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Joyce & Rod's Kenya Trip Nov/Dec 2006

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Just back from our trip to Kenya and now I have a much better understanding of all I had been reading on this board for the last 9 months. I must thank everyone for their past posts and pictures as it was such a big help in planning our trip. Just to refresh, as I was more of a lurker than a poster in the planning stage, my husband’s sister and her family moved to Nairobi in Sept 2005. I had never thought of going to Africa before, but it seemed like a good opportunity and one not to miss. Finding this website made the planning so much easier as I was overwhelmed before my discovering of this site.
Their home on the north side of Nairobi was our base and my husband and I did 2 safaris on our own flying out of Wilson and then 2 safaris with the family, driving in there 4 wheel drive.

It was all great and now that we are back in San Diego I really miss hearing Jambo and all the other Swahili phrases we learned.

Our last few days we were discussing our highlights and the list kept growing. Our overall favorite was the Mara, possibly since it was our first safari, but everything at Olonana was excellent and set the standard for the rest of trip. My favorite lodge was Elsa’s and I hope some day to return as our stay there was too short. The cheetah hug in Nariobi NP was like a dream. The Ark was much better than I was expecting from reading many prior reports. The rooms where not much, but the experience of being so close to the animals and hearing all the noises the elephants made was unforgettable. The view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Ol Tukai. Spending a morning in Ambesoli volunteering with a group from the US embassy planting 400 acacia trees side by side with the Massai villagers. The list goes on and on and will save the rest for the more detailed trip report.

I can’t say we really had any downsides, maybe all the rain, but we didn’t let that stop us. And it has it’s pro’s like not much dust and everything was very green. The game viewing my have been a little tougher in some places but the bird watching was incredible.

I took close to 1000 pictures on a Canon S3 and am working on editing and consolidating the highlights. It is really hard getting back to reality, unpacking, laundry and the thought of work on Monday, but I want to get a full trip report written and give back to this community.

Below is our itinerary

nov 25 NBO with family
Nov 26 NBO with family
Nov 27 Fly Mara Olonana Tented Camp
Nov 28 Olonana
Nov 29 fly NBO late in day
Nov 30 NBO with family
Dec 1 Drive Amboseli with family, they have 4 wheel drive Ol Tukai
Dec 2 Amboseli, Kibo tented camp
Dec 3 Return NBO with family
Dec 4 Fly Samburu Larsen’s
Dec 5 Larsen’s
Dec 6 Drive Meru/Elsa’s
Dec 7 Elsa’s
Dec 8 Fly Nairobi
Dec 9 Drive the ark
Dec 10 Drive Lake Nakuru, Lake Nakuru Lodge.
Dec 11 Drive Navisaha, Lake Navisaha Country Club.
Dec 12 Navisha return to Nairobi
Dec 13 Nairobi late departure home

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    Welcome back, it sounds like you had a great trip, we are all anxious for details. You have joined the ranks of Africa-loving Fodorites, but if you only took 1,000 pictures you were much more restrained than most of us.

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    the Lake Naivasha Country Club was just okay. the grounds were very pretty but the food in the dining room left a lot to be desired. In my real life i'm a chef so i have been accused of being a food snob at times. If you have small children it would be great as there is a big play ground and a pool. there also is a small pier which was nice and you can do a hippo safari right from their dock. the rooms were fine.
    Ol Tukai was rather rustic with a very nice reception area with a large elephant wood craving across from the front desk. it is also a large property, swimming pool, ping pong table etc. the food was pretty good. we were advised to stay on the swamp side as opposed to the mt. kili side, as that is where you would see the elephants parade by in the morning. as it worked out the elephants never came by, and the folks on the Mt. kili side had a beautiful view of Kili and some lions came by too. So much for what you should do. the rooms here were comfortable.

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    i would recommend Ol Tukai, it was very comfortable. It is a large lodge, depending on when you go it could be very crowded. it was not when we were there last month. Also Amboseli was very green from all the recent rains. most people complain about the dust there, but it was just the opposite for us, lots of mud.

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    Sometimes the things you dread the most turn out to be okay. This was the case with our flights to Nairobi. Leaving on Thanksgiving Day had the advantage off the flights not being full and we were able to spread out and actually get some sleep. We landed Friday night and proceeded to the visa line. This was very easy and I appreciated everyone’s advice that recommended doing this upon arrival. I do not think we were in line more than 15 minutes, but after 26 hours of traveling who really knows. Heading for the baggage area I spotted my sister in law and her family, our 12-year-old nephew had made a sign Karibu Joyce & Rod, and we were learning Swahili. Pam’s house is on the north side of Nairobi in a suburb called Runda, it was a bit of a drive, but at that hour the traffic was not too bad.

    After a good nights rest we headed off to see what Nairobi had to offer. First stop was the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. We got there just in time to see them let the elephants out. They all came running down the hill past the baboons and the warthogs. Next stop was Giraffe Center adjacent to Giraffe Manor. There is a nature walk across the street that we decided to take. You are supposed to be guided but they let us go on our own. Somehow we got off the path and the next thing you know there was this huge giraffe on the other side of a bush. When we finally managed to find our way out through the mud (our first of many mudding encounters), we found out the giraffe was Jock named for the founder of the Giraffe Center.

    By now everyone was hungry and we went to the Utamaduni Craft Center for a nice lunch. If you are spending a day in Nairobi and doing this circuit I would recommend this place as a stop.

    After lunch it was off to the KWS Animal Orphanage and the cheetah hug. Reggie, our nephew had already done this and he was really excited to take us there. We asked if we could go in and it was no problem. About 5 guys came along and took us in and one took my camera and started taking photos of us. We actually were able to pet 2 of the cheetahs.

    By now we were ready to go back to Pam’s house and relax. It was a great first day in Kenya.

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    thanks for the trip report so far. I'm very interested in your experience because we are thinking about a Kenya/Tanzania trip next July, particularly where you had the best game viewing.

    Keep up the good work!


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    Sunday, day 2 in Nairobi

    Pam had decided that since we missed Thanksgiving Dinner she should make one for us today. Mind you since Pam has lived overseas for many years she has not had to cook much and my job in real life is a chef. When I’m in someone else’s kitchen I try to be careful not to overstep my bounds and help as is needed unless they gave me full control. Pam invited some of their friends and neighbors and this gave a chance to meet some more ex-pats. They all lead such a different lives than we do. She also broke out the good china and set a beautiful table in the dining room. After I helped her as much as could and Henry (brother in law) made us waffles for breakfast he decided he’d live Pam to finish the rest and take us to his favorite place in Nairobi, The Windsor Country Club. Now I know most of you who travel to Africa do not go in search of golf, but for any who do there are some very nice courses, Windsor being one of them. It is also a full service hotel with rooms along the course. We took the nature walk that is on the outskirts of the course with many monkeys in the trees, and occasional dik dik in the woods and now and then a warthog. After our walk and a cold drink at the 19th hole, we headed back for the feast. Pam out did herself and all the calories I thought I was going to miss by traveling on Thanksgiving Day managed to find me anyhow.

    Monday, we head to the Mara

    I am up super early as I’m excited that we will be leaving for the Mara and our first Safari. Pumpkin pie for breakfast, Reggie heads off to school and we get a cab to Wilson Airport. After a few days of driving in Nairobi traffic we decided it was not worth having Henry drive us to the airport in the morning.

    I had booked this safari myself on the internet directly with Olonana which is part of Sanctuary Lodges. I always felt that it was on the up and up but so being used to the American way of having airline tickets, etc.. as we were approaching the airport I was getting a little nervous hoping that the little printed voucher I had was all we would need. Hakuna Mata and 2 boarding passes for Safari Link airlines were issued to us and it was off the Mara. After a short stop at Governor’s Camp strip we continued on to Kichwa Tembo, as we were approaching the landing strip we had our first views of wild animals and it was really amazing.

    Joseph, our driver from Olonana was there to greet us and since he had another plane to meet we got to experience our first bush bathroom. Which I can honestly say I preferred to some of the real bathrooms. On our way we saw many animals, one being Topi. Thanks to this board I passed the first quiz. Joseph asked what is the Swahili name for topi and I popped off Nyamera. Even my husband was surprised that I knew the answer. Finally when everyone was there, (they had a group fly in from the coast for an overnighter), we went to the camp. It’s a few km north of gate situated right on the mara river with their own resident hippo family. Minnie gave us a nice introduction of what to expect at the camp and then sent us off to our tents so we could get ready for lunch. We had tent #4 which was right across from the hippos. Great sounds between the hippos and the running water of the river.

    We had a nice lunch out of the deck, all the food here was very good, and especially the fresh baked rolls. Phillip are waiter gave us first class service the whole stay.

    Now we are ready for our first game drive. We are paired up with 2 Japanese women and a young couple from England who have already been there for 2 days. Right off the bat we see a lioness kill a baby warthog, or Pumba as Joseph liked to call them. It wasn’t much of a meal, but the 2 other lionesses did come over to investigate and so did the male lion. Next we saw 2 black rhino, a mother and her 2 year old. I didn’t realize how rare this was at the time, but after talking with people through out our trip I learned that they are not seen very often. We were the first ones to find them and then the rest of the vehicles that were out that afternoon also came over to join the sighting. We did many more animals on our way back to camp. Rain was threatening and Joseph would say put on your poncho’s “Rain coming” and he was right. Even with my poncho on I was soaked by the time we got back to the camp. Guards were there waiting for us with umbrellas, flashlights and escort back to our tent. It really rained hard that night and the river was raging.

    i would like to keep writing while but i have to get a few things done around home. I am getting a new found appreciation for all your reports as i am learning how much time goes into the writing and the uploading and editing of photos. i hope to get back to this later today as tomorrow i return to work.

