Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    My wife and I have been in Kenya last week of 2016 and first week of 2017. We have visited some of the well known national parks and reserves in central and southwestern Kenya:

    - Masai Mara
    - lake Nakuru
    - Ol Pajeta in Laikipia plateau
    - Samburu and Buffalo springs
    - Meru

    We have been especially looking forward about this trip, as after few years, one of our children should join us on such trip again. You can imagine our shock on the last evening before our departure, wen we discovered that our daughter's passport will expire in less than 3 months. Kenyan authorities require that passport must be valid for at least 6 months, so it was more than obvious that she will not be issued Kenyan visa upon arrival. There was no other solution for her than to cancel the trip, even though her air tickets have already been paid and her luggage was already packed. Another lesson for all of us: always triple check all the passports on time! So, in the end, it was only the two of us again.

    During the planning phase of this trip, I have done extensive research of available Kenyan 4x4 rentals. I must say that this segment is far less developed in East Africa than in southern countries (especially in SA and Namibia). I have sent inquiries to about half a dozen rental companies and only got answers from two of them. An none of them was even remotely attractive. To my relieve, I accidentally discovered that rental company from Uganda ("Roadtrip Uganda") is just establishing its sister company in Kenya, called "Roadtrip Kenya". We have been renting car from "Roadtrip Uganda" two years ago during our trip through Uganda and were very satisfied with their services back then, so I contacted them about car rental in Kenya. They offered us an older model of Toyota Landcruiser for very competitive price and we soon made a deal. Sadly, car was not equipped with RTT and it did not have a fridge (we knew all that in advance), but given the other two offers I have received, the decision was easy. Actually, we were the first customers of "Roadtrip Kenya" and as they don't have their car fleet in Kenya yet, they have delivered the car from Uganda for us. Their base in Kenya will be in Nairobi, in a place well known among overlanders, called "Jungle Junction". Communication with them was always on very professional level and it was more than obvious that they are serious about their business and that they want to expand their market from Uganda also to other East-African countries (they already operate in Tanzania as well, under brand "Roadtrip Tanzania").

    The car was old, but reliable. Apart from one mishap with shock-absorber, it didn't cause us any problems. And believe me, some roads in Kenya were among the worst we have driven so far anywhere in Africa, so a reliable car is the most important thing that you wish for in such a trip! The only thing that really was annoying about the car was it luggage compartment (or better to say, lack of it). The car was fitted with three rows of seats (8-seater) and behind the last row of seats there was practically no space for luggage. That was not really a problem, as we were only two and the car was huge, but we had to pack all of our luggage plus camping and cooking equipment between and on the seats in back two rows. So you can imagine that finding things in all that mess was not the easiest task. And what made it even more clumsy was the fact, that the car only had three side doors (one on driver side, two on the other side), so there was always a lot of climbing over the seats to find the things that we needed. All those problems would disappear if they would remove the last row of seats, as then all the luggage would be accessible through back doors. I have already suggested that to them and I think this is what they will do for future clients.

    The lack of refrigerator in the car was solved quite elegantly with the generous help from Wazungu Wawili, our resident forum specialist for Eastern Africa (and particularly for Kenya), who lent us one of her coolboxes, and even packed it with frozen water, first class steaks and two packs of beer! Cold (and meat) in that box lasted almost until the end of our Masai Mara visit. After that, we have filled the box with fresh ice (you can buy it in every larger Nakumat), so we were covered with cold drinks for most of our trip. WW, I have thanked you in my mind every time I've opened another can of cold beer!

    We have had no problems with the police (or with any other kind of officials). Most of the times we were simply waved through at roadblocks. The couple of times that they actually checked us out, everything was done very courteously and with smile on the faces. Also, I must say, I was expecting Kenyan drivers (especially those of matatus) to be much more aggressive and reckless, but to my surprise they were no worse than in their neighboring countries of Uganda and Tanzania. So, in short, we didn't have not even one incident or bad experience on Kenyan roads.

