Heather, Sharon and I are off on another adventure. Those smoking hot last minute travel package deals are just too hard to resist. A weekly newsletter listed a great deal for a few days in Kenya including game drives, airfare from the U.S., hotels, meals, guides, etc. and with Heather tracking down a popular safari guide company in Tanzania, we’ve created a nearly two-week adventure at a fraction of the normal cost.
We meet up in NYC and board a plane for Amsterdam, and then another for Nairobi before arriving at our hotel late the next day. Landing at night in a foreign country disorients me, but it’s not hard for us to weave our way through the arrivals crowd and out to our transport which will take us to our hotel in Nairobi for our first sleep in 36 hours.
The hotel is centrally located and seems like a relaxing oasis in the midst of this hectic city. Frogs croak in a courtyard pond as we make our way to our rooms. The next morning we have breakfast next to the pool.
Our safari guide meets us in the hotel lobby and helps us pile into Landcruisers to depart for Naivasha. We get our first glimpses of Nairobi during daylight hours.
Just outside Nairobi we reach and overlook and get a view of the Great Rift Valley. A long straight two-lane road makes its way down the escarpment to the valley floor.
We watch cat-sized animals below the viewing platform as they burrow and rummage. A man loitering near the parking lot says these small animals, hyrax, are relatives of the elephant but I think he is teasing us and believes us to be gullible tourists. Only later do I find out that he was telling the truth.
Buses and cars pull over at the busy overlook to admire the view before continuing on their way down onto the wide plain. There’s a snack bar and the obligatory souvenir shop in case we want to get a head start on our shopping.
The weather is mild, not too warm, not raining. We are here at the time of the short rains, but they haven’t started yet so we’re in luck. That means fewer mosquitoes and better game viewing.
Our tour group is made up of 12 people (all 12 are Americans) just enough to fill two Landcruisers. We carry on to our hotel, get checked in and go grab a late lunch before heading out on our first game-watching safari (Swahili for journey).
Our hotel is perched on the edge of Lake Naivasha. Armed guards watch us as we walk down the access road toward the waters edge. It takes me a moment to realize the guards are monitoring a small family of Hippos submerged only a few strides off shore. Two pairs of ears and eyes break the surface just before a baby pops up for a breath. Our group walks nearly to the edge of the water before some of us realize the threat that exists. Hippos are notoriously dangerous and fast, and there isn’t enough ground between us for the guards liking. One of the guards comes to ask us to move back. And lucky for us it’s just in time, because the family of hippos decides to come out for a few minutes.
Boats anchored along the shore a short walk from the hippo family wait to take us out to Crescent Island. Our first game drive will be done from a boat.
I’m amazed at how many hippos there are…they’re absolutely everywhere.
Cormorants and fish eagles fly overhead looking for places to rest, some finding refuge on dead tree branches. Our pilot leaves the shore and points our boat toward the island.
As we approach the shore I think I see one of the tall slender Acacia trees move, but then realize what I thought were trees are giraffes hidden in the shade a single acacias. They wander gracefully between the trees grazing among the branches of the canopy.
We drift along the reeds and lilies for a few minutes quietly watching a dozen giraffe before continuing on.
Zebras, water bucks and other animals graze along the waters edge and in the shade of the trees further back from shore. Pelicans lounge in the marshy in-between of the lake until we disturb them.
Our puttering boat meanders along the lake for an hour or so before returning to the landing near our hotel. It’s a wonderfully relaxing introduction to what I hope will be a fantastic week or two of wildlife watching.
Time for dinner and a drink before crawling into bed under a mosquito net. Must remember to take my daily anti-malarial med.