Posts from the ‘Kenya’ Category
Game Driving in the Lake Nakuru National Park
Today was fully dedicated to game driving. Since animals can be observed best during the early morning and late afternoon we left the camp very early at 6am. It was only a 20-30 min drive to the gate of the Lake Nakuru National Park where we arrived at sunrise. To have enough space during the full day game drive we hired three vehicles, one jeep and two minibuses, although all of us would have fitted into just one minibus. At the gate we purchased our entry tickets to the park which were with 75 USD quite expensive.
Game driving at Lake Nakuru is basically following a dirt road around the lake. We were positively surprised by the amount and diversity of the animals which we were able to spot: buffalos, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, baboons, lions, hyenas, flamingos and pelicans… Only the lions were laying in the high grass maybe 50 metres away from us so we could only see their heads and tails. We also tried to spot leopards in the trees but didn’t see any.
Game driving in the morning lasted until 11:30am. We took an extended lunch break until 3:30pm in the Lake Nakuru Lodge which is a very beautiful spot overlooking the national park. The main reason for the long break is the heat at noon which makes most animals taking a nap in the shadow of the trees and bushes so they are harder to spot. The lodge was featuring a nice swimming pool and internet access which many of us enjoyed. The internet access was the most expensive one I have seen in a long time. The charge was 25 Kenyan Schilling per minute which makes it 1,500 Kenyan Schilling (18.75 USD) an hour. However, Michelle and I convinced them to provide us with the WiFi password for 1,200 Kenyan Schilling for unlimited usage during our four hour stay at the lodge and we split the cost between the both of us. Usually internet access in Kenya is much cheaper and in the internet cafés I have used so far I didn’t pay more than one Kenyan Schilling per minute which makes it 60 Kenyan Schilling (0.75 USD) an hour.
During the afternoon game drive we basically saw the same kind of animals than in the morning so we left the park already shortly after 5pm and drove back to the camp. After arrival I had a nice hot shower, probably the best one I had since the beginning of my trip in Cairo.
Dinner was prepared by the staff of the campsite. Since the camp is associated with a farm they grow lots of vegetables in the surrounding area and they raise animals as well. Therefore, we had a very tasty organic dinner prepared with local products from the surrounding fields. It consisted of a vegetable soup for starter, chicken stew with rice and vegetables as the main course and chocolate cake for desert.
Equator Crossing and Drive to Nakuru
We expected that the 240 kilometre drive from Nanyuki to Nakuru takes only three to four hours. Therefore, we didn’t leave before 9am. I don’t know who it was but somebody had convinced Daniel to drive 20 min back in the direction of Nanyuki where we spotted a sign marking the equator two days ago. We all jumped out to take our photo at the sign. You can find mine below.
Afterwards we turned around and drove into the direction of our actual destination which is the “Kenana Farm” close to Nakuru where we will spend the following three nights. Since the road wasn’t as good as expected (not tarmac all the way) it took us nearly all day to drive to Nakuru where we arrived around 4pm. We only briefly stopped for lunch along the road and for shopping at a supermarket in Nakuru. We were also confused since on our way to Nakuru we passed the equator sign a couple of times and we were not sure if we actually crossed the equator a few times or if the signs were just wrong.
When we arrived at the campsite there were already other overland trucks including Tucan and Drifters. While we only saw one other overland truck from Cairo until here (African Trails in Ethiopia) the area downwards from Nairobi to Cape Town is much more frequented by travellers of all kinds. My first choice for organized group travel is still Dragoman, the tour operator I’m currently travelling with, since they offer a large variety of trips and have 30 years of experience. I did my first overland trip with them 16 years ago, the last one two years ago and I have a few more to come in the following months. I also would like to do a big drive (like Cairo to Cape Town) in my own car or on a bike but wouldn’t enjoy it completely on my own and therefore would prefer to travel with a friend.
Our fellow traveller Betsy was interested in the exact route we travelled from Cairo to Nairobi. She has actually purchased a map of Northern / Eastern Africa on which our leader Tom marked the exact route which we were driving during the past weeks.
In the evening we had planned to have some wood fired pizzas in the little restaurant of the campsite. Since there was a large number of travellers from the other overland trucks occupying the restaurant we had to change our plans and purchased some beef, potatoes and a pumpkin. Michelle and Liv volunteered to cook us dinner out of these ingredients and managed to prepare a quite tasteful soup.
