Kenya’s first memories for me are way back from 1990 when I was just 10 years old & in Class 5th; those were the days when I had started to show a lot of interest in general Knowledge & Quizzing! Kenya came into being for me when I found out about the African Elephants & their much bigger ears than their Indian counterparts and about the extinct-in-India Cheetah, both which were found in abundance in the Jungles of Kenya! That’s how I came to know about Kenya; it grew in prominence when I used to read about the Long Distance Running achievements of Kenyan athletes and the way they used to sweep all Olympic Medals and other Marathons! I always used to wonder what their secret is and why the hell they don’t succeed much in short-distance sprint categories!
|Pics taken from the Internet|
And I had to wait a very long time before I got to visit this beautiful country…it took me 24 years to finally lay my feet in the proverbial Dark Continent of Africa and spend time in the Jungles of Kenya! My partner-in-rhyme was my wife Bandita and this time we had a new comrade with us – our son Abhay Jha!
This trip would always remain very special for us as this was our first trip with him and his first International Trip! Even before he travels to India! We were both excited and worried at the same time throughout the entire waiting period about how he would cope with his first flight, his first sleep outside of his own little bed and most importantly how we would control him if he gets too ragged! I did so much of research on the internet going through innumerable blogs about “Travelling with Infants” and all that time spent came very handy when we actually left our home to start our trip! Thanks to all those blog posts and the writers for their invaluable help (I would mention all the Blog Names in my end notes for your help & reference).
The Planning for this trip started way back in January 2014 and our initial plan was to travel to Turkey for 14 days, infact I had finalized my itinerary, list of hotels and was just about to book our Flight Tickets before I checked with one of my Turkish Colleagues about the prevailing weather conditions during end of July to early August. She forewarned us about the intense heat during that time so I started to do more research before taking the Turkish Plunge (not the Turkish Bath one eh!) I sent messages to 15-20 users on TripAdvisor (my most favourite Travel Planning Partner) who had travelled to turkey in July/August 2013 to check about the weather conditions and mostly all of them advised me not to go ahead with our plans with our infant son! So the decision was quite easy for us but still all that planning helped me to plan our future Turkey trip plus it also helped my colleague Jitendra Das to plan his trip and he enjoyed Turkey with his wife following the itinerary which I had created!
I started looking for other options to travel during the same time and researched about Bulgaria, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Sweden but all of them didn’t sound too exciting to me (at that time) and finally I thought of Kenya as an option but had bigger concerns about it, namely Terrorism, Security, Mosquitoes and too much of Car Travel! So off I went to TA again and sent messages to people again and thankfully they came up with a lot of positive response! Also did a lot of research using other websites and finally we made our Travel Decision! Kenya it was! I booked our flight tickets on 3rd February which were damn expensive even when I had booked them almost 6 months before our travel, the reason being End of July is the peak season for Kenya considering it is the Grand Migration time at Maasai Mara plus the weather is perfect too! To add to our woes there isn’t any direct flight from Kuwait to Kenya so I had to book Emirates through Dubai. The SkyScanner website came very hands to compare the pricing options during that time! And all my research would come handy for 2015 and beyond when we would plan our future vacations! Europe is on our Radar for that time!
After finalizing Kenya the research started to find the right Travel Vendor for our safari trip and after spending a lot of time I came across Lion Trails Safaris – http://www.liontrailssafaris.com I sent them my first mail on 5th February, Bernard Mwai (The Owner) sent me a very prompt reply and I was very confident about entrusting LTS with our Safari even they were a bit expensive over the other quotes I had received! I chose their “LTS 015 – 6 Days Ndovu Safari” option and customized it basis my preferences. We exchanged a total of 67 Mails between us before the trip and he was always prompt, courteous & very informative in all his replies! At one time I got very apprehensive about the trip and he gave me a very honest answer – one which I had never expected to come from a Businessman! He was so brutally honest! I recommend him to everybody who wants to travel to Kenya as he can customize the trip as per your minute requirements and has options across all budget ranges! Plus his response time would blow you away! More about LTS later!
So finally July & Ramzan started and for us the Final Countdown too! I was getting way too excited, the way I always get before any upcoming trip and Bandita as always was cool, calm & collected! There were a lot of preparations & shopping which had to be done…Medicines, Mosquito Repellants, Mosquito Net, Baby Food and clothes for Abhay plus all the packing planning! We shopped a lot through BabyOye & FirstCry Online Stores plus shopping from Mother Care and Center Point here in Kuwait!
I had posted a query about buying Binoculars or not on the Kenya TA Forum and majority of the people advised me to buy a decent pair of Binocs plus Bernard also told me to buy one if possible! And that was the most relevant shopping advice I have ever got! I ordered Olympus 8X40 Model Binocs through Amazon India and picked it up during my June 2014 India Trip. They were so useful during our Safari always being our partner to spot the wildlife and view them up-close & personal! Without them our experience couldn’t have been the same! So please carry a decent pair of Binocs in your Safari trip!
We also carried some Energy bars and chocolates with us for emergency hunger moments! And they came in handy too for us as well as for martin during our long 6-7 hour drives!
We were all set on 24th July with all our packing, preparations & printouts and had a comfortable sleep before the day of our trip!
The day to day account of our 7-days Kenyan Safari Trip follows….I know I have taken a lot of space & words before the actual travel log but I felt the need to mention all those details to make the blog more informative with the background information! And as you all know I always prefer to be verbose with my blogs and rarely follow brevity!
Day 1 ||| Friday 25th July 2014 ||| Kuwait – Dubai – Nairobi
We got ready at 7 AM and had a light breakfast before my colleague Murtuza Bhai came to pick us up at 7:30 AM. We loaded all our stuff in his SUV – our 3 bags plus Abhay’s Car Seat & Stroller and off we went with a short prayer on my lips like I always do before starting a Ride/Trip! Reached a choc-a-bloc Airport and it felt as if everybody in Kuwait was flying out that morning!
The Emirates check-in counter was swarming with people and we were almost 20th in the queue even when we reached 2 hours before the flight was to take off! And then patience, excitement & observation took over! Patience of standing & moving in such a long queue, excitement of one by one the people in front of us moving out & we inching forward and the enjoyment of observing all those people which I enjoy doing a lot; people getting fidgety, excitement of the kids, some people getting tired and experiencing the overall buzz of that place! Our number came in due course and then we got our boarding passes, got through the security checks plus the immigration very quickly! All this while Abhay wasn’t cranky at all considering he is not used to be awake so early in the morning and this was a huge positive sign for us as we knew that he would be made awake every day for the next 6 days! We rested for a bit before boarding our Dubai flight which was a short one – 90 minutes flying time. I had booked the Bassinet Seats for us for all 4 flights which provided us a bassinet bed option for Abhay and much longer leg space for us; this was a big boon for us throughout our flights!
And the first big test started and Abhay passed that with flying colours! We all have heard and seen infants/kids crying at the time of a flight’s landing & take-off so we were well prepared to tackle that discomfort! We gave him his Milk Bottle & the soother at both those times and he slept blissfully at the exact time. We just could not believe it looking at his peaceful face as if nothing was happening! Generally he is very sensitive to sounds but the Aircraft Engine Blast didn’t bother him much at all! And all this happened due to my online research! Once again a big thanks to all those Blogs! God bless those writers!
