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Category Archives: Africa

Amboseli National Park in the foreground of Mt Kilimanjaro

The 5895m Kilimanjaro provides a dramatic background in Amboseli (Masai word for salt and dust) National Park that is famous for it’s many animals because of the swamp lands. Mt. Kilimanjaro now belongs to Tanzania since the Zanzibar treaty was made and as part of a fair trade Mombasa was exchanged for the mountain. Kenya still has the 2nd largest mountain in Africa Mt. Kenya 5195m and a rich trading port of Mombasa while Tanzania has Mt. Kilimanjaro and Dar El Salaam as a port for trading.
Only 10 percent of Amboseli is National Park (the only water is here) which belongs to the government and the rest is Masai land. Seeing the Masai tribes one might think they are poor but in fact they are ‘poor’ millionaires and rather intelligent.
Since the territory of the park is quite small there is a lot of conflict between animals. The Masai has brought the numbers of lions down. There is only about 40 left.
Poachers are still after elephant’s tusks in this area. The black market price is about 200 thousand dollars for a kilogram while the rhino horn is selling for 500 thousand US per kilo. However the 200 million dollar ivory trade was banned by the Kenyan government in 1976 and the parks are monitored by rangers poaching still creates a problem. Chinese and Vietnamese are known to use them as aphrodisiac while in the Middle East they use it for jewellery.

Witch doctors are quiet common in Africa. A reformed poacher was sharing his tips how the witch doctors made a potion for him and when he applied that he no longer had a human smell and animals were no longer afraid of him either.
Even politicans sometimes turn to witch doctors.

After the animals we got to interact with children of the local Masai school and listened to the teachers explaining about the Kenyan education system. The government is trying to encourage the importance of education to the ‘primitive’ Masai tribes. Allegedly with the system put in place in schools, the Masai culture will disappear in about 15 years.
It was heartwarming to see the children. They might have the bare minimum set up and simplistic way of learning willingness and intelligence came through their beautiful eyes. By providing educational options and support for them they can further themselves and with good grades they can be rewarded scholarships and given the opportunity to advance all the way to even a PHD level if they choose to and leave the tribal lifestyle behind.


Lake Naivasha and some tips for a Kenyan safari

Leaving Lake Nakuru in the morning after a beautiful breakfast at sunrise at the picturesque Nakuru Sopa Lodge. Heading from one lake to another, 90 kms later we arrive to Lake Naivasha which is a freshwater lake and famous for its boat rides and school of hippos. The lake used to be the landing spot for British seaplanes before Jomo Kenyatta Airport opened in Nairobi in 1958.

The lake has a colourful wildlife from fish eagles lurking for fish to hippos guarding their territory around the vegetation.

The rest of the day is on the road again. 6-7 hours towards the Amboseli National Park that lays on the border of Tanzania with Kilimanjaro providing a dramatic backdrop.

Laying in the back of the car feeling sick I thought I’d share some useful tips with you. You might have heard these tips many times but I can’t stress it enough how important to remember these to be able to enjoy your holiday.
We all have different immune systems so check with a travel doctor before you travel to East Africa what vaccinations and malaria medication you might need. It is based on the region. Get what you need at your discretion and once you are in the country remember not to have any tap water, not even for brushing your teeth or rinsing your toothbrush. Also stay away from fruit that you don’t peel yourself. Ice is the most common thing to forget next to brushing your teeth. I had three ice cubes in my drink last night and today I have had a years worth of bodily cleansing. Drinking plenty of water can be tricky when you are on the road pretty much all day long, so be prepared. Since they don’t have proper water systems in Kenya most of the water is infested so those little ice cubes were enough to knock me around. Diarrhea, abdominal cramps and muscle weakness it doesn’t make the trip pleasurable. So keep reminding yourself.