    The only real unexpected complication on our trip happened at the very end. Our flight back was canceled due to extreme weather in Istanbul (we were flying with Turkish Airlines), so we had to unexpectedly prolong our stay in Nairobi for three days until they have found us alternate flight back home. However, they have put us up in one of the most luxurious Nairobi hotels with full board and all their amenities on our disposal for our entire stay. So no complaints there and we used those three additional days to visit some of Nairobi attractions.

    I must thank all forum members that helped with their advice and experiences during our planing of this trip. However, I can not go without a special thanks to Stan Weakly - your first hand experiences were invaluable and Slow Donkey blog is a fantastic resource of useful information. And of course, above all, to Wazungu Wawili (both of them ). Your knowledge about Kenya is truly immense and it is amazing how you are willing to lend a helping hand (and more than just that) to a fellow traveler, even though you have never met him before. That's why I was really thrilled when you both unexpectedly appeared in Jungle Junction at the end of our trip, so that we could finally meet in person. Thanks again, Morag and Hugh!

    In next few installments I will add some more detailed descriptions and photos about our experiences in each of the parks. Stay tuned.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    This is going to be really great reading. Please don't keep us waiting too long. Thanks for sharing.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Ortelius, people are always happy to help because you give such good feedback. Looking forward to the rest!
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Hakuna matata, Ortelius. It was great to meet you both. Looking forward to the rest of your trip report.

    Hope Kenya will see you again. Rudi tena!

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    This is beautiful.

  8. #6
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    Default Part 1: Masai Mara

    We landed at Nairobi International Airport very early in the morning (around 5am) on Christmas day. Driver from Jungle Junction waited for us and drove us to JJ, where our Landcruiser has already been waiting for us. We were in no hurry, as shops will not be opened until 8:30, so we leisurely packed our things into the car. We have bought our supplies in Nakumat at Crossroads Mall. Liquor store was sadly still closed, but luckily Wazungu Wawili has supplied me with beer in her cool box.

    So we were ready to go toward Mara even before 10am, so we had plenty of time to reach Oldarpoi Comunity Campsite just befor mara's Sekenani gate before dark. Traffic was easy and the road was excelent. We stopped briefly just beforvae Mai Mahiu, where there is an excellent viewpoint over Rift Valley. After Narok, first 20 km is still good tar, which then goes into good gravel which slowly deteriorates into one of the most notorious tracks in Kenya. After an hour and half of extensive African massaaaaage, we arrived to our destination. Oldarpoi Camp is couple of kilometers before the Skeknani gate, just outside of Masai Mara reserve. It is run by local Masai community and offers accommodation in preerected tents or camping in your own tent. Camping spots are on nice grass and there's plenty of shade. Those with roof top tents would have a problem, as they don't allow cars to enter the grassy are, so one would have to camp in car park area. Ablutions are simple but clean, everything is quite well maintained. I wouldn't want to stay there for more than one night, as with all the domestic animals around the camp, you don't real have a feeling that you are so close to one of the world's epicenters of wildlife.

    Early next morning we enter the Mara reserve and almost immediately spotted our first trophy: a cheetah resting in the shade under the tree. We were very excited, but we didn't expect that to be our only cheetah sighting on the whole trip. The nice thing about it was that we were more or less alone on that sighting. Otherwise, there were quite a number of safari vehicles around that area. I guess most of them were day visitors, as more we went away from the gate, less vehicles we met. Once we turned south from Keekorok scouts headquarter toward Sand river Gate, we had a park all to ourselves.

