After breakfast we were picked up by Allen from Gamewatchers in a safari van for our long 4 hour drive to Amboseli national park. I slept on and off the entire way finding it hard to keep my eyes open. The scenery changed from busy city to smaller towns with road side stalls and people selling lots of produce and clothing.
In between the small towns were miles of wide open spaces, lots of baron land with only a sprinkling of trees here and there. And many many speed bumps. It was a bumpy ride but eventually we arrived at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge. We were met by a very tall Masai man in bright red checkered Masai dress and lots of jewelry who welcomed us with hot towels and fresh juice.
Our room is a round hut with three beds , very spacious and mosquito nets that unfold at night for protection.
There are many monkeys on the grounds all hoping for a handout, which is forbidden.
After lunch we had a rest in the room and then Allan came to pick us up to take us to the park for our safari. The top of the van pops up for better viewing. We were there for just over three hours and saw many zebra, giraffe, elephant, hyena, gazelle, wart hogs, wildebeest, a pride of lions and a pair of cheetah with a fresh kill. Not bad for the first day.
Back for a rest again, dinner doesn’t not start until 7:30P and then a low key night to prepare for tomorrow.
After breakfast we headed out to the park at 7:30AM for a day of game viewing. Again we saw lots of elephants, zebra and wildebeest.
We also saw a huge troop of baboon and some with babies. This one looked like it was just born, and really quite un attractive. They are a very social animal and many of the others came up and gave the little guy a poke or a tug to acknowledge him.
The elephants really are the king of the jungle, not the lion according to Allen. We saw a pride of lions lounging about with the male watching over things. The elephant came close and the female lions scattered giving him room. The male held his ground however and eventually the elephant went the other direction.
The weather is not hot, even a bit on the cooler side and very overcast. Unfortunately we were not able to see the beautiful views of Mount Kilimanjaro
The elephants were still spending the day cooling off by spraying dirt on them selves and mud. At some points they could be seen in mud pools enjoying themselves
A herd was trying to cross the road and felt we were too close so started trumpeting and swaying while looking at us until Alan backed up.
There were many young zebra, with brown stripes instead of the black of the adult ones. They travel in big herds when they can and join forces with the wildebeest as there is safety in numbers
A number of marshy areas and small lakes with lots of flamingo and bird life. It is funny to watch them plow under the water looking for fish and algae to eat
Hippos were wallowing neck deep in the mud but too far away to get a good look at them. Here in the park we must stick to the roads unlike the conservancies we are heading to next
A boxed lunch was taken at the top of a hill and a lookout site over the park which was beautiful. Many colourful birds hoping someone would drop a few crumbs for them
We spent the day on a washboard gravel bumpy one lane road through the park and were there for eight hours in total. Unfortunately my fatigue caught up with me today and I could not keep my eyes open. I slept through a lot of it with Chloe kicking me whenever we stopped at an animal sighting. It was very frustrating and amazing considering how bad the road was. I needed to catch up and today was the day.
After a rest and dinner we packed up for our departure tomorrow.
Rhino Camp. Day 7
At 7 AM we drove back to Nairobi arriving around 11 for our 1PM flight to Kamok airport. . Because we were early we stopped at Eka Hotel and instead of taking our box lunches to the airport to eat we had them in the restaurant there.
Wilson Airport is where all the small planes fly to the various camps and east to the beaches. We said our goodbyes to Allen and he left with our main suitcases to hold for us until our return. We are only able to take small soft sided bags on these planes. Our 12 seater left with us and two families all heading to Porini Rhino Camp. It was a non stop 40 minute flight and a bit bumpy but not too bad.
We were met by two open sided land cruisers and taken to our home for the next two nights. It is a small camp with only 8 tents, overlooking a watering hole frequented by many of the animals. A blind is being built, finished next week unfortunately for us, where you will be able to stand very close to the animals as they drink and bathe in the pool.
Our tents have two beds and full bathroom a desk and chair. We tell them when we want our shower and they put hot water in the buckets above. This is a no footprint camp, all solar powered and instead of plastic water bottles you get a metal canteen to fill from the water cooler which is great. If they leave and tear down the camp you would never know it was here.
