Day 01 Wednesday 22/08/18 Flight Nice - Zurich - Nairobi dep 08h00 arrival 18h40

On arrival we always have a little apprehension: how will be the driver? Caroline was replaced by her daughter. The driver is called Lucky (M'Laky). From the start he plays the card of familiarity.: he likes to show that he knows what we wrote to Caroline, about  photos we promised him and chocolate which she loves. He informs us that the next day we must leave early because the road is long. Which deprives us of a breakfast. He asks that we prepare a picnic box.

Best Western Meridian. We had the great idea to ask for this hotel, much more welcoming, clean and comfortable than the Sentrim Boulevard, for almost the same rate.

Day 02 Thursday 23/08/18 Nairobi - Meru 290 km

Road to Meru (268 km). The road is good, the traffic flow. I inform the driver that I want to change money, having not been able to do it at the airport, because the rate is particularly unfavorable. He answers "later" (later). I wish to go to a Forex or Western Union agency that have the best rates. According to him, we will find some on the way.

The weather is cloudy. It's gray and cold. We follow Mount Kenya concealed by a thick cloak of clouds. In none of our trips have we seen Mount Kenya.

Two stops en route to a curios shop for a coffee, swallow our picnic (mediocre) and go to the bathroom. During one of the stops, Lucky wants me to taste a fonio porridge He insists that it is African viagra. He says he needs it because he is old (47 years old)!

Either he has a heavy sense of humor, or he thinks I'm a moron!

In the last curios shop, he asks me if I want to change money and how much I want to change. He says he can change it for me. At what rate? 110, even less interesting than at the airport. I refuse, which triggers the hilarity of his colleagues who were sitting behind.

After 07:00 of road we were supposed to arrive. It seems that there is still a long way to go. When I worry about the timing he tells me that I am a tourist who watches the miles on Google! Bad luck, I have a good map of Kenya. I will discover afterwards that he never came to Meru in 11 years of career and that he does not know the reserve!

We arrive at the town of Meru, he stops at a gas station saying that he has to change the oil of the vehicle. Having a safari to do in the Meru Reserve in the afternoon I point out that it could have been done at another time. He answers that it is his responsibility to take care of the vehicle! Fortunately the station does not have time to do it. Meanwhile I go to a Western Union that I spotted nearby and changes to the rate of 112.

Long track (70 km - 1:45) completely broken down from Meru to Murera.

All along the road we meet zombies, men as slumped as the track. They chew kat (miraa) all day long. I did not imagine how it could destroy people and damage neurons: they are all haggard, bewildered, dazed, sometimes aggressive, completely degenerate.

Women work in the fields, on plantations, at home, on the roadside to sell some onions or a tomato fillet. They fetch water, wood, take care of children. We have never seen inactive women, but idle men are not lacking.

We are impressed by the extreme poverty we observe all along the road and in the area. Most people live in huts made of planks, earth, ciment blocks, sheet metal, often with one piece, rarely with windows. Few huts are connected to the electricity grid and none have water nearby. All families have to buy water from richer people, farmers or planters who have drilled on their property. The government does not worry about drilling in each village to allow free access to water for the majority.

  1. Puce We arrive at Ikweta around 14:30 or 08:30 of road. After taking possessions from our tent, a delicious lunch is served. We are surprised that the driver is at our table. This is the first time we see this in Africa.

He tells us that is the rule in Kenya for some time, that all hotels must take care of drivers so that they take care of customers. We will discover later that it is false. Only Ikweta allow this.

After lunch, we are supposed to do a first game drive in the Meru reserve. Lucky proposes that we rest, we will have plenty of time to make a game drive the next day. I refuse. We have 3 game drives planned in our program, we will do them. He begins a game of asshole: "It's the decision of the husband, but the woman what she chooses?" Bad luck she also wants to do the game drive. He says that she is free to think differently about her husband. A discomfort settles and will not leave us from the trip. From the first day, this guy inflates us. If he wants to humor, it's time for him to change.

As we head towards the parking lot, we meet Susan and John, the owners of the camp. We speak a little and given the driver's ignorance, we ask if we can have a local guide, scheduled for the next day, today. She phones and tells us it's settled.

  1. Puce At the door of the reserve, a guide accompanies us, his name is Benjamin.

Meru National Park is a national park managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, located east of Meru, 350 km from Nairobi. With an area of 870 km2, it is one of the least known parks in Kenya. In this park took place the biggest massacre of elephants and rhinos of Kenya, in the years 1970/80. He was in the hands of poachers until the 90s.

It is also where George and Joy Adamson released several animals bred in captivity, including the son of the famous lioness Elsa (immortalized in the book and the movie Born Free) and their cheetah Pippa.

Joy Adamson was murdered on January 3, 1980 in the Shaba reserve by a former employee of the couple. George Adamson was murdered on 20 August 1989 in the Kora reserve by Somali poachers while trying to defend a young European tourist.

Meru is covered with marsh and savannah. We are pleasantly surprised by this park. Its landscapes are so different from the rest of Kenya. There are very few tourists. We were 3 cars to circulate in the reserve. We discover elephants, reticulated giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, ostriches, Fassa kobs (waterbucks), warthogs, hippopotamuses, jackals, impalas, a Kudu, many weavers whose nests hang like Christmas decoration in all acacias, secretary and a kind of guinea fowl that we do not know the yellow-necked francolin.

Although we have already met them in Samburu, we are impressed by the wearing of doum palm heads. These large quadripcephalic trees go so well in the landscapes of Meru.

Having started the game drive quite late (16h06), the brightness has quickly deteriorated, it is dark at 18:00, which did not arrange the photos we took: color temperature, white balance began to play tricks.

