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In Mombasa we stayed on Diani Beach at the same resort, Leopard Beach, as last time, so we barely took any pictures. Parts of the resort were recently renovated and our particular room in a cottage got upgraded to a honeymoon suite, so the place was even nicer than we remembered. The grounds look something like this:



Read more... )
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Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark
Part 4: Sweetwaters
Part 5: Masai Mara
Part 6: Masai Mara (cont.)
Part 7: Masai Mara (cont.)
Part 8: Masai Mara (cont.)

Our frequent mention of leopards and how wonderful it would be to get to see one finally wore down our guide and he drove us to a different section of the park and there they were, two leopards well concealed in the bushes! We had all of five seconds to enjoy the glimpse of them through the foliage and then they were gone.



Read more... )
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Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark
Part 4: Sweetwaters
Part 5: Masai Mara
Part 6: Masai Mara (cont.)
Part 7: Masai Mara (cont.)

After the balloon ride, we were rejoined by our driver and two members of the group that decided to pass on the high flying experience, and went for another fun game drive.

We came across the same lion family from yesterday, this time with both lionesses in attendance. They were enjoying their breakfast (every bit as delicious as ours was, I am sure) and indulging in an after breakfast nap.



This is a superlong installment, but worth it, even if I do say so myself :) )

To be continued ...
riontel: (me)
Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark
Part 4: Sweetwaters
Part 5: Masai Mara
Part 6: Masai Mara (cont.)

In the morning we woke up extra early, bundled up and headed out to the Skyship Company for our very first balloon ride. We saw these balloons gliding over the Mara on our previous visit but didn't get enough time to organize a flight, so I made sure to have everything arranged beforehand, including leaving ourselves enough time to reschedule in case of bad weather. The weather on that morning was perfect and after watching the balloon get readied for the flight and listening to the very brief introductions and instructions from the pilot we got loaded into the basket and took off.



Bird's eye view of the Mara. )

To be continued...
riontel: (Default)
Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark
Part 4: Sweetwaters
Part 5: Masai Mara

After settling in and familiarizing ourselves with all Kichwa Tembo had to offer, we went on the first game drive in Masai Mara. Benedict, mindful of his potential eventual tip, inquired what we wanted to see the most. The only member of the Big Five we haven't seen yet - leopard, was our ready answer. That's a daunting task to set somebody, for you won't catch a leopard lounging around in the manner of lions or cheetahs, leopard, one of the most elusive denizens of the savanna, prefers to stay out of sight, hides in the trees and bushes and thoroughly blends in with the surroundings. While our guide was ponder on this quest, and subtly trying to figure out what we've seen already and if we would settle for something less than a leopard, we set out to enjoy what he had planned already.

Lion prides have their territories which are well known to the regular guides and park rangers. Benedict took us to see one of these prides, composed of two lionesses with seven cubs between them, as well as the alpha lion and his number two. They don't always all hang out together so we got to see a lioness babysitting seven cubs, while the other lioness was roaming elsewhere.



Warning! Cuteness overload! )

To be continued...
riontel: (Default)
Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark
Part 4: Sweetwaters

Nobody warned me beforehand but the flight from Sweetwaters to Masai Mara makes multiple stops, like a bus, and ours, of course, was to be the final stop. Thirteen years of shuttling around prepared me well for air travel, hardly anything disturbs me anymore, but three landings within minutes of each other were a bit much, my sensitive vestibular system was most distressed by the time we disembarked to be greeted by our new driver - Benedict. Landing strip we settled on was just that: a landing strip in an empty field. There isn't even a rudimentary airport but the driver set up a small snack table to greet us, with the most delicious oatmeal cookies I've ever tasted. I still regret not asking for the recipe. Thus having fortified us, Benedict drove us to Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, our home for the next three days. Masai Mara is not fenced in and animals freely move around the area so on our way to the camp we already got to see some of the local wild life.

The ever-vigilant and ubiquitous Topi antelope whose dominant males have a habit of climbing a handy termite mound to better monitor the area for possible challengers and predators. I think other herbivores use Topis as a warning system, Tommies and impalas tend to stick close by.