The two families are from New Hampshire, one has two boys aged 11 and 13 who were in our truck and the other has a girl and three young boys. There are a couple of other guys here that we met later, one from New York who works in IT, and the other lives in Nairobi and is a journalist and Getty photographer who travels the world. He is heading to Khartoum in Sudan tomorrow to cover a big demonstration happening there.
We also have a Porini Camp director and his wife from Nairobi. The latter four are all leaving tomorrow.
David our camp manager went over the itinerary and general info about the camp after a light lunch and then after a short rest we headed out on our first game drive
We saw lots of zebra, a number of warthogs, jackals, water buffalo, and reticulated giraffe which are different from the ones we saw in Ambroselli and only seen here.
We were disappointed not to see any rhino, but tomorrow is another day. After watching the sun set we headed back for a short rest in the tent before dinner. A Masai guide walked us to our tent and waited outside till we were ready for dinner, there is no walking around on your own here after the sun goes down. And we know why as we were sitting in our tents we heard a lion roaring right outside. There are many hippo wandering by as well. We are the last tent right in front of a small muddy creek which would be favoured by the hippos. We were glad he was there to walk us to and from the mess tent.
We sat around the fire for a bit first.
Dinner was great, they catered to our vegetarian needs, and had great conversations with everyone.
It was really hot today, but cools down incredibly at night. Chloe got under the covers and all of a sudden did a small yell
“There is something in my bed!!”
I said it was a hot water bottle and started to laugh. She pulled out this large hot water bottle with a fur cover on it.
They should warn you about these things. You could have a heart attack thinking there is some small animal in your bed. We laughed a long time about that.
As I write this we hear something very big outside our tent munching on grass or something. Maybe a buffalo or hippo perhaps. We were given a whistle to blow if we need help..........
I hope we can sleep tonight. We both have ear plugs.
Rhino Camp Day 8, Friday June 28
I slept soundly until 4AM and then just waited for our wake up call at 6. A young man quietly said hello and then asked if he could come in, unzipped the tent and put some hot chocolate for Chloe and hot water and lemon for me on the table.
We quickly got ready to be in the land cruiser by 6:30A. We had our same group with Tessa and Keith, Cameron and.Sam. The jeep stalled a number of times and then Tessa finally asked if we could please have another jeep as we didn't want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone. The next jeep was the staff one so not as nice and very cramped but at least it worked.
We drove to the eastern side and saw a couple of baby hyena that were really curious and quite cute. More giraffes, zebra and buffalo of course, elephants with babies, and lots of wart hogs.
Finally we found a rhino. He was on his own, a black rhino, and stood and posed for us. Black and White rhinos have nothing to doug with their color, White really means wide, describing the shape of the mouth.
White Rhinos are vey social and travel in groups while black are solitary and not as nice.
We are in Ol Pejetra Conservancy which has the highest concentration of rhinos in Africa. It is set in 283,000 hectares and patrolled by many rangers willing to shoot any poachers that try to do any harm to the rhinos. The animals are all free to come and go as they please, but the rhinos are in a massive electric fenced area where they put rocks and things that rhinos don't like in the pathway so they never leave and stay safe. The rangers rake the dirt every morning and night to check the footprints to see which animals came in and left during the day.
Next to the Rhino were a bunch of Cape buffalo wallowing in the mud to keep cool and try to keep the flies down as well.
At 9AM we went to the park for our breakfast and then Chloe and I went off to check in for our 10AM 'horseback riding with rhinos' that we had booked. Walking to the barn I was on a big pile of rock in the centre of the road when I just slipped off and landed face first on the road. Chloe and the girl leading both thought I had a a heart attack or something. One minute I was walking and the next I’m on the ground. I stayed there for a minute making sure I was okay. It was very painful on my right side and my neck, I had a big scrape on my arm too. I was quite pissed off that this happened mere meters from the barn and worried I wouldn't be able to ride.
