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    Default Kenya 2023: Mountains, plains, valleys, lakes and forests

    This trip report is dedicated to the memory of Stan Weakley, the King of Trip Reports, who sadly died a few weeks ago. Lala salama, Stan.


    Kenya: Mountains, plains, valleys, plateaux, lakes, forests, and escarpments
    17 January to 17 February 2023

    There are few places in Kenya we haven’t been - or roads we haven’t travelled. This trip was a combination of visiting family and friends, and going on our travels in our Land Rover revisiting old haunts.

    After arriving on the British Airways flight from London on the evening of 17 January, we spent the first few days in Nairobi having a lovely time with my family, but also finding our camping kit in my brother’s store, repacking the Land Rover, and buying and packing the provisions.

    We had been keen to go north again – I had wanted to revisit Lake Turkana before we are too old, but the ongoing critical drought in northern Kenya was having a severe effect on the security in the region – so we decided on a circular route taking in Tsavo West, Amboseli, Tsavo East, the eastern flank of Mt Kenya, Nanyuki, Baringo, Kakamega Forest, and to visit friends on their farm in Nyanza Province.

    Tsavo West National Park
    23-25 January
    We set off on our travels on Monday 23 January. As ever, we took the road from Karen to Ngong and then on to Kiserian and Isinya. Just before Kajiado, we turned east on the road we travelled last year signposted “Imaroro D524”which connects to the C102 Emali to Loitokitok. This is an interesting route through Maasailand, but the tarmac on this new road is already starting to break up, although repairs were being done in some places. It is to be recommended as it avoids any time on the main Mombasa road.

    As we had made good time and were at the village of Kimana by lunchtime, we decided to press on to Tsavo West NP and we turned on to the dirt road heading towards the Chyulu gate into Tsavo West. It took about an hour from the C102 to the Chyulu gate. Here we paid our park fees and camping fees by card at the new gate and were warmly welcomed by the ranger on duty. The drought is affecting this whole area and we drove through a parched landscape.

    We spent two nights camping at the Chyulu public campsite in Tsavo West NP. There are ablutions with cold water showers, loos, loo seats, and a water point. The camp attendant, Emmanwel, lives at the rangers’ accommodation at the nearby old Chyulu gate and ranger post. The rangers’ accommodation has recently been renovated by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Tsavo Trust. We set up camp at the far end of the campsite under a thatched shelter and Emmanwel brought us firewood (1000shs). Later, we had a short game drive around towards Kilaguni and had early sundowners sitting on the roof of our Land Rover. Back at camp, Emmanwel had the fire ready for us and we cooked on the open fire. We had a peaceful night being the only campers. It was so good to be back on safari.

    As we drove out of camp early the following morning, Kilimanjaro was visible through the dry season haze. We meandered our way towards Mzima Springs seeing quite a lot of game despite the parched conditions. Mzima, as always, was a green oasis with hippos and crocs in the crystal clear water. Back at camp we cooked a full English breakfast on the open fire although it was getting very hot.

    For all our game drives, we hired Emmanwel to guard our camp from baboons (although there weren’t any baboons around we have had unwelcome intrusions from baboons and monkeys here in the past). We tipped him for this service.

    Earlier than usual, we went for an afternoon game drive towards Kitani and the Tsavo River. The river was dry. The area around Kitani and the Tsavo River was bone dry with hardly a blade of grass. This area is normally teeming with game. We then wound our way up to Poachers Lookout and gazed over the drought-stricken plains. On our way back to camp, we took a track marked “4x4 only” which took us over lava flows and through dry thick bush popping out on to the main track from Chyulu gate near to the Shetani Lava Flow. We were back in camp just on sunset. Here we found another vehicle in camp – a young British couple in a hired vehicle with roof top tent. Later, we invited them over for drinks with us beside our campfire. [Note to Ortelius, this couple had hired a vehicle from a company with 4x4 in its name. Sorry, we can’t remember exactly what the name was, but they said it was USD50 cheaper per day than Road Trip Kenya, but they too had had vehicle problems. It didn’t look in its first flush of youth.]

    The following morning, we struck camp in the cool of the morning and headed off. First stop was Kilaguni Lodge to have a cup of coffee on their cool, breezy verandah overlooking the waterhole with zebra and giraffe slaking their thirst - with the ultimate backdrop of a clear Kilimanjaro. It is a fabulous spot. Fortified, we headed off towards the Ngulia area.

    In the Ngulia valley it was a different world. There had been rain in the past few months and there was abundant grass, leaves on the trees, and flowers bloomed. We eventually saw our first two elephants in the valley: I had been wondering where the elephants of Tsavo had gone. As we crossed the pass between the Ngulia valley and the lower ground to the east, it was clear that this side of the hills had also received recent rain. As we meandered our way towards Mtito Andei, the waterholes were full of elephant families wallowing and drinking, there was ample browse and all looked well in this part of Tsavo West NP.

    Park fees are based on twenty-four hours and 2.00 pm was our deadline. We had a quick picnic lunch in the public campsite at Komboyo near to the Park HQ. This is a huge, but dismal and pretty derelict campsite. To be avoided at all costs. Not a patch on Chyulu public campsite. Bang on time, we exited Tsavo West and turned on to the main Nairobi-Mombasa road. Mtito Andei used to be one of only three places to stop in the “old days” on the long dirt road from Nairobi to the coast. It had a petrol station and little else except for the famous Mac’s Inn. I wonder who Mac was?

    We turned north on this notoriously dangerous road, but we only had some 45 kms to do. That evening and night we spent with my family doing family things. We had a lovely time including sundowners on a rock with Kilimanjaro visible behind the Chyulu Hills. What a sight.

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