Kenya Family Adventure

Jen Thomas

13 Dec 2016

Let the adventure begin

Our adventure is about to begin as we step off the plane in Nairobi. Passports are checked and we pass smoothly and uneventfully through the checks in this unfamiliar airport. We wait for our driver and soon-to-be guide, Jackson.

Jackson arrives and drives us to the hotel where we are to stay for two nights. We all agree however that it is not so much of an hotel but more the 'welcoming home' for which it is reputed. Staff bustle around us collecting our luggage, offering us a welcome drink and a menu! It’s late but we haven’t eaten and although Tom isn’t hungry I feel I need something so order some pasta to have in our room. Due to the late hour I had imagined a small bowl of food if I was lucky but a feast arrives along with salad and bread rolls. 

For a hungry traveller, nothing has been overlooked! 

The name of our room is “Manyatta” which we are told means “among the Maasai”. It is large and spacious with an en-suite bathroom almost the size of my bedroom at home! It is luxurious to say the least with a small balcony and I look forward to seeing our view in the morning. We sleep very soundly.

Indeed our view is beautiful with a stunning garden; lush and green, and from the balcony we can just see the swimming pool Tom is longing to try. After a plentiful breakfast Jackson collects us at 9am and takes us to the Karen Blixen Museum which is fascinating for me, as a great fan of “Out of Africa”. I hope Tom enjoys it too but I think the next visit is much more up his street and we move on to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. It‘s busy and we find ourselves in a long queue which eventually leads us to the outside enclosure where the elephants are already waiting. What a sight to behold, Tom’s excitement is tangible and we settle to listen to one of the keepers explaining about the youngsters we have come to see; there is much to learn about the conservation work they do. 

Some of the babies come close enough for Tom to touch albeit that we are standing two rows of people back; maybe we should have arrived earlier. Wherever we are placed it is a wonderful experience. We also know that, having fostered a baby elephant, Ambo, we will be returning later in the afternoon to see him being put to bed and are told that that time will be less busy. Assured of that we meet up with Jackson and head off to have some lunch. Thinking he might be hungry too, we invite Jackson to join us and we have a bowl of chips and coke, all that we need in the heat. After I paid our bill Jackson shows us to an incredible venture called the Flipflop Factory which is next to the bar where we have eaten.

A very helpful lady shows us round the various stages of transitioning recycled flipflops, discarded and collected from beaches they get sent from all around, into ornaments of great beauty. I will spare the lengthy process here but suffice to say they are disinfected, dried and eventually processed in readiness for carving. “Carving a flipflop?” Incredible as it sounds, it’s true and awe inspiring. Choosing a small token of our visit is a task since by the time you arrive at the small shop, you want to take everything with you! Sensibly I buy a small elephant which Tom chooses, mindful that we have only just started out on our adventure and have many more places to visit and weight restrictions on our luggage.

After this we move on to the Kazuri bead factory, Kazuri meaning “small and beautiful”, which blows my mind the moment we step through the door. Again we are guided through the various processes from the rough and almost ready clay which we are told is collected from the foot of the Ngong hills. I know what is to come will be special. Again, every process is explained as we watch the many ladies hand painting each and every bead. What patience they have. It is a labour intensive business in a ramshackle factory with a small shop which is like an Aladdin’s Cave for me! You can buy beautiful jewellery as well as packets of individual beads and even some clay Christmas tree decorations and mugs. Tom buys me a belated birthday present in the form of a bracelet which he chooses and which is breathtakingly beautiful.

Next stop is the Giraffe Centre run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (Kenya) Ltd, a non-profit organisation which speaks for itself. What a fun place. We both have fun on the feeding platform with giraffes face to face with us. Sometimes it helps to be travelling with a 10 year old in order to enjoy these childish moments! With only a small room containing all the facts and figures and a couple of skulls, it doesn’t take long for us to complete our visit here. Well worth the time we spent.