The 90 minutes passed pretty landed and soon we were in the huge Airport of Dubai; got the first surprise of the trip when we got to know that we had to take a Metro Train Ride to reach from our Arrival gate to the Departure gate! Travelling in that train was definitely a very novel experience for us! Once we reached the gate we roamed around a bit through the Duty Free Shops which were buzzing with activity considering there was a Flat 20% Discount Sale on almost all the items excluding Electronics! I bought the USB Cable for our iPad (no discount) and had a Starbucks Bottled Cold Coffee to pass time! The Dubai to Nairobi 5-hours flight was going to be my longest flight ever…Finally at 3 PM after waiting for 2.5 hours we flew from Dubai towards our first African Sojourn and the excitement was palpable!
We landed in Nairobi 15 minutes before our scheduled time and I would never forget that cool breeze hitting our face the moment we got to the stairs of the Aircraft! It was such a welcome change getting into 16 degrees from the 49 degrees of Kuwait! Kenya surely welcomed us with a lot of cool vigour! The On-Arrival process was very smooth and it just took us 5 minutes to get the 3 Visas stamped on our Passport and as always Bandita’s Fingerprints were unreadable! Similar scenes has happened here in Kuwait too; we were let through by the Visa Officer even when the machine could not store her fingerprints after trying for 4-5 times! Our luggage came after a long wait of almost 30-odd minutes and while we were waiting I got the Kenyan Shillings currency from the Bank Exchange counter. Got our luggage and moved out where we were greeted by our hotel’s driver who had come to pick us up; his name was Stephen and he seemed quite a nice chap. We loaded our luggage in his car and went through massive rush-hour traffic before reaching our PrideInn Hotel on the Raphta Road.
Once again the check-in process was hassle free and our room was very comfortable! We anyway were going to spend just a night here. I had pre-booked a table for us through e-mail at The Seven Sea Food & Grill Restaurant after reading superb reviews on TA and going through the menu which looked quite impressive! Stephen took us to the Resto and the weather was perfect for an outside seating dinner made warm by the LPG Heater blowing just right next to us!
We were welcomed into our seats very courteously! We ordered our food and soaked in the weather & the lovely ambiance! Our order was – Calamari in garlic Sauce, Oysters, Seafood Paella, Open Ravioli and a glass of Spanish Wine! Everything was delicious, well-cooked and very well presented! This was the first time we were having Oysters and it was the perfect possible debut! Our 6-months old son loved the Ravioli Sauce too 🙂 the service time was completely appropriate considering everything was cooked fresh! We didn’t have any space in our stomach to try a dessert! Overall it was a wonderful experience and the perfect opening dinner of our Trip!
Got back to our room at 11:30 PM and had a very sound & peaceful sleep after a long day! The Safari was to begin the next morning at 8 AM and were all geared up for it!
Day 2 ||| Saturday 26th July 2014 ||| Nairobi – Amboseli National Park
This was the day when our Safari tryst was to begin! Finally after almost 6 months of endless wait & planning for me! Our Driver cum Partner cum Guide Martin was at the Hotel at 7 AM only! I had a short discussion about India and Kenya with him; he seemed like quite a knowledgeable and easy-going man basis our initial conversation. We got ready at 7:30 AM, I loaded our luggage onto our 4X4 Toyota vehicle, arranged Abhay’s Car Seat, had our breakfast and finished the check-out process before leaving at 8:45 AM (45 minutes behind schedule!) for our first National park destination – Amboseli, some 4.5 hours away! We passed through the early morning rush-hour and the hustle bustle looked very familiar to us; just like any other Indian City. We passed through the iconic Nairobi Railway station, couple of Industrial Areas and got on to the main highway after almost 45-odd minutes. Spotted Airtel’s office as well! Lots of businesses are operated by Indian-origin Kenyans and reading all those Indian names on big sign boards was quite good fun! Made our first Pee stop at 10:15 PM amidst the brown Maize & Wheat fields and clicked lots of pics of the gorgeous scenes passing us by!
Abhay had settled quite easily & cozily into his Car Seat and the journey so far and he was very chirpy throughout the first 2-3 hours! We stopped for our first long break at around 11:30 AM as Martin wanted to have some breakfast (he had started very early from his home to reach our Hotel) and we wanted to get fresh and stretch our legs for a bit! This place was just like our Highway Dhabas with the same rustic feel! I saw Martin having a not-so-good-looking dish and asked him the name & type; he told me it was Matumbo – Goat Intestines with Chapatis and asked me to take a bite. I was a bit apprehensive going by the looks but the aroma was quite nice so decided to dig in! The taste was quite decent and I had 4-5 bites; wasn’t feeling very hungry so got back to my tea! I posted Matumbo’s pic on FB and got extreme reactions from people & some of them were very funny indeed! There were some other local delicacies being prepared there – Ugali (the staple diet of Kenyans), Boiled Potatoes, Chicken Curry and Goat Head Soup Stew! Bandita & Abhay strolled in the gardens in beautiful weather (there was a light drizzle) before we started the final leg of the drive.
We reached our Jungle Lodge – Sentrim Amboseli at 1 PM. Martin asked us to get refreshed, unpack, have our lunch, take some rest and meet him at the reception at 4 PM to start our first Game Drive of this trip. We were ready to go at 3:30 PM itself after finishing everything – we were that excited you see! We lounged at the reception checking out the photographs; Martin came at 3:45 to pick us up and we embarked on our first journey into an African National Park. There was a rush of vehicles waiting for their entry permit into the NP at the Kimana Gate; Martin went to buy the tickets while the local tribal women came to upsell their artefacts! We were strictly advised by Martin not to fall into their trap due to the sub-standard quality of their products well in advance so we simply refused rather than wasting our time with them!
He came back after almost 20 minutes, we finally entered the NP and had the first glimpse of the animals! The first ones we saw were Zebras, Deers and Wildebeests who became our constant partners throughout the next 6 days! They are in Millions and strewn around the entire landscape of the NPs! The first big beasts we saw were the tall & lanky Giraffes and they are simply gorgeous animals; looking straight towards us they look so awesome! They surely were amongst my favourite animals of this entire trip!
Half an hour into our drive and we came face to face with the Celebrities of Amboseli! The African Elephant! There was a big herd grazing away to glory just some feet away from us and they looked so magnificent! Their tusks, their trunks gobbling the grass, the young babies and just their lucid movement made us fall in love with them within minutes! We gazed at the group for almost 10 minutes before moving on! We saw a solitary Ostrich next and one of my myths was busted! I always thought that Ostrich was native to Australia but Martin told us that it is an African Bird and was introduced in Australia much later! It was so amazing to see an Ostrich for the first time! For the uninitiated the ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest eggs of any living bird! We also had the pleasure of tasting its meat 2 days later! (More details later)!
