We have been looking forward to a trip to Africa for a long time and we were fortunate to back up the African tour with a short tour of India. So, lions in Africa, tigers in India.... can't wait!
  • Day24

    A leopard is spotted!

    October 16, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    No kidding Sherlock!

    Well we have sighted all the big 5 animals. This refers to the most dangerous animals to hunt and are comprised of the lion, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant and leopard. We spotted the first 4 on our first safari drive in Kruger but the elusive leopard was not seen until our fifth and final game park. Granted, it wasn't particularly clear as she was hidden in the bushes but at least we did see her.

    Masa Mara is a huge park and we had a big 6 hour game drive. Some of our group took an optional balloon ride but at $450USD per person it was a bit out of our budget. So while they were ballooning we checked out a pod of hippos. There were several other trucks there and some people wandered down the river bank a little. Ok be hippos took exception and started to charge towards them. We were farther away but our guide was yelling "get back in the truck". Brad says he has never seen me move so fast. That was nothing compared to the faces of the people who were very close. I wish I was filming at the time.

    We picked up the balloonists and that is when we found the leopard. We also saw a business of mongoose (That is the collective noun) . They are very similar to meerkats and act the same way popping their heads up to look around. There was also a male ostrich doing a display dance to impress the female - bit of a waste of time because the female was to far away to even notice.

    Perhaps the most exciting thing for us was our version of The Great Migration. We noticed a large herd of Wildebeest and some zebra looking interested in crossing a small river. Once one started they all went. Ok, it wasn't the tens of thousands of wildebeest that cross while trying to avoid being lunch for the crocodiles or lions but we got the impression of a crossing.
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  • Day23

    Masa Mara - part 1

    October 15, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Before we checked into our accommodation we had a game drive through the park mainly because the place we were staying was at the other end of the property.

    Within minutes our guide pointed out a cheetah who appeared to be eyeing off some impala. We waited for some time in anticipation of a chase but it seemed the cheetah lost interest... or was prepared to wait much longer than we were.

    Driving further on we came to a solitary tree under which lay 5 male cheetahs. Apparently they are known by National Geographic as the five brothers who have been filming them for some time. We were lucky to come across them so easily.

    We are staying at Fig Tree Camp which is described as luxury tented camping (maybe even glamping). So imagine canvas and screened walls with zippered doors and a fully tiled modern bathroom. The camp almost seems to be an island and we have a river bank outside our front door complete with hippos and warthogs (The bank is too steep for hippos to climb). There are monkeys and baboons around and there is a young Maasai man who constantly wanders around making sure the baboons don't try and get into the tents. As far as camping goes it is not too bad.
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  • Day23

    African Massage on the way to Masa Mara

    October 15, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    The trip to Masa Mara from Lake Nakuru was only about 200km but it took the best part of a day to drive there along some of the roughest roads I think I've ever travelled. In fact, just sitting in the 4WD my fitbit said I did 22,000 steps, over 14km walking, and climbed over 300 floors. No wonder I was tired. Hence the African massage.

    It's amazing to see how the scenery changed. Climbing up our of the Rift Valley, the farmland was very fertile and being used for crops and veggies etc. It was lush and green. We then drove onto the open plains - very dry, very little vegetation. Many of the villages we passed were not attractive, very poor and lots of rubbish laying around from market days.

    Masa Mara is almost on the border of Tanzania and close to the Serengeti National Park. At the right time of year we would have witnessed the Great Migration where enormous herds of Wildebeest pass through in search of good grazing land and often fall victim to lions and crocodiles when making the river crossings. I've seen it on TV and it is quite a spectacle. However, the migration had already passed through this area about a month ago so it was a shame we missed it. Still, this park is known for it's cats so maybe here we will complete our big 5 and see the leopard!
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  • Day22

    Lake Nakuru Game Drive

    October 14, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    We had a very long game drive - left at 7 and returned after 12. While Amboseli is mainly known for elephants, Lake Nakuru is more recognised for giraffe, cape buffalo, zebra, impala, baboon (well, they are just everywhere), rhinos (mostly white , but occasionally black rhino), and flamingos. The big cats (lion, cheetah and leopard) are in the park but usually they are not seen.

    While we did not see any cats, we did see all of the others, including both black and white rhinos. The giraffe were the Rothschild giraffe which I think are more beautifully marked than the ones we saw in Kruger (Maasai giraffe I think). On some, the tiles/spots were almost black and very striking.

    The difference between the black and white rhino is mainly to do with the shape of their snout. The white being more square because they graze while the black is more pointed to help pick fruits etc from bushes. The white rhino is bigger while the black rhino is rarer. We were lucky to see both as or guide said they usually only see the white rhino.

    There was a flock of Greater flamingos which are only slightly pink whereas the Lesser flamingos are a much brighter pink. Unfortunately we could not get closer to the flock because the vehicles can only travel on designated tracks unlike Kruger where we were on a private concession and could drive off the path. So in most cases the pictures were done with a telephoto lens so may not be as clear as they could be but Brad did a good job.

    The evening drive was called off due to storms but we didn't mind because we had basically seen the main points of interest in this game park. We travel to Masa Mara tomorrow where we will have 2 full days to hopefully find a leopard.
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  • Day21

    Another day, another park

    October 13, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    After 2 nights in Amboseli it was time to move onto our next park - Lake Nakuru. We boarded a 12 passenger Cessna for the 40 minute flight to Nairobi. Not really that fond of small planes but the flight was really quite good (and probably better than the 4 hour drive to Lake Nakuru)

    Along the way we stopped at a viewpoint to see the Great Rift Valley, a 6,400km crack in the earth crust stretching from the Lebanon to Mozambique. Much of it is found in Kenya, where it has literally cut the country in two. A great view!

