Kenya 2013 Diary: Day 4

16th February

Dad’s birthday! And what a bloody great day it was.

We had another early start at 5.30am to get to Lake Naivasha – a fresh water lake where we’d all chosen to take an extra excursion. We took a boat ride out to see hippos and birds. Across the other side of the lake we got out and walked through the location for a scene from “Out of Africa”. They left behind some of the animals used in the film (they took the lions away) and they are all now quite used to humans. So much so we stood a couple of metres away from a male giraffe.

Back in the boat, back to the van and onward to our next hotel in the Masai Mara. That trip cost us $30 or 2500KSH each. Not bad! Amos always gave us the option of these extra trips but we were under no obligation to take part in them. He presented us with this one, a hot air balloon ride and visiting a Masai village. Luckily the other family and us all agreed on what we wanted to do and declined the hot air balloon ride. It’s very expensive and probably well worth doing, but mum, dad and I had done a similar thing in Luxor and I realised I wasn’t a fan of hot air balloons themselves so we wanted to spend our money elsewhere. I think we all appreciated the lack of pressure to do these extra activities after the experiences we’d all had in shops.

The Masai Mara is the same plain as the Serengeti but called a different name to distinguish between Tanzania and Kenya. There wasn’t a huge amount of traffic, but there was some:

The roads varied quite a bit on the way and our tyre received a slow puncture which Amos thankfully noticed before our game drive. Nobody wants to get stuck in a game reserve with lions and a flat tyre!

Keekorok Lodge was charming and the first to be built in the Masai Mara in 1963, although now the number of hotels has reached over 70. The age of Keekorok is somewhat noticeable in the windows and doors but the interiors of everything is quite modern. The grounds are full of wildlife – monkeys appeared on the grass outside our lodge and tried to go up to people but they’re still wild so I wouldn’t trust them.

There’s also a waterhole owned by the hotel with resident hippos who make their way into the grounds at night. Later that night a hippo from the waterhole came onto land and walked right down the path outside our room. A ranger at the hotel took us to see them by torchlight which repeated the next night too. They were next to some impalas who were freaked out by torchlight. It’s comic how nervous they are, but it must be terrifying to be hunted.

We did our second game drive of the holiday at 4.30pm and had amazing success. We weren’t far into it when Amos heard something on his radio, did a quick 3 point turn and zoomed off in the opposite direction again. The bumpy roads are half the fun but this was to the extreme! Such fun! He apologised but was chasing something which was “very elusive”. We arrived at a clump of bushes where two other vans were already congregating. A solitary leopard is incredibly hard to see but we were lucky enough to spend about 15 minutes manoeuvring around the bushes to get some brilliant shots. More vans soon turned up but as always we were always in the best position.

Can you spot him?

It was only fair to let others get a view and onwards we went feeling very fortunate, buzzing with a rare sighting. Very soon we bumped into 5 female lions chilling in the afternoon heat. I can’t believe how close they let us get to them without being bothered.

As one walked past our van, she looked me directly in the eyes and held a stare. That’s the most peculiar moment I’ve ever had… she was studying me just as much as I was her… almost letting me know that she was fine with me being there.

It’s such a sparse plain with rolling hills to give occasional elevation that you can see all the other vans like ants clumping in certain areas when there’s something to see. Right before we had to get back to the lodge for the 7pm curfew everyone rushed off to the base of a hill where a male lion sat with his female counterpart.

 Male Lion

That evening, Dad had a birthday treat after dinner with a Masai tribe bringing him a birthday cake and chanting around our table. There’s something quite primeval about their chanting and we experienced more of this on the last day. Great 60th!