Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A safari summed up

Right, this is going to be as brief as I can possibly make it. Brief because you probably don't want to hear me raving on and on about how fantastic my holiday was when you were stuck in your office (even if your office is somewhere equally exotic as the Massai Mara!)

Following a stressful morning of air travel, I got into Nairobi quite late, but Emma and our wonderful guide Justice were there waiting for me. Justice was 62 and had been guiding safaris for 45 years, he really knew his stuff. But he didn't quite know what to do with Emma, who not long after we stopped to get some coffee and cash, started throwing her guts up. The poor girl was so ill the whole 5 hour trip, along some very bumpy dirt roads. But she was a trooper and we got there eventually.

After a good night's sleep in what can only be described as the Taj Mahal of tents (when I booked a 'camping safari' I wasn't expecting beds and bathrooms inside the tents!) we were given the 'option' of visiting a Massai village. Of course it wasn't really optional, so we paid our $20 each and felt extremely uncomfortable as we were led around the village, being encouraged to take photos. I felt especially bad that the women were dragged out of their houses to dance for us, it was about 8am, I'm sure they had other more important things to be doing...

Since we'd arrived so late the night before, Justice had lunch boxes made up for us so that we could go out for the whole day. And what a spectacular day it was:

We stumbled upon the lioness all on our own, and were mesmerised as she prowled around. The lion may typically be referred to as "king of the jungle" but this classy lass was definitely a queen.

As we were heading back to the campsite there were a few vans lined up on the side of the road. We had one very close encounter with the king of the 'jungle'

He was about 2 metres away from us, and the sheer size of him was incredible.

and worthy of a new Facebook profile pic!

The next day we set off for Lake Nakuru, stopping on the way at Lake Navaisha. We got on a boat and cruised around for a while. Of course, I could rattle off that hippos are the most dangerous mammal in Africa, but I'd never really thought too much about that. But when you spot them in the water, and then their heads disappear under, you can't help but hear the theme from "Jaws"...they're scary buggesrs.

Nakuru brought me my favourite moment of the safari, an encounter with a baby rhino, who we dubbed Junior.

Apologies for the sound quality, it was just starting to rain so it was extremely windy.

When we got to Samburu park, we were shown to the camping site that I'd been picturing in my head the whole time. It was basic.

But as they say, it's all about location, location, location:

We saw some truly spectacular creatures in Samburu:

and on our last game drive, we were a bit disappointed that we really hadn't seen much. But then suddenly, two bull elephants were having a bit of argy bargy on one side of the van and on the other, a small pride of lionesses and cubs were watching some giraffes, but then one of the lions grabbed a baboon and made off with it. Then the barking baboons warned off the giraffes, and the elephants came charging in, trunks trumpeting and scared off the lions. *Breathes* The circle of life indeed!!

After a long drive back to Nairobi, we jumped on our Dash 8 flight to Lamu Island, and after a bit of rigmarole, were put up for a night at the Janaatan Hotel in Shela village, down the other end of the island.

The next morning, we asked Hamid, our contact who works for the hotel which has 2 other houses (one of which we'd booked into but it was being refurbished) to show us the other option. Sunset House was exactly what we'd been dreaming of, with a wonderful view:

and wonderful beds!!

We spent the next few days doing a whole lot of nothing. Sure there were a couple of visits down the island to Lamu, but mostly we just lazed on our terrace, reading books, drinking wine (acquiring said wine is a story for another time) and wandering around the village, dodging the donkeys.

After missing our flight from Lamu back to Nairobi (long story) we finally made our way to Jeremy's apartment, who just happened to fortuitously be in town for work, after having made the tough decision not to come with us originally. We had three fantastic nights with Jez, including one catching up with another old friend from Bangers who also just happened to be in town for work. So we were all shiny happy people.

And then, in a stroke of sheer bad luck and perhaps Murphy's Law, I missed my flight from Addis Ababa back to Beirut (another long story), so I had to spend 24 hours in Addis. This was the view from my hotel room...

and since it rained all day, I had no money, and the little laminated card on the desk in the room said "do NOT walk anywhere, take a REPUTABLE taxi" I decided to catch up on some sleep. In the end, I made it home to Beirut, with about 40 hours before my flight out of there!!

I honestly think that every individual needs to go on safari at least once in their life. I can't wait to go back again, perhaps to Tanzania, perhaps to Rwanda to see the gorillas. It was only 2 weeks, but I'm hard pressed to think of a better 2 weeks spent anywhere else in the world...

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