But I went anyhow and although a bit sore didn't fall off the horse at least.
We were able to go into an enclosure where no one else can go and were very close to a mom and baby rhino only a month old. We saw a number of rhinos, the large Eland which look like caribou, so many wart hogs and other gazelles. It was just great. Chloe got to canter a bit but there were so many holes in the field it was not safe to do much.
We had just over an hour and so glad we did this. On the way out we saw Barack, the blind rhino and then back in the jeep with everyone for more game viewing. They had been out and seen many rhinos and a baby giraffe and mom.
We found more rhinos and various other animals and then back to the camp for lunch, a shower and rest until 4PM. We were going to have a walk with the Masai Warriors but the sky opened up and it rained very hard. We climbed into the trucks and went for a game drive, eventually the rain stopped enough to take the top off again.
We came across a very large male lion with a fresh buffalo kill. We discovered that he had two brothers with him as well. It would be hard for one lion to take down a buffalo but three would succeed, and did.
The three were in different areas and were very tired from the kill, the buffalo had not been eaten at all. We sat for a couple off hours and just watched the three of them, all sleeping, looking around and watching in different areas.
Finally the lion furthest away walked over to the buffalo and started tearing it apart, you could hear the flesh being ripped and then the smell hit you. It was gross and fascinating all at the same time. We felt so lucky to have all seen this.
Sitting by the fire for a bit before dinner I then said my goodbyes to people as we leave tomorrow.
All in all this camp was great and we really enjoyed it.
Lion Camp. Day 9
We were able to sleep in until 7:30 this morning and had the camp to ourselves as everyone else was out on a game drive. Breakfast at 8 and off to the air strip at 9 for our 9:15 flight to the Mara.
We were once again on a 12 passenger prop plane and it took just about an hour, with one stop on the way. The scenery was great.
Our drivers Chris and Wilfred met us and we did a slow drive to the camp looking for various game on the way.
The camp has changed since I was here two years ago, more tents and a few other changes. Our drivers from before are at different camps and there is a new manager, Silas.
After our welcome cold towel and juice we had an orientation from Silas and met the kitchen staff. Two of them remembered me from two years ago, most of the others are all new.
James is a waiter and Daniel is the head waiter and remembered so many details of when I was here with Lana, even where I was from. He mentioned the elephant being born outside our tent on our last night and the lions waiting on our veranda roaring all night.
He is such a joker and a lot of fun. It was great to be remembered after all this time with all the guests that have come and gone since then.
We had lunch , did laundry, had a rest and shower
We are off for a game drive and were joined by two other women, sisters from the US who both seem quite nice. Anna and Katherine . There are only four in our truck and these one have much bigger viewing areas.
“What do you want to see? “
Leopards was pretty much the unanimous answer.
We drove for a while and then crossed a small stream. I said I could smell a kill, ( I have a very good sense of smell) and sure enough we found a fresh kill of a Topi, which is from the antelope family. It was at the bottom of a tree almost untouched, so we knew that she wasn't far from here. We could already see jackels and hyena in the distance and it wouldn't be long before they came to have their share.
A couple of other trucks were also looking in the area as they all radio each other, but being in the conservancy the only trucks allowed in here are those from the camps in the area so there were only four or five.
Finally we found her, resting on a branch of a tree, panting as she was tired from all the work of killing that huge Topi.
Fig is the leopard that Lana and I saw last time we were here and I knew she had a daughter in September so anxious to see her as well. Chloe spotted her in the same tree, they camouflage so well. We sat and watched for a while and then the younger one, Farrah, came down and went to the creek. Eventually Fig came down as well and walked over to the Topi, but decided instead to run past and go into different bushes.
Our truck went around and watched the young one for a while and then back to see Fig trying to drag the Topi. Leopards usually put their kill up in the tree to keep it from other predators, but this Topi is way too big and heavy. She gave up and went over to Farrah to think about a plan I imagine.
It was such a gift to see a leopard at all as they can be quite elusive , but this was amazing.
Eventually we headed off , all very happy with the sighting and anything now was just going to be a bonus.