When we returned, we wanted to pay Benjamin for his performance. Lucky opposed it by saying that if we wanted to pay him we had to go through him, otherwise, Benjamin might have problems with the police. Surprised, because he is an official guide, and he got on the bus in front of the police of the park, we refuse and inform Benjamin that we will settle the two days the next day.

In the evening we talk with Susan who took care of the transaction and communicated the rate, she tells us that it is because the driver certainly wants to put some money in his pocket. From the first day Lucky is one of the drivers I hate: familiar, talkative and may be dishonest.

  1. Puce Delicious candlelight dinner in the garden. A menu freshly made for us by a chef. Nothing to do with the tasteless buffets of most hotels.

The driver sets the start time for the next day's game drive at 06:30. Fortunately this hotel is smart, not only does it run its generator at night, when it is needed, but it provides for breakfast starting at 5:00 for the early game drive.

Ikweta Safari Camp. One of the best camp encountered in Kenya. Ultra comfortable tent, intimate setting, refined decoration, warm welcome, delicious meals, no buffet, discreet and efficient team. Electricity at night.

Day 03 Friday 24/08/18 Meru

  1. Puce Game drive from 06:30 to 11:00 and with Benjamin: elephants, buffaloes. We enter the rhinoceros section. An attempt to reintegrate white and black rhinos is under way under very high surveillance. A military camp is specially assigned to them. As soon as we approach rhinos, we realize that there are heavily armed men nearby. Somalia and its rebels are not far away and Chinese are still looking for virility.

  2. Puce Back to the camp for lunch.

  3. Puce Game drive from 15:30 to 17:00 with Benjamin. Thompson's Gazelles, Grant's Gazelles, dik dik, giraffes, ostriches, jackals succeed each other. We get off the vehicle to watch yawns hippo in the river. Fresh traces of lions suggest that they are there. This adds a little spice to getting out of the mini bus.

Finally Benjamin makes us discover a beautiful leopard lying at the foot of a tree. Luxury, we are alone. There is no crowd of jeeps, land cruisers, minibuses, people trying to get by.

The leopard changes places to hide behind the tree. As we moved the vehicle to continue to photograph it, he finally got up and left.

As if that was enough, the game drive is cut short ! We came down from the Toyota to pay Benjamin, who said "you give what you want". We could just have given him a tip. We gave him what Susan had mentioned as a fare, which is much more than a tip.

On our return we come across an outdoor prayer in the neighboring village (Murera). People, all poorer than others, sing and dance. We join them in friendship, much to their surprise. A moment of peace in this crazy world. Hallelujah!

Lucky informs us that we must leave very early the next day because he has to go back by Meru to change the oil of the vehicle.

When Susan asks what time we want to have breakfast, we inform her that although breakfast is early, we have to leave without lunch. She asks why? Because the driver wants to go to Meru (1:45) to do the maintenance of the vehicle, and then according to him the road is long to go to Samburu (128 km).

She does not understand why we went through Meru to come here.

We have to go through Isiolo, it's shorter, the road is better. That explains why we put 8:30. Added to this is the fact that the engine is out of breath and unable to climb the slopes  more than 30/40 km / h. She says that he can very well do the draining in Isiolo.

How to tell him without hurting his ego, because Lucky does not like being told what to do. Susan asks Allan, an assistant to talk to him about it.

There are tea plantations in the area, a Kenyan tea that has nothing to envy to Indian or Sri Lankan teas. It is possible to visit the plantations, the small producers, and the factory Keigoi tea factory. To envisage for another time.

Ikweta Safari Camp

Day 04 Saturday 25/08/18 Meru - Samburu 128km

Thanks to Susan, we have time to have breakfast and leave early.

In the Meru region, there are plenty of kat plantations (miraa) owned by wealthy owners who make a lot of money from this drug. The culture, the harvest, the sale, the export are done in an open way. The government collects large taxes on this traffic. Many children, rather than going to school, work at the kat harvest because it brings home a little money.

Stop at Isiolo for changing oil. I accept unpredictable breakdowns and punctures, but the maintenance of the vehicle must be done outside the time of the customers.

Before joining the Samburu Reserve, we planned to visit a particular women's village we had heard about.

The village of Umoja (Unity in swahili), near Archer Post, is located on the left side of the main track that leads to the gateway to the Samburu reserve.

It is inhabited only by women: men are forbidden.

The 38 residen
ts, ages 19 to 65, are women seeking independence after being raped by Kenyans or after experiencing domestic violence. Often repudiated and beaten by their husbands who consider themselves dishonored or by men who do not accept that a woman is not circumcised.

They also seek to protect their children from excision and early marriage.

They are called Tumai, "hope of life" in Swahili. The founder of the village Rebecca Samaria Lolosoli (born in 1962) started in 1990.

In Umoja, women learn autonomy and solidarity. Thanks to their small jewels business and their breeding, they managed to open a school to educate their children, a school that grew thanks to German donations.

The Tumai are committed to building a true participatory democracy, far from the heaviness of the country.

All decisions that engage the community are subject, after debate at a general meeting, to a majority vote by show of hands. Whether enrolling a child in school, selling an animal or craft, buying a collective good any decision is subject to collective approval.

Income from handicrafts and tourism support the small community and allow for schooling of children, to which are added the children of the neighborhood (200), despite the fact that the surroundings are hostile to them.

After the drought of 2003, which caused them to lose their cows, the inhabitants of Umoja turned to goat breeding.

They have been robbed by armed Turkanas who have fired automatic bursts of fire to frighten them.

