Saturday, May 14, 2011

The 267th good thing about Lagos: visiting the other side of the African continent

Africa is a big continent, and I know that one can't generalize about it.  But there's something about this part of the world, this continent,  that can get into your blood and your soul if you'll let it.  It has many challenges, difficulties and troubles, but everywhere I've gone in Africa I've experienced and seen things that have delighted my eyes and my heart and I've made memories that I'll treasure always.  Earlier in my life I never had a goal or great desire to explore Africa -- I was into Western arts and culture and Europe was my utopia.  But, given the opportunity to live here and travel around a bit on this continent, I've been bitten by the Africa bug (thankfully, not yet one giving me malaria or another tropical disease) that makes me want to visit every country on this continent.  Unfortunately, I'm sure I won't have time or money to do that, but I was very glad that on our trip over Easter this year, we were able to travel to Kenya and see a bit of East Africa.  Since we've lived here, we've been to North Africa (Egypt), South Africa, other countries in West Africa (Senegal, Ghana and Benin), but this was our first time in East Africa.  We had a great time in Kenya!

We started by flying to the coast, to Mombasa, and spent Easter weekend at a beach resort there.  The resort was great and very relaxing.
 Mombasa is known for its tusks, which were erected before the 1952 visit of Britain's Princess Elizabeth (now the queen).
 Mombasa also has a great Portuguese fort -- Fort Jesus was founded in 1593 and has some atmospheric views.  The surrounding Old Town has some interesting architecture.

 On our city tour, we visited the Akamba wood carving cooperative, which has around 3000 wood carvers from the Akamba tribe.  Much of the carvings from Kenya come out of this center and there's a shop with pretty good prices where individual carvers get rewarded for their work.

 After 4 nights at the beach near Mombasa, we left for a 3 night safari.  It was very reasonably priced to deal directly with a Kenyan company and it also helped that we were going at low season.  We finalized plans just a few days before we left and we had a great time.  We had this large Toyota land cruiser jeep to ourselves with an experienced driver/guide. 

The roof opened up for the game drives.  Our driver/guide was very proud of his jeep.  He said he gets lots of compliments on it.  "It's styled like a race car," he said proudly.

We soaked up the beautiful scenery -- like this view from our balcony in the Tsavo West game park.
 We saw lots of great birds, like this red-beaked hornbill that came right in to the lodge,
 these beautiful crowned crane beside the road
 and lots of ostrich.
 There were many varities of antelope.  There were klipspringer posing for pictures on a cliff.
 and beautiful gazelle, lots of dainty dik-dik, impala, waterbuck, kudu and eland.
 Lots of animals stared blankly at us, like these buffalo,
 and giraffe.  Much of the landscape reminded me so much of the American West, especially southern Utah, with the red earth and scrubby hills.  Then it would surprise me when giraffe and elephants and zebra would wander into the picture.

We saw lots and lots of elephants.  We visited Tsavo East and West and Amboseli National Parks.  Each one had a different landscape, so there was great variety, and we saw interesting things in each park.

Amboseli is at the foot of the Kenyan side of Kilimanjaro, and we had a great view from the window of our lodge room.  Of course, we had to pose with Kilimanjaro in the background and I had to get pictures of many animals with Kilimanjaro in the background.
Gazelle with Kilimanjaro
 I think if you zoom in, that's a wildebeast with Kilimanjaro.
 I can't really tell what animal this is, but that's definitely Kilimanjaro in the background.  I really should get one of those cameras with a really big lens for a trip like this.  My pictures will never win any prizes, but mostly, I just enjoyed the trip without worrying about documenting everything with pictures.

 We had been looking for cats the whole trip and had just missed them in several places.  I told our guide to not worry about it, I was having a great time even if I didn't see lions or leopard.  But it seems like it's every safari guide's goal to help their clients see the great cats.  Just before we left Amboseli, he got a call on his radio (the guides are all connected with radios that help them notify others of a sighting) of some lions.  We first saw a bunch of hyena...

 and then a pride of lions napping in the grass.  We watched for awhile as they would get up and walk around to find a new position.  They definitely were having a lazy day.
 As we were travelling in low season, we usually had lots of space and didn't see many other vehicles around, but for the lions, there was a crowd.  Nobody with a stylin' race car jeep like ours, though.

We ended our trip with a few days in Nairobi.  In town we enjoyed the National Museum, the railroad museum, and a great African art collection on display at the National Archives. (I did have to pause our sightseeing to watch the Royal Wedding. Kenya is where Will and Kate got engaged, you know.  Brent had a royal nap during most of the ceremony.) We got a driver for a day trip out of town and had a fun hour watching baby elephants at the Sheldrick elephant orphanage.  They take care of orphaned elephants that have been found all over the country, babies that have lost their mother to poaching or illness.  When they are old enough, they are brought to their center within the Tsavo East park and transitioned into the wild. 

It was fun to watch the babies be bottlefed,

and I got lots of video and pictures of them rolling around in the mud.  I think my grandkids will enjoy watching them play.  The mud is like sunscreen for the elephants, and they had a great time getting themselves covered with it.

 I had been reading "Out of Africa" during the trip, so it was interesting to me to visit Karen Blixsen's house, now a museum, which is the setting of the book.  The movie was also filmed here.  The town is now named Karen, after the writer.

I really loved seeing the other coast of Africa.  I'm hoping for a trip that will include the Masai Mara and Tanzania during the Great Migration.  But that will depend on how long we stay in Africa.  I'm glad that at least we had the chance to visit and see a bit of the beautiful country of Kenya.


Foma said...

Just wanted to say thank you for this fantastic blog and your dedication writing it! I just came across it today and have spent hours going through the posts and pictures, right from 2006. You're a pretty awesome woman! Hope you're having a great time on holiday!

lovintheempteenest said...

The world is your oyster!