Friday, January 30, 2015

Africa -- January, 2015 (Days 16 & 17)

January 26 and January 27, 2015

We left Mara Camp at 6:50 a.m. doing a game drive on the way out.  A little after 8 we exited Masai Mara then spent about 70 minutes on the TERRIBLE road before hitting tarmac and a decent road.  We stopped at the souvenir stand to pick up beadwork that we’d ordered when we stopped there before entering the national park.  (The souvenir stores also have the highest quality, western-style, bathrooms – hence assuring stops will be made by tourists.)

At 11 we left the souvenir place hurrying to get to and through Narok, the chief city of the Masai area.  Patrick had learned that a large demonstration was being planned to protest the poor condition of public services (roads) in the area caused by the misuse of funds by the governor of the region, a protest that was intended to block the road we needed to take.  Although we all agreed the demonstrators had a legitimate gripe (we’d ridden on that road!), we didn’t want to be delayed so appreciated Patrick’s skilled driving.  We saw large crowds gathering, most wearing red as the Masai do, but made it through Narok before the actual demonstration began.

We later learned (saw TV coverage while at the airport) that the demonstration had occurred and had resulted in some violence with injuries and one person dead.  Mary later found some written coverage of the event:   

Before arriving in Nairobi we made a final pit/souvenir stop.  There was a view over the Rift Valley and a map showing how extensive the Rift Valley is.

We arrived about 1:30 at the hotel where a day room had been reserved.  Some went off to the Market to do some final shopping.  I stayed at the hotel, lunched, and took a shower.  The shoppers returned, final packing was done, and we left for the airport at 4:45.  Had a little dinner and waited a long time to board.  Takeoff happened at 10:50 p.m.  I slept about 5 hours in two stretches (not bad) and arrived in Amsterdam at 4:42 a.m. (1/27) local time for a five hour wait until the flight to the Twin Cities left. 

Take-off was at 10:25 a.m. and after almost a 9 hour flight, arrived at MSP at 12:20 p.m.  The trip required about 24 hours in airports and planes and another 10 hours of traveling if one includes the trip from Masai Mara to Nairobi.  Very good to be home!

Africa - January, 2015 (Days 14 [p.m.], 15, & 16 [a.m.])

January 24 (afternoon), January 25, and January 26 (morning), 2015

The vans were loaded early, good-byes were said as the group divided, and we headed out of Lake Nakura National Park at 7:50 a.m. on Jan. 24. 

At 8:30, after some more animal viewing, we left the park gate.  Five of our group of ten were headed for Nairobi to do shopping on behalf of Give Us Wings and then take off that evening for Amsterdam.  Jered, Lea Anne, and David would return directly home to the Twin Cities; Cammie and Rob would fly off to England for a few days visiting friends.

The remaining five of us (Sharon, Mary, Jennifer, Therese, and I) had signed up for a mini-safari in Masai Mara National Park.  So Patrick, with the five of us, headed in one direction while Muli, with the returning five, headed in another.  For a while the road was relatively smooth – good enough for me to write in my journal and even download pictures onto the computer.  However, as we got into Masai territory, the road deteriorated badly.  Patrick did the best job he could in finding the smoothest part, but it was impossible given the poor condition of the road.  We were driving through the Rift Valley, and Patrick provided information as we drove.

We saw a few wildebeest outside the park limits.  There would be no wildebeest within the park since they take part in the October migration into the Serengeti (an adjacent national park located in Tanzania).  The small group we saw also migrates out of Masai Mara but go in the opposite direction, staying within the Masai grazing areas.  Both groups migrate back into Masai Mara at the same time.  Seems amazing to me.

The park entrance:


The roads, while still unpaved, were much better within the park than outside, showing that the national parks do a better job than the government of supporting roads.  It was amazing to me that Patrick could find his way to the lodge; there were no signs, and roads ran off in all directions.  One must have a GREAT sense of direction to be a guide here.

We were excited to see giraffes, lions, and elephants as we drove in.  Since there were no elephants in Lake Nakura National Park, this was a first for this trip.

We didn’t arrive at Mara Camp until 3:30, late for lunch.  However, they still fed us, and we got our suitcases to our platform tents before leaving at 4:45 for a game drive.

On this drive we saw many of the same animals we’d seen in Lake Nakura and a lot of new ones.  To Patrick’s surprise, we saw three zebra standing together.  Since zebra, like wildebeest, participate in the great migration, they are all supposed to be in the Serengeti, not in Masai Mara.  Apparently these got left behind.

We did several game drives; saw some of the same animals frequently, others were a one-time happening.  The van required we be a close group.

We saw many amazing animals, some at a distance, some up close and personal.  It was exciting seeing the cheetah mom with three cubs as she moved rapidly across the park, stopping from time to time to let the kids catch up.

We saw both Masai and Rothschild giraffes (differences are subtle).

Impalas fighting for dominance while a warthog ignores them.

                             We saw only one Reed Buck.  I assume there were others.

 The cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals to be found.  Bad eyesight; great smelling.


A lion family with 5 females and about the same number of cubs.  Any mom will nurse any cub.  We were close enough to hear the nursing cubs purring.

 We saw several hyenas, one leopard (being nocturnal and shy, they're difficult to find), and two jackals walking down the road at the end of the day (hence out of focus because of low light).

There were also a lot of birds, colorful and interesting.  It was especially exciting for me to see the crowned cranes – much different from the International Crane Foundation where they are confined within fences.


 Ostriches are as silly looking in the wild as they are when raised domestically.


The Mara River runs just below the lodge.  We could hear the hippopotami snuffling from our tent rooms -- an interesting sound to which to wake up.

The lodging was very pleasant.  The platform for the tent was finished wood floors.  The walls were canvas with “windows” that zipped open. 

 The bath was quite fancy (especially for a tent!), and Mary showed how relaxing the lounger on the porch could be.

And another beautiful pool that I did not use.  Mary at least got in a brief, cooling, swim.

The sunset was lovely as we said farewell to the park and the animals.