Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Mara

Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
June 9th, 2009

We entered the Mara early taking advantage of a 6:30 am game park opening time. Noticing the high number of lodge vehicles touring the park with long radio antenna (even though it is still low season) parked on a hillside we decided to investigate. This did not disappoint. There was a pride of lion snacking, actually more like feasting upon a buffalo carcass. We stayed here watching them with fascination as they pulled and tore the meat off the bones. Incredible.

Noticing our neighbours were slowly leaving we decided to follow them once more. This time we were led straight to a leopard lunging in a tree. The leopard was huge. We happily snapped away.

Again we saw that people were leaving and we decided they must be on route to cheetah because really what would you leave a leopard for. We were right. There were three cheetah. It was only 8:30. In two hours we saw eleven lion, a leopard and three cheetah. We stayed with the cheetah for awhile, seeing them lying down, sitting up and then going hunting.

At 9:00 we then headed towards the Mara river. This is the river that the wildebeest cross when they migrate from the Serengeti towards the grass here. This river is also home to many crocodile that supposedly eat only once a year- when the wildebeest cross. The river was stunning and we did see a massive crocodile along with some hippo.

After eating a huge lunch and enjoying the views at the Serena Lodge we made our way once more. We saw huge herds of giraffe numbering more than twenty in each, elephant, buffalo, gazelle and birds. We were also lucky enough to see another leopard and to later see an impala carcass in a tree- the leopard unfortunately wasn’t there any longer but it was impressive to see the carcass nonetheless.

Hell’s Gate

Near Lake Naivasha, Kenya
June 7th, 2009

I suppose it would surprise you to know that our next stop was another National Park. This time we went to Hell’s Gate, the only National Park where you are allowed to hike and cycle due to the absence of lion, elephant and rhino. It’s a stunning park filled with rocky hills and areas to go mountain climbing. It’s quite hot and humid in the area and fairly dusty. Calling our inner Indiana Jones we sported our safari hats, rented some bikes and headed off in the morning ready for adventure.

As we cycled we spotted zebra, buffalo, gazelle, baboons, and giraffe. Heading in the direction of the Lower Gorge, we arrived about an hour later. After eating our picnic lunch we opted for a guide and made our way down. It was crazy walking through the gorge. In places we had to scale the side of the gorge inching our way along by sliding our feet and clinging on to whatever ledge we could. Other places we had to climb up two metres using a strategically placed branch (later we needed to descend in the same manner). It was brilliant though and we were able to access the natural hot water springs where in areas the water is boiling (locals actually bring eggs to the water to cook them). Apparently parts of Tomb Raider II were filmed here.

After our two hour trek we hopped back onto our bikes and decided to access the gate via a different route- the Buffalo circuit. Off we went. The path started off okay, fairly level and not too rocky. This did not continue sadly. For forty five minutes we ascended, every time we thought we finally reached the highest point another turn we prove we indeed had not. Channelling our inner Kii strength we kept going, when we finally reached the top we enjoyed free cycling down whilst admiring amazing views of the nearby lake.

The Pink Ladies

Lake Nakuru, Kenya
June 5th, 2009

After some more R&R at a gorgeous campsite in Elderet we headed towards the famous National Park- Nakuru. This park is especially known for the volumes of flamingos which flock there due to the tremendous soda lake.(the park’s namesake). We were not disappointed. We saw thousands and thousands of them. It was amazing to see how they moved- in little groups no more than ten following a leader, moving tightly together and making sharp turns. The nice thing about the lake is that you can get out of your car close to the shore for those all important pics.

Besides the birds we also saw loads of Rhino. We saw two before heading up to a viewpoint and then proceeded to see another two- mother and child. By the end of the day we counted twenty six of them (twenty five white and one black). It was so nice to see the rhino close up and watch them graze completely unconcerned. Apparently Lake Nakuru has the highest concentration of rhino in East Africa parks with a total of 76 rhino, the Serengeti by comparison has only about ten and they are kept under armed guard due to the serious nature of poaching. Curious fact for you- a rhino’s horn is actually made up of hair. Completely unrelated but still interesting a hippo’s skin is four inches thick and bullet proof, and it’s skin can weigh up to a ton (the skin is 25% of its total weight).

We also saw huge, and I mean huge herds of buffalo, giraffe, zebra and buck. Most exciting though for me was seeing a Black and White Columbus monkey, two of them to be exact. These monkeys are endangered and to see them you often have to pay a guide and go on a primate trek without any guarantee that you will see them at all. They are very funny looking with long black and white patches and their little faces make them look like small old men. Very cute.

The Source of the Nile

Jinja, Uganda
May 29th, 2009

Our last touristy stop in Uganda was the source of the Nile (well supposedly the source of the Nile- there are several claims to the fame). It’s an adventurer’s haven with bungee jumping, white water rafting, kayaking and more. The closest K and I came to major adventure was watching the white water rapids from the comfort of our campsite. It was a major veg-out for us with me reading books and K watching rugby. We did later explore the Bujaguli Falls which were stunning.