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The Silk Route - World Travel: Masai Mara, Kenya
americas asia & far east africa & middle east europe

Kenya: Masai Mara
1989/90

Aberdare National Park Lake Nakuru The Masai Mara In the Air Mombasa
Masai Mara Elephants

A trip over New Year to see the wildlife in Kenya, especially the elephants. We weren't disappointed, seeing a huge variety of animals including lots of lazy looking lions and whole herds of elephant.

Starting from Nairobi and ending with an unusual (for us) three days relaxation on the coast at Mombasa.

 

Aberdare National Park

Aberdare Country Club
Aberdare Country Club

Aberdare Country Club
Aberdare Country Club Aberdare Country Club

Aberdare Country Club

Two Colobus Monkeys
A beautiful Kilimanjaro Colobus Monkey

We stayed our first night in the Nairobi Hilton and had a really excellent dinner - homemade tomato soup followed by steak. With only a short time in the city we couldn't really get much impression of it - my journal reads "walked around Nairobi, looks a clean city but many lepers in the market area".

The next day we travelled to the Aberdare Country Club via a tea plantation. We didn't stay long, however, just to leave most of our luggage and move out to the Ark for the night.

Aberdare Country Club
Two Colobus Monkeys
Two Kilimanjaro Colobus Monkeys

The Aberdare Country Club is about two hours drive north of Nairobi and set in the Aberdare National Park. The grounds of the club are beautiful and the horizons seem to stretch forever. There are plenty of different types of primates to be seen including beautiful white-tailed Colobus Monkeys - I think we were quite lucky to see these and they were some of the most beautiful creatures we saw on the whole trip.

The Ark
The Ark
The Ark
Crowned Hornbill
The Ark
The Ark
Mongoose

The main attraction was a night spent at the Ark where there is a watering hole and salt lick, and if you're lucky animals will come and you can get good close-up views. We stayed up most of the night and were rewarded with sights of water buck, lots of African Buffalo and a  lone rhinoceros, plus billions of "bally moths" as one of our fellow travellers put it! This was an escorted group of twelve, split into two mini-buses whose roofs lifted up for the game drives.

The thing is to spot as many of the  "big five" as possible - that is African Elephant, lion, African Buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. So we bagged two of the five - not bad for first timers!

No elephants though.

The Ark
African Buffalo on the move.
The Ark
African Buffalo at the Ark watering hole.

 

Lake Nakuru

Thompson's Falls
Thompson's Falls
crossing the equator

Crossing the equator and via Thomson's Falls near Nyahururu to Lake Nakuru National Park. Stayed at Lake Nakuru Lodge in a little cabin with a mosquito net over the bed.

Thompson's Falls
Lake Nakuru Lodge
at Lake Nakuru National Park
at Lake Nakuru National Park
at Lake Nakuru National Park

at Lake Nakuru National Park


at Lake Nakuru National Park

We were here to see the vast numbers of flamingos, like pink foam on the shores of the lake. We couldn't get terrifically close to them, but the experience was wonderful.

at Lake Nakuru National Park
Grey-headed Kingfisher
at Lake Nakuru National Park

 

 

Apart from the beautiful flamingos there are lots of other birdlife and animals to see on the game drives, particularly antelope.

Still no elephants.

Thompson's Falls
Grant's Gazelles
at Lake Nakuru National Park
at Lake Nakuru National Park

 

The Masai Mara

Masai Mara
Topi and Thompson's Gazelle behind


Masai Mara
White-bearded Wildebeeste

Keekorok Lodge
At Keekorok Lodge
Masai Mara
Grant's Zebra

On to the main event, so to speak. We drove from Lake Nakuru to the Masai Mara where everything was very wet! It had been raining recently and the roads were washed away in places. Ben, our driver, was very skillful at negotiating the muddy tracks of water-filled pot holes.

We stayed at Keekorok Lodge which was excellent - some at Cotters Camp were not so comfortable!

masai mara
Masai Giraffe
Keekorok Lodge
The intrepid bird-watcher goes forth!

Driving in we saw our first elephants - hoorah! - as well as zebra and giraffe - the bird life is superb too. In the afternoon on our first game drive hyenas - vicious looking creatures - topi, more zebra and giraffe.

