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Dawn and Al's Epic African Adventure Part 3 - Back to Kenya


Dawnvip
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To quickly recap our epic adventure, Allan and I used Aardwolf Adventures in Nairobi to plan and book our 16 night safari:

 

Part 1:

June 4 - Nairobi to Ol Pejeta - Overnight Porini Rhino Camp

June 5 - Ol Pejeta - Porini Rhino Camp

June 6 - Ol Pejeta to Lake Nakuru - Overnight Sopa Nakuru

June 7 - Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara - Overnight Hammerkop Migration Camp

June 8 - Masai Mara - Hammerkop Migration Camp

June 9 - Masai Mara - Hammerkop Migration Camp

Part 2:

June 10 - Mara to Serengeti via Issebania - overnight Camp Mawe

June 11 - Serengeti - Camp Mawe

June 12 - Serengeti to Ngorongoro - overnight Sopa Lodge

June 13 - Ngorongoro Crater - Sopa Lodge

June 14 - Ngorongoro to Tarangire - overnight Lake Burunge Tented Camp

June 16 - Tarangire - Lake Burunge Tented Camp

Part 3:

June 17 - Tarangire to Amboseli via Namanga - overnight Kibo Safari Camp

June 18 - Amboseli - Kibo Safari Camp

June 19 - Amboseli to Tsavo East - overnight Kipalo Hills Camp

June 20 - Tsavo to Mombasa - End of safari - Voyager Beach Resort  

 

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June 16: After leaving Tarangire and travelling north to the Namanga border crossing, we said our goodbyes to our Tanzanian guide Steven and met our Kenyan guide Thomas for the final leg of our African adventure. It was great to see Thomas again and we spent the 80 km drive to Amboseli catching him up on everything we had seen and done in Tanzania.

 

Of course, as soon as we crossed into Kenya the roads deteriorated considerably. Bumping along we came across a tower of about 10 giraffe with several little ones. Two males were fighting, so we had to stop for a bit and watch the display. The giraffes using their long necks to whip around to whack their opponent was really interesting to watch but I didn't get any good pictures of the duel.

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We made it to the Amboseli Gate by 3:30 and had a bit of a game drive through the park in order to get to our camp. We saw nothing but flooded fields and the odd cow for the first 20 minutes in the park, so I was getting a bit concerned, especially since we had just left Tarangire which was so full of life. The road was really washboarded too, so it was shake and rattle the whole time. 

 

Once we got a little deeper into the park, we saw ostrich, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, and finally: elephants! There were 3 herds in quick succession, each with about 30 elephants in each herd. We stopped to enjoy one herd that had some huge males right beside the road.

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Continuing on towards camp, we found Amboseli quite wet, with a lot of marsh areas for both elephants and birds.

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We made it to Kibo Safari camp by 5:30. It is just outside the eastern Kimana gate and its a very large camp. Maybe because we've been in small camps for most of the trip, but we found this camp too busy with way too many people. The grounds are nice, as are the tents, but they are quite close together. 

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Our tent #11 did have an excellent view though:

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We settled in and went for a beer at the bar before dinner. The dining hall was packed, really noisy and not very enjoyable to us.  The food was buffet style and mediocre. We skipped dessert and went back to the tent as we were aiming for another early start tomorrow. This camp is close to the gate, so it has better access  than our last camp at Lake Burunge, but this was not our kind of camp.

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June 17: Up at 6 again so we could have breakfast and meet Thomas at 7. The omelet station was good and there was a nice selection of fresh fruit. We set out for a day in Amboseli. The park is a mix of dry plains and marsh areas with a lake in the middle. Recent flooding has caused the close of several roads, and added to the fact that there were a lot of day-trippers from Nairobi, it was a busy park. 

 

Lots of elephants in Amboseli, and luckily the weather was quite clear in the early morning. I was able (almost) to catch the iconic Amboseli shot:

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The marsh and lake area was great for the bird sightings:

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We went up to the look-out but it was too crowded with bus loads of kids. We found gazelle, waterbuck, ostrich, zeebra and wildebeest on our tour through the park before heading back to the camp for lunch and a nap before heading out for an afternoon game drive.

 

Back out to the park at 3:30. We quickly found a lioness with cubs in a run-off ditch, but they weren't co-operating in making good pictures.

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We were soon competing with about 20 other vehicles, so the lions soon moved off into the tall grass . All the usual suspects were present again for the afternoon drive, but the highlight of the afternoon was a huge herd of over 100 elephants. They were heading south for the night, and we had a great time watching them as they slowly made their way through the marsh and crossed the road in front of us. 

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It was great to see so many elephants at one time, and so many babies! We were out the gate at 6 and back to the camp soon after. We had a few beers and popcorn at the bar before dinner. The night was clear again so we had excellent views of the stars as we sat around the fire pit before heading to bed.

 

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June 18: Awake at 6 AM for another travel day. There were less people in camp this morning so the line-ups for breakfast weren't bad. We were all packed and ready to go but the visa machine wasn't working for checkout so had to pay our bar bill with cash. 

