they had come from the East from the Loita Area and the wildebeest from the south in Tanzania had not yet arrived. (By the way I guess for the first time in my life I heard Tanzania I assume pronounced correctly with the accent on the second syllable, not the second to the last, “Tawn - ZAWN - nee-a.; I was rather surprised).

    We drove south at first roughly parallel to the Mara River. It then turned to the East and into our path. We went to the Paradise Crossing. We could see what looked like large tree on the hill to the southeast. Suspiciously large. Joshua said it was the mobile phone antenna tower next to the Mara Serena lodge! Looked like a tree to me. Good camouflaging! (We certainly now had good mobile phone service!)

    We got our first look at some HUGE crocodiles. These were massive just like we had remembered. Saw one on our side that had lost the end of its upper jaw. Joshua thought it had been sliced off by the hoof of a zebra.

    No crossing action, not a wildebeest in sight. We then went to the West about a kilometer as the crow (vulture) flies to another crossing whose name I cannot find on a map. (Paradise West?) There we found hundreds of wildebeest milling about on our side near the river. We pulled up to find a lone wildebeest on the other side. We spent quite a while watching it run back and forth, to and fro making quite a bit of noise. We did not know if he had been stranded on the other side and was trying to get the courage to cross or had bravely crossed alone and was trying to get his buddies to come join him. From how stupid we came to learn the wildebeest are, I would guess the former. Pretty entertaining though.

    We then back towards camp but on a road more to the East. Joshua knew where he was going because we came upon a cape buffalo carcass. Not too exciting in itself except THERE WERE A WHOLE BUNCH OF LIONS! The mating pair in the Samburu was great but this was pretty awesome also. The grass was pretty high and so we would discover, “oh here’s one over here,” and then “here’s another over there.” Must have been about eight or nine. Very cool to see a couple of them gnawing on the carcass. Others were lollygagging in the grass. A couple of what appeared to be adolescents were wrestling with each other. We sure weren’t in Los Angeles any more.

    Joshua said these were the Musiara pride of BBC TV Big Cat Diary fame. The size and apparent power to sense live in the flesh was amazing. One got up walked straight towards us and looked Marisa in the eyes. Pretty scary, really a chilling feeling. Like, “if you weren’t in this vehicle that I have learned does not taste too good, you would make a nice appetizer.” A basic, primordial fear.

    On the other hand, was also amazing to see how much they moved and acted like Tsuko, our house cat. Especially just sleeping, walking along or batting at each other. I thought, we certainly are getting our money’s worth (about $380 pppn I guess). Just like I had dreamed.

    There were several other vehicles. In our stay it was rare for others to be a bother. Actually a few times they were advantageous. Would not have seen some animals from a distance but could see several vehicles around and so there must have been something worthwhile going to go join and see.

    It was getting late so we had to leave. On the way back we came upon some elephants. There was a three week old baby still with black hair on it. Very cute! (I’m not one for cute, but this was pretty special.)

    We really had taken a liking to our guide Joshua. Very nice, very skilled. We was asked if we could keep him as our guide. The camp complied. (Hope we did not offend Simon but he had had his chance.)

    LG is not fenced and so as I had heard an armed guard was stationed at what appeared to be every tent. All I know is each time I went to or from our tent to charge batteries or go to dinner a Masai with a spear or rifle would practically leap from place near a tree between our tent and the marsh and start walking alongside me. WAY COOL.

    MORE TO COME "Why are the wildebeest swimming upriver?"

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    Great account of your arrival at Little Gov's. Lots of action.

    The Sarova owner could not get a spot at his own camp? That's the definition of completely booked.

    That brought back a memory--the owners of Serena were at LG when I was there and they said they liked the camp so much they paid to stay there by choice.

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    First Full Day in the Mara (Saturday, August 12th)

    Our waiter brought us hot milk for our hot chocolate! Especially good when I added some hot chocolate mix with their hot choc. mix. Very gingery cookies.

    We met Joshua at 6:30 a.m. (thought of how Sandi does not like to do the early morning drive). Joshua had wisely suggested we bring a bush breakfast with us so we would not have to return back to the camp and then go right back out again.

    One note on Joshua: our guide in the Samburu said he works several weeks and then goes back down to Nairobi to visit with his wife and children. A drive of a few hours. Joshua, however, has his family in Tsavo, about 700 miles from the Mara. He said he typically takes two and a half days to get there. He works 7 days a week for several months and then goes home for a month. It was very hard when he returned last time because his two year old did not know who he was. We marveled to hear how he is proudly building a home, hiring a truck, driving a couple of hours away to the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro to cut down trees (he said being a Masai he can easily go back and forth across the border to Tanzania), haul them back and then cut them into boards to make the home. WOW! Talk about different from our pampered lives. Justifiably proud of his accomplishment. Gave his old house to his parents I believe. Very humble lives. Pointed out he is a Christian and so only has one wife.

    Near where we had seen the baby elephant the night before we came upon what appeared to be a lone lioness. Joshua said it was out hunting. Got up on a mound and sure looked to be peering around for prey. Again, felt lucky it does not like to eat humans in game vehicles.

    We came upon the male of the Musiara pride mating with a female. Just like in the Samburu, loud and brief. Amazing how they disappeared in the tall grass when they laid down. We then checked out the rest of the pride back at the carcass.

    We then went down to the Paradise Crossing. No wildebeest there. We went downriver a bit and had a great bush breakfast on the riverbank. Hard boiled eggs, toast with jam, ham, fruit, and hot chocolate never tasted so good! Especially fun with the accompaniment of the snorting and grunting hippos below in the river. (Joshua assured us we were safe, no hippo runs nearby, I in my paranoia thought, “of course, there’s always a first time.”) Really pretty surreal at the time. “We are eating breakfast next to a river in Africa. Those are hippos just right down there.” A bit more realistic than the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.

