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twaffle

Postcards from Kenya

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twaffle

As I sit here in the Oryx Lounge in Doha, I ponder the last three weeks. What worked and what didn't. Seventeen safari nights became exhausting when every day required so much effort to get interesting, hopefully new, photographs worthy of selling or exhibiting. Close to 8000 images and I wonder how many will make the final cut. Despite my reluctance to say it, a couple of chill out nights in the middle would have energised both me and the camera.

 

I learnt that building relationships within camps is a critical step to any success I acheived and I doubt that I'll move to become an itinerant safari traveller, trying every camp and park available, now that I have experienced this. The places I re-visited knew my interests and background and understood what I am trying to achieve. Using the same guides as previously really paid off. Mutual trust and knowledge enhanced every experience.

 

The bandas at Meru in particular, with a little planning, are an excellent option and I felt more rested there than at many a more luxurious camp.

 

Having the same reliable (and cheap) pick up and transfer service in Nairobi was fantastic. Discovering David last year, with his team of 5 modern cars was one of my best. A whole day of tourist driving around Nairobi was 6000 shillings, the transfer from JKIA to Karen only 2000 shillings. Bargain.

 

In fact, in summary, the renewal of old safari friendships paid dividends which I can't begin to articulate.

 

The mixture of driving and flying was efficient and pleasant. The mixture of bandas and high end camps also worked for me.

 

One thing I would say to anyone planning a safari. Do NOT rely on your TA alone to select the right camps for you. Do your homework. The number of unhappy travellers amazed me when their complaints about their camps would have been solved easily if they had only done some research. Meeting expectations ... some TA certainly failed in this basic task.

 

When considering the way to best share my safari with other readers, I decided to keep it to short stories and anecdotes which I wrote as I travelled. I will make an itemised itinerary with costs at the end of the report. Ask any questions, I'll answer as honestly as I can.

 

By the way, many camp operators are very, very familiar now with Safaritalk and I was slightly stunned to hear that Twaffle has become a bit notorious. Now that I know this, and know that more people are intending to stay anonymous but check posts, I'll have to take a bit more care with my posts!!! :D

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twaffle

Thanks ..., I saw such things, it was fantastic. Your name was mentioned along with Squacks, in very kind terms when I was chatting to Alex. Good people leave good memories! :D

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PT123

Welcome back Twaffle, I look forward to reading your report. I agree with your comment about people not doing their homework before finalizing their itinerary. There have been a few times when I've heard others complain about camps, activities, etc. I was annoyed that that these people didn't take the time to look at the camps' websties or reviews/photos on tripadvisor.

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Game Warden
I was annoyed that that these people didn't take the time to look at the camps' websties or reviews/photos on tripadvisor. Safaritalk...

There, fixed it for you :D

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madaboutcheetah

Hi Twaffle,

 

Sounds a great trip ....... can't wait to read all about it.

 

Look forward to hearing about your experiences at the new Serian camps in the Serengeti.

 

Hari

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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Jan

Dear Twaffle,

 

It sounds as though you had a great trip. I'm so looking forward to hearing your stories and anecdotes. Welcome back,

 

and get writing!!

 

 

 

Jan

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PT123
I was annoyed that that these people didn't take the time to look at the camps' websties or reviews/photos on tripadvisor. Safaritalk...

There, fixed it for you :D

 

Haa! I wondered if naming another site was verboden!

 

Cheers GW

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Atravelynn

In 17 days of photography and 8000 images, I'm sure you have some good ones.

 

You mention unhappy guests. Along with all the positives I'm sure you'll relate, I'll be interested in knowing what made them unhappy because that's somethng I have not encountered.

 

Glad you liked the Kinnas Bandas. Very relaxing, I agree!

 

Take your time to acclimate and download. We'll be here when you are ready.

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Sangeeta

Likewise, welcome back, Twaffle. Looking forward to reading your report. I remember how much I enjoyed your last photo journey when I got back on ST after a long hiatus. You have a way of combining words with photos which make for memorable reports.