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    Lynn, they probably had some wonderful Kenyan coffee with their pumpkin pie, pre-Mara, so it's even better.

    Joyce and Rod, welcome back. Glad you had a great time, and I'm enjoying your report.

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    i may be jumping the gun here a little, but i love to look at pictures and i have the first group of "highlights" ready to post. Please animal lovers bear with me, i had to include a picture of Reggie playing the trumpet at his school's christmas recital.

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    Tuesday, still in the Mara

    It stopped raining about 4 am, It was a beautiful morning and our tea/coffee wake up was nice to enjoy outside our tent watching the hippos come down the hill and enter the river. The river had really risen and was moving pretty fast. We were really enjoying the sounds of nature and forgetting the sounds of the city life.

    Breakfast in the dining room was buffet and then they also served you eggs and coffee/tea. We were scheduled for an all day game drive leaving at 8:30 with a bush lunch. We had the same group in our open Toyota land cruiser. The Japanese woman did not speak much English but it turned out our driver spoke Japanese. We entered the reserve at the Olololo gate, which is the very northern part of the triangle. The road was really muddy and I mean muddy, thick black mud that is very slippery. Joseph was very experienced with the driving and kept us moving the whole day. It was better to drive on the grass than the road as grass at least gave some traction. As we drove along the base of the escarpment the animals were coming down from the top, first the baboon, then the zebras, then elephants, then giraffes. The list goes on and on, I think we saw every type of gazelle, a huge heard of buffalo, a group of 20 ostrich, eland, water bucks, hartebeests, mongoose, jackals, hyena, pumbas, and I’m probably leaving out a few. We also saw many birds and more different kinds of eagles than I’ve ever seen. Due to all the recent rains the landscape was turning green almost before your eyes and lots of flowers were popping up. One very pretty one was the fireball lily. One of the other vehicles had gone to look at this lily and got stuck in the mud. When we drove up they didn’t really look stuck, but the mud is pretty deceiving. We got them free and they didn’t get 20 feet and they were stuck again. This time they drove off to get some wood for under the tires and the bonus to that was they spotted 2 cheetahs under a tree so after we freed them the second time we went to see the cheetah boys. After leaving the 2 cheetahs we meet the other group at the base of the escarpment and had bush lunch under a tree.

    One thing I must mention that really amazed me was the amount of animal poo ,
    every kind and everywhere. The mara must be the most fertile soil in the world. Even when we were sitting in or chairs during the picnic I looked down and almost every kind of animal had traveled under this tree recently. Our guide decided he should identify it all for us. Know I’ve heard of tracks being identified but this was a first for me.

    After our picnic we took a little walk up towards the escarpment and found a leopard tortoise. Since the leopard eluded us it was nice to see one of the little 5. The view was amazing and clouds in the sky were so beautiful. It was hard to believe that in a few hours it would be raining so hard you couldn’t see in front of you.

    Due to the recent rains Joseph had a to be careful of where he drove and we pretty much stayed in the northern triangle. He was able to cut a path down towards the river near Little governors and try to find a leopard, but luck was not with us. The river was raging pretty hard and was high so we also did not see crocodile. He did find another spot along the river with a hippo pool and we stopped and enjoyed them. One’s skin was very badly mottled and he said that was sunburn. Across the bank were some Egyptian geese with babies.

    It was starting to cloud up and Joseph said, put on your poncho’s rain coming. After getting soaked yesterday we brought our own heavy-duty ponchos with us and today I stayed dry. This time the rain came down so hard that it was a deluge. After awhile Joseph got out and put the sides up, you couldn’t see but the rain was so hard I’m not really sure how he saw to drive. I think he knows the road by heart and I can’t say enough good things about him as a driver/guide. He really seemed to know his stuff and also had a great sense of humor. Anytime he would spot a bird he’d identity it and then pull out his bird book, find it and then let you read about it.

    It was dark by the time we arrived back at our tent. The river was really up from the morning and probably half way up the bank. We rested a bit before dinner and by the time we went to the dining room the rain was just a drizzle. The table was set really nice, with the napkins folded like swans coming out of the glass and a martini glass with a floating candle in it. I know it’s not a cruise ship, but being in the food/hospitality business I really appreciated these touches. Of course my husband didn’t even notice the swan until I pointed it out to him.

    It was a great full day safari and even though we had more rain it was not slowing us down. After last years drought it was good that rain was coming.

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    It's good to know your animal spotting skills extend to the dining table, with the swan sighting.

    That's great you are having such an abundance of animals in a lush green setting.

    You are right about the poo. I've even had people point it out in my pictures, at least the more wide angle shots.

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    Joyce, I'm so proud of you! It would have been really embarrassing if you'd failed to say the Swahili name of the most important animal in Africa. A green Mara sounds like the place to be. Now I'll have a look at the photos.

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    So many wonderful pictures! Beautiful topis, rhinos and baby giraffes, the lion looking at you from behind a tree, the Amboseli swamp elephants, a REALLY green Samburu, reticulated giraffe having a drink, Patty in Meru!, the frog on the windshield, the Aberdare hyena, and Pam and Henry aren’t exactly living in a mud hut …

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    I agree, beautiful photos. I wish I had taken that trip, though it would be odd for me to stay with your relatives...

    Love the lions with eland, the hyena, the elephants, your husband in the mud, and many others. Also liked how you placed aerial view of Kibera next to Aberdares Country Club. Stark contrast.

    Looking forward to reading more.

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    thanks for all your comments, it will encourage me to go on.

    i am so glad that you read my post. that lion was looking around the tree like that cause another vehicle came to look at the lions and kill and they showed up with a very flat tire. they went off a distance behind us to change the tire. After awhile the lion got up to check them out a bit and we moved our postion some to block the lions view. In the end no one was eaten and the group came back to get a better look at the lions.

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    Wednesday, Last day in the Mara

    7:30 am game drive, we had all morning since we were scheduled for the late flight back to Nairobi. The one river crossing was very flooded but we watched 2 other vehicles cross so we went for it and no problem. I don’t think we were driving for 45 minutes and Joseph says, “put on your poncho’s, Rain coming”. By this time I was a believer in his weather predicting and got on my poncho. The driving was pretty tough as almost everywhere we went was saturated with water. We drove through one are that was a mini lake, Joseph comments “now we are a boat”. The day before we saw a jackal pair and this morning we found the den and saw the cubs. They were pretty camera shy so sorry no picture. The vultures were so wet they were grounded and quite the sight in the tree branches or just on the ground.

    We did say many animals but I was hoping to see some more lions. For some reason I thought that lions would just be roaming everywhere. We drove and drove and by this time I realized that he knew the “spots” to check and was not having much luck with his usual places. Chris spotted a cheetah and you could almost hear the sigh of relief from Joseph that he finally had a cat to show us. I really enjoyed Joseph’s use of the English language. When it stopped raining he said “rain going” and sure enough in about 15 minutes the sun was coming out. He continued driving and we were getting close to Tanzania when we found the 2 male lions with their Eland kill. They both had pretty full bellies and were sleeping it off so to speak. After we “blocked” for the other vehicle to change their tire we needed to head back as we were already out about hour past our planned time, Joseph says “now we will drive back slowly”, which really meant we will drive as fast as we can.

    The road was really flooded in spots and small lakes had formed. The reflection of the escarpment in the water was really cool. We slipped and slid our way back in time for lunch and to pack up. We were sad to leave the Mara and Olonano, this was going to set the bar for the rest of our trip.

    When we landed at Wilson Pam and Henry were waiting for us. it was now raining hard in Nairobi, the traffic was pretty bad and it took longer to get to their house than it did to fly in from the Mara. It was nice having a house to come back to and the family to share our experiences with. Reggie was so excited that we had seen black rhinos and Henry uploaded our pictures so our evening entertainment was our slide show.

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    With Nyamera's expert Swahili help, there should be no tourist left behind!

    Your pictures capture much of the entire safari experience. What a lovely home your relatives have. I agree with Leely that it would be weird to stay with them, but I think they should be expecting Fodorite visitors.

    You had such a nice array of giraffe images, from the tongue sticking out to those sitting to the one with splayed legs. Some good ostrich action two with both species covered. The bush baby peeking from through the trees was great. I loved the hyrax family too.

    Everything was so green. I hope you avoided the raindrops that were the cause.

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    great pictures! very jealous you saw the rhinos. We spent a whole afternoon looking and never found them. Looking forward to the rest of your report, especially your impressions of Larsens and the Samburu.

    Keep it coming!

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    Thursday, Free Day in Nairobi

    Today Pam took us to see where she works. Pam is very low key about her job but we were very impressed with what she does and now also have a better understanding of where our tax dollars are going. She is kind of private when it comes to having much said about her on the Internet so I’ll just leave you guessing as to what her job is, but no she is not a spy. I will give out one hint she works with books and preserving African literature and languages.

    Rod & I also made a trip downtown to the Eastern & Southern offices. I booked our safari for the following week through them and we needed to pick up our boarding passes and documents from Serah.

    The highlight of the evening was going to Reggie’s school Christmas concert. He just started playing the trumpet this year and was very excited to be in a performance. My husband is a drummer so he was happy to see that the musical tradition is being carried on in the family. Reggie sounded pretty good up there on stage but his uncle’s only comment was that he had to hold his trumpet up higher.

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    How did you like Lake Nakuru Park? Did it feel too much like a small zoo? Or would you recommend it?

