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Wilddog & Blue Bird's Kenyan Adventure - Good times at Laikipia & Blue Bird Climbs a Mountain


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Looks like fun canoeing! The dik dik family is adorable. They all look a little surprised.


The Grevy's Zebra looked like it might not be well based on its body language in your photo.

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A good week @wildog even if the dogs did disappear. But actually you got some great viewing of them and I think you' migrh just be showing too much empathy for the folks arriving A.D. (After Dogs... sorry, It's a dodgy one). You did a lot and sound happy that you for taking advantage of it all - very interesting place and it would be a good mix with any of Kenya's parks actually, or even other places in Laikipia where the emphasis is more on the usual vehicle safari.


Great shot of hte drafted on the small hill. I really like that scene. And that looks like a fabulous perspective to have of the elephants on the river.


Looking forward to the Mount Elgon and Saiwa Swamp section.

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very interesting place and it would be a good mix with any of Kenya's parks actually, or even other places in Laikipia where the emphasis is more on the usual vehicle safari.



I agree - in February I spent six nights at KMN and six at LWC, great mix and two totally different experiences

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  • 2 weeks later...

I promised @@wilddog I would write an account of my expedition to Mt Elgon so here goes. I will keep it brief as this was very much a walking trip rather than an animal centred safari so I don’t want to bore the readership!


I was picked up from Laikipia Wilderness by my guide (Tom Gregory of African Ascents). He is based in Nanyuki so it made sense to be collected rather than retrace my steps to town. We drove across the plateau and descended into the rift valley for an overnight stay near Lake Nakuru in Mbweha Camp in the Soysambu Conservancy just south of the Lake. There was time to explore both that afternoon and the following day. It was not my first visit to Nakuru and I was last there in 2007. I was staggered by the change in water level. The lake is significantly higher than I remembered. There are lots of dead trees along the water’s edge where the forest which hugs the shoreline has become inundated by the raising water s. The shore drive is no more and you could just make out the tops of submerged road marker signs some way out into the lake. The old park entrance has also been abandoned and now has water lapping around it gates – a new headquarters building has been built uphill!




I would be interested to know what has caused this massive rise in water level which apparently has been happening over the last few years to all the neighbouring rift valley lakes and as far as I could see is not just due to excessive rainfall – I’m sure a knowledgeable SafariTalker can provide me with the answer!


The hordes of flamingos which I saw on my previous visit have largely fled the raising waters with a few hardy souls remaining. Sadly the masses of flamingos and the dramatic views of the pink tinged lake shore which previously drew many visitors have gone.




By way of contrast here is view of the lake shore on my previous visit in 2007!




There is still enough to keep one occupied for a day or so and in any case it provided us with a useful stopover on our journey north. There are the white rhino as well as buffalo, Zebra and giraffe, including a very cute youngster!








In the afternoon we carried on driving north for an overnight stop in Kitale. This was chosen as it was close to Mt Elgon and had a good market where we could stock up with supplies before heading into the Mt Elgon National Park the following day. We stayed the night at the Kitale Golf Club, which was a very quirky colonial relic. Things were a bit bureaucratic on our arrival and took an age with signing in and getting honorary membership so we could enjoy the club facilities. The accommodation was basic but comfortable. Importantly the club house had a lounge, bar and restaurant and we spent a very pleasant evening on the veranda enjoying some beers with the brooding bulk of Mt Elgon visible over the 18th green. I couldn’t help wondering as I gazed at the names of the long dead club captains displayed on wooden boards, what those stuffy sounding, double-barelled, colonial types would have thought of the current generation of Kenyan golfers!





It was an early rise the following day for a trip to the market for fresh produce as we were to be self-sufficient for the next few days. I had the feeling of having been fleeced by the stall holders and probably paid far more than the going rate, but it was all good humoured and part of the experience!




Fully stocked up we headed into the Park via the Chorlim Gate. The Park Bandas situated a couple of kilometres from the gate were to be our base for the next couple of nights. There were four rooms with a kitchenette and bathroom housed in two blocks, situated attractively in a forest clearing. It was spotlessly clean and comfortable. They were looked after by a very enthusiastic Parks employee, David. Nothing was too much trouble from collecting fire wood or providing advice about where to go and what to see. I think he was just excited to have some guests as from what I could see from the entrance book they get very few visitors.


