MARCH 2012 NEWSPAPER COLUMN

BUCKET LIST TRAVEL TALES
ADVENTURE #9


Going on Safari in Kenya!

The time had finally arrived to head out on safari and I was curious to see how this Safari in Kenya would compare to my previous one in Tanzania. Travelling out of Ngong, we stopped to look out over the scenic Rift Valley. Our group’s excitement was growing for what the afternoon would have in store. After several bumpy and dusty side road “short cuts”, we arrived at Fisherman’s Camp which would be our home for the next two nights; we chose a site and quickly set up camp. As a group we then headed down to another section of the lake, and as we drove down the laneway we spotted a wide band of pink along the shore. It was the flocks of flamingos we had been promised. Our cameras at the ready, we headed out on the lakeshore to get as close a view as we were allowed. Just as we were about to finish up and head over for our hippo boat tour, the rain started. The rain forced us to head back to our campsite for some down time in our tents, some snacks, and card games in the hotel lounge area until we were summoned for dinner.

Our cook Jon did not disappoint as he treated us to a traditional meal of Ugali (thick corn porridge), fried cabbage, vegetables and stewed lentils. We all tucked in heartily to this simple yet delicious meal and knew we wouldn’t be going hungry on this safari. After dinner we grabbed a log around the roaring campfire to warm up and relax, that’s when we heard the thrashing sounds followed by a crunching noise. Upon investigation, with headlamps and flashlights in hand, we experienced our first up close and personal hippo encounter. The hippos come out at night to eat and are herbivores, which is a little known fact. As long we didn’t disturb his dinner, the visiting hippo was happy. We, at the moment, were happy for the false security the tiny electric fence wires between us and the ½ ton hippopotamus were providing. Hippos are the most aggressive of the big five safari animals and we had heard stories of them attacking tourist boats and tourists they viewed as a threat; something to keep that in mind for our boat tour the next day.

Our 2nd day of Safari was not your traditional tour as our group left the safari vans behind, grabbed a mountain bike, and headed out into Hell’s Gate National Park with our guide. After cycling by some menacing looking baboons, we spotted Zebra meandering down a hill towards us. We cycled farther into the park and left our bikes to walk down a trail looking for giraffes. Disappointed at not seeing any, we were silently manifesting

giraffes as we walked back. Then we spotted a number of them at a distance, walking in the field. As our group walked farther down the path, our guide headed up a small hill beside us. When the guide returned, he motioned for us to keep walking and look up at the hill. There was a giraffe on the top of the hill not more than 20 ft away. As we watched, amazed and admiring his beautiful markings, a smaller one came up to join this one followed by yet another. Wow, that made for an amazing photo! Everyone was very excited as we headed back to the bikes and then back to the entrance to Hell’s Gate hiking trails and on to another unique experience.

After cycling past some wart hogs, zebras and baboons, we ended up at the “Entrance to Hell”. From here, we left our bikes and headed down into the deep gorges of this area. This is where the Lion King was sketched and we were excited as we could recognize many parts of the landscape from the movies. The performers amongst us serenaded us with several Lion King tunes along the way. As we climbed lower into the gorges and past waterfalls, several of our group members challenged themselves to climb down narrow rock ledges and were not disappointed by the scenery. When we reached the bottom, we were met with towering views of the rock walls around us and were amazed at the hot springs streaming down from above. Several guides mentioned they would through eggs into the water to hard boil them for lunch. We asked where the hot tub was as our group was ready for a relaxing soak in these steamy sulfur laced waterfalls. Scrambling back up the rocks to the top of the park, we passed several school groups decked out in full school uniforms scrambling over the rocks as well. This chance encounter gave the chance to chat with the kids and a few photo ops with them along the way. The promise of lunch at the top kept us climbing, as well as the grey clouds we noticed rolling in. As we settled into the picnic shelter, under the watchful eyes of the local baboons, the clouds opened up. This sudden appearance of rain was starting to become an unwelcome routine; however the region did need rain so we couldn’t complain. The only thing we could complain about was riding having to ride our bikes back in the rain. Sammy, our driver, came to our rescue and informed us we could leave the bikes and drive out. From here, we all jumped in the vans and headed out for some more game spotting. The rain eventually stopped and we were rewarded with more photo ops of zebras and giraffes.

Our tour group headed back to Fisherman’s Camp, hoping the weather would hold for what promised to be an exciting hippo viewing tour. Join us next month to read about that adventure and many more we experienced on Safari in Kenya.

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