Kenya and Tanzania
28th July - 30th August 2009
← The journey begins!
This report follows the travels of two Canadians, Robin and Robert, as they self-drive through the Mara in Kenya and the Northern Circuit of Tanzania in August 2009. The report is written by Robin and credit for the photos goes to Robert.
The report begins with a list of resources that we found helpful at the planning stage. This is followed by our itinerary accompanied by a map on which our route is highlighted.
The itinerary is followed by a list of highlights accompanied by some of our favourite photos. Note that the photos may be enlarged by clicking on them.
Following the highlights, there is a very brief list of lowlights - there weren't many! Eventually, there will be a day to day account of the trip, which will be accompanied by many more photos - this is a work in progress.
Robert and I wish to thank Meregan, Charles, Clare, Carly and Lizzie of Safari Drive for another trip of a lifetime. We are most grateful to you all.
After much reading and online research, we drew up an itinerary and then contacted Safari Drive ( http://www.safaridrive.com), specialist African operators based in the UK, who had been recommended in the Bradt Guide to Botswana ( http://www.bradtguides.com) and with whose assistance we had completed a self-drive through Botswana in 2008. Safari Drive once again shared their expertise and offered advice, provided us with a fully equipped Land Rover, looked after our campsite and lodge bookings, arranged all land transfers and generally made things a whole lot easier. We were once again very grateful that we had learned of Safari Drive through the Bradt guide.
At the planning stage, we found the following very helpful:
The Safari Drive website http://www.safaridrive.com
The Bradt Guide to Tanzania (ISBN: 978-84162-153-1) by Philip Briggs
The Rough Guide to Kenya 2006 (ISBN: 978-1-84353-651-2) by Richard Trillo
Lonely Planet’s Tanzania 2008 (ABN: 36-005-607-983) by Mary Fitzpatrick
Fodor’s Africa and the Middle East Forum http://www.fodors.com
The Tourist Travel and Field Guide of the Serengeti National Park by Veronica Roodt (ISBN: 0-620-34190-4)
The Tourist Travel and Field Guide of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by Veronica Roodt (ISBN: 0-620-34191-2
We found our way with a Garmin 60CX GPS, on which we loaded the Tracks4Africa Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda map, which we purchased from the Tracks4Africa website ( http://www.tracks4africa.co.za) for R175.00 (~CDN$25). It saved us from becoming hopelessly lost on several occasions.
We also found the following paper/hard copy maps very helpful - we purchased all maps in advance online from http://www.omnimap.com.
The Tourist Map of the Serengeti National Park by Veronica Roodt 2005 edition http://www.veronicaroodt.co.za
Tourist Map of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by Veronica Roodt 2006 edition
The New Map of Serengeti National Park Wet/Dry Season 2007 by Giovanni Tombazzi http://www.gtmaps.com
The New Map of Northern Tanzania 2007 by Giovanni Tombazzi
Lake Manyara National Park Wet Season/Dry Season by Giovanni Tombazzi with Hoopoe Adventure Tours, Tanzania
New Map of Tarangire National Park (Wet/Dry Season) 2008 by Giovanni Tombazzi
New Map of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area 2003 by Giovanni Tombazzi
Masai Mara Visitor Map Guide by Jacana Maps http://www.jacana.co.za
30 July House of Waine, Nairobi, Kenya http://www.houseofwaine.com
31 July – 1 August Serian Camp, Masai Mara North Conservancy, Kenya http://www.serian.net
2 August – 7 August Maji Ya Ndege Special Campsite, Mara Triangle, Kenya, http://www.maratriangle.org
8 August Serian Camp, Masai Mara North Conservancy, Kenya http://www.serian.net
9 August Speke Bay Lodge, Tanzania http://www.spekebay.com or http://www.moivaro.com
10–11 August Mareo Special Campsite, Western Corridor, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, http://www.tanzaniaparks.com
12 August Turner 1 Special Campsite, Seronera, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
13-15 August Lobo 1 Special Campsite, Lobo, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
16 August Turner 1 Special Campsite, Seronera, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
17 August Olduvai Tented Camp, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania http://www.africatravelresource.com
18-19 August Lemala Camp, Ngorongoro Crater, http://www.lemalacamp.com
20 August Arusha Coffee Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania http://www.elewana.com
21-23 August Bagayo 1 Special Campsite, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania, http://www.tanzaniaparks.com
24-26 August Mbweha Special Campsite, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, http://www.tanzaniaparks.com
27 August Rivertrees Country Inn, Arusha, Tanzania http://www.rivertrees.com
← A very muddy lioness and 3 cubs in Lake Manyara - a 4th cub is out of sight on a branch to the right
Sitting 10m from a lioness and her four cubs that were perched in a tree in Lake Manyara National Park. We were hoping to see the famous tree-climbing lions, but had been warned that it is a rare sighting.