VISITING OUR FOSTERED ELEPHANT

And then the highlight of Tom’s day and one he awaited patiently – back to the Elephant Orphange to be formally introduced to Ambo. Sure enough there are fewer people this time as we stand waiting for the mini stampede of babies returning to the stockades for their feed of milk; they run at a pace from their day out. We’re not able to help with the feeding but make our way to Ambo’s room, a stall/stable and by the time we have found it, Ambo is already waiting sporting his Maasai checkered blanket on his back and eating some fresh greenery. We meet his keeper, Chaplin, who informs us that he sleeps in with Ambo all night, every night and will do so for a few years to come. He explains that, like a human baby, Ambo wakes him every two to three hours for a feed! What a committed man. Tom can’t go into the stall with Ambo but he is content to lean on the stable door and watch and touch him. He is mesmerised which is truly magical for me to watch – I watch Tom whilst Tom watches Ambo. A very special time. After this we wander around paying visits to the young giraffe, Kiko, the blind rhino Max and an Ostrich, Pea. On our exit we also come across some resident warthogs basking in the sun.

That is our introduction to Nairobi and a busy introduction it is too, but a truly fantastic one during which we learn so much about so many and varied things.

Jackson drops us back to the House of Waine where we happily collapse on the beds in our room until supper time. Tom is showing off some of the few words of Swahili he had learned before we set out for Kenya, much to the delight of the staff. I think he has won a few hearts for his effort which amuses and delights them and prompts them to teach him more! 

His dictionary is growing with the addition of Rafiki – friend; what an appropriate word to learn from these delightful people.

Dinner is delicious, consisting of beef medalions for me and chicken pinwheels with mash for Tom. Great care has been taken to accommodate my fussy eating companion and he is as happy with his meal as I am with mine. After our full day and a short walk around the gardens we are happy to retire early for some much needed sleep in readiness for our next adventure. I am mindful that it is only our first day and we are still getting used to being in a new country with maybe a little jet lag and despite Tom’s protestations I ensure he goes to bed. When we arrive in “Manyatta” we are met with a beautiful gift from the staff here. I’m speechless at the generosity, all in thanks of our choosing this establishment for our stay.

And so it is usiku mwema until tomorrow.

Ready to explore governor's camp

Jackson meets us early at the House of Waine and drives us to Wilson Airport for our hour long light aircraft flight to Musiara Airstrip. We are on our way to Main Governors’ Camp where we are to spend three nights. The plane seems so small after our long haul flight from London and I can see why there is a smaller weight restriction. There are approximately a dozen of us in total and although quite a bit more bumpy in mild turbulence we feel very safe and it is a great experience for Tom who, until the day before yesterday, hadn’t flown at all! We are met by Governors’ Camp staff and drive along some bumpy roads to the camp. On the way all our senses are awoken by sights, sounds and smells of life in the Mara.

We arrive to a warm welcome and a lovely refreshing icy cold fruit drink which we have whilst listening to a briefing and where we meet another mum and her son who are to be our game drive buddies and who are staying in the tent next to ours.

Our bags have been spirited away to tent 31 which we check out after our briefing. It is beautiful. There are four beds instead of two – by no means a problem, extra space to lay out clothing! The beds look comfortable and there is an en-suite shower room with shower and flushing toilet and basin behind a curtain. Again, everything has been thought through so well and there is nothing we will want that hasn’t been left for us.

Discover Governor's Camp

We then have lunch outside under a tree with birds overhead. We are introduced to our Maasai waitress, Chris, and drinks waiter, Zadock, and afterwards we meet Julius, our guide. Initially we are to be with another guide but the little boy from our next door tent is upset with the vehicle we have been assigned and immediately arrangements are made for a different vehicle and therefore a different guide (Julius). As it turns out this is a better arrangement bearing in mind seating preferences; Our new friends want to sit in shade whereas I want to have the top open so I can stand to take photos. We are lucky that Julius’ vehicle has a canvas roof and he fixes that for us by opening only the front part, leaving the last part covered. All our needs are met once again.

During the drive from the airport and later that afternoon when we set off for our first official game drive we see so many animals and birds including Thomson’s Gazelle, a warthog and piglet, hippo in the river by the camp, a baboon drinking at the water’s edge, a lizard, buffalo, egret, banded mongoose, heavily pregnant zebra and foals, Impala, waterbuck, elephants with calves - some sparring, saddle-billed stork, Topi, pied kingfisher, black-headed heron, Egyptian geese, Ostrich, wildebeest and lion! What more can you ask! Sadly Tom develops a head ache and feels quite ill but he braves the rest of the drive and has some medicine, after which he feels much better although he requests we have our supper in our tent and asks Zadock if this will be possible. Again, no problem!

