Nairobi 9 -13th June: Back to the Smoke!
The long and arduous drive back to Nairobi, fortunately, wasn’t as hair-raising and terrifying as the outbound journey to the coast; although there were one or two scary moments. Anyway, here we are alive and in one piece – thanks, Kenyan bus drivers!!
Just a few days in Nairobi to get a few jobs done on the Landy, stock up and ready ourselves for the trip to the Masai Mara.
Masai Mara 13 – 21st June: Back to the Bush!
It seems and is an age since we were back in the bush. The journey to Masai Mara took us through Narok to House In The Wild where we had two delightful nights with the owners, Tarquin and Lippa Woods. The views of H.I.W. on the banks of the Mara River are stunning and we were totally spoiled with the 5-star treatment we received.
H.I.W. has traversing over three of the Masai Mara Conservancies, the game and scenery are quite special. We climbed to the highest point in the Masai Mara, a real “Out Of Africa” experience, with views to die for!
Unfortunately, I picked up a bug in Nairobi and was a man down for over a week. I had all the symptoms of malaria but fortunately, our test kits showed up negative. Nevertheless, 8 days of high temperatures, shivering and feeling lousy was a little worrying. Soldier on, as they say, I wasn’t getting much sympathy in any case 🙂 We arrived at Mara Triangle on 16th June and stayed 3 nights at Eluai Camp with nobody around for miles. The camp is in the middle of the Triangle with good views and easy access to the best parts of the park. The Triangle is managed by a different organisation to the main Masai Mara area but the two are contiguous and completely open to each other. I was impressed by the management of this side of the park (it lies to the south-west corner), the roads were excellent and well maintained, there were Rangers wherever you went, the bush well maintained and most importantly………excellent game viewing opportunities.
We managed to see lion every day during our stay and the open Savannahs make game viewing and the photography a breeze. Serena Lodge was very close to where we were camping and they didn’t appear to object to us using their facilities and open coffee machine (probably ‘cos they thought we were staying there!).
One morning we had a lovely surprise in seeing a Black Rhino, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see the two Rhinos close to the Mara River, but there they were; a little shy but still a very special sighting. Other than that, there were the usual suspects – elephants, giraffes, plenty of antelopes of all persuasions and a number of large herds of buffalo. What did elude us was the migration; we didn’t see any zebras or wildebeest!
On June 18th we crossed the Mara River and made our way to the Sand River Camp, in the far south-east side of the Mara, virtually on the border with the Serengeti. the campsite has a stunning view of the plains and also overlooks the very pretty Sand River. On our first drive, we realised that the migration had reached us! There were thousands of wildebeest and zebra, slowly making their way from the northern Serengeti plains to the south of the Mara where the fresh grasses were waiting for them. There was nobody else around at all, we had a vast area all to ourselves, just us and the migration. Once again, we found lion every single day. Initially, we found a young lion cub in the Sand River bed on his own. We returned every day, expecting to find the pride but to no avail. It wasn’t until the last day that we managed to find the cub in the late afternoon, with his Mum and Auntie, all stretched out on a Kopje. Such a beautiful sight.
We did venture to the Mara River and the Talek area and did, at last, get to see a single cheetah. Not a great sighting but it counts!
On 21st June, it’s time to leave the Masai Mara and head to our next destination – Kakamega Forest Reserve. It’s a long journey to reach our stopover – Kisumu Beach Resort on Lake Victoria. Sounds like luxury heh? Anything but! This place was so run down and dilapidated; a shame really as the actual location was right on the Lake with spectacular views of the city on the far bank and out across the lake. The grub was fine and we just wanted somewhere cheap and cheerful to crash after a long day’s drive, so it did the job!
Kakamega Forest Reserve 22 – 24th June: Twitcher’s Paradise!
Kakamega was something of a wild card, we didn’t quite know what to expect. It had been raining for most of the previous day and the red dirt road leading to Kakamega was slippery and wet. Our destination was Blue Shoulder Guest House. Smith, who runs the lodge is a legend. His knowledge of the forest and its inhabitants is vast. He’s quite a character, easy to laugh and incredibly informative. On the first afternoon, we took a two-hour stroll around the forest. This forest is now a small remnant of a huge sub-tropical rain forest that covered swathes of Uganda and Kenya. The British, in their ultimate wisdom, chopped down virtually all of it to make way for tea plantations – see they were at it way before Brexit!
There are plenty of primates, we saw the Black & White Colobus, the Red Tailed Monkey and the Blue Monkey. Birdlife is prolific. There was one entry in the visitor’s book of a twitcher that managed to clock 110 different species of birds in a day………imagine how your neck would feel after that?! Emma picked out a green Viper, right next to us, so cleverly camouflaged that I would never had spotted it. Smith said we were “Very Lucky”….OK Smith!
On the second morning, we set off at 05:30 am for a walk up the top of a hill, overlooking the forest to see the arrival of dawn. It was quite a hike but so worth it!
UGANDA: The Haven, Jinja 24 – 29th June. Just what the Doctor ordered!
We have now covered over 10,000 kms on our journey through Africa. Next up is Uganda. It’s 5 hour drive to Jinja and we’re so much looking forward to visiting Uganda of the first time. As soon as we get through the border post the road is so much better than what we’ve been used to in Kenya. Tarmac, no potholes, I have to pinch myself! We get to Jinja in good time and find our way to The Haven. Ninja is famous for being the source of the mighty River Nile. This is where Speke famously declared he had found the source of the Nile on the northern banks of lake Victoria.
The Haven is what it says! It’s a stunning location, overlooking the Nile River and the rapids below, it’s a sight I could never tire of, such majesty and beauty.
We’ve got a spot right on the edge of the River with the thunderous sound of the rapids as a backdrop. Everywhere is so lush and green and the temperatures are just perfect – around 32 C during the day and 26 C at night. We’ve decided to make this home for a good few days.
Jinja itself is very characterful. It’s experiencing something of a Renaissance and is popular with Europeans, Americans and Africans. It’s a centre for adrenalin junkies who can do just about every whacky adventure sport you can think of. The town itself is funky, bohemian, eclectic and quirky, with the past and present rubbing shoulders and getting along just fine. For once, we are not surrounded or bothered by people trying to sell us stuff, begging or wanting to be our friend, the locals just leave us in peace, yet so friendly and helpful when needed.
There are numerous bars, restaurants and hotels and I suspect it’s quite a buzzing place at night; there’s even a Chinese restaurant!
We’ve been out and “done the sights”…….. we went to Speke’s memorial and Gandhi’s ashes (which I knew nothing about). We took a canoe up the River Nile this morning. Besides Kingfishers and all manner of water birds, we came across a 2 metre long Green Mamba in the water. Emma was panicking as it took some time to move away and was initially a little curious. Just another day in Africa!