Saturday, July 27, 2019

Kenya - Our Kenya Family Adventure

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Czech Republic | Kenya

We departed Prague early and were wished off to Doha on Qatar Airlines.  The flight was an easy five hours.  Along with loads of free movies to watch, we enjoyed a really nice lunch and free beverages.  We landed and were met with a blast of 1`10^ heat.  Thankfully the airport has aircon.  We enjoyed a really nice two hour layover in a really beautifully equipped airport.  Our next leg to Nairobi mirroed the first.  A comfortable wide-body, great seats, and another really nice meal.  The service level of Qatar matched all of our expectations from an airline rated in the top five worldwide.

We arrive in Nairobi just before midnight.  Immigration was a breeze since we had applied early on for E-Visas.  We were met by our driver and taken to a really nice four star hotel in the center of the city.  We were all comfortably in bed by 1AM and excited to be back in my No. 1 favorite country in the entire world.  Apologies to our adopted con Surya, Nepal has to accept No.

After breakfast we were met by our day guide, Kabiru, and wisked off the Nairobi National Park Animal Orphanage were we enjoyed a really nice privately guided tour of the facility.l  We were able to see up close and personal, many of the resident animal rescued from the wild and restored back to health.  It was a great experience and nice way to welcome Rock and Susy to Kenya.

Next up was up was a quick visit to the Giraffe Center for a personal encounter with the tall and gentle critters.  It was great fun watching the kids feed and pet the big guys, and there was a group of school children visiting as well that made for great big smiles.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the David Sheldrick Foundation to view the baby elephants.  We were introduced to 13 babies ranging form four moths to four years old.  Each had a remarkable story of survival.  We were entertained by their feedings and were able to pet them as they came close to the rope border line.

We had lunch at a traditional colonial African estate complete with beautiful gardens and large, roaming verandas.  Three of us enjoyed Ostrich burgers and they were really delicious.  We invited Kabiru to join us and enjoyed a grand conversation about his family and his life.

N|ext up we visited the Karen Blixen House and Museum for a private tour of the grounds and the house itself.  Our guide, Anderson, was a member of the Mountain Masai and very charming.  We ended our day with a tour of the Kazuri Bead Factory.  Kazuri is a collective of single mothers, now celebrating their 40th year.  We toured the workshops and watched the ladies make their incredible beads.  A visit to the gift shop ended up with a few special purchases.

Kabiru drove us back into the city center and on the way we passed the largest slums in Africa.  It was nice to see many improvements, including a new clinic and several large schools.  We enjoyed a quiet evening dinner on the rooftop of the hotel before retiring.  Our safari began early the next morning.We were met bright and early by our tour company and our driver, Josephett, a gentle  giant, towering well over my 6'2".  He was as kind and accommodating as could be. We had booked a group safari (up to eight people) and were the only ones in our van. We had the entire vehicle, and Joe, for the full seven days. The four of us had plenty of room to stretch out, move around, and the big windows were wonderful. The roads, although improved for Kenya, as still a "free massage" and the drives in between parks are long. Kenya is not hot because of its elevation, but the dust can get a bit much.  

We stopped at that top of the escarpment for the Great Rift Valley.  This was a short two hours out of Nairobi.  There we viewed the vast valley far below and the kids did a bit of shopping at one of the many curio shops.  Then it was down into the valley itself, and across to the town of Narok, center for the administration of the Masai Mara.  We had a lunch stop at a local, upgraded cafe with good food and clean restrooms.  Shortly after leaving Narok the paved road ended and for the next three hours we rocked back and forth and got pretty dusted.
Checking the undercarriage and skidplates before hitting the road.

 8,000 feet above the Rift Valley floor.

 And the fun began.  This for four hours.

We reached our first "camp," the Rhino Lodge.  It is one km from the gates to the the Masai Mara. It is a tented camp, each "tent" being an actual room with queen bed and private bath. It was very clean and comfortable and the staff were overwhelmingly accommodating. The food was great, plenty of it, fresh and tasty.  Our "tented" camp were a collection of nicely built enclosures with tented rooms suspended within.  Each has a nice tiled bathroom with shower.

 Mosquito nets and they were plenty of repellent.
 Dining hall.

Nice, clean kitchen.

