Patty & Mark's 2006 Kenya Tanzania Report

Dec 28th, 2006, 08:54 PM
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Patty & Mark's 2006 Kenya Tanzania Report

I'm having trouble posting tonight, so apologies if this appears multiple times.

Our itinerary:

Nov 28 - LAX-ATL-AMS
Nov 29 - AMS-NBO/overnight Hilton
Nov 30/Dec 1 - El Karama/Laikipia
Dec 2/3 - Larsens/Samburu
Dec 4/5 - Joy's Camp/Shaba
Dec 6/7 - Elsa's Kopje/Meru
Dec 8/9/10 - Olea Africana/near Aberdares
Dec 11/12 - Hilton/Nairobi
Dec 13/14/15 - Sand Rivers/Selous
Dec 16 - Holiday Inn dayroom/DAR-AMS
Dec 17 - AMS-ATL-LAX

Here are the accompanying photos in case you haven’t seen them yet

For this trip we wanted to revisit a couple of places where we had stayed last year and include some new places which for various reasons had been dropped during the planning stages of previous itineraries.

The Kenya portion was planned as an all drive itinerary and we would again be using the services of Eastern & Southern Safaris. Hearing the reports of torrential rains in East Africa prior to our trip, I started to wonder if we were going to make it to all (or any) of our destinations. One of the camps where we’d be staying was even temporarily evacuated a few weeks prior to our arrival due to the overflowing Ewaso Nyiro and I had visions of us sleeping in the van

I’m happy to report that things went much more smoothly than I was envisioning the weeks leading up to our trip and we made it to each camp with only a few minor detours enroute.

Nov 28/29 – As before, we took the KLM flight into Nairobi arriving on the evening of Nov 29th. Kristina (safarimama) had seen my itinerary and emailed to let me know we’d be on the same flight. We met up at the AMS gate and chatted about our trips. She was kind enough to take a book for us to Ross at Samatian Island which was on her itinerary and wished me luck getting across the river on the way to Elsa’s Kopje.

On arrival at NBO, it was a quick stop at the visa counter, then downstairs for the much longer wait for luggage. I changed some money, getting only 67 KES to the dollar, yikes the USD has devalued since last year! We got a chance to say a quick hello to Kennedy who was there to pick up Kristina before getting a very warm welcome back from our guide Julius. I picked up some credit for my Safaricom SIM and then it was off to the Hilton.

It’s drizzling outside and Julius informs us it’s been raining for about a month already. I stold him I’d heard that there’s a big river we have to cross to get to Elsa’s. To which he replies there are 6 rivers we have to cross to get to Elsa’s
Patty is offline  
Dec 28th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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Nov 30 – This morning we made a brief stop at Eastern & Southern’s office to see Serah, hit an ATM and were on the road toward El Karama by 9:00am. I decided that since we’d gotten an early enough start, there would be time to stop at the Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy on the way. After lunch at the Trout Tree, we headed to the Mt Kenya Safari Club where we had to buy a day membership to enter so the total cost was 1630 KES per person for the visit. We spent about 2 hours on a guided tour through the facility and saw one of the 37 bongo whose offspring they hope to re-introduce to Mt Kenya. There are also a number of other furry, feathery and spiny critters here which visitors are allowed to feed (though not the cheetahs! ). I left with somewhat mixed feelings. Some of the animals don’t look very comfortable in their small enclosures, there’s more of a petting zoo atmosphere than I’d expected (it’s hard to imagine that animals so habituated will ever be released), but on the other hand they do seem to have some worthwhile projects going on. Children will LOVE it. I must admit that I LOVED feeding the colobus monkey that figured out a way to get in and out of his enclosure.

Back on the road by 4:00pm getting to El Karama in the late afternoon. It sprinkled some on the drive up earlier in the day but the afternoon was clear and sunny. Driving through the ranch on our way to the cottages, we saw reticulated giraffe, eland, zebra, impala, hartebeest, warthog, dik dik and Thomson’s gazelle, which was more than we saw on our game drive the following day We got settled in, showered and checked out the new additions, most of which we like. The 4 cottages were finished, new furnishings were added to the common area, and solar lighting was installed (though we kind of miss the kerosene lamps). It was so green compared to last year and the river was swift and LOUD.

