Our family travels in Kenya continues from Issue Eight...Heading towards the rift valley lakes we stopped off in Nairobi for a feast second to none. The kids marvelled at the quantum of food served up at the Carnivore Restaurant. Countless varieties and cuts of meat keep streaming in until you finally lower your flag on the table to indicate ‘enough, I simply cannot eat anymore’. Arriving mid-afternoon at Lake Naivasha, Rift Valley Lodge delivers unexpected pleasures. A cool breeze brushes over the lodge as we sit back and take in the spectacle across the plains and hills.
From the time we arrived I got the feeling the kids were more welcome than we were. Nothing specific, just a feeling. From the lodge we set off for a day in Lake Nakuru National Park. Wow! Not only are there thousands of greater and lesser flamingo spread across this saline lake but the game is really impressive. We drove from sighting to sighting, where we saw a leopard with a cub, perched up in fever trees to keep safe from a pride of lions down below. Rhino and buffalo munching on the floodplains and an abundance of zebra, waterbuck and other antelope. Countless giraffe, the rare Rothschild’s variety with such beautiful markings. The kids’ game and bird list is bursting and every now and then a squabble breaks out over how many of these or those we have seen.
Back at Great Rift Valley Lodge in the afternoon there is a knock on the door. Pole and Sara are there to collect Chad and Dayna to go to the ‘Adventurers Club’. Staying at the lodge makes them automatic members and off they go for hours of fun learning to bush track, make traditional crafts, swim and generally go Masai. We enjoyed a relaxing and peaceful afternoon until two very excited but very exhausted youngsters arrive back at the room with stories by the dozen. Long before they finish relating all their experiences, their exhaustion and a huge dinner have lulled them into dreamland. If we had not been so laid back ourselves in the afternoon the rolling fairways of the golf course would have certainly ensured we rested equally well.
Before breakfast a refreshing boat cruise on the sweet waters of Lake Naivasha rewards the early risers with close-up views of grunting hippo and thousands of birds of countless species. After a hearty breakfast we set off for the famous Masai Mara Reserve. Soon after we arrive at Siana Springs, where we will stay for the night, I see some of the staff have their eyes firmly set on the children. Guess what? More Adventurers’ Club! Another afternoon of learning bush skills, Masai tricks and fun is in store.
Soon JJ their “adventure meister” had them leopard crawling, stalking bushbuck and making their way through the obstacle course. Not that we needed it but they also learned to make fire the ‘Masai way’ and their own bow and arrow (that thankfully never worked too well). The Siana Springs tented camp lies in a forest so there are birds galore. Camp is busy with game too, tree hyrax, bushbuck and a trouble of banded mongoose. Yes I joke not; the collective name for a group of mongoose is a ‘trouble’. Watch them for a while and you will understand their collective name.
Before setting off on our morning game drive we visit a Masai Village. First the young moran advise the terms, then we are off to meet the elders. A grave session of gooping at one another and our new escort (whose name was ‘just too hard’) translating a few questions and answers. Then it’s into the dung schmattered grounds of the kraal. The snot crusted kids are the best. We call them doughnuts, like the glazed ones. They stand and stare at you seeming quite unfussed by the host of flies that adorn them. The ladies generally ignore us until they are summoned to line up and pose for photos before doing a little song and dance routine. The young warrior age men are the last stop. Having explained their way of life and shown us around their kraal with animated enthusiasm it is now time for business. You don’t get to go anywhere until you have bought at least a few items from their well crafted and colourful selection.
Shopping tip: Prices start real high, show interest but walk in mock shock when you hear them, revisit later when you have seen all and suggest very low offers. Finally select items from a number of different sellers, bargain hard collectively for them and never ever show any big notes or you will leave without them. Don’t let the kids loose here or they will have a dozen items planted in their hands, done deal.
In the next issue I will share some further delights of our journey as we experience the wildlife spectacle of the Masai Mara Reserve and travel north-west crossing the equator into the northern districts and the Samburu areas of Laikipia and Lewa. Among other things standing with one foot in each hemisphere, riding camels across the African plains and meeting, and bottle feeding, Lulu, an orphaned black rhino calf.
Story by Rob Nicholls, Director and part owner of Safari Holidays, organisers of safaris for life changing experiences. In June / July 2007 Rob and his family had the privilege of a familiarisation visit to Zanzibar and the National Parks and Reserves of Kenya courtesy of Mombasa based Southern Cross Safaris.