20 February 2017 - 4 March 2017

Travel report of our safari to Kenya.

- Duration: 13 days
- Photos taken:  7216
- Photos published: NOT READY

Day 1 - Flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi

This year our safari takes us to Kenya. We board the KLM flight at 11:45 and have an uneventful flight to Nairobi where we arrive at the airport at 21:50. After filling in forms and paying for a visum we meet Barnard, our driver/guide for this trip.

After a proper introduction he immediately starts by telling us there is a change of plans. He doesn’t agree with our itinerary for the next two days. Instead of doing the Hell’s Gate walk on the 3rd morning we should do it tomorrow. We will be staying at Crater Lake Camp and as it’s on the other side of Lake Navaisha we would be traveling back and forth a lot if we stick to our plan. We trust he knows best and agree to this change on the condition that we leave early the next morning because it will be too hot to walk the Hell’s Gate trail in the middle of the day.

Barnard drops us off at the Jacaranda hotel and after check-in we have a cold white wine in the hotel garden.

Day 2 - Walk in Hell’s Gate and boat cruise on Lake Naivasha

Breakfast at Jacaranda is perfect. Lots of fresh fruit and an egg and pancake station. We leave the hotel at 7:30 and, after an obligatory stop at the Great Rift Valley Viewpoint, enter Hell’s gate National Park at 10:30.

It becomes clear most people drive to the entrypoint of Ol Njorowa Gorge, or use a bike. Are we sure we want to walk? Yes, we’re sure, absolutely, so we take off. It is very special to walk between wildlife. There are warthogs, zebras, buffalo and giraffes. It makes you feel very much alive.

After a 8km walk we reach the Maibeni Picnic site where Barnard is waiting with our lunch boxes. We buy a cold drink and share our lunch with the guide. After lunch we enter Ol Njorowa Gorge. It’s refreshing to walk in the shade and the Gorge-trail is spectacular. We spot an African Paradise-flycatcher in breeding plumage - an incredible sight.

This first day is packed with activity so Barnard is waiting for us again at the end of the trail and we drive to Lake Naivasha for a boat cruise. Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake and we spot many birds. The trip is booked for 1,5 hours but we could stay on the water much longer. There’s so much so see and enjoy.

We drive to Crater Lake Camp and know Barnard was right. It’s on the other side of Lake Naivasha and the roads are bad. It’s adventurous and makes us feel like we’re in a wilderness area which is exactly how we like it.

Day 3 - AM walk Crater Lake Sanctuary and PM drive Lake Nakuru

We are woken up by loud and strange noises. It's the black-and-white colobus monkeys waking up!

After breakfast a guide is waiting to lead us on our morning walk. First we climb to the rim of the crater from where we can see the camp. On our walk we spot giraffe, black-backed jackal, birds and even the shy Eland antelope. Crater Lake Game Sanctuary is a hidden gem and If we ever come back here we definitely stay 2 nights and explore the sanctuary properly.

We leave for Lake Nakuru National Park and arrive at the main gate at 13:00. The fire danger code is red today, which is no surprise as it is really hot and dry. When we arrive at Flamingo Hill Tented Camp it’s very crowded in the restaurant and our enthusiasm starts to drop. Thankfully this big group is leaving camp today and only 2 other tents are occupied. After freshening up we have lunch: the most delicious fresh-baked Indian naan-bread you can imagine!

In the afternoon we have our first game drive. Lake Nakuru is a soda lake and used to be the home of millions of flamingos for which the park is famous. In 2013 the water level increased to a very high level. This flooded the original main gate of the park and the northern tracks. It also had a negative effect on the algae in the lake and flamingos have since migrated to nearby Lake Bogoria.

Lake Nakuru has both White and Black Rhinos. We are in luck because only 5 minutes into the drive we spot a Black Rhino which is normally not seen in this open area. We visit the old gate and find lots of waterbirds where the picnic area used to be. On the way back we spot two dark shapes up in the tree. On closer inspection they are identified as Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, the largest owl-species in Africa. It’s getting dark and time to head back to camp for a delicious meal.

Day 4 - AM and PM game drives Lake Nakuru

This morning we will drive around the lake to the southernmost point of the park, Makalia Falls Viewpoint. We spot a pair of Hamerkop on a nest. They are busy with the actual construction of the nest and fly back and forth with suitable twigs and sticks. It’s estimated that a nest requires about 8000 sticks and it takes 3 months to complete.