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pault

@ Twaffle...I agree with every word you say. And you know I don't just say that; I am surprised that I do - perhaps there might even be some truth in it. :o

 

If you think Safaritalk is becoming known in Kenya, you should try Botswana.... although maybe next time I go to Kenya it will be the same! I thought using part of my real name would be anonymous enough for here, as there must be 50,000 of us on the planet, but even I was quickly "outed" more than once - I guess not that many of us live where I do. Someone even gave their response to one of my posts, which I had completely forgotten about. That felt really weird. And that is "even I" since I am not exactly a frequent or long-term contributor.

 

Shotr stories and anecdotes sounds good - I look forward to it.

Edited by pault

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twaffle
I was annoyed that that these people didn't take the time to look at the camps' websties or reviews/photos on tripadvisor. Safaritalk...

There, fixed it for you :)

Matt, you will be pleased to know that although TAs site was mentioned, it wasn't with the same respect that your site was talked about. Well done!

 

 

Look forward to hearing about your experiences at the new Serian camps in the Serengeti.

 

Hari

Hari, sadly I didn't get into Tanzania this trip but I'm definitely making plans especially after talking to Alex. The Serengeti camps sound very special and he seems to have quite a number of wild dogs around Maswa as well, which is an added bonus.

 

 

You mention unhappy guests. Along with all the positives I'm sure you'll relate, I'll be interested in knowing what made them unhappy because that's somethng I have not encountered.

I talked to people in Nairobi and when I met them on safari at various places and was surprised at how expectations they had were not met despite so much of the information being readily available. Even little things like the style of vehicle used. Some didn't know that they would be in a closed vehicle, some were horrified to be in an open vehicle. Many little things like that seemed to alter their whole impression of the quality of the safari. Needless to say, I offered little sympathy. :o

 

 

If you think Safaritalk is becoming known in Kenya, you should try Botswana.... although maybe next time I go to Kenya it will be the same! I thought using part of my real name would be anonymous enough for here, as there must be 50,000 of us on the planet, but even I was quickly "outed" more than once - I guess not that many of us live where I do. Someone even gave their response to one of my posts, which I had completely forgotten about. That felt really weird. And that is "even I" since I am not exactly a frequent or long-term contributor.

There is no place to hide, Matt is doing too good a job in promoting Safaritalk.

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twaffle

I haven't finished sorting photos so may add some retrospectively if needed, but really the first post of reflections and this following one don't have photos of much interest to match. Unless, of course, you like photos of signs and 4x4s.

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twaffle

BEGINNINGS

 

Walk gently through my dreams, lest my expectations make you fearful.

 

And if thoughts of golden dawns and ancient lands make you tremble, leave me to my dreams.

 

But if you hear the distant drums pounding in your heart, walk beside me in joyful anticipation.

…… ……….. ………..

 

This is my story of my travels during January 2011, accompanied by my sister and her handmade Scottish bear.

 

Well, there isn’t any joy in 36 hours of travel and there comes a time when you seriously doubt the attractions of wilderness, safari camps and amazing wildlife sightings. Usually at about 30,000’ and 5 hours into a 14 hour non stop flight when sleep evades you, the movies seem disjointed and the muscles jumping in your legs defy any hope of relaxation. Then, with bleary eyes and rapidly expanding hand luggage you push your way through transit crowds to make the next flight with barely minutes to spare and suddenly you experience the revelation when, surrounded by Swahili and other weary but excited safari travellers (some on their first safari) you start to realise why it is that you continue this masochistic way of travel.

 

Africa means so many things to so many different people that it becomes hard to define the why and where and how of safari tourists and our travel. Whilst there are the pretentious amongst us who like to prove their worth by expounding the altruistic and philanthropic way their contributions to their African country of choice enhance both their own lives and those of the people they help, there are many others who feel that it is enough to know that their holiday money is spent to give themselves pleasure. Where do I sit, I wonder? It is a conundrum that I feel unable to answer and each time I visit Kenya it becomes less clear why I find it such a necessary part of my life.

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twaffle

PARK WARS

 

The gates of Lake Nakuru National Park loom up before us. Driving down the neat avenue from Nakuru we find the wide grass verges and tall trees quite appealing, especially after the dusty, noisy, bustling township. Many local residents obviously agree, and the shade under the trees is occupied with resting workers taking a break from hectic lives. It is really quite warm.