Moments later we witnessed the first LIVE Zebra Crossing of our lives which was quite a surreal moment! Then spotted another huge herd of Elephants grazing in the Marsh. Then saw a group of African Wild Buffaloes grazing as well; they are huge, powerful and look so sturdy! Also they are a part of the Kenyan Big 5 which is comprised of Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Buffalo & Leopard and they are the most underrated and under clicked amongst these 5 special animals! Then it was a Bird Show for almost 30 minutes! We spotted almost 5-6 different types of gorgeous birds across sizes! Then we spotted a big group of Baboons playing merrily on the road; we had a very close view of them.
The sunset was fast approaching and we knew we had to exit the NP before it got dark. I was a bit disappointed as we had not spotted a Big Cat but still was very happy spotting so many different animals & birds in just 2 hours! But then we got lucky….we saw 6-7 vehicles parked some distance away from us and we were sure they had spotted something special! I hoped it was a Big Cat and then we spotted a group of 5 Cheetahs chilling together! It was a rare sighting as Cheetah is a solitary animal and very rarely spotted in a group of 5 but then lady luck was shining on us and this streak continued throughout our trip! You would read a lot of lucky spotting in the write-up ahead! Those 5 Cheetahs looked so gorgeous gazing at something we couldn’t figure out! Clicked some sunset shots before returning back to our Lodge.
Made a strong coffee for myself to get myself ready for the evening ahead after reaching our Tent while Abhay starting his evening schedule of shouting away to glory! Went for our early dinner at 8 PM which was a very extensive spread and as always I overate; there was so much variety – loads of salads, a live Pizza counter and we even got Hot Tawa Rotis! After the heavy dinner we finally called it day!
Next day was going to be another long one as we had to be ready by 6 AM for our breakfast followed by the Sunrise Game Drive…and then another drive after Lunch…
Day 3 ||| Sunday 27th July 2014 ||| Amboseli National Park
We got up at 5:15 AM all set to start the day really early to be ready to hit the NP at exact 6:30 AM when the NP Gates open to visitors! Abhay was once again very cooperative in getting up & getting ready and we were in the restaurant for the breakfast at 5:50 AM! Had a heavy breakfast and left the property with Martin on time!
The day started on the perfect possible note on so many different counts!
1. We spotted the elusive African jackal lounging in the savannah looking for breakfast! They are rarely seen so early in the day
2. 3 Gazelles gave me a perfect camera shot! It couldn’t have been better. Perfectly synchronized pose!
3. And then the first view of the queen of the Jungle – we saw 1 lioness chomping away at an early morning meal of a wildebeest while 2 other lionesses were relaxing nearby! There was a group of 11 Hyenas who were eating for the Lionesses to leave and start their scavenging activities! A faceoff was imminent as the Hyenas were getting desperate & frustrated but the lioness who was licking away the bones of the kill was in no mood to budge! Some of the Hyenas got bored & sat at a distance while the 2 other lionesse3s kept growling & scaring the remaining hyenas who tried to get too close! It was a fascinating sight indeed of seeing the struggle and supremacy of the Queens!
4. And the Wildlife fun wasn’t over as yet infact it was getting better! Few minutes later we saw a large Family of Elephants walking towards us from the right side, we stopped our car to wait for them to cross and enjoy them from very close! It was a majestic sight to see so many of them walking past right next to us!
5. After enjoying the elephants we saw 3 Hyenas walking past us after polishing a left-over Zebra Kill! The carcass had not even a single gram of meat left…they had scavenged it completely! No wonder they are kings of the Scavenging world!
6. Then we saw another huge group of Elephants, this time walking towards us from the left side! I got some beautiful pics of the herd when they were walking away from us! It is a daily ritual for the grazing animals to move inside the park every morning! The elephants spend their entire day at the marshy areas to cool them off and keep eating continuously whereas the other smaller herbivores – Zebras, Gazelles and the Wildebeests keep grazing across the savannah and moving rapidly!
And then the most exciting and special moments of our entire trip! And personally for me very rewarding & worth life-time memories….
I spotted 3 Gazelles on our left side at a far distance looking at something very intently towards their right! I don’t know how or why but I sensed something and asked Martin to stop our vehicle & wait for a bit. I looked at them using my Binocs and moments later saw a lone gorgeous lioness walking towards us in full splendor! I just can’t explain how excited I was at that moment! And my excitement knew no bounds when I saw another lioness following her in the background! And the best part was that we were all alone with no other vehicles in the vicinity!
We had both the lionesses just to us in absolute silence; we were whispering too so that the show wasn’t disturbed! They kept walking towards us in full style and then crossing our vehicle and moved forward! I clicked a lot of pics and made 2 videos as well – memories worth a lifetime! We followed them in our vehicle for 35-6 minutes before they slowly walked inside the bushes maybe to get back to their family! We circled the bushes just to try our luck to spot their family but they were very well hidden! Those 16 minutes were one of the best moments of my life atleast! I have done many exhilarating things in my life and those moments definitely take the top spot! We had Goosebumps on our arms and minds!
The best words were spoken by Bandita when she asked Martin “Should we be afraid?” and Martin replied “No, you just should be happy”! Even for him it was a special moment so early into our Safari and definitely very proud 15 minutes for me as I spotted the lionesses first with minimal experience! Thanks to my 4 eyes and then the 2 eyes of the Binocs!
And the 2 Videos I shot…lifetime memories…
After those exciting moments we moved on into the interiors of the park and saw many more animals and birds before reaching our Lodge at 1 PM for a lunch break and rest before leaving for another Game Drive at 4 PM! Had another wonderful and filling lunch before taking a short nap in our tent!
Our day Game Drive started on a high as we spotted a lone Cheetah strolling just 10 minutes into our drive! He was maybe looking for some late lunch as he was continuously scanning the savanna for some animals! We tracked him for a bit and then he went further away from us! We spotted many Giraffes during the day as well munching away to glory! They really are majestic animals!
Spotted many big herds of Elephants calling it a day late in the evening after munching & rollicking throughout the day and it was time for us to say goodbye to Amboseli! We exited at 6:30 PM from the Kimana gate after 3 awesome Game drives and spotting so many wild beasts and birds! It is most famous for Elephants but we got the opportunity to spot many more animals too!
We reached our Lodge and spent some time roaming around the property near the Swimming Pool Area as due to our hectic schedule never got the time to enjoy the full services but that wasn’t our objective of staying here anyway! The weather was very pleasant too and Abhay was having a ball!
We reached our tent and lounged outside in the sitting area for some time to enjoy the last evening in Amboseli while Abhay had milk and we had coffee! Perfect family time in the wilderness and so close to the African Wildlife! We took some rest before having another lip-smacking dinner! I had 4 mini-Pizzas this time! Just kept gobbling them up! I must complement Sentrim Amboseli for serving such delicious food and the staff was so helpful and courteous! During both the lunch times there were 2 attendants who used to take Abhay for a stroll in the kitchen & around and we had our lunch peacefully!
The tents were also very spacious, clean and very well set-up perfectly matching our needs. And perfect privacy was maintained as there was a fair distance between each tent.