On the southern lake shore there is a large herd of Buffalo. Some have had a bath in the lake and are covered in mud and organic material. When they walk they are followed by Cattle egrets that hope to catch insects disturbed by the buffalo. On this side of the Lake we also find White Rhino, 4 of them, resting on the shore.

The southern part of Lake Nakuru National Park is yellow acacia woodland. This part is home to the Rothschild’s giraffe and the eastern black rhino, both endangered species. We find the Makalia Falls, but they are completely dry. At this viewpoint we are allowed to leave the car and we see many birds.

On our PM drive we finally see flamingo, hundreds of them. Elegant but very noisy birds. We see a lot of other waders and a huge herd of buffalo, accompanied by Zebra. The day ends with a great sighting of a pair of Kirk’s Dikdik. After dinner we enjoy the campfire and have a nice chat with the Maasai nightguard who keeps the fire burning for us. I wonder if it is typical for Maasai to be so chatty and cheerful.

Day 5 - Travel to Laikipia Wilderness Camp and PM drive & walk

Today we travel to Laikipia. We wanted to drive through Aberdare National park but the touring company probably thought we meant driving through Aberdare Range so we did not enter the National Park.

We did have a stop at Thomson’s Falls or Nyahururu. Immediately we were approached by some shop owners. We promised a lady shopkeeper that we would stop by her shop after our visit to the falls. She accompanied us to the falls, to make sure we were not hassled by others and of course to make sure we would indeed visit her shop. We found some yellow hippo which we liked and then we had to negotiate. Not what we do best. We offered 10 for 2 hippo sculptures, she asked 50 USD. We finally settled for 20 and made her day (later we found the same sculptures for 4 USD each).

The landscape changes and soon we are on gravel roads. Finally, we’re off the beaten track! On our way to Laikipia Wilderness Camp we spot Reticulated Giraffe, one of the Northern special 5 animals.

Afternoon tea, coffee and cake and then we’re off on our PM game drive. Activities are hosted by the camp so Barnard has a day off. After a short drive we decide to walk a bit. We meet-up with the driver and have our G&Ts, waiting for the elephants to come down to drink at the waterhole. There they come! It is really amazing to sit outside, enjoying your sundowner and be so close to these amazing animals.

Day 6 - AM game drive and PM/night drive Laikipia

Today we have a full day at Laikipia. We have coffee at 6:00 and are on the game tracks by 6:30. Mugambi, our guide, gets out of the car to see if we can get a signal of the collared wild dog. We do not find them but see lots of other special animals like Grevy zebra, Gerenuk, Oryx and the very cute Gunther’s Dikdik.

At 9:15 we stop for a coffee break with a delicious banana-muffin. As we stroll around we find a Leopard Tortoise, hidden in the Opuntia. We have a bush brunch at 11:30 at a dam. When we arrive we disturb the resident hippos and they flee back into the water. Later we see two boys accompanying cattle, coming in for a drink.

And then we see a leopard! This is the first clear view we have of a leopard in the wild. We follow it a bit but it hides between the prickly Opuntia. What an amazing day we have, and it is still morning! Back at camp we sit and relax in front of the tent and spot a Striped Ground Squirrel. Its burrow is close to our tent. First it carefully assesses us, decides we’re not a threat, and goes on with its business.

After finishing afternoon tea we are off on the PM game drive. On the plateau we see a herd of Grevy’s Zebra. This species has smaller stripes, a white belly and large round ears. You can only find them in Northern Kenya, worth a trip in our opinion.

We stop for sundowners and then the spotlight is activated. This is our first night drive and we spot animals you usually do not see in daylight. A nightjar, Gerbil, White-tailed mongoose, and Vulturine guineafowl resting up in the trees. The guides spot an aardwolf but it runs off in the dark before we can see it. These night drives are very exciting and we wish we could stay longer in Laikipia Wilderness Camp. We have to leave tomorrow but we have no doubt, we will visit this place again.

Day 7 - AM game drive and travel to Samburu

Last night Hans was a bit under the weather and this morning he woke with a fever. We go on a morning short game drive and try to track down the Wild dogs one last time. We don’t find them but there is plenty of other wildlife and I finally spotted an emerald-spotted wood-dove in time to take a picture. Barnard joined us this morning so he was able to enjoy the game drive as a tourist.