    Arrived at Lake Nakuru Sopa Lodge and oh my goodness, this place is amazing. The rooms are large with fantastic views over the lake. Surprisingly, I thought it would be stinking hot since we are almost on the equator but the temperature has been quite mild. Not complaining!

    I shall cover the game drives in the next post - just a few photos of our journey here and the lodge.
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  • Day20

    Maasai village visit

    October 12, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Amboseli is not the greatest for wildlife compared to other game parks but it is close to a traditional Maasai village and that is where we visited this morning.

    The village is enclosed by a fence made from the spiky acacia tree which offers great protection from the wildlife while keeping their cows (I think the breed is Zebu), and sheep and goats secure. We were met outside the village by the men and women dressed in all their finery with a welcoming song and prayer or blessing or chant.

    Inside the village boundaries they did the Maasai dance where the men in particular were able to spring up in the air without any real effort. We observed them making fire from 2 sticks, and no, one of them wasn't a match. We looked inside their huts with mud and dung walls and thatch roof. Very tiny, no windows, no power, no water. They have members of the tribe who are the medicine men and using natural bark, roots etc. can cure anything from malaria, to headache, stomach upsets, or arthritis.

    The children then demonstrated how educated they were by reciting the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year and some math problems. The children attend school which is just next door.

    The Maasai live a very simple life, tending their livestock, gathering sticks and making souvenirs. Guess where the last stop of the tour was...The souvenir shop. All the women had their wares laid out and is probably the area I'm not that comfortable with . "You like this?" "How about this?" Anyway, we purchased some items after some tough bargaining (they start very high) and we have probably done our Africa shopping now.
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  • Day19

    Amboseli National Park

    October 11, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After arriving in Nairobi we only spent the night before being loaded into 2 safari vehicles (Landcruisers) for the 4 hour journey to Amboseli National Park. The drive was an experience as road rules seem to be merely a suggestion as cars pass where there is oncoming traffic plus a lot of trucks. Still, they only travelled around 80km/h with trucks much slower. The last hour or so we had an African massage as we left the main road and travelled into the park on very corrugated, dusty roads.

    The Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge where we are staying is very nice with Mt Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. We have been very fortunate because often the mountain is shrouded with clouds. On our afternoon drive we were able to get the classic (perhaps not the greatest) photo of an elephant with the mountain in the background. Apart from elephants, zebra and giraffe, other animals we saw that we haven't seen previously are the Thompson gazelle and a solitary hyena.

    Our drive ended at Observation Point - a bit of a climb but not too hard. Great views over the park and sundowner drinks & nibbles while we watched the sun set. A very pleasant day.
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  • Day16

    Elephant drama

    October 8, 2019 in Botswana ⋅ ⛅ 36 °C

    Our final day in Chobe and we elected to do another wildlife cruise. It was all much the same as the previous day, a few hippos, some kudu antelope, monkeys drinking from the river edge and fishing eagles among other things. Then, the guide noticed a baby elephant fall into the water, only about a week old, and he couldn't get back out. There was only us and another small boat that witnessed the mama elephant trying to get the baby to climb up the bank. Unfortunately elephants don't climb very well, especially baby ones. There was nothing we could do but watch the mother, obviously very stressed, try to wrap her trunk around her baby but ended up guiding him to a shallower bank. Fortunately there is a happy ending as the baby managed to climb out. Check out the videos.

    This ended our visit to Chobe and also our Southern Africa part of the tour. The next day it was a bus trip back to Victoria Falls and a flight back to Johannesburg. Of the group of 28, only 10 of us were continuing on to Eastern Africa (Kenya), so we said our goodbyes and prepared for our flight to Nairobi.
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  • Day16

    Amorous Lions and Boisterous Elephants

    October 8, 2019 in Botswana ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    The early morning game drive at Chobe was different to the ones at Kruger. At Kruger it was a private concession area so very few vehicles travelling around the park. At Chobe there were dozens of safari trucks so it was quite a lot busier.

    We are looking for the elusive leopard, the only one of the big 5 we have not seen yet, and the guide thought he had seen leopard prints on the track. Still no leopard but we did come across a pair of mating lions... and when I say mating, I mean we caught them in the act (along with about 20 other vehicles). No wonder he was quick about it - too many eyes watching him. (I have video but edited it somewhat)

    Moving on we came across herds of elephants along the river front when suddenly three or four teenage male elephants came rushing out of the bush, trumpeting and generally being boisterous . One of them had a go at a herd of impala, charging at them, waving his trunk and flapping his ears. Quite a sight. Every time we go on safari we see something different.
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  • Day15

    Chobe National Park - Day 1

    October 7, 2019 in Botswana ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    What can I say, but border crossings in Africa is an adventure in itself. Traveling from Victoria Falls, Zambia to Chobe National Park in Botswana required a river border crossing by ferry. They are building a bridge (since 2014 - probably not complete for another couple of years) which will ease the traffic congestion but at the moment all transport has to cross by boat/ferry. This means they have to wait their turn. Average wait time - 2 weeks! Talk about chaos. We had to ditch the bus, unload the luggage, put it all on a a small boat with ourselves on another boat and cross the river. Load up another bus and off again. We are in Botswana!

    Not too far to Chobe Bush Lodge - again quite nice, where we had lunch then joined a river safari along the Chobe River. This time we saw a few new animals we had not previously seen such as the Cape Buffalo (one of the big 5), Nile crocodile, black sable antelope, and the Marabou stork (one of the ugly 5).

    There were lots of elephants too and at one point a group decided to cross the river, and we, along with dozens of other boats watched the spectacle which I think confused the elephants and they started moving around in circles. Plenty of photos and once again a lovely African sunset over the Chobe River this time.
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