It was nice to see familiar faces again and we got caught up on what’s been going on in the area since our last visit. At dinner we met the only other guests, a Swedish couple who are doing research for a coffee table book on hotels around the world owned by Swedes. We weren’t quite sure why they were at El Karama except for the fact that the tour operator they used, JK Safaris, is owned by Swedes and has a close relationship with the ranch. Another change from last year is that they now offer a fully catered option which we took advantage of so we didn’t have to bring our own provisions.

Dec 1 – This morning we had a horseback ride planned and were fortunate to have clear but cool weather, perfect for riding. Murray’s sister, Laria, is in charge of the riding and we did quick checkout before given the clearance to go on a game viewing ride. It was a beautiful ride and in addition to the game we saw the previous day, we came across a leopard tortoise, some type of hare, baboons, and admired a widowbird in flight. The giraffe are very curious about riders and as we rode through the herd, some of them would actually try to approach us from behind. At one point it looked as if there were two giraffe “stalking” Mark.

Back to camp for lunch and a quick nap and then out at 4:30pm for an afternoon/evening game drive. Joseph, the ranch guide, accompanied us for the drive. We saw lots of hares and various antelope but not much else this evening. It rained lightly on the drive and I actually fell asleep for a good part of it quot;> We did hear a leopard when we stopped for “clouddowners” (was supposed to be a sundowner only the weather wasn’t cooperating) but we didn’t find it. Our exceptionally good luck last year wouldn’t be duplicated tonight.

This evening it was just us at dinner and we remarked on how nice it was to start this trip in a familiar place where we could feel instantly at home. We left a few funny, or what we hope will be interpreted as funny, “suggestions” in their guestbook. We had read through all of the entries since our last stay and found some that we thought were pretty silly suggestion. One example was to cut down the trees in front of the cottages in order to have a better view of the river. So we simply took it a step further and recommended that all the vegetation on the ranch be cut down in order to see the game better, the waiters have uniforms complete with fez and white gloves, the Out of Africa soundtrack be piped into all guest areas, and other equally nonsensical stuff >
Patty is offline  
Dec 28th, 2006, 09:00 PM
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Dec 2 – This morning we left El Karama at 8:00am. What started out as light rain in the early morning turned into a downpour and was on and off again for most of the drive to Samburu. On the way, we stop in Nanyuki where I buy 2 more rugs at the Spinners and Weavers and tried to take out some more cash at the Barclay’s ATM only to find more than a dozen people waiting in line. Oh well, I think I have enough until we make it back through Nanyuki again later in the trip.

I talked to Petra (who we’re staying with later in the trip) on the phone and found out that she was in Meru this morning and by chance heading to Samburu later today, staying at the Sopa with some clients. We were told to be on the lookout for a green Land Rover on our game drives, though we never did end up bumping into each other.

The road is good up to Isiolo but beyond that is washboard dirt. We entered the reserve through Archer’s Post gate arriving at Larsens just before 1:00pm. Samburu is lush and green (nothing like the images I’d seen or pictured in my head) and there’s a lot of standing water. As we drove into the reserve we saw a vehicle heading out with 12 passengers inside. We found out that their other vehicle was stuck so they had to combine the passengers into one vehicle. Half the passengers were standing, half were sitting and there were two squeezed into the front passenger seat. I just hope they didn’t have to travel too far.

We saw two more stuck vehicles on our way to Larsens and later found out that one of them (from Somak) had been stuck there since 8:00am. A rescue vehicle from Samburu Lodge came to shuttle the clients back to the lodge only to get stuck as well! A second vehicle from the lodge had to be sent to pick up the clients. Finally around 4:00pm the Somak vehicle had gotten pulled out and was able to leave with their clients but still had a long drive to Mt Kenya ahead of them.

As we were having lunch at Larsens, a big French group started to arrive. There were so many of them that they ran out of porters and pretty soon the waiters started running over to help with the luggage. We were assigned to Warblers which is on the last tent on the east side of camp (left if you’re facing the river). Being the last tent meant we could leave the flaps open on one side at night. I usually like to leave everything open but the tents at Larsens are a little too close together to do this except for the end tents and then you can only do it on one side. All of the tents are set along the river with the exception of Starling and Cormorant which were set back behind the other tents on the east side, so I don’t think the river view would be as good from these two.