    If you had to choose between a boat cruise on Lake Naivasha.... or another safari drive in Nakuru Park.... which would you suggest?

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    I liked Lake Nakuru, no it does not feel like a small zoo. The animal orphange at Nairobi NP, now that feels like a small zoo. From some angles in the park you do see the city of Nakuru but the way our lodge was situated and the rooms we had at night you didn’t see the city lights. The one other thing I didn’t like about the park was towards the main gate on one side there are big high-tension wires.

    Without knowing your itinerary it’s a hard call for me to say I’d choose a boat ride on Lake Naivasha over another safari drive in Nakuru. Do you have your trip plan posted somewhere?

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    Enjoyed the report and the pictures. Favorites were the one of Mt Kil with the buffalo horns in the foreground and one of the lion eland kill. Not too often one sees an eland kill. Thanks so much for sharing. Nice way to begin my morning.

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    i thought of you when we were in Amboseli as i remembered how dusty it was for you. i feel like i've seen a different Kenya then most since it was so green, muddy and full of wild flowers.

    and the picture of Reggie playing the trumpet is at the international school in nairobi

    Atrevelynn & Leely,

    Your comments have been making me LOL, especially about wanting to stay with Pam. They have only been there a year and are so lonely for visitors they’d probably be happy to have you. I better watch what I say as I think I heard Nyamera suitcase come out.

    We did get plenty of raindrops but when I emailed Henry before we left concerned about all the reports I was hearing about rain and flooding his reply was “what is rain but a little water from the sky, you should worry about what Reggie does when he goes on safari, will you see leopard”.
    there where so many wild flowers blooming in Samburu they gave off a really nice scent.

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    Enjoying the report and the pictures, thanks. Do you have the name of the international school (I believe there are several). Asking because I attended one of them in the 70's and will be visiting in June.

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    40 rhino in 2 days?! Did your guide say that was some kind of record?

    You have some great flamingo (and flamingo and hyena) shots. Were the majority of those from Naivasha since you wrote Nakuru did not have a lot of flamingos.

    Loved the cliff climbing photo.

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    we were on own guides in Nakuru and did 3 drives around the park. My nephew was keeping track of the rhino sightings and i know in the course of the 3 drives we did see some of the same rhino more than once, which we pointed out to him, but he considered each time we saw a rhino a sighting. Patty saw my pictures yesterday and informed me that we even saw a black rhino, so one disadvantage of being our own guides, we sure were not animal experts.

    The flamingo and heyena shots were all at Nakuru. we only saw a few flamingo at Naivsaha, but many at Crater lake. the last set of flamingo shots would be from Crater Lake. when we walked around the lake all the flamingos would take off and fly to the other side of the lake, and then fly back.

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    Friday, Off to Amboseli

    Our first road trip with the family in their new 4x4 7 seater SUV. Pam hired a driver to so Henry could have break from driving and enjoy the trip. We left the house at 9 am and it took us 1 hour just to get to the outskirts of Nairobi and the turn off from the Mombassa Road to the road that goes to Namanga. This road was pretty good all the way to Namanga.. We passed many Massai walking with their goats and cows, it seemed like people just appeared out of no where from behind a bush and someone was always walking along the road. We stopped for gas in Namanga, which in on the border of Tanzania. Pam warned us that Massai woman would swarm the car wanting us to buy something. I had never seen anything like this before, not even in Tijuana. From Namanga the road is dirt the rest of the way to Amboseli. We learned at the main gate that from all the recent rains you couldn’t cross the “dry lake” cause it wasn’t dry so we had to take the road all the way around. Right inside the park we started to see zebra, giraffes and gazelles. We finally made it to Ol Tukai Lodge around 2 pm just in time to catch the end of the lunch buffet.

    We had been advised by a few people to get the rooms on the “swamp” side of Ol Tukai,as it tends to be better elephant viewing. After lunch we found our rooms and sat outside and watched the animals. There was a hippo walking around and many buffalo, but we never did see any elephant pass by.

    Rod & Henry decided to take the after noon off and Pam, Reggie & I went on a game drive with our driver. I don’t think I mentioned earlier that our driver is not a professional game driver/guide, but is a driver for Pam at her work. He’s a Kenyan citizen but this was his first time in a national park. We were headed to Observation Hill and on the way we saw 2 female lionesses. There were also many secretary birds and crowned crowns to be seen. When we passed the swamp it was full of white pelicans on one side and elephants and a hippo on the other side. We took the hike up Observation Hill and when we get to the top there is one family up there. It’s a small world, the little girl recognized Reggie from school.

    We had a nice dinner at Ol Tukai and then it was an early evening as in the morning we were going to the Massai village to be part of a group of volunteers and plant 400 acacia trees.

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    Saturday, Amboseli

    This day turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. It started right after breakfast when I went outside to check to see if you could see Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sure enough it was visible. Story of my life I went to take a picture and my camera read “card full” and my spare cards were back at the room. Hakuna Matata, I raced back to get another card and when I got back the view was even better as the clouds were clearing from the top. The snow level on the mountain had increased from all the recent rains.

    At 9 we left and headed to the Massai village near the Serena hotel. A man that Pam knew had purchased 400 acacia trees to plant that day and we volunteered to help. I wasn’t really sure what to expect after reading trip reports here about the village tours and reading the book The White Massai on the plane flight over I had my preconceived notions. I can honestly say all those notions were wrong and that morning was something I will always remember.

    I started to dig a hole, with my not very good tool and I had dug 2 strokes when a young warrior, Daniel came over and started digging with his panga (big knife). He dug the hole so fast, and then together we planted the tree. We must have planted at least 30 trees together. I enjoyed talking with him and learning a little more about his village. One of his friends saw I had a camera and asked me to please take his picture. He really wanted to be photographed in the worst way. I did get a few good shots of him and hopefully the prints I’m having made will find there way to him. Other warriors were using their spears to dig with and they were much more effective than our shovels. The massai children would get water from the irrigation trench they had dug and water the trees and then the woman came and spread the dung.

    The funniest part of the whole morning was all the cell phones that kept ringing. Even in their traditional dress they had cell phones on their belts. I couldn’t help but ask whom they call and how they charge the phones. The answers were “we call each other” and they have solar chargers with invertors.

    Our little group of 6 people (even our driver helped out) was finished planting around noon. My husband who lives in flip-flops was pretty well coated in mud by this time. At one point I did see him almost slip into the irrigation ditch while retrieving water, but fortunately he caught himself. This would not be his last encounter with the deep rich red mud of Kenya.

    We had brought a big bag of school supplies with us from the US and thought this would be a great place to donate them. They had a school house that was built by the same man who organized the tree planting. We located one of the teachers and he opened the school for us. The kids all clamored into their desks and seemed happy to have visitors bringing gifts. There was a world map on the wall and I pointed out where we from.

    Now no village visit would be complete without some shopping. One of the men walked you through and you picked out what you liked from each vendor. When I got to Daniel, my tree planting helper he gave me as a gift a very nice beaded bracelet. After you had everything selected they took you outside the little shopping area and the negotiating begins. This was our first real experience with the bargaining and was not our favorite part. In the end we left with a bag of beaded jewelry and hopefully they were happy with the deal.

    The afternoon will have to go into the next installment.

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    That's wonderful you saw baby jackals. I'm sure they were shy. The only baby jackal I've seen was in the talons of a martial eagle.

    I know what you mean about the interesting use of language. I love to hear the different twist put on phrases and the meaning it conveys.

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    Joyce, Having just finished Patty's report, I feel like I've met you already! Karibu to the group, I myself am a newbie lurker-turned- reporter. What an interesting view of Kenya, family visits mixed with safari on the side. Laughed and laughed with the rain humor - nothing like the wisdom of the guides "rain coming/rain going" "poncho on" "What is rain but some water from the sky?" "Now we are a boat." Only in Africa. Can't wait to see the green photos! Deb

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    Where did all the flamingos go? Did they die because of toxins or did they move to Lake Bogoria or somewhere?
    I already had my suitcase out as I was going to Tanzania with Lolazahra, but then she invited an aunt instead. :((
    The acacia planting in Amboseli sounds really fun, and meaningful.

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    Having seen your photos and now Patty's, I think it's safe to say that your husband secretly or not-so-secretly loves mud. I'm sure he enjoyed planting in flip flops. :)

    Did your driver like visiting Amboseli? I ask because on two trips to Tanzania, we met many people, usually working at hotels and restaurants as well as on Zanzibar, who said they'd never been to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, etc., and that it was their dream to someday visit the famous parks of their country and see the animals.

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    Hello Joeyi,

    Thoroughly enjoying your trip report. Just a quick question about the camera you took. Were you happy with it as your sole camera and did you have any of the lense attachments for it i.e. the telephoto or wide angle lenses? The reason I ask is that after much research and handling in the camera shop I've decided it's the camera for me. The only question is whether or not I should get the telephoto lense with converter for attachment.


    p.s. Glad to hear the rain didn't damper anyone's spirits. Am going in May of 2007.

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    One other word I forgot to mention that was used a lot is “sorry”. Everyone is so polite and they are always saying “sorry”, even if it is not their fault.


    Not sure where all the flamingos went. There was some talk of Lake Eementaita and we were going to stop there and look on our way from Lake Nakuru to Lake Naivasha, but the road was really bad and there was a big detour and we couldn’t quite figure out how to get down to Elementaita from the detour. Crater Lake had a lot of flamingos.


    I think my husband loves mud, Patty got a much better picture of him in the mud than I did, and his poor flip flops almost didn’t survive that game drive in Meru, but I’ll save that story for later.

