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“Kenya Safari March 2007 ”


written by Dariusdave on 05/01/2008

Kenya Safari March 2007
In the Footsteps of Dariusdave Mombasa to The Masa Mara.

Chapter 1


We boarded the last flight out of Gatwick, it was snowing heavily, and the Artic blizzard enveloping London blew us south fast. We arrived an hour early at Moi International Airport.

Imagine less than 24 hours from London enjoying your own secluded paradise, standing in the warm double-decker pool gazing down at The Manolo River and looking across the valley to The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. Sipping a sun downer beside the pools we absorb the sounds and smells of Africa, no musack here. The mystical colours of the sun setting through the Shimba Hills, the bird song and perhaps greatest of all seeing Elephants playfully washing in the pools of the Manolo river beneath our veranda.

This is the Eco-friendly very private and secluded Lodge that is Kutazama. Part vision part dream come true for old African hands Gill and Garry Richardson. They conceived the dream and by the honest sweat of their own hands have created Kutazama. Private Lodge means private when we visited there was one suite with plans for only two more.

Kutazama is situated on a ridge in the Shimba Hills National Conservation Park half an hour or so from the coast. Its altitude gives fresh air and allows a coolness morning and evening that librates one from the tropical heat. I suffer from Asthma but there was an Alpine like quality to the air here and I had no breathing problems

Paradise means you are greeted by the family that includes the Butler and the head Chief. They will help plan your meals and ensure your throat remains moist from an extensive fridge and cellar. Meals comprise seafood fresh from the Indian Ocean, local fruits, vegetables and meats, remember Kenya supplies Marks & Spencer with fresh veggies. There is always Kenyan copper coloured tea for breakfast and the glorious aromatic Arabica beans from the Kenyan highlands providing the unique Out Of Africa? taste for our favourite coffee. You may even persuade The Head Chief to produce Kenyan Oat Porridge for breakfast to compensate for his magnificent gourmet dinners.

The Frangipani suite includes a Kilimanjaro size four poster bed with integrated mosquito net, a double luxury bathroom. There is also an outdoor solar powered Jacuzzi that helps massage away the aches and pains from the long haul flight. We felt the whole Lodge had an integrated flow and ambiance providing rest and the peace that cannot be obtained from modern corporate glass and steel. There was so much of traditional African design, the hand carved doors, the thatched roof, and combined with modern civilised comforts the double decked pool that even the most stressed out will find rest and peace here.

Kutazama is much more than epicurean delights with sumptuous accommodation. The location provides opportunities to explore both The Shimba Hills and local villages. There are cultural tours of local Digo and Duruma villages. Remember to bring gifts for local schools 100 pencils will be received as manna from heaven, old style lined exercise books are in short supply donate a pack of fifty to help keep one class studying. Many Kenyan schools have budget problems and a cash gift will receive a written thank you.

Visitors may enjoy private Safaris, game drives through the Shimba Hills, excursions to the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. The reasonably fit, able and adventurous will be blessed with a walking safari to the Chitsanze Waterfalls.

If your spirit of adventure seeks to take you further to Tsavo, Amboselli or Masa Mara National Parks there are excellent links with local Safari operator Gibran who will tailor an individual package for the most discerning or daring adventurers.

I should point out that due to the geography of Kutazama it is not suited to those who have difficulty climbing stairs. It is the perfect location for a second honeymoon, that special birthday or anniversary or simply to enjoy a quiet secluded corner of Kenya listen to the birds, see elephants and rest.

Kenya Safari March 2007

Chapter 2

Tsavo West Park & Serena Kilaguni Lodge

We ventured from Mombasa along the Nairobi road just after sun up. Last year there were 37 kilometres of pot holes, this year the Chinese Engineers had reduced this to 19. But the 19 kilometres with diversions onto hard baked dusty mud seemed far worse than 2006.

It was good to have coffee at the woodcarving Watford Gap? services, to stretch, to look at the carvings and paintings. We are now on the new road there is so much to see on the journey to Tsavo West.

Last Year 2006 I described The Kilaguni Lodge as a paradise on earth. There is always a danger when one returns to paradise it is not how it was, memory may have been seen through rose tinted glasses.

We arrive at Kilaguni Serena Lodge and are greeted by the Lodge Manager and some of his team. Registration is most civilised and the charming deputy manageress escorts us to Suite 3. We are dusty and tired needing a shower before lunch but her welcome could not be more friendly and kind. We were given a detailed tour of our upstairs suite and views from veranda were far more impressive than Versailles.

Kilaguni Serena Lodge was even better than 2006. Those good looking black cinder paths that caused pain to the soles our soft feet were being replaced. Last year I criticised the expensive wines, 2007 has seen the introduction of a perfectly acceptable range of Serena House wines.