The camp is full of vervet monkeys and most of them looked like they were carrying babies. We spent most of our down time watching them including one that got into a neighboring tent and stole their sugar packets. We decided the camp should be renamed Monkey Watch Camp

At 4:00pm we went out on a game drive. It’s unusually cool for Samburu due to the rains. We saw lots of dik dik up close including one nursing, they’re not shy at all here! I’d never gotten good dik dik photos prior to this. Also saw our first gerenuk here. At one point we saw a group of vehicles and headed over there. I asked Julius what they were looking for and his reply was “someone claims they saw a cheetah”. Claims? Hmmm… we looked but couldn’t find anything and decided to move on as there were too many vehicles vying for position. Later when all of the other vehicles had left, we returned to the same spot and that’s when the leopard emerged. We watched as it briefly looked to be stalking something. Other vehicles had started to return but by then the leopard had moved up a distant tree. We headed back to camp by 6:30pm as Larsens doesn’t have driver accommodations and Julius had to drive back to Samburu Lodge before dark.

Dinner here is a 5 course menu with 3 entrée choices generally consisting of a red meat, fish, or vegetarian option (everywhere else we stayed had a set menu). We thought that several of the dishes were very good but a few didn’t quite live up to their description. We both agreed however that the desserts were all excellent.
Patty is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 02:48 AM
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great report, Patty - keep it coming!
annhig is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 07:04 AM
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Patty, the giraffes at El Karama sound very interesting – I’d love to be stalked by them - but not as interesting as your comments in the guestbook. Looking forward to more.
Nyamera is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 09:45 AM
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great start Patty! I was going to ask how the animals reacted to you on horseback. Do you get closer than in a vehicle, are they more relaxed, curious? How do the horses react to the other animals? Waiting for the next installment...
Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!
matnikstym is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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A great start Patty - at the risk of being unfair to other trip reports and jumping ahead, I just can't wait to read this one, Patty!
LyndaS is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 09:58 AM
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Hi Patty:
Enjoying your report, as always.
bat is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Thanks everyone!

The giraffe seem to be more curious and allow you to ride up closer. Other plains game are harder to get very close to. We've never seen cats on horseback so I don't know how they would react. Have seen elephants but we don't try to approach too closely. Aside from the giraffe, I'm not sure that you actually get much closer vs in a vehicle but with horses you can make your way through terrain where you might not go in a vehicle. The experience is more like a walking safari only there are no guns carried and you're expected to be able to ride out of trouble if necessary. For that reason, we're beginning to prefer riding to walking as an alternative to vehicle safaris. I'd rather not put a guide in a position of having to shoot an animal to protect us, however remote that possibility may be. The horses used on game viewing rides are very used to and relaxed around other animals though they do occasionally spook for whatever reasons. When we were riding on Sangare, one of the horses suddenly reared up. We think it mistook a branch for a snake. Last year at Malu, a dik dik darted in front of us and startled our horses and they started to bolt. You don't need to be an expert rider but you need to be proficient enough to stay on and maintain control when something unexpected happens, otherwise it becomes more dangerous and it's always better to understate rather than overstate your ability when riding anywhere for the first time.
Patty is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 12:18 PM
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Patty, great report so far. Almost as enjoyable as being there.

I hope no one takes your comments in the guest book seriously.
Leely is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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Dec 3 – This morning we awoke to the sounds of a lion around 5:30am. At 6:30am we headed out to look for them, found a large male close to the river not too far from Larsens and saw another male along the sandy riverbank on the opposite side. There was heavy fog and we could just barely make out the second lion. The fog gave everything a mystical quality and it felt like we were watching a ghostly figure rather than a real lion walking across the sand. We didn’t stay long with the lion on our side of the river as there were several vehicles and I felt we were crowding him. We saw more gerenuk this morning and our first vulturine guinea fowl. They have a beautiful iridescent blue.

We went back to camp for breakfast and as the temps were fairly cool, we decided we’d like to go back out after breakfast. Julius had to drive back to Samburu Lodge in the interim because he was in possession of the only key to his room and had to let his roommate back in. It would’ve been better if we’d planned things in advance, then he could’ve stayed and had breakfast with us at Larsens and not drive back and forth. Not a big deal but just FYI for anyone staying at Larsens with their own driver/guide.

At breakfast I asked if we could have 3 packed lunches ready in an hour and to my surprise, they did. Our backup plan in case that didn’t work was to see if we could stop at the Serena for lunch. Back out at 10:30am, we saw two young eles playing in a mudhole and scratching on the trees. Two male buffalo started walking toward the eles and even though these eles were already bigger than the buffalo, they quickly ran off as the buffalo approached. We started heading toward Elephant Watch Camp on the west side of the reserve. Along the way we came across a stuck Land Rover Defender and, in the ultimate of ironies, used our van to pull them out.