We finished our packing after the dinner and had another short sleep! Next day was going to be another hectic day (our everyday pattern across this trip!)
Day 4 ||| Monday 28th July 2014 ||| Amboseli National Park – Nairobi – Lake Nakuru National Park
We bid goodbye to Sentrim and Amboseli at 7:15 AM after having our breakfast, packing some croissants & buns for the journey and loading our stuff into our Car! Abhay once again was raring to go perched in his Car Seat – no tantrums, none whatsoever!
And a huge (literally too) surprise was waiting for us at a distance! After waiting for 2 days we finally caught a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level! Another special moment of our Trip! It was very cloudy throughout so it was tough getting a look but for a brief period it cleared up and finally we saw the mountain! We are used to the Himalayan peaks so were expecting a pointed peak but it is a flat top mountain and there was a bit of snow laid out on the top just like the proverbial icing on the cake!
My mind went back to 2010 when I had gone to Sikkim to meet Bandita and stayed in Gangtok for a week and supposedly my Hotel room had a Mt Kanchenjunga Direct View but thanks to the cloudy weather I could not see it but lady luck smiled on the last day when I was about to check out and saw the beautiful peak with sunrays making it glow! I had a similar sighting 4 years across! The Lady Luck smiled once again!
And such beautiful roads we went through Kenya. Missed “The Mighty One” badly; hope I could ride him through those wonderful roads…
Our first destination of the day was Nairobi and more specifically the World-Famous Carnivore Restaurant which is famous for its BBQ Game Meats and I was very excited about eating the meats of some wild animals for the first time in my life!
Abhay was very playful throughout the 4 hours’ drive and kept us fully awake even when we wanted to catch some sleep! The weather was gorgeous and the roads brilliant so we reached Nairobi before our planned arrival! We reached the restaurant at 11:40 and they weren’t ready to start the Lunch operations so I & Martin went to a supermarket to do some shopping of snake items – Chipps, Cakes and Juice! I also picked up some Kenyan Tea which I am enjoying these days every evening!
Reached the resto & started our Lunch at almost 1 PM. This was going to be a very long and comprehensive lunch for sure seeing all that Meat getting ready in the huge BBQ! It started with some salad, sauces & breads and the real game started with Honey-glazed Chicken Wings and grilled Chicken; both of which were very flavourful! And then the first game meat made its entry – Ostrich Meatballs! Along with Chicken Gizzards & Lamb Sausages! Next up were Smoked Ox Balls which were surprisingly quite delicious! Bandita couldn’t gather the guts to give them a shot though! It was followed by some more varieties of Chicken, Beef, Lamb and Turkey!
And then the biggest Game Meat was served – Grilled Crocodile! I was most excited about this meat but it wasn’t very delicious– the meat was very rubbery and had no inherent taste of its own but still the experience of having crocodile meat remains unparalleled in my books! We took some rest to get ready for some more meat before starting the attack again! Abhay got bored of seeing all those skewers and slept peacefully!
The BBQ was all heated up and the aromas were wonderful indeed! All the chefs were frantically moving the skewers and the attendants continuously walking up & down serving all those delicious meats! The service was impeccable even when the resto was full! We finished our lunch at 2:15 PM, one hour behind schedule; quickly clicked some final pics and started our drive to Lake Nakuru!
This experience would always remain special as I am sure most probably we would never get a chance again to enjoy such Game Meats! Martin was a great lunch partner sharing lots of information about Kenyan food customs!
We passed through afternoon rush hour before hitting the highway an hour later and soon we were driving through beautiful scenery of the Rift Valley approach roads! The air got very chilly and pine trees were accompanying us on both the sides! It felt like we were driving through the Himachal roads! The similarity was so stark! And we were in a hurry so could not afford to stop and enjoy the scenery in peace but were promised by Martin that on the final day he would definitely stop for us to soak the scenery; that was a big consolation! We opened our vehicle’s windows and enjoyed the blast of chilled-fresh air! Abhay was also enjoying this new experience in his life and was at his cheerful best!
We finally reached the Lake Nakuru NP at 5:30 PM after blasting our way through and had just little over an hour to enjoy the scenery & the animals because as per the Park rules we had to exit maximum by 6:45 PM. The twilight time was soon approaching & the scene was surreal with the lake in the background!
And once again we got lucky within moments of entering the NP! We spotted a group of 5 Double Horned African rhinoceros grazing merrily very close to us! They are an endangered species now due to rampant poaching and we were fortunate enough to get such a close look at them!
We also spotted a pair of an endangered species of Giraffes which are being fiercely protected in Kenya these days as very few remain in the wild! So within 10 minutes we had the sheer good luck of spotting 2 endangered animals! Aren’t we lucky or what!
We proceeded towards the Lake to witness our first & only disappointment of this trip! Due to excess rains & the resultant flooding no Pink Flamingoes came to this lake this year. This has happened after 70 odd years; the reason is lack of food for the Flamingoes due to excess water in the Lake and as a result the flamingoes decided to give Nakuru a miss this year and went to another lake some 200 kms away. We spotted a group of Pelicans plus some other birds and rued our bad timing! The water has taken over almost 8-10 square kilometers of Land Area and lots of roads have been inundated as a result. This was a huge disappointment for us as we were expecting a pink lake as it is every year; something like this…
We clicked some family pics & of the bursting with water lake and moved towards our Lodge for our overnight stay – Flamingo Tented Camp; enroute we spotted a solitary Hippopotamus rummaging through the shore side water for some food!
We checked-in our tent after a small briefing at the reception about the dinner & breakfast timings and it was already pitch dark by then. We moved to our tent, got freshened up and moved towards the Restaurant for dinner where we were treated to another surprise!
We finished our dinner which was not too great (semi-cooked Lamb Chops) and were gobbling away our Desserts when the entire restaurant Staff came out dancing & singing the famous Kenyan Song “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili with some percussion instruments as well! The lady in the front also had a cake in her hands and went towards the corner table (where a couple was seated) where candles were burnt and then blown away! We thought must be a birthday celebration and went towards the table to wish the particular person after we finished our meal! The lady looked vert familiar but I could not point out who she was so thought maybe I had seen her pics on FB; I even asked her name which she didn’t give out and changed the topic! But Bandita recognized her and asked her “Are you Dimpy?” and she was stunned and just replied “we are from Kolkata”! The couple was celebrating their “1st wedding Anniversary” and the lady was Dimpy Mahajan – the estranged wife of Rahul Mahajan! She isn’t legally divorced as yet and was still celebrating her anniversary with another guy! The expressions on her face were priceless indeed! Even in their wildest imaginations they would have never thought that they would be recognized in Kenya in one of the most reclusive properties at Lake Nakuru sitting in a corner table but such is luck! And they were so taken aback that they didn’t even come for breakfast the next morning; obviously their plans had been scuttled by Bandita! Ha ha!