More fantastic sightings

We then settle in for an early night as we have to be up for a 6am wake up call. We return to warm beds in which a hot water bottle has been placed and a beautiful note left on our pillows saying “We hope you enjoyed your day and trust that you will “Lala Salama” to the sounds of the African bush and in particular, the Mara River hippos”. Tom certainly does and falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow but I am kept awake (quite happily) by the crickets and later on an elephant as I am later to find out. It comes right past the headboard of the bed with only the canvas tent wall between us as it strips the trees situated behind our tent! At first I think a hippo has got IN to the tent and lie there frozen in my bed! Later I get it into my head that a mongoose has got in too and jumped over me and Tom but I put that down to the excitement of the day and probable tiredness.  

After this I sleep soundly having got used to the noises of the bush.

We are woken by Peter, our night porter, with hot chocolate for Tom and coffee for me at 6am. I begin to wish I had asked for a 5.45am wake up call as we rush to dress. We see a hippo returning to the river having munched on the grass outside our tent during the night and then we meet our friends outside the tents and head to the car park to meet Julius for our morning game drive with a picnic breakfast. Our first sunrise leaves me speechless as we watch it lift more quickly than I expected. This is luxury at its best! After a while Julius stops the jeep somewhere safe and sets a blanket/table cloth on the bonnet and carefully lays out all the food he has brought. Tom adores it!  

What fun to watch the sun rising, surrounded by wild animals and eating breakfast al fresco and in style!

This morning we see a pack of hyena, giraffe, white-backed vulture, wildebeest, Topi, Thomson’s Gazelle foal/calf, hyena with a very fresh kill – so fresh its tail is still twitching and it’s bleating. Then we see zebra, a lappet-faced vulture, lesser blue-eared starling, and buffalo, and this is all before 9am!

Before returning for lunch we see a couple of wildebeest carcasses, more zebra, wildebeest, hippo, a vulture on a dead wildebeest in the river, a lion and lioness together, our first crocodile and more Topi.

Lunch back at the camp is delicious and we see common bulbul pilfering from abandoned tables, drinking the sweet tea from tea cups! A herd of elephants wanders past while we eat, and some Maasai visit to help celebrate a young boy’s birthday.

Learning maasai culture

After lunch we make our way, driven by Julius, to a nearby Maasai village. Tom and I have brought gifts for the school; rulers, pencils, posters etc. which Tom has put in a football bag and when we arrive and are introduced to the chief, Tom gives him the gifts. The chief seems pleased and later our waitress, Chris, tells us that a message has been passed to the camp that he is very pleased indeed! After meeting the Chief we are taken in to the caraal and met by the Maasai men and women. Tom is taken away by Amos and given Maasai necklaces and a shield to hold as preparation for the “welcome dance”. My hand is taken by a Maasai woman and I am led off in the opposite direction with Carol to partake in the women’s welcome dance. There is singing to accompany the dance but we are spared having to participate in that! The dancing goes on for quite some time before the boys begin their competitive jumping dance, the Adumu. I gather the higher and more graceful the jumping, the more appeal the warrior has to the young women looking on; the height attained is amazing, they must require a lot of strength and are very athletic. Tom does well and I wonder how many Maasai girls he might have attracted!

After this Tom and Reece are taught, and have a go at, making fire – the Maasai way, before we are shown into an Inkajijik (house) which is not very high and I have to bend over a fair bit and can’t stand inside. As far as I can see there is a bed, a hole in the wall (window) and an area by the “front door” in which to keep small livestock. On leaving the Inkajijik we are led to an area where the women have displayed the jewellery and carvings they have made in a large, circular market for us to walk around and choose what we want to buy. We pass some of the children on the way, the first I have seen since we arrived.

It is then time to leave and Amos bids us as warm a farewell as our welcome has been.