Umoja is frequently attacked by men who believe that the village is not in keeping with morals and local traditions, even provocative. Rebecca says that often at night during attacks, they are forced to abandon everything, to flee for hiding in the city. Neither the government nor the police react.

Near the Samburu National Reserve, they are also prey to wild animals that come to destroy their vegetable culture. The day before our visit an elephant destroyed a wire fence to eat cabbages (sukuma).

Their most urgent need is to be able to live safely and rebuild their livestock which is a source of income. To ensure this security they need a wall that surrounds their village to prevent intrusions of humans and animals.

We will try to get a detailed quote from non-corrupt professionals to launch a fundraising call in France.

Before leaving them we left some of our savings, promising to change the money on what we have left and to return with a supplement.

  1. Puce Arrive at Sopa Lodge for lunch. A touching meeting with Taptap Loteku. This lodge is quite far from the interesting part of the reserve. That takes 45 minutes to go and 45 minutes to return on each game drive. To avoid. It seems better to plan a slightly higher expense to have a camp by the river.

  2. Puce Afternoon, game drive without local guide. In Samburu there are areas where it is easy to see many animals, especially in the bush along the river Ewaso Ngiro.

Ostriches, impalas, gerenuks that are rarely seen elsewhere, elephants, reticulated giraffes, dik diks, rabbits with big ears and long legs, many birds, quite often lionesses with their young. In Samburu we can see Grevy's zebras whose zebra strikes disturb the cameras' auto-focus, unfortunately they are still far from the tracks.

We observe that Lucky takes tracks where we sometimes drive 30 minutes without being able to observe an animal other than an impala or a giraffe, where we do not cross any other vehicle. Until he sees a group of arrested vehicles: maybe a lion, a cheetah.

To join a group of vehicles, he tries to cross the dry bed of a river. A minibus before us risked it. When climbing on the other side he almost turned around. After several unsuccessful and dangerous attempts, we had to be pulled out of the riverbed by a land cruiser that we blocked for 15 minutes. After a long detour, we join the group of stopped vehicles: a cheetah eats its prey.

In the evening at the lodge we will have the opportunity to see genets.

The driver informs us that we will have to leave early because the road to Nakuru is long. Breakfast is served from 06:30 to 09:00. The early game drive starts at 6:30, most people do not have breakfast that is paid for. It is up to the hotel to modify the breakfast schedules, in order to adapt them to the reality of tourism. Mismanagement.

Samburu Sopa Lodge Emotional meeting the old guard Taptap Lokuto, surprised to find us and recognize us. He took me in his arms for a long time, it was very emotional. We stayed a good time without being able to talk.

Day 05 Sunday 26/08/18 Sambru - Nanyuki - 124 km

  1. Puce The planned game drive is cut short and is only an hour and a half, because the road will be long! We carry our luggage and start the game drive on the track that leads to the exit.

Fortunately this trail runs along the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River. Oryx flock, herd of elephants, groups of giraffes, lionesses with their babies.

We often want to take the time to observe the elephants. The little ones are real clowns, they tease, provoke adults, or seek cuddles, while young adults train for confrontation with intimidation attempts, simulacrum of combat, with defenses that clash.

We are witnessing this time (already in 2012 at the same place) an attack of elephants against two lionesses and their young.

It's always spectacular because the elephants come out the big game: ears spread, trump menacing, impressive trumpets, large troop movement. The most amusing are the baby elephants who make it a little more than the others as if they had something to prove.

Elephants remember that sometimes their young are attacked and devoured by lions.

As always, lionesses and cubs end up sneaking between vehicles to escape the sight or smell of their opponents.

Before leaving Samburu last visit to Umoja and Tumai. We could not change the money as expected, the courtyard of the hotel is the worst of all we observed 1 € = 90 ksh. We will leave a good part of the euros that we have left. The women donned their traditional costumes. They are radiant. They welcome us with a welcome song and dances. Lucky takes the opportunity to make the clown behind them.

Rebecca explains that with the money given yesterday, they went to the market to buy meat, vegetables, fruits and they did last night a complete meal like they did not have for a long time. Every woman wanted to thank us personally with a phrase that Rebecca translated, a bracelet or necklace that they made.

Rebecca gave me her bank details and a quote for the wall. We will ask for a complementary opinion. To be continued.

Road to Nanyuki. We go back through Isiolo. A good road with a fluid circulation unfortunately with many slopes.

Between Isiolo and Nanyuki there are thousands of plastic tunnels: the growing of roses is an economic asset of the region which exports its roses to the whole world. Subject to finding a company that accepts visits, it could be an interesting activity between two safaris. Picking, conditioning ...

  1. Puce Lunch at Falcon Heights in Nanyuki

  2. Puce Afternoon game drive in Ol Pejeta Conservancy: it is a private concession of 40000 hectares located in the county of Laikipia that we associate with SweetWaters. It was developed in the 1970s by Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. It would be famous for the quality of its safaris and would house the "big 5" (everyone speaks in these terms). There must be many rhinoceros (more than 70, including 4 whites and 70 blacks) that have been purchased especially in South Africa, alongside elephants, giraffes, impalas, zebras, buffalo, leopards. ..It is also home to:

- a sanctuary of some forty chimpanzees who have been mistreated in various countries of Central and West Africa.

- an enclosure that hosts a rhinoceros that can be seen from a platform, subject to leaving a ticket to a ranger.

- a herd of zebus with huge horns, as we do not find in the area, which the reserve has just acquired for several million ksh, telling from families in the area!

This reserve is a kind of wilderness zoo that buys animals to complete its collection. Thoiry in a larger way.