    We then started to go to the other crossing just upriver where we had seen the lone wildebeest on the other side the day before. (Anyone know the name?) Joshua began to drive faster and faster. We even passed a couple of other vehicles. Ho Boy somethin’ must be up! We started to drive parallel to a line of wildebeest heading for the river. Sure enough, we arrived and there were hordes of them milling about near the river. Within about a half of hour the vanguard started down to the riverside. Within just a couple of minutes they started across the river.

    Now we then saw for ourselves they are pretty dumb. They swam pretty much straight across the river. The problem was there was a steep bluff directly on the other side. They began to climb up the bluff. But it was so steep there was no way they could get up and out. Now to show even more how dumb they were those who were on the bluff just happened to be facing upriver, they then began to jump into the river and swim UPRIVER. This was pretty dumb because a much easier exit just maybe 12 meters downriver. They then swam upriver. (I was pretty disappointed because no crocs showed up to eat any. You could see them basking in the sun up and down the river but none attacked. Rats!)

    They came to a draw in the riverbank. Even there almost all picked a very difficult exit spot. So difficult we saw at least four of them slip and appear to break a leg and quickly die in the river. Imagine most of the beasts following the leaders straight across, up the side a bit, then jump back into the river, swam upstream quite a ways, and then struggle out at the most difficult spot. Hundreds and hundreds. An awesome sight of Mother Nature. (One lady claimed there were four thousand who crossed. I would agree it was at least two thousand.) Quite a sight. Joshua said it was the biggest crossing he had seen so far this year.

    Note in the middle of this four zebras came splashing into the water. They then calmly took a drink and stood around. Either very confident the crocs had already eaten their fill for days or very dumb.

    Also note there were many game vehicles. We actually ended up having to look over the vehicle and through the people sitting on top.

    Also, as I had heard it was a bit chilling driving along in the vehicle early in the morning. But it warmed up by breakfast. By the time of the crossing there was one girl (appeared American) in just a tank top and short shorts with part of her rear hanging out. (Sights like this help one understand the problem Osama bin Laden and his buddies have with us. Note, we had followed the Fodorite advice and were dutifully dressed in long sleeve natural colored shirts with khaki pants so as not to offend the locals. Hopefully we at least looked like proper safari guests.) We then returned by noon so Joshua could drive a couple of hours north to a bridge over the Mara and then meet us on the west side of the camp (and the river) to try and find a rhino. (Amazing how these guys try to please the guests. We needed a rhino to complete our Big Five.)

    At lunch the elephants I had hoped would come to the marsh had arrived. Very cool. Even more cool was as we started lunch there came closer and closer eating to the outdoor dining area. They ate most of the time just right outside of Marisa and Sean’s tent in the marsh. We had to move our table from outside to under the dining tent because they eventually marched their way into camp at the same spot as our table had been. COOL. One smaller elephant decided he wanted to walk through the dining tent. Only a guard brandishing a stick dissuaded him. VERY COOL. (I wondered how the elephant knew the stick would hurt. I guessed he must thwack them at times).

    The elephants then proceeded to walk among the tents on the west side of camp. When we left for our game drive at 3:30 they were still milling about.

    We met Joshua behind the reception building, at the balloon launching grounds. We drove out the west gate and saw on first local giraffes up close. Less colorful than the reticulated in the Samburu but still nice.

    Joshua then drove up to couple of bushes near the Kichwe Tembo airstrip. There we found a mother cheetah with FOUR (count ‘em four) cubs! WOW! DOUBLE WOW! They were lounging in the shade. The cubs were very cute. (I am gushing like a teenaged girl aren’t I? Oh well. Pretty amazing experience.) Three months old. Had been five. One appeared to be the runt, smaller than the others.

    We then went out of the park to a Masai Village along the road north of Kichwe Tembo and Bateleur Camp. I liked our camp location better. (The marsh and the river. Closer to the crossing points and the whole rest of the Mara.).

    The village visit was OK. Did not ACT as enthusiastic and glad to see up as appeared in the Samburu. Joshua said was not the usual village they went to. Something about a dispute between the two tribal jurisdictions in the Mara. One charging guests from other to have to pay again just to visit. All Greek to me. Admission same as Samburu, $20 per person.

    Had a exciting sight on the way. Saw a baboon sprint out of a grove of trees and take down a goat. The shepard was on a bicycle far away, no where in sight at first. Joshua said the Kenya wildlife service would compensate the shepard.

    The jewelry was all right. The spears were overpriced. The Masai blankets the same, bought from the same manufacturer, as at the LG gift shop (I saw one of the plastic bags, so much for authenticity. I later bought the one at the camp for $18 US) We spent about $240. (We overpaid about $40 but I viewed as a donation to these humble, nice people.)

    Getting dark so we started back to camp. We came upon Mama cheetah out hunting. Cool to see her cubs stay behind until she called them. Joshua said she had to eat once per day or would start to lose milk and cubs would begin to starve.

    Joshua expertly spotted a bunch of Thompson’s gazelle in the direction of her gaze. We drove so we were beside them at the proper distance. Was amazing to see the Mama cheetah sneak up and then make an amazingly fast run at them. Unfortunately for her and her cubs (fortunately for the tommies) she missed (I hope we had no influence.) WOW! Just as fast as we had imagined from wildlife films. The tommies were pretty agile and quick themselves.

    We then moved to a spot between her and her cubs. Very cool to see her call them and walk around us.

