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Lions and Rhinos and Chimps, oh my!


Lions and Rhinos and Chimps, oh my!

Arriving in Kenya, I passed a shop called “Guns and Cameras- for all your shooting needs” and thought about how tourism inAfrica has changed. The game I’m used to is more pheasant than big five, so I was eager to see some seriously exotic specimens. I prefer to be an individual traveller and would hate to have every second of my adventure planned out for me. However,Kenya is vast and with so much to see I decided that a tour operator was definitely the way to maximise my chances of success on my hunt for big game; albeit shooting with an SLR rather than an elephant gun!

The journey to Masai Mara, in westernKenya, is certainly more pothole than road; you can opt for a hot air balloon tour of the national park but I definitely wanted the real experience. It wasn’t the migration season so there would be no thunderous herds of buffalo, the original fast food. It was actually just before the rains started, so water was short and the animals would hopefully be localised around permanent watering holes and rivers.

Our lion sighting could have been better, just a lazy old boy sunbathing on a rock; not the stealthy lioness I was hoping for! We were told elephants were nearby because of the trampled grass but I was more concerned about the rhinos; apparently they can run at 35mph and, because of their poor eyesight, they sometimes charge for no reason! Luckily, our rhino seemed quite content eating and posing while we snapped away.

Meeting the local Masai people is an incredible experience. You are welcomed with a performance of traditional dance, giraffes mingled in the background, and each member of the small community comes over to say hello.  I must admit I was quite embarrassed by the whole affair; American tourists ‘ohmygaad’ at every Kenyan they meet and you also get the distinct impression that, however enthusiastic and talented, the villagers are very good at the whole ‘we’ve never seen a white man before’ routine. In fact, they put us to shame somewhat; not only do they speak an enchanting African language called Maa, they are also pretty good at Swahili and English too. I just hope they get paid well for humouring us all.

Your trip will usually be split across the parks in order to maximise chances of seeing everything on offer. We had a specific afternoon dedicated to watering holes where we saw a herd of zebra drinking in the late afternoon and just caught a distant glimpse of buffalo. Our guide pointed out a leopard in a tree to the other side of our jeep, apparently not hungry enough to hunt the stripy sitting ducks. At Lake Nakuru we exchanged our four wheels for a boat and for the next hour all I saw were pink flamingos sleeping all along the banks. Our boat put-putted along between enormous hippos that groaned at us for disturbing their rest.

My last stop was the Mombassa Jungle where I hoped to meet a real life King Kong! On the way there we had to make an unexpected stop to check on another jeep that had driven off the ‘road’ quite a way; they had pulled in to look at a whole family of elephants! Unfortunately, we didn’t see any gorillas; apparently they are very shy indeed. We did meet lots of orphaned chimpanzees, being looked after by older members of the group.

Kenyaoverwhelmed me with its hospitality and beautiful wildlife. I leave it with a full memory card. Hopefully this will not be the last time I watch the African sun go down.

Carrie Cartwright-Owen


Travel article was provided by Recommended, Sutton Coldfield commnity magazine advertising local business to the Sutton Coldfield public.


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