No luck, we were with Lucky, who stayed on the main track during the entire game drive. He even turned back when we crossed a sign indicating that we entered the wildlife reserve.

We were content with a few elephants, by far, some zebras, some warthogs, some buffaloes and some gazelles. We refused to see the caged rhinoceros, and even more to tip a ranger waiting for tourists at the exit of the vehicle.

Unless I am proven otherwise, this reserve is a scam and the publicity that is made of it is untrue. It is also possible that Lucky does not know the good tracks.

Back to the hotel with the rain.

The driver informs us that we must leave early because the road is long. He should change disc, it starts to be boring! Fortunately the hotel serves early breakfasts.

Falcon Heights. Surprised to discover such a quality of comfort, in this place, without breaking the bank. Meals à la carte which changes tasteless international buffets.

Day 06 Monday 27/08/18 Nanyuki - Nakuru - 160 km

Road to Nakuru. We take a muddy track that stretches between huge private properties they call "ranch".

Rich families play at the "Wildlife Conservancy" and buy animals to populate their private parks.

Lucky tries to make us believe that it is a shortcut that he would be alone to know. During all our trips from Samburu to Nakuru, we have always been on this track. He claims that it is not the same. No comment !

On the way we see Mount Kenya for the first time. Misty, but clear. We were expecting something more impressive, for a mountain that exceeds the Mont Blanc by 200 meters.

Arrival in Nakuru. Stupefy, the main gate of the reserve that we have known is under water. The lake continues to climb amputating the reserve of its territory. New tracks are regularly arranged according to the disappearance of the old ones.

  1. Puce Lunch at Flamingo Hill Camp. First hotel where some waiters tell us "hello my friend" when we arrive at the restaurant. Mark of familiarity that testifies more to a lack of education than a gesture of sympathy.

  2. Puce Game drive in the afternoon. While the hotel is full of tourists, as the surrounding hotels are crowded, we are still practically alone on a central track.

We see impalas closely, many baboons, a rocky hyrax (rock rat) agama lizard, an ibis hadada, a Kob Fassa, some rhinos by far, flamingos, a group of buffaloes including a small s' is made capture by a hyena which caused a charge of the buffaloes against the hyena, and a sanction of a buffalo against the small one. He gored her and hurled her up and down, violently.

The sky is covered with rainy passages, it is impossible to use a zoom lens as the brightness is bad. At the end of the day, in the darkness that invades us, we see the profile of a jackal, and later the ear and the tail of a lion lying in a field of mauve flowers. This time there were several vehicles.

On the way back, some pelicans are drifting between the dead tree trunks that stand where was such a beautiful reserve. A jabiru (saddle billed stork) seems to amuse us with our dismay.

During our first three visits to Kenya in 1983, 1990 and 1995, Nakuru has amazed us with the richness of its wildlife. We had approached many rhinos, many lions, the famous Rotschild giraffes with their particular fur (we did not even see one this year).

In 2012, the rising waters had already reduced the territory, but we could see some big animals.

In front of the poverty of our game drive, in the evening at the restaurant we asked around us if there are still animals to see in Nakuru and if the tourists had seen. A hotel staff assures us that we can always see lots of animals in Nakuru and provides us with a list of all those that can be seen. We did not see the 1/10th of the list. Bad luck or poor track choice of Mr Lucky?

Lucky informs us that the next day we must leave early because the road is long. He informs us that the planned early game drive in Nakuru must be removed because we do not have time. Better and better.

Flamingo Hill Camp. Very nice tent camp, in a beautiful garden. Less Intimate and Refined Ikweta We are very pleased to have chosen this hotel instead of Lake Nakuru Lodge which is a decrepit, dirty hotel, with a restaurant that is a horrible canteen for Asian groups.

Day 07 Tuesday 28/08/18 Nakuru - Masai Mara - 250 km

Deprived of the planned game drive, we ask Lucky why we did not see more animals yesterday, in Nakuru. His answer is "because the tracks no longer exist because of the lake". We inform him that people say that they have seen lots of animals recently. He raises his voice and asks "who". Guests and the hotel staff. He gets angry and says that "these people tell anything, he knows what he's talking about !" Given his behavior we do not insist so as not to plumb the rest of the stay.

Long road to Masai Mara, good quality to Narok, but with many slopes that we climb with difficulty 30/40 km/h. We observe that all the minibuses and the tourist land cruisers always overtake us. In the coasts we follow the trucks with difficulty.

Everywhere in Kenya, as in Sri Lanka or Vietnam there are police checks, to wonder if half of the population does not work in the police!

We observe that VIPs with their Toyota hilux or pajero are never stopped by these controls, which often give rise to financial transactions from hand to hand. Harassment and corruption are aimed at the common people.

We were arrested, certainly not for speeding, but by power play. A stuck-up lady stuck like an oyster, with her mauve hairpiece, asks the papers of the driver and the vehicle. No hello, no please, no thanks. She plays the cop thoroughly, with a killer look!

Lucky does not seem to know how to go to Matira Bush Camp.  We have to go through the Talek Gate and not through the main Sekenani Gate, which must be the only one he knows. From the Sekenani gate, it took us one and a half hours to reach the camp.

To the "pleasure" of having a driver like Lucky adds a particular phenomenon: it has been raining at Masai Mara for several days. It is normally the dry season and the best time to visit the reserve.

Late arrival (15:30) because of a vehicle that is dragging and a driver who does not know the right gate. We took 09h00 to go from Nakuru to Masai Mara, where we usually have 06h00 to 07h00.