We got back to our Tent after a very interesting dinner and slept with the Mosquito Net around our bed! Yes, this was the only place where we encountered mosquitoes as it was near a lake and there was a lot flooding as I had mentioned! We were forewarned by a lot of people during the planning of our trip about the mosquito menace so were very well prepared with Repellants and even a portable mosquito net-bed for Abhay; fortunately we didn’t get to use them much except for that night where we applied the mosquitoes, put the mosquito patches on our clothes too! After all we had to use them once when we got the single opportunity as I am sure we won’t be using them ever again! Another Kenya myth busted!
Day 5 ||| Tuesday 29th July 2014 ||| Lake Nakuru National Park – Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Another long day was in the offing for us. We woke up at 5:30 and checked out of our tent at 6:30 AM for our breakfast. The property was beautiful and it was a pity we could only stay here for a night not enjoying any of the other services apart from the Restaurant but then our plan was like that! Had our breakfast and left at 7 AM; we had decided to start for Mara straightaway and not waste any time to go towards the lake considering there were no flamingoes to be sighted! It was a sad way to end our Nakuru sojourn but then we did’t have any options with us; it was better to reach Mara ASAP to enjoy the wildlife there! But then luck had something else in store for us! A perfect Nakuru Bonus!
We were driving towards the gate and Martin told us to see on our right side & spot something! I hadn’t got my Binocs out and could not spot anything from my naked eyes! But I got the Binocs out and saw 2 young male lions soaking in the Sun staring right at us! What a beautiful sight it was! 2 handsome young Lions and in such beautiful weather! The Nakuru Drive an evening before started with a high (Rhinos and Giraffes) and ended on a high too with this magnificent spotting and took care of the Flamingo disappointment by a long margin!
We headed straight towards Mara through the Highway through the Roads around the Great rift Valley and those reminded me our own Himalayan roads – lush green on the sides, chilly weather and beautiful scenes! It started drizzling a bit and the roads became even more beautiful! We reached the Mara gate on schedule at 1 PM, went straight towards our Mara Lodge stay to check-in, get fresh, have lunch and get ready for an evening Game Drive!
And then the Chinese Influence here too! The maximum number of Tourists in Kenya are from China and they are in hoards! They have warmed up to the idea of World Travel very recently and everybody knows how much money they have! They are also investing heavily in Infrastructure Development in Kenya too. So it is obvious that some of the boards are in their language too!
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve is one of the most popular game reserves in the World and is well known for the abundance of Wildlife across seasons. The Savanna Grasslands flourish here ensuring there is no dearth of food for the herbivores and in turn ensuring the carnivores never sleep hungry excess in the times of droughts! And for every visitor to Kenya it is the most important part of their itinerary especially during the Great Annual Migration which starts in early July.
The reception of our property – Ilkeliani was manned by a Maasai Tribe Warrior who gave Abhay a new name – Ledama; it means one who was seen/born in the day, we checked in at 1 PM so the name was apt for him and it was perfect for Abhay as he was born at 2:15 PM! After the briefing we went towards our Tent which was the biggest amongst the 3 tents we had stayed at and with the most picturesque location too as it overlooked the Talek River flowing right beside our tent!
We had a late lunch at 2:30 PM which was mighty delicious and perfect for our hungry tummies! Our attendant throughout the stay was a young man named James who was a very determined 24-years old with dreams to become a “great man” one day’ yes that is what he told us! He had a tough childhood, could not finish his graduation as his family circumstances forced him to start working at a very young age, applied for his job at Ilkeliani through Facebook (yes, it works!), got through his interviews, went through a rigorous 1-year training program and it showed in the way he dealt with his guests! It was very interesting talking to him and getting to know more about him, his family and his dreams! Abhay took a special fancy to him & became friendly with him instantaneously; James took him around the property while we had our delicious lunch in peace (all the other guests had already finished their lunch by then).
As planned we got to the Rope Bridge at 4 PM to start our first game drive of our Maasai adventure! Special mention for that rope bridge as it kept shaking & vibrating when one was walking through and the brave Bandita crossed it with aplomb holding Abhay in his arms! It was scary as the river was passing right beneath the bridge and all that shaking added to the scares!
We were amazed by the sheer number of wildebeests and zebras scattered all across the landscape! They were literally everywhere! Plus there were loads of Deers & Gazelles too; everybody gobbling grass with gay abandon! We also spotted the first Warthog of this trip! Now we knew why Mara is the favourite place for all predators & visitors alike!
Within half an hour into our drive we had the first big spotting of an entire Pride of Lions! First to come into view were 7 Lion Cubs playing merrily & 3 cubs even posed for us looking straight at the camera. After enjoying their play we spotted 2 adult lions who were baby-sitting the cubs gingerly trying to stay awake in the day under a bush! A little further away the Mother Lioness was stretching herself under a bush and then gave us a stern look as if telling us not to disturb her afternoon siesta! Soon there were atleast 10-12 cars who came to see the pride! It was the perfect possible start we could dream of! We also spotted a family of Hyenas having fun in the day!
We went further inside the Park near a lake; surprisingly people were allowed to get down from their vehicles at the lakeside and get a close view of the birds and Hippos! The Hippos were in no mood to give us a look & were submerged completely! We moved on and spotted 3 Hyena Pups with their mother trying to hide but still I could capture them in pics! One of the pups was breastfeeding too!
And we spotted a solitary Cheetah soaking in the fading Sun and trying to conserve energy for the night ahead! It gave us some beautiful poses too and soon collapsed for a nap after that! Perfect timing for us!
We also spotted a lot of Vultures; infact every other treetop had a vulture couple sitting with their young ones; some feeding them or some scanning the landscape for a scavenging opportunity! The adult ones had such powerful & sharp beaks; no wonder they can break open rotting carcasses with such ease!
We moved on and saw the animals chilling out before the day ended for some more time before the predators get active in the dark and they have to protect their lives! I was fascinated by the sky & the clouds with the colour patterns it was emitting! The cloud designs were also so beautiful and I kept clicking continuously! Then I asked Martin to stop our vehicle as I wanted to enjoy & click the sunset views while the Sun went down completely! I got some fabulous shots and that sunset scene would definitely rank very high amongst the most beautiful Sunsets I have ever witnessed! The most beautiful so far has been the one I enjoyed in the backwaters of Kumarakom, Kerala during my January 2009 West Coast Ride sitting in the boat while sipping chilled Kingfisher Beer!
Amazing pics I got….take a look…
I also captured the “Eid ka Chaand”! Most of the World was celebrating Eid that day and it was a perfect shot for that day! We spotted a family of Giraffes posing for us to end a brilliant game drive at Mara.
We had an early dinner that night and the food was as expected brilliant! We relaxed at the restaurant talking to fellow guests before calling it a day at 10 PM. Next day was going to be another exciting day & I was to do experience another “first” of my life and had to wake up at 5 AM to be ready for that adventure! Plus we were to experience one of the most important & top Agenda items of our Kenya Trip!
Day 6 ||| Wednesday 30th July 2014 ||| Hot Air Balloon Trip & Full Day at Maasai Mara Game Reserve
This was going to be a really long day for me as I woke up at 4:30 AM to get ready for my pick-up by the Hot Air Balloon Trip vendor at 5:30 AM from our Resort towards the take-off site. There was a wake-up call given to me by a Maasai Tribal but I was well awake by then! Coffee, Cookies and Muffins were also served in the tent at 5 AM – this was absolutely brilliant service!
