Nairobi, Amboseli and the Masai Mara
By Tracey Bell
The mess of traffic provided immediate entertainment for Chris and Tom when they arrived in Nairobi. Roundabouts with traffic lights and policemen all sending conflicting messages to drivers creates a show for new arrivals. We managed to arrive at Roussell House in one piece, and enjoyed a welcome Tusker (Kenyan beer) in the beautiful gardens.
The trip started with a visit to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Elephant orphans from all over Kenya are rescued and reared here after their mothers have died as a result of poaching, falling in a well, or natural causes.
Afterwards we headed to Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum and the second largest on the African continent. Ben and Pius of Amani Kibera met us and we enjoyed a local lunch of pilau (rice with spices and meat). After lunch we walked to the library and the girls' centre both established by Amani Kibera. Despite being confronted with the poverty, Chris commented that there was a ray of hope through Amani Kibera's work and we were not left with a feeling of hopelessness as often happens when visiting such a place. Instead, the positive energy from the Amani Kibera team could only inspire us. At the girls' centre, a meeting of local performers had just concluded a planning meeting for the upcoming Amani Kibera festival. We spent time talking with some of them about their work in the community before they invited us to the pub to watch football - go Gor Mahia! We had been completely embraced by this community and no longer felt the tourist/local divide. What a great welcome to Kenya!
The following day the "real safari" started. In the morning we drove to the Amboseli region where we would spend two nights at Maasai Simba Camp. After lunch we were introduced to the people who run the camp and learnt about the community projects supported by the profits. In the late afternoon we went for a walk with some of the moran (warriors) to see the sunset over Mt Kilimanjaro.
A full day was spent in Amboseli National Park, one of Kenya's premier parks. Before we entered the park we were greeted by dozens of giraffe along the side of the road. Inside the park we saw elephants, reedbuck, Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, zebras, wildebeest, hippos, waterbuck, warthogs and an array of birdlife including egrets, Grey Heron, Blacksmith Plovers, Crowned Cranes, ostriches, Fish Eagle, weavers, Superb Starlings and African Jacanas.
Early the next morning we went for another walk with the Masai and we were so lucky to see a "naked" Kilimanjaro! The mountain is usually covered in cloud but this morning it was completely clear. As we stood on top of a hill and watched the sunrise over Kilimanjaro, our guides showed us how to clean our teeth Masai style, with a special stick that breaks down into a brush. As we descended the hill we found the tree whose sap provides the toothpaste. We saw a black-backed jackal as we walked, which made us wonder what else was lurking in the undergrowth, but only met some hornbills. On returning we said farewell to our hosts and headed back to Nairobi, where Tom and Chris went for complete contrast by having dinner at the historic Stanley Hotel.
To the Masai Mara next for another wildlife spectacular! We set off early in the morning for the reasonably arduous drive to Kenya's top tourist attraction. We were greeted immediately by warthogs, impalas, giraffe, zebras, a mother elephant and her baby and finally some lions.