    Said goodbye that evening to Ruby (of the Sarova group). He was leaving that next morning. I had wished I had taken the time to get to know him better. Very nice man. His wife had just had a baby. Told him when the child gets older to bring his family to the American West and we can show him some of our spectacular sights (Grand Canyon, Zions and Bryce Canyon National Parks).

    Pretty wild just before dinner to call back to the office in California and have them ask what all the racket was (the insects in the marsh.)

    One note: if you are a light sleeper you might want to avoid LG. Being on the marsh there was quite a bit of noise from the insects and other critters in the middle of the night. That night there was an animal right outside of our tent most of the night making loud grunting noises. The guard confirmed my guess the next morning that it was a couple of hippos grazing on the grass of the camp. (Joshua had told us they are nocturnal and eat grass on the land, I had thought in the river.) Pretty wild. The guard said the hippos are pretty safe to be around when they are grazing. However are absolutely deadly if you get between them and the marsh and they get scared. WOW!

    MORE TO COME “No, I had not heard it is Marisa’s birthday. I wish they had told me. Let me see what I can do”

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    I'm enjoying your enthusiastic trip report. My safari withdrawal is hitting me hard this week. I feel like orphan Oliver asking the headmaster "may I please have more?"
    Lily

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    Kevin, I'm really enjoying your report - especially the wildebeest crossing. Governor's Camp reported that on 15th and 19th Septemeber, they had their most spectacular river crossings this year. On each occasion, 500,000 animals crossed!!! The crossing points were Paradise and Kichwa Tembo which you came across during your gamedrives.

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    I'm still enjoying your report also. You sure did see some great stuff - the cheetah and her babies, the river crossing, the ellies up close, the hippos outside your tent - how lucky are you!

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    Yes Kevin, if you follow the river north of LG. I think it's called the Kichwa Tembo crossing because Kichwa Tembo is the nearest camp to that point. I think the crossing point falls just outside the boundaries of the Mara.

    Gaurang

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    Aug. 13, 2006 Second Full Day in the Mara (Marisa’s 27th Birthday)

    We had a great balloon flight in the morning. Told to be to the launching grounds just behind the reception at 6:00 am (so folks from other Governor’s Camps had to get up PRETTY early. Took off about 6:30 a.m. Four compartments of four people. Climbed over side of gondola (two cutouts for climbing in). Sat on padded bench and held on to straps. Burner of gas pretty noisy. Went up pretty quickly. (Total of three balloons.) Breeze blew us along pretty quickly. Came back down and skimmed along fairly low. Animals scared by the noise from the burner (except for the typically mean looking cape buffalo, wouldn’t want to take on one in a bar fight, I don’t drink so no risk of that.) At one point we went up to 1,300 feet above ground. Came back down for a perfect landing. (Sat down, grabbed straps, put our heads back against padding. Landed in tall savannah grass (not mowed down yet by wildebeests) The balloon dragged the gondola along. We stopped and the deflating balloon then pulled the gondola onto its side. The passengers either left either laying on their backs like us or crouched on hands and knees for others. Pretty fun.

    Got out and waited for large game vehicles to come get us. Hoped no lions in vicinity. Pilot, Steve, English, made the age old quip, “I don’t have to outrun the lion, I only have to outrun you.” Learned one of the other family’s was from San Diego, of all places. After about 15 minutes we were picked up. Took us to a spot next to the Mara River for a big breakfast for all three groups. Food was pretty good. Our second breakfast in a row in the wild.

    Was I glad we did the balloon ride, even at about $400 per person? Yes. A new experience, a different perspective. Would I do it again? No, not at that price. (I know this has been a matter of debate on this forum.)

    We got in one of the large vehicles with two couples from So. Africa. One of the couples (Dave and Vivian) have a daughter who lucked out on the lottery to emigrate to the U.S. and lives in West Hollywood fairly near us. Daughter and her husband are expecting their first child in November. We hope to get together with them when Dave and Viv come in November.

    Moses drove us to the other side of where we had seen our prior crossing of the Mara. Nothing happening.

    We then started to drive away. We stopped and looked at some giraffe. We started to go back to camp but then Moses looked back and saw a dust cloud back at the crossing. He whipped the truck around and raced back to the crossing. Sure enough some of the wildebeest had practically raced to the river on the north side and had already started crossing. Stupidly they were again going straight across to a mere bump of dirt on the side of a steep bank. They followed the leaders up but at least this time the leaders had the brains to go down river to a much easier exit point than the day before.

    After a couple of hundred crossed, some who had been on the south side then began to cross to the north (they were dry before they went in is how we could tell.) Pretty fun. That was it.

    We then proceeded back towards LG Camp. We saw the Mama cheetah again out hunting with her cubs. They all posed on a termite mound for a photo that should be good enough for a cover of National Geographic. Marvelous. Simply Marvelous. (Correctly put by Dave from So. Africa.)

    We had a short church service as a family in our tent. (Our LDS (Mormon) bishop had given us permission to have our own sacrament service.) We felt truly blessed by God to be in such a wonderful place enjoying His handiwork.

    No great animals at lunch this day. Marisa did not feel well (Jomo Kenyatta’s revenge* had finally grabbed one of us) so she stayed behind for the afternoon game drive. (*My guess as to the name in Kenya for Montezuma’s revenge.)

    We again went out the West from camp. Joshua said it had been two weeks since any rhino had been spotted. But the last time had been in this area. He said they typically sort of hide in the bushes and trees. We scoured the area for a couple of hours but saw none.