On our way back to the camp, Julius spots some action with four or five lioness. They have their supper in their sights and a cub with them. After a while waiting and watching them they fly at lightning speed for their quarry. 

It’s all over in the blink of an eye; we have seen our first kill.

After a shower the evening follows a similar pattern to the previous night except that we have supper in the dining area, again the food is delicious and plentiful. The animal activity is no less exciting than last night too!

Hot air balloon time

We are woken even earlier today. This morning we have our balloon ride! We are driven to Little Governors’ camp and taken across the river in a small boat – it seems a little precarious but we get to the other side safely.

The adventure that lies ahead is explained to us by our pilot, Sanjay, who tells us all about the safety and technique for landing and then we watch as the balloon is filled. We climb in and wait in ferocious heat from the flames until we take off and the heat subsides and peace falls upon us. This journey is like nothing else I can compare it to; it’s not like a car or a boat or a plane – it is simply ballooning, floating. It is totally breath taking to be up in the sky watching the sun rise and seeing all the animals below us, some cowering and some going about their business as usual. We see a pack of hyena by their den which looks like a hole in the ground, I doubt we would have seen that if we were on the ground. Truly beautiful. I had thought it might be cold, but I was wrong, it is perfect.

We have been told by Sanjay that there are two types of landing; the boring and the interesting – we get the interesting one in which the basket tips onto its side, the balloon still dragging us along! There is a big bump as it falls and yes, it is bumpy, but it is exciting and we survive to see a long table covered in a red tablecloth with two spears, like poles, in the ground at either end. It is round this that we have our champagne breakfast. I can’t believe the spread they’ve put on! How on earth do they manage to bring all that food and they even have a cooker where they make pancakes! The whole morning has been breath taking from the start but yet more is to follow!

the great migration

Excitement abounds this morning. We are shown into a vehicle with another guide from Little Governors’ who takes us on a morning game drive. After a while we come across lots of other vehicles strategically placed by the river and we join them. It is difficult to get a space there are so many vehicles but our guide manages and we settle in for the long wait – there is a possibility of a wildebeest crossing! Already we can see several zebra by the side of the river and then more wildebeest reveal themselves. It is tantalising as they approach the river’s edge and then reverse back up the bank as if they have changed their minds. Then from far away we see dust flying up, it is another herd of wildebeest joining the masses already accumulating. It goes quiet again for a long time. There is talk of visitors having waited 5 hours and more and still nothing happening, then it begins to happen here. More and more are arriving from far away and backing up on the bank and eventually one brave soul takes the leap and goes for it, followed by hundreds more. 

I can see why some call it the 8th wonder of the world! What an experience.

Having waited so long for the crossing, we are now late to get back to Governors Camp where we were due to meet with Julius and our companions and we still have to go over the river in the boat and then drive some more to get there. When we eventually arrive we are told that they had waited an hour for us but had to leave; it wouldn’t have been fair on Carol and Reece to make them wait. I’m so glad they have gone, I would have felt very guilty had they waited for us. I imagine we will spend a quiet afternoon at camp which will be a little disappointing, but the manager comes out to inform us that another vehicle is being prepared to take us to join our companions! I can’t believe it! I had resigned myself to the fact that we had already had a glorious morning and feel so grateful for that, but this is incredible! And so we leave and after about 45 minutes we find the others and join them as they watch a cheetah lying under a tree. They have been watching him for quite a while and he hasn’t moved. He continues like this for the rest of the time we spend with him. Julius tells us he could lie there for up to two hours waiting to see if there is anything good to eat, so we quietly retreat and go to have our lunch which Julius has brought and we catch up with each other’s morning news.

After lunch we continue our drive and see many of the animals we had seen yesterday and also we have our first sighting of an eland. We pass the river again and come upon a bloat (or is it a pod) of hippo and all of a sudden a fight breaks out between two of them. It is wonderful to watch as one has obviously upset two of the others and is fighting with them both! It makes for a great photo opportunity as Julius explains what is happening and the behaviours being displayed in front of us.

In time we move on and Julius spots a female Thomson’s gazelle with a calf about an hour old and very unstable on its hooves still.