    At Sand river Gate (a former border post with Tanzania) there is supposed to be a public campsite, which we have booked for one night and I expected the camp to have some facilities (ablutions etc). But when we arrived there, there were no sight of any campsite, and rangers have told us that we can pitch our tent wherever we want. We have chosen a nice spot under a large saussage tree, just above the Sand river, which had barely any water in its riverbed. We could use toilets inside the gate building and rangers have provided us with firewood and water for cooking and dish washing. It was fantastic feeling to experience true African evening again, in total wildernes, with a romantic fire and under the deep dark sky, dotted with endless number of stars.

    Next morning we returned to the Keekorok headquarters (giving a lift to a game scout from Sand river gate), and from there continuing to the west toward Mara bridge, where we entered Mara triangle. At the gate at Mara bridge we booked for three nights at Eluai public campsite. But when we arrived at the camp, we changed our mind. The camp has nice position, elevated from the plains around Mara river, but we found two problems with it. First, it offered no shade, which was quite a downside, as the days were quite hot.Secondly, we were a bit short on watter. One of our 5 litter water bottle was pierced and we found it empty at the back of our car. We had enough drinking water, but not enough water for cooking and dish washing. So, we decided to check how publick campsite at Oloololo gate looks like. When we arrived there, we were very positively surprised. I have read some not very flattering reviews about that campsite, but we have found it to be a fantastic place. True, the gate are close and there is a settlement of few houses for gate staff behind you, but anyway you are always turned to the opposite side. There, you look at truly endless plains, dotted with acacia trees and countless game. We could simply sit in the camp and just observe various animals passing by. Elephants, giraffes, zebras, elands, topis, all passing or grazing just befor you, sometimes even in the camp itself. Camp has plenty of water, clean ablutions and cold showers. And we never heard any sound, not even a dog bark, from the small settlement by the gates. We spent three wonderful nights there. We were mostly alone in the camp, but on two nights we were accompanied by another party of selfdrivers. No overlander trucks. I would recommend that camp to anyone, who doesn't want to spit out more money for any of the private campsites on the banks of the Mara river (though, those private campsites truly are wonderful and wild).

    Wa have found all the big 5 among the other species in the Mara Triangle. There are far less vehicles in Triangle than there are around Sekenani and Talek gate on the other side of the reserve. So, our sightings of four black rhinoceros and of leopard were both very intimate, only one or two other vehicles in the vicinity. Amazing experience.

    Masai Mara truly is one of the top reserves in Africa as far as concentration and variety of wild species is concerned. It is packed with animals and on game drives you are not realy struggling to find animals, you merely observe them as they pass by. And the scenery is fantastic, endless savanna, exactly how I pictured wild Africa when I was a child. It is very similar to Serengeti few kilometers to the south, except that it isn't dotted with rocky kopjes.

    I'm sure (well, I hope, really) we will return to Masai Mara soon. If possible, next time in September, to witness the spectacle of great migration crossing the Mara river.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Just to let you know that I am thoroughly enjoying your report as usual. It is good to have other travelers perspectives. Great sightings and pics! Your sightings of the Big Five including 4 black Rhino and a cheetah within a couple of days must have been very satisfying, confirming to me that the Masai Mara has much to offer even outside of the time of the migration. We were also advised by Wazungu Wawili to spend most of our time in the Mara Triangle rather than the Mara Reserve and are pleased you also found it far less busy.

    We did not stay at the community camps at the entrance gates to the Masai Mara Reserve as they did not appeal because of exactly what you describe, the presence of people and livestock. I suppose one has no other choice if arriving too late in the afternoon to move to the campsites within the reserve? It sounds like you camped at the exact same spot as us at Sand River at the sausage tree. We only stayed overnight there and I wonder how you found the game viewing in that area as I would like to spend longer there in the future?

    Eluai public campsite in the Triangle indeed has no shade or facilities. It must have been very hot in December? I am pleased to note that the campsite near Oloololo Gate was good. If you do visit during the migration in the future, the high vantage point offered at Eluai is an advantage to be able to see where river crossings of the Mara River are about to take place.