  1. Puce Delicious lunch, with a pineapple pie so good.

  2. Puce We make our first game drive in the Masai Mara Reserve. As it is late and the sky is covering, it becomes difficult to make photos that quality. Storms break out. It begins to get dark as of 17h.

We ride in expectation that chance will bring some surprises on our track: masai giraffes, damalisques (topi) hartebeest, impalas, zebras, wildebeest, hyenas, elk of the cape , a lion and some lionesses satiated and sleepy.

Back in camp, as we had planned, we ask to have a local guide masai for the two days of game drive that follow. Masai Mara is an immense reserve where one can turn a long time seeing only zebras, wildebeest and gazelles.

The camp director is embarrassed. He must first seek the agreement of the driver before granting us a guide. Afraid to hurt his ego, afraid to create a conflict. We show him Caroline's email who is informed and agreed.

We do not want to give the driver the power to accept or refuse. This is our trip. The driver is informed and accepts, which does not prevent him from coming to ask us why we take a guide, saying he knows the reserve well.

We do not justify ourselves. It was planned.

The majority of guests at this camp witness memorable safaris with the camp guides.

The camp is in the reserve, with just a small barrier of logs that separates us from the wild life. Night guards take care of our safety and accompany us as soon as we leave the tent. Nice bush atmosphere.

It rains all night, it is 16 to 18 ° in the tent. The team brings hot water bottles to each tent. Nice touch.

Matira Bush Camp a tent camp in the reserve. Comfort slightly lower than Ashnil which is unfortunately far from the heart of the reserve, the big advantage of Matira is its location, close to all the interesting tracks. The wild and rustic setting gives a special atmosphere to this place. It's also a camp where menus are personalized, no tasteless international buffets.

Day 08 Wednesday 29/08/18 Masai Mara

  1. Puce First game drive from 6.30am to 11.30am with Masai Elijah Masago. He lives in a village at the exit of the reserve. He indicates directions to take to the driver. As he travels the reserve very frequently with customers, he knows the territory of certain animals, he follows their movements, which can not do a driver who comes to the reserve two to three times a year.

Elan, masai giraffes, damalisques, hartebeests, hyenas, jackals, zebras and wildebeest parade.

The tracks are wet, we skid and go sometimes in all directions. The sky emerges at times making believe that it will be nice.

The alternation of clouds and thinning glitters spots of light and shade over the plain of Masai Mara. It's beautiful to watch, not easy to photograph, the cell is struggling to balance the brightness.

A lion comes out of the bushes, lionesses bask in the grass, a hippo emerges from nowhere.

  1. Puce Back to camp for lunch.

During the break we discover the environment of the camp: elan and kob de fassa graze peacefully 200 meters
from our tent.

The trees are full of birds not always obvious to seize, it is quite dense and dark. One in particular catches our attention because he seems to be playing with us, he does acrobatics on a branch as if to attract attention, it pretends to approach and disappears as soon as we look: a beautiful red bird with black head with a pretty song, the red beillied flycatcher.

  1. Puce New game drive in the afternoon from 15:30 to 18:00. Elijah's sharp gaze scrutinizes every piece of plain. It is tense as a predator looking for prey.

Jackals share a carcass. Every time we saw jackals, they were always two, brothers or couple?

A group of vehicles is stopped: lionesses seem to share a feast but too far to distinguish them or take pictures. We are not allowed to leave the track to approach us. The driver is liable to a penalty of 50,000 ksh, the withdrawal of his license and the prohibition to enter the reserve.

A military police vehicle followed by a mini-bus arrive, forcing passenger cars to give way. In the jeep there are Kenyan civilians, two soldiers, one of whom is standing on the running boards wielding his automatic weapon with pride as the rebels do when they enter a village and two Indians. In the minibus a group of hilarious Indian.

They leave the track and go right next to the lionesses to take pictures. Bakchich, corruption? They perform in front of the dozen arrested vehicles and end up leaving with a big laugh.

The Indians women of the minibus scented so much that their scents invaded the atmosphere. The emergence had an odor: Joy of Dior.

On the way back Elijah asks the driver to stop near the bushes along the river. A few seconds later two magnificent leopards emerge, running slowly along the bush before sinking into it.

The light is too weak, the speed does not allow to make clear pictures with zoom lenses. In the absence of digital memory, they will remain in our human memory.

Back at the camp, Elijah said we could see more animals if we had another vehicle. Everyone confirms that the minibus is not suitable for Masai Mara when it is raining. The tracks are real ice rinks and we can not cross the ponds.

We ask the camp if we can rent a land cruiser and how much it costs. $ 150 a day for a full day game drive.

The rain does not stop we accept. The manager suggests that we do a full day game drive rather than two half days, so as not to waste time returning to the camp for lunch. Awesome.

He will ask to prepare a picnic for breakfast and a picnic for lunch, for us and for the crew.

It's so cold that we enjoy dinner vegetable soup, and hot water bottles in bed.

Too bad we could not enjoy a moment of relaxation in front of the campfire. The charm of the bush camp would have been complete.

It's raining all night. 16 ° to 02:00 am.

Matira Bush Camp

Day 09 Thursday 30/08/18 Masai Mara

  1. Puce The land cruiser awaits us at 06:30 with his driver-tracker, a masai: Amos Moketa. Elijah accompanies us too. Mr Lucky is coming with us, a day of rest for him, which will make his colleagues laughing during safari treating him as an African tourist.

The departure is in the darkness: we meet many hyenas either sharing remains or looking for remains.

In the distance balloons are starting to gain altitude: hot air balloon safaris - $ 450 per person. The price of a plane ticket to Delhi!