    However, the following great things did happened. We got a little too close for the comfort of a mama elephant so she mock charged us. She trumpeted loudly but we were laughing so hard as we were taking off you cannot make it out on the videotape.

    We went down to past the bend of the river to the East. We pulled up to a marshy area and looked at some storks. We drove off and checked the crossings. No luck. We then came back and saw from a distance three or four vehicles by the storks. Not likely that many there for storks, something better must be there. Just as we pulled back Mari said, “there’s a lion behind that mound of dirt.” Joshua started to pull the vehicle around to look and Sean then exclaimed, “there it goes!” We wheeled around just in time to see a lioness clamp her jaws on the neck of a wildebeest. WOW! WOW WOW WOW! They spun around several times. The wildebeest fought the good fight. Joshua said sometimes they escaped, but not very often and not this time. Within a couple of minutes of struggle the wildebeest was down and a couple of minutes later was dead. Dead apparently from strangulation, not blood loss. In fact, did not see any blood.
    The lion started dragging it across the marsh. Could not make it across because of the uneven ground. Quite an effort though!

    We left and began our search again for a rhino. Went far to the West towards the hills but saw no sign of any we really scoured the area with our binoculars. I thought interesting we ignored every other animal.

    We ran into some rain near the Oloololo gate (amazed I spelled correctly, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today but somehow pulled that out of the air). Came down pretty good. Put the top and one side of canvas on. Mari got some great pictures of giraffes and a rainbow. She was one happy safari lady.

    Before we had arrived I had alerted the office that this was Marisa’s birthday. At dinner I quietly let our waiter know in case he had not gotten the word. (They had sung Happy Birthday to her at the balloon bush breakfast.) The waiter was a bit upset he had not been informed. He said he would see what he would do.

    At the end of dinner, a cook came out of the kitchen. He had made a marvelous flourless chocolate torte in about an hour. They put candles on, lit them, and everyone sang Happy Birthday. I will never forget the broad beaming smile of the cook. He was justifiably very proud of his almost miraculous accomplishment. A wonderful moment.

    We ate about a third of it. We offered some to the other tables. We noticed the leftovers were part of the typically wonderful dessert part of the lunch buffet the next day.

    On the way back to our tents, the guard shined his flashlight on some giraffes in the marsh. Pretty cool stuff.

    MORE TO COME [Trying to hide primordial fear]"Joshua, are you sure the lions never jump into the game vehicles?"

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    Kevin, I'm enjoying your report. Its like going over our own trip once again.

    Its a small world really... I met the daughter, Minal, of the Sarova founder in Nairobi at one of getogethers that our friends took us to before we left for our safari. She had just returned from Mara with her cousin Ruby from Dubai and her Aunts. They did not get any rooms at their own Sarova Mara camp so they stayed at Little Governor.

    Small world ain't it?

    Whizforty

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    Whizforty:

    Ruby was with his aunt there at LG. What is Ruby's last name? I did not catch it. Is it Vohra, which I believe is the name of the hotel chain owners?

    Thanks,

    Kevin

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    What a wonderful report. Brings back MANY happy memories.

    My favorite pictures were of the cheetah family and the 15 giraffes.

    It's always a pleasure to hear a newbie's thoughts...I have not doubt that now that you have been smitten by the Africa "bug," this will not be your last visit to Africa.

    Keep it coming!

    Deb

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    My husband and I are loving your report! We will be at Little Governor's for the first time (first trip to Africa) in February so, yes please, more details! Thrilled to hear you and your family enjoyed your stay there so much. (But is there really a danger from the crocs when you cross the river in the little boat? From the photos it looks awfully tiny...!)

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    Another wildebeest crossing! I am a little jealous.

    The lion kill. Envy is building.

    Mother cheetah and cubs--again. Raging jealousy.

    Giraffe and rainbow. Just stop it!

    Flourless chocoate torte. The last straw! I hate you.

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    Third Full Day in the Mara

    We took off for the morning drive. We headed east past through the Musiara Marsh (really normal plains with a lowlying string of bushes and trees. I did not see any water). We checked out the Musiara pride (probably have some other name technically). Actually getting a bit routine, "oh, here they are, aren't they nice to look at, . . . are there any rhinos around here?"

    We went quite a ways to the south and east. Saw lots of wildebeest and zebra. Joshua had again wisely suggested we bring a bush breakfast. Parked near a lone acacia tree on a rise with a pretty good view to the east. From our experience, food just plain tastes better out in the wild.

    There was a line of wildebeest marching past us about 300 meters to the north. Sean and I decided to see how close we could get until they went around us. Got within about 40 meters. Interesting. Realized we were walking around in the wild without any armed rangers. Grass grazed down pretty low though, had checked for lions. Joshua thought us fairly amusing.

    We came back. I then got down on all fours and tried to sneak up on a tommie. Sean spoiled it though by sneaking up walking to smack me.

    We went across a river "Black Water" translated I believe. J. said let's try to find the lions, the Two Crossings pride I believe the name. He drove along the river bank. He then pulled up to a spot, we stood up to look for them lounging in the bushes. J. casually then said, "look there" We looked and just to our left was a lion asleep under the bush. J. is either one very skilled guide or knew they always like to sleep in this one place.

    We then drove near Mara Intrepids, checked out the arriving and departing aircraft for a few minutes. Seemed like a good location for a camp.

    We then went back southwest to the Mara River. Went to the Serena crossing. Nothing happening. Got out and looked at the hippos.

    Drove on and got a good look at the Mara Serena from the other side of the river. Looked nicer than the pictures I had seen before. Very well camoflauged. Love the tree-like mobile phone tower.

    Went back to the Paradise Crossing. No action.

    Went back to camp for lunch.