Sometimes a seemingly small change makes a great difference. There is now a resident ornithologist taking guests on walking safaris. Perhaps he inspired the construction of the two stone bird tables between the restaurant and water hole. At lunch we were able to enjoy the presence and songs from more than a dozen varieties of birds lunching at these tables, and resting on the branches of local bushes.

There was a vast choice from a well prepared and presented buffet for lunch. Given the early start, the exciting journey we needed to refuel our bodies and felt there was plenty of choice for all tastes at this wonderful location.

After lunch I managed to activate the cyber caf computer and e-mail my daughters in Yorkshire and Australia.

We come to Kenya to see live animals both the big five and many others in their natural habitat. The afternoon game drive did not disappoint. My photo albums records elephant, zebra, giraffe, baby leopard, various gazelle, buffalo, hyena and many bird species. Regrettably we did not see Rhino in the Rhino Sanctuary but early rains had stimulated growth and lush foliage. This did not prevent us seeing a classic African sunset.

Dinner at Kilaguni Serena Lodge was different to 2006 we attended African Night. There was an expansive feast; any seasoned traveller would have been spoilt for choice. We travelled with a young German couple on their first safari they were stunned, amazed and thought they were on a Cruise Liner. That is until the real entertainment commenced with a visit to the water hole by a family of giraffes. Other magnificent animals followed, until exhausted from our long day, we finished our glorious nightcaps and retreated to our room remembering ?the early starter catches sight of most game?. We slept like African mahogany logs wakening refreshed longing for the first Kenya Coffee and sounds of pre-dawn birdsong.

It is traditional to visit Mzima Springs before breakfast. These springs are the ecological soul for the dry Tsavo area. The location is likened to an Oasis, as the bubbling waters erupt from volcanic boulders having travelled from the Chyulu Hills. The volcanic geology is responsible for the clear waters that attract so many animals in the dry seasons.
We first saw buffalo taking their early morning drink, then hippos before entering the submerged viewing tank to see Barbels of all sizes.

Returning to Kilaguni we observed ostrich, Sykes monkeys, buffalo, elephant, gazelles and tortoise.

All too soon we enjoyed a grand safari breakfast, packed our bags and prepared for the marathon? (that weekend the World Cross Country Championships were being staged in Kenya) to Amboseli.

We were delighted to have returned to Kilaguni Lodge, yes it was better than 2006, we expect it may be even better in 2008. If circumstances allow we will happily return again. This Lodge is friendly, kind and helpful staff provide all that is needed for novice or seasoned traveller. One day we will stay long enough to test the swimming pool, just didn't have time 2007.

Kenya Safari March 2007

Chapter 3

Amboseli Park & Serena Lodge

After a hearty breakfast, our bags are collected, loaded back into the Safari Bus. Farewells are said and we set off for Amboseli. I would not estimate the miles but it is a long ride on bumpy dusty roads. It was unfortunate that the exit barrier was down at The Tsavo West Exit. The Park Rangers, like some 1960's British Trade Union Officials were on work to rule. No matter how loud Ringo and 20 other Safari Bus guides pleaded that they had a marathon to run the barrier did not open a minute before the allotted time.

The first stop on this Marathon was for the Shetani Lava flows, what an incredible sight. The lava stretches in both directions and Safari traffic has created a bumpy track across. We take photos, stretch legs and motor on. Later we are stopped at a road barrier for a Masa village where the enterprising try to sell wood carvings and souvenirs. There was a short comfort refreshment break later, then we sense we are arriving at The Amboseli Plains.

How can one describe the wonder that is the Kenyan Wildlife Service Amboseli Park an area of 150 square miles, 3700 feet above sea level with 56 species of mammals and 215 species of birds. Greatest of all the plains of Amboseli have Mount Kilimanjaro with clouds and snow as a perfect backdrop. It seems every mile presents different animals as did every hour of the day. Towards dusk we witnessed a herd of more than 50 elephants going off towards Kilimanjaro and Tanzania for supper.
Next morning we were the 1st out of Amboseli Safari Lodge in that wonderful predawn African light to be greeted by mummy lion and her cubs resting in the centre of the road, then Hippo out of the water grazing, zebra feeding her young, wildebeest, antelope, a family of Monkies with one on guard at the top of a branchless tree, countless elephants, buffalo, then there were the birds. Ostrich, pink flamingos, many waders in the lakes and countless song birds.

Our only regret was the poor state of The Serena Amboseli Lodge. It can't compare to Serena Tsavo West for location of Architectural design. I have already described the wonderful park. But competent management should ensure that electrical sockets do not hang off the Restaurant wall. If man made floor coverings are used in the Restaurant then they should be clean, not appearing as if the local buffalo had marched across on a rainy day. The food at lunch, dinner and next day at breakfast is best described as adequate. It lacked the panache of both Serena Tsavo and Serena Fort Jesus. Far worse was the poor service, tables half laid, cutlery and cruet sets incomplete. Groups of waiters huddled in deep conversation totally ignoring their customers.

