Our ultimate organiser (Julie) had picked out 3 areas of Kenya to travel to, the Maasai Mara National Park for the great wildebeest (gnu) migration, Laikipia conservancy where the African Wild Dogs are to be found and Amboseli National Park to see great families of elephants. I can honestly say that I was completely unaware of where we were going right up until the day before we hit Kenya. I figured I really didn’t need to know as Julie had it all in hand and I trust her judgement all the way. When she found out that I had just been smiling and nodding at all of the suggestions and not really paying attention she was horrified. What if it was terrible? I felt pretty comfortable that it would all be fine. The one factor that I hadn’t considered was how we were getting between each of these places. Turns out it was very small planes.
Now for those that have just joined this little rodeo – I HATE small planes. As in, complete fear and sweating with the idea of getting in one. And as it turned out we had 6 flights to take in these little death traps. Of course the reward for sitting in a flying tin can for 40 minutes each time was that I would be going somewhere totally awesome so I just took my calm pills and sucked it up.
The first flight was from Wilson airport in Nairobi to the Maasai Mara and I must admit I was impressed to see that this plane was not too small. I reckon it held about 30+ passengers so apart from serious nerves I managed ok. That said, I was pretty darned excited and when we landed into this vast plain and looked out to see herds of wildebeest grazing and antelope just hanging out. It was all that I had dreamed and more.
And then to top it off there were all these open sided safari vehicles ready to accept their guests and one of those magical trucks was ours!
The camp we were staying at was supposed to be about an hour from the airstrip but being over-excited little safari-ites it took us nearly 2 ¼ hours to get there. Our poor driver kept trying to answer our questions but he was a little overwhelmed I think and just kept telling us that he was jus the driver and not a real guide. That said he did a pretty good job of keeping us well amused. I think that Darren and Emma (our hosts) were a little concerned when we had taken such a long time to make it back to camp but hey – we were excited! 🙂
Kicheche Bush Camp is this incredible patch of fabulousness in the middle of the bush on the Olare Motorogi conservancy, bordering the Maasai Mara National Park. The conservancy is an area of 35,000 acres that was once owned and used by local Maasai farmers. A deal was brokered whereby for use of the land as a game reserve and relocation of the grazing lands and villages the Maasai people would be well rewarded financially and the area available for wild animals would be increased. There are only 94 beds available in the conservancy, unlike in the main Mara National park, and inside the conservancy the road rules are also different. We could drive offroad and there was a limit to the number of vehicles allowed at an animal sighting. For us this meant that we had flexibility as to where we positioned ourselves for our photography as well as the hope that there would not be 30 cars around a single cheetah.
Kicheche Bush Camp has only 6 tents and talk about luxury!!! Wow, wow and wow! We were shown to our tented room to refresh before lunch and I think my head nearly fell off. The tent was thick canvas with rollup blinds so that in the daytime we could see out to the bush all around us. A lovely bathroom and wardrobe area with all the mod cons you would expect in a 5 star hotel. The bed was huuuuuge and so comfortable and to finish it all off we even had our own little verandah area with a hammock strung outside for midday relaxation. We joined our hosts for lunch with them and a couple of other guests and got a run down of how camp life works. Basically during the day we could come and go as we pleased between the main lounge/dining tent and our own as long as we stayed on the paths. However in the evening an Askari (a Maasai warrior carrying a big stick and a torch) would escort us everywhere. Each day we could select how much time we wished to spend out and about and picnic meals would be provided for us to cover any times we were away from camp. Sundowner drinks would be provided for us on every afternoon game drive (!!!!!) and then in the evening dinner would be served in the dining tent.
I was thinking oh my goodness – somebody pinch me. It was awesome. And all of this came with the most delicious gourmet meals (3 course lunch, 4 course dinner) and unlimited drinks of any choice. And the coolest, most gracious hosts I could imagine. Darren and Emma are English expats who have made Kenya their home and were full of hilarious stories of travel, animals, tourists and life in general. I was seriously liking staying in Bush Camp. And we really hadn’t even gone on a game drive yet.
After lunch we went on our first ‘real’ game drive where we were introduced to our guide, Charles. This man was in charge of our safety and our adventure and was an eminently qualified silver level guide with many years of experience. It turned out he also had a brilliant sense of humour, could handle a 4WD in any conditions and knew when to put the pedal to the metal as it were.
Our vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser that had been substantially altered. The sides of the car only came up halfway so that everyone had clear and open views of the wildlife and plains, there was a charging station of 4 powerpoints where we could charge up batteries as they died from overuse in the cameras and much to the boys excitement, the roof was completely open so that they could stand and stick their heads out as we drove along. As I think about our game drives I can’t think of too many times that either Dave or Billy were sitting down unless expressly told to. 🙂
About the only thing that was problematic for me was the temperature. I had not considered that Kenya might be cool, after all it is on the equator and it is Africa therefore it should be hot should it not? Turns out not. Turns out that the altitude of the plains (all at 1500-2200m) makes it a lot cooler than I had thought. Early morning game drives with no sides on the vehicle did make for a few shivery starts but we had waterproof ponchos with flannel lining to tuck around us and glamour was not really a concern in our car so I survived.
That first game drive was a doozy but will take too much time to tell it here so I might just leave it for next time. 😉 Catch you then heheheh.
A Maasai herdsman with his sheep and goats from the air.
Our safari link plane on the Mara airstrip.
A lone acacia tree on the Mara plains.
Dave and I with Charles, our Mara guide.
This shot is from the Kicheche webpage but shows our bedroom in the tent – NOICE!!!!!
Common zebra, otherwise known as ‘bloody zebra’ due to their ability to consistently turn their backside to the camera and/or not pose properly for photos 😉
Lilac Breasted Roller bird, also renamed. This one started out as the “Julie Bird” because after 2 safari trips Julie had fallen in love with these cute little guys and had spent a lot of time trying without success to get one in flight (the underside of the wings is stunning blue). By the end of the trip it too had fallen victim to ‘that bloody bird’ and no photos in flight were forthcoming.
There is a very strong message shown everywhere. Poachers in Kenya are shot on sight!
On a personal note I implore everyone – DO NOT BUY IVORY!!!!
If there is no market, there can be no trade.