EWC wasn’t open yet but they graciously gave us a tour of the camp as they were getting it prepped for the season and even apologized for not having any drinks to offer us. The camp consists of 5 tents under thatch, each very different from another, but all having a very organic design. The ones we saw also had open air bucket showers. I really liked the intimate setting and size of the camp though you do pay a premium for this! Shortly after leaving EWC, we caught a glimpse of an elephant to the left of us just off the road. As we were watching this ele, we suddenly realized that there was a big bull walking right along the road coming around the corner toward us. We quickly backed up and gave way until he decided to move off the road. This one had the biggest tusks I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen pictures of bigger tuckers but not in person). I was awed by his presence.

Next we stopped off at Intrepids since it was pretty much on the way toward the bridge. The manager greeted us and asked if we were here on inspection. Once it was determined that we were merely plain ole tourists, we were quickly shuffled off to his assistant The real agents had arrived just after us and they needed his attention. OK I’m ragging on him just a little. He actually did come out to thank us for our visit as we were leaving and said we could stop by their Nairobi office to see a mock up of what the new tents would look like (there are pics on the Heritage website). They’re supposed to start renos next year with a scheduled completion in June.

We crossed the Samburu gate, over the bridge to the Buffalo Springs side, drove up to a viewpoint to have our picnic and marveled at how every boxed lunch in East Africa consists of exactly the same items . This afternoon we saw beisa oryx, crocodile, grevy’s zebra, common waterbuck, olive baboon, and watched a goshawk devour an entire bird while the unfortunate bird’s mate/parent/whatever dive bombed the goshawk from the air without success. It was gruesome and riveting at the same time. It ate the feet and everything! We also saw our first male Somali ostrich. He’s even bluer than I imagined and treated us to a mating dance.

At 4:00pm we start heading back to the Samburu side. There’s a bit of a traffic jam on the bridge as it seems like everyone is going to Buffalo Springs this afternoon. The bridge isn’t wide enough for two way traffic so we have to wait a while until everyone else crosses over before proceeding. On the Samburu side, we go to a spot where cheetah were seen earlier and find the mom with 4 nearly full size cubs. It’s amazing she’s successfully raised 4 cubs. We return to camp exhausted after a very productive day.

Tonight we had dinner with Bill & Christina from Menlo Park, CA. This was their first stop on their first safari. They were headed to the Mara next, then meeting their daughter who had spent the last few months in Tanzania on a school project near Arusha, before visiting Ngorongoro and a few other places in Tanzania.
Patty is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 03:52 PM
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thanks for the reply Patty! Sounds like a great way to safari.
matnikstym is offline  
Dec 29th, 2006, 08:26 PM
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Patty and Mark,
I'm back from a month in Africa just last night. I successfully delivered your book to Ross at Samatian Island with a copy of your pictures inside that you emailed to me so I could find you in Amsterdam. I enjoyed meeting you there and to introduce you to Kennedy at JKIA.
Caro was lamenting that now Ross will disappear 'til the book is finished! He says thanks. Little Charlie is so cute!

How was Joy's Camp? You are the first one to report on it.

Your trip sounds wonderful so far. I can't wait to hear how you crossed 6 rivers to get to Elsa's Kopje.

FYI, we flew over Sarara and I met the owners in Nairobi at the Bush & Beyond office. They can't re-open 'til the rains stop, so I guess they're still closed as it was still raining when I transited through Nairobi on the evening of the 27th of December.
We had rain almost every day in Rwanda and Uganda as well. Gorilla tracking was wonderful anyway. More about that in another post, later.

Kennedy met us when we arrived from Entebbe and took us to dinner at his home between flights. Val, his wife cooked up a typical African dinner for us and we watched his wedding videos. Linda will be jealous!! He says it's still raining in the Mara and the rivers are impassable. We couldn't cross the Talek River between Ol Seki and Rekero and had to charter a flight to get there. More later,
safarimama is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 10:28 AM
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5 cheetah! Maybe you can claim you are an agent, a Fodorite agent on special assignment.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Hi Kristina!
I can't wait to hear more about your trip. It was so nice meeting you at AMS and thanks again for delivering the book. I guess we were lucky not to have been able to book Sarara in the first place. Joy's Camp should be the next installment, hopefully later today. I tried to pick up a few brochures but they didn't have any yet.