It is approaching 4.30pm and we are celebrating how much we have seen throughout the day and are thinking it can’t get any better when Julius sees a lioness with two cubs watching a hippo wallowing in a very small and muddy pond. At first we think the lioness is waiting for the hippo to leave before she will venture forward to have a drink. We wait some time and eventually the hippo (so well camouflaged, caked in mud) moves on out of the pond and wanders off. It is then that the lioness reveals what she has been waiting for. It isn’t just a drink she is after, behind a mound and out of our view is a baby wildebeest which has become stuck in the mud. The lioness is in luck and swiftly despatches it for her cubs. I think she must be in the process of weaning them since, after a small meal of wildebeest they settle in to feed from her as she lies recovering from the kill. As we retreat and are driving away we come across an adult female wildebeest carcass which Julius thinks is the mother of the youngster we have just seen. Maybe she had been fretting over her calf’s dilemma and was also killed by the lioness.

By 6.30pm we are on our way back to camp and see an incredible sky, there really is something very special about the colours of the Mara. We also see Southern ground hornbill, and an ostrich. What a day! A hot air balloon ride, a wildebeest crossing, a cheetah, a hippo fight and a lion kill! 

I don’t think we could have packed more into our day if we tried.

As Carol and Reece are heading off to Mombasa and us to Encounter tomorrow, we decide to have supper together.

This morning we have breakfast with our friends before they set off. We still have one more game drive with Julius during which we encounter a lioness having her breakfast, more wildebeest and we stop to watch baboons but, for the second time, the leopard is just too elusive for us. We also see two male lions with two females.

We return to the camp for the last time in order for me to pack and to say very tearful goodbyes to those who have looked after us so well. Tom has obviously made an impression on some of the staff since Zadock, when phoned to ask if he can come and say goodbye, produces a Maasai bead necklace of friendship; very appropriate since he has become a good “rafiki” to Tom. As we leave the tent one of the guards notices Tom has a shield (bought from the Maasai village) but no spear so he gives Tom his wooden one to take with him to protect us on our journey! That will prove interesting at customs! We say goodbye to Chris, our waitress, and it’s time to leave Governors’ Camp as Julius drives us to meet the Encounter Mara vehicle at Talek Gate. We have very heavy hearts and the journey is a quiet one. We pass a number of animals on the way, of course, including a black-backed jackal breakfasting on a baby Thomson’s Gazelle.

On to Encounter Mara

Spirits rise when we meet our new guide, Wilson, from the Asilia Encounter Mara camp and two other guests, an American couple who are very keen conservationists with a special passion for elephant and rhino. The terrain becomes increasingly different to Governors’ with many more trees and bushes and more hills too.

Wilson tells us about the growths on the acacia trees which are the ant nests which protect the tree from predators like giraffe who will eat the trees otherwise. He also points out the many young trees that have been pushed over by elephant.

We arrive at the camp and are shown to our tent. As with Governors’ our tent is immaculate and the bathroom kitted out with shampoo and handmade soap etc. Attention to detail is so appreciated. Having met Andrew and Sammy we have lunch and then Wilson collects us and takes us on our first game drive at Naboisho.

It never ceases to amaze me how the guides find their way in these vast and beautiful expanses of land but Wilson manages to spot some lions feeding on the carcass of a giraffe; a sad sight but Wilson assures us that this giraffe has probably died of natural causes and was probably not killed by the lions. After that we see a young male leopard which is an amazing sight as they’re difficult to spot. 

He is so, so beautiful - cameras are at the ready.

We have a lovely supper on our return and retire to bed early so we can be up bright and early tomorrow.

On our morning drive we see a baby giraffe Wilson tells us is about a week old. We return to the site where we had found the adult giraffe carcass yesterday and find a small pack of hyena stalking as well as a pair of black backed jackal all watching the lions still feeding on the giraffe. We move on and see some baboons playing and grooming, some impala and a grey headed kingfisher. We also see another Thomson gazelle mother feeding a very new calf before we spot an ostrich.