    I think our driver very much enjoyed his weekend in Amboseli, sort of a working vacation for him. He seemed just as excited as we were when we saw an animal. He worked just as hard as any of us at the Massai village (and that was not in his job description). I can be one to ask too many questions so I tried not to be my usual nosy self and ask too many personal questions of people. But I did ask him if he had his own car, which he doesn’t and he takes 2 matatus to get to work (1 to 1 1 /2 hours each way). And this is a job he has had for 30 years. I would also like to add that he had just left the embassy in Nairobi 5 minutes before the bomb went off in 1998. He considers himself a very lucky man. He joined us for most of our meals and I think we entertained him with family stories from Rod & Pam’s childhood and then all of Rod’s joke telling. He helped us all with our Swahili including a good session with Reggie on counting in Swahili.


    I was very happy with the camera, I had a canon powershot A510 prior to the S3 that I only had for about a year, but realized it was not going to do what I wanted for this trip. My husband did use the powershot in the beginning but after uploading photos at his sister's in Nairobi he decided my camera was better & he stopped taking pictures and left all the photography up to me.

    I didn't bother buying any of the lens attachments. I figured if I was going to go to that extreme I would just buy an SLR. I love to take pictures but I’m a real amateur. That is just my personal opinion and if you do end up buying attachments I would love to hear how you like them.

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    Wow, Joyce, it's rhino mania!!! Eleven, so close, babies, black ones, white ones. Awesome pictures.

    Personal favorite, the flamingos. The close up of the wading bird, lovely! Lunch alongside them at Small Lake Momella in Arusha NP was one of my favorite Tanzanian memories. My friend who went with sent me a highly sparkly rhinestone flamingo pin for Christmas. At the time I carried on so much, the guide said he'd remember me as "Flamingo Girl." (and no, am not trying to compete with Spa Girl) Deb

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    Saturday afternoon

    Pam wanted us to get the most variety of lodging so we moved over to Kibo Safari camp. In hindsight we should have stayed here first as even though they had in suite bathrooms in the tents, the showers were much better at Ol Tukai and would have been nice to have a good shower after our tree planting. One week in Africa and I’ve come to learn what’s a little mud or dust on you.

    The tents at kibo are rather basic after our stay at Olonana, but for one night they had all you needed. We had lunch and then every one rested up for a bit before our late afternoon game drive. This time the guys came with us and they even let Rod (husband) do some of the driving. I must note that he and Pam grew up 4 wheeling in the California desert with their dad. Of course this was the fist time Rod was driving a 4 wheel with right hand drive, but he caught on pretty quick. Mostly the roads were pretty tame but he did all he could to make it more exciting. So now our driver is in the back seat being a passenger, I think he really enjoyed this part of the trip, especially since Rod was being very entertaining.

    I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but Rod can either be the quietest guy in the room or the funniest. It depends on his comfort level with the crowd. And even though he is a very reluctant traveler, he must have been very comfortable this trip as he had everyone laughing. Sometimes he uses “props” to add to his humor. Earlier in the year he had seen a pith helmet with a solar powered fan. He really wanted this for Africa. Of course I thought this was the goofiest thing in the world, but if it would help encourage him to make this trip I figured he could have this pith helmet. Well needless to say where ever we went people loved this hat and I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts showing up in some of the lodge gift shops.

    So while driving, Rod donned his pith helmet, was wearing his masai beaded bracelet and became the newest safari guide in Kenya. We went back to Observation Hill since the guys had missed that yesterday. We didn’t see a lot of different animals that afternoon but we did laugh a lot. Leaving Observation Hill we did see an African hare or at least some kind of rabbit. Once again not quick enough with the camera, but sometimes it’s better to see things with both eyes than one eye behind the shutter. We decided enough of Rod driving for one day and we let our driver bring us back to Kibo. Pam routed us on different road and this brought us back around by the Serena.

    Dinner and another Masai dance troupe. The food at Kibo was just okay and not some of the best that we during our trip

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    Sunday, Amboseli

    I’m the only early bird in the crowd, everyone else slept in. I sat outside the tent reading hoping that I would get another view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Not as lucky today as I only got a glimpse of the top right side.

    Finally Rod wakes up and we go have breakfast. It was nice enough to eat outside. Not long after Reggie joins us and so do Pam & Henry. Breakfast was pretty good. Our driver had been up for awhile and was waiting for us to go. I should note at Kibo he was given his own private in suite tent for his accommodations. At Ol Tukai he was in a shared room and he had to walk to the bathroom.

    Today we are headed back to Nairboi but not without driving around Amboseli some more to see if we could see any more game. Today we saw lots of elephants around the park. We also saw 2 jackals. We stopped at Serena late morning, as Pam wanted to show me the hotel. The grounds are very beautifully landscaped and there are lots of murals painted on the walls.

    As we got closer to the entrance to the park we saw many giraffes and zebras. As we were paralleling what was the “dry lake bed” I do not know if we really saw water in the lakebed or a mirage. There was one time I would have bet money there was water but then when you got closer the water was moved to another place.

    Has anyone else had this experience??

    The rest of the ride back to Nairobi was uneventful until we got to the Mombassa road truck scales and a huge traffic jam. At one point it became a free for all and people were driving in the shoulder or up the middle of the road. Our driver told us that sometimes the trucks have to wait 3-7 days at this place to get weighed.

    Again it was nice to have a house to come home to regroup and do laundry. In the morning Rod and I fly to Samburu. Reggie goes back to school; Pam to work and Hank has some peace and quiet.

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    Monday, Samburu

    We had an early cab pick up arranged to take us to Wilson Airport for our flight on AirKenya. This driver wasn’t as good as the last one and didn’t seem to know his way through the traffic that well. It was taking an awfully long time and I was getting worried we’d be late. When I realized we were on the Mombassa Road I knew something was wrong and asked him “are we going to Wilson?” he turned and looked at me confused as he was taking us to NBO. Now I’m really getting nervous about missing our plane. He made the first U turn, drove on the shoulder, took some back streets and got us to Wilson in time although I will mention it took us 1 hour 30 minutes and the other time we made it in 45 minutes. Now we’re waiting to board the plane and I see the luggage getting loading, but one of our bags is not on there. Next thing you know a baggage man is walking through the waiting area carrying our bag looking for the owners. Something in the bag tripped off their x ray and they thought we had bullets in the bag. Back to the security check which was 2 woman searching your bag and we pulled everything out and they decided it was the socket set of a mini tool kit we had brought that we thought might be a nice gift for a driver.

    I feel really fortunate that the above little experience was probably the “worst” (using this term very lightly) thing that happened us to. I’ve read so many trip reports in the last 9 months and I know we had a really smooth trip.

    We’re the last ones on the plane, but we made it and off to Samburu. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a nice view of Mt.Kenya on the way. We made one stop at Nanyuki to drop off passengers. We moved our seats up front right behind the pilot and when we took off again he started pointing out good trout streams on the right and elephants on the left. There was a beautiful pine forest that we flew over too. We had a driver meeting us from Eastern & Southern and he would be with us til he took us to Meru and dropped us off at Elsa’s Kopje. The reason for this was, originally we wanted to go to Elsa’s first and then Larsen’s Tented Camp as the flights are routed that way, but Elsa’s was full those 2 nights and it was one place I really, really wanted to go. Serah at E& S came up with the option to fly to Samburu and have us driven to Elsa’s and then fly back to Nairobi at the end of the week.

    Our driver Ben was waiting for us and this would be our first time in a pop top mini van. We took the short drive from the airport to Larsen’s. The first animal we saw on our way was a dik, dik and then a gerenuk. Samburu did not look anything like I was expecting, it was green and lush and some many wild flowers blooming. The scent in the air from all the flowers was really nice. It was warm and sunny but you could see it had rained hard recently as some roads were blocked off from flooding and Ben had to pick his way around the detours. He did make a brief stop along the river and there were some elephants crossing.

    At Larsen’s reception we were greeted with the cold towels and a glass of watermelon juice (one of my favorites). We were assigned the Kingfisher tent, which was the second to the last tent on the left if you are facing the river. You are told to keep your tents zipped as the vervet monkeys are very curious and like to get into the tents. We’re getting settled into our tent and could see the tent next to ours, Warbler, the last tent in the camp is full of monkeys and they are going in and out. Rod goes to investigate to see if the tent needs zipping. Sure enough the tent was zipped, the monkeys had figured out how to pull back the Velcro and that’s how they were getting in. When we went for lunch we told them at reception about the monkey invasion and we learned the secret is to also put your doormat over the tent flap so they can’t pull the Velcro. Although I’m surprised they haven’t figured out to just remove the mat. Lunch was delicious and I have to say overall the food at Larsen’s was some of the best we had the whole trip. We enjoyed the Samburu flute playing monkey bird chaser who was always at the dining room for breakfast and lunch. After lunch we had time to relax in our tent, but it was not that relaxing as they were building a pool and there was a lot of construction noise going on behind us.

    We left for our game drive at 4 PM. I was really hoping that this would be when we would get to see a leopard, but I must say all the cats eluded us during our 2 days in Samburu. We did see lots of animals and besides everything we had seen south of the equator we saw our first Oryx, reticulated giraffes, Somali ostrich, gerenuks, crocodile, grevy zebra, one klipspringer and so many birds I cannot list them all. Ben was a real bird expert and since we’re bird lovers it was really nice to have some one that knew so much about birds. The terrain was so beautiful and as we were heading back to camp the almost full moon was rising above the mountain range to the east.

    Another excellent dinner, I had the angus filet and it was very tender. On the way back to our tent the pathway was covered in millipedes. Rod was thrilled, as alI animals, insect, birds, reptiles, etc fascinate him.