Do I get a badge?
Patty is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 03:10 PM
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Dec 4 – A couple of details about the camp I’ve forgotten to mention. They have a generator which supplies 24 hour electricity (enough to power the supplied hairdryer) and there’s a fan in the room, though it wasn’t necessary while we were there. The generator is located on the west side of camp and you could hear it as you walked along the path to the tents so I suspect you can hear it faintly from some of the 8 tents on the west side. The other 13 tents are located on the east side. We hadn’t requested a specific tent but were very happy with the location we were assigned. It’s probably the tent we would’ve picked if we had a choice. There’s also a small safe in the room though the safe isn’t bolted down to anything!

We left Larsens at 9:00am after breakfast for the drive to Shaba. On our way toward Archer’s Post Gate we saw large herds of eles. They were everywhere we looked. When we arrived two days ago in the rain, there were no eles to be seen but they returned to the park as it started to dry out. We were told the eles move to higher ground when it rains. One other thing I forgot to mention is that there were a lot of flies (just regular flies, not biting ones) in the early morning and late afternoon in Samburu. I don’t know if this is due to the rains or they’re always there.

Once we exited Samburu, it was simply a few kms down the road to the turnoff for Shaba. Natorbi Ogura Gate is then just another few kms down this road but to get to Joy’s Camp requires an hour or so drive through the reserve. As the roads in Shaba were also very wet, it took us a bit longer than an hour as we had to pick our way carefully and detour a couple of times. On the way we stopped at the Sarova Lodge which isn’t far from the gate. From the Sarova’s location, you could do game drives in either Shaba or Samburu though I gather the majority of guests head to Samburu. The lodge is located on the river gorge with all rooms facing the river and we saw several monitor lizards around. We also saw some Grant’s gazelle and common waterbuck on the drive to Joy’s.

On arrival, we’re greeted by Jamie and Lara, the managing couple, and get settled into tent 3 before lunch. A big Italian group had just left and we’re the only guests here for the next two nights. There are 10 tents at Joy’s with the layout being 1-5, dining/common area, 6-10. The tents are well spaced apart so keep in mind if you choose/get assigned the farthest tents it can feel like a long walk in the hot afternoon sun. 3 has the most expansive, open view among the tents on the 1-5 side and in general, the 6-10 side has more woodsy views. There’s a low fence around camp and we’re told an elephant has already learned to step over the fence.

The tents are huge, larger than the ones at Larsens, with entrances from the back. Lighting is in the form of solar powered LEDs so those who like to read at night may prefer to bring their own headlamp. I liked the way glass globes are used in certain areas to “warm up” the color of the LEDs. A generator runs in the morning and evening to supply power for recharging electronics. Bush laundry is included but no women’s or men’s underwear is washed. Most drinks are included though we felt this part could’ve been better clarified.

Lunch started with a pasta course followed by a cold plate of prosciutto, salami, tomato/cucumber/mozzarella salad, fried cauliflower and shredded carrot/ginger salad. Dessert was fried bananas with chocolate sauce. We thought the lunches were delicious and perfect for the climate in Shaba (as I’m writing this, I decided to make myself a prosciutto, tomato, mozzarella salad for lunch). We actually found the lunches to be better overall than the dinners though the soup and pasta courses at dinner were always excellent. I still remember the wonderful spaghetti with creamy tomato sauce we had the second night. I would’ve been quite happy to eat that all by itself for dinner.

There was slight confusion as to where Julius would stay. At first he was going to stay at the camp and go on game drives with us but during lunch we were told he decided to stay at the Sarova Lodge. I’m not exactly sure what transpired and if there was some miscommunication, but in any case he’d return on the morning of Dec 6th to pick us up.

At 4:00pm we went out on a game drive with Letaloi, the head guide at Joy’s. Previous to this, Letaloi had been guiding at Tortilis for 14 years. The scenery in Shaba is absolutely stunning! We didn’t find abundant game but did see more gazelle, waterbuck, gerenuk and lots of birds including a yellow-billed hornbill, pair of Somali ostrich, eastern pale chanting goshawk, secretary bird, golden pipit, and a male kori bustard with his chest and tail feathers all spread out in a courtship display, which we’ve never seen before. I think the heavy rains translated into abundant insects which in turn translated into lots of birds, birders would be delighted. On our way back to camp, we saw a lone giraffe standing under the full moon. Letaloi said that during the dry season, there would be much more game around (a comment we’d continually hear through the rest of our trip). I kept thinking “yes, we know they’ve left for Angola”.

