My Great Kenya Adventure - Part 4 of 4

April 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Jambo! (If you don't know what that means, go back and read Part 3.)  It must be said, I am extremely happy that the mask mandate has finally been thrown out by the courts. The 20 hours it took to get to Nairobi was very uncomfortable with a mask on the entire time. The flight from the Masai Mara to Nairobi in 90 degree plus temperatures was pretty unbearable. Let alone the 30 hours of flights and airport lay overs getting home. That said, the hot flight back to Nairobi was over and we were met at the Wilson Airport by three Driver/Guides contracted by Pareet Shaw-Cheka for the trip and stay at the Amboseli National Park

The drive from Wilson Airport to Amboseli National Park took a little over 5 hours. The brakes failed on one of the Land Cruisers, so we pulled over in a gas station while the driver made repairs. We used the time to empty our bladders and refill on water and snacks we purchased. The women had a thrill as the toilets were simply a hole in the floor. Quite a bit of conversation took place around that subject. It was quite a ride to the park. Four hours on a two-lane paved road through numerous villages and small towns, then another one and a half hours on a dirt road. We finally arrived at the gate to the park where we took another well deserved break, while park entrance fees were paid.  Masked WeaverMasked Weaver
It was very interesting to see all of the Weaver Birds in the trees with their nests. Hard to photograph, as they are very fast, do not stay still for very long, and blend in somewhat with the nests they are weaving. The individual in this photo is a Masked Weaver Bird. The drive to the lodge was great. There are so many birds, it is a Bird Photographers paradise. There are Lesser Flamingos in great flocks and many varieties of Storks, Herons and various Shore Birds.

Pareet paired me up with the Guide/Driver, Tiampati Manei (Tim) for my time in Amboseli. Tim is not only a professional guide, but his specialty is ornithology. He not only knew where to find numerous varieties of birds, he knew their names and habitats. I spent the next couple of days with Tim and photographed, or saw, a total of 38 species of birds, many to add to my life list.

Ol Tukai LodgeOl Tukai Lodge As we left the entrance to Amboseli National Park, it was another 45 minute drive to the Ol Tukai lodge. The rooms are very nice, decorated in Safari fashion with a great mosquito net over the bed. The only down side is the heat. Amboseli is high desert, situated 184 miles south of the Equator, reminding me of my time in Arizona. In the 90's during the day, and not a lot cooler at night. I am already missing the tents at Olapa Mara. The surrounding grounds are very nice and there are monkeys everywhere. We arrived too late to do an evening game drive so we checked in our rooms and headed to the dining room for a very nice buffet supper.

We began Day 8 of the Great Kenyan Mt KilamanjaroMt Kilamanjaro Adventure at 0615 with our first Game Drive in Amboseli. Pareet, Ed, Val and I were teamed up in Tim's Land Cruiser. It was a beautiful morning with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Photographed many Zebra, Wildebeest, Lions, and Elephants. A Pride of Lions took down a Wildebeest for breakfast. We arrived moments after the takedown and the Wildebeest was still alive. Watched the Lions eating for quite awhile while Elephants strolled by. Amboseli is known for its large Elephants and they provided us with many photographic opportunities. 

Did I mention the birds? Aside from the desert, which provides many birds their habitat, there is a series of several bodies of water that attra Pied KingfisherPied Kingfisher cts a large variety of ducks, geese, herons, storks, cranes and shorebirds. Tim pointed out this pair of Pied Kingfisher and they sat still long enough for a photo. I may be repeating myself, but Amboseli is a bird photographers paradise. 

We stopped at the small Amboseli Air Strip for breakfast and to use the facilities. A surprising number of weaver birds in the trees behind the administrative building. Following breakfast, we drove through a large mud flat that was dry as a the bones we found. The texture was very interesting and some of the dried mud looked like shaved chocolate. Hard to believe that during the rainy season this will all be covered with at least a foot of water.