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    Good thing you were on the ball and noticed you were'nt on the correct road for Wilson. Bullets in the luggage!? Glad that did not upset your plans either.

    A dik dik and gerenuk are good starts to Samburu.

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    It was long and some of the roads were not the best. We left Larsen's at 8 am, we were meeting the van Mark & Patty were in at a certain intersection so we could "convoy". It was about 2 pm when we finally got to Elsa's.

    we only stopped once for gas/bathroom and then again at the gate at Meru NP.

    i was glad we were flew back to Nairobi

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    Thanks for the reply regarding the camera joeyi. Just bought it yesterday and am in love. Super user friendly. I ahve decided to skip the telephoto lense as that would only add to the bulk of the camera and it's just the right size for me as is. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season.


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    Tuesday, Larsens

    Woke up to the most incredible bird sounds we’ve ever heard. Huge mugs of coffee and tea with cookies were delivered for our wake up. We had decided to meet our driver at 8 am for our game drive so we had a leisurely breakfast and the food was very good and served very hot. Many hornbill birds around the outside of the dining room (probably would have been in the dining room if it wasn’t the Samburu warrior who chased off the birds and monkeys)

    Meet Ben at 8 am and left on the game drive. There were so many herds of elephants around. Some really big bulls and we even got to see and hear some trumpeting. Ben was pretty cautious of the elephants and gave them a bit of room. The elephants really predominated the morning but they were very interesting to watch. There were still lots of mud puddles and for a while we watched a few take a mud bath and then go rub off on a tree. We also did take a ride down towards the river and saw a crocodile on the opposite bank. There were many gerenuks too. Again the birds were numerous and Ben was great at pointing them out. At some point we got a flat tire so we stopped for Ben to change it. Being outside the van with all the wild flowers was really nice. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it smelled.

    Ben wanted to take us to a Samburu village and we were a little hesitant about going since we had already had such a great experience with the Masai villagers in Amboseli. We probably should have listened to our instincts and skipped this village tour. We felt if was rather contrived, but maybe we were just too skeptical. I had to do some dances with the woman while Rod was able to watch and take pictures. I did enjoy seeing them rub the 2 sticks together to make the fire so I guess for me that was the highlight of this village tour.

    By now it was after noon and time to head back to Larsens for lunch. They had all the tables set up out on the lawn. Ben joined us for lunch and the clouds had been forming, “rain coming”. It didn’t start until just before dessert and everyone raced into bar and had dessert in shelter. After lunch Ben went to have the tired repaired and we decided to meet at 4 pm for our game drive.

    We went back to our tent, enjoying the families of vervet monkeys along the way, there were so many babies. This time we walked along the river path. The river was flowing pretty swiftly and we noticed a phenomenon that we never quite figured out. Every now and then the river would pick up speed and form little rapids for a few minutes and then go back to just flowing. If anyone knows what causes that I would appreciate an explanation.

    My husband was enjoying his nap so much that he passed on the game drive and I went myself. The rain was short lived and the sun was out again and it was beautiful. We headed off towards the Samburu Serena this time as I was still hoping to see the elusive leopard. On our way all the Serena vans were heading our way. By now I’ve realized that all the drivers like to talk with each other so it took awhile to get past the caravan of mini vans. The general talk was where have all the cats gone?? They hadn’t spotted many since the huge herd of elephants came in the day before. We searched along the river (did see a really big crocodile), up towards the rock out cropping and even got desperate enough to check the “baited tree” at the Serena. It was just not my lucky day, one more look along the river and low and behold, a leopard tortoise. That was as close as I was going to get this time. Of course while driving around looking we did see many other animals and this was the afternoon that we spotted the klipspringer up on the rocks.

    Driving back to Larsen’s we passed all the mini vans again and no one had any luck with the cats this afternoon.

    Another very well prepared and served dinner at Larsens.

    We really only had 2 complaints with this camp (and one is not really the camp’s fault). There was a very large party in camp that had all but 3 tents. They dominated the camp and dining area and were rather loud. The construction was also a little bit bothersome as it really drowned out the great nature noises, (but at least this was only during the daytime). Other than that it was a very nice camp with really good food.

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    Wednesday, Off to Meru NP, Elsa Kopje

    We had our breakfast at 7 AM and on your departure morning they serve you champagne with your breakfast. We checked out and were on the road by 8 AM. On the way out of the park we saw more elephants and 2 female Somali ostriches along side the road. Later we would see the male. We left the park through Archer’s gate and were headed for a fork in the road to meet the van that Mark and Patty were traveling in so we could caravan together to Elsa’s. They were coming from Joy’s camp so the meeting spot was pre set by the drivers who both worked for E&S. we arrived first and our driver just stopped in the middle of this intersection along the edge of Buffalo Springs reserve. We didn’t see any animals walking by but quite a few trucks came by with British military and very armed KWS rangers. It was the first time we had seen so much activity of this nature.

    It was nice to see Mark and Patty and after chatting awhile about our safaris we got on the road. It was probably about 9:30 when we got going and we arrived at Elsa’s around 2 pm. We went through lots of different terrain and many, many little towns. In some places the road were very good and in some they were almost non-existent. At some point it started to rain and continued until we got to Elsa’s. Heading down from Meru town we passed through many towns were the man were lined up in very long lines to buy bundles of a tree leaf and branch. It turned out that is was mirra, which is chewed and gives them a “high”. For those of you who read the book the White Masai, it is the leaf that Corrine husbands chewed.

    At the gate to Meru NP we picked up a young man who knew the best route to Elsa’s as there a lot of rivers in Meru NP and many were flooded over the roads. There was one way into Elsa’s at this time and he knew the way. The camp managers Anthony and Emma greeted us on arrival. Lunch was waiting for us so we said our good byes to Ben who was headed back to Nairobi.

    Elsa’s Kopje was everything I imagined. I had read a report on this board (can’t remember the poster) during my planning stage but after reading that report I knew I had to stay here. My only disappointment was that we were not here for more nights. I would recommend to anyone planning a trip here to stay at least 3 nights, 2 is not enough.

    The rain had stopped and no one was that interested in going on a game drive, but I decided I would go and then Patty said she’d go too. Driving from Elsa’s there is a stretch of road that has dik diks everywhere. There is a lot of growth here so you see them and then they disappear into the brush. There were many beautiful river views that we stopped at. I can just imagine this park when it’s not so wet. It must be like an oasis. One of the stops was a hippo pool with many hippos. When we got back into the vehicle at one of the river views Julius spotted a bush baby. It was really hard to see, but finally I saw it’s big eyes moving around in the bush. We had some giraffes in the setting sun on the way back and one giraffe that was missing part of it’s tail. Our driver thought that maybe when it was young a lion had tried to take him down and that was all he got. We didn’t get back til 7 pm and it was pitch dark, the guys were waiting for us at reception and had been wondering if we were stuck out there or something.

    While getting ready for dinner, Rod started turning off all the lights in the cottage. Sitting in the lower seating area and staring out at the stars was amazing. The night sky was one of the best I’ve ever seen, just stars everywhere. It was hard to break away for diner, but the moon would be coming up soon. When we arrived at the bar they had canapés and drinks waiting. Dinner was served outside on the lawn.

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    Thursday, Elsa’s Kopje, Meru NP

    6 AM wake up call, coffee, tea & cookies. Rod hating to get up that early but I’m the proverbially early bird. We were set for a 6:30 AM game drive and bush breakfast. The sun was out so we were hopeful for a nice morning. John was our driver, and Mark & Patty were our co passengers. We decided to head for the rhino sanctuary; mind you no one had been there in 3 weeks due to the muddy conditions. When we got to the entrance the man at the gate let us in and we were on our way. We came over a hill and were looking into a valley and we thought we saw at least 50 rhinos. Then we all looked through our binoculars and realized we were looking at buffalo. It deflated our bubble a little, but on we drove into the valley floor. We did come across 5 white rhinos in a kind of marshy area. We stopped and watched them until they disappeared into the bush. It was a nice spot so we decided to have our breakfast there. The breakfast was a bacon and egg sandwich on foccia, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee & tea. Patty enjoyed her breakfast on the roof of the land rover. Rod discovered a little frog that had landed on the windshield.

    Now the ride back was really the funny part. We made it out of the rhino sanctuary just fine. At some point our beautiful sunny morning turned to rain and the track was getting pretty slippery. At one point John stopped to put the top on and one of the side panels down to try to keep us dry. We were doing okay except John was having trouble getting the land rover to stay in the low 4-wheel drive (hopefully I’m using the right terminology). He was off in the grass for a little better traction but he managed to get “stuck”. Now I use this term loosely as Rod & Mark would not say we were stuck, Rod called it “bogged down”. John kept getting out and putting stuff under the tires, but was not having much luck getting out, and that low gear kept slipping. Rod having spent a lot of his life 4 wheeling in the California desert was not the type to sit around a watch. He needed to pitch in and help. Finally Rod jumped up front and held the low gear down for him. We were somewhere between getting out or getting “centered”. Rod decided he had to get out and help and Mark was right behind him. Rod wasn’t out of the land rover 2 seconds and he was down in the mud. I never saw anyone sit down as fast as Mark and he took over the position in the front to hold down the gear. John the driver looks at Rod and says “Sorry”. Poor Rod he was just coated in mud and he blew out his flip flop. This mud kind of grows on you and it was getting caked to the bottom of his feet and he was getting taller. Needless to say Mark, Patty & myself are laughing so hard. And does all the mud bother Rod, no he starts picking rocks and anything else he can find to put under the tire and help us get free. And sure enough that got us free and moving again. John rinsed off Rod the best he could with the some of the bottled water that he had. He didn’t have a change of clothes with him but he did have his very long rain poncho, so he rode back to the lodge in just his poncho and his pith helmet. Entertaining us the whole way. I know I laughed pretty hard on way back. If you haven’t looked at the pictures go back to my first picture link all pictures from Elsa’s are 139-176.