A nice dinner, though I thought it a bit strange that the managers didn’t sit at the same table with us considering we were the only guests, but perhaps they just wanted to give us our privacy.
Patty is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 03:47 PM
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Dec 5 – A very bright night with the full moon. It felt like someone left a big torch on outside. Good coffee here, forgot to ask them what kind they use. Since we’re the only guests, we’re free to do whatever we want as far as a game drive schedule. We decided to try and head for Sharinki Falls this morning and left at 6:30am with a packed breakfast. On the way we saw a pair of secretary birds in a tree, another puffed up kori bustard, and some Grevy’s zebra. The game here is shy and don’t allow you to approach closely, hence we have even fewer photos than what we actually saw. This behavior though seems much more natural than what we experienced in Samburu and it feels like a true wilderness. Really, a nursing dik dik shouldn’t be found on the side of the road!

We did make it to the falls, but the overcast weather doesn’t make for the best pictures and for some reason, I thought we’d be hiking to the base of the falls, but I guess you just view it from above. Our most exciting and unexpected find of the morning happened after we left the falls. We came across 3 young aardwolves, a species which we’d previously only seen once at night, in an area with some rock kopjes. They moved very quickly and we followed for a little while. We were never able to capture any photos or video, but the experience will live in our memories. As a matter of fact, I think I was so caught by surprise and enthralled with seeing these aardwolves that I never even put the camera up to my eye. I believe Letaloi was also surprised to see them during the day.

We then drove down to a beautiful spot along the river to have our breakfast. The Ewaso Nyiro looks completely different in Shaba than it does in Samburu. It’s more of a rocky gorge in most areas. I’d love to see a small camp built along river. BTW I should mention that the flies in Shaba were even worse than Samburu and they didn’t let up during the day. Again these were just house flies and not tsetses, but we were a little worried about having breakfast out. It turned out to be no problem at all as there were no flies down by the river. We had a light rain shower after breakfast and on the way back to camp, saw a steppe eagle.

We lounged around, had another great lunch, explored the camp, and swam before heading out again at 4:00pm. In the guest lounge, we found a strange map of Shaba, Samburu & Buffalo Spring. It was printed in 2005 and had a couple of camps labeled which don’t exist. One was named Chaffa Gafessa and it was labeled next to Sharinki Falls (great location if there was a camp) and another was named Olla Oda(sp?) which was supposedly a small tented camp in Buffalo Springs. No one we asked knew anything about them or even why they’d be in this relatively recent map. The only plausible guess being someone was considering building these camps. There were even accompanying photos (from a mock up somewhere in Nairobi perhaps?) of the camps. Anyone know or hear anything?

Anyway, back to the game drive… we saw a mom and baby gerenuk and another gerenuk posing next to a termite mound (Lynn your latest obsession would be well rewarded here). We drove up to a viewpoint near Funan springs which offered a spectacular view with Shaba cone and Lapendela as a backdrop (this latter formation had differing names depending on who we asked). We also came across 4 bull buffalo, a troop of olive baboon hanging out on a rock face, and large herds of beisa oryx and Grant’s gazelle down by the springs.

An elephant came to camp tonight while we were having our dessert and we watched and listened in the darkness. Overall we like this camp very much. The small details I’ve mentioned are nit picky. I feel it lacks the warmth and personality of a camp like Elsa’s Kopje or Sand Rivers but believe that will develop with time and it’s probably not fair for me to judge such a new camp based on these intangible qualities anyway.
Patty is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 07:44 PM
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Dec 6 – Julius picked us up at 8:00am from Joy’s Camp. As we drove out of the reserve, we again admired how the area was carpeted with beautiful wildflowers. We’re supposed to be meeting Joyce and Rod who were coming from Samburu at a designated location so we could drive to Elsa’s Kopje together. We were late getting there and I could’ve attributed this to the condition of the roads (yeah, that’s it! ) but the truth is I think we dallied too long watching an eagle trying to feed from a bird’s nest. In this instance the parents were successful at driving the eagle away.