The many playful lionesses that would hide and spring out at each other - such kitten-like behaviour from such fearsome predators.
Our Masai guides at Olduvai - (l to r) Rayani, Papai and David - on the kopje near the camp at sunset →
The opportunity to interact with the Masai in a non-touristy setting at Olduvai Tented Camp in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania - particularly the walk at sunset.
The sound of the cow bells as the Masai herders led their cattle through the Ngorongoro highlands.
The reaction of the Masai to our feeble attempts to speak their (Maa) language. They were so gracious, and many took the time to teach us more words and help us with our pronunciation.
Our impromptu chat with Ben and Peter, two Masai warriors from the village of Ilkinye, on the road just north of Oloololo Gate in Kenya.
← The wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara
The number of wildebeest in the Mara Triangle was staggering. We parted seas of wildebeests as we drove down the roads. We could see undulating lines of migrating wildebeest stretching for kilometres to the horizon.
The sound of the migrating wildebeests - somewhere between a giant bullfrog and a bleating sheep! We could hear them from our tent at night.
← The road south of the village of Mararianda in Kenya
The 2005 Land Rover Defender 110 Tdi, which took us safely along some of the worst roads in the world - the road between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater comes to mind.
The last stretch of road north to the village of Mararianta from the Mara in Kenya. Picture a streambed with huge boulders, large rocks, loose gravel and sand. Tip it up 40° and you get the idea. We stood at the bottom and debated whether it could possibly be the road, but our GPS confirmed that it was. How the Land Rover made it to the top is a mystery. The 4x4 only got stuck once, when it got hung up on a large boulder. One of the more memorable drives of the trip!
A cheetah in the Seronera region of the Serengeti →
As we drove down a road near Seronera in the Serengeti, a cheetah wandered out of the long grass and crossed the road in front of our vehicle.
On another day, we found a cheetah relaxing beside the road on the Grumeti River Loop in the Lobo area of the Serengeti. We sat with her for over an hour with no other vehicles interrupting our visit. She was being as pestered by the tsetse flies as we were.
← A wildebeest being pursued by three spotted hyena in the Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania
As we sat amongst a pride of sixteen lions in the Ngorongoro Crater at dawn one morning, a wildebeest with three spotted hyena in hot pursuit went racing by. We abandoned the lions and followed the chase. At one point, the wildebeest and hyena turned and ran straight at our Land Rover, passing within a few metres of us.
We learned very quickly that, if we wanted to see lions in the Ngorongoro Crater, we simply had to head to the Munge River. The lions were there every morning at dawn.
A grey crowned crane →
We loved the crowned cranes in the Ngorongoro Crater. They were beautiful as they displayed in the early morning light.
Over one hundred species of birds, some of which were new to us. We especially enjoyed the grey crowned cranes, bare-faced go-away birds, yellow-collared lovebirds, superb starlings, palm swifts, lilac-breasted rollers, white-headed buffalo weavers, red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, red and yellow barbets, African firefinches, little bee-eaters and southern ground hornbills.