Even with the land cruiser we often skid to tails and yawns. It rained so much that the water did not enter the soil, turning the savannah into a swamp.

We meet our first lion of the day. A superb male who is walking alone. Amos follows him, not hesitating to go off track. Apparently only the masais would have the right.

Throughout the day it will change regularly to offer us different vues of the scene, but also to allow other vehicles to enjoy, which the ordinary driver never do. When they are in a good place, they keep it.

  1. Puce Breakfast under an acacia: one of the best picnic we had in Kenya: different fruit juices in a liter bottle, thermos hot water and hot milk, coffee, tea, chocolate, eggs, sandwich, yoghurt and fruits.

Good weather returns, making the light more comfortable for cameras.

Then begins a real show with 5 cheetahs. They wander in the savannah, regroup, lie down, move away, get closer to the point of coming to rub or lie against vehicles (about twenty). Apotheosis, they climb a tree trunk lying on the ground and pose for the photo, after marking their territory. We will meet them again and again during the day. They seem to be preparing something.

We all expect that they are going to hunt in a group. In vain.

We find the plain Masai Mara as we had known: with thousands of wildebeest, thousands of zebras, giraffes, ostriches, vultures pecking carcasses, hundreds of damalisques and hartebeests.

We find these spots of light and shadow sliding on the golden grasses as the clouds pass in front of the sun.

  1. Puce Lunch under an acacia: unlimited water bottles, tea, coffee, fresh fruit, meat meal for the guide and drivers (chicken and vegetable donuts) and vegetarian for us (vegetable donuts), all kept warm in isothermal dishes. Paper towels and cutlery. Thanks to the Matira Camp team.

Amos regularly leaves the tracks to go off-piste in search of exclusivity. Bingo: in a bush, a serval. It is rare to be able to see it. A wild cat the size of a dog with a speckled coat that holds leopard.

We find again the cheetah brothers. Later one and only one elephant. A male ostrich, whose grandmother has frequented a flamingo because of the color of his neck and legs, seems insensitive to the court that his lady makes to him. She waddles with feather effects like Lido girls shaking their boa, in vain.

Amos started rushing through the savannah towards something that seemed important. Without a radio signal, without being able to see what it was all about, he goes to a river where there are already some jeeps.

A festival of lionesses. One is perched on a bank of the river, as if to supervise the scene, the others put end to the life of a wildebeest who was drinking.

The fight took place in the water. We counted 12 lionesses and lion cubs. While two adults were finishing choking the wildebeest, the others were trying to get the catch back on the bank. The current does not help them, the action seems very complicated. A lioness who was on the other bank crossed the river. We all held our breath knowing that the rivers of Masai Mara are full of crocodiles.

While the older ones try to keep the meal dry, the lion cubs play, make antics, wrestling games and cuddles.

After a while, Amos retires to let another vehicle approach. Even if it's frustrating, it's nice to discover that there are

intelligent and supportive drivers.

On the way back, we meet a female cheetah and her cub ... followed by 5 vehicles of photos' fanatics. All equipped with basooka zooms at least a meter long, we would have thought in a National Geographic competition.

The light was exceptional: the sky was a navy blue backdrop, on which stood the golden savannah, lit by a raging sun.

These amateur animal photographers are ready for anything with no respect for cheetahs or other vehicles that hope to make a photo without land cruiser in the viewfinder. They follow them very closely, blocking the road several times to have them face, preventing other vehicles to pass or have an interesting angle of view. This seems to disturb the big cats that often stop as to review their trajectory. The ego of these photographers seems as big as their zoom !

Matira Bush Camp

Day 10 Friday 31/08/18 Massai Mara - Nairobi - 270 km

Late check out 07:30 ! Long track 01:30 to reach the Sekenani Gate. Then long track laterite called "corrugated sheet" because of the vibrations it produces in the vehicle.

We have always known it, but that should change. Chinese settlers are here to build a beautiful asphalt road and bridges: China Wu Yi. They take the opportunity to buy lodges, and indoctrinate the area with slogans: "The life is priceless", or "Here we built a better Kenya", it depends for whom! In a few years, going to Masai Mara will be a pleasure, provided you have another vehicle !

The Chinese are also building the railways, replacing what the English and Germans had done. They cross the country, with stations in kit, all identical, straight out of the Chinese factories, locomotives and wagons made in china. All gear and materials come from China. They built their own cement plant. Their bases are decorated with lanterns, as in China. The workers are Kenyans under the orders of young Chinese engineers.

The English left in 1963, but Kenya does not seem to know what to expect! The steamroller of neo-colonialism is on the way. Many signposts are in English and Chinese, there are Chinese posters everywhere. Like Europe, totalitarian imperialism invades Africa slowly but surely.

From Narok a long asphalt road without interest, the many slopes striving to slow us down.

The driver did not plan to stop for lunch.

Arrival at Nairobi hotel around 15:00.

Lucky informs us that the next day we will leave early because the road to Amboseli is long. Tired of this ritornello we impose our schedule, it will be 07:30. This will give us time to have breakfast.

Best Western Meridian.

Day 11 Saturday 01/09/18 Nairobi - Amboseli - 240 km

Again a straight road. This time with a little less slopes.

We stop at a service station to lubricate the vehicle. We arrived at 15:00 in Nairobi yesterday, he could have done this outside the time reserved for customers.

Stop in a curio shop; a Chinese photographer, Huiping Yu has deposited photo books for free: Build Dream In Africa, an evocative name !

There are some beautiful pictures of Kenya inside, but why this free deposit? Knowing a little Chinese, what is behind this gesture, seemingly disinterested ?

