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kimburu Jan 2nd, 2007 11:11 PM

Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006
We got back from our trip on Christmas Day and I have started the report. I will post the first part very soon, but in the meantime here are the first of the pictures - sorry I didn't put them together but if I waited until everything was finished I've no idea when it would be. Once I've posted this I'm obliged to make myself finish it fairly soon.... is the theory!

Our itinerary was supposed to be

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

siro Jan 3rd, 2007 12:48 AM

Some awesome birdpictures here. Thanks for sharing, am looking forward to the report, makes my waiting time a bit shorter.


joeyi Jan 3rd, 2007 05:23 AM

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

kimburu Jan 3rd, 2007 05:30 AM

A gaggle of reports on Meru and more people going?

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

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

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

Preamble… We started planning this trip as soon as we got back from Kenya last December. The planning thread is not of great interest but it’s at;tid=34739645

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kimburu Jan 3rd, 2007 05:42 AM

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

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

kimburu Jan 3rd, 2007 05:43 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patty Jan 3rd, 2007 08:34 AM

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

Off to look through your photos and continue reading.

Nyamera Jan 3rd, 2007 08:52 AM

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

Patty Jan 3rd, 2007 09:39 AM

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

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

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

kimburu Jan 3rd, 2007 04:39 PM

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

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

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

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

joeyi Jan 3rd, 2007 04:51 PM

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

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

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

kimburu Jan 3rd, 2007 05:49 PM

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

Patty Jan 3rd, 2007 05:53 PM

Yep, that's the same story.

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

Patty Jan 3rd, 2007 05:58 PM


safarimama Jan 3rd, 2007 07:29 PM

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

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

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

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

Patty Jan 3rd, 2007 08:05 PM

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

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

joeyi Jan 4th, 2007 05:03 AM

and didn't Anthony say he had to strip down to his underwear as his clothes were bogging him down.

safarimama Jan 4th, 2007 06:44 AM

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

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

Patty Jan 4th, 2007 06:45 AM

I think "banana hammock" were the exact words he used.

Patty Jan 4th, 2007 08:53 AM

Oops, that last post was supposed to appear under Joyce's.

He was quite surprised and wanted to know my source ;)

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