← Our tent at Ngare, Serian Camp, Mara North Conservancy, Kenya
Ngare Camp at Serian - the friendly staff, the beautiful tents, the remote and serene location on the banks of the Mara River, the rope bridge across the river which allows access to the camp, the amazing meals, the lanterns and hot chocolate in the morning, the outdoor shower, our guide Jonathon and driver Kimanzi - my favourite tented camp of the trip.
← Two lionesses stalking zebras in the Tarangire riverbed - this was one of the successful hunts.
We spent five and a half hours in Tarangire National Park watching six lionesses hunt. They killed an impala and a zebra, and also unsuccessfully stalked wildebeests, warthogs and more zebra. It was fascinating to watch their strategy.
← Wildebeests crossing the Mara River
The wildebeest crossings at the Mara River. Late one afternoon, as we were returning to our campsite in the Mara Triangle, we passed one of the crossing sites. We debated whether or not to stop to see if wildebeests were about to cross. Although tired, we decided to take a quick look. Our timing was impeccable. We pulled up beside the river, where there were no other vehicles parked and, to our immense good fortune, around five hundred wildebeest and zebra chose to cross at that exact moment. They entered the river directly across from us and headed our way, causing us a moment of panic when we thought that we had parked in their path. Luckily, they left the river directly in front of the Land Rover, and we had a spectacular view of the crossing. The day before, we had waited half an hour to watch roughly three thousand topi, zebra and wildebeest cross the river.
Robin with Jonathan (r) and Kimanzi of Serian Camp, Mara North Conservancy →
Our day in the Mara with our guide, Jonathan, and driver, Kimanzi, from Serian Camp - they found us a leopard, a cheetah, 16 lions and so much more. Jonathan was a very knowledgeable guide and it was Kimanzi's driving skills that enabled us to track the leopard through the dense bush.
← The baobabs of Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Tarangire was the last park we visited before returning to Canada, and it was a spectacular way to end our month-long drive through Kenya and Tanzania. I had feared that the park might be a let-down after the Mara and Serengeti, but we both loved the park.
← Robin watching some nearby elephants from the safety of the tent
Our roof-top tent - very comfortable, cozy and safe. We loved it! It protected us from nightime visits from lions, hyenas, elephants, hippos and goodness knows what else!
The noises at night that we could hear from the safety of our roof-top tent - lions, hyenas, hippos, bats, zebras, crickets, owls, frogs, geese, baboons, bushbabies and elephants.
← A lion in the Mara reserve
The predators - we saw a leopard, 6 cheetahs, 181 lions, 73 spotted hyena and many black-backed and golden jackals over the 23 days that we spent in the national parks.
New animal species: Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle, banded mongoose, topi, golden jackal, Coke's hartebeest, olive baboon, large-spotted genet and palm civet.
The plane that took us to the Shikar airstrip in the Mara, Kenya →
The Air Kenya flight from Kichwa Tembo to Shikar in the Mara. I am not a big fan of small airplanes, but the view of the wildebeests from the Twin Otter was spectacular.
We stopped beside a vehicle near the hippo pool in Seronera that bore a logo from the Zimbabwe Wildlife Trust. Robert greeted the driver in the one Shona word that he could recall from his visits to Zimbabwe years ago - “Masikati” or “Good afternoon”! To our astonishment, we learned that the gentleman driving the Land Rover was Dr. Harold Roth, who established the Sengwa Wildlife Research Institute where Robert had conducted his research. We shared a brief but most interesting conversation with Harold, his wife and son. What a small world!
← One of many spotted hyena that we saw on this trip
The hyenas at Turner 1 special campsite at Turner Springs at Seronera in the Serengeti - we had to be vigilant and scan constantly with our flashlights, otherwise they would sneak up on us and slink to within a few metres of the Land Rover. We scared them off by banging pots together.
The pack of twenty-one spotted hyenas in the Ngorongoro Crater that were making a herd of a couple of hundred wildebeests run in circles in panic.