Joseph – The owner of the HAB company came to pick me from the Parking Gate at 5:30 AM & we were off to the take-off site after picking up 3 girls from another resort named Base Camp which became famous after the Obamas stayed there in 2006; they planted one plant each and that particular area is now known as The Obama Forest!
I reached the site where lots of other people had already reached and the Balloons were getting ready to take-off and the Sun was just about to rise! The scene was surreal indeed; beautiful early morning light along with the Helium fires and the chill in the air! I clicked lots of pics of the rising Sun and the action scenes happening around me!
There was long wait before the Balloon finally got all fired & ready to take off and we started the process at 6:45 AM with the Sun behind us! It was a smooth take-off and I was finally in a Hot Air Balloon which I had always thought of doing but it is quite expensive in India (I remember checking the rates in Pushkar in 2008 and I almost fainted when got to know the price); even this trip was expensive but then a lot has changed since those days of 2008! Whenever we visit Turkey we would do our next one during our Cappadocia trip!
We were a total of 24 people in the Balloon & our Pilot was from Canada who had earlier flew balloons in Las Vegas for 9 years before moving to Kenya in 2013. He gave us the initial briefing which was very crisp & clear and also kept sharing information while we were in the air. The weather was perfect too; no clouds, crystal clear sights, not too windy and it got warmer too! We started to spot big herds of the herbivores waking up from their slumber & starting their grazing rituals! The wildebeests were running for cover as if we were going to attack them from the top!
Thanks to my binoculars & the gained knowledge of animal spotting this time too I was the first one to spot the first big cat of the day! One solitary cheetah was walking royally away from us; I told the group and there were a lot of “oohs & aahs” followed by some thanks too! All this while the grazers kept frantically running and we kept enjoying the terrain & the lovely scenes from the top! Then I spotted a pair of giraffes, one Jackal and then a pair of Elephants too! I was soon the star of the balloon and people started thinking of me as a Kenya Safari Veteran!
The next spotting of Cheetah was done by the pilot though! I won’t take any credit for that! There were a lot of other balloons floating in the air & they looked so beautiful! I clicked some gorgeous panorama shots and made couple of videos as well.
And then the best spotting of the day! By yours truly! Saw 3 lionesses from a distance sitting between dense bushes! And one lioness was chomping away a fresh Zebra kill; there was a lot of fresh blood on the carcass and infact her face was laced with blood too! It was such an amazing sight! As we moved closer they looked up and gave us a beautiful pose too! Once again loud thanks came my way!
Soon it was time for landing & the pilot told us the procedure for us to get ready accordingly! We landed on our side and it was so exciting for everybody lying flat on our side with the balloon lying nearby! Lots of pics were clicked before we gingerly moved out & getting driven to the Breakfast Site! It was a very soft landing indeed. We were in the air for almost an hour and it was a thrilling ride indeed! One for lifelong memories! We spotted another lioness sitting with her wildebeest kill on the way to breakfast! It kept getting better!
The breakfast site was exquisite too! Right in the middle of the Maasai Mara with well laid out chairs & tables, lots of food varieties and most importantly a mobile loo as well which was named “Loo with a View”! Champagne was served to all the Balloon flyers to celebration our safe landing & I even game my signature pose with the glass! Our group sat on one table together & I sat next to a Gujarati Lady who was a British Citizen; as always our conversations were about our travel experiences! I just love talking to new people I meet about where all they have travelled and their best & most memorable experiences!
After another heavy breakfast I got on to a vehicle to reach my resort where Bandita, Abhay & Martin were waiting for me to start our day-long Mara River trip! Enroute we spotted lots of wildlife! 2 new ones were The Kori Bustard which is Africa’s largest flying bird & infact the heaviest living animal capable of flight and a big group of Mongoose or Nevla as we know it! I also saw a sitting Giraffe for the first time in our time; before this I had always seen them standing so this was another new spotting for me!
I had paid 415 USD for this Balloon trip which is quite a high amount but all the special experiences made this expense completely worth it! And I recommend this to everybody making a trip to Mara; this just can’t be missed & must be a part of your itinerary without fail! Save money somewhere else but don’t give this a miss! (I sound poetic too!)
I finally reached Ilkeliani at 11:30 Am & we started our day-long trip to the River Mara hoping to see the River Crossing of the Wildebeests and the Zebras! We had got our Lunch Boxes packed from the Lodge too. It was the warmest day of our trip but we didn’t mind the heat at all as the anticipation & excitement was sky high!
We had seen 4 of the Big 5 of Kenya already – Buffaloes, Elephants, Rhinoceros & Lions; just one beast was pending – the ever so elusive Leopard, spotting one in the wild depends purely on luck! But as you know by now luck was definitely on our side during this trip! I was hoping to see one before the trip ends and all my prayers were answered when Martin said “let’s see a Leopard today” and I started jumping up & down! He took us close to some dense bushes & told us that a leopard is often spotted sleeping on of the tress; we went straight inside and BINGO! Saw him sleeping blissfully on the tree! I just can’t explain my exhilaration & excitement which I felt at that instance. It was such a glorious sight! He was sleeping with such grace & abandon; whenever there was a sound he used to open one of his eyes, give us a glimpse and then indifferently get back to his slumber! I kept staring at him & clicking pics for almost 10 minutes before we moved away to give direct viewing opportunities to others! Yes, like always we had the first initial view of him!
After this elusive spotting only 1 final agenda item of this trip remained – the River Crossing & we drove towards that spot! Our first & final stop was the Mara Valley Viewpoint; before that we had a very slow & bumpy drive uphill with gorgeous scenes amidst us! We enjoyed the view point while looking at the gigantic grassland beneath us! It was a beautiful sight indeed & the weather had cooled down considerably too! We also spotted the “Secretary Bird” nearby! Yes, that is the real name of this bird because it resembles an old-fashioned secretary carrying quill-pens tucked behind her ears. It is the national emblem of Sudan as well as a prominent feature on the Coat of Arms of South Africa.
We finally reached the River at 2:15 PM & took a drive near the shore; spotted few Hippos doing what they are best at – submerged & chilling in the water and saw a lioness in her afternoon siesta too! And this lioness played the biggest villain of our trip (more details soon!). After that drive we parked our vehicle bang opposite the river where a huge group of wildebeests were standing all confused; whther to cross or not! I am sure many of you would have watched similar scenes on NatGeo or Discovery channels as this is one of the most fascinating, popular and visited spots of Kenya during July & August! We had our box packed lunch which was quite extensive – a big piece of Grilled Chicken, Chicken Sandwich, 1 green apple, 1 banana, 1 apple juice & a big piece of vanilla sponge cake ; I gobbled it all plus ate some from Bandita’s box too!
