Tuesday, July 29, 2014

African Adventure: Kenya - Nairobi And Amboseli National Park

June 19th

After the short flight to Nairobi, we picked up our bags at the airport and stopped for lunch at Tamambo Karen Blixen.  For the fans of "Out of Africa", the name Karen Blixen should be very familiar.  The Wife is a big fan.  She owns the DVD and watches it twice a year.  The Wife had thought that the restaurant would be at Karen Blixen's house where the film was shot.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  The actual house was not far away, a half kilometer or so, but we were running short on time and would not be visiting the actual house.  This was a big disappointment (the only one on the whole trip I would say) for the Wife.  If we'd done our research, we had a whole extra day in Nairobi, we could have gone to the house and taken the tour.  We did get our driver/guide to take us by the house on the way out.  We were not allowed to take pictures without actually taking the tour though.

We left Nairobi and drove through the countryside, through towns and villages, before getting off the highway and, as they say, got an African massage on the rough dirt roads.  As we approached our destination for the day, Amboseli national park, we got a beautiful view of Kilimanjaro.  We could see the whole mountain with its shrinking snow cap.  The driver didn't stop for pictures - he said there would be better opportunities the next day.  He was wrong.  Clouds moved in over night and this would be the one and only time we would see Kilimanjaro.  (The driver claims he offered to stop for pictures but we all agreed he hadn't.)

We checked into the Ol Tukai lodge.  As we checked in they told us to keep our doors locked at all times since the monkeys and baboons knew how to push the doors open and would go inside looking for food.  We would see several monkeys and baboons on the way to our room.

This was the first night we had a clear sky at night (the clouds came in later).  The sky was full of stars.  I was going to try to take a picture but I decided to do it the next night ... and the clouds prevented it.  You should always take the shot when you see it because you may never see it again - how many times have I told myself that?

June 20th

We would have the same routine here as we had in the Maasai Mara - Safari drive in the morning, lunch and rest at the lodge in the early afternoon, and a second safari drive in the late afternoon.
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Four elephant lined up with their attending birds - they come in all sizes.
During our chilly morning drive we saw a lot of animals but the leopard still eluded us.  We did see a lot of elephant with white birds riding them and keeping them bug free.  In the national park we didn't get as close to the animals as we did in the Maasai Mara because the jeeps weren't allowed off road.  This felt like a bit of a let down - the Mara spoiled us a bit.
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Taking a mud bath.
Back at the lodge we ate lunch and watched the elephants just outside the electric fence that surrounded the lodge grounds.  A couple of the elephants were wrestling/fighting/playing.  A baby ran around trumpeting.  Incredible experience.
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A serval - a type of cat not often seen.
In the afternoon we did our second safari drive of the day.  We saw a rare Serval - a type of small cat.  We saw hippopotamus both in and out of water.  At one point a hippopotamus ran towards the jeep then turned and stood behind a small berm.  We couldn't see its head but the rest of its large body was clearly visible.  Since it couldn't see us it probably thought it had hidden itself from us.
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Observation hill.
We drove to a place called observation hill.  We walked up a path up to the top of the hill where we were afforded a beautiful panoramic view of the park.  If the clouds hadn't been so thick we would have had a great view of Kilimanjaro.  Never the less the views of the shallow lakes and the flat savannah were awesome.
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View from Observation Hill.
On the way back we saw a standoff between a herd of zebra and at least five cheetah.  Cheetah normally do not hunt zebra but the zebra were not going to let them out of their sights.
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Can you see the five cheetah?
Another great evening meal and we went to bed.  Amboseli was buggier than the Mara and when we returned to our room the mosquito netting was wrapped around our bed.  It made it hard getting in and out of bed, and going to the bathroom in the dark is a chore with a net surrounding your bed, but it did result in a biteless night.

Tomorrow we would leave Kenya and move on to Tanzania.

A sampling of the pictures of Amboseli National Park can be found in my Kenya 2014 Flickr album.

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