The remarkable confrontation between a lesser bushbaby (a small primate) and spotted hyena on our campsite in Lobo - the noise produced by the tiny bushbaby was astonishing.
The prettiest corner of Kenya - the Mara Triangle Wilderness Area! →
The Mara Triangle Wilderness Area in the southwest corner of the Mara Triangle - an area of spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife, where we could drive all day and not see another vehicle.
Musiara Marsh near Governors' Camp in the Mara Triangle - abundant wildlife and a beautiful setting. Another favourite spot!
Maji Ya Ndege Special campsite in the Mara Triangle where we spent 6 nights - the Mara River is just beyond the trees. →
The special campsites in the Serengeti, Mara Triangle, Lake Mayara NP and Tarangire NP - so isolated and always in spectacular locations.
The hippos in the Mara River at the Maji Ya Ndege special campsite in the Mara Triangle that kept us well entertained at all hours of the night with their snorting and grunting.
The fireflies at Maji Ya Ndege special campsite in the Mara Triangle - I hadn’t seen fireflies since my childhood camping days in Ontario.
Turner 1 Special Campsite at Turner Springs near Seronera in the Serengeti - the springs attracted all sorts of wildlife including three prides of lions that kept us awake much of the night. Our favourite campsite!
← Sheltering under the canopy from the sun at mid-day in the Lobo area of the Serengeti
The weather in August was perfect - the days were hot and sunny and the nights were comfortably warm. We experienced a few scattered showers in the Mara, usually in the late afternoon. We just missed a huge storm at Seronera that washed out two bridges - unusual, one would think, in the dry season.
Robin making her way gingerly across the bridge at Serian Camp →
The challenges - for the height-challenged (Robin!), this trip was definitely a test of strength - the small airplane into the Mara in Kenya and the see-through bridge access to Ngare Camp at Serian in the Mara North Conservancy.
The roads presented Robert, who did most of the driving, with his share of challenges.
Our illegal two-hour night drive through the Western Corridor to Seronera in the Serengeti when we were scared off our campsite by poachers just as we were about to head to bed. We saw two enormous porcupines, five spotted hyena, three rabbits, two springhares and much more. Night drives are strictly forbidden in the parks, so it was the only time we ventured off our campsite at night.
← Our room - the Plantation Suite - at the Arusha Coffee Lodge.
The Coffee Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania - a lovely setting in the middle of the coffee plantation, a beautiful room, great food, a very professional staff - we wished we had stayed longer.
The pizzas at the Arusha Coffee Lodge - reputed to be the best in southern Africa with good reason. Needless to say, the coffee is also very good.
These friendly women in rural Tanzania were delighted when Robert asked them in Maa for permission to take their picture - "Aosh empicha?" →
The opportunity to interact with the people in the rural villages of Tanzania and Kenya. One advantage of self-driving is that it forces you to be independent and interact with the local people and not to rely on your guide. We were warmly received wherever we went, even in the most remote locations, where we looked as though we had been beamed in from another planet.
Returning to Serian Camp from the Mara Triangle, we became lost in the village of Mararianda. We turned onto what we thought was the road north only to discover after 50m or so that it was in fact either a game trail or a walking path. We went in circles trying to find our way to the road, much to the amusement of the villagers who appeared in droves to watch. With many gestures and much laughter on both parts, the villagers helped us find our way.
Driving across the Kenyan/Tanzanian border at Isibania/Sirari - complete and utter chaos but an experience we wouldn’t have missed.
← An elephant in Lake Manyara National Park
The elephants - we never tire of them. We encountered many on this trip, including this one that forced us to back down the road for about 100m before it veered off into the bush.
The elephant at the Maji Ya Nedege special campsite in the Mara Triangle that trumpeted at Robert as he chased the baboons off our campsite. Neither of us had seen the elephant and I am not certain who was more startled - the elephant by Robert’s shouting or Robert and me by the nearby trumpet.
