Friday, February 25, 2011

Safari in Kenya - 1 Less Item on the Bucket List

I'm a maker of lists. I love lists. I make lists just so I don't forget things, but if I do something that isn't on my list, I add it just so I can cross it off.  Now that's satisfaction!  I recently made a trip to Kenya with a friend and can now cross being close up and personal with wild animals off my Bucket List!

The trip was a 5 day, 4 night safari...just long enough to get a real feel for being in Kenya and experiencing the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals. We stayed at fantastic places, saw gorgeous sights and the food was wonderful.  I have a nice camera but now I want a nicer camera! I want to be able to tell if an animal's eyes are bloodshot or not or be able to see tiny details from 50 feet.  I'm very happy with my over 700 photographs, but next time I take a trip like this, I will invest in a longer zoom lens.

It was a thrill to see elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, hippos, numerous birds and many other animals up close. We traveled across the Maasai Mara reserve in our safari vehicle with a pop up top, covering a good part of its 1500 square kilometers.  In the beginning, I swore I saw an animal, only to find out it was a bush or tree.  After about half a day, I began to be able to tell the difference.  

Our driver, Simon, knew every bird, every animal, the different varieties of the animals and just where to take us to get the best view. All the vehicles had a 2 way radio and there was constantly chatter going on in a language I couldn't understand. They were communicating with each other and passing on information on where animals were.  Of course, as you drove along, if you noticed 5 cars stopped in the distance, you knew something was going on and you'd better head that way!  The ride was rather bumpy going over the dirt trails but it was all worth it.

We spent 2 nights at the Keekorok Lodge, which was wonderful.  The little monkey above, along with the rest of his family, would perch outside my room. He even tried to come in once.  They have the run of the place and there was even a sign in my room warning visitors not to feed them or leave my door open because they knew how to come in and make themselves at home!
A short walk from the room was a hippo pond.  There were 15-20 hippos in the pond at any given time.  You walked along an elevated wooden trail which led to a really neat viewing room. The times I was there, no one else was there. Several animals would congregate at this pond including elephants, ducks and a variety of gazelles, zebras and who knows what else.  It was a very serene place with a 360 degree view.

After 2 days, we moved on to our next destination with Simon...the Great Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha.  We arrived in late afternoon, just in time to see 3 giraffes walking along the road about 15 feet from our front door!  The animals have access to the entire place and later that night, after dark, there were hippos, gazelles and other animals grazing on the large expansive area right outside our window. When I say 'right outside' I mean like within 10 feet!

The next morning we went on a boat ride...well, more like a motor boat ride, on Lake Naivasha.  I don't want to give you the wrong impression was more like a large canoe with seats and a motor.  The sky looked kind of threatening but we paid our $100 and off we went.  We floated by a family of hippos, lots of beautiful birds and could see other animals on the shores. At one point, we stopped and walked among zebras, gazelles and elephants.  Back in the boat, the skipper threw a fish out into the water and an eagle flew from a nearby tree, scooped it up and flew back to the tree.  Pretty amazing!  Just like at Keekorok, the dinner was a huge buffet and the food was wonderful.

The following morning, we were on the road again, this time headed to the Mt. Kenya Safari Club.On the way, we stopped at a little place where there was a sign claiming to be the exact spot where the equator passes through. We even saw a 'test' of how from one side of the sign, water drained clockwise and 10 feet away, it drained counter clockwise. I'm a believer. The Mt. Kenya Safari Club is a multi-star lodge built or backed by William Holden and Stephanie Powers. It is gorgeous.  When we checked in we were treated to the words "We are going to upgrade you to a suite."  SWEET!  Our suite overlooked the pond with several types of cranes and ducks and a view of Mt. Kenya to die for.
While one of us was taking a shower, the handle came off and water shot out like a cannon! We were grabbing anything and everything that would soak up water because the bathroom was quickly filling with water. Fortunately, someone arrived, shut off the water and fixed it.

Everything about this trip was wonderful.  It was something I've always wanted to do and finally can say I've done it. If you ever have the opportunity to go on a safari, jump on it! Fortunately, with my job, I have the opportunity for regional travel and I plan on taking advantage of it.  Once I retire (mandatory retirement at age 65) there won't be funds to do things like this so I have to reach for that brass ring whenever I can.  Over the next 4 years, I'm not letting any opportunity slip by me!