Joe took us out on a late afternoon game drive. He was an excellent spotter. We saw 12 different mammals and plenty of each in the first two hours.  The HIGHLIGHT came when we spotted a leopard in the bush.  Our driver was so surprised and excited that he waived his hand and scared it off...just in time, Rick captured a photo to prove the sighting.  From that point on Joe had to stop each safari van we passed to report the leopard sighting.  It was that unusual and special.  We watched the sunset over the Mara before returning to camp for our evening meal and a good rest.  

 Playful hyena.

We were up before dawn the next day for what would turn out to be almost 10 hours long and full of adventure.  We started following the great migrations and the thousands of animals. It was amazing at the river where we perched from an outstanding vantage point as it all transpire.  Hippos and crocs stood guard as thousands crossed the water.  We were there for well over hours, ate our lunch in the van watching the spectacle.
 Watching the sunrise.

 Secretary bird.
 Cheetah brothers.

 Rick and Susy just this far away.
 EVERY brown, black and white speck seen in the distance is an animal.
 Thousands upon thousands.

 Vultures on a kill
 Maribou Stork

 Crocs on the wait.

 Parked above the river.

 And so it begins.

Our next morning we enjoyed a guided tour of the nearby Masai Village.  We were led around by the son of one of the chiefs.  I have visited this village several times in the past and things had changed.  Modern times often bring changes...sometimes not to great.  The village was not as well kept or "authentic" as it has been in the past.  The "warriors" wore regular clothes under the robes and they all had cell phones.  The huts were mostly unoccupied and the animal corral was gone.  They danced and sang for us, Rick got to jump.  We saw a demonstration of fire starting the toured one of the huts.  It was all a bit commercialized and while I was glad to see that progress in diet, health, and education had been achieved, the Masai appear to be loosing their culture.  To our surprise, the owner of the company joined us at this point and road along for the next three days.

Our next stop was Lake Nakuru for a full day game drive.  The safari company upgraded us to a very nice, local lodge where we had WiFi and the VIP suite.  We enjoyed a full day game drive of the park, visiting the flamingos and a huge group of rhinos!  At the end of the day we drove two hours to Lake Naviasha where we stayed again at a lodge instead of camping.   

In the morning we drive to the lake for a boat cruise and walking safari.  Our guide was very plesant and knowledgable and we walked a few miles through the forests and viewed lost of critter up lions in the


 Our gudie Stanley.


After our hike we drove back to Nairobi where we dropped off the boss.  It was another long and dusty five hours to Amboseli with a surprise at the end of the bumpy road.  Fred upgraded us to a four star luxury safari lodge in Amboseli where we enjoyed two huge game drivers and amazing service.
Our full day game drive of the park was awesome...sans Bobbie who contracted "revenge of the mountain gods" and stayed in bed the entire day.  Rick and Susy got it too but there were troopers and with the help of some Imodium made it through the day.  We say hundreds...HUNDREDS... of elephants.  And, the big surprise came in the form of hippos and flamingos in the desert park now that water has returned and there were huge pools and marshes.  Amazing.

 Nesting ostriches

Egyptian geese
 Blue crane


 Great white herons

Hyena den
 Pelicans...IN AMBOSELI


 And hippos walking in the heat.  Amazing.

 We hiked up to the top of the observation hill where we watched the landscape and ate our lunch.

 Lovely birds were are lunch companiions...and share in the wealth.

 Another secretary bird.

 Royal Crowned Cranes
 And hundreds of more elephants.


 More ostriches

 Huge lava spew for miles around Kilimanjaro.
The morning of our seventh day we returned to Nairobi a bit beat up.  We got back a bit after noon and spent the rest of the day in our air conditioned rooms.  The next day we visited the City Market, the building a re-purposed zeppelin, hanger from WW!, where the kids bought more trinkets and we acquired a new mask.  We then visited the national museum ending our day at a very nice, upscale restaurant for our farewell dinner.

The museum had a nice collection of artifacts and native art.  The early man exhibit was very well done, and it was a nice, clean, well organized site.

 The local dinosaur of Nairobi
CJs in Nairobi is in a French styled atrium with a western and indian menu.  They even had fajitas...

The kids departed later that night, only to be deplaned due to a mechical problem...they ended up staying a full day more at a hotel, put up by the airline.  We departed early the next morning on a two hour flight to Dar es Salaam.  This was by far the best family holiday yet and we love our kids so very much.  We will not see them again until January 2021 in Santiago, Chile at the beginning of our last year abroad.