Our destination for the night after our visit to Lake Victoria was a bush camp in the Serengeti. Things got interesting at that point. Our reservation ended up being lost, we got lost and we ended up driving around the Serengeti until about 11 pm looking for a camp that would take us. During our journey hippos, a pride of lions, a porcupine and bat foxes crossed the road ahead of us. After several hours in the middle of the night of being lost on the Serengeti looking for a place to stay, one of our fellow travellers had to answer the call of nature. Just as he finished on one side of the truck, a lion came up on the other to investigate the intruder marking in his territory. All ended well……
The night sky was incredible. Finally at 11:30 pm we found a camp that had room and actually opened up the kitchen to serve us dinner at midnight. Wonderful people here – I would like to come back to this camp. It is completely off the grid, in a beautiful location up on a ridge that catches the breeze all day. We got to bed at around 1:30 am – with a wake up call for 4:30 am and a balloon safari.
If at some point in the future I am dropped at night into Africa I will know where I am by scent. The mixture of dust, mud, sweat, dung, cooking smoke, diesel fumes, charcoal, fruit and vegetation that is uniquely African.
After leaving Kisii we crossed into Tanzania. The drive through northern Tanzania to Lake Victoria was stunning – large sandstone formations or kopjes served as a backdrop for small villages and towns.
A local village welcomed us at Lake Victoria with a boat trip and village tour. The lake is the second largest in the world and is surrounded by villages. The pressure on the lake is intense. Native ciclid populations have been decimated by the introduction of the nile perch which grows up to 2 feet in length. The fishing communities are organized around the women. The men catch the fish, the women buy the fish from the men and market it in the fish market. The women run the village, the orphanage, and the school. There are a large number of HIV orphans in the village as well as in other villages in the area. Our guide was a Uganda educated teacher who runs the village school.
After meeting the other three people on our safari, we left the city quickly 🙂 and our first stop overlooking the Great Rift Valley was spectacular. Lake Naivisha a large freshwater lake in the Rift valley and Elsamere – the home of Joy and George Adamson of Born Free fame – was our first stop. The house is now a hotel, museum and charming restaurant right on the Lake. I read Born Free many times as a child and the museum was fascinating. After tea we had a boat ride around the shores of the lake. The lake itself is under a great deal of pressure from the large number of flower growing operations that irrigate using lake water. Lake levels are beginning to be negatively impacted. Turns out that a lot of flowers from here are sent to European middlemen who then distribute them. In all likelihood the flowers you think are from Holland may well be grown in Africa. Several hippo families live in the lake and we found three of them. Apparently they do not venture out into deep water, so we got fairly close as the lake drops off quite quickly in some areas along the shoreline. The boat trip was also an amazing first encounter with just a few of the thousands of bird species in Africa.
The Safari company we are with is a strong supporter of the East Africa children’s orphanage located near Nakura. We paid them a visit on the way to our lodge accommodation near Lake Nakura Park. What an inspiring place. It was started 20 years ago by a wealthy Australian couple who still live at the orphanage. At the moment they have 25 babies there, as well as dozens of older children. The property is remarkable, almost self sufficient in food, the children are educated to their fullest potential, loved and sent out into the world. We had a wonderful visit that ended far too soon.
The Sleeping Warrior Lodge near Lake Nakura was our destination for happy hour, dinner and the night. It is a private lodge with incredible views that was built by a retired French economist. There is about 200,000 acres here. The lodge is straw bale construction – I had read about that type of construction but never seen it before. The walls are about a foot thick and the lodge stays cool in the summer months without any AC. It is off the grid, using solar power. Water off the roof is filtered, stored and used for cooking. We were in individual guest house or tents away from the man lodge. Our shower was right out on the deck overlooking one of the game waterholes around the lodge. Showering watching the sun rise and animals at the waterhole was another uniquely Afican experience 🙂
Lake Nakura National Park is amazing. Lake Nakura itself is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes and is home to the famous Lake Nakura flamingos, as well as many other bird species. The park is a rhino breeding centre and we saw both the non-native white and the native black rhino. The male black rhino was busy marking his territory by spraying just like a cat does. Cape buffalo let us come up close to them, as did baboons, wart hogs, gazelles, elands, waterbucks, giraffes. It was like the wild kingdom 🙂 The sundowner that evening was on top of a small mountain overlooking the entire park and adjacent areas. A fire in the fire pit, full bar set up with appetizers and a red liveried server – all on top of a mountain. We felt like we were in a Karen Blixen novel…..
Wow, wow, wow – what can we say! An early morning start led us within an hour to a group of 19 gorillas – the Agushya family. The group included young males, the silverback male, 9 females, young ranging from 5 days old to 5-6 months and up. At one point the entire family group was round us, sleeping, playing, nursing, grooming one another. To look into their gentle eyes was an amazing experience. The weather was perfect – hazy with a nice breeze. We’ll let the photos tell the story.