Robin shopping for Masai jewelery near Tarangire National Park in Tanzania →
The markets - great shopping and a fantastic way to meet the local people. We stopped at many and were often the only tourists there.
The Masai market in Arusha - good quality, great selection and excellent prices.
The two markets just outside of Tarangire National Park - run by local Masai women in support of their communities.
← A buffalo kill in the Lobo area of the Serengeti
We watched three lionesses encircle and kill a buffalo in the Lobo area of the Serengeti. It was rather disturbing, as it took the poor beast about 40 minutes to die. It was the first kill we had witnessed in four trips to Africa.
The Ngare Naironya loop near Lobo in the Serengeti provided the best game viewing of the trip. We were practically guaranteed to see more than one pride of lions if we drove this loop at dawn. It was where we witnessed the buffalo kill.
The lovely Mareo special campsite in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti a couple of hours before we were forced to leave →
The poachers that forced us to flee from Mareo special campsite in the Western Corridor on our second night at that location - the only time we felt in any danger on this trip. It was an isolated incident in an otherwise perfect trip.
The dust - we and our belongings have never been so filthy.
The tsetse flies - the initial bite is painful and then they itch terribly, drain, and finally bleed before healing - my ankles will never be the same. I had to take an anti-histamine at night so that I could sleep through the itchiness. The tsetses may have been somewhat attracted to blue clothing, but they seemed to pursue us no matter what colours we were wearing. They definitely targeted the ankles - thick socks are good!
The honeybees at the Mareo (Western Corridor in the Serengeti) and Mbweha (Tarangire NP) special campsites that made showering rather hazardous - any water attracted a swarm of bees. We learned to shower just before sunset, when the honeybees would retire for the night.
Day to Day Journal
Thursday 30th July
Arrive Nairobi, Kenya
Our trip to Kenya was the best kind - uneventful. We flew direct from Canada to Heathrow and then British Airways direct to Nairobi. It was our first experience with British Airways and, although our first impression was negative, we were pleasantly surprised in the end. We were frustrated initially that World Traveler passengers may not book their seats until 24 hours before the flight - ridiculous for an international flight. We were in the air en route from Canada when seat selection began, with the result that, by the time we landed at Heathrow, most of the seats had been assigned and we were not seated together. When we expressed our discontent in typical Canadian (polite) fashion at the BA check-in counter, we were bumped up to World Traveler Plus (business class). Suddenly, our impression of BA was more favourable.
We landed at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi right on schedule at 9:00pm. We flew through immigration, despite the fact that having purchased our visas ahead of time from the embassies in Ottawa made no difference whatever. Contrary to what I had read and expected, all passengers with or without visas were directed to the same lineups. As we had practically sprinted to the visa counters from the gate, we were only second in our line. All for not, however! We had been warned that the luggage would be slow and it certainly was. After sailing through immigration, we waited for almost an hour for our bags to arrive.
House of Waine, Nairobi, Kenya →
We were met by Joseph from Cheli and Peacock who, after handing us two large envelopes of information from both Safari Drive in Tanzania and Chili and Peacock, their Kenyan agent, and going over some of it with us, drove us to the House of Waine. Before leaving the airport, we exchanged £95 for roughly 200,000 Tanzanian shillings. This may sound like a lot of money, but it would cost us roughly Tsh70,000 each time we filled the Land Rover with diesel. We would wish later that we had obtained many more Tanzanian shillings before leaving the Nairobi airport, as the currency was very difficult to come by in Tanzania and only cash was accepted at petrol stations. First lesson learned!