A pride of lions was our next big sighting. One lioness with two really young cubs and a bunch of others of various ages. She would be taking care of all of them while the other lions went out to hunt.
They were so funny. Playing, wresting, curious about us, but much more intent on playing and tumbling about . We had our ‘sundowner’ there in front of the lions which could not have been more perfect.
I even had a glass of red wine, seeing as how the other two women did. We also had some snacks as well. I got quite drunk on one glass seeing as how I rarely drink. Everyone was making fun of me about it. The sun went down and we headed back to camp.
When we got to dinner both of the big tables were full so Daniel said we had to sit at a small table for two. We were joking that we were at the ‘kids table’
Daniel came with our soup and then asked about what we wanted for a main course. He was a bit hard to understand, but we agreed with stir fry. He was making fun of the fact we were vegetarian, even though he remembers that from last time.
Then we were taking about age and he said Chloe looked 12 and I looked 40
I said “ you can alway tell an older women she looks younger, but an younger women want to look older”. He would not agree with Chloe that she was 17 and kept insisting she was 12.
Chloe was just about crying she was laughing so hard. He is such a joker but we noticed he is very serious with everyone else. I guess he figures we can take it, especially because he has Chloe in stitches the entire time.
When it came to dessert I found the only fork I had left on the table was a massive meat carving fork. Chloe was dying with laughter by this time. We called him over and held up the two forks, one big one and the regular one.
He feigned innocence and said “oh that’s a meat fork. Who put that there?”
It made for a very entertaining dinner and I cant wait to see what he will do tomorrow.
We hear the hippos grunting outside our tent
Lion Camp day 10
I woke at 3:30 to hear a hippo just outside my tent eating grass, very loudly. I was still awake at 5:45A when we got our tray of hot chocolate for Chloe, hot water and lemon for me and 4 biscuits delivered by our guy into our tent. I wish I could be woken up like that at home every morning.
At 6:15 we were on our way for our full day to the Masai Mara to witness the wildebeest crossing. It was very cold and windy in the open sided jeep but we bundled up in provided ponchos with flannel linings to keep us warm. On the way to the Mara we saw many animals of course, but a few males lions and lioness who were on their honeymoon, which is where they leave the pride for a week to try and conceive. They will mate as many as 4 times an hour.
Then we came upon a bunch of young lions, two males under 2 and some females. When the males are three they must leave the pride to go off on their own to start their own pride or remain bachelors.
All of a sudden the lions are all looking into the distance , and getting a bit agitated , standing up and looking ready. It’s then we notice there are actually 7 lions, a few more in the distance. They start to approach a lone clueless warthog. Apparently wart hogs have very short memories. He will see the lions and then a few minutes later forget, which is what happened here, and he walked right towards them
We were all at the edge of our seat as we see the lions at the ready, and one of the farthest ones gets into chase to guide the warthog into the others. The wart hog started running, and man could he run fast. I don’t think he even knew he could run that fast. Eventually the lion gave up, the warthog is not that big a meal to feed that many anyhow. A lucky little poomba but he will probably forget the whole thing soon anyhow.
The roads on this side are just terrible. Well they aren’t really roads just tire tracks in the grass that everyone follows. You are not supposed to go off the road here like you can in our Conservancy. There has been a lot of rain, the grass is high and very green, but the roads and grounds and very wet and muddy. We were slipping and sliding quite a few times. The Land cruiser will and does go everywhere. Over rocks, through deep mud and rivers and rocks. It is a very jostling and bumpy ride, you need to hang on and feel like you will be thrown out at times. Chris is a very skilled and careful driver though and a few times will get out of the jeep to assess the road before continuing or finding another route.
Chloe just loved it . It was like a ride at Disneyland and safari all rolled into one.
Through the river we go.
We had to take a different route because of this and went through a small town on the way which was interesting. No women to speak of were seen but lots of young men out and about. On the way back we saw lots of kids and teens walking home from school.
