Monday, April 30, 2018

On Safari In Kenya......Africa

For many years I have wanted to do a safari in Africa, to see wild animals in their natural habitat. But Africa is so far away, and the cost of a safari is pricey which made we wonder if it would ever be possible?

Then a few months back while browsing through house sits online I spotted an ad for a sit in Mtwapa, Kenya. Once again I looked up from my laptop over to dear Clyde and said, "how about a sit in Kenya?" Without even waiting for his reply I said, "well I will apply and see what happens. Perhaps, it's been filled already, so we shall see." To make a long story short we landed the sit and quickly began researching safari's in Kenya. After all with the house sit we would have a FREE place to stay for a little over FOUR weeks which would make paying for a safari more affordable. And since we would be flying to Kenya from our last house sit in Belgium, the flight time was only about 9 hours total.

We arrived in Mombasa International Airport and quickly met with James, the owner of Wildlife Sun Safari's. He introduced us to Mr. Toya who would be our driver for the five day safari that included Tsalvo East National Park, Taita Hills Animal Sanctuary, and Amboseli National Park. We climbed into the van that would be our home for the next five days as we began another amazing adventure!

Our Driver Toya And A Cooler Full Of Bottled Water

Soon after leaving the airport we began to see cows along the dusty roadside, tin shacks, hoards of people dressed in colorful clothing, street vendors and so much more that our senses were on overload. Wow.....even though we are seasoned travelers who have seen a lot, Kenya had already proved to be much more than we had expected. This country seemed far less poor than any others we have visited, yet the Kenyan people were happy, friendly and welcomed foreigners with open arms everywhere we went.

                                                        The City Of Mombasa, Kenya
                                                Notice The Medical Clinic In The Background

The Kenyans Use Those Yellow Jugs For Carrying Water To Their Homes

Traffic here is horrible, worse than anyplace else we have been. The two lane highway that runs from Mombasa to Nairobi is cluttered with trucks, cars, tourist vans and motorcycles all trying to pass each other. The dusty, unpaved roads are lined with vendors, shops, cows, goats and people. Clyde took a photo of a man in the street holding up a chicken to sell, still complete with its feathers, head, and legs for a price of 500 shillings, about $5 US.

This Man Was Not Happy That We Took His Photo But Did Not Buy His Chicken

The drive was long but eventually we made our way to our first stop for the night, The Voi Lodge near the entrance to Tsalvo (savo) East National Park where we would begin our safari. Upon entering uniformed staff smiled and welcomed us saying, "Jambo," which is the Kenyan way of saying hello.

We barely had time to relax a bit before we had to meet up with Toya for our first safari. He drove us to the entrance of the park where we were greeted with a vendor selling safari hats that we were suckered into buying. The top of the van was opened up so that we could stand up, with heads outside for the best animal viewing. Wow....was this going to be fun!

                                   Our Safari Van With Pop Up Roof For Animal Viewing
                                         This Van Was ALL Ours.....It Was A Private Tour

Slowly our van made it's way along the red, dirt road as we eagerly looked for animals. Toya is an expert at spotting them from afar since he has been driving tourists on safaris for over 18 years now. How thrilling it was the first time we saw enormous RED elephants roaming freely nearby. Because the dirt is red at Tsalvo East the elephants actually look red, since they enjoy showering themselves with dirt as a way to keep cool and prevent bugs from biting. Since the park has over 11,000 African elephants there were plenty to see.

                                             Reddish Colored Elephants In Tsalvo East

                                                    Even Their White Stripes Are Reddish

Just the first day alone we saw zebras, antelope of many types, giraffes, wildebeest, warthogs, just to name a few. We enjoyed lunch at the lodge and later went our for a late afternoon game drive again.

                                                         Plenty Of Baboons Everywhere

After a late dinner we crawled into bed knowing that we would be waking up at 5am, to meet with Toya for an early morning game drive before going to our next destination. Our home for the night Savona Salt Lick Lodge at Taita Hills Game Reserve. This place is amazing with round rooms that are up on stilts with animals roaming freely below. During our afternoon safari Toya heard from other drivers on the radio that they spotted lions, so we went looking. He spotted a male and female far away. This is mating season and the male was wooing the female, hoping to have his way with her but she seemed uninterested. Then another driver sent out a message about lions someone else and we went chasing after them. There we found a mom and two cubs hiding in the tall grass, and we stood and waited until they decided to pop out.