← The sitting room at the House of Waine
At the House of Waine, which was about a thirty minute drive from the international airport, we were met by Lilian, who led us into a lovely sitting area. We were offered warm washcloths and glasses of juice. It was 11:00pm and we declined the dinner which was offered to us. We hoped that they hadn’t kept the chef up just for us. We were too tired to contemplate food and wished to go to bed. First, however, before we could go to bed, we had homework to do. We asked for a wake-up call at 6:45am for breakfast at 7:30am. Joseph was to pick us up at 8:30am the following morning for our 10:00am flight to the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The Makan room at the House of Waine →
Peter showed us to the “Makan” room, which was large and comfortable and had a small balcony overlooking the front of the house and garden. “Makan” is Hindi for “home” and, in keeping with the Indian theme, the headboard was draped in Sari fabric. There were bottled water and homemade cookies awaiting us. Once settled, we sat on the bed and went through the information that Joseph had given us.
In the Kenyan information package, we found our special campsite vouchers (US$25 per non-resident adult per 24hrs), our park entry permits (US$60 per non-resident adult per 24 hours) and our vehicle entry permits (Ksh1000 per 24hrs per vehicle > 6 passengers). These vouchers and permits had all been issued by the Mara Conservancy ( http://www.maratriangle.org) in Nairobi and paid for in advance by Safari Drive. We had thirty permits and vouchers in total, and all were carefully dated and numbered. There was also a form which confirmed that our reservation was for the Maji Ya Ndege special campsite in the Mara Triangle. Safari Drive had also paid a campsite reservation fee (Ksh7500 per week) on our behalf. The package also included a Serian Camp reservation voucher and our Air Kenya airline tickets (Flight 851 from Nairobi-Wilson to Mara-Shikar US$117 each) for the morning. We failed to notice that the airstrip listed on our tickets was incorrect, or at least different from what was written in our itinerary. It indicated that we were flying to Mara-Musiara. There was a note on the tickets which indicated that excess baggage (over 15kg) would be charged at a rate of Ksh200 per kg.
The Tanzanian information package had been couriered by Safari Drive’s Tanzanian representative in Arusha to Cheli and Peacock, Safari Drive’s Kenyan representative. In it, we found special campsite booking forms (US$50 per non-Tanzanian adult per 24 hours) for each of the three national parks (Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire) that we would be visiting in Tanzania. These had been issued by TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) in Arusha and paid for in advance by Safari Drive. All six forms (one for each campsite) were carbon copies of hand-written forms, and provided proof of payment, the campsite names and the reservation dates. We would be responsible for paying for the park entry permits (US$35-50 per non-Tanzanian adult per 24 hrs, depending on the park; Serengeti = US$50; Lake Manyara and Tarangire = US$35) and the vehicle entry permits (US$40 per foreign vehicle per 24 hrs) at each of the park gates. We had been warned by Safari Drive that only Master Card would be accepted for payment at the Tanzanian parks, but TANAPA had also recently begun to accept Visa. There was also campsite booking form for our stay at Lemala Camp at the Ngorongoro Crater (US$50 per non-resident per 24 hours). The form had been issued by the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority and the campsite paid for in advance by Safari Drive. We would be responsible for paying for the park entry permits (US$50 per non-resident per 24 hours), vehicle permits (US$40 for a vehicle up to 2000kgs per 24 hours) and the crater fee (US$200 per all-day visit to the crater) when we entered the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. All Ngorongoro fees had to be paid in cash in US$ only. There was no reservation confirmation for our stay at Olduvai Camp near the Ngorongoro Crater but, given our past experience with Safari Drive, we didn’t worry.
We worked our way painstakingly through all thirty permits and vouchers for Kenya and all seven forms for Tanzania, ensuring that the dates were correct. Then, we filled out the Cheli and Peacock forms that Joseph had asked us to complete and return to him in the morning. Most were medical and liability forms. Among other things, the forms requested our blood types, which gave me pause for thought. It was midnight by the time we had finished. It was surprisingly hot considering the hour, so we put on the air conditioning briefly to cool the room. We collapsed into bed and were instantly asleep.
Friday 31st July
Nairobi to Serian Camp in the Mara North Conservancy, Kenya
← The House of Waine in Nairobi
In the morning, we were awake before the alarm so, after showering, we walked around the gardens and admired the House of Waine. It had been too dark when we arrived to appreciate our surroundings, which we discovered were lovely.