Buses loaded as we only see in Africa pass beyond us: billiards, live sheep hanging on the roof, clusters of live hens hanging in the air, bags, suitcases, sofas occupy the galleries.

At Kimana we have a puncture at the entrance of the city. While Lucky has the tire repaired, we escape to meet people on the side of the road.

This is something we miss terribly in Kenya, this meeting with people. Apart from Caroline, who offers a homestay in the village of her parents, and John in 1995, no driver offers to stop in a village or on a small market.

When we observe particular cultures, they never propose to stop to meet the farmers and talk about what they produce. Impression that they are taxis that go from reserves to reserves to go on safaris.

We meet Jabidha, surprised and happy to talk with strangers. She speaks English quite well. She has a small business as there are thousands on the side of the road. She sells some onions, a few tomatoes, a little garlic, which she buys from peasants and sells for a small profit. On the shelves inside some bottles that seem to have been there for a very long time. With tears in her eyes, she tells us how hard life is. The competition is such that she sometimes stays several days without customers. Fortunately her husband is a teacher, it gives them a certain stability: she has four children including a son who goes to university.

All the people of the neighborhood live in wooden huts, earthen huts, sheet metal, identical to those we have seen in the north. They cook outside on a wood fire or charcoal grill. This year we have been particularly marked by the misery we encounter along the roads. Kenya seems increasingly poor.

Mr Lucky calls us, we have to leave.

Arrival at Kibo Sagari Camp 12:37. Despite the lubticate stop and Kimana stop. What was the interest of leaving earlier ? His break time will be longer !

In front of the hotel lot of young girls in uniform waitting. Kibo's manager welcomes us "hello my friend". As he sees that I am carrying my luggage, he tells me to let the girls do, "women are made for that" says he! Wow, what a macho!

  1. Puce Lunch on the Kibo's terrace. Some waiters also tell us "hello my friend", yet we did not keep the wildebeest together ...

  2. Puce Game Drive in Amboseli from 15:30 to 18:00.

First a game reserve in the 1940s, it was not until 1974 that Amboseli became a national park. A long conflict has opposed for decades the government to the Masai settled in the region. First expelled, they finally reached a compromise with the state, which granted them land, which allowed the creation of the park.

The park takes its celebrity from the view of the savannah with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop: it is the most famous image of Kenya. Ernest Hemingway was inspired to write The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

The park consists of Lake Amboseli, which covers more than a quarter of the park, which was dry most of the time (out of the rainy season) and which as in Nakuru disfigures the reserve since the water level rose.

In the middle of a savannah of bushes and acacias, green and marshy spaces appear in several places.

On an area of less than 400 km², Amboseli is supposed to offer a variety of wildlife: buffaloes, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, antelopes, hippos, warthogs, a thousand elephants. Predators are lions whose number has dropped sharply, some cheetahs, hyenas, hippopotamuses.

We saw Amboseli in 1983, 1990, 1995 and even in 2012, we have never seen so few animals, and the little we see are far, far away without being able to approach them.

We have memories of lions, rhinos, hyenas, cheetahs in the savannah, lot of elephants and buffaloes in the swamps, many waders, herds of wildebeest crossing the lake as if they were walking on the water. Nothing of all that. Here again, as in Nakuru, the rise of the waters has disfigured the park.

Even fabulous lodges have been deserted and displaced because encircled by the waters, abandoning their ghost to the ambient gloom.

As usual, Lucky stays on the main track, circling Observation Hill to return to the main track to the exit door.

He explains this by the fact that the majority of the tracks are inaccessible because of the rising waters. But there are a lot of side tracks that we have not taken and where we have seen vehicles venture.

With James Mutambu working for Caroline in 2012, we had already been surprised by the lack of visible animals in the park, but there were still many more than this year and in better approach conditions. What to think? Rise of waters, or incompetence of Mr. Lucky?

Nadia asks why we are always alone on the tracks, why other tourists are always on other tracks. Mr Lucky says it's because he does not like following others. He prefers to be alone!

A few minutes later a group of vehicles is stopped. Lucky joins them and tells Nadia very aggressively "and now what do you have to say?" A group of lionesses, lying far away, without the possibility of distinguishing clearly. We no longer support his latent aggression. Mr. optimist starts with a quarter turn. As soon as someone tells him something that does not go his way, his "commercial" good mood gets out of hand.

The driver informs us that we must leave early and that we will only be able to do a small game drive the next morning because the road to Taita Hills is long.

Kibo Safari Camp, still a good idea to have asked for this hotel instead of Sentrim Amboseli. For the same price, the standing is much higher; the tents are incomparable, the restaurant is incomparable, only missing the view on Kilimanjaro. But what comfort! 5 minutes from the entrance to the reserve.

Day 12 Sunday 02/09/18 Amboseli - Tsavo - Taita Hills - 230 km 

  1. Puce Early morning game drive to Amboseli, with our luggage. We again asked the hotel if people saw animals in Amboseli. The answers are mixed, but we are assured that most tracks are reopened (they were closed in January). We talk to Lucky who asks a ranger from the front door to come explain. There are several tracks that are under water, but we will see lots of animals, he will tell the driver where they are and where to go. Liar !

Hyenas and some elephants, zebras, wildebeest, some buffaloes. He stops in front of each animal. We are not paying attention anymore. The weather is cloudy, we do not distinguish Kilimanjaro. We are tired and happy to go back home tomorrow.

We can understand that tourists who make a stay in Mombassa, enjoy with 10 elephants at 800 meters or better when they cross the central track, when they see the first zebra or buffalo on the low side. But we don't need to go to Kenya, we can do the same thing in Thoiry in the suburbs of Paris.

