Subject: Re: Kenya notes
A friend sent me her travel notes on a recent trip to Kenya. My husband and I enjoyed them so much, I asked her if I might share them with the list. She agreed, but she did ask me to remove names, so if in a couple of spots it appears awkward, that's why.

Our daughter, Janet, her friend and I went on safari to Kenya in December, 1999. It was a very well planned and executed trip, We were well taken care of the entire stay.

We spent one day in Nairobi checking out the well known gift shops to get an idea of what kind of souvenirs were available and the prices.

Early the next morning we were met by our driver, George, a Kenyan who has been a guide for 18 years. We drove to another hotel where we were joined by [a man] from Baltimore, and a couple from Holland. This was our group for seven days in a Land Rover, guided, educated, and cared for by George.

The safari drivers are very special and marvelous people. They are historians, geographers, geologists, biologists, diplomats, care-givers, and mechanics..they can spot animals in the distance, and know which track to take to bring us right there, or to the place the animals are moving towards. George liked to suddenly stop, casually point, and totally surprise us with some unexpected, fabulous view. Or we'd be driving on to another park when he'd slam on the brakes, throw the Rover into reverse, and back down the highway while we wondered what had happened. And he would point and say See the Secretary Bird there in the grass?

We began our safari by going North out of Nairobi. We caught glimpses of Mt. Kenya through the clouds, the most we would ever see of it, and crossed the Equator on the slopes of the mountain. All along the way, people would wave and shout Jambo, which means hello in Swahili; the Kenyans are a lovely people with beautiful smiles and we enjoyed being with them whether in the city or the middle of a savanna.

When we arrived after 6 1/2 hours of very bumpy roads at Samburu National Park there were 3 bull elephants near the gate to Larsen's Tented Camp. We were greeted by a gentleman with a tray of damp, warm towels and another with a tray of cold, fruit juices, a greeting most appreciated, and repeated at each of our hotels. At 4 o'clock we headed out on our first game drive and started the daily routine of game drives at 8 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon with mostly eating in-between. We stopped to look at a herd of elephant in the distance and noticed a lioness sitting nearby, also watching. It proved impossible to keep an eye on her and the elephants as they came toward us, and we lost sight of her. But, as Janet said, it just got better each day. The country is so plains ringed with distant mountains...that it's a treat just driving around drinking in the scenery, whether you see animals or not....but we did!

We checked off 40 kinds of animals, and 66 kinds of birds: 2 leopards, 3 cheetah, 7 rhinos, dozens of lions, hippos, buffalo, giraffes (3 varieties), zebras, 13 different kinds of antelope from hartebeest to tiny dik-diks, warthogs, 3 kinds of mongoose, jackals, baboons, and birds, birds, birds!

We drove along with cheetahs and lions on hunts, sat and communed with lion prides, stared back at giraffes, saw an impala hanging from a tree where a leopard had placed it while it napped in the tree, were engulfed by dozens of elephants moseying on their way, watched vultures and eagles feeding on wildebeest that didn't make it across the Mara River, plus dozens of hippo and crocodiles lazing in the river.

I had a pack of cigarettes stolen out of my backpack by a monkey, watched lions feeding on kills, visited a Samburu village and went inside one of those horrible huts, had a private shopping mall set up for us by 34 Maasai women, and the last two mornings in the Ambosli awakened by a bell hop saying from my tent porch, Good morning, Madam! Your coffee is here. The mountain is clear this morning if you'd care to come look, and sitting on my porch, drinking coffee, eating biscuits, and soaking in the sight of Kilimanjaro.

We spent two days at Samburu in dry, scrub country, then overnight at Treetops in the Aberdare Mountains (but I didn't come down the next morning a Queen as Elizabeth did!) During dinner one of the waiters announced.excuse me for interrupting your dinner, but there are 2 black rhino at the water hole, and everyone got up and ran. And thus we had seen the big five: elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino. That night I slept with my clothes on because either a bell would ring in my room, or Billy would bang on my door to announce the arrival of more animals.

The next morning we drove down the escarpment West of the mountains into the Great Rift Valley. The Rift runs south from Turkey through the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and enters Africa in Ethiopia, ending in Mozambique for 4,000 miles. The earth is splitting apart due to the movement of the tectonic plates and perhaps one day East Africa will be an island in the Indian Ocean. It is because of the Rift Valley, it's climate and the ash laid down by ancient volcanoes that we have the grassy plains where thousands of animals, and the earliest man have flourished.

Our next stop was a game drive through Nakuru National Park of flamingo fame, with lunch served on a linen topped table in a grassy spot surrounded by tall trees. At Nakuru we added white rhino and reedbuck to our list. The park is fenced in to provide protection for the rhinos and the rare Rothschild giraffes that have been introduced there.

Driving further south we stopped overnight at the Naivasha Country Club on Lake Naivasha, where we saw our first hippos, and I had a good soak in a bubble bath.

Then on to the Maasai Mara, the Kenyan name for the Serengeti, with 2 nights at Keekorok Lodge where young Maasai men put on a dance for us, and zebra and waterbuck grazed on the lawn in front of my cabin while I sat on the porch and read before bed.

On the seventh morning we returned to the Nairobi Safari Club and said a sad good bye to our new friends. Spent the afternoon at the city market, which brought back memories of shopping in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. By this time [we] were into the swing of things, and made many good buys.

We three flew out the next morning, heading South toward the Tanzania border, to Amboseli and the most elegant place I've ever stayed, Tortilis Tented Camp. Our driver there, Letaloi, a wonderful man, got as excited as we did when we saw animals and birds. After we had observed the bird or animal for a while he would hand us a field guide so that we could read and learn about the species. He took us all kinds of crazy places; off the tracks and up hilltops, to the edge of a lake, and I think, into Tanzania, raced a rain storm back to camp, and won! When we told him, Giraffes this morning, please..he found giraffes, when we told him we needed 2 more Masai beaded belts for Christmas presents, he pulled up to the entrance of a Masai village and arranged for our shopping.

The last evening we ended our game drive on a hilltop for a Sundowner, (Happy Hour, complete with hors d'oeuvres and my dark rum with lime,) with others from the camp and the inevitable Maasai.

The villages and costumes you see in the Geographic and on Discovery are for real, not just for pictures. Driving along the highways and game tracks you often see cattle and a red clad Maasai along the road or off in the distance.

The safari was a most marvelous experience, one that everyone should have! I don't think it can be topped! And when you go, stay in tented camps; they are very special.