Read more... )

To be continued...
riontel: (Default)
Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru
Part 3: The Ark

Sweetwaters Game Reserve originally occupied a portion of Ol Pejeta ranch vast territory, but has since expanded to become Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a privately owned wild life sanctuary. There is still some cattle ranching being done but primarily it's an animal preserve. It features, aside from all the great game roaming the 90,000 acre territory, a waterhole within direct view of the dining hall and some of the better situated tents of Sweetwaters Tented Camp, where we stayed; chimpanzee sanctuary; mansion built by one of the previous owners and a notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, which we still haven't seen after two visits to the place; four out of the practically extinct population of the northern white rhinos; and great views of Mount Kenya.



Read more... )

To be continued ...
riontel: (me)
Part 1: Amboseli
Part 2: Lake Nakuru

Few hours and a brief stop at the Thomson's Falls (got to love scenic bathroom breaks) and we arrive at the Aberdares Country Club near Nyeri. It's a beautiful spot with well kept and carefully landscaped grounds, made even more visually beautiful by freely wondering peacocks. Now, if only they would shut up! There were peahens as well, but they were quite overshadowed by their mates.



Read more... )

To be continued ...
riontel: (Default)
Part 1: Amboseli

After two action filled days at Amboseli we drove to Lake Nakuru, on the way getting bogged down in traffic on Mombasa Road through Nairobi (those roundabouts are evil!) and getting acquainted with local traffic police. Brief encounter with the cops cost our driver, and ultimately us, even though I asked for a bathroom, not for him to go faster, mere 6k Kenyan shillings at ~83KSH per dollar with official speeding fine set at 50k. Remind you of any place? After a lunch interlude at a popular all-you-can-eat meat spot called "Carnivore" (while others partook of ostrich and crocodile meat along with other more mundane bites, I quite enjoyed my "vegetarian" fish, thanks for asking) on the outskirts of Nairobi and a short stop at an overlook point for Rift Vallely, we did reach Lake Nakuru. By then it was too late for a proper game drive but the route to our camp was enough to realize that the lake has changed dramatically since we saw it last in 2011. Surrounding areas were all flooded, previously accessible roads were washed away and flamingos were nowhere in sight. Eventually we did come across a puddle situated right next to some sort of sewage collector where remaining holdouts (сынок, есть такое слово - Родина) were congregating in pale semblance of previous pink glory. According to some sources the places to be nowadays if you are a flamingo are Lakes Bogoria, Turkana, Oloiden and Natron.



Explore Lake Nakuru. )

To be continued ...
riontel: (Default)
I've been trying to motivate myself to write my usual travel report but for a variety of reasons I decided to settle for a much abbreviated version. There will be lots of pictures though.

We spent two weeks in Kenya, eight days of them on safaris through five of Kenyan National Parks, staying respectively at: Amboseli Lodge at Amboseli, Flamingo Hill Camp at Lake Nakuru, The Ark in the Aberdare National Park, Sweetwaters Camp in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Kichwa Tembo in Masai Mara.

Amboseli made it on the list for its views of Mount Kilimanjaro, last time we only managed to see the very tip of the summit peaking through the clouds while flying by. It was also a good starting point to ease our companions into the wonder that is Kenyan wild life and to unwind after a very long flight from NY, so we spent two nights there.



I am not kidding about lots of pictures! )

To be continued ...
riontel: (Default)
This pretty much concludes my travelogue. )

The trip was wonderful. Kenya is a beautiful country, with friendly people, great food and astonishing sights. If you ever get a chance to go, you must. We are already panning another trip :)

Part I: Arrival in Nairobi
Part II: Nairobi
Part III: Masai Mara
Part IV: Masai Mara
Part V: Masai Mara
Part VI: Lake Nakuru
Part VII: Sweetwaters
Part VIII: Mt. Kenya Safari Club
Part IX: Mombasa
Part X: Mombasa
riontel: (Default)
On the first day, while we were checking in at the Leopard Beach Hotel, a girl came up to the front desk and caught our eye. She was as red as a freshly boiled lobster and looked distressed. We overheard her complaining that during the low tide she walked to the reef in the company of one of the locals. Once she was done with the nature walk, he refused to bring her back, claiming that the "highway" out was not available and if she started walking by herself she would surely die. So she ended up stranded for a couple of hours in the middle of the ocean with no sunblock and burnt to a crisp.