    Anthony radioed and said “don’t go to the rhino sanctuary, it’s too wet”. Too late, we’d already been and we were making our way back. Not much further down the road a KWS truck passes and tells John that they had spotted some cheetah. We head to where they had seen them, but we were too late they were already gone. At some point on the drive we did see a lesser kudo, a quick glimpse as it had been on the road and then jumped into the bush. The same goes for a duiker, a bat eared fox and many dik diks. We also had a nice view of a Somali ostrich and a maribou stork just before we got back to the lodge.

    When we got back to camp Emma was waiting and they took Rod’s clothes to wash and even were able to repair his blown out flip flop. He decided to shower up before lunch and even though they had hosed him off in the driveway he still managed to plug the shower drain. We met up with Patty and Mark at lunch and they were still laughing about the ride back. Another really good meal with lots of really good salads, including a beet salad, pasta salad, 3 bean salad, priscutto wrapped melon, quiche and lemon meringue pie. Both days they served veggies I really like and rarely make at home as I’m the only one that will eat them, eggplant and beets.

    After lunch we went back to our cottage to relax. The zebras and giraffes were grazing down below. Emma and Anthony had invited us up to their house at 4:30 to watch a DVD from the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. Their house was at the high point of the camp and was very open, no door and no screen flaps. As we sat and watched the DVD we also watched monkeys, lizards and hyrax run past their door. The hyraxes are all over the camp and are so cute, it is really hard to believe that their closet relative is the elephant.

    We passed on the afternoon game drive, as what could top the morning drive. We enjoyed the camp and the company of Mark and Patty. Patty was the only brave soul to go for a swim in the pool with the disappearing edge. We sat and talked with Mark til after dark. None of us had our flashlights and it was an interesting walk/crawl back to our cottage. When we finally made it to the reception area there was this whole tray of flashlights. As I was realizing that they were set out for the folks still out on games drives a large hand appeared with a flashlight. It was one of the guards who blended in with the darkness you didn’t even know he was there. He gave us an escort back to our cottage.

    Another good meal, pumpkin soup, bacon stuffed chicken, veggies, potato and an orange chocolate mousse for dessert. Our time with Mark and Patty was coming to an end, as was our time at Elsa’s.

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    it was really wonderful and of all the people to fall in the mud my husband was probably the best. He doesn't let things like that bother him and usually turns it into a comedy routine.

    And you can't control the weather, so you might as well just go with it.

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    Friday, Back to Nairobi

    Another great wake up to the sounds of birds and an incredible sunrise. The giraffes and zebras were right below the cottage. Really hard for me to sleep in when the sun comes up and all of this is going on around me. Said our good byes to Mark and Patty and then had a leisurely breakfast. We were flying back to Nairobi and the airline had notified Elsa’s that the flight was going to be a little later than scheduled. Which didn't break my heart as i didn't want to leave anyhow. They also had to pick us up at the airstrip that was further away as the one closest to Elsa’s is a grass strip and it was too wet for take offs.

    John drove us to the airport with a short game drive on the way. He did spot a very large monitor lizard crawling in a tree. When we arrived at the airport there was already another group waiting from Leopard Rock Lodge. They were an NGO that gives grants to woman to start businesses. They had just completed a course for 32 women and had given 10 grants. My husband asked what the success rate was with the businesses but they were not sure. The man we were speaking with did not think it was very high but they just had hired someone in country to monitor the success rate.

    There were many dung beetles on the runway building their balls. It was almost like they were in some kind of a race across the runway. When the plane arrived the far end of the runway was full of gazelles so the pilot did a touch and go to clear the runway. When he finally landed he informed us the air space in Nairobi was closed (due to a military exercise for the upcoming independence day) until 12:30 PM so he would wait a bit before taking off. By this time I’ve come to realize the internal flight schedules are subject to change at any time. We wait around a little longer and then he loads us all up. As we get ready for take off a giraffe runs in front of the plane but makes it past the plane in time. It was a very clear flight back to Nairobi with a great view of Mt. Kenya. Landing at Wilson the pilot aborted his first landing as there were so many planes trying to land due to the airspace just opening up. We circled once more and then were cleared to land. Pam was there to meet us at Wilson but to make a long story short she said “never again” and we all decided cab service was a better way to go.

    We had the afternoon to relax around the house and regroup again as in the morning we were leaving on a 4-day road trip with Pam, Hank & Reggie. Pam had arranged a sundowner that evening and had invited over some of her friends that we had not yet meet. Pam also invited a group, Slums Information Development and Resource Center (SIDAREC) who are working to help the youth in the slums of Nairobi become computer and internet literate so they empower themselves to get out of poverty. It was an interesting mix of guests and I wondered what some of the SIDAREC guests felt being in this very large house so far from the slum.

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    Saturday, The ARK

    The first day with out a cloud in the sky. We were just on the outskirts of Nairobi and you could see Mt. Kenya clear as a bell. It was a nice ride to the Aberdares County Club with good road the whole way. The Aberdares Country Club did not have much going on, as the property is getting ready to be remodeled. We had the buffet lunch at the country club and we given the option of a game drive on the way to the Ark, or go in the bus with everyone else. Reggie (remember 12 year old nephew) has only been on safari in his parents 4 wheel drive and has really wanted to go in a “open safari vehicle”. So I suggested we take the game drive option for the extra schillings, as it would also give us a change to see more of the Aberdares. The Ark’s vehicle was a pop top Toyota landcruiser. Our driver took us in through the Treetops gate, and Pam was interested in seeing some of the game sites as they like to tent camp when they go on there own. He showed us 3 different sites and one of them was called the Prince Charles campgrounds, as that is where he camped when he visited the park. Henry judges the camp ground by how much buffalo poo he sees and was really leery to stay in any of these 3 sites unless he had a good size group along.

    As far as game on the drive we did see a lot of Colubus monkeys, a forest hog, buffalo, water buck, gazelles, Egyptian goose, herons, bee eater, crowned crown and a hyena family just before we entered the Ark. Many beautiful vistas during the drive and I would recommend the little extra expense to see more of the Aberdares than just the Ark.

    I was not expecting much from the Ark after reading posts about it on this board. I was pleasantly surprised; The Ark was a great experience. I will agree the rooms are not much, but for one nights sleep they were just fine. We arrived there about 6 PM and there was incredible elephant show going on at the watering hole/salt lick. We heard trumpeting, growling and another big deep noise they would make. Some of the elephants would get down on their front knees and break up the salt with their tusks. It was nice to be so close to them and not be afraid of them charging like the ones we had seen in Samburu. There were elephants of all sizes including the littlest babies. Other groups would move in and sometimes they “fought” or just moved on.

    Dinner was sit down and the food was good, nothing extraordinary. Then it was time to see them feed the genet. Every night at 9 pm they put out a plate of food outside the bar on the spiral stairway and the genet comes and feeds. Even though I know this is “bait” it was interesting to see a genet. That night we also saw white tailed mongoose, more forest hogs, the elephants left and the buffalo moved in. You could see the eyes of the hyenas off in the dark as they came to the salt lick. Gazelles would come and go. It did get very cold and I was grateful the hot water bottle that was in my bed.

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    The people who put down the Ark sometimes had hidden agendas, especially Patty who was peeved at them for not letting her in for a pee (I would be too... I mean, come on!). If I remember rightly most of the negative stuff about the Ark was in response to an opinion that it was the ONLY "tree lodge" to visit in the area and the others were pale, pale reflections .... or some such. That was a bit too much of a putdown for the very good Mountain Lodge and a bit too much of a whitewash of the Ark's deficiencies. In fact this time I wished I'd chosen the Ark because the rains meant the elephants had mostly moved down to lower eleations in both the Aberdare and Mount Kenya NPs. That is to the benefit of the Ark and the detriment of Mountain Lodge. At other times of year I suspect the opposite may be true, although from anecdotal evidence it would seem that overall the game viewing at the Ark is better than at Mountain Lodge. However, on a really bad day at Mountain Lodge there are Plan Bs of a guided walk in the forest, a drive (if you have your transport with you) and a quiet evening with a bottle of wine on your private balcony watching the bushbucks and whatever else you are lucky enough to see, listening to the sounds of the forest. You can even lean over and ask the people on the next balcony to keep it down if they start talking too loudly ;-) Anyway, good on you for making the right choice! You'd have been very disappointed by Mountain Lodge and it'd have got a bad rap ... just like the Ark does when someone goes there and the animals don't come that day. Hope I don't start a debate on this....

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    Sunday, Lake Nakuru

    I was up a few times during the night but never did hear the “bells” go off. Finally at 5:30 I crawled out of bed and went down “on deck” to see if any animals were at the salt lick. The night guard was so far off in a corner I barely spotted him. Not sure if I woke him up or he was just so still. I asked him about not hearing any bells and he said that was because no animals came to the salt lick that rated a bell. They ring for elephants (which were already there), rhino and leopards.

    It was another really clear day and a beautiful sunrise. Once again a beautiful view of Mt. Kenya and from this angle it was every bit as impressive as Mt. Kilimanjaro. Buffet Breakfast and then it’s everyone back on the bus. As we were leaving we did see the elephants off on a hillside. Again it was really a treat to see them so up close the night before at the salt lick.