                                                                      Salt Lick Lodge
                                                      Wild Life Moves Freely Below Us

The next morning before heading out Toya decided to pass by the same area one more time to see if the lions were in plain sight. There were about ten vans lined up to catch a glimpse of the illusive beasts that were hiding in the grass. As soon as the vans began to pull away, suddenly not one but SIX lion heads popped up from the grass. Wow....what a sight to see! We left there after after a while to head out of the game reserve when I spotted a female walking down a side road in plain view. Toya turned the van around and proceeded to follow her while sending out a message to the other drivers nearby. We were really up close to this gal who had an injured leg and was limping a bit.

                                                        We Found Lions......OH My!

This experience was so cool, like a car chase through the African Savannah, at what felt like very high speeds over rough, bumpy and muddy terrain. These drivers are a bit crazy, doing their best to get the clients to the sights where the animals were seen as quickly as possible.  An exhilarating, adrenaline rush that brought never ending smiles to our faces!

Mean Looking Buffalo

From there we headed toward Tsalvo West National Park only to discover there was a bridge washed out due to heavy rains in that area.  Our driver stopped to ask a few people the best way to proceed to our next lodge. He ended up taking us through the President of Kenya's farm, but each and every road he tried to go down was flooded or washed out from the rains. After hours of four-wheeling it through wet roads, large mud puddles and floods with no where to stop and pee, we had enough. Finally Toya called the manager of the lodge to find out just how it would be possible to get us there safely? We did manage to get there, a place called Voyager Zuwani Tented Camp where we would spend the night.

                                                             Our Tented Hotel

                                                        Lake Full Of Dangerous Hippos

While I will admit that I did NOT want to stay in a tented hotel, fearing we would be eaten by deadly mosquitoes, the experience was great. The tent was large with a queen sized bed, furniture and a full bathroom with shower. Since it had no telephone it featured a WHISTLE to blow in case of emergency during the night. Really it did!

Nearby, in a lake was a gathering of 60 aggressive hippos that liked to roam the camp every night.  After dinner we were escorted back to our tent and told NOT to leave, otherwise the hippos might attack us. Yikes!

During our stay we took a Nature Walk with a Masai Warrior named Chamelon that was a real joy. Not every Masai man becomes a warrior, but those that do are honored by many. In order to become a warrior the Masai boy during adolesence must prove that he can endure pain. In order to do this he must undergo a circumcision, a fifteen minute procedure using NO anesthesia at all. Besides that he endures burns, pulling out of teeth, piercings, killing of animals, and other acts of bravery to be accepted as a warrior.

                                     Guide For Our Nature Walk, Chameleon, A Masai Warrior
                                           Making Us A Natural Toothbrush From A Tree

                                             He Put A Thorn Through A Hole In His Ear

While Masai men are allowed to have up to TEN wives, our friend Chameleon had just ONE. When asked why he said that she was too expensive, and being a poor man he could not afford any others. I added that I too was very expensive and Chameleon asked Clyde, "so how many cows did you have to trade for her?" He went onto explain that his one wife cost him ten cows, six goats, several liters of bee honey just to name a few. In the Masai world the more cows a man has the more wealth he has, since they are used in trade just like money.

During our nature walk we stopped by the lake to see the hippos that were in and around the lake. I asked Chameleon IF it was safe to be that close to them? He said, "no they are very aggressive and can attack at any time," to which I asked, then why are we here? Then he explained that they make a certain sound that he knows, it is used as a warning. If they would have made the sound we would have had to leave the area so that the hippos would not attack.

On our way back we spotted several crocodiles which Clyde took  few photos of. At one point we noticed tiny baby crocs and while Clyde was snapping photos Chameleon pointed out that Mama Croc was nearby just waiting to pounce on Clyde if he were to get any closer.

                                                       Baby Crocs Above With Mama Nearby

The next morning while having our breakfast and watching the hippos pop up their heads in the pond in front of us, we noticed a gorgeous view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The snow capped peaks glistened in the morning sunlight, a view not often seen since it is often clouded over.

As The Sky Clears We See A View Of Mount Kilamanjaro With Its Snow Caps

                                                      Hippos In Amboseli National Park

Our last night of lodging was spent near Amboseli National Park in the AA Amboseli Lodge. The next morning we did our last safari there, seeing elephants, zebras, hyenas, antelope, hippos and more. This was a truly amazing experience, seeing nature at its best. Perhaps someday we shall return to Kenya to do a safari in another park? Until then we have much more of Kenya to enjoy in the next month of house sitting.....along the gringo trail.

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