We took her story to heart. When we decided to check out the ocean floor at low tide we slathered ourselves in sunblock, making sure no stray UV ray was getting through. We also planned to ignore the helpful locals but that proved quite impossible, they latch onto you like lampreys the moment you step up to the water. Unfortunately we left our camera behind so you won't get to see all the sea urchins, snakes, stone fish and other poisonous critters that crawl all over the bottom and whose nasty properties were described to us in great detail. After a long, hot and educational walk through ocean hazards we got to a sand bar where I finally expressed readiness to head back. That's where you get the talk about how difficult life is for the local population and, mixed in, reminders of how dangerous the walk back is for one who doesn't know the way. After some haggling over the price they took us back to the shore via a winding sandy mostly sea-urchin-free "highway". BTW, we were wearing water shoes but one of the local guys went barefoot. He claimed his grandfather was a medicine man and taught him how to protect himself. I suspect the skin on his feet was thicker than the soles of our shoes.



Mombasa City )

On the way back we again got to see the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro just barely sticking out of the clouds.

riontel: (Default)
I am going to mostly skip over the weekend, which involved lots of interactions with various relatives, some shopping and an unwelcome reintroduction to bucket bath. Well, I'll only tell you about the bucket bath. I have not had the displeasure of experiencing one since we left Ukraine but water is heated by electricity and we arrived home to discover that the lights were out. Since the compound N.'s stepmom lives in doesn't have a backup generator, servants had to heat up buckets of water for us to refresh ourselves. Funniest thing was that everybody expected me to be both horrified and not knowing how to deal with the situation. They should try visiting Odessa. We didn't use to have water for months on end. Electricity wasn't that reliable either. And no backup generators or boilers, which left one with ... bucket baths, but only when cold water was available. Which wasn't always. Anyhow, you get the idea. Back to our third world country. We took a bucket bath, called water company to come refill the tank, since the pump also requires electricity and went on with our weekend.

On Monday we flew out to the coast, Mombasa. This is actually not the plane we took. N. thought it was our plane because he just didn't want to believe that he would have to trust his life to the tiny little Twin Otter sitting nearby.



Read more... )
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To get to our next destination, Mount Kenya Safari Club, we had to cross the equator. So, we were driving along and I noticed a sign proclaiming the equator to be right there on that spot. On my request to stop and take a picture I was told, however, that down the road there is a nicer equator. So, here is me on the nicer equator.



The paraphernalia visible next to me is used to demonstrate Coriolis effect. )

We could have kept on wondering around the orphanage but we had to be in Nairobi by dinner so we said our goodbyes, got in the car and got back on the road. It's not a long drive, only about three hours, and as you drive in what basically is a ditch you can observe massive road construction projects, Chinese are building up Kenyan infrastructure. Maybe next time we go we'll actually be able to drive on a pavement.
riontel: (Default)
On the way to Sweetwaters we stopped to take a look at the Thomson Falls. Actually, we had to go to the bathroom and the falls just happened to be conveniently located next to the nearest facilities. They recently started charging for access to the falls and they are completely not worth the price. On top of being rather lame, they are surrounded by souvenir shops and you get accosted by a crowd of people aggressively trying to sell you something. I ended up being photographed with some guys posing in Kikuyu costume, and with chameleons, (who were much cuter than the fake tribesmen) but you can find and manhandle them completely free if you just rummage around the surrounding greenery.



Read more... )
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Fields outside of Masai Mara were dotted with wildebeests, a large antelope, also known as gnu. If you like watching wild life documentaries about Africa you probably have seen them during migration, when about two million of them move from Serengeti in Tanzania into Masai Mara in Kenya, crossing Mara river in the process and providing a great feast to the local crocodiles. Migration starts around July, high season for safaris, so we didn't get to see it, we just got to see some beasts that didn't move back to Serengeti yet for whatever reason.



February-March is a calving season for many animals which is why we got to see so many different young ones, including little wildebeesties.