There are so many more trucks over here. If we see a lion or something of interest there will be almost a dozen trucks there vying for the best view. We saw a lone tree that was in an area of less mud and Chris and Wilfred decided this would be a great place to have our breakfast. Another truck also saw it but Christ stepped on the gas and got there first. The other truck pulled up and they all laughed about it. The drivers from all the company’s all work so well together and help each other with sighting information etc. It is great to see.
Our breakfast was wonderful sitting on our little chairs under the tree looking at the the wildebeest in the field.
There was a fly problem however. And it only got worse as the day went on. Millions of flies and they would go in your ears, eyes all over your face. We covered up as much as we could but it was so annoying . With so many wildebeest and zebra and all the mud it is the season for flys. I saw a truck of other tourists in a jeep and the two drivers were talking as we all were waving our hands to keep the flies off our face and I joked.
“It is the Kenyan wave”
Not much further on we came to a small river and saw thousands of wildebeest and zebra on the other side. Waiting. and waiting. So we waited too, a bit out of sight so as not to spook them. Us and a dozen other trucks.
Every Spring the wildebeest travel from Tanzania to Kenya because there is more to eat. In the Fall they go back to Tanzania so there are two crossing times in the year.
Eventually one brave soul made the move to go down the hill into the river and they all followed. We raced down to the edge and watched as around 1500 of them came charging through. It was quite something. We had no idea how many were there until they started.
And then just like that someone decides to stop and they all run in the other direction and the crossing stops.
We waited around for about another hour and then saw that they were going to start again down the river. They like to cross in an area where there are not many trees as that is where the predators lie in wait for them. It is now super hot out and the flys are unbearable But we wait.
There are a half dozen zebra on our side and they go down to the edge of the river, probably for a drink, but they came back up and the zebra on the other side followed and then the wildebeest after them. It was around another 1500 or so. It is an amazing thing to watch, and how lucky for us to have seen two crossings.
We stopped for a picnic lunch on the Mara river which was full of hippos grunting and spouting water. It was just perfect.
Driving away after lunch Wilfred asks “ ok, now what do you want to see?’
I said a baby giraffe. Never really expecting it, but in less than half an hour there it was. A couple of them and a few adults in a field of beautiful long grass. A tower of giraffes.
"What next?" they ask
In less than half an hour we came across a mom and very young cheetah on the side of the road.
We had an amazingly lucky day, but the guide and driver we had last time was the same. The Porini drivers are able to show us everything that we want to see which is incredible. The animal population is so much higher here than the last two parks, which is why I saved the best for last.
We passed a huge number of vultures devouring a hippo who must have just died. We passed again three hours later and there was almost nothing left
It was a very long but fulfilling day, we arrived back just after 5 so we had 11 hours in total. A rest shower and then back to the mess tent for dinner. We got to sit at the adult table tonight and met some interesting people from Australia and had some great conversations.
One of the guests was having her 30th birthday so all the staff came out and did some Masai Warrior dancing and singing which was wonderful. We all sang happy birthday and shared some cake before retiring for the night.
Day 11, July 01 st
Another 6:15AM departure for a game drive. We saw a few lions hiding in the grass and one in a ditch waiting for an ambush.
A lone cheetah who looked very pregnant
We saw a hippo and I said, “ I haven’t gotten a picture of a hippo yawning yet", and as if on cue he yawned .
Some cute tiny Dik Diks , the smallest of the antelope family
A lion on his way to get out of the heat and sleep in the bush. All the Topi were on alert but he must not have been hungry
We had breakfast overlooking the beautiful scenery and had some great conversations for close to an hour
Then we met with another truck for Anna and Catherine to go to the airport and fly to Rwanda for their gorilla hike.
We slowly drove back to the camp, stopping in to check on the leopards and saw Farrah by herself
A rest, pack up and then lunch with some new arrivals and more great conversations
We said our good byes to the staff and were really sorry to leave. This was our favourite camp and overall a fantastic safari trip.
It was an hour drive to the airstrip and we arrived back in Nairobi at 5PM and back to the Saab hotel.
We have a day here tomorrow and then we fly to Uganda for our gorilla hike.