    Please keep the installments coming, they make me feel very nostalgic!
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Part2: Lake Nakuru NP

    It's a long drive from Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru and we knew it will take us most of the day. That is also why we changed our original plan a bit: instead of pushing all the way to Lake Nakuru park itself, we decided to overnight about 20 km before Nakuru, on among travelers well known Kembu farm near Njoro.

    When leaving Mara, I made a wrong decision: instead of heading NW toward Kilgoris, as advised by some, I decided to rather take road C13 via Lemek toward B3. I assumed it will be faster and more relaxed drive, as on maps this road looked as being the main and most traveled. Well, I was wrong. The road is bad, not much better than the road toward Sekenani gate and it was really slow going. On top of that, only few kilometers before finally reaching tarred B3, we hit one of the dreadful speed bumps a bit to hard and all of a sudden we were facing serious problems. There was an unhealthy sound coming out from our undercarriage and quick inspection revealed that our rear left shock-absorber was totally damaged. We had to made a decision: either we return to Nairobi and get the car fixed there, or continue with our original plan and try to replace the shock somewhere along the way. After a call to our rental company we decided to continue and try to fix the damage in one of the larger towns ahead.

    We limped 150 km to first major town Kericho, where we stopped at Total fuel station and ask the garage mechanic to asses the damage: his conclusion was, that both shock-absorbers need to be replaced. On my question: "But do you have spares?", he simply called one of the nearby boda-boda and before I realized, all three of us were winding on a motor bike through Kericho's dense traffic. We found a pair of corresponding shocks in one of the well-stocked spare shops. But when he tried to mount them, another problem arouse: the bolt, to which the shock is mounted on the springs side, was also broken. That was more serious of a problem. We couldn't find spare plate with that bolt anywhere, so it must somehow be welded. This was not an easy job, but it proved again that Africans are real magicians with welding machines. So, in less than three hours, we have managed to buy two new shock-absorbers, weld the bolt on the plate that clamps the springs and mount those two shocks, plus greased the car (we have had some minor leakage of grease from front left wheel since the beginning). Another proof that, if not for modern super-duper electronics, anything can be repaired anywhere in Africa in just a short pit stop.

    We have made it to the Kembo farm just before the dark. We pitched our tent on a nice lawn, took refreshing hot showers and treated ourselves with a dinner in the camp's bar. It was a long day and we were exhausted. Our mood that day really was swinging from ecstatic (lion sighting in our early morning game drive before leaving Mara), to despair (after we discovered broken shock-aabsorber in the middle of nowhere), to released (when we have found spares and a capable mechanic to replace them), to anxious (catching last minutes of daylight to reach our destination). But that is actually the essence of those kind of travels, we simply need such adrenaline shocks from time to time.

    Next morning we renew our supplies in Nakuru's Nakumat supermarket and then entered nearby national park. Until few years ago, its major attraction were huge flocks of flamingos on the lake. But water surface have risen for few meters couple of years ago which also caused major chemical and organic properties of the lake and most of flamingos have flown away to other lakes in Rift Valey. But nevertheless, this national park still has its charms and is one of the parks where you really have good chances to see all of the big fives in a relatively small territory. Its scenery is very different from that of Masai Mara. It is much more forested with steep cliffs rising from lake shores on the western side, while dead trees inside the risen lake allow some really surreal views. There are lots of buffalos, impalas, waterbucks, grants gazzeles and lots of various birds along lake's shores, even some flocks of flamingos. And we have also found three lions resting just below Baboon cliffs viewpoint.

    We camped at Makalia Falls public campsite at the southern most tip of the park, few kilometers away from the lake, near charming Makalia waterfalls. It is a lovely place with nice short grass and few quite large trees for shade and clean and well maintained ablutions. When we came there in the early afternoon, there was a truck of overlanders there, occupying the best camping spot under large shady tree, but they stopped there only for lunch and were on their way shortly after our arrival. There were few other daily visitors in the camp during the day (I guess most of them came to see nearby falls), but we were the only campers there. We enjoyed another memorable african night, all alone, by the fire.