Back to the Lodge for lunch and relax until the next game drive at 1600. It was 90° F (28° C) that afternoon. More photos of Elephants, Zebra,  Wilderbeast, and Birds, lots of Birds. Elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background at sunset. Then on to the beautiful colors with Zebras in the foreground as the sun sank below the horizon. What a beautiful end to a beautiful day. Then it was back to the lodge for supper and a nice hot shower.

Day 9 of My Great Kenya Adventure started with a final game drive at 0600. Half the group decided to sleep in. Amanda wanted to go with me and Tim to photograph some of the birds we had been talking about.

After a couple of hours we headed back to the Lodge for breakfast and checkout. Now on to the long, hot, arduous 5 plus hour drive back to Nairobi. Several miles before we were to reach the paved road the brakes on the other side of the Land Cruiser went out. We limped along to where the rest of the group had stopped to shop at a market with items actually made in Kenya. Tim made a couple of phone calls and got help fixing the brake line. The long trip begins again.

We finally made it back to Nairobi and the traffic is terrible, and Tim said you should be glad it is not rush hour. It is good to be back at the Trademark Hotel with the best showers of any hotel I have stayed at.

Day 10 in Kenya and I decided it was my time to sleep in, and have a down day. Some of the group went to a National Park in Nairobi that had White and Black Rhinoceros. They had a great time and good photos. I spent the day wandering around the Mall that was attached to the Trademark and drank a lot of Iced Coffee. Met the group at the Hero Bar and Grill on the 9th floor of the Hotel. The Hero is rated the 80th best bar in the world, and Number one best bar in Africa. The Curry Lamb was delicious, but it really snuck up on you. My lips were burning for the next 30 minutes.

Day 11, and our last day in Kenya. The hotel was gracious enough to give us a 1500 checkout, as most of us were not flying out until 2300. David and his drivers picked us up at the Trademark and drove us to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. David stayed with us while we took the Rapid Covid test. The results were emailed to us about 15 minutes after we took the test. You must get a negative report or you will not be allowed on the airplane. We all tested negative and had a snack and drink at Paul Cafe before going through security and entering the airport terminal. The check-in process was less stressful than I had feared. We found another cafe in the terminal to sit and eat and drink waiting for time to finally board our plane to Paris for the return trip. 

Five of us were returning through Paris, where we would part ways. They were going from Paris and I was returning through Detroit to Portland, Maine. My trip home would be quite a few hours longer, as I had an 8 hour layover in Detroit. Security was more intensive in Paris that other Airports I have flown through. We never left the secure area during our layover, but was made to go through another round of security with our carry-on bags, as if we had just arrived at the airport. That was understandable, as Paris has had more than its share of terrorist activity.

Except for the time waiting in Airports, the return trip was uneventful. I was able to complete my Global Entry interview in Detroit. My next international flight return will be much easier.

Landed in Portland, Maine at 2300 to 35° F temperatures. A little shock to the system, but not too bad.

Things to know before you go.....

Just a few things to emphasize if you plan a Safari trip:

- Their seasons are the reverse of ours, as Kenya is in the Southern Hemisphere. It is starting into Spring in the United States, where it is beginning of Fall in Kenya...

- The Sun is intense and if you are light skinned, or prone to sunburn, bring your sunscreen with you..

- Bring plenty of Cash! Many places will not take credit/debit cards, such as the Park entrance fees, and sometimes the camps. Olapa Mara did not take cards, only cash.

- When you bring cash, only bring new bills. I don't mean new as uncirculated, I mean new style bills as opposed to the older bills that are still in circulation. For some reason, the Kenya Banks will not accept the older currency.

- Be prepared for a long trip, both ways. It took me 20 hours from Portland, Maine to Nairobi, and 30 hours for the return trip.

- Any of the inconveniences are well worth it to be able to participate in your own Great Kenya Adventure.

- Other than the Cobra event, that was/is very rare, Safari's are safe and the Guides are there to take care of you and make your experience the best....

Please let me know if you have any questions, or concerns.

Click on this link if you would like to see my photos of My Great Kenya Adventure!!!

Jim Walker PhotographyJim Walker Photography


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