Some tips for when you book your holiday: Look at the itinerary and the locations on the map! Even though variety is good and a few hundred kilometres here and there doesn’t seem much, it takes at least twice as long to get to the destination not just due to the bad road conditions but also the constant traffic through villages. Safari jeeps have no air-conditioning so it doesn’t just get hot but with the windows open you inhale the fumes and the dust constantly. The bumps on the game drive I think it’s enough for an African deep tissue massage. You have options to book a trip with internal flights which takes the already expensive trip’s price even higher but you save yourself a lot of headache and time. East Africa has a lot of charm and it really feels like as time began there but keep a few things in mind when you book your trip and do your research. Reading other people’s experiences I find to be the best as travel agency’s brochures great photography can be really inviting and the travel agent is not going to tell you that the flamingos actually moved from the lake and on certain game drives you might not see anything. It’s best to do your own research. I honestly think that everyone should experience that part of the world, can’t get more real than seeing tribal people and animals in their natural habitat.
I wouldn’t recommend safaris in Kenya for people with back problems, motion sickness and respiratory problems. Other than that the destinations are great, the lodges are great and the tour operators do everything to ensure your safety and give you a great African experience. Once you book a trip everything is covered.
I have a back problem myself so next time how I would do this trip is I would fly into Masai Mara, would stay on the Serena Lodge side of the river for 3 days and be out on a game drive for sunrise and sunset when the animals are the most active. In Masai Mara visiting the Masai in their village is a must. Then from Nairobi I would hire a car and drive yourself to Lake Nakuru. Even though the flamingos are not there, it is a beautiful park with rhinos and Rothschild giraffes. Staying at the New Lake Nakuru Sopa Lodge gives you the best view of the lake. Then from there I’d drive to Lake Bogoria to see where the many pink flamingos moved to. Then I’d fly again to Amboseli or Serengeti National Park. If you are planning a Kenya trip remember there is a lot of driving, even on the game drives as the parks are huge and the animals are spread out, and you are not allowed out of the car so you might want to fly between destinations which only takes 40 mins from your time instead of 6 hours. Do your research and plan it wisely according to your needs in order to have the best experience.


Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Heading towards Nakuru after getting the daily African massage. I always wondered what that would be like to have beautiful Africans hands loosing my tight ‘zungu’ (white person in swahili) back. Instead of that the bumps on the roads served as a free African deep tissue massage. Having my beats on listening to African tribal beats while I’m looking out from the back of the car taking the Kenyan scenery in. I have been sitting next to the local driver so far who provided valuable information that I can share with you in the posts.

It is always interesting to get a local’s perspective. Especially in a country like Kenya where corruption is so significant and the young generations are subject to exposure of terra groups originating from the neighbouring Somalia. Things started to change in Kenya after the British has left and the colony ceased to exist, Jomo Kenyatta was no longer the president and Kenya gained its independence. The Somali’s continuous recruitment from the Kenyan youngsters for the Al Shabab puts a pressure on the country, especially when they have to fight back they don’t know whether they are fighting the somalians or their own kind. To protect the country there are negotiations now in the government about building a wall on the Kenya-Somalia border. Howevet tourism is well protected and workers in the industry make sure that you get your money worth. They are respectful and very knowledgeable. You can ask them any question and they will be proud to share about their country.

On the way you can spot some masai men walking in their vivid red robe holding tightly onto their spears, women carrying supplies from the nearest town, children playing or walking to school on the plains. Zebras, Giraffes, Warthogs, baboons feeding on the grasslands and many others looking for food on the savannah.

As Mumford & Sons’ ‘There will be time’ song comes up on my Spotify playlist and Baaba Maal starts singing in swahili the shiver runs down my spine. At the same time seeing children waving as our Land Cruiser passes by I have all this emotion overflowing in me – it really feels like as time began here. There is a lake at the Rift Valley in Kenya where our planet’s oldest tribe (the cousins of the Masai) the Tukanas come from. They call that place the ‘Cradle of mankind’.

In the afternoon we arrive to Lake Nakuru that used to be famous of the millions of pink flamingos. Unfortunately due to global warming and the water temperature rising the microscopic algae started dying therefore no more alkaline is left which means no food for the flamingos. About 5 years ago when this started happening from the millions of flamingos at Lake Nakuru there is only a few left, the rest had to migrate to other lakes like Lake Bogoria which now hosts the biggest numbers of Flamingos.

Also unmanaged garbage disposal made the water conterminated so animals no longer drink from the lake.