    Next day we were on our way out of the at first dawn, enjoying morning game drive along the eastern shores of the lake. For a start, we found two lionesses just few hundred meters out of the campsite, bathing in the soft light of first morning sunbeams. Further on, we spotted two white rhinos, which we were unable to find on previous day's game drives. There was a rhino mother with a calf and we enjoyed their company for more than 20 minutes, with no other cars in sight. Fantastic experience.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  13. #9
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    Default Part 3: Ol Pajeta

    Ol Pajeta is one of the several private conservancies on the Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya and the only one of those that allows for day visitors and selfdriving campers. All other reserves there are only aimed for the guests of their (very expensive) lodges. It was also the only reserve for which I have booked both entrance and camping in advance.

    The ride between Nakuru and Nanyuki (larger town on Laikipia, starting point for Ol Pajeta) is very scenic and B5 road is in excelent condition. For us, the first part from Nakuru was a bit more slow going, as I was too blindly following directions of my Garmin, which chose alternate route behind my back. I have realized this only after our initially very wide and smooth tared road gradually degraded into not so smooth gravel with large sections of roadworks and potholes. Instead of B5 we were on C83. But as said, scenery was beautiful, hilly and with dark green meadows and large forests. In Njahururu we finally reached B5 and followed it until around 15 kilometers before Nyeri, where we have turned left onto good gravel shortcut to Naro Moru, which saved us some 40 kilometers. We have restocked and refueled in Nanyuki, from where there is some 25 kilometers to the entrance of Ol Payeta, which lies right on Equator and offers magnificent views on nearby Mount Kenya.

    We had a booking for two nights for three people, but since our daughter was not with us, we negotiated at the gate to change that booking to three nights for two. The "Hippo hide" campsite lies right on the bank of Ewaso Nyiro (Muddy water), one of the longest rivers in Kenya. It flows from western slopes of Mount Kenya to the north (it also flows through Samburu reserve, which we were to visit next) and then continuing east to Somalia. Campsite is totally wild, it only has a longdrop hidden a bit away in the bush. It has a fantastic view on the muddy river and nice wooded savanna across the water. We spent three wonderful days there, also our Christmas eve. It was our second Christmas in African bush in a row (last year it was in Serengeti, Tanzania) and I can't imagine better way to celebrate the beginning of a new year. If only our family were with us..... Of course, it could not be a true Christmas feeling without a properly decorated Christmas tree!

    Ol Payeta really has an abundance of rhinos, both white and black. We were ecstatic when we spotted the first two on our first morning drive, but later we became more indifferent to them, as we counted 14 different rhinos seen on our first day! With rhino sightings almost guaranteed, Ol Pajeta is an excellent reserve to see all big five in relatively small area. Leopard has eluded us there, though. Animals are very relaxed there and on one occasion we have had a very strange encounter with one extremely tame adult male bushbuck. While we were relaxing and drinking coffee in our camp after one morning game drive, when I noticed a bushbuck right behind our car. I quickly grab a camera and tiptoed around a car, afraid not to scare it off. But to our surprise, bushbuck entered right into our camp. At one moment, my wife had to clap with her hands to hush it off, as it wanted to eat right from our table! It behaved as we were not there, it spent more than 5 minutes, browsing a bush less than two meters from us while we continued enjoying our morning coffee. Truly amazing experience!
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  15. #10
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    The Laikipia Plateau and Ol Pajeta Conservancy were areas we missed out on in Kenya unfortunately. We will have to put this right in the future!
    Sorry to be a bother, but any idea how much they charge there for camping and entry fees? Also do you think it was really necessary to book there, I see they have about 5 separate places for camping scattered through the conservancy?
    Landcruiser 76SW.