    Not an exciting game drive, had gotten a bit spoiled but still very nice. Beautiful vistas of the plains.

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    That afternoon the kids decided to stay at Camp. Will discuss below how they did not have the quiet afternoon they had expected.

    We wanted to do some more souvenir shopping so Joshua took us to the north to the Musiara gate on the park boundary. There are a few homes and a corrugated metal building that is the shop. Business must be pretty good because there was a child's mountain bike lying outside. The lady there was nice but her prices were a bit high. Got her down to $20 for a masai blanket (paid $18 at the camp gift shop). Way overpaid for some animal figurines but went by the rule I learned from you folks, if you like something, buy it because you may not see it again. (good advice, never saw the comparable items anywhere on the rest of the trip). Oh well, maybe another of her kids needs a bike. not that much money really, just knew she was overcharging us a bit. (I was not in a good negotiating position, Mari gave me the "make sure you buy these" look.

    Joshua sure must love the Musiara pride because we took the road down to the marsh. When we got down to tree line, we came upon the lion pride lollygaggin about. Some were even basking in the sun. Pretty wild to pull up next to a lion sleeping on a mound and have him open his eyes and glance at you like your house cat awakened from slumber, a rather intentional nonchalance, "oh, it's those humans again."

    We then dutifully drove down to the Paradise crossings. No crossing appeared iminent, not a wildebeest anywhere close on either side.

    We then drove back to the north and east. We saw a few vehicles gathered in the distance. True to experience, we found a cheetah surrounded by now five or six vehicles with us. We were all about only 10 meters away, pretty close.

    The cat was lying there just minding its own business. I marveled at how with our great experiences of our first cheetah walking across out path and the mama cheetah with her four cubs going after the tommies that we were spoiled and found this almost boring. Just as I was about to indicate I was ready for us to move on, Joshua said, uh oh, and quickly started up the game vehicle, and said, “it’s the wardens.”

    About a 150 meters away was their vehicle, Joshua said we had to go chat with them. He said we are supposed to stay at least 25 meters away from the animals. A couple of the vehicles took off. J. said that was not good. He said you do not really get in trouble if you go over, say hello, and tell them your name. He said on occasion they will come to the camp that evening and verbally reprimand you, but never a fine if you do not run off.

    We drove over. They greeted us. Joshua gave them his name and they waved us off. Seemed like pretty nice guys. Interesting little dance.

    We then began back towards camp. Came up a male hyena and a jackal. We went a short way further and Joshua took us to a hyena den. Found three youngsters there. Was quite a riot when one came over and started gnawing on the vehicle. He proceeded to bite off the a rubber cap on the end of the axle. Joshua had to get out and retrieve it off the ground to take back and put back. As we were leaving, the male was approaching. So was the mother who appeared to be heading him off from getting near the cubs. Fun.

    On the way back, we had to drive past where we had last seen the lions. Sure enough, in the fading light they were still there. We stopped and watched them. Several were wrassling (how is that for a Western U.S. term?) and tussling. Very entertaining. We getting near curfew so had to leave. The problem there was a lion lying in the dirt track. We then cautiously drove around and stopped. There was one just to our right (next to Mari). There was another ahead on the left edge of the road. Immediately to our right another lion came walking straight towards us through the grass. He paused at the edge of the road and looked squarely at Mari. She got a bit nervous (a bit of an understatement), one lion on her right, another to her left sizing her up for dinner, so she moved a bit into the center. The lion then glanced at me (I’m closer remember, he is at most three most three meters away). I asked Joshua something like are we safe here? (see the video for exact comment) He said they never jump in the vehicle. I thought to myself, “yeah, and there is always a first time for everything”. HE THEN BEGINS TO WALK TOWARDS US. . . he could easily leap in and grab any one of us . . . and then plops down on the ground like a kitten. Phew! WOW!

    If I had to pick, this was the highlight of the trip for me. Primordially chilling. I believed I had had a glimpse of how it felt to know you were dead meat, literally, if the lion was so inclined. WOW.

    We then drove back to camp. What an experience!

    Last Morning in the Mara, Off to Lamu Island

    For our last morning, we all took off for the morning game drive. Forgot to say that the Camp had messed up our reservation and had us only staying three nights. We had definitely paid for four and had the confirmation from them. Sounds like they send the folk we displaced over to their even nicer (accommodations) Il Moran Camp. Hey, why didn’t you ask us if we wanted to go? Oh well. I much prefer the marsh location.

    We drove south, paralleling the hot air balloons. We came upon the ubiquitious game vehicles gathered around a tree. I guessed, leopard. Was right. Came upon a mother leopard in a tree with a leftover kill and one of her two cubs. She came down, one supposes to find her other cub. Very cute they way her cub in the tree loudly complained (often). Not very discreet.

    The cub eventually came down and joined her. Amazing how it hard it was to follow them as they walked around in the high grass.

    We drove down to the crossing area. Lots of wildebeest were gathering on the shoreline. They made some feints towards beginning to cross. Joshua said they almost surely would but we had to leave to go back for the tail end of breakfast, get packing, and leave for the airstrip. (One note: for security we brought a steel cable normally used for security of a laptop computer, and used it to lock our duffel bags together. Not totally secure, but we believed enough to discourage a casual thief. (Hard to imagine how a theft could occur, you could just see the goodness in the eyes of the staff. I guess someone from outside could sneak in. Hard to imagine though with all the security folk around.)

    This was our first breakfast at LG. Pretty good (other three mornings had done a bush breakfast.)

    With some sadness, we left LG. Took the little boat one last time across the Mara. I wondered if we would ever come back. What a magical place. (forgot to tell you about the resident warthogs, weird how they graze on the grass with forelegs tucked under them.)