From the plains of Masai Mara we made our way to Lake Nakuru )

We only stayed at Nakuru overnight and left for Sweetwaters early in the morning.
riontel: (Default)
The next day we were woken up by our personal tent attendant at 5:45am. He brought a pot of freshly brewed coffee for N. and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for me and made sure we were ready for our morning game drive.

Once on our way, we spent few minutes observing a sunrise over the Mara and then returned to the business of animal watching.



Read more... )



And then we were off to our next destination: Lake Nakuru.
riontel: (Default)
Sunday started with another walk down the memory lane, a visit to N.'s old school, St. Mary's (yes, it is a Catholic school). He's been praising the school to me for years and wanted to show that he wasn't making up any of the stories. I left suitably impressed with the buildings, the grounds, which include fields and facilities for every ball game known to Brits, and the pool. My whole school would probably fit in their squash courts. I also looked for a memorial plaque commemorating the years N. spent there but it hasn't been dedicated yet.



The rest of the day involved family interactions, we threw a party for the local friends and family, but I'll spare you the details.

Monday... )
riontel: (Default)
Our second day in Nairobi started with a particularly important task: a visit to the travel agency to pay for all the scheduled trips for the rest of our stay, including the car for the safari. With that out of the way, we got to the serious business of touristing with David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.



More cute elephants... )

From the orphanage we moved to the Giraffe Centre.



Giraffes are also pretty cute... )

Giraffes were not feeling too social, it was too hot and most of them stuck to the shade away from noise and tourists.

We made an attempt to visit Karen Blixen home-museum. She is the author of "Out of Africa", which I haven't read. Apparently there was some movie I haven't seen as well. I've read Joy Adamson's "Born free" but there weren't any museums for that. When we found out that the charge for non-residents was eight times the price of entry for residents we turned away. N. forgot his resident card at home and I didn't have any interest in any museums. BTW, it's universal in Kenya that tourists pay more. All my tickets and hotel room charges were at least twice the price of N.'s.

We replenished ourselves at the Carnivore restaurant, which up until 2004 used to serve all sorts of game meats, such as zebra, antelopes, buffalo, etc., but has now been forced by law to move to more traditional beef and lamb with some crocodile and ostrich thrown in. While my meat-eating companions enjoyed the all-you-can eat feast brought by waiters on huge skewers and cut to order by machetes I enjoyed the show and had some grilled red snapper.

Final images of the day )
riontel: (Default)
Решение съездить в Кению нас застало врасплох. То есть мы некоторое время шутили на эту тему, Н. рассказывал мне истории о его замечательной полу-исторической родине, мы приценивались и прикидывали, а потом вдруг раз и я обнаружила себя в кенийском посольстве с набором документов для визы и билетами на руках. Через две недели, в пятницу 11 марта, так же неожиданно, мы себя обнаружили уже в Кении. Летели мы туда обходным путем, чтоб враги не догнали, через ЮАР, потому что бесплатным билетам в пересадочный пункт не заглядывают. Перелет занял всего 20 часов, так что несмотря на взбадривающую пробежку во время двадцатиминутной пересадки в Йоханнесбурге, после первых 15 часов пути, до Найроби мы добрались довольно убитые.

В аэропорту нас встретили родители Н. и через пять минут после приземления (мачеха Н. работает в одной из местный авиакомпаний, так что нас в страну впустили, как родных) мы уже были погружены в машину и на пути домой. Трафик в Найроби и вообще вождение в Кении заслуживают отдельного опуса, так что я их упомяну позже, а пока я глазела по сторонам. Мне были обещаны слоны и жирафы гуляющие прямо у въезда в аэропорт, за воротами которого находится Национальный Парк Найроби. К сожалению, за последние 16 лет город несколько подрос и границы парка обросли огромными billboards, за которыми вполне спокойно могло спрятаться не одно стадо. Завтра, успокоили несколько разочарованную меня, животные будут всенепременно, в приюте для слонов и жирафов, им там убежать некуда.

Дома мы были устроены в отдельной комнате со всеми удобствами, накормлены (мои кулинарные предпочтения были предусмотрительно задокументированы и отправлены еще до нашего отъезда), напоены свежевыжатым соком и отправлены спать с обещанием обширной программы на следующий день.

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