 

We were still on the road by 7:30 and it was about a 2 hour drive to the Mombasa Road junction. We headed into a nearby town to get some money before heading to Mombasa but it turned into a bit of an ordeal. The ATM was not visa/interac compatible, so we had to wait about 40 min in the bank lineup to exchange cash. We also weren't impressed when we were told the exchange rate was 71.30 while the screen in the lobby had 72.40 posted! Not like we had much choice at this point, so we changed our money and headed on our way.

 

We took the Mombasa Road all the way to Tsavo east and our stop for the evening Kipalo Hills camp. The good news is the pavement is good and so we weren't shaking and rattling the whole way. The bad news is the number of large freight trucks on the road. CRAZY!! The road is single lane in each direction but trucks were passing each other constantly, expecting you to give way even though they are in your lane, coming right at you! 

 

Had we known, we would have taken the nice new rail service that goes all the way from Nairobi to Mombasa, with only a few stops in between. All that we saw (besides trucks) were some red zebras (from the dust). 

 

We made it to the turn off for Kipalo Hills by 2 pm. There were lots of dik diks and hornbills along the 20 minute drive up a winding road to Kipalo Hills camp. Best word for this camp is "Wow!!!" What a fantastic spot; amazing views , beautiful setting and lovely appointed lodge. There was even a small pool built into the hill.  

 

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Once again, we were the only guests at the camp this evening, so we had our pick of tents. It wasn't really a choice, because there are only 6 tents and one deluxe tent which was brand new.

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 The others are standard safari tents, but the plan is to make all of the tents at Kipalo like this one. It was huge and had amazing views.

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This was a transition night for us as we were leaving for Mombasa the next morning, but after seeing this place we sure wished we could stay longer!!

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June 18 continued: We spent some time settling into our deluxe tent and then went to meet Thomas for an afternoon game drive. After some discussion, we decided to skip the game drive: mainly to give both Thomas and ourselves a break from all the driving. 

 

Instead we spent some time exploring the camp surroundings and bird watching. The camp hills were home to several hyrax, which were fun to watch and quite bold - not afraid of us at all.  DSC_4582.JPG.daff9d9ea1fef2d6e51392da70cb453b.JPGDSC_4600.JPG.325d152c6c5cab013dbfbf454f5d1be3.JPG

 

 

Interesting fact that hyrax aren't rodents (sure look like it to me though). They are most closely related to elephants and the females have teats near their armpits, just like elephants. They also don't have claws but hoof-like nails at the end of their toes.

 

There was also a troop of monkeys close to camp but they were very shy.

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The camp staff were friendly and attentive, setting out some bean bag cushions on the rocks for us so we could enjoy the views and a sundowner.

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During the great conversations we were told there were wild dogs in the area, so I spent some time checking out the hills and clearings looking for them. I had my camera close by just in case but knew the chances were slim I'd actually pick them out of the surrounding brush. I was checking out the hill beside us (behind and to the left of me in the above photo) and had to do a double take! Could it be? OMG, not wild dogs, but just as awesome:

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Our very own leopard!! I could not believe my luck, and neither could the camp staff. There she was looking right at me, having her own sundowner on the rocks! We named her "Icing" as this was the perfect ending to an epic safari adventure. The staff were ready to break out the champagne for us to celebrate, stating that there were only 2 other guests they could recall actually spotting a leopard from camp. I do wish I had a bigger zoom lens as these photos are heavily cropped.

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We sat there with binoculars and cameras glued to the leopard for at least an hour as she sat, yawned, re-positioned, lay down again, until she finally moved down off the rock and into the surrounding bush. What an amazing sight! 

 

We reluctantly left off looking for wildlife as the light faded, moving into the lodge for an excellent dinner with Thomas. Conversations about leopards dominated the evening. We truly wished we could spend more than one night at this amazing camp, but knew we were on our way the next morning to our final destination: Mombasa.

Edited by Dawnvip
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June 19: Up at 6 AM to see the sunrise and enjoy an excellent cup of coffee before showering and heading down to breakfast. 

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We were joined by Thomas and the camp manager for breakfast, and again we were impressed with the quality of food and service. We decided to do a morning nature walk with the resident guide Simon rather than a game drive before heading out on the crazy Mombasa road for the last leg to the coast.

 

The doves were everywhere:

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And this little sparrowhawk having a bath was beautiful.

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Along our walk we met up with an old fellow who is working for Kipalo now, but who used to be a poacher in Tsavo. He has reformed and is now helping to conserve the animals in the park. We were taken to the old poacher hide-out cave and were given a demonstration of his "black magic" that he once used to keep everyone and everything out of his cave.  The rituals made the cave invisible so rangers and animals would walk by without seeing him. We heard some good stories and then headed back to camp to say our good-byes.

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We were on our way by 10:30, back on the crazy Mombasa Road full of crazy truck drivers. We made it to Mombasa and the Voyager Beach Hotel by 2:30. We said our final farewell to Thomas and thanked him again for all the excellent driving and guiding.

