You can't leave Kenya without one

Trip Start May 25, 2011
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34
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Trip End Jul 30, 2011


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Where I stayed
Keekorok Lodge
What I did
Safari in the Reserve

Flag of Kenya  , Western,
Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Masai Mara - need we say more?

Many of you have already seen and commented on our pictures that we have up on Facebook. As an added treat for those of you who are followers of Sandy's blog, the pictures that I put up here tonight will be unique; they will only be available to those of you who look here.

We certainly have gone through many emotions over the past week: sad to leave Kakamega, worried and wondering about how we will re-adjust to Western living, excited to be going to "the Mara", nervous about Nairobi, and certainly gratified that we were able to share this trip with all of you. Thank you for being with us; it has been a great ride!

I will be leaving Nairobi tomorrow night (Friday), while Sandy won't fly out until Saturday morning.  Despite that fact, she will catch up quite a bit of time on me "in the air" due to her more direct route. Such is the life when you use AirMiles.  I will be waiting for her in Toronto only a matter of 3 - 4 hours (depending on whether Thunder Bay's winds of last night are found in Toronto, blowing the roof off of THEIR airport terminal.)

In between now and then, we are invited to travel up with Philip to meet his family just 30 minutes north of Nairobi. Thankfully, he will come down to meet us here at ACK Guest House in order to assist us in choosing the correct matatu(s) to find his home. Here's hoping he does not make us run more than 10k in the process. Then, we will have met the families of both of our Kenyan friends and housemates in their homes.

As we approached the Mara in our own private 7-seater safari van, we could not help but wonder where all the excitement was.  The long five hour drive from Nairobi (they picked us up directly from ACK) over a mixture of wild and crazy, dusty and bumpy roads makes us think: "when I do this next time, I will surely take the plane".

And the lodges themselves that I had been researching on the web - where were they?  The signs told us that they were somewhere down this road and that road, but the scenery at each of the crossroads reminded you of being in the middle of a wild west movie set.

It was not until we approached the Sekenani Gate of the Mara that we got a feel for the upcoming adventure. Thomas, our driver, had to take our money in to the guardhouse. Meanwhile, many Masai women were suddenly at my window, thrusting different crafts into my face and they dropping them in my lap. Where I had been quite upset and unnerved by this experience on previous encounters with "hawkers" such as this, I was suddenly at piece with the process. Partly, I think, due to the fact that I knew we would be leaving there very shortly. And partly because I realized that I was in control.  In fact, I ended up buying 5 pieces for a total of $20 US; quite acceptable to me and apparently to them as well.

Thomas was back, and putting up the roof of the van for the rest of the time in the Mara.  We drove another 25 metres and there on our right were a pair of giraffes!  Wow!  I asked Thomas about the borders of the Reserve, and he confirmed for me what I had read before leaving Thunder Bay: there are no physical boundaries and the animals come and go as they please from one side to the other. Another divine coincidence that we did not see them until just the right moment. 

From that point on, we saw zebras, wart hogs, more giraffes, buffalo, and then impalas, topi, Thompson's gazelles, and all manner of other gazelles. They range in size from 4 kg (the tiny dik-dik, which we saw) up to 80 kg of the eland, which was also ticked off our list.  So now we are starting to think of what else we need to see, and we haven't even checked in to our hotel yet. 

As we turned down the road that said "Keekorok Lodge - 10 km", I realized two things: it won't be long before I can get out of this tin can, and, the grasses and foliage around us have changed from brush to lush.  More animals sightings, and there was Keekorok over the hill. A family of giraffe was there to welcome us in.
  
As we stepped out, a ceremonially dressed Masai warrior hands us a cold damp towel to wipe the copious dust off of our faces and someone else offers us a cold drink of juice as we are seated temporarily while our driver tells them who we are.  All is in order, and we are off to our room. We agree with Thomas when we will meet for our evening game drive as we depart.