And then the long wait started for the wildebeest to make their brave decision to jump down the cliff, cross the river infested with crocodiles and walk towards the other side where the lioness was slumbering! No wonder they take so much of time in making their final move; it is a life-threatening decision for each one of them! Some zebras also joined this long decision-making session! And the Villain made her move; the lioness suddenly woke up & decided to take a stroll and change her position! She coolly strolled towards her left & there was a huge commotion among the animals on the other side. All of them moved away from the shore & went up the cliff! All their time & our time was wasted by that silly lioness & it was very surprising as they rarely wake up or move during the day and keep sleeping throughout but then we were unlucky that day! There were almost 40 other vehicles waiting & all of us were left disappointed!
For us it was really bad as this was the only possible time slot to view the crossing, we were leaving from Mara the next day and there was a very clear possibility of leaving Kenya without witnessing a Live crossing! I was thoroughly disappointed…we decided to change our position 7 moved towards the other side of the riverside where another huge group had built up deciding to cross! Soon all the other vehicles also followed us and another wait began! I started praying frantically! And all this while Abhay was nonchalantly having fun; having his lunch and just chilling!
God heard my prayers and within 20 minutes of changing our spot we witnessed the first & only river crossing of our Safari! A group of 20-odd Wildebeests finally decided to cross to the other side; even though it wasn’t a huge crossing in terms of numbers, the ones I had watched on TV but still was a crossing for sure! I thanked God for giving us this chance & then decided to wait for some other group to make a similar move. We waited for another hour or so but no animal decided to cross; some Zebras did come very close & moved into the water but moved back after having a drink! And then we decided to leave as our patience and enthusiasm had ran out plus we were very exhausted too! But before we left we spotted a Crocodile lounging on the shore & very well camouflaged as always waiting to pounce on some hapless wildebeests!
Witnessed another gorgeous Mara sunset while driving back and this was the last sunset of our Safari! We were completely exhausted in the drive back to the resort and wanted to just collapse on our comfy bed in the tent! We reached at around 7 PM & were welcomed by a group of Maasai tribesmen who wanted to get clicked with Abhay – yes, he was the celebrity of Ilkeliani! And as always Abhay checked the faces of those men by rubbing their cheeks vigorously; we had to take him away before he licked their cheeks as it would have been very embarrassing!
We reached our tent, took bath and had a coffee session outside our tent overlooking the Talek River while lounging on the Sun Bed! It was a beautiful night! Then had our dinner at 8:30 PM before crashing on our beds at 9:30 PM…it was a real long day for me, I had woken up at 4:30 M you see!
Day 7 ||| Thursday 30th July 2014 ||| Bandita’s Hot Air Balloon Trip & Maasai Mara – Nairobi
Today Bandita was supposed to go for her Hot Air Balloon Trip; we had planned it beforehand that one day I would go while she stays with Abhay and the next day we would swap! This way we didn’t get to miss out on this new experience as Kids below 8 years weren’t allowed on the Balloon Trip. Perfect planning eh!
Her pick-up was scheduled at 5 AM so she was up at 4:30 itself; I woke up to wish her best of luck and then slept off! Had put my alarm for 6:30 AM as had to get ready, finish all the packing, get Abhay ready, click our tent’s pics, have breakfast and then leave for a morning safari at 8 AM! Phew, so much to do! But me being the responsible father and enthusiastic traveler completed everything on time, loaded our luggage for one last time into our vehicle and left for my last Game Drive of this trip at exact 8 AM! I met & thanked the Resort staff for their brilliant service & hospitality and wished them the best of luck! Ilkeliani is infact owned by an Indian-origin Kenyan and it felt great to know that!
We had a listless 2-hours’ drive & saw no big cats so was a bit disappointed but then I have had my share of big cats spotting in the trip so far so just soaked in the Mara Air one last time! All this while Abhay was once again the ever-so-happy & enthusiastic kid playing with me and enjoying the good weather! We saw 2 Hyenas fighting over a carcass with a group of Vultures & witnessing that face-off was good fun!
|Martin with his Toyota 4X4 – Our Trusted Partners!|
We picked Bandita after she finished her flight & breakfast and then drove on further into Mara! She had a rather less interesting balloon flight as she didn’t get to see any of the Big Cats, Elephants or Giraffes but she enjoyed her experience for sure! Her pilot was from Poland and had flew in Cappadocia, Turkey for 8 years before moving to Kenya! She shared her fun stories with me & Martin with full enthusiasm though so clearly it was worth all the effort for her too!
And the moment she joined us back our luck changed; as they say Lady Luck was back! We spotted a lioness sitting with her fresh kill all full & satisfied in the shade of a bush! And I thought I really need this lovely lady with me always!!!
Then another of my legendary spotting; we were moving in our vehicle & thought I saw a Tortoise and BINGO! Martin backed-up and we saw a Leopard Tortoise very close to us! He got out & held him to determine the sex, she was a female tortoise and he explained us about their hibernation & food habits. Was really happy that I was getting better at spotting supposedly camouflaged wildlife now! Big thanks to my Binocs! Then we saw a big Kite gobbling at a freshly-killed rabbit but when we got closer it flew away! I could not capture it in flight too, it was so quick in flying away.
And then the final Big Cat show! And what better way to sign off from the Kenyan Wildlife & Maasai Mara than to see a Huge Male Lion staring right at us while lounging away in the shade of a bush! It was a majestic sight indeed! I thanked God one more time for this spectacular spotting! His partner – a lioness was sleeping right next to him! We didn’t disturb the couple’s siesta time and starting our exit towards the main gate! The gaze he gave me when I was clicking him provided me the necessary hint to move away!
We left the Maasai Mara at 11 AM full of wonderful memories and with a prayer that it always remains like this and maybe one day Abhay would come back here when he grows up and retrace his first journey! If wishes were horses!
The beautiful Cloud formations gave us good company throughout Kenya and I clicked a series of shots…check them out…
We saw a Big Cattle Market while going towards Nairobi and I explained all about the Pushkar Cattle Fair to Martin! He was very fascinated that something similar happens in India too! The Maasai Tribe doesn’t engage in Agriculture but maintain big herds of Cows, Goats and Sheep; they sell them to Butchers to make money! It was a 6-hours long dusty drive plus we could not open the windows due to all that dust so it got very hot in the car! After some 2 hours the good roads returned & the weather got better too!
We stopped midway at a Highway Plaza for a short break to have some coffee & stretch our legs. We shopped here for Kenyan Memorabilia Gifts for our home & as gifts for our friends back in Kuwait; the shop had a huge collection and it was very confusing to make the right choice plus all that crazy bargaining! We finally negotiated our way through and bought a lot of gifts!
We left that place at 1 PM to start our final leg towards Nairobi via the beautiful Rift Valley roads and this time we stopped at a view point for some pics & to enjoy the beautiful scenery! We also had Bhutta (BBQ Corn Cob) and the Kenyan shop-owner selling them was so excited when I clicked his pics. He said “I am going to India with you”! And then I clicked the first & last Family Selfie! The valley view was too inviting to give it a miss you see!