Hiking at Mount Kenya
I got up at 6am to be ready for my hike starting at 7am. Usually I’m not an early bird but I really wanted to see the peak of Mount Kenya which is with 5.199m the second highest mountain in Africa. It’s said that the best chance to see the peak is on clear days at the early morning between 7 and 10am. At a later time of the day the peak is usually covered with clouds and cannot be seen.
I took a private guide since nobody else wanted to get up that early and so I also had the opportunity to walk at my own pace and chat with the local guide. It was also not too pricy. I only had to pay 1.000 Kenyan Schilling (12.50 USD) for a three hour hike with a private guide. His name is Joseph and he knows the area very well including all local animals and plants. He also works as a guide for the Mount Kenya climbs which take four days. Since we only stay in the area for 1.5 days I didn’t have enough time to climb the peak but only for hiking in the surrounding area of the mountain.
During our hike Joseph was showing me the footprints and excrements of several animals in the area. He was also pointing out several plants such as Aloe Vera and Henna. The Henna plant was very interesting to see and when you rub it between your fingers the green leaves turn into red colour which is used for Henna tattoos around the world. After hiking for approx. 1 hour and 20 minutes we arrived at a waterfall next to which also a cave could be seen. Joseph explained to me that in this place many people got killed during the war for independence in the 1960s which makes this place special for Kenyan people since the Mau Mau rebellions used to hide in this cave.
During the hike we also saw the peak of Mount Kenya as I was hoping for. Compared to Mount Kilimanjaro the peak looks steeper and therefore I guess that climbing Mount Kenya is more challenging.
When returning to the campsite I ran into several other people of my group. Some of them were on the same hike as me but just left at a later point in time. Others were on smaller hikes around the camp or on the back of a horse. Especially my fellow traveller Chris enjoyed the horse-riding since it’s one of his favourite activities and the horses available were in a very good shape.
I arrived back at the camp at 10am and prepared a late breakfast. Afterwards I did my duty which is cleaning the inside of the truck. In the afternoon I was chilling out watching a Kenyan wedding which took place in the hotel associated with the campsite. About hundred people were singing and dancing which created a very special atmosphere.
For dinner Pierre cooked us an interesting and spicy dinner consisting of beans and sausages. Everybody seemed to be exhausted either from travelling or from today’s activities so the circle around the campfire was shrinking quickly. I also went to my tent, where Michelle was sleeping fully exhausted from the horse-riding, and watched a movie on my laptop.
Supermarket in Nanyuki and Mount Kenya Camp in Naro Moru
Our campsite in the Samburu National Park was situated at a very scenic location right underneath big trees and close to a river. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to swim in the river since it is home to hundreds of crocodiles. I know many people who don’t like camping at all and would die when they have to sleep in a tent but when you are at a beautiful spot like this one I very much like sleeping in a tent and cooking on fresh air. The nights here close to the equator are nice and warm. There is lush vegetation and when you lie in your tent you hear all kinds of animal noises, especially here in the middle of a national park.
This morning we needed to get up early at 6am and start driving at 7am since our entrance ticket for the Samburu National Park is only valid for 24 hours and we have to be out of the gate by 9am. When driving towards the gate we also used the time to spot animals but we didn’t see anything different than on the game drive the day before.
After driving for 3.5 hours we arrived in Nanyuki were we saw our first proper supermarket. The choice of items was quite overwhelming but the prices of some items were even more expensive than back home. I wasn’t up for cooking and didn’t have a desperate need for something and so I just bought some cookies and went with Michelle to an internet café close by. Here we were also overwhelmed by the good quality of available computers and the speed of the network. We spent two hours following up on emails and making travel arrangements. Tom, whose laptop broke a few days ago, was also in the internet café seeking for help to extract the data of his hard drive but didn’t manage to do so during the two hours.
We left Nanyuki at 1pm and drove about 20 minutes to Naro Moru our home for the next two nights. On the way we were also crossing the equator but we didn’t stop for a picture. Our driver Daniel is from Equator and so the equator has probably no special meaning for him.
In Naro Moru we camped at the grounds of the “Mountain Rock Hotel” and a few people took the opportunity to upgrade from the tent to a room at the cost of 20 USD per person and night. I didn’t upgrade since I like staying in a tent especially if the surrounding area is nice, the nights are warm and facilities (toilet and shower) are available. After we have put up our tents the manager of the hotel came to see us and talk about the optional activities available. Basically there were several hikes of different lengths, horse-riding and rowing on the tiny lake of the hotel. Most people signed-up for either hiking or horse-riding the next day which will all be in the area of Mount Kenya.