It is a shame really as the landscape is spectacular, the new Lake Nakuru lodge with a great view at the lake is probably one of the best around and it is not far from Nairobi. We did get to see the remaining Flamingos after visiting the rhinos in the government supported park. Note that the road was much better than in Masai Mara which belongs to the county.

It was just before sunset when we got a permission from the ranger to fly the drone and even though I got to fly with the flamingos the footage will be rather dark and the Flamingos will not look pink.


DAY 9 Masai Mara Safari

After breakfast at the Mara Sopa Lodge we began our journey in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which links the world’s biggest Game Reserve the Serengeti in Tanzania. That is where the migration of the animals takes place this time of the year (Mid July-November). 1.5 million wildebeest, 400 thousands zebras and 200 thousand gazelles migrate through the African savannah from the Serengeti to Masai Mara in order to find green grasslands. In November when it starts raining in Tanzania they return to Serengeti.

First thing in the morning we saw zebras, buffalos, giraffes spread out, and we get the closest to a cheetah observing his prey on top of a bunker. We saw lions but only from afar so it was time for me to fly Horus to take a closer look. Excitedly but cautiously in fhe morning high wind I flew above the 3 cats laying on the rocks getting the morning sun. With respect I kept my distance, observed them from 36 meters high then followed one of them as she was leaping through the rough terrains looking for a feed.

We later saw another group of lioness, one of them was wounded from the buffalos that are often a hard catch. A few hours later we did see the male lions with their big mains taking it easy in between leaves covered by the shade of a tree. The highlight of the full day safari was going to be the Mara River where the animals have to get across to be able to see whether the grass is greener on the other side or not. We waited for quiet a long time but we only saw two brave wildebeest crossing the river.

After a full day of exploring a small part of the 1500 square km Masai Mara Game Reserve we visited a Masai village. You can read the Masai warrior story in another post.


Through African plains and savannah

Karibu! Welcome to Kenya!

The xpeditions continue over the Indian Ocean to East Africa.
It was only a ‘short’ flight (5 hours) I had to take from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi.
After breakfast and a short briefing in the Safari Park Hotel we departed on a long journey to the Masai Mara with our jeep and a group of 5.
Our driver welcomes us, teaches us a bit of swahili as we go along and continually educating us about the history and cultures of the place. We just had our first stopover at the Rift Valley which was rich in the early history of human evolution about 2000 BC when tribal migration was happening with Ethiopian pastoral nomads being the first migrants.
About a thousand years later the Eastern Cushites settled in the central region of Kenya. Around 600 AD the Arabs started settling in the coastal towns and set up trade with the Arab world, Persia and India trading golf, ivory and slaves. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore Kenya when Vasco Da Gama made a stopover on his way to India. Their colonisation presence begins from 1505. They stayed in East Africa for 200 years. They built well established trading posts and exported gold, ivory and slaves to North America and the East Indies.
In 1698 Oman reconquered the region and the Sultan of Oman worked on regaining the economic and political supremacy. The island of Zanzibar soon became a lucrative trading zone. Even up to this day thoudands of Omanis live in Zanzibar and some older generation of Omanis still speak swahili living in Oman.
In Kenya the history as a colony starts with a german protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar. Then in 1920 it was succeeded by the British so then Kenya became the colony of the UK. Colonial urbanisation was linked to the railway line in Kenya. All the major urban centres are located along the railway line and the coastal economic attractions moved inland as well caused by the colonisation.
They are upgrading the new railway line now and Kenya is getting the high speed trains in by 2017 for quicker trade.

While noticing the number of women in the workforce, seemingly outweighing the men, the driver confirms that and he adds that masai men live like king. The women do everything, women build the huts, look after the cows and raise the kids. ( just like the kings of the jungle – the lions. )
I was doing further reaearch on feminism in Kenya and trying to read on the bumpy roads to distract my mind from the back pain. The driver says Masai Mara is a paradise but you have to go through hell to get to paradise. Especially this time of the year when the animals are migrating through here from the Serengeti.
See you tomorrow from ‘Masai Mara Paradise’ 🙂