 

Thus ended our epic African safari. It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and one that we will never forget. So many amazing animal encounters, sights, sounds, smells and food! We are already planning our next trip, and I for one cannot wait to see what will be in store for us next time.

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Sparrowhawk photos are terrific!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Surely the coffee in post #6 is a contender for the most scenic cup of coffee in the world.

It also looks like the elephants of Amboseli did not disappoint!

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Glad you had a great time and am I to assume you mean another Africa trip? It can be addicting as I'm sure you've been told. Any good pictures of Mombasa? I know generally these are safari reports, but I've never been to Mombasa and would love a few pics. And it is part of this safaris trip.......  :)

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@Marks The views from Kipalo camp were truly spectacular and we'd love to go back there again and spend more time, drink more coffee with that view!

 

@lmonmm next trip probably won't be Africa, unless its South Africa and Madagascar because we're also scuba divers and that addiction needs attention too. If only I was independantly wealthy and could afford to do everything!!  Unfortunately I don't have many Mombasa pictures. We only left the resort for 1 day of shopping, and taking pictures of a mall?!? I'm not that much of a photographer! The drive through town did not lend itself to great pictures either. If I find any good shots of the resort, I'll be sure to post them for you.

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@Dawnvip, we were in Amboseli January 2017, and also stayed at Kibo, but fortunately is was relatively quiet and so was the NP. However talking to the staff, peak times was always full so hate to think what the park would be like. We have enjoyed reading your about your venture. Have to agree on your financial statement, I doubt we would ever be out of Africa. Perhaps alternate scuba and safari.

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@CDL111 Thinking back on the trip, I think if we had done the itinerary in reverse and been to Kibo earlier, it probably wouldn't have been as disappointing. It was just not our style, especially after being at some amazing smaller camps. Not that the camp was bad; it was comfortable, well maintained and close to the NP. 

 

It does give us some perspective for size and style of camps we will book for next time!!

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@Dawnvip, hindsight is a wonderful thing, life is learning from not getting it right the first time, the wife reminds me when I get it wrong (many times). Forget the camp and just remember the wildlife.

The other item so consider, is the number of vehicles in a NP against conservancies. 

Is next time before or after a scuba diving holiday?

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Great report!  It seems that you did not enjoy the Nairobi-Mombasa road, and I understand that!  Was any reason given why they did not take you on the southern direct route between Amboseli and Tsavo West?  Your map shows that you took the southern route, but it seems from your report that you went north via the main road.  Was it the need to go to a bank or was it a security concern?  I know that years ago you had to go in a convoy to take the southern direct route between Amboseli and Tsavo West.  But I thought those security concerns were gone.

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@CDL111 I think the next big trip will be scuba diving, although we are seriously looking at Borneo so we can combine some top-side animals with some great underwater critters.

 

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@Cal Safari Thanks for reading along! I am not sure what the reasons were for taking the Mombasa road, but perhaps it was to get to Kipalo Hills camp, which is a short drive in from Voi. We are certainly glad that we were able to spend the night at Kipalo and would not have wanted to miss that experience. We weren't aware of any security concerns in the area in any event. 

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1 hour ago, Dawnvip said:

@Cal Safari Thanks for reading along! I am not sure what the reasons were for taking the Mombasa road, but perhaps it was to get to Kipalo Hills camp, which is a short drive in from Voi. We are certainly glad that we were able to spend the night at Kipalo and would not have wanted to miss that experience. We weren't aware of any security concerns in the area in any event. 

Thanks again.  I was curious to see your map that shows your group taking the direct route to Tsavo West from Amboseli, mostly to see what that road is like now.  But it looks like you went via the main road because you were going to Tsavo East.  I just found this discussion indicating that the military escort was still being used on that direct road as of 2012 based on incidents back in 1989/1990, which is when I was in that area last:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g303978-i10451-k5164870-Question_about_the_ride_between_Amboseli_and_Tsavo_West-Tsavo_National_Park_West_Coast_Pro.html

 

I wonder if anyone has been that way recently who could give us all an updated report?

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14 hours ago, Cal Safari said:

Thanks again.  I was curious to see your map that shows your group taking the direct route to Tsavo West from Amboseli, mostly to see what that road is like now.  But it looks like you went via the main road because you were going to Tsavo East.  I just found this discussion indicating that the military escort was still being used on that direct road as of 2012 based on incidents back in 1989/1990, which is when I was in that area last:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g303978-i10451-k5164870-Question_about_the_ride_between_Amboseli_and_Tsavo_West-Tsavo_National_Park_West_Coast_Pro.html

 

I wonder if anyone has been that way recently who could give us all an updated report?

I received a message from another member who traveled on that direct route from Amboseli to Tsavo West last year without the military escort convoy.  That is good news.  The road is C103, I believe.  It is the direct route shown on the map posted above, and avoids the main Nairobi-Mombasa road.

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