19 September 2009

Arriving Africa - First stop: Amboseli

It's now day three of our trip to Africa and for those left wondering, we arrived at Dubai airport early so Ade managed to get his free meal! What a deal, all you can eat and drink (no alcohol) if your stopover is more than four hours – ours must have been about four hours and five minutes – but we still made the most of it!

Our arrival in Nairobi was fairly uneventful, arrived about 7.30pm and headed straight through customs. Our guide, Jackson was there to meet us – thanfully – and we didn't have too much trouble picking him out, despite the wall of people in the arrivals hall.

Day one

Spent the night in Nairobi before heading off for Amboseli National Park at 8.30am the next morning. The road to Amboseli was still under construction so we hit everything from new bitumen to sand trails – for those that have seen the Long Way Down with Ewan McGregor that's pretty much what the road was like – fortunately we were in a four-wheel van, not on bikes.

It was about a five hour drive from Nairobi to Amboseli, with the obligatory stop at a curio shop along the way, of course Ade and I are the worst customers – didn't buy anything, just photographed it. I have no idea why, but that's what happens when you travel with paparazzi Duncan!

We hadn't even arrived at our tented camp at Amboseli when the game viewing began with the sighting of a giraffe right next to the road! The campsite was fairly basic tented accommodation, but we did have our own ensuite and electricity in the "tent". We were nestled at the base of Mt Kiliminjaro, unfortunately cloud cover meant we were unable to see the majestic mountain until we were just about to leave the camp.

On our first game drive that afternoon we saw a cheetah soon after arriving in the grounds, a heap of elephants, zebras and wildebeest, as well as buffalo. Not bad considering we were only in the park for two hours.

After dinner we sat back and watched the local Masai perform a song and dance around a campfire in the campgrounds, they had us all up jumping, literally!

Day two

Day two had us up early, not quite the 4am Ade had threatened, but we were gone by 7am and in the park by 7.15. We had our first lion viewing not long after arriving in the park. Not one, not two, but four lions, including a male, and that was just the first grouping. In all we saw four different sets of lions, only one male though.

Again we saw a heap of elephants, some that crossed the road not far in front of our van, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, an elephant crossing and hippos, but the highlight, aside from the lions of course, would have to be watching a baby impala take its first steps! We arrived just after its birth so stuck around to watch it hobble to its feet.
Lunch was inside the grounds, at the top of a small hill, which makes me wander – how do the lions know to stay away??

Day three

This morning we were off to another early start, this time up at 5.30 to be out by 6pm – breakfast was on the road as we had to go back through Nairobi and on to Mt Kenya, another four hours drive.
Kilimanjaro showed itself this morning, so we spent a little time photographing it (of course) before moving on, we hadn't travelled far when we saw a mother elephant and two babies right next to the road. The elephants were amazing, we had seen so many the day before, yet there is something kind of unbelievable about seeing them so close and unexpectedly between destinations.

So, we are now at Sweetwaters tented camp, a private sanctuary between Mt Kenya and Abaderes Mountains. The campground is stunning – tents again, but the main building is like an old colonial English ranch – think Out of Africa but without the slaves, and the tents themselves are luxurious, certainly not like anything we have seen!

The campsite is inside the private sanctuary and our tent is right next to the waterhole, so as we left for dinner tonight we saw buffalo and impala having a drink.

We took a quick safari this afternoon, which resulted in the highlight of our trip thus far – being charged by a black rhino! Yes, I was freaking out, Adrian was busy trying to get photographs! We saw the rhino off in the distance and Jackson, our guide moved closer for us to get a better look – that we did!
We watched it, and followed if for some time, it kept turning and looking at us and eventually had enough of Ade's big camera lens in its face and charged the van, Jackson was at the ready and took off, fortunately the rhino lost interest after a couple of seconds, evidently he was just doing it to warn us.

It worked, even Jackson left it alone after that!

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