Thursday, April 19, 2012

Letters from Africa

We just returned from our spring break which consisted of 11 days in Africa. Kenya was our first stop. We were guided by Tin Trunk Safari on what proved to be, as promised, a bespoke safari. Thoughtful, authentic and informative, our guide, Nella set us up with three nights in the Masai Mara and two nights in the north of Kenya, in the middle of a serene and beautiful nowhere. It was unforgettable, as Jorrit's letters will reveal. I am going to post this adventure with accompanying photos using his writings from the bush: 

Hi all,
A quick note from the Masai Mara in Kenya.  After day one, I’ve uploaded 50 or so of the 250+ photos I’ve taken.  It is difficult to describe what we’re seeing here.  We arrived Saturday morning at 6:30 after a nice (8+ hour) flight from Amsterdam.  We immediately transferred to a small 14-person plane and headed for our camp.  From the air, we say our first glimpse of the African landscape (long, green and brown plains, valleys, rivers) and wildlife (zebras, a solitary lion, impala and more).  We then took 4 hours to take the 30 minute drive to camp.  We couldn’t get enough.  We saw warthogs, impala, zebra, elephant, birds, crocs, hippos and more.  It was amazing how close you could get to elephants, for example.  The camp was tucked nicely into the brush and alongside a small river.  We have one of the larger tents with two separate rooms and a central sitting area.  All lights are powered by solar energy and the water for our showers is climate heated.  We arrived around 11am, had some lunch and then took a short power nap (2 hours) before we, again, departed on our game drive at 3:30.  This time we saw cape buffalo, giraffe, ostrich, a lion pride (amazing), the biggest croc you could ever imagine, and more of everything we saw in the morning.  The lions had to be a highlight.  We were able to get to within 5 feet of them (in an open air car…scary).  At one point, one of the lionesses was hunting a small impala that our car had scared towards her and she, also, came within feet of our car – while on a mission.  There were two small cubs that kept us entertained for quite some time.  Then off to a beautiful vista for the sundowner (gin/tonic) before heading home.

This morning we got up at 6 so we could be on the road at 6:30.  We were hoping to catch the Mara in full hunting mode and to catch site of a cheetah. We had already seen all the animals on Carmela’s list and only the cheetah remained on Nico’s list.  We didn’t see either, but we did stumble on to another pride who had just killed a Topi (elk sized impala).  Again, amazing how close we could get.  At around 10am our car passed through some brush to a clearing and we were surprised by a full breakfast picnic organized by the camp (picture attached).  Amazing views of the plains and the river below.  We ate while listening to the sounds of about 30 hippos in the water directly below the bluff where we sat.

Now, we’re back for a rest until 4 when we’ll do it all again.

More soon.

Cape Buffalo, enormous and aggressive.

Biggest croc we saw, and he was huge.

Tons of hippos throughout, loudest animal and most dangerous.

The "sundowner", an afternoon ritual brought by colonialist way back when.

Mathew, our Samburu guide.

A favorite sighting.

These storks were one type of the many, many birds we saw in the Mara.

Babies hanging out near their den.

The Secretary Bird, check out her long legs and short skirt. Hard to see 
her eye make-up but she clearly heard that orange is in this season.

The Roller's beautiful colors.

Our surprise breakfast and the river beyond.

I can't remember the name of this bird, might be the African Grackle, 
but check out his intensely yellow eyes and great tail feathers.

African Crowned Crane.

A little snack. Poor topi.

The family tent, Carmela busy studying her animals.

After dark we could only walk the camp with an escort and 
we would zip up both mosquito net and canvas door.

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