Amboseli National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 12:36 pm
Jul 242011
 

Amboseli National ParkWe left Nairobi and headed for Amboseli National Park. Once again, the road from the main tar road to the park was horrible and full of corrugations. Most of the time we spent on the tracks that have been made on either side of the road rather than on the road itself. At least this time though it was only about 30km,

The park itself is quite small and at this time of year the animals are all around the swamp areas which means you travel over the same few roads during your game drives. The park is mostly a plain and dry, except in the swamp area. Whilst we saw lots of elephants and the highlight was seeing a cheetah with 4 very small cubs, which we had all to ourselves for ages, we were in general disappointed with the park. I think we have seen so many animals and parks now that we want to see the unusual rather than the regular, along with some varied scenery. If it was one of the first parks you visited then it would be fantastic as you are guaranteed to see heaps of animals.

Ostrich, Amboseli National ParkCheetah, Amboseli National ParkCheetah, Amboseli National ParkAmboseli National ParkAmboseli National ParkAmboseli National ParkAmboseli National ParkWaterbuck, Amboseli National ParkAmboseli National Park

Whilst we were in Amboseli we decided we would treat ourselves and spend the 2 nights in a lodge. The first night we stayed at Ol Tukai which is right in the middle of the park with views out to to the swamp from your room where we could see elephants, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo as well as hear the hippos. It was great to have a really hot, long shower for a change and the food was great. The second night we stayed at Kilima lodge, just outside the southern park gate. This time we were in a “tent”, well at least the walls and roof were made of canvas, but that is about as close to a tent it got. Again the food was great and we even got a free 30 minute massage each. Both places were expensive but we negotiated them down on the price quite a bit, at Kilima we got just over 30% off. Both of us have to say though that we sleep better in our tent!

Kilima Lodge, Amboseli National ParkKilima Lodge, Amboseli National ParkKilima Lodge, Amboseli National Park

Mt Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National ParkWe did though finally manage to see Mt Kilimanjaro. It wasn’t completely clear, but we could see the bottom and the top, which has very little snow on it, with a band of clouds in the middle. Most of the day though it is hidden behind cloud and mist and you can’t see any of it at all.

Nairobi

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:07 pm
Jul 212011
 

Even though we asked the rangers and various other people which was the best road out of the Masai Mara to Nairobi in an attempt to prevent further damage to our car, the road out was worse than the road we took in! The road consisted of huge lumps of gravel deposited in some dirt as well as corrugations and dips. It was a most unpleasant drive until we finally reached the smooth tar – something we hadn’t seen in quite some time.

We spent 4 nights at Jungle Junction whilst we attended to our list of things to do. First on the list was to clean and reorganise our car. After having had milk spill in the carpet a week or so ago we had not really put things back the way they should be. It took us all day to wash our clothes (which were absolutely putrid), reorganise and clean the ten ton of dust out of our car.

The next day we had our trip to Toyota – what fun. We arrived at our appointment time, explained that we needed at least 1, if not 2, front shocks and a new battery, and told them we needed it back the same day. As usual this was a drama and had to be confirmed with the supervisor etc This took probably an hour before the car was booked in and we went to sit in the lounge. 3 hours later we tried to check on the status of the car and they were only just replacing the shocks! After 5 hours we were told that they didn’t have any batteries, oh and both of them need replacing! I’ve been pretty patient with Africa time, but this time I was NOT impressed! I politely told them that it would have been nice to have been told that several hours ago as then we would have had time to organise a battery ourselves from the heap of spare parts shops literally across the road, especially as the batteries run our fridge which we need to be working! They then decided that we could go with them to their battery supplier 500m down the road and they would fit the new batteries there, thank goodness! So after wasting our entire day at Toyota we left with 2 new shocks, 2 new batteries, the second battery compartment welded so the battery isn’t falling through the engine bay anymore and a clean car.

David Sheldrick Centre, NairobiOn our third day we decided to visit the David Sheldrick Trust and the Giraffe Centre. The David Sheldrick centre cares primarily for baby elephants that have been orphaned either through poaching or human\animal conflict. Some of the elephants that arrive at the centre are only a few weeks old whilst others are maybe 2 years old. They are raised at the centre until they are able to be moved to Tsavo National Park where they are continued to be looked after until they are ready to go off into the wild. They also have 2 orphaned rhinos that they care for. You can only visit the trust between 11-12 and it is a worthwhile quick stop if you are spending time in Nairobi. At the Giraffe Centre you are able to hand feed the giraffes and obviously see them extremely closely. They are HUGE animals up close! At the time of our visit there was a baby giraffe only a few weeks old which was very cute.

Giraffe Centre, NairobiGiraffe Centre, NairobiGiraffe Centre, Nairobi

Whilst at Jungle Junction we met another Aussie couple, Jean and Malcolm who shipped their vehicle over from Aus. They arrived here a few weeks before us, however they are heading up to London and then who knows from there. We spent quite a lot of time chatting to them, sharing route info and talking about the joys of overlanding (such as showers) that other people just don’t get. We also had dinner with them at a local Chinese restaurant, which was quite nice, cheap and a pleasant change. They are hanging around here whilst they wait and see if they can join a convey to Ethiopia.

We are off to Amboseli for a few days and then will return to Nairobi before we head off again.

Masai Mara

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:12 pm
Jul 172011
 

Masai MaraShortly after crossing the border we turned off the main road and headed towards the Masai Mara. We managed yet again to take a road that led us through villages and at times became a track with us having to climb over rough roads. At least though the road was not bad because of corrugations and stones, it was just a rough road, which is much more interesting to drive. The last part of the road makes its way down the escarpment and is quite steep and rocky at times requiring us to engage 4wd. The view of the Mara though was spectacular, miles and miles of grass plains. As we reached the bottom we passed a school bus. Surely it wasn’t going to negotiate the pass and the road we had just come down? Yep, it was. Loaded with school kids it turned and started up the road. Goodness knows how or if it made it.