 

Choosing Lake Nakuru to begin our safari was really designed to give us a short drive and some good birding opportunities but it has never been my favourite place because of the crowds so as we approach the entrance I have mixed feelings.

 

Ken (our driver/guide from Sunworld who guided my family in 2005) hops out of our 4x4 to deal with entry requirements and we wait feeling relaxed and happy. The KWS ranger comes out and looks at our windshield, earnest discussions are taking place and we look at each other doubtfully, wondering why the delays. Back and forth they go, gesticulations, phone calls, more discussions and still we wait in ignorance. Finally, Ken gets back into the vehicle, shrugs his shoulders and sighs. "War" has broken out between the KWS & TANAPA and we are caught fair and square in the middle.

 

Apparently the Tanzanians have prohibited entry of any Kenyan registered vehicles into their parks and consequently the Kenyans have responded in kind. As of yesterday (or maybe even today, it isn't quite clear) no foreign registered vehicles will be permitted entry. I look blankly at Ken, we are using a Kenyan company right? Kenyan vehicles right? Ken begins the explanation which sounds logical, I suppose (why does Africa have to be so complicated?). Sunworld has an associated business arm in Tanzania and we have begun our journey in one of their newest vehicles which happens to be one of their Tanzanian registered Nissan Patrols. Ouch! Wrong answer for us. We are sitting on the wrong side of the fence, albeit in a great deal of comfort … fridge keeping our water and Tuskers cold, proper power points with inverter to keep batteries topped up … everything except for the right coloured number plates and registration disks.

 

Fortunately, Sunworld have about 40 vehicles and Ken spends some time speaking to the office in Nairobi. We wander into the nearby cafe to stretch our legs. We sit in the shade surrounded by vervets, contemplating our situation. Neither of us too perturbed, we are, after all in Africa and the hot equatorial sun is beating down making us feel somnolent. We know that it will be resolved, things always seem to sort themselves out here, one way or another. In the meantime, Ken can be seen still on the phone re-arranging our lives. As we return to the Patrol, he tells us that a new vehicle is heading out towards us and in the meantime we will drive up to the nearby Flamingo Hill Lodge and borrow one of theirs so that we can enter the park.

 

More waiting (this is the national past time, after all) at the Flamingo Hill car park as our new vehicle is cleaned. I see a slightly worn, yellow 4x4 approaching … could this be it? Oh yes, this is it and I try not to laugh. We climb in with our cameras, leaving our suitcases for the Sunworld driver to transfer to the new 4x4 he is bringing from Nairobi. The vehicle smells rather nasty, the windows sort of work and the engine decides to start on the 3rd try. Interesting.

 

It is a relief when we all make the executive decision to cut the game drive a little short so that we can check in at the lodge. Relief from the overpowering assault on our olfactory senses.

 

I wonder how Sunworld have managed the rest of their safaris. Ken mentioned one 4x4 almost at Tsavo when we rang in with the new rules. Sunworld have sent out exchange vehicles across the country. This decision by the authorities would appear to have caught many people by surprise and just how many have been inconvenienced we will never know.

 

Fortunately for us, our Kenyan vehicle arrives before we have to spend too much time in the yellow peril and we can say a hearty farewell to it.

 

We settle down for the night knowing that we have overcome two unexpected hurdles already and thinking that this should be the end of it we look forward to our safari commencing in earnest.

 

I mean, what else could possibly go wrong?

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twaffle

Some of what we saw in Lake Nakuru …

 

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I'll post some more when I've converted the rest to DNG files. I'm keeping the images intentionally small so I'm sorry about the quality degradation.

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Game Warden

Lovely colours in that giraffe shot. So come on then, let's have some quotes re Safaritalk. Spoken with Alex via Facebook a few times. What is needed is a face to face :o

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tonypark

HI Twaffle. Greetings from the Nyali Beach Hotel in Mombasa. I shall have a Tusker in honour of your safe return. Looking forward to more pics.

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Bugs

I will get to reading later. In the mean time welcome back Twaff.

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graceland

" each time I visit Kenya it becomes less clear why I find it such a necessary part of my life."

 

I fee the same - and only two visits for me thus far-- but I obsess over returning. Reading your trip reports, Twaffle always manage to make me feel like I am sitting right there sharing the adventures.