Tom is ill in the afternoon and we miss the walk on which we were to accompany our new American friends. As it turns out Tom is too young to go out on a foot safari anyway so instead of the walk we have a quiet afternoon which gives me the opportunity to download some photos as I have filled a 64mb card! We also spend some time going to the bird hide and watching zebra and wildebeest venturing toward the saltlick. I find some bee eater birds and a weaver bird on its nest whilst Tom reads his book.

wildlife at night

Thankfully Tom is feeling better in time for the night drive which is incredible and introduces us to a whole new way of seeing. This time Wilson has a colleague helping him with the infrared lamp which he swings over the landscape ahead and to the sides of our vehicle searching for eyes. At one point there are so many pairs of eyes belonging to zebra and wildebeest that Wilson introduces the scene as “the lights of New York City”! He is quite right and it is spooky to think of so many eyes watching us! We see a curious little animal called a Spring hare which hops along very fast and on its hind legs like a miniature kangaroo.

I am brought to tears when I see the expanse of the billions of twinkling stars and the Milky Way in the clear sky above. As far as you can see from in front of you to behind and side to side, completely uninterrupted sky. I can’t take my eyes off this breath taking sight and had we seen absolutely nothing in the way of wildlife tonight I would have been delighted to have seen the sky alone.

As it is we see lots of animals and after a little searching we come across a bushbaby with its famous big, big orange eyes.

Just as we are heading back Wilson becomes very animated and excited as he points out a zorilla which he says is extremely rare to find. What a huge privilege. The zorilla is a small, nocturnal mammal of the weasel family. Wilson says it has black and white striped markings although obviously this is difficult to see in the dark.

As we had had such a late return from the night drive and have been on the go non-stop for many days now we take a break from the morning drive. Our American friends go and, to my dismay they tell us they saw a cheetah with her cubs! I can’t believe we have missed the much talked about cheetah! A good enough reason to have to return if we don’t see them before we leave! Our friends return for breakfast which they have with us, after which they leave to continue their travels.

After our leisurely morning wandering around viewing the saltlick and returning to the bird hide where we see an Egyptian goose, weaver bird, impala, zebra, wildebeest and white browed robin, we chat the management and Wilson finds a way that Tom won’t miss out on the walking safari of yesterday altogether. Wilson takes us on a fascinating walk around the parameters of camp grounds. Wilson is amazing, as ever, with his wealth of knowledge and shows us lots of plants and what they are used for traditionally by the Maasai people. We learn about another growth on an acacia tree (acacia geradii) caused by a wasp instead of an ant and Wilson tells us of a plant which he shows us that the Maasai use as a deodorant! There are other bushes, flowers and trees with cotton that the Maasai use for various things including healing wounds.

On our return, Wilson and some colleagues show Tom how to make fire, again the Maasai way. We meet our new companions when Wilson takes us on the afternoon drive. He tries to show us the leopard again but in its place we find only a hyena which has stolen the leopard’s kill. We must have just missed the leopard; the hyena will have chased it away. We stop for a sundowner and Wilson tells us about life and traditions of a Maasai which mesmerises me as it is such a completely different way of life.  

Final game drive and on to the beach

On our last morning game drive with our two other companions we do see the leopard quite close up and Wilson follows it as it wanders around. We return to the camp to pack and then Wilson drives us to the Ol Kiombo Airstrip for our departure to Mombasa.

We have an uneventful flight and at the Ukunda Airstrip we meet the Water Lovers vehicle and we are taken to Water Lovers Beach Resort which is very close to the airstrip.

Upon arrival it is overcast and I am disappointed but when we are shown to our room we notice it is called Leopard Cottage and we think of the beautiful leopard which, just that morning, Wilson had shown us. We spend some time settling into our room and meet our room maid who is delightful. Later we make our way to the bar where we have snacks and drinks followed by our evening meal at a table near to the beach and under the stars. It is the first time we have eaten al fresco since Governor’s Camp, this time we are serenaded by the waves and we both love it and with no rush to be back in our room to get a good night rest before an early morning game drive, we are free to take our time a little.