Tonight’s dinner was prepared by Chris and his cooking group. They prepared mashed potatoes with onions and a chicken stew. They had also purchased some ice-cream in the supermarket which was served as desert. Chris always puts high standards to his cooking and since the meal didn’t fully turned out as he expected he was very much disappointed and in a bad mood for the rest of the evening.
After dinner I was chilling out at the campfire which was nice and warm. There was even hotel staff available which kept the fire going for us all night.
Game Driving in the Samburu National Park
The night in the Samburu Tribe village was very peaceful. Only my fellow traveller Ellen had some problems to sleep since a little child was coughing all night in the mud hut next to her tent. In the morning she talked to the parents and found out that the kid was suffering from Malaria. She decided to donate some money to the family to allow them to see a doctor providing cure for the disease. While this is a generous act by Ellen, you never know if the money is actually used for the intended purpose or if the parents spend it differently…
Breakfast was at 7:30am. As the night before we didn’t need to cook since the meal was prepared for us by the people of the local village we spent the night in. I didn’t have high expectations and was positively surprised by very delicious pancakes and scrambles eggs. It’s really a wonder that these tribal people living in basic mud huts are able to prepare more delicious food as most restaurants in the area.
Unfortunately we had to leave the village at 8am to go game driving in the Samburu National Park. The gate of the park was only a 5min drive away from the village and as soon as we entered the park we started game driving. We were accompanied by four warriors of the local village. Surprisingly they didn’t ask for any money but stated in a very honest manner that it’s an honour for them to spend some time with us and show us the animals of the surrounding area.
During the game drive we were lucky to spot a lion during the first minutes. Usually it is not easy to spot them. The lion was laying in the shadow of a bush only a few metres away from our truck. After observing the lion for a while we continued our game drive until 11am. We saw different kind of animals including elephants, giraffes and ostriches.
After setting up our tents at the ground of the Samburu Lodge we prepared lunch using the leftover pasta from last night. We mixed it with some tined tuna which was an interesting but tasteful version of pasta salad.
To kill some time until the afternoon game drive at 3pm some of us jumped into the pool of the lodge. They wanted to charge us quite a lot for using the pool but our leader Tom managed to negotiate a group discount of 600 Kenyan Schilling (7.50 USD) per person. The pool area was very nice and clean also featuring a Jacuzzi. I enjoyed it so much that I and a few others decided to skip the afternoon game drive and relax at the pool area instead. So I ended up spending a total of four hours in the Jacuzzi mainly chatting with my fellow travellers Chris and Marek which was very entertaining. When I left the Jacuzzi I was as clean as I haven’t been on the whole journey before. When you spent most of the day in dust and only have a mostly cold shower every few days you simply lower your hygienic standards and get used to be dirtier than back home.
When the others returned from the afternoon game drive they told us that they haven’t see any different kind of animals than in the morning so I didn’t regret that I stayed at the pool. I also have done lots of game driving on my previous Africa trips so that I don’t have a desperate need to see anything specific but just enjoy the scenery.
The lodge itself was a very beautiful place featuring nice wooden huts and a viewpoint overlooking the river. The staff of the lodge was also feeding the crocodiles in the river every evening to attract some visitors.
For dinner we decided to not cook a meal from the truck but eat in the restaurant of the lodge. Most people stayed at the viewpoint and had a meal from the snack menu. Michelle and I chose the more expensive five course meal since the food of the last days was kind of returning and we just wanted to eat something nice and different. However, the staff refused to serve us in the viewpoint area and wanted us to move to the restaurant. After we spoke to the manager of the restaurant the request was dropped and we could eat with everybody else. After spending an average of only 1-2 USD per meal during the last weeks, I had to pay 40 USD this night but it was really worth it.
On the way back from the lodge to the campsite we were requested to walk with a ranger carrying a gun since we sleep in the middle of a game park and it may happen that one of the animals tries to attack us. However, there wasn’t much action during the walk and we didn’t see any big animals in the dark.
Night in a Samburu Tribe Village
Currently I have only limited access to the internet. The blog entry of this day will be published in a few days.
Guarded Drive to Marsabit
Currently I have only limited access to the internet. The blog entry of this day will be published in a few days.