It’s 2011 and we’re heading full speed to mum’s 50th birthday. To mark the occasion, we’ve gone on a 2 week adventure around Kenya.
I love travelling with mum. Her friends don’t share her adventurous spirit when it comes to holidays and prefer to stick to European beach resorts, which means I get to see some of the world’s best sights and spend some quality time with my mum.
Flying in to Mombasa, we spend a few days relaxing by our hotel’s infinity pool, eating our body weight in food and sipping cocktails. We’ve booked our safari through a local tour operator, Glorious Safaris. A car is sent to pick us up from our hotel to take us to their office to pay the balance of the trip. Having to pay almost £2000 in cash was the bit I was looking forward to the least. Didn’t like having that much cash on me.
Our epic journey starts early and we drive cross-country heading for the Amboseli National Park. It’s a long drive, some 7 hours, but it’s great to see African life in its flesh as we pass roadside townships, fruit stalls and schools. Within minutes of entering the national park, a massive bull elephant saunters past. I’m blown away by his size as he gracefully passes by.
Our home for the next 3 nights is Kibo Safari Camp. The simple, ensuite tents are in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, if only the cloud would lift so we could see it! After a scrumptious dinner, it’s to bed ready for tomorrow’s game drives.
Bellies full with breakfast, we board our private van in the search of local residents. Amboseli is famous for its large elephant population and we saw many herds, some with babies just a few months old. The little ones were so cute, swinging their trunks around as they tried to learn how to use them. I’m a huge fan of giraffe but these giant creatures were proving elusive. During the 3 hour drive, we spot elephant, buffaloes, gazelle, warthogs and more but no giraffe. During the evening drive, we catch the briefest glimpse of a lioness but the tall grasses get in the way of a good view.
The next day, the search for giraffe is on once again. We drive for hours, in and out of the national park. Just as we’re about to give up hope, I spot a head, almost Jurassic, sticking above the tree tops; GIRAFFE!! We shut off the engine and watch as the family graze on the acacia trees. The moment is made even more magical by the young zebras play fighting in the dirt just in front of them.
After lunch, we head out again and stop by a local Masai village. They give us a great insight in to their traditional way of life and the sound of their tribal singing will stay with me forever.
It’s our last night at Amboseli and still no sight of the mountain. We’re just on the cusp of sleep when we hear a call outside our tent. “Sir, madam, the mountain is awake”. We dive out of bed and watch in awe as the moon lights the top of the mountain as the cloud finally drifts away. The view is spectacular and we retreat to bed with smiles on our faces.
The next morning, the sky is still clear and Mount Kili is resplendent in the warming sun. We’re leaving on a jet plane today, so can’t stick around to enjoy the view for long. We’re heading to probably the most famous national park in Africa – the Masai Mara!
The flight on the 16 seater turboprop is calm and the views of the savannah below are incredible. Despite all the effort searching for giraffe in Amboseli, they’re practically lining the airstrip as we come in to land at the Masai Mara!
We’ve gone a bit more upmarket for our hotel for the next 2 nights and booked the luxurious Fig Tree Camp. Within hours of checking in though, mother is going crazy at the mongoose that have ransacked our tent and opened all the gifts she bought on the road trip to Amboseli. Newspaper and the contents of her overnight bag are strewn all over the floor. All I can do is laugh whilst she employs the services of a Masai warrior and his trusty slingshot to stand guard over our tent whilst we’re on our game drive. I, obviously, get allocated the bed nearest the door.
No private van here, but we’re in a good group with 2 raucous women from Doncaster and a lovely Dutch couple who volunteer at a local orphanage a few times a year. Within minutes of leaving the camp and entering the national park we stumble across a pride of lioness and their cubs snoozing in the bush. I’m excited and terrified! The animals are within arm’s reach, they look amazing but they’re also man eaters! One mother rolls over and I jump a mile! The baby snuggling at her side grumbles and clambers back in to the cosy nook. We spy daddy lion in the long grass but he’s too well hidden to get a good view. We stay for a few more minutes and then leave them to sleep in the afternoon sun.
We’re not doing bad with 3 out of the big 5 ticked off the lists provided by Glorious and there’s giraffe everywhere I look! A brief stop on the banks of the Mara River leads to us spotting a baby hippo, literally hours old. The tiny thing can’t even stand! Mum is keeping a cautious eye on us, but we’re on the other side of the river so she knows we’re no threat. We go on our way, eyes peeled for the last 2 animals on our list.
A crackle over the radio and an about turn in the middle of the dirt track. We all look at each other. This feels exciting. The air is thick with anticipation. We drive for a while and join a couple of other vans peering in to the bush. We’ve just missed it. The other vans drive off and leave us wondering what it was. We set off again and our driver takes us “off road”. The guides are meant to stick to the tracks but we head off in to the grass and around the bush. He kills the engine and out of the bush saunters a rhino. He stops and eyeballs us, lifting his tail he sprays the bush with his scent. He charges, but our guide fires up the engine and we’re off too! The rhino stops so we stop and kill the engine one more. Considering how desperately rare these creatures are, I’m thankful for just a few minutes in his company.
We never did tick off all 5. Those pesky leopards proved just too shy to say hello. Seeing 3 cheetah feasting on a gazelle almost makes up for it though. We just missed the kill itself but there was a macabre interest in watching the cats tuck in to their prize.
Date of trip: March 2011
Price paid: £2000 for 5 nights safari on full board basis. Mombasa hotel and flights booked through Thomas Cook for £2000 All Inclusive for 14 nights.
Points earned: None! This trip was before my points obsession took hold.