The grounds are beautiful.  The brochure did not lie. And truly, we were blessed by having Sandy's friend Marie recommend her friend Joel to pick the place for us.  Joel arranged for Thomas to be our driver, and all we had to do was show up. (and pay, of course)

Here's the funny thing about Keekorok: there is a beautiful swimming pool in the centre of the grounds. Not only did we not ever feel inclined, but we only saw a total of about 7 others even set foot in the water.  I did, however, enjoy a Tusker at the pool bar while Sandy had a massage in the tented spa the next afternoon. On the other hand, we can't remember ever staying at a hotel where everyone was up and out of their rooms by 6am voluntarily. It was definitely a case of the early bird gets the worm.  And so would they!  (the animals: they hunt mostly first thing in the morning, and then later in the afternoon)

I will let the pictures tell you most of the story about the actual game drives. A couple of items do come to mind, which I will relate to you here. First of all, despite only seeing three of "the Big Five", and despite waiting at a crossing of the Mara River for two hours while we waited to see if just one of those zebras or wildebeest would be brave enough to start the swim across, I must say that I was not disappointed.  There was lots to talk about, pictures to be taken, and serious thinking about God's creation all around us to consider.

When Michael told me that I would regret it if I did not go on safari after completion of our volunteer time here, I now know what he meant.  Not because we needed to do something for ourselves, not in order to feed the Kenyan economy, but rather to get closer to our own reason for being.  It is a very contemplative time while on safari, scanning the vistas both short and long, sporadic interruptions to ask Thomas to stop for a picture.  We in fact were the spotters, with grasses being too high in most places for him to get a good look while avoiding the rocks, gullies, and other safari vehicles on the "roads".

In most cases, we were driving on paths that were well used and had been worn down over many years of use.  A few trails had been blocked off for one reason or another (usually to allow the grasses to re-generate.)  If your driver was found to be off of one of these paths or trails, he was subject to a 10,000 Ksh fine.  Presumably, some customers tell their drivers that they will pay the fine; just get me closer so that I can get that best image.  You will see my "reporting" of those types in a couple of the photos herein. The ironic thing is that they had the best cameras with the longest lenses already.  (of course they did!)

Things are cheap here in Kenya.  We had a very nice dinner in downtown Nairobi last night for 64$US, and that included a nice Cab Sauvignon from Italy.  You do not tip. Books, even with a Canadian price showing on the back cover, cost less than the Americans would charge you. I bought a book called "Safari Companions Kenya" today downtown for 1340 Ksh. (translation: less than twelve dollars CDN)  It has all the animals, plus photographers tips, plus the other parks that we did not go to; and I am helping the Kenyan economy!)

Well, it is now passed 8pm and Sandy has turned in from reading her book. I will take that as a sign. I was fortunate enough to have a 90 minute nap this afternoon after our meeting with Livingstone, so I have a little more energy left. I will hopefully be able to add a goodly number of images to this blog to fill it out. You may need to come back to it once or twice though, as I may run out of gas and add more tomorrow.

Take care all of you, and again thanks for following our adventures.  I suspect that Sandy will want to add one more before leaving Kenya even with our day tomorrow sounding very full with our visit with Philip.

See you in Thunder Bay, if not at Michael and Linda's on Sunday.
Cheers!
John

p.s. - I did not get off unscathed. It is now Friday afternoon, and I am back in our room while Sandy has gone up to Philip's place to meet his family. As I was finishing up the blog last night, the stomach began to turn cartwheels. So, Ciprofloxacin is now my friend, having taken the first one this morning. Five more to go over the next three days. We think it was the chicken gravy/sauce that I had yesterday at lunch.  jg
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Comments

Barry on

Have a safe trip home. I enjoyed reading your blog and can't wait to hear more about your trip when you get back to good old Thunder Bay.

John Grabish on

SAndy & John
Your travels through Kenya sure stirred up a lot of wonderful memories of our Uganda trip & Safari. I can almost feel your excitement through your blog & pic's .
Gosh this is a wonderful memory you both will cherish & if it could be bottled the value would be so very high
God Bless & safe journey home
John & Carole

Michael Frederiksen on

You and David Livingstone and Ernest Hemmingway are in the same band of adventurers...what a blog and the pics are awesome. Bring some Tusker home with you.

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