Lazy days

Today is time for a lazy day and this is how it begins. After a breakfast of fresh fruit among many other options we investigate the beach and spot a camel led by a beach boy hoping to attract customers for rides. He spots Tom and I explain that if he comes another day we will think about a ride. We then spend the morning by the swimming pool. Tom is in his element and during a break for lunch he finds a swinging bed – similar to a hammock only this is a double bed suspended in the shade. He fetches his Harry Potter book and spends an hour or two reading. We then read of a river boat trip up the “Kongo” river, so the daily newsletter says. We decide to go. We are driven by taxi to the place where we meet Abdul and Omar who show us to the canoe style boat in which we are to travel up the river and back again. The pair speak little English but enough to tell us about themselves and to point out the Voodoo cave where we are told sacrifices are made to encourage the rains. I ask if they believe in Voodoo but they are insistent that they don’t; they believe in God they tell us. On the way and back we see some beautiful egret and kingfishers along with heron, some hidden within the mangrove.

On our return we spend some time on the balcony of our room and while Tom reads, I photograph the cheeky monkeys playing in the tree close by. I bring some fruit out with me as it will be a little while before supper and whilst I sit relaxing a monkey dashes down and helps himself to a banana! He sits on the balcony rail for a minute before springing off to show off to his companions, but not share, his spoils!

After a shower we make our way to the bar for more snacks and then our supper and again take our time to enjoy this wonderful feast.

Our day begins with another wonderful breakfast followed by Tom’s much anticipated camel ride! It is strange to see him so high up but he enjoys it once used to the gait of the camel and is led up and down the beach.

Tom then spends a lot of time in the sea. He is a little fish and thoroughly enjoys his swimming and being able to see the bottom of this glorious Indian Ocean where the sea urchins and star fish live; a far cry from the beaches on the North Sea! We are warned about stepping on the washed up sea urchins by numerous beach boys hoping to sell us hand-made jewellery and other wares, they are very persistent and not easy to discourage.

For lunch we venture up the beach to the Forty Thieves bar to have some pizza and are treated to some live music. On our way back we tentatively approach the beach market, I’m still not ready to buy anything - wanting to save that experience for our last day but Tom is given a carved wooden key fob which we are told we can pay for when we buy other things on our last day! The beach boys are not stupid!

The rest of the afternoon continues into the evening at a leisurely pace, conserving our energy for the day ahead.

Today is full of excitement as we venture off on our adventure aboard the Pilli Pipa Dhow boat sea safari. We are collected by a mini bus and after collecting a few more people we head off for Shimoni where we alight and board a motor boat which takes us to the Dhow. There are about a dozen of us and soon we are under way heading for the reef which is to be the venue for snorkelling and diving. It is a lovely feeling to be on the water; the weather is nice and not too hot. We are given drinks and then the moment Tom has been longing for arrives as the boat slows and snorkels are fitted. Tom happily joins the others in descending the ladder on the outside of the dhow into the warm water below. This is Tom’s first experience being in the open sea and also his first time snorkelling (other than practicing in the swimming pool at home) and he is keeping close to one of the guides who takes great care of him.

The skies begin to cloud over and become dark and shower us with a little rain but they soon pass. The water lovers return to the boat and we find ourselves heading off in search of another area good for snorkelling. Again the small party snorkel and dive and the skipper brings to my attention a small pod of dolphins! Under my breath I am willing them to go close to Tom and to my amazement they do! There must be about half a dozen and a couple of particularly inquisitive ones swim ever closer until Tom can nearly touch them before they swim away.  

Shortly afterwards the party returns to the boat and we head off for Wasini Island. The weather has turned again and it is too choppy to alight at the usual place and we have to motor on towards a jetty some way away from the restaurant. We have an interesting walk ahead of us through a wooded area and soon we are there.

We are shown in to a makuti roofed building and as we are seated the beautiful, traditionally dressed ladies appear with plates piled high with exotic looking food. Each dish is shown to us and an explanation given as to its contents. We are invited to the table where this wonderful buffet is assembled and help ourselves. It is very much a trial and error situation and I’m happy to say that I enjoy every dish to the extent I return for more. It is a good opportunity to get to know the other passengers from the boat; we are the only guests here. We are able to take our time and after coffee are guided back through the woods to the boat. By this time the sea is choppier than ever but we make it back to dry land and our minibus. We have been told about an opportunity to visit the Slave Caves in Shimoni and immediately I show our interest. In the end the bus stops and waits for just me and Tom! No one else is interested so alone, Tom and I walk down the steep steps with a guide to be told of the horrors the slaves endured at the hands of the Arab traffickers and to see the remaining cuffs and chains which restrained them. I leave with feelings of awe tinged with sadness. I soon cheer up as we pass the young children rushing out of their huts on the roadside to wave to us with huge smiles on their faces.