We reached Nairobi at 4:45 PM after encountering the rush-hour traffic and seeing everybody returning from office rushing back home! It felt as if I was back in Delhi! We went to the Utamaduni Craft Centre to check out some more Kenyan Memorabilia on Martin’s recommendation. This was a very different kind of a shop; high-end & much better quality products, huge variety and most importantly at fixed prices so no time wastage on bargaining! The range was impressive and we shopped a lot here too! Bought a tee for Abhay too! I did not want to go way above our budget so restrained myself to overspend!
As per the itinerary we had a Hotel Room booked in Nairobi to sleep & rest a bit before leaving for the Airport at 8 PM for our 10:50 PM flight but we reached late and by the time we were free from Utamaduni it was already 6:45 PM. We had cancelled our hotel booking for the day & Martin told us that Bernard was trying to get the refund amount for us!
We reached the Airport at 7:15 PM, loaded our luggage onto 2 trolleys, packed our shopping and re-arranged our luggage a bit then Bernard – Owner of our Safari organizer Company came to see us off! I always wanted to meet him in person and thank him for organizing such an awesome & well-arranged trip for us! He was also delighted to meet us and specially ledama – the youngest safari traveler! As always Abhay became friendly with Bernard as if they were 2 long-lost friends!
We bid goodbye to Martin & Bernard and I hugged Martin for providing us such kick-ass experiences, providing us with invaluable information about Kenya, it’s people and it’s wildlife, the special spottings, answering my innumerable questions, listening to all my stories and being such a wonderful partner for 7-days on the road! He was never our driver and always a friend with whom we were travelling through Kenya! He would always a special place in our lives for being a friend! We would never forget his way of exclaiming excitement and using the words “Wow Wow Wow Wow”! This was his own special style! BIG THANKS to him we could see all of the Big 5 plus so many other birds & animals and for all the good times we had! In fact I was a bit emotional when I shook his hands one last time and bid him goodbye and wished luck, health and happiness for his family!
We got through the Boarding, Immigration & Security Check process pretty quickly and had almost 3 hours to pass in the Airport. We met a wonderful Canadian lady who was travelling to Toronto via Amsterdam and had a long conversation with her; she worked at the Aga Khan Foundation at Nairobi. We had some light snacks from the Restaurant before finally boarding our flight at 10:30 PM.
Abhay once again didn’t throw any tantrums and slept peacefully 10 minutes before the take-off! We had a Nairobi-based Pakistani family seated right next to us with whom we chatted through our flight and also slept for a bit!
Day 8 ||| Friday 1st August 2014 ||| Dubai – Kuwait
We landed in Dubai at 4:30 AM and had a transit wait of almost 3 hours before taking off for Kuwait. We took the Metro to reach our Terminal gate and spent almost 2 hours chilling at a Costa coffee outlet; they didn’t have many customers visiting them so they didn’t mind us sitting for that long after finishing our single order! We boarded our Kuwait flight at 7:45 AM and landed in Kuwait at 8:30 AM where we had asked our friend Javed to pick us up. Our luggage got delayed & it came finally at 9:15 AM; it was such a frustrating delay and I felt very bad for Javed as he had woken up early on a Friday Morning for us & then kept driving in circles at the Airport waiting for us to come out!
We finally reached home at 9:45 AM and had 2 full days to rest & rejuvenate before I had to join office after the Eid Break on Sunday 3rd August!
Our Kenyan Trip was memorable and special on so many counts but still it would be noteworthy to mention the Top Moments of our Trip:
1. Abhay – He was the star of the trip! We were so anxious & worried about he would cope up with his first trip but he sailed through it! Every day we used to wake him up at 5:30 AM in chilly weather but he didn’t cry even once; he was game for the game drives everyday just like us! And even in those game drives he was very comfortable and never threw any tantrums! Carrying our Car Seat was the best advice we got! I am sure he also has the same travel bug as his parents & he would enjoy his travels with us! Our next trip is very close by and we hope he is the Star of that trip too!
2. Lion Trails Safari – They handled our Safari impeccably well and we can’t thank Bernard & Martin enough for their hospitality, the speed & quality of their responses, the comfortable accommodations and most importantly Martin because without him we wouldn’t have spotted so many animals and also our informative discussions through which I learnt so much about Kenya- it’s past, it’s present, the wildlife, weather patterns and the terrain! Invaluable!
3. The Wildlife – I had always dreamt of watching the Kenyan Wildlife LIVE but I had never imagined that we would get to watch all the animals which we thought we would see in just a 6-days short Safari! The innumerable Lions & Lionesses, the Cheetahs, the elusive Leopard, the Elephants, the Wildebeest Migration, the Giraffes…the list is endless!
4. The Weather – Whenever one thinks of Africa, one assumes that it would hot & sultry and more so Kenya because the Equator passes through it but the weather was a complete surprise! The chilled Mornings & Evenings and the pleasant days made our trip very comfortable weather-wise! Plus it was a huge respite from the 45-50 degrees Kuwait Summer heat!
5. The Mara River Crossing – I had seen those magical scenes so many times on TV and was dying to see similar ones LIVE; sadly could not see a huge crossing but still a small crossing of 20-odd wildebeests made up!
6. The Hospitality – Everywhere we went we were greeted & treated with so much care & attention it was so amazing! And the fact that we had an infant with us made us special! They were not used to 6-months old Safari Travellers you see!
7. The Accommodations – All 4 places where we stayed were real nice and we had no complaints with them – none whatsoever…
8. Trip Advisor – Just like our Cyprus trip, TA proved invaluable while I was planning my trip wrt seeking advice & opinions, finalizing the stay options and most importantly choosing Lion Trails! And I have already paid it back; have posted 12 reviews from our trip already to help fellow travellers!
And here are the Myths which got busted…
1. Kenya is not HOT! Everybody thinks that the entire African Continent is desert & hot throughout but Kenya shattered this myth forever. Temperature never goes higher than 30-32 through the year and never gets extremely cold either that is one the main reason it is one of the few countries where people can visit through the entire year!
2. There was no Mosquito Menace when we were there! We were very well prepared with all anti-mosquito gear but thankfully we didn’t use it! And thankfully Kuwait doesn’t have the rule of the mandatory Yellow Fever Vaccination rule so we didn’t get those shots before leaving but India has that rule so don’t forget that!
3. Everybody speaks English in Kenya which is such a big boon for all travellers! We don’t have to use sign languages or understand incomplete things! As Kenya was a British Colony till 1961 the legacy is still there! All the shop hoarding & airport communications were in English and the best part was that even the Maasai Tribals spoke English!
The Links which were so useful for us while planning our trip! These might be beneficial for your planning too…
6. http://www.kenyalogy.com/ – One of the best sites for information about Kenya!
Once you travel to Kenya (and I hope that is pretty soon) you would realize just like us that it is one of the most beautiful countries with amazing people, magical wildlife, gorgeous terrain and pleasant weather!
Hope some of you who have read this “long” travelogue would get inspired & visit Kenya very soon and get to experience the magic yourselves!
And this says it all and is the perfect ending to my Kenya Travelogue…
Our Next Vacation is just a month away and we are as always damn excited about exploring a new country, it’s food, it’s people, it’s culture and it’s history!
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…
So till the time we meet again…