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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    No bother at all, Stan. I booked for Ol Pajeta in advance because I was afraid that all camping spaces might be taken over the Chritmas. Plus, they offer 10% discount when booking is done online. I just checked the invoice and the costs for three people for two nights (or rather for two people for three nights):

    - Campsite (this is once off for campsite, no matter how many persons and for how long period): 6.300 KSH
    - Camping fees (this is paid per person per night): 5.400 KSH
    - Reserve Entry fees: 52.020 KSH

    Ol Pajeta has the most expensive entrance fees (for non residents) of all of the reserves we have visited, but luckily camping comes out a little cheaper than elsewhere. But all in all, it was still very steep 110 USD per person per night for us. Yet, in our opinion it was worth every dolar.

    We didn't check other campsites, but I'm sure they were not all occupied (if any at all). So, booking in advance was probably not necessary. Yet, it's still worth booking online in advance, as 10% discount usually amounts to not so modest sum. It doesn't matter when you book, can be even one day in advance. In fact, I have booked for camping space couple of months in advance in order to secure space, but I have booked our entry tickets (which summed to much larger amount than camping) only the last night before we flew to Kenya (I was delaying with this payment in case anything unexpected comes out and prevents our trip to Kenya). I think it would be totally OK to book online only the day before your actual visit, while you are already in Kenya. That way, you still have total flexibility, but can save quite some money with those 10%. And the good thing is that their online payment system is totally reliable and professional. I've got their invoices and confirmation emails instantly after online payment, and their register at the gate was perfectly correct regarding our payments.
    Last edited by ortelius; 2017/01/22 at 08:55 PM.
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  18. #12
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Hi Ortelius,

    Just enjoying the TR. I am really in debt to this forum, as I am supposed to do a similar TR on our recent!!! (October 2016) to Norther Tanzania. It is, in a way, a form to give it back to the forum, as Stan nicely point it out.

    Keep it up!
    AP

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    Default Part 4: Samburu & Buffalo Springs national reserves

    The road between Laikipia Plateau and Samburu offers truly astonishing landscapes. During first part road steadily climbs through amazingly dark green foothills of Mount Kenya, reaching almost 3000 m above sea level. Land is cultivated and in enormous greenhouses along the road they grow vegetables and flowers. To the south, magnificent peaks of Mt Kenya offer fantastic photographic opportunities. Then, once you reach the highest point, road drops steeply downwards into lower plains to the north, which have totally different, semi arid character.

    After the dominantly savanna type parks of Mara, Nakuru and Laikipia, Samburu at first seems very strange. Mostly arid and dusty, but with striking green belt along Ewaso Ngiro river. I was astonished by the almost dry riverbed. I was expecting strong-flowing river, but instead there were only shallow puddles of water in the wide riverbed. Road from Archers Post through entrance gate is very corrugated at first, but gets better as you come closer to park headquarters. Public campsite on at park HQ is relay beautifully set on the banks of the river with ample shade and acceptable ablutions with cold showers. We spent two days and two nights here and in Buffalo Springs, which lies on the other side of the river, but could easily prolong our stay for couple more days. Game driving loops along the river on both sides are beautiful and since there are only few lodges in the park, there's never any dense traffic on them. Animals are not skittish, but you must work for your sightings. Elephants are really abundant, but it is those more rarely seen animals from typically semi-arid habitats that are the real attractions here. Gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, Beisha oryx, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, .... As far as cats are concerned, we were treated by both lions and leopard sightings here.

    We were particularly excited by a visit of lesser kudus right in our campsite. We were resting after morning game drive, when adult female lesser kudu and her offspring appeared no more than few meters from us. Lesser kudus are known to be very skittish, but those two specimens behaved like we were not there. They peacefully browsed for more than 10 minutes around us, allowing me to approach them with my camera to no less than couple of meters.