We are delivered back to Water Lovers' and head back to our room for a shower before supper. We sit in a different location tonight. There is a one table room built above the rest of the tables up a staircase; a treehouse-like room. I had promised Tom I would try to book it and so we eat our supper there tonight.

Today turns out very differently to my plan. I had booked us on a safari in the Shimba Hills and we are collected and driven there by our guide to see more animals and to visit a waterfall and have lunch in another tree house. It is early and there is a chill in the air which stays with us as we ascend up the mountain. After some time we still haven’t set eyes on any animals and Tom is beginning to get bored. Eventually we come across a lone buffalo and I decide to call it a day as we are both now very cold and haven’t seen much in the way of wildlife all morning although the landscape is beautiful. We cut our losses and return to Water Lovers. Tom hopes to try some kayaking in the shallows of the sea but is told that the waves are too high so we spend the rest of the day in either our room or by the pool. Tom is loving the opportunity to dip into the pool whenever the mood takes him, so he is quite content and I am happy to follow suit come rain or shine.

This evening I have booked for us to dine at the Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant and we take the opportunity to dress up a little into our smartest clothes – not easy when all you have is safari and beach clothing! We manage and are collected by taxi, courtesy of the management at the restaurant. I have seen photographs of this place but none could have prepared me for the jaw dropping experience of entering this cave lit by candles in every crevice of the interior walls. Above us we see the open roof and the stars above. It is truly breath taking and the meal is rich and delicious. We catch sight of two of our boating companions from the Pilli Pippa experience who come to say hello and then we make our way to the reception area to book our complimentary taxi back. 

What an experience and one never likely to be repeated anywhere else.

last day in Kenya

We have been dreading today, our last in Mombasa and our last in Kenya. There is no kayaking to be had today either but the manager contacts the captain of a nearby boat and he kindly takes us out to the reef in front of the beach and hotel. We reach the sandbank just in time for Tom to stand on it for a few minutes before the tide covers it – a photo opportunity – and then our captain takes Tom snorkelling and they find some stunning and beautifully vibrant coloured star fish. Our guide dives for them and brings countless shells, starfish and urchins and places them on one of the seats in the boat so we can see them up close. Tom isn’t confident enough to dive yet but loves the snorkelling experience again and is grateful for this impromptu last minute opportunity. After about an hour the sea dwellers are returned to their home and we to the resort for some last minute packing and our departure to the airstrip. Before we reach the steps to Water Lovers we are caught by the beach boys and I feel obliged to buy a few gifts from the beach market before prizing ourselves away from their clutches! We pay for Tom’s key fob and a couple of other items and then make our escape.

After about an hour the sea dwellers are returned to their home and we to the resort for some last minute packing and our departure to the airstrip. Before we reach the steps to Water Lovers we are caught by the beach boys and I feel obliged to buy a few gifts from the beach market before prizing ourselves away from their clutches! We pay for Tom’s key fob and a couple of other items and then make our escape.

We bid a fond farewell to everyone who has looked after us so well and make our way on our journey to Nairobi. It isn’t long before the light aircraft is ready to be boarded and we are flying towards Nairobi. Once there we are met by Thomas, our driver, who delivers us to the Ole Sereni hotel, here we have a light early supper and do some last minute shopping in a gift shop.

Thomas meets us at the reception of the hotel and transports us to the airport where our Kenyan adventure comes to an end. 

With very heavy hearts we depart a country that has well and truly captured them.

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Comments

Arabella @ Natural World Safaris

15/12/2016 9:52 AM

Lovely blog and fantastic photos - thanks for sharing Jen and hoping you have an incredible Christmas in Kenya! Best wishes, Arabella

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