After so many days of fantastic game driving in Tarangire, the Crater and the Serengeti we wondered how the Mara would hold up. Sure enough, it was absolutely amazing, making us again extend our stay to 3 nights. We camped in the park all 3 nights and heard lions every night all throughout the night as well as zebra, wildebeest and I think a leopard.

Wildebeest & Zebra migration across the Mara River, Masai MaraWe were extremely lucky and managed to time our visit so we could witness the migration crossing the Mara River (people we met later were there 2 weeks earlier and didn’t see it). It is a sight to behold with thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebras making their way to the river bank and crossing into the Mara triangle, with millions of them dotting the plains with black on either side of the river. There is pure chaos as the wildebeest follow each other, often making it to the other side where it is extremely difficult for them to climb out the other side when there is a much easier exit point 10 metres over. They panic as they attempt to scramble out up the rocks, many of them falling and struggling. The zebras seem to be more intelligent and tend to make their way directly to the easiest exit. The number of wildebeest that die in the process is astounding. The river is full of hundreds of dead bodies making easy feeding for the vultures. Some are taken by crocs, but most die through injuries, such as breaking legs or getting jammed between the rocks where they eventually die from exhaustion or drowning. It is impossible to capture the spectacle with a camera as you just can’t capture the chaos, the masses of animals, the sounds and the tension. We sat there each day watching for an hour or so in astonishment. We even saw crocs take down a wildebeest in the river twice. The whole thing is an amazing event to witness and we are so lucky to have seen it.

Wildebeest & Zebra migration across the Mara River, Masai MaraDead wildebeest in the Mara River, Masai MaraMigration, Masai Mara

The Mara is primarily about the wildebeest and zebras, but there are plenty of other animals around. We saw a variety of animals including:

9 lions Defassa waterbuck zebras impalas elephants
ostriches topis warthogs buffalos hyenas
Grant’s gazelles Thomson’s gazelles baboons giraffes crocodile
wildebeests black rhino dik-dik vultures  

 

Masai MaraAt times there were 7 or 8 different types of animals all grazing in the same area, pretty amazing. All the animals were used to cars and rarely moved away when we approached.

The first night we camped at the signposted public camp near park HQ, but it was down a rocky road, deep in amongst the trees and nowhere flat really to park our car. After speaking to a ranger we managed to find the other campsite, about a kilometre further down the road which was much nicer being up on a hill with views down to the plains. A bit of a long story, but on our second night we were told we would need 2 rangers at a cost of $20 each if we were going to camp. After explaining that we had camped the previous night without them, that we hadn’t budgeted for this and didn’t want them, much discussion and phone calls they agreed that if we signed something to see they would not be liable if something happened we could go without them. When we got to the other camp there was already someone there, another car also arrived and neither of them had rangers!

Grant's Gazelle, Masai MaraMasai MaraCrocodile, Masai MaraMasai MaraBlack Rhino, Masai MaraMasai Mara

The second car that arrived were 2 Aussies, Mark and Bansi, who have set up a safari Masai Marabusiness in Kenya and base themselves here with trips back to Aus. They were extremely helpful, assisting us with planning our new route through Kenya and providing all sorts of useful info.

The roads managed to take their toll on our car, and on the second day we blew one of our shocks, with the bushes completely destroyed. Luckily we managed to get the mechanic at the lodge to replace the bushes for us which would at least allow us to get to Nairobi without having to drive extremely slowly. Our primary battery died a few days ago and this will also need to be replaced in Nairobi. Nothing like African roads to destroy a vehicle.

Even after our amazing experiences in the week or so prior to the Mara, we were not disappointed. At this time of year the Mara is a spectacular place to visit.

Masai MaraRuppell's Griffon Vulture, Masai MaraTopi, Masai MaraMasai Mara

Musoma and on to Kenya

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:58 pm
Jul 142011
 

We left the Serengeti via the western corridor. We thought the road from the south was bad, but this was ridiculous. Several hours of bone jarring corrugations and rocks and very little wildlife to be seen made it a long journey. Pushing on to Musoma, we stayed at the Tembo Beach Hotel where we decided to eat in the restaurant as it was so cheap and we had eaten there before. We both ordered chicken curry, which turned out to be a leg and thigh of the smallest chicken in the world which was tough and the meat was black – not particularly appetising. At least the rice and chips were ok.

As we opened our car after dinner the most revolting stench emanated from it. On investigation it turned out that the horrendous roads we have endured over the last few days had managed to burst a long life milk container so we had milk through the carpet – ewwwwwwwww! I washed it out as much as I could and hoped it would get better. Nope. I have washed it as much as I can and it is significantly better, but I doubt we will ever get rid of the smell completely.

In the morning we ventured into town to try and get some fuel and food. Everyone kept telling us to go to the vege market in Market St. We drove around 4 times until I finally managed to glimpse the market behind the other buildings. Once again everyone welcomed me as I walked around and they did not try and charge inflated prices, definitely better than the supermarket. Whilst I was in the market a man came up to Wayne in the car claiming to be an immigration officer. Wayne insisted he show some ID, which he did. He then asked to see his passport, but Wayne told him they were locked away and showed him a photocopy. That seemed to satisfy him and they chatted. A bit weird but no harm done.

The border crossing was again pretty quick and straightforward on both sides. For Kenya we needed visas at $50 each and $40 for the car. The money changing touts pestered us as usual, telling us the next ATM was 160km away. Turns out the ATM was more like 160 metres away and we managed to get cash out and once again avoided them.

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