    We waited over an hour and a half. Saw one Air Kenya plane land at Kichwa Tembo airstrip, take off and fly over us to Serena or Intrepids. Saw several Safarlink planes come and go. Had never heard of it until then, since then have learned are viable competitor. (Smaller planes, more destinations, a bit more expensive, but hey, probably beats driving.)

    Finally our plane came. However, it was pretty full. Had nervous moment when they told one family that they had seats for the family, except for the father. They assured him another plane was coming in 10 minutes. They were also going to Lamu. He did not look too worried, must have seen this drill before (a Frenchman, married to an American with their daughters born in England, pretty international, said the girls had three passports.) Lots of bags coming off and others going on. Made sure our bags were tagged for Lamu and on the plane.

    Hugged Joshua goodbye, surprised I did not start to cry. Loved him very much. Brings tears to my eyes now.

    OFF TO LAMU

    Uneventful flight to Wilson at Nairobi. A bit nervous on arrival because we arrived late and only 15 minutes to scheduled departure, lots to do. However, figured should not be a problem because of the fellow on the following flight. Got off the plane and grabbed our bags as they came out of the baggage compartment (not exactly high security, I guess). We hauled them over to the baggage handling area. Mari had dashed off to them and gotten our bags out of their storage. Not so worried now about weight (carry ons at least). Put our safari stuff and souvenirs in the bags to be left and got our beach stuff out. Went quickly and smoothly.

    We then had to check back in through security. They checked Sean again fairly closely (his Rocco vest laden again with camera stuff.)

    We got some sandwiches, free fries and some chocolate/banana shakes at the café there. The fries were pretty good. Sean and I thought the shakes were fantastic. A bit rushed but got in time to take on the plane. (The French gentleman had arrived.) We took off only about 15 minutes late. Interesting to fly over Nairobi, but I was not impressed as a place to stay, much less live in. (I am always asking myself, “would this be a place to move to?”) Flew over the international airport. Weird that Air Kenya does not fly out of there.

    Mari was glad we were having a change of pace. She was right, even I was getting a bit done with game driving, day after day.

    Looking forward to a place very different from what we have ever experienced. Off to Lamu.

    MORE TO COME “Flip flops and donkey crap are not a good combination.”

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    The warden interaction was interesting. I guess I'm glad they have a presence even if they aren't too intimidating. I've never encountered them.

    A hyena den with little ones is a real treat.

    I know what you mean about that paradigm shift where you feel like meat. It must have been meaningful to be a highlight.

    What would you have done had you caught the tommy?

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    stakerk,
    That feeling that a lion is sizing you up for dinner happened to us too. A pair of lionesses strolled over to within about 12 feet of our vehicle,and sat down. One of them stared at us one at a time like she was trying to decide which piece of chocolate she wanted out of the box. One of the ladies with us said she "felt like a she was in a can of sardines with the top off!"
    Lily

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    Lamu Island

    We added Lamu Island on the Indian Ocean as a change of pace from all the game viewing. We were glad we did, we were beginning to get a bit burnt out from all the game drives.

    It certainly was different. You come flying in over what appear to be some pretty big mangrove swamps. You actually land on Manda Island across the bay from Lamu town.

    The airport had more to it, but not much more, than the airstrips we had flown in and out of. Very third world, very Africa. Hand drawn baggage cart, luggage tossed onto a concrete bench, plastered buildings in not too great of shape, palm frond thatched roof waiting area, hand painted sign “Manda Duty Free Shop”. However, still a very nice Kenya feeling.

    We were greeted by Abdul who was holding a “Kizingo” sign. When we arrived with some other guests, he then hid the sign back up in the rafters of the waiting area roof. Charming.

    We liked Abdul quite a bit. Broad smile, very helpful, adequate English skills.

    He loaded on our luggage onto a hand cart and pulled it the 200 meters to the end of the pier. Some other men assisted him in tossing down our luggage to the waiting open (but very fast) boat from Kizingo. I had already given him $10 when an apparently local English fellow suggested we make sure we gave him 150 shillings (a little over $2) for his trouble. I did not confess I had given him much more.

    Our boat driver Mohammed (I would assume from the names these guys are all Muslim) took us across the bay for a glimpse at Lamu Town. I assumed it would be a pretty clean, organized place because it is predominantly Muslim. I thought the discipline of Islam would carry over to building maintenance. I imagined lots of clean, white plastered buildings (the photos I had seen had given that impression). Instead I saw a rather ramshackle place that could have used a lot more clean, white plaster.

    Nevertheless, we were delighted to be here. Uncommonly overcast and not steamy hot as we were expecting. We were definitely not the Kansas (or California) any more. Very different.

    Piloted by Mohammed the boat was very fast, a lot of fun, skimming along past the mangroves shorelines. Kizingo is on the far southwest side of the island. I think about 15 kilometers. You go around the island by way of the channel on the east, then north and then west sides of the island. It took about half of an hour. About five minutes out it started to rain, rained very hard when going that fast. Mohammed paused and hande us a tarp that covered us with me bending forward holding it down. The wind rushing over held it down over us. We got a bit wet but what fun!

    We went past what I believe is called Kipungani Explorer Lodge. Looked pretty nice. A bit expensive I believe.

    However, I believe Kizingo is a better location. We arrived. It also is on the channel, not on the ocean, but just around the point of the island from the ocean.

    We dashed in the rain across the broad beach to the main building of Kizingo. We came rushing in only to realize we should have taken off our shoes. You see, all of the buildings there have a floorcovering of woven mats of some local plant material. Huge mats. The labor involved must be immense.