Very bad track from Amboseli to Tativa. Too bad we are in a hurry, this track crosses nice villages of a beautiful authenticity, very different from the villages encountered until then.

Between Kimana and Oloitokitok, the trail is lined with fields of white or yellow flowers that look like thistles. The driver says it's pyrethrum, I do not think so, pyethra looks like daisies and has no thorns. As there are many fields, the plants are well aligned and women are picking the flowers, we would try to find out which plantations they are. The good drivers we know, would have stopped and would have asked.

From Taveta good road to Taita Hills. Many fields of sisal and cotton. It's raining at times.

Taita Hills is a mountain range (2205 m) located in the middle of the desert plains of Tsavo. These mountains were the refuge of many ethnic groups who massacred themselves regularly. It is today a very populated and intensively cultivated area. The nice city of Wundanyi, nestled at the foot of imposing cliffs, is the capital. Starting point for many hikes in the hills. At the foot of the massif, on the road from Taveta to Voi, is the sanctuary of Taita Hills.

We arrive at Taita Hill at 11:49. Cold Welcome at the Taita Hill Game Lodge which serves as reception for the Salt Lick Lodge. The feeling of being in an airport is so big, cold, impersonal, despite the huge fireplace in the living room. The reception desk looks like a check-in desk.

  1. Puce Buffet meal ok. We then join the Salt Lick Lodge, take possession of the room.

While waiting for the game drive of the afternoon, we see the arrival of herds of elephants who come to drink in the tank of the hotel, but also in the basins at the feet of the hotel at 3 meters from lounge chairs. Head to head impressive with pachyderms and their babies always inclined to make clowns.

The magic of the place is that it's nice to sit down and get caught up in what's going on, and there's always something going on.

Whether it's the living room on the ground floor, the dining room on the first floor, the bar on the second floor, tunnel on the ground floor, or the bedroom, all you have to do is be a spectator attentive.

A safari without moving. Awesome.

We are witnessing hierarchical struggles between different clans, between different species for access to water. From elephants to zebras, warthogs, Kob de Fassa, and sometimes to lions, the bush is a show.

  1. Puce Game drive in the afternoon in Taita Hills

First stop, on a track to the left when leaving the hotel is a tree where are nestled different birds that James had made us discover: Superb starling (Superb Starling), red billed buffalo weaver, kalao (red billed hornbill). If we took a little bread with us, they do not delay coming into the vehicle to eat in the hand. Other common birds fly bush bush around the vehicle, but never approaching: the long tail tax (black and white), and lilac brested roller (blue and pink).

Masai Giraffes, many buffaloes, zebras and elephants with red skin because of laterite. We can see Lumo Hill where we had stayed last time, and notice that the tracks we are taking are the same as the ones we had traveled in 2012. Would the lumo and Taita Hills reserves be the same ?

We attend the meal of a lioness who has just killed a hartebeest. It seems that she was alone for the attack and that the hartebest was defended: the lioness is cut at the top of the right paw. A big open wound that does not seem to afflict her.

Very nice track facing Leopard Rock, we go around hoping to be luckier than last time.In Vain.

Unlike our impression of 2012 this parklooks more pleasant. The landscapes, the contrast of the green jade of some places with the red of the laterite and the walleye of the savannah dry grass of the plain is a feast for the eyes. Last giraffes at the edge of a small green and humid valley, last elephant powdered with red.

The driver informs us that we will have to leave early without having breakfast the next day. We will do a quick early game drive with our luggage and leave directly for Nairobi airport.

We must beat the airport between 16h and 17h. Leaving at 9:00, there is seven hours of road we should be there for 16h. It is the Nairobi Mombassa road, there are not too many slopes. He insists he must leave earlier because he is afraid of traffic jam at the entrance to Nairobi. The airport is well before Nairobi.

He keeps the departure at 6:30, which makes us skip breakfast again.

Sarova Salt Lick Lodge, a little crazy. A little more expensive than others, this hotel is a must see and live at least once in a lifetime. Between heaven and earth, wherever you are, wildlife offers surprises.

Day 13 Monday 03/08/18 Tsavo - Taita Hills - Nairobi - 370 km

We inform the driver that we will not do a small early game drive quickly, we will have breakfast as scheduled at 07:30 (knowing that he will not stop for lunch en route). We will leave at 08:30 directly to the airport.

Since 07:00am hundreds of buffalos arrive in single file to drink in the hotel's tanks. In a cloud of dust crossed by the raging light of the sun, they seem to arrive from the horizon, as if all the buffaloes of Kenya had made an appointment this morning. As soon as they have watered, they leave in single file, leaving for those who arrive, without stopping. Impressive.

Road to Nairobi. We discover that the driver had an appointment with his wife at a petrol station to give her a package before she takes the bus back home. This may explain his initial requirements !

On the way stop in a place of Tsavo called "man-eaters area": this is where two lions devoured many Indian coolies who worked on the construction of the Kenya-Unganda railway between March and December 1898.

The story has been around the world. Stuffed lions are displayed in a Chicago museum. This tragedy culminated in a film based on Lieutenant Patterson's diary that ran operations: Shadow and Prey - 1996. (The Ghost and the Darkness). Workers of the new Chinese railway have been attacked in recent years by lions eating men.

No lunch stop.

Arrival at the airport at 15:15. We would have had plenty of time to do a game drive in Taita Hills after breakfast at 7.30am. It would have been feasible with another driver! Bye bye Mr Early-Later... Never.


rewiew- advices
swahili glossary
hotels : pictures & rewiews

Early morning, Longue road, Later may be never....

August 22 - September 04 - 2012