    Once we were delivered back to our car we were on our way to Lake Nakuru. We crossed the equator and Hank stopped so we could have our picture taken under the sign. We also got a lesson from “Professor John” on the Coriolis effect, which is the rotation of the water North and South of the equator. He did his demonstration so simply but it really showed the effect and I was duly impressed. I was only sorry I did not have a GPS with me to see it at 0°0°0.

    We had a fun drive and a lot of laughs along the way and I think this was setting the tone for the rest of our visit to Lake Nakuru. At one point in the city of Nakuru Hank forgot he was driving in Kenya and reverted to the left side of the road. We all let out a scream at the same time and got him back on the right side of the road. On our way to the lodge we saw 5 white rhinos right of the bat. We continued to see more as we made our way to the lodge. There was one very rough section of road along the south shore of the lake and we spotted a mom and baby not too far off the road. We made it to Lake Nakuru Lodge for lunch and enjoyed the buffet and dined outside on the patio. We were assigned very nice rooms along one edge of the property that over looked the lake and the mountains on the other side.

    Rod was given the car keys after lunch and led the afternoon game drive. We first drove to a waterfall that had been dry the last time they visited the park in the spring. It was anything but dry this visit. It’s not right on the lake but south a bit and was worth the drive. After this we drove along the east shore to see the flamingos (what was left of them). We didn’t really find good shore access til we were almost to the north side of the shore and then we drove through lots of mud, to get to there. There were lots of flamingos (at least to me), white pelicans and a maribou stork. There was also a waterbuck between the trees and the water. The lighting was really pretty this time of day and it was very still so the reflection in the water was really pretty. We decided to drive around to the west side of the lake, as the shore access was even better. We had to get back on to the road, so that meant going back through more wet and mud, this making for lots of fun for the driver. We found a nice spot to just stop and had our sundowner and looked at the birds. It was really pretty to see the flamingos take off and fly, I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

    It was starting to get late and Pam was getting concerned on time and if we’d make it back before dark. We were probably as far from the lodge as you could possibly be in the park. We all took dips on what time we make it back and the fun begins. Rod was still driving and he loves a challenge, especially if it involves his sister. He was going to get us back well before the time she had picked. We went back up on the road but in hindsight it would have been faster to stay on the shore. We did make exceptions to the “no stopping rule” for game and then we could re-set our times. He had us all laughing so hard I thought Reggie was going to hyperventilate at one point. By this time Reggie was really thrilled with having his Uncle around, Rod barely had to open his mouth and Reggie would laugh. We got down near the south side of the lake we knew we we’d be getting in by dark and we had a few good rhino sightings, including a mother and baby (might have been the same pair from the morning). One huge one even crossed in front of us. I had the closest time of all and drinks were on Pam and Hank.

    Buffet dinner, the food was pretty good. There was a strolling guitar player in the dining room. One of his songs was the “Jambo Jambo” song, which we all liked very much. We still had not seen a leopard and we had been told at Elsa’s that there are leopard in Nakuru. We decided we would try to get up early and do one more game drive before heading to Lake Navisha.

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    Monday, Leave Lake Nakuru and drive to Lake Navisaha

    We were up and out by 6:30 for our search for leopards. Pam decided it wasn’t worth it and slept in. Hank tossed Rod the keys and said you drive. Anthony from Elsa’s had told us were he saw 8 leopards one morning so we headed off in that direction. Once again no leopards but we had another really fun game drive. Rod really pushed things since Pam was not there and it probably added to the fun. We did see lots of different animals, many rhino, a huge herd of buffalo, zebras, crested eagles, flamingos, pelicans and storks, lots of gazelles. Oh and I must not forgot one black rhino that I didn’t even know we saw until Patty looked at our pictures and identified it. By this time we were used to saying Rod don’t stop, Rod drive, move up, move back, turn right, no turn left. He was always a good sport about it and a few times I wasn’t sure if he had us too close to the buffalos or rhinos.

    Besides the 2 big rhino and one baby that were sun bathing on the beach, there were 3 hyenas on the south beach that we watched for awhile. One was sunbathing, and I know it just was thinking would you people go away. One was chasing flamingos out in the water. We never did see him catch one, but it went out pretty far into the lake. The 3rd was just hanging out. It was getting close to then end of breakfast time so we figured we better get back and eat and pack up as after breakfast it was off to Navisaha.

    Lake Nakuru is a very nice game park. The only draw back to me was it was totally fenced and it seemed weird to have power lines crossing it near the main gate and to be able to see the city in the background. We had been to some pretty remote parks prior to Lake Nakuru so it was a big contrast.

    Once we’re checked out and ready to go Pam decides it’s her turn to drive. Our first mistake was taking the closet park gate to the Lake Nakuru Lodge for an exit. After a few minutes of good road we had about 30 minutes of some of the worst road of the trip. Then when we finally got back onto the main road it was very busy with lots of truck traffic. Major free for all in some sections with cars making a 3rd lane on a 2-lane road. Parts of it were still under construction and rough going. We were hoping to stop at Lake Elementaita to see if the flamingos were in fact there but due to the major detour we just kept going. At some point there was really good brand-new road again but it’s all a blur now. We arrived at the Lake Navisaha Country Club around noon and decided that was enough driving for one day (even though it was one of our shortest legs of the trip). We relaxed around the hotel during the afternoon. Hank brought his fishing pole and spent the afternoon on the pier fishing. Late in the afternoon the rest of us went on a hippo safari boat tour. It was a nice little boat ride along the shore of crescent island and we still had some time to go out into the main part of the lake.

    When we got back to the pier Hank was still fishing, but had not yet caught anything or even had a bite. There was an old pontoon style party boat at the pier and we sat on it and had our sundowner. A French Canadian woman was there with a small child and we struck up a conversation with her. She works for Care in Chad and was in Kenya visiting her friend. We keep meeting all those people working for NGO’s and it still has me thinking about all the work there is to do in the world.

    Dinner was not very good; I would have to say this was the worst food on the trip. It was another buffet so at least I could find something worth eating from the salad bar and the cheese selection. The desserts looked very good but were not worth the calories. Of course by this time after eating 3 meals a day and little to no exercise I could miss a meal or two.

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    thanks for letting me know your still reading. i'm getting down to the last 2 days of the trip and i'm slowing down, but hope to have time this weekend to finish up the trip report.

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    Tuesday, Crater Lake and back to Nairobi

    Breakfast was buffet, the omelets and pancakes that were made to order were good, but the hot items didn’t do much for me. We took our time this morning and got checked out about 10 AM.

    We had to make a choice between going to see Crater Lake or Hell’s Gate National Park, we choose Crater Lake as we still looking for flamingos. Lake Naivasha is not a national park or reserve so there is a lot of commercial flower and produce farms along the lake. Most are housed under big white polytunnels and are towards the beginning of the lake drive. As you drive further south along the lake there is Kongoni Game Sanctuary, which is a private reserve. The road to Crater Lake becomes dirt and there was a detour, as it appears that the rains may have washed things out. We finally find our way to the entrance to the Crater Lake Sanctuary.

    There was a very small entrance fee to pay and we were on our way. We took the road up to the “view point” and it was a step rocky climb. Rod gave Hank a good 4 wheel drive lesson and let him take it all the way to the top. Fortunately Hank had been there before and knew to stop at the top, as there was a huge drop off. Rod didn’t know this and it gave him nightmares for a few days. The lake was full of flamingos and we enjoyed the view and the warm sunshine for a while. I of course took lots of pictures. Hank decided that was enough of a driving lesson for one morning and let Rod back it down and then we down to Crater Lake Camp. There is a very long flight of stone stairs to get to the camp but it’s worth it. This is the only camp on the lake and it’s so private and peaceful that once I saw it I was sorry we couldn’t stay one more night. The staff was really friendly and they gave us a tour of one of the tents. They were very deluxe and I would really recommend this camp and hope to come back and stay here sometime. We walked around the lake, Reggie mostly ran and as he did the flamingos would take off and fly to the other side. There were a lot of dead flamingos along the shore and in the water. We never did find out what had caused the kill. Pam said when they were last here it was not like that. Maybe the recent rain?? After the walk we went back to the camp and had a very freshening drink at the bar. It’s called the rejuvenator and it’s served in a large pitcher and it’s a mix of Fruit juice, lemon lime and Stoney’s. For those who are always looking for a bathroom they also had a very nice public bathroom near the bar. It was good hike up the stairs and out to the parking lot but there is a gift shop part way up so it makes a good rest stop.

    Pam wanted to take us to lunch at a restaurant they had tried the last time they came to Naivasha so we headed back to go have lunch. We had wanted to stop at Chui Lodge on the way out but the signs were only one sided (on the way in) so we missed it on our return trip. The restaurant is called Drifters and it’s a floating establishment. It is a really nice little place and the food was excellent. It’s floating in the marsh and there were birds everywhere. It was such a pleasant environment to dine in. It’s very open and they had a line set up for the kids so they could catch crawfish, this kept Reggie busy and he barely had time to sit at the table. Being this was Independence Day they had quite the crowd that day. We didn’t have a reservation but they pulled a table out from somewhere and set it really fast for us. There was a very large party arriving and they had big table in the center, they weren’t all there yet and the water was starting to come through the floor. By the time we were finished the water was coming to our table. We meet the owner on our way out and he told his he’s only been in business about 1 year and this was the biggest crowd he’s ever had at once. No harm done it was only a little water.