    Baboons, that are notorious for this public campsite, didn't impose any problem at all during our stay. Vervet monkeys, on the other hand, require constant alertness.
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    Default Part 5: Meru NP

    Meru national Park lies less than 100 km (as crow flies) SE from Samburu, and although most of the representative animals are the same in both, their appearance could not be be more different. If I would have to represent each of the parks with single color, than it would be brown-red for Samburu and green for Meru. In Sambur/Buffalo springs ecosystem, there is only one river (Ewaso Ngiro) that supplies water, and as soon as you move few hundred meters away from the riverbed, landscape becomes arid. On the other hand, Meru NP is crisscrossed with rivers and streams, so vegetation is lush.

    Road to Meru NP is tarred all the way to the entrance gate, but last 30 kilometers of that road was the worst tar that we've driven in Kenya. It is so terribly potholed, that it would be much better if they would scrap off the tarred layer and have a decent gravel/dirt road instead. And as if wheel-deep potholes could not slow down the traffic enough, the road was littered with speedbumps of enormous proportions everywhere.... Gravel and dirt roads inside the park, on the other hand, are in excellent condition, probably the best maintained roads in all of the parks we have visited.

    We spent two nights in Bathwerongi public camp inside the park. It has three large campsite, of which #2 is the best. Unfortunately, it was occupied during our stay by another selfdriving couple from Austria, so we stayed in campsite #1. Very devoted camp attendant looks after camp and nearby bandas and the ablutions were always very clean.

    Because of very lush vegetation, game viewing in the park is more demanding and can be hit-or-miss. Elephants are abundant, as well as some other plain game (zebras, waterbucks, girrafes, buffalos). Of predators, we only saw jackals. Birdlife is prolific. And with only a couple of lodges within the park, you hardly meet any vehicles during game drives.

    From Meru NP, it was a long drive all the way to Nairobi on the last day of our trip. In fact, the ride to the outskirts of Nairobi was surprisingly smooth and fast. But, as I blindly followed my garmin's directions, we became stuck in the massive traffic jam in the center of Nairobi for about 2 hours. I certainly didn't expect such dense traffic in the city on a Satturday afternoon - if I was, I would certainly follow WW's instructions of how to avoid city center by using recently built Nairobi bypasses more carefully.

    Conclusion:
    Kenya really is a striking country. In the terms of the wildlife and safari experiences, it certainly is "la creme de la creme", as Wazungu Wawili once labeled it. And its parks and reserves are really totally wild in all aspects. With Masai Mara certainly being among top 5 of the many reserves and parks that we have visited in Eastern and Southern Africa. We certainly plan to return soon.
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  23. #15
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    What an awesome adventure!! Glad you had a fabulous time but I feel so sorry for your daughter that couldn't join you - it must have been a great disappointment for all the family. You are very lucky to have seen all of the big 5 during your stay ... I have been to the Mara 3 times with professional guides and never seen a single rhino!

    Thanks for all the detailed information you are providing. We have just booked for our self-drive in the Mara Triangle in August, so all the information is very welcome

  24. #16
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Thanks, Alison.

    Just out of curiosity: which company will you be renting your vehicle for your upcoming trip from?
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  25. #17
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Sunworld. We wanted some time in the reserve with a guide after the self drive and they were the only company offering us a car for self-drive and then going to their camp (Mara Bush camp) and a guide simply uses the same car to drive us around from then on. We are specifically interested in photographing leopards in the Reserve so a good guide is indispensable for that. So we get best of both worlds ... albeit with a light wallet!

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  27. #18
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Thank you for the lovely trip report - and your nice comments. It was great to meet you both and hope our paths cross again.

    Rudi tena! Karibuni Kenya.

  28. #19
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    Default Re: Trip report: Kenya, Dec 2016 & Jan 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah80 View Post
    I have been to the Mara 3 times with professional guides and never seen a single rhino!
    The rhinos in the Mara Triangle are the some of the few remaining wild gene pool rhinos left in Kenya. They are very special.

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