Nairobi and Masai Mara

Nairobi has become our major hub during the East-Africa trip. Since there are a number of budget carriers located in Kenya, getting around this part of the continent is quite affordable. For instance, we did manage to buy our tickets for the Entebbe to Nairobi flight during a transit stop on our previous flight going from Addis Ababa to Kigali through Nairobi. The transit time of that flight was six hours, giving us enough time to check out various ticket desks while transferring in Kenya.

Wildebeest at Masai Mara

What would be Kenya without a safari. Remembering my childhood, glued to the television screen following the series “Daktari“, I was quite excited to get a glimpse of wildlife here. Needless to say, that we organized a safari as the very first thing upon arrival in Kenya.  In fact, once we checked in at our hotel, the organization of a tour to a National Park was almost a no-brainer. The receptionist called a representative from a nearby agency. Once he showed up five minutes later, everything was simply down to fixing duration, itinerary and cost. These are the momenta, where Evgeny really stands out with his negotiating skills as a business man. We had a clear figure of how much we were willing to pay and he haggled the guy from the agency down to that amount. It probably was still a good business deal for him, but so it was for us, too. We consequently fixed the start of the tour for the next morning and went to bed early. Being downtown Nairobi, our hotel was strategically located for the purpose, but it was noisy, too. Falling asleep therefore was a pain, especially the counting of the cockroaches crawling in and out underneath the room door didn’t really make me tired. But hey, that’s also wild life – just on a different scale.

Evgeny and Tanya at a Rift Valley lookout and rest stop

Early in the morning, our driver arrived and we left Nairobi for Masai Mara National Park. On the way, we crossed the Rift Valley, which is a spectacular valley, about 100km wide. The serpentine road down the valley seems to be a real bottleneck for traffic. We saw an impressive accident where a truck was stuck halfway downhill and upside down after having missed a curve on the mountain road. Onlookers still gathering at the site meant that this accident just happened. We started to wonder whether it would have been us down there, if we hadn’t taken the short coffee break at the valley lookout spot a couple of kilometers back.

Cheetah in Masai Mara

A part of being a scenic traffic obstacle, the valley itself is a mix of fertile grasslands alternating with desert areas. The soda lakes are home to birds, I did not expect to see here in Africa: Flamingos. The Rift Valley is huge and marks the border with Tanzania (South), Uganda (West) and Ethiopia and Sudan (North).  A very interesting six hours after departure from Nairobi, we arrived at a very comfortable bush camp in a peaceful environment. After putting down our bags in the tents, we immediately went for an sunset safari by jeep.

We were told that Masai Mara is Kenya’s richest wildlife reserve. There are elephants, wildebeest, zebra, eland and Thomson’s gazelles. We figured that there would be a good chance to see the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo) which was Evgeny’s goal to for this part of the trip. Given that the reserve is 1510 square kilometer in size, chances were good. Tanya quietly enjoying nature also seemed to be happy and after a two hour trip we arrived back at the romantic lodge which compensated her for all the basic, dirty and dangerous places we have been so far on this journey. On the next day, we went for a full-day safari. After an hour into the trip, I gave up counting the different species of animals we could spot. Taking pictures and admiring wildlife from the safety of our jeep, I felt almost like a child again. This time not in front of the television set dreaming of Kenya, but in front of the real thing.

Vultures in Masai Mara

Halfway through the morning, our driver got news of a giraffe that was attacked and killed by lions. Which seemed unusual to him and he told us that probably the giraffe was old or sick. We drove to the spot where the dead animal was lying and the lions had a feast by eating the flesh of the carcass. Together with another five or six jeeps, we were circling the area about 50m away from the predators who seemed to be absolutely uninterested in us.   Vultures were sitting on the trees waiting for their turn. Notable other stop was a family of Cheetahs which tried to hide in the bush grass. Our driver knew how to approach without disturbing them and we spotted some baby Cheetahs I immediately fell in love with.

On day three we went to the Tanzanian border where we saw herds of wildebeest and zebras. During our lunch break, monkeys kept all the tourists busy scrambling to keep their food and belongings safe. The vervet monkeys were the major attraction among the visitors, because of their bright blue balls. To wrap up the safari, we returned to the area where we spotted the dead giraffe on the day before. There wasn’t much remaining. Just n furred carcass with almost no flesh remaining. And then there were flies. Thousands. Tens of thousands. And the smell was awful. The jeep drivers seemed to have fun by driving their cars into the direction of the wind and then smiling and shrugging at their passengers: “Hakuna Matata“.

After such an eventful safari trip, it was time to wrap up and return to Nairobi to catch a flight for our last destination: Mombasa. But that is another story…