 

The thing about Africa is knowing patience may indeed pay off - the car will come; it will start; the day will proceed - all promised with a smile of encouragement. What can you do -

it's such a great feeling to anticipate what lies ahead.

 

Can't wait for each installment!

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twaffle

Thanks everyone. A small selection of Nakuru images rather hastily cropped.

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twaffle

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twaffle

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twaffle

POSTCARDS ARE SO YESTERDAY

 

They sit on their old postcard stands, the wheel squeaks from disuse and the cards are the same ones I saw 6 years ago. Dust gathers on their dog eared corners.

 

In the streets of Nakuru the street sellers carry their postcards in hope of a sale. Haven't they heard …

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twaffle

ON AFRICAN TIME

 

The morning sun burns through the glass windows as we sit patiently outside Tuskys Supermarket on Kenyatta Avenue, Nakuru.

Patience is the key as we wait for our chef Fanwel to purchase some grocery items for our journey to our self catering bandas in The Aberdares and Meru. A steady hum of conversation surrounds us as the busy inhabitants of Nakuru jostle and bustle about their business. We are intrigued by the elaborate hairstyles of the women and fascinated by a pair of shiny red shoes which wander past. A car siren sounds but no one rushes to attend. Young girls in their school uniforms wander past and one young man crosses the road dressed in school blazer, jumper and crisply ironed grey pants. We wonder how he manages in the heat as the sun rises further.

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A man walks past with a large panel of fibre board balanced on his head, another juggles many coloured buckets whilst a young woman walks using rubber thongs on her hands as her legs appear unusable.

 

The open door to the supermarket lockers carries on a brisker trade than the boy selling maps. The map he tries to sell us today is the same one he tried to sell my sister two days ago. In contrast, many lockers are filled with small bags of shopping and shoppers come and go keeping the attendant busy.

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The yellow jackets of the parking attendants are all around but their users seem unable to cope with the traffic and wayward parking habits of the busy locals.

 

Occasionally, we battle with a man wearing eleven hats, carrying armloads of ties who tries to persuade us that we need yet another souvenir.

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A young girl leans against a doorway, her braided hair frames a happy face and we smile gently at each other.

 

A doorman in a smart red hat and jacket sits by the doors of the Avenue Suites and Hotel but no one comes or goes.

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A surly young man with no hope in his eyes yells at us “NO PICTURES, NO TAKE MY PICTURE” and I wonder what it would take to turn around lives like that.

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Yes, Nakuru is a busy town but we are ready to move on, but African time means African patience and I slowly let the sounds, smells and sights of this thriving place consume me.

 

We wait for Fanwel until a man appears at our door carrying groceries. Now we know why Fanwel’s taking so long, Fanwel isn’t coming.

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twaffle

STILL ON AFRICAN TIME

The crack of thunder sounds again, silencing the sounds of children walking home from school A light drizzle turns into steady rain and slowly rivulets of dirty brown water form on the dusty road. We have our first sighting of a black rhino since leaving Nairobi, but its metallic gleam betrays its factory origins.

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Our Nissan Patrol is heavy with supplies including eggs from Mweiga which were added to the supplies purchased in Nakuru. Enough to last our stay? Amos will have to cook in the rain but perhaps there will be some shelter. Fanwel was wise not to come on this road trip.

 

Drought is once again in the news with relief supply trucks passing us at regular intervals on their way North. One can’t begrudge the country some rain so we move through the Treetops gate with good cheer even if slightly daunted.

 

Good sightings of a bush pig, a young hyaena and lots of bush bucks guide us towards our destination.

 

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We wind down the final rutted track to find the Tusk Bandas sitting in a clearance with beautiful views towards Mt Kenya. It is after 5pm and weary with travel we go in search of the caretaker. The place is empty, locked up and desolate. The equatorial twilight will come and go in a short time. Luckily, we have mobile coverage as long as we stand on one patch of worn down grass.

 

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Phone calls to the safari company’s base, contact with KWS headquarters and still we wait. The bushes are alive with birds and streaks of blue sky appear in the clouds. As the light diminishes further the noises in the bush become more ominous and we sit perched on benches on the verandah trying to look composed and calm.

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We are, after all, on African time.

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