The lower slopes of Mt Elgon are cloaked in pristine, thick forest.





There are several caves formed from old lava tubes. Two were only a short drive away so that was our goal for the afternoon. The first cave we visited was Mackingeny – this cave has a waterfall flowing over its entrance and is probably the most scenic of the accessible caves.





Equipped with head torches we made our way inside. The cave is full of bats who didn’t take kindly to our presence. Thousands took off from the ceiling as we got further in - quite an experience and not for the faint hearted particularly as the roof got lower and lower. Crouching down close to the floor surrounded by swarming bats – this was a very different sort of safari experience!


The next cave we visited was a 15 minute walk over a ridge on a well maintained path. This was Kitum Cave. Again there were bats, but this time there was evidence of another regular visitor. The cave is frequented by forest elephants who mine for salts. All over the walls were the marks made by their tusks. There was plenty of dung some of which was very fresh, so the cave is still in regular use but alas they were not at home the day we visited!





The main focus for our trip was to get the top of Mt Elgon. The summit consists of a large caldera which is 8km across and through its centre runs the Ugandan/Kenyan border. Craggy peaks ring the caldera and our summit was to be Koitoboss at 4222m. We left at first light and drove for about 2 hours to the end of a very rough track. At around 2500m the forest thins and is replaced by scrubby trees, shrubs and bamboos. At around 3000m we entered moorland scenery with heathers and giant lobelias. We reached the end of the trial at around 3300m and it was on foot from there.






The ‘walk’ took around three hours to the top with a final breathless scramble to the summit – we had not had any opportunity to acclimatise so we really started to notice the altitude. The views from the top were stunning, across the caldera into Uganda and over the thick forest of the lower slopes to the flatter Kenyan plains beyond.






After lunch perched on the edge we retraced our steps. There was time on our way back to stop ad explore more of the beautiful thick forest of the lower slopes on foot. Larger species sighted included waterbuck, bushbuck, duiker, black and white colobus monkey. We also heard and got fleeting glimpses of wild pigs which was a first for me. Bird like is prevalent but trying to spot the buggers in the thick forest canopy was frustrating but we did eventually get good views of Ross’s Turaco and Black and white casqued hornbill.


Sadly our time at Mt Elgon was soon over. The great thing about this place is the solitude – we saw no other visitors and it seemed like we had the park to ourselves. The forest is stunning and worthy of its status as a World Heritage Biosphere and very much a destination to be explored on foot.


Situated close to Mt Elgon is Kenya’s smallest national Park – Saiwa Swamps, so we felt we must visit as we were so close. Retracing our steps to Kitale it is then a short drive north east. On arrival we check in at the gate and head a bizarre exchange with the ranger who wanted to charge us a vehicle fee of around 30USD just to park on the shady side of the entrance gate – there are no roads to drive on in the park and it is explored on foot. The park is around 3 sqKm, consists of a marshy centre with a river flowing through the middle although you wouldn’t know the river was there as bulrushes blanket the swamp obscuring the view. We opted to leave the car on the sunny side of the gate and save my dollars! We spent an enjoyable three hours circuiting the swamp – there is a trail of around 10km which meanders around the edge and across the middle of the swamp sometimes of rather rickety board walks.








There are also strategically positioned lookout towers (again a bit precarious with a few missing steps) and it was from the top of these where we got to see the parks star attraction - the Sitatunga.






I was flying back to Nairobi that night so late afternoon we headed off to the airport at Eldoret, for my flight to Nairobi with a fabulously named low cost airline - 'Jambo Jet'.


This little visited corner of western Kenya provided an excellent extension to my Laikipia stay. It ticked the boxes for me as an enthusiastic hiker but there were some very interesting animal sightings along the way. My thanks go to Tom from African Ascents for sorting out the logistics, being a knowledgeable guide and fun travelling companion.