    We were warmly greeted by Mary Jo, the owner (along with husband Louie). We had a good time at Kizingo, but she was actually the highlight. She is very humorous, as I have stated elsewhere a real riot. She also had some hilarious comment on nearly everything from what was for dinner that night to her view of world affairs. Very well informed for someone with sporadic internet access in the middle of nowhere (I learned they religiously listen to the news on BBC radio).

    She and Louie have quite the tales to tell of growing up in Kenya (I guess one could call them British Kenyans, as in Mexican Americans), having a coffee farm in Zimbabwe, getting kicked out, and building Kizingo just a few years ago.

    Kizingo is a true eco-resort. Solar electric lights in the room, solar hot water (with the overcast skies the first couple of days we were then, a bit of a problem), bandas made entirely of local materials, nary a nail in the place. Flush toilets using little water. Civilized enough, huge bandas, first time with a mosquito net, great Celtel mobile phone reception, great food typical of our trip (lots of seafood, for example how about half of a lobster for lunch?.) Not crowded, I believe only six bandas with guests. Great service from the staff (Note: May Jo said their wives have to walk five kilometers each way to get water.)

    For the first time on our trip went to the main building and sat at the bar for sundowners. (We don’t drink alcohol so a learning experience.)

    The next day we arranged to go into Lamu and hire Abdul to be our guide. (Note: everybody has a cell phone, easy for Mary Jo to contact Abdul and then for our boat captain to let him know we were about to arrive.) We got off at a pier and began walking along the waterfront. Now Lamu is famous for its donkeys; they are everywhere, just wandering around. “doesn’t anybody own these animals?” I understand there are only two motor vehicles on the island. But where there are lots of donkeys, there is lots of . . . donkey poop. And Mari and I were wearing only flipflops. We quickly realized our predicament and looked at each other with a look of oh well, let’s us go with it, it will wash off. Rather zen like of us I thought. I guess when you have gone to the bathroom in an ammo box on the shores of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon you tend to accept the bad with the good.

    As alluded to before, I thought the town disappointing. Yes, I was glad we went. Quite a different experience, had never been to a Muslim area before (we were ignoring the U.S State Department warning against going to the predominately Muslim coast of Kenya). Narrow streets with open sewers for what appeared to be dish/wash water. Shopping was OK. Very good prices on clothing, fabrics, etc. Jewelry, ok prices. A couple of OK (how many different ways will I spell that word, and repeat it?) museums. Abdul was a very good guide, very patient with us, a good look in his eyes, liked him a lot.

    Went back to Lamu for lunch. Note: Louie said the biggest issue they face is the cost of gasoline. Hence, they do have to charge $25 for each person to go back and forth to Lamu.

    That afternoon the kids lazed about their banda. Mari and I went for a walk down the beautiful beach along the south side of island, it just goes on and on. Very enjoyable, lots of sea shells, hope it is not bad luck to take like lava rock from Hawaii.

    No snorkeling this time of year, water too murky from runoff from the rivers (or was it algae?). Any way no snorkeling. A shame because Louie apparently knows right where to go to go snorkeling with the dolphins!

    The next day we discovered was the annual dhow (sailing boat) race. The Van Aardts (Louie and Mary Jo) had their three children there and a bunch (6+) of their friends from college in the U.K. (or was it Ireland?). I went into town with them for the race (my family opted to stay behind and rest). We arrived about noon for the 1 pm race only to learn that 1 pm was last year, this year 4 pm (depends on the tides). I then hung out at the Peponi Hotel for a while with their daughter (Emily?) and some of her friends waitng for a ride back to Kizingo. Oh how youth is wasted on the young! Fun for this old 52 year old to be like a fly on the wall watching from a distance in the bar the young ones interact with old friends. Fun to just hang out and people watch. I guess Princess Caroline of Monaco has a place there (Shela Beach, just down from Lamu) just a couple of buildings down from the hotel (a surprisingly small establishment for a place that is so famous). Looked like a few folks there were being served lunch on the veranda. Almost felt like a paparazzo with my camera.

    The race was obviously going to be a lot of fun but I had to get back by 4 to go fishing with Sean. (I had once asked Sean if he could go anywhere in the world (and remember this is a kid who had been a few places) where would he go and what he would do, and his response was “go fishing”). There were several dhow crews sailing back and forth along the waterfront apparently already well loosened up (if you know what I mean - - - not the strictest of muslims I guess).

    Got back a bit after 2 pm and caught the tail end of lunch. Great as always, great food, great service, great chat with Mary Jo.

    At 4 went with Sean to go fishing with Mohammed. The night before we had had red snapper caught by a couple of guests. We went out, surprisingly just about a mile up the channel. We would just throw a fishing line over the side with two hooks, each with a shrimp attached. When we would feel a tug on the line, would pull up the line. Mohammed would ask just “big fish” or “little fish” in Swahili. (Sorry can’t remember the words.) We catch fish after fish. Every time we would say small fish. Finally I had a bit tug at the line, a big fish. Mohammed excitedly helped pull up. Huge (for us) looked like a catfish, M. said it was a wolf fish. We caught over 70 fish! Mostly silver snapper, a couple of red snapper. We had a great time. He actually got tired of fishing after just over a hour.

    Back and had some of our fish in the soup for dinner (it was steak night). Heard the dhow race was not very exciting, never heard why. However the Van Aardts kids were having go much fun they stayed with friends in Lamu that night.

    ALMOST FINISHED “Who wants to try the crocodille first?”

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    Lamu to Nairobi to Zurich to Los Angeles (Phew!)

