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On safari in East Africa...

kenya-nairobi-giraffe

Being on safari is a little surreal. It is the ultimate field trip. All safari's usually begin with a briefing after breakfast before setting out from Nairobi, Kenya or Arusha, Tanzania.

You will then meet your drivers who will be with you throughout your entire safari. The drivers go over the general daily procedures and answer any concerns or unanswered questions the passengers may have. The vehicles are then loaded up and off you go to your first lodge or camp.


When travelling between reserves and parks you travel between 4 to 8 hours through diverse countryside. Admittedly the roads in Kenya are not like in the west, though they are a bit better in Tanzania. Passengers generally comment on the state of the roads but at the same time remark that traversing by road connects them with the country and its people. This really hits home as you travel through the vast countryside, passing through local villages as you drive from one location to another.

minivan-africa-bound-safariWhile travelling you notice that everyone plants their crops as close to their homes making every inch of their property productive with organic produce. It is not unusual to see a child tending the family's small heard of 6 or 7 goats when they are not in school. They walk everywhere and frequently with jugs of water or baskets of food on top of their heads. If nothing else it certainly makes one think about our own activities and the definition of necessities back at home.

mount-kenyaIn 2006 while escorting a group on safari, one of our drivers mentioned of a joint effort by a group of Canadians and Americans that resulted in the opening of a Woman's Co-op and weaving factory in the nearby town of Nanyuki, near Mount Kenya. We were asked by our drivers if we would like to visit the facility the next day and we had answered yes. So the next day when travelling to Lake Nakuru from Aberdares National Park we stopped at the Co-op and were delighted to see their operation which consisted of 12 sheep grazing on the property. They sheared the sheep themselves, carded the wool, washed it and then dyed it in colours obtained from the local vegetation. They produced wonderful woven products such as shawls, floor mats, table cloths and so much more. The entire group purchased an item and really enjoyed the experience. Next door to the Co-op property was a gate. As we were leaving one of our fellow travelling companions couldn't resist, and opened the gate. To the delight all of us a rush of 5 year olds, all dressed in crisp blue uniforms came running at us, calling, laughing and all wanting a hug. It seems we had caught them on their play break. Their young teacher invited us to view the children's school room and their work. It was great to meet and see so many happy and smiling children all with such exuberant faces.

samburu-serena-lodgeAs tremendous as the above experience was my personal favourite memory
started out to be a quiet moment. My group and I were at our lodge in Samburu National Reserve when I returned to my cabin after breakfast following our early morning game drive. All the cabins had their own private porch and mine was inviting me to sit and take in the atmosphere and the view while I made some notes in my journal. I had my notebook, a pen and high lighter on the table. I was aware of what sounded like several small monkeys chattering and then realized the sounds were getting closer. As I sat on my porch, pen in hand, 4 or 5 Vervet Monkeys came running across the front of my porch. There was a low tree right in front of the porch and they all ran up the tree and were having a great time playing like rambunctious little children, screeching and jumping, generally making a ruckus. Then they noticed me and climbed up on the rail, then turning around they looked right at me. The smallest monkey descended back onto my table and picked up my high lighter. Being my only one, I quickly grabbed it back. The monkey just looked at me in wonderment, as if to say - Did you just do that? Seconds later the monkey rejoined his fellow cohorts on the rail before screeching and chasing each other again down the path. Wow! My own personal encounter with a wild animal, something I'll never forget!

aberdares-mountain-lodge-waterholeOnce you arrive at your next lodge or camp you can expect a refreshing buffet lunch and a short rest before the late afternoon game drive. Game drives are done twice a day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon when animal activity (foraging) is at its peak. The day begins early on Safari, usually by 5:30am, you'll make your way to the lounge in the main lodge or tent where coffee, tea, and biscuits are served. You then will meet up with your driver and proceed out on your gaming drive.

lake-nakuru-flamingosThe drivers are well educated on the species, habitats and their habits. You will have a personal species list and it's great fun to check them off as you see them. Each park or gaming reserve features it's own environment and sometimes specific animal species. The Grevy Zebra and the Reticulated Giraffe for example are only found in the Samburu National Reserve (north of Mount Kenya) and brilliant pink flamingoes at Kenya's Lake Nakuru and Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater.

samburu-grevys-zebraOnce an animal, or group of animals is spotted the idea is to quietly sit and just watch them go about their foraging and or interaction. Invariably this is where we all become like wide-eyed children. I am always in awe to watch these magnificent creatures doing what they have been doing for millennia totally free in their own environment. After about 2 hours and as the temperature starts to rise we head back to the lodge where a full buffet breakfast is set up and everyone compares notes of their particular animal and bird sightings.
mara-serena-lodgeAfter breakfast you are welcome to rest on your own porch or the spacious lounge or even enjoy sunbathing by the pool. Lunch will be served around 1:00pm. Around 4:00pm everyone is gathering again for the late afternoon game drive. In this part of the world, it's always dark by 6:30pm so you will be back at the lodge by this time. Dinner is served around 7:00pm. Three meals a day are served at the lodge, almost always buffet style. Food is plentiful and well prepared. Bottled water is always available at the bar.

masai-mara-lionsExcept on specifically designated 'walking' safaris there is very little walking required. The most walking you can expect to do is between your room/tent and the main lodge. As accommodations are always ground level and the individual units are spread out through the grounds.
The lodges and the drivers are always connected with each other by radio. They can communicate instantly to check on each other and how everyone is doing. In the case of an emergency East Africa has a wonderful flying doctor service available and even the most isolated location has access to an airstrip. To immerse oneself in the natural world this way will be a most rewarding experience virtually for every age group. We hope to have you join us on safari real soon.