Our room was tight, but enjoyed an innovatively designed bathroom where the shower was good and loo flushed, a comfortable bed, desk and wardrobe more than adequate for exhausted safari explorers.

It was so sad that a lodge located in a park where there are so many wild animals on the door step was so poorly managed. We passed a large looking Lodge which was shut and in the hands of the Nairobi Courts, let us hope the Serena Group get their act together and provide the service and welcome that is second nature at Tsavo West and Fort Jesus.

The early morning and post breakfast game drives in Amboseli were the best we had enjoyed so far in Kenya. Amboseli has a wonderful magic of its own, so much to see and Mount Kilimanjaro one minute hidden by cloud, next just the middle covered and snows visible at the top then fully naked with its full beauty exposed briefly for all savvy explores to enjoy. Radio messages were exchanged we arrived at a grass airstrip, said good buy to Ringo and boarded our flight to The Mara.

Kenya Safari March

Chapter 4

The Masa Mara

Kichwa Tembo Tented Lodge.

Our first sight of The Mara was from the air. Even through a little heat haze the magic of the Mara was apparent. We were greeted at the grass airstrip by Wesley who was to be our Kichwa Tempo guide and companion. Straight into a game drive from the airport and we were not disappointed. Eventually we went into camp to register? see our luxury en-suite tent and enjoy a fine lunch.

Kichwa Tembo is much more than just a commercial hotel, it is a centre of excellence and enlightenment. Yes we stayed in a large en-suite tent, hot shower, flushing loo, basin, double bed where the tent maid put two hot water bottles every night and plenty of furniture.

The restaurant provided a wide variety of meals and picnic hampers so we could enjoy extended game drives. What better after an early morning game drive than hot porridge and a Full English, washed down with lashings of Kenyan coffee? But the most striking features were the voluntary presentations.

After lunch on our first afternoon we attended an outdoor talk from one of the Masa Guides attired in full regalia. We learned about Masa culture, history, and how he became a qualified Park Ranger studying at College in Tanzania. Children attended and we enjoyed their questions. We also had the company of a family with 2 under 12 children on our game drives. They were well behaved and enriched our adventure.

The next evening between the end of the afternoon game drive and dinner there was a magnificent slide show and talk about The Mara. There are battery charging facilities at the main bar for cameras and camcorders.
Additionally in our tented rooms Conservation Corporation Africa had produced two guide booklets. Imagine my surprise when asking at reception if I might purchase these booklets I was told they are free for guests to take away. The 1st is a detailed Eco Guide describing the animals, birds and habitat of the Mara with fine hand sketches illustrating trees, leaves, butterflies, birds and animals. The 2nd is headed Bird Checklist brimming with invaluable advice and sketches.

A word about our driver guide a gentle man who recognised my wife was still recovering from a dislocated shoulder and found entering and leaving our 4x4 Safari Toyota challenging. He could not have been more helpful at every mount and dismount, on several drives he was accompanied by the camp physio a Mara lass whose sharp eyes were invaluable and massage was magic. I never did work out how during the late afternoon drives he would have us studying some animals while he discreetly slipped on his anorak. Contrary to many guide books we did not find the Mara cold evenings, we had no need to wear woolly jumpers. He asked us what we wished to see. He also asked us if we would like extended game drives and arranged for picnic baskets. A safari picnic on the Masa Mara is itself an enriching experience.

I could from my photos give a list of all the birds and animals we saw on our game drives it is better to view at leisure. Seeing so many wild animals in their natural habitat is humbling and inspiring. Use this link to view my pictures.
Mara 2 are Rhino, Mara 3 Elephants Mara 5 Birds etc.
Yes the greatest sight was two Rhinos strolling together through the red grass on the last morning., The young Cheetahs and families of lions would delight ever cat lover, elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, even the fat Nile Crocodiles in the Mara River have their part in this great eco-system. Every minute of our stay on The Mara was inspirational and brought great happiness and satisfaction to both of us.

It is fashionable for tree hugging greens to spout on about carbon footprints etc. If there were fewer tourists there would be fewer jobs for native Africans and far greater pressure to develop this paradise which itself would destroy The Mara. Would we want to go again? You bet this Christmas we are researching hard and hope to return 2008.

We are most grateful to Gibran Safaris for tailoring this great package, to the guy's for giving us an insight to their vision at Kutazama, to our guide from Mombasa to Amboseli, and all the staff at Kichwa Tembo who shared their paradise with us. We would love to return and unreservedly recommend this type of Kenyan Safari to all as a time for peace and paradise on earth. We pray that Kenya's present problems (Jan 2008) are soon resolved and it will be safe to Safari again

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