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Thanks Blue Bird. I hope someone can answer your query on the water levels at Nakuru. I assume it was not simply seasonal?


Nice shot of the Sitatunga!

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Fascinating look at Mt Elgon and Saiwa, thanks.

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Really enjoyed that. Very interesting and I don"the see why it wouldn't be of interest to people here..... okay it's probably a bit of a Kenya fanboy thing but since we never get reports of people going up Mount Kenya, Elgon is a pretty good substitute. Looks similar (from pictures). Very Uganda-like too. Did you see many Situangas?


Have you seen the BBC documentary featuring that cave and its elephants?


I was told that the reasons for changes in Lake Nakuru's water levels are a mystery (and I realise that was a much more informed comment than I thought) since it's only locatable source cannot account for the amount of water. When I went there it was more the opposite question and nobody was sure why it was drying up - seemed to be the same question for a while after that. I remember reading about or hearing a number of theories (related to agriculture, deforestatio) and there is an underground water source theory (hence the reasons for the water level are not apparent) but I don't know if that is the most recent theory or if it has been proven/ disproven. Seemed like a good one!

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@@Blue Bird

Thank you for posting this - very interesting -and the area you were hiking was very beautiful, with fantastic views

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@@Blue Bird I'm glad you posted that; very interesting! I have to say that a cave is not somewhere I'd care to encounter an elephant.

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Looks similar (from pictures). Very Uganda-like too. Did you see many Situangas?


Have you seen the BBC documentary featuring that cave and its elephants?


I was told that the reasons for changes in Lake Nakuru's water levels are a mystery


Thanks for your comments and info @@pault . The vegetation above 3500m on Mt Elgon is identical to Mt Kenya, which is probably no great surprise to anyone. What was interesting was to be able to pass through all the difference vegetation zones in one day.


Thanks for the info on the BBC documentary - I will have to check that out. Was it in the latest Africa series?


Clearly the explanation for the Lake Nakuru water levels is not as straightforward as I thought. I had also heard the theory of underground springs feeding the Lake but this didn't seem to explain why many of the lakes in the vicinty (Elementeita and Bogoria) are currently experiencing similiar level rises.


We saw three Sitatunga at Saiwa Swamps - a male and two females. Each one was sighted on its own (one seen from each of the three observation towers). I guess they are a solitary animal? I'm not sure what the park population is, but given the thickness of the bulrushes we were probably lucky to see any!



I have to say that a cave is not somewhere I'd care to encounter an elephant.


Thanks @@Marks - my throw away comment about being disappointed at not finding an elephant in the cave was pure bravado. I suspect I would have been out in a flash if there had been the hint of an elephant inside! I was also a bit apprehensive about the bats given the theory of the origins of Ebola from similiar caves in central Africa. Either way I survived to tell the tale.

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I don't think it is very recent @@Blue Bird. Called Elephant Cave I think. I probably saw it on Animal Planet but I am pretty sure it is a BBC production.


I found this on You Tube, but it isn't the whole program. Actually I think there might be a couple of programs and my memory might be mixing them - not sure.Definitely this is the footage I remember but there is quite a bit more settting the scene up and something after as well. It might be one of those programs with 2-3 segments - really can't remember. Memorable and worth a look though.




Some more of it (with elephants this time)




This might be the whole program (or whole segment) but I can't playVimeo movies at work so not sure.



Edited by pault
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Thanks very much @@pault for posting the three clips, they are fantastic. It's amazing to see some actual footage of the elephants in the cave having seen all the evidence of their mining activities. It's incredible how they get around as it truely is pitch black when you turn off your headtorch, it's no wonder they are apprehensive - those salt bearing rocks really must be worth the effort!

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What a great trip report and photos! Glad you had a good time at LWC.


Loved the story of the first meeting with Steve.....who is this strange man trying to hitch a lift with us!


The dogs look healthy too. The pups have grown, they were only a few weeks old when I saw them. That's all I'm saying about them and my visit. For the rest you will have to wait for the next instalment of my trip report :)


Thank you also for the accommodation tip in Nairobi. Will remember that for the next visit.

Edited by CaroleE
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