Breakfast was delicious, with fresh orange and mango juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, fresh banana muffins, fruit salad and delicious, but very strong coffee. After breakfast, we arranged to have internet in our room and sent an email to family and friends to let them know that we had arrived safely in Kenya.
A typical African slum or township →
Joseph arrived punctually at 8:30am, and we left the House of Waine reluctantly, wishing we had booked a second night in Nairobi. We headed to Wilson Airport in Nairobi for our flight to the Masai Mara Reserve. It would be about a twenty minute drive, Joseph informed us. Passing through the suburb of Karen, where the House of Waine is located, we discovered enormous brick houses. It could have been any exclusive neighbourhood in Canada, except for the high fences and razor wire which surrounded the houses.
In sharp contrast to Karen, were the dilapidated shacks of Kibera, a slum outside of Nairobi that is home to over a million people. The residents of Kibera have little or no access to basic necessities, such as electricity, clean water or toilet facilities. There are over 50,000 AIDS orphans surviving in Kibera, Joseph informed us, often cared for by grandparents, over-crowded orphanages, or completely unattended. Schooling is rare in the slum which, of course, traps the children in a cycle of poverty. Kibera was a sobering sight and reminiscent of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, a massive township that you pass when driving into Cape Town from the international airport.
In case Kibera wasn’t a sobering enough sight, we also passed the Langata cemetery, which stretched for as far as the eye could see and was dotted with many fresh graves.
← Wilson Airport, Nairobi
We arrived at Wilson Airport to discover many burly policemen carrying alarming weapons and workers who were busily trimming bushes and sweeping the roads and pathways. The airport grounds at least were well-maintained and pristine. The airport building itself, however, looked a little on the far side of prime. To our surprise, it was a beehive of activity.
The DeHavilland Dash 7 that took us from Nairobi to the Kichwa Tembo airstrip →
We checked in with Air Kenya for our 45-minute flight to the Musiara airstrip in the Masai Mara Reserve, the closest airstrip to Serian Camp, a tented camp just to the northwest of the reserve. Safari Drive stores their Kenyan vehicles at Serian Camp, and we were to spend two nights at the camp before picking up our vehicle and heading out on our own on a self-drive through Kenya.
I noticed immediately that our bags had been tagged incorrectly to the Kichwa Tembo airstrip. When I pointed this out, we were informed that our flight to Musiara had been cancelled because we were the only passengers. Rather than flying to Musiara, we would now be dropped off at the Shikar airstrip after a brief stop at the Kichwa Tembo airstrip, where we would change planes.
Joseph, who had stayed to see us off, was not pleased, and immediately called Cheli and Peacock to inform them of this last-minute change. He wished to ensure that there would be someone to meet us at the Shikar airstrip. Not being a big fan of small airplanes, my only concern was the fact that we would now be taking two of them instead of one. I would worry about being met at the second airstrip once my feet were planted firmly and safely back on the ground. After several phone calls, Joseph assured us that Serian Camp had been informed of the change and would be at Shikar to meet us.
← Waiting for our luggage to be taken off the plane at Kichwa Tembo
Our first flight, to the Kichwa Tembo airstrip, was on a DeHavilland Dash 7, which could accommodate up to 50 passengers and was almost at capacity. There was a central isle with two seats on each side, and it was a tad cramped. Robert had to pour his 6’1” frame into the window seat. He knew better than to ask me to sit by the window. I think he was relieved enough that he had managed to get me on the plane with no alcohol or drugs required. Before take-off, I peered out of the window and was reassured by the fact that the plane had four propellers. I couldn’t help but notice that, like the airport, the plane seemed a tad on the far side of prime. The flight lasted 45 long minutes and, unfortunately for Robert but happily for me, cloud cover prevented us from seeing anything as we cruised at 12,000 feet. The landing was remarkably smooth given the dirt runway.