I had been in Kenya 25years ago and I didn’t recognize the city although it wasn’t as incredibly changed as somewhere like Dubai.
We came across the most pleasant immigration official on the 14th October who welcomed us and she was very chatty and also processed our $50 visas on arrival very promptly. I had to give all my fingerprints but Maurice didn’t. When I asked why he didn’t have to give his, she said in a sweet voice ‘if you get to that age we think you are good!’ Did that make me a potential criminal?
We had arranged a pick up from our hotel ‘La Maison Royale’ so as to not have the hassle of finding a taxi driver on arrival.
The hotel was located in Westlands where there is a lot of construction taking place and the streets were clean and tidy. The check in staff were also very professional,friendly and cheerful and the hotel had only been open for a couple of years.
We don’t do mass tours so we had arranged for a car with driver for the next day to take us to the Masai market, Karen Blixen’s house, the giraffe centre and a couple of other places in between. We had a wonderful day.
The pick up was not there at the allocated time of 9am so we called the company who said the driver would be to us in ten minutes.
He arrived and asked what time we were flying out! I said that we had just arrived the day before and he was to be with us for the day.
We all realised then that the allocated driver had not turned up and Daniel who usually did airport transfers was sent in his place with no information! We were a bit worried but we had a wonderful day and Daniel turned out to be a real gem, the best guide and a very cheerful one where nothing was too much trouble. He even found us the best coffee too at the Java House, a chain of 15 cafes in Nairobi, owned by Italians.
The pollution in central Nairobi is pretty bad with no controls over fuel emissions and sometimes an hour’s journey can take five hours.
We went early to the Masai market when the stall holders were still setting up shop. It was such a colourful place with some of the women in traditional colourful Masai dress and most of what anyone sold was also very colourful with so many innovative knick knacks. I had to buy a woven basket as well as a couple other small souvenirs which were very well priced.
The traffic in Nairobi can be horrendous with some traffic jams lasting hours. Luckily being a Saturday the traffic wasn’t so bad when we drove to see Karen Blixen’s house and gardens and then on to the Giraffe centre – a non profit organisation to educate schoolchildren and youth on conservation. There are only ten giraffes there and there was a baby who was only two weeks old. They are very gentle but when feeding them you have to be careful that they don’t unintentionally head butt you when they toss their heads back. We spent some time there
before heading to the coffee garden – a house built in 1905 and relocated from the centre of Nairobi to the outskirts of ‘Karen’ suburb where many large houses and properties are hidden in vast gardens and behind large hedges. After a light lunch we drove up to the Ngong village where trucks on the road and at the side of the road with many belching out black smoke. The container terminal in Mombasa is one of the largest in Africa and thousands of trucks go backwards and forwards from there to Kenya, Uganda and southern Sudan. The sheer volume of trucks, most carrying containers make progress very slow especially when they go up a hill or hog the ‘climbing lanes’ so that cars cannot pass.
We were very lucky as we could see Kilimanjaro and a neighbouring peak very clearly. Maurice had always wanted to see Mt Fuji (which he did see last October)and Kilimanjaro so he was very pleased.
Amboseli Safari Park gets it’s name from the Ambosel, dust devils or willy willys as we call them in Australia and they are constant, picking up dust and whirling around the park. There are over a thousand elephants in the area and we saw many of them, most semi submerged with the hippos in the vast tracts of swampy water. The wildebeest, Grant and Thomson gazelle, Ostrich and the many zebras were scattered over many kilometres as well as the ostrich, waterbuck, water buffalo and the huge numbers of cattle that the Masai herd to the water. A lot of the park was very green with all the water around and many of the elephants were practically submerged. The government are building large bores away from the park so that the Masai will not need to bring their cattle through the area. We saw a number of giraffe who stayed mostly in the shade of large trees and away from the rest of the animals.
The road into the park was bone shattering with a lot of corrugation and the driver chose this particular entrance as it had been graded!
We left the park at 2.30pm for the 4 1/2 hour trip back to the hotel. It was an exhausting day but a very fulfilling one as Maurice got to see Mt Kilimanjaro as well as so much wildlife in a natural state. The Chinese are very active in Kenya financing the new railway between Nairobi and Mombasa which should be finished next year and then they want to continue it all the way across Africa! The Chinese use their construction engineers and African labour. They have also built many new highways in Nairobi and around Kenya.
We were given a packed lunch to eat on top of the observation hill where we got a spectacular 360degree view of the whole park. Ephrahim our driver did a great job of getting us there and back in one piece and we both collapsed into bed after such a long day.
Kenyan TV showed eight thousand stored tusks being burnt in Kenya, one of the biggest hauls of elephant tusks and it was reported that over 70 percent of the elephants in Africa have perished in the last few decades. It was good to see that the population in Amboseli is so great although the largest number of elephants are found in Tsavo National Park.
We had a lay day the following day visiting the Westgate mall (where 67 people had died in a terrorist raid in 2013 and which now had very strict security insideand outside the mall). We went to see the movie ‘Inferno’ (our second trip in 5years to the cinema) and a meal before heading for Mt Kenya and a five day private safari the next morning with a well recommended tour company called ‘It started in Africa’. I wanted to revisit places that I had seen 25years ago and also show Maurice what I loved about Kenya.