After brunch we’re off to Samburu. The fever is getting worse and Hans sleeps all the way to the main gate. While checking in at the gate Barnard gets a phone call. We were supposed to stay in Lion King Bush Camp. This is an intimate owner-managed camp of just 5 tents. Unfortunately the owner had a serious car-accident that morning and camp is closed (we later found out he made a full recovery). We will now stay at Samburu Intrepids. Joni is very disappointed, Intrepids seems to be the exact opposite of Lion King’s. For Hans it’s a good thing, Intrepids has air-conditioned tents and he has no problem sleeping.

Hans is too ill for a game drive so Joni is off with Barnard. And of course, it’s a fabulous game drive: we find a Leopard on a fresh kill! It’s breaking open the skin of a male impala and starts to eat. Others, who witnessed the kill, tell us that it was killed by the mother and then her son chased her away. She is still hiding in the bushes. As she comes out we follow her but so do many other cars. She is surrounded and I ask Barnard to break open the circle and let her go in peace. He asks if I’m sure but it gives no pleasure to look at an animal in distress.

We find Gerenuk and stop to watch them. They get up on their hind legs to eat from the bushes. They are funny looking animals with their long neck and small head.

Day 8 - AM and PM game drive Samburu

This morning Hans woke up feeling well again. We have early breakfast and are ready for our AM game drive at 7:00. We see Gerenuk, the beautiful Vulturine Guineafowl and a lot of Unstriped Ground Squirrel. Then we see lions, they are checking out the impala, patiently waiting for one of them to make a mistake. On our way back to camp we drove past the bush where we saw the leopard yesterday. No leopard, only the half-eaten impala.

On our PM drive we check out the impala carcass again and we are in luck, the leopard is back! We stop and watch it eat. We drive on and see gerenuk and many more birds. Intrepids offers a powerpoint slideshow in the evening. This sounds ridiculous right? We thought so too. We ended up attending the presentation because it was hosted in the bar where we were enjoying our sundowners. The presenter was a Samburu warrior in traditional dress. The topic was the Samburu special 5 and it was very entertaining. So much so that we decided to join tomorrow’s presentation as well.

Day 9 - Full day game drive Samburu, Buffalo springs and Shaba

A lot of cars are driving around, apparently everybody is looking for lions. It feels kind of claustrophobic and we ask Barnard to head in the other direction. We drive to the north, away from the river. We’re alone again.

Resting under a tree is a Cheetah mother with 3 young! After watching them for half an hour the mother stands up and says it’s time to move on. Did I mention we were the only ones watching her while the others were crowding on the lions? Around 11am we cross the bridge that leads us into Buffalo Springs National Reserve. We have an excellent sighting of an African Hoopoe foraging for insects. We also find a huge herd of Grevy’s Zebra.

And then we exit the main gate of Buffalo Springs for our visit to Shaba National Reserve. Yesterday Barnard was asking other drivers if they had been to Shaba, the only word we understood off the conversations. Apparently we’re the only visitors keen to take a look, as none have been there. We agree to drive to Shaba’s gate and ask the rangers if it's safe to enter. Due to the drought different tribes are using the reserve for grazing and this leads to conflict. We’re allowed to drive to the Sarova Lodge. The wildlife is the same as in Samburu but the landscape is different. As we turn around we decide to visit Shaba properly one day. It’s beautiful and rarely visited. There may be less chance of a spectacular sighting but when there is one, it’s for you alone.

Back in Buffalo Springs we see a large breeding herd of elephants, with lots of young calves. Although we have seen many elephants, you can’t help yourself, you have to take pictures of these beautiful animals. Before dinner we join the slideshow about Samburu culture, which is informative and also very entertaining. Joni was the only one volunteering to taste “Samburu chocolate drink”, a mixture of milk and cow blood. It’s a ritual drink in special celebrations so Joni is off the hook, for now.

Day 10 - Travel to Meru National Park and PM game drive

Yesterday we booked a guided birding walk around camp. The knowledge of one of the guides is amazing. He knows all the birds by call, knows their latin name, their distribution, subspecies and much more.