    The road back to Nairobi was good all the way. We came up through the Rift Valley and there was a beautiful overlook viewpoint. Hank took us through Limiru and the tea plantations; we felt they were much prettier than the coffee plantations. We got back “home” late afternoon and I was able to contact Patty as they were in Nairobi for their last night too. They took a taxi over and Pam ordered in pizzas and we had one more evening together in Kenya. We caught up on each others safaris and learned that Patty was the newest pilot in Kenya. Rod really liked the beaded belt that Mark bought so we also found out who makes them and where to go get one tomorrow as that was our last day in Nairobi and final shopping was in order.

    Besides all the wonderful information I obtained from this board it was even nicer to gain new friends in Mark and Patty.

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    Wednesday, Nairobi, London, LA, San Diego

    I was very sad to be going home already, but Rod was so happy he couldn’t stop talking about it. I don’t know if I ever mentioned that he is a real homebody and I’m still amazed that I got him all the way to Africa for 3 weeks. He was feeling a little under the weather in the stomach this morning and later I learned Patty was having trouble too. Did they have the 2 bad pieces of pizza? If so, Sorry Patty.

    It took Rod some time to get moving and plus he didn’t want to get to far from the bathroom so quickly. We weren’t in any hurry as our flight was not til 11:30 Pm so we still had all day. I started packing up our bags, seeing what would fight and what Pam would ship back for us. Plus we were taking some Christmas presents back for her in-laws in San Diego. Everything fit pretty well and she only had to ship 2 things that I thought were too fragile to pack, in hindsight it should have been 3 things as the rain stick that we got on the equator arrived home pretty smashed, although Rod thinks he can fix it.

    Pam took the day off to spend with us, but Reggie had to go to school so he was the only one out of the house early. We finally got our selves together around 10 AM and headed on our shopping spree. Made a stop by the Embassy to say a few good byes. This was our third time going in and I had not changed anything in my purse, but something set off the x-ray machine. They couldn’t find anything other than a large safety pin, which was taken away from me but returned when we left. We kind of got a good laugh out of this, but I guess it’s good they are looking for things.

    Next it was off to Sarit Center, as Pam likes the store the Banana Box. They have lots of nice Kenyan made crafts. The first thing we saw when we walked in were the belts that Mark likes and Rod found one in his size and that saved us a trip to the Junction where Mark gets his. Turns out that Patty and Mark know the owner of Banana Box and I think it’s their influence why the Linda Cam belts are now carried at Banana Box. I bought a bunch of “gifts” which I have been having a hard time parting with now that I’m home. Pam & Hank bought Reggie a new bike for Christmas at the bike shop; it was fun getting the bike and all 4 of us back in the car. We went to the Mediterraneo for lunch as Mark and Patty also recommended it. Rod was still not feeling the best, and wanted to stay in the car, but we had him come inside. Not one to pass up food he did manage to get a meal down. Then it was back home for the rest of afternoon. We finished packing up and wrapping Christmas presents to put under their tree that we bought at Sarit Center. Rod also wrapped up his solar power pith helmet for Reggie and that went under the tree too. Then Rod laid down as he was not doing too well and I was hoping he’d get feeling better for the 30 hours it was going to take to get home.

    When Reggie arrived home from school he stayed pretty close to us, as he didn’t want us to leave. He was very cute and really didn’t want to let us out of his sight. In the car to airport he was straddled across us, as it was his last chance to be with us for a while. They will be in San Diego this summer for home leave so it won’t be too many more months before we see each other again.

    We were departing on British Airways, the flight took off about an hour late, but we had a 6-hour layover in London so we were not in a big rush. The BA flight was not full and we were able to spread out and get some sleep. In London we switched to American Airlines and for some reason the BA agent in Nairobi could not give us boarding passes all the way through and we had to get them in London, but this proved to be no problem and did not consume much time. Heading to the gate in London I saw a woman & her husband I know from San Diego who just arrived in London, Small World. The London –LA flight was full but we were in a row of 2 seats together so at least it was our own space for the 11-hour flight. Customs in LA was a breeze and then it was American Eagle to SD. One of our bags didn’t make it as it was detained by TSA, It was delivered to our house the next morning. This was the bag with the rain stick, was it making too much noise? Or did the baggage handlers rough up the bag. I guess I’ll never know.

    It is sad for me to finish this trip report, but I might add a summary of how I feel since returning and what if anything I would have done different, but my eyes are getting blurred right now.

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    Thanks for finishing, Joyce. I can imagine why wrapping up the report and thinking of leaving Kenya makes you misty-eyed. Would love to read what you might do differently or general advice you have if/when you're ready to tackle all that.

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    I’m going to steal a line from Kimburu and go with a TANGENT here. I received this email from my sister in law, Pam this week and I thought I should post it for 2 reasons. All the recent reports on Meru and it’s kind of funny. I won’t add the pictures cause she likes a little anonymity on the internet.

    "Hi there,

    We started the new year with a bit of an adventure this weekend and I thought I'd share it with you!

    We decided to go camping for 2 nights in the Meru National Park to the north of here. It's a lovely game reserve and camping area with just about the best facilities in East Africa, according to a crusty old German gent, Rolf, we met last year at the Mara who had been camping in EA for over 30 years.

    Arriving at around 3 in the afternoon, we set up camp with our big, new tent from Walmart/Seattle and our older, smaller tent for the boys (Reggie and his buddy James) and then went on a game run. The area had had some rains, so it was very green with lots of tall grass, hiding most of the animals we wanted to see! We found ourselves near Elsa's Kopje, where brother Rod and Joyce stayed in early December and decided to take a look around. It has a fabulous view of the savannah, forest and the game park from the outcropped rocks and was fully booked but the manager let us scope it out with an assistant. He did remember Rod's smashing solar powered pith helmet that Reggie inherited and took along! Returning back to the campsite, we cooked a nice dinner over the fire and bedded down shortly after a full moon rose to light up the night. The nearby band of baboons (I counted about 20) kept me awake most of the night with their howling, bickering and sniffing around the campsite, but at least with them around we know there are no big predators lurking in the vicinity and that's always a comfort!

    The next morning after breakfast we headed out for some game viewing. Although we didn't see much, we did have a rare sighting of a family of blue necked ostriches with about 12 (!) offspring about 2 ft. high running by the side of our car for a while and the uncommon Grevy zebras with narrow little stripes instead of the big stripes of the common Zebra. There were also lots of new birds, but not much else in the way of big game. We were briefly entertained while watching a hapless safari vehicle and its occupants try to push the stuck vehicle out of a river fording that had a big hole in the crossing. Henry went to help, but there was lots of safari expertise around in the guise of guides, an extra vehicle and manpower aplenty with the tourists affected, so we left after a bit knowing they were in good hands.

    After a brief refreshment stop at the lovely Leopard Rock Lodge we set off to find a nice picnic spot for lunch. As luck would have it, along the way we came upon a big mud bog in the middle of the road. I was driving and did not listen to my husband's sage advice to "stop, look, access" or my brother's equally sage advice "to always put the car in 4-wheel drive BEFORE you actually need it" and we got very, very stuck in the mud bog up to our axles at 1pm on Saturday. We tried to dig ourselves out for an hour with a blazing sun overhead and then realized it was simply hopeless as more mud just appeared everytime we tried to dig out. We tried using the car mats for traction, putting mounds of grass/dirt clods and sticks (there were no rocks in the areas surprisingly enough) under the tires but no dice. Since we didn't have any emergency cell phone numbers for the Kenya Wildlife Services, we called (thank god for cell phones at times like this!) the embassy security service and dear friends Ruth and Donald Thomas, both of whom managed to find elusive mobile tel numbers for the KWS/Meru Emergency services. Since it was a Saturday, no one was around to answer the land phonelines. But they did answer the cell phone numbers and the rescue team did call us to let us know they were searching for us. We didn't have a map of where we were stuck and could only tell them more or less where we were--somewhere near marker #2 on the way to Kampi Baridi-- you might think that would be a good clue, but I guess not good enough in this park!

    As the afternoon grew longer and evening approached, we were getting ready to hunker down for the night in the 4x4 vehicle. At around 5:45pm we heard the tractor engine off in the distance but still couldn't see them so we started beeping the horn even though we thought they propbably couldn't hear it over the din of their own motor. But then we coordinated with them on the phone for them to turn off their motor to listen for our horn and that did the trick and they finally found us. Reggie and his buddy James had the great idea of flying a kite that we'd brought to signal where we were. Unforutnately there wasn't much wind so the kite didn't stay up for long. Also they thought to use our Swahili dictionary to look up the word "kite" since the rescue crew didn't seem to know what a "kite" is other than a local bird here also called a kite. In case you're curious, the Swahili word for kite is mwewe or tiara (from the Portuguese of Portugal!) They still didn't seem to understand that, so I told them to look for a flag in the sky, but I guess they couldn't see it. It took KWS about 4 hrs to find us (2-6pm) and about 2 minutes to pull us out with the big (Renault) tractor and a very heavy chain. Lessons learned: 1) always buy the KWS map of the park (although our 3 guide books have maps of the parks in them, they don't have the detail we needed this time!) , 2) get the emergency numbers BEFORE venturing into a national park again, 3) 12- year olds can be pretty resourceful when push comes to shove, 4) Let Henry do the game park driving from now on!
    We gratefully rewarded our KWS rescuers and headed back to camp just before sunset. The kind caretaker of the campsite, Jackson, had already started a fire for us and we quickly took showers before dark and cooked up a great meal of mac n' cheese, chicken and burgers. Sunday we made a last refreshment stop at Leopard Rock (where almost never do you see leapards) and headed home staying on the well marked, well graded main roads out of the park.

    Be sure to see the pix attached.

    Cheers and happy Monday,


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