    We spent our last morning at Kizingo just lazing about. (Note: we requested a wake up delivery of hot chocolate at 8 am, a bit later than the safari camps) Delightful walk down the beach to the Indian Ocean side of the island.

    We then somewhat sadly began getting ready to leave. Got packed. I finished reading Flame Trees of Thika (thank Fodorites for the suggestion!) I called Benjamin with Southern Cross to thank him for planning such a marvelous trip for us.

    Time for us to go. I had to stifle tears as we were leaving our banda for the main building and a final lunch. I was reflecting on what a wonderful time we had had. Wonderful people, wonderful animals, wonderful places.

    We bade a tearful (for us) goodbye to Mary Jo and Louis. Left what we hoped was a generous tip for the staff. Snuck separate tips to server and bandaguy. Went out to beach and hopped in one of their boats and sped back to Manda Island and airport. There was reliable, wonderful Abdul waiting to off load the bags and take them to the check-in (pretty rustic, dirt floor, palm frond roof).

    Flew back to Wilson. Uneventfully retrieved our bags stored there. We did a major repacking job of our bags in the parking lot. Pretty paranoid about what we could take on the plane so took very little in carry ons.

    Benson from Southern Cross took us over to Carnivore Restaurant (surprisingly close by). Had to wait for it to open. We ate as quickly as we could because we had to pick up a couple of gentlemen at a hotel on the way to take the airport. The exotic meats were camel (tasty but tough), crocodile (OK but bony), and ostrich (very tasty and good), also had lamb (actually gamier than the exotic meats, beef, and chicken (I believe). Huge tourist trap type of place but surprisingly clean and nice. Actually enjoyed.

    Got to airport about three hours early for 11 pm flight. Easy time through security but got held up in check-in getting our seats. Afraid we were going to get bumped because did not have seat assignments. We ended up being seated in good exit row seats.

    Thus began our long trek home. Have never done so many hours of flying in 24 hours. About 10 hours to Zurich. Slept pretty well. (Love that Ambien!) Had reserved a dayroom at the airport. A bit hard to find (towards the end of one of the concourses, I thought would be in central area.) I slept for a couple of hours. Family rested a bit and then went shopping in the airport. (Not exactly cheap shopping found in Switzerland they discovered.) It was nice to take a shower. In sum, would recommend the dayrooms there.

    We then began the trek to our departure gate. We had to take a tram to another terminal. Went through security (they seized Sean’s toothpaste because we were going to the U.S., our first experience with the new security rules.) Finally got on the plane to Los Angeles. We then chased the sun across the globe. Overall we enjoyed Swiss Airlines.

    Arrived in Los Angeles. Had just a brief wait at passport control (after what I assume was a drug sniffing dog checked us out). We were waived through customs. (I guess we had that “no way these people bought a lot of stuff overseas” look to us.)

    Our niece picked us up and back to our home in Thousand Oaks at about 6:30 pm (about 4:30 am Nairobi time). Phew!

    Overall a great trip. Would not have changed a thing (that I can remember.) Thanks for listening! Especially thanks to all you Fodorites for all your advice, trip reports, etc. Our trip was fantastic mainly because of you. Thank you so much.

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    Thanks Kevin for a very entertaining and educational report. You had some truly wonderful "WOW-moments". Little Governors seem to be a lovely camp. Have you started to think about next trip?

    regards,
    Tom

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    Thanks all for comments. sorry it took so long to complete, appreciate your patience.

    Tom:

    Thinking about Peru (hike to Macchu Picchu), then Eqypt and Israel, and then somewhere in Southern Africa, probably Botswana, mobile camping. Anyone have any other ideas?

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    Peru is awesome.

    I went to Machu Picchu last year. Though I did it the lazy way and took the train ((A)) Peru in general was very cool. Cozuco is an amazing city.

    check out my black & white pics of MP at waynehazleDOTcom/chileperu/

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    Kevin,

    You managed to try a wide variety of meat at Carnivore. I hope you saved some room for chocolates at the Zurich airport.

    Hmm, like Nyamera I'd go straight back to East Africa. Or Egypt. Or Morocco.

    Have a wonderful next trip, wherever you go. And thanks so much for sharing your family's adventures. A great read!

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    Seems like just yesterday I was jealously commenting on some of your lucky sightings. And now it's over. If you wouldn't change a thing that you can remember that points to an excellent safari or a faulty memory. I'll go with excellent safari.

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    Very fun report. Specially as I will be at LG next August.

    We went to Machu Picchu last year along with a trip to the Galapagos islands. It was a fabulous trip. Took the train up from Cuzco and stopped at the Sacred Valley on the way back. When we on the Galapagos cruise met someone who was talking of Africa ....so 2006 it was South Africa and 2007 will be East Africa.

    Miriam

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    Note: the Videoegg links no longer work (they got out of that business). The following is the link of Kevin Staker Kenya videos on Vimeo, they are the highest quality:

    http://www.vimeo.com/user126967

    However, Vimeo has a limit on how much can be uploaded each week. Hence, I have not gotten all there yet. All, however, are on the Kevin Staker channel at YouTube, but the quality is not as good:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/stakerk

    Note, if you watch only one, I would suggest the Cheetah in the Samburu. The ecstatic response of my wife Mari in seeing our first big cat, a cheetah, vocalizes what many of us have felt:

    http://www.vimeo.com/1089487

    Thanks,

    Kevin Staker (from California)

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    Kevin,

    I really enjoyed your trip reports and your videos. We leave in three weeks for our first trip and we are staying in some of the same places you did. You can imagine how excited we are!

    We take videos and pictures so I especially enjoyed seeing yours.

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