After the walk we pack our stuff and check out. We have a leisurely game drive through Buffalo Springs on our way to the next camp, Ikweta Safari Lodge, in Meru National Park. We stop in Isiolo for car repairs. We only needed a small weld to fix a cabinet that was loose and made a rattling sound all the time.

We checked in at Ikweta at 3pm. Our tent is very nice and airy and came with a house guest - an adorable cat that keeps us company during our stay. At 4pm we leave camp for our first game drive in Meru National Park. Murera Gate is only 2 kms from camp. Barnard hasn’t been here in a very long time he confesses. Very few tourists visit this park nowadays. Soon we spot the aptly named Cut-throat Finch, a new bird for us. And then Lesser Kudu! Joni’s absolute favourite antelope. They are very shy and skittish. We have 2 more days at Meru so we’ll reserve time to look for them specifically. The scenery in Meru is stunning and we drive out at sunset, back to camp for a lovely dinner under the stars.

Day 11 - AM and PM game drive Meru National Park

While waiting for breakfast to be served we take pictures of some birds. One of them was the Masked Shrike, a special sighting in Kenya, we learned later.

The park has 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams. We cross some streams on our way to the Rhino sanctuary of Meru NP. At the gate of the sanctuary we have to wait a bit and we spot some earth being flung into the air. On closer investigation we find who’s at work here: a naked mole rat! That is an unexpected sighting and one of the highlights of this holiday!

In the Sanctuary we find a resting White Rhino mother with young. They are very relaxed and we observe them for a while. When the mother gets up the young sees a chance to get a drink. It already has a small horn and it kneels down and very carefully takes a sip.

After lunch we have rest but soon we head back to the bar area. There are lots of birds in the surrounding trees. Sunbirds, weavers and another Masked Shrike.

At 4pm we head back to the park. We see buffalo-weavers and a large buffalo herd crossing the road. Once crossed they turn around to take a look at us. It’s a beautiful drive. On our way back to camp we see the juvenile Montagu’s Harriers again. They stand on the road and fly up when we get closer, to fly off and land again on the road just a little bit further.They gave us plenty of opportunity to practice, but it’s difficult to get a good picture on the wing. We did however get some beautiful close-ups.

After another great dinner under the stars we go to sleep and look forward to searching for Lesser Kudu in the morning.

Day 12 - AM and PM game drive Meru National Park

We drive through the gate as soon as the park opens and are welcomed by a lone elephant bull. He comes over to check us out and decides to let us pass. We go to a particular area to search for Lesser Kudu and soon we find them. There are thick bushes and we don’t get a good picture of the male so we have to search some more.

Then we spot an Ostrich family with really small chicks. The parents flap their wings to distract us which is a great sight, especially when the male is doing it with his black and white wings and white fluffy tail. We stop at the Hippo Pool, a beautiful shady spot where we indeed do see Hippo, and crocodiles.

On our way back to camp we meet the Ostrich family again and are escorted out by a Montagu's Harrier.

In the afternoon we finally get a good sighting of Lesser Kudu. The male is so very pretty, with spiraled horns, white markings on its face and throat and the vertical white stripes on its body. We also spot Buffalo, Waterbuck, Zebra, Hartebeest and Grant’s Gazelle. And then, when it is about time to head back to the gate we find a lion family. They are resting next to one of the streams. We stay with them for 20 minutes, with only 1 other car. This is the one of the best lion sightings we’ve had. The cubs are curious and a bit restless but mom has no intention to get up yet. Sadly we have to leave and hurry back to camp for dinner and a good night sleep.

Day 13 - AM game drive and travel to Nairobi for flight back home

This morning we had a last game drive in Meru National Park. We go and look for Lesser Kudu one more time. Third time lucky, we have a great sighting of a beautiful male and later a female with young. We really enjoyed Meru NP. The landscape is stunning, there is nobody else around but there is plenty to see, especially if you like birds.

It’s a 7 hour drive to the airport in Nairobi and we leave camp at 10am. On the way we have a clear view of the northern side of Mount Kenya. We make good time at first but there is a lot of traffic closer to Nairobi. We decide to skip dinner at a restaurant because we don’t like to feel rushed. This safari was magical and relaxed and we want to keep it that way up till the last minute. At the airport we say goodbye to Barnard who has been a great guide. Kenya, we’ll be back!

Photomap of this safari

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