Masai Mara
Spotted Hyena

Masai Mara
Grant's Gazelle and Spotted Hyena
Masai Mara
Masai Mara
masai mara
masai mara

 

Over the next few days we had half a dozen game drives and saw so many wild animals, including large numbers of elephants and lions. From the lodge we could even see a pride of lions on rocks and there were zebra nearby too.

masai mara
masai mara Crowned Cranes
Crowned Cranes
masai mara
Masai Mara
Eastern Forest Hogs
Masai Mara
masai mara
masai mara elephants
A Bare-faced Go-away Bird in a thorn bush.

 

The most beautiful gazelles inhabit the area. We'd seen quite a few already but never got tired of seeing these shy, graceful animals.

The Bare-faced Go-away bird was another favourite - wonderful name!

masai mara
Banded Mongoose
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara

masai mara elephants
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai mara
masai  mara topi
masai mara

masai mara lions

We saw a pride of lions with a kill, a giraffe, though probably not freshly killed.

masai mara lions

Mostly the lions we saw were not very active until later in the day when it was much more difficult to take good photographs.

masai mara lions
masai mara lions

masai  mara topi

 

The hippos were very difficult to see well as the river was quite high due to the recent rains, so we saw lots of ears,snouts and backs but little else!

 

masai mara hippo
masai mara black backed jackal
Black-Backed Jackal
masai mara hippo
masai mara birds
A masked weaver and Speke's weavers (?)

 

One of the most attractive creatures was a little jackal. I'd always thought they would look vicious but they don't at all.

masai mara elephant
masai mara black backed jackal
masai mara birds

 

 

We saw lots of birds just at the lodge, and a monkey with a baby on the roof! The ostriches are also a wonderful sight - quite stately birds.

masai mara ostriches
masai mara elephant

masai mara elephant

 

 

But the most memorable, for me, were the elephants and, in particular, on our very last drive when we saw a complete herd of elephants on the opposite side of the valley with the females and youngsters together and the young males on the outskirts of the group. It was too close to dusk to get good photographs but the memory will stay with me always.

masai mara elephant
masai mara

 

In the Air

Keekorok
Keekorok Lodge
Keekorok

 

 

We flew out of the Masai Mara back to Nairobi in an eighteen-seater De Havilland (with British pilots!), landing a couple of times to pick up passengers.

It was a fantastic experience, flying low over Kenya we saw lots of elephant, Masai villages and the Great Rift Valley.

Keekorok      Keekorok
Masai Villages
Keekorok

 

Mombasa

Mombasa
Jadini Beach Hotel
Mombasa
Mombasa
Mosque minaret, Mombasa
Mombasa
Mandhry Mosque
Mombasa

From Nairobi we flew on to Mombasa for three days relaxation on the beach. This isn't really our scene and three days is quite enough.

Mombasa

However, we had lovely rooms at the Jadini Beach Hotel with stunning views over Diani Beach and the Indian Ocean. Diani beach is a vision of paradise: an expanse of beautiful white sand, fringed by tall palm trees, practically deserted except for a few locals trying to sell sarongs and trinkets to the occasional tourist. Small boats and traditional dhows with triangular sails dot the waters near shore.

It had been overcast for  much of our stay in the Masai Mara so it was wonderful to see continuous sun and blue skies.

Mombasa
Mombasa

Mombasa

Mombasa is situated on an island and is the cradle of the Swahili culture. Today Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya after Nairobi but it has been an important trading centre for about two thousand years. Arab domination was curtailed by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. The Portuguese built the fort on the coast here to protect their trading interests in spices, cotton, coffee and slaves.

The Omani Arabs threw out the Portuguese in the eighteenth century and they in turn were replaced by British colonial rule at the end of the nineteenth century.

The  vast majority of the inhabitants are Muslim and mosques form some of the most distinctive architecture. The Mandhry Mosque, said to be the oldest in Mombasa, built by the Arabs in the sixteenth century, has an unusual obelisk minaret. Some research (Lighthouses of Kenya) indicates that this could originally have been a beacon, one of many along the coast. Or maybe the mosque came first and the Portuguese used it as a beacon!

Mombasa
Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro

 

 

The journey back was rather eventful. At Mombasa airport our first attempt at take-off was aborted as we were going down the runway with complete instrument failure - a bit scary! Still, we had a fine view of Mount Kilimanjaro and the famous snows on its peak when we did finally get airborne.