It was great to see Joyce & Rod again (we met at the San Diego Wild Animal Park prior to our trips) and we chatted for a little while before proceeding. From this point on, I could simply say “refer to Joyce’s trip report for what happened the next two days”

The drive to Meru was on mostly good road except for one appallingly bad but thankfully short lived stretch. The drive took us quite high in elevation before descending back down. I think from gate to gate, it was about 4 hours but coming from Joy’s added an extra hour or so and getting to Elsa’s took about 40 minutes, so in total it was almost a 6 hour drive, more than I’d thought. It rained on and off during the drive and was still raining when we got to camp. We saw an ele on the Murera plains not long after we entered the park. Had I known it would be the only ele we’d see in the park, I would’ve stopped for pictures

We counted each river as we crossed, thinking the next one would certainly spell the end of journey to Elsa’s. However, most turned out to be quite small and there was only one sizeable one to cross. It was all rather anticlimactic after the buildup in our minds but perhaps I wouldn’t be saying that had it been raining heavily. Since returning home and reading the recent reports, I think we were just very lucky.

We arrive at Elsa’s in time for a late lunch and are greeted by our hosts, Anthony and Emma. I noticed a gamey (but in a good way) smell immediately and started to see the many rock hyraxes around camp. The camp is located atop a kopje with sweeping views. Each of the 8 cottages is very different and built into the rocks. We’re in Bisanadi (cottage 2) which is across a swing bridge from the dining area. I’d requested either Bisanadi or Ura (cottage 1) both of which are located across the swing bridge and have a bathtub on the deck.

The outdoor bathtub turned out to be a better idea in theory than reality. First, it was a little chilly during our stay because of the rain. But the bigger problem was that thousands of ants poured into the tub when I tried to fill it. I cleaned it out once, tried to fill it again and the same thing happened. At this point, I could’ve summoned for help but the weather was not very conducive for outdoor bathing so I gave up on the whole idea. Joyce & Rod are in Kinna (cottage 7) just below reception which is also very nice with a sunken seating area and an indoor bathtub with a view which I was very envious of and apparently there are some giraffe and zebra that like to hang out on that side.

Laundry is also included here with the same restriction of no underwear. The drink policy is the same as at Joy’s only it was handled better here, but really I think the best solution is to just include everything. At this price bracket, I don’t feel a minor cost increase for a more inclusive experience is going to deter someone from staying here <minor quibble over>. Lunch was a buffet of pasta, moussaka and different salads, all very good. Joyce and I both lamented how we should’ve booked 3 nights instead of 2 and hoped that the rain would strand us here for an extra night.

The rain stopped and at 4:30pm Joyce and I went on a game drive. The guys decided to stay back at camp and have a “game sit” at the bar. John was our guide at Elsa’s and Julius rode along in the front passenger seat. The area around Elsa’s is heavily forested with many rivers. The only area in Kenya I’ve seen with more growth is the Aberdares. In many places the tall vegetation was right up against both sides of the road. Consequently, most of what we saw (and we saw more than I’d expected) were fleeting glimpses of game before they darted into the brush. We saw giraffe, impala, waterbuck, gazelle, warthogs, dik dik, baboon and many birds including a white throated bee-eater, grey headed kingfisher, white browed coucal, pied wagtail, bateleur eagle and both helmeted and vulturine guinea fowl, see how good I’m getting at birds?

At one point we got out of the vehicle and walked down to the river bank to look at the hippos. Had we tried this the following day, I think we would’ve slid right into the river. Julius also spotted a bush baby in a tree along the side of the road. It took Joyce & I awhile to spot it. We looked and looked and finally saw its big eyes staring back at us. We got back to camp after dark around 7:00pm to find Mark & Rod waiting at reception to escort us back to our cottages.

Dinner tonight was served on the lawn and I feared for my already very bitten up feet and ankles. No wonder Anthony & Emma both wear boots with heavy socks! It turned out to be OK and really, I’d stopped counting the bites by then.
Patty is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:09 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 55
Patty, great report. We'll be at Elsa's in about six weeks. Reading your impressions is making me even more excited.

One question: Do you request specific tents at all of the camps you go to? Don't know if I should do the same. If so, Kinna seems like it might be up my alley.
TravlinFool is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,954
I've made requests at a few of the camps where we've stayed and find that they're usually very good about accomodating our requests.

Have you seen my camp photo album?
There are some photos of Kinna (#312-317).

Also check Joyce's report
I think she has some more photos of Kinna.

Have a great stay! Would love to hear your impression when you get back.
Patty is offline  

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