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Kenya and Tanzania
by Rishit Badani
English literature isn't strong enough to define the beauty of Africa. The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it. It's one of those things that perfectly exemplify the line 'You won't know it until you see it'. Every turn of your Rover would lead to something totally new… right from the jungles and sand dunes, snow clad peaks and desolate plains, to the famous 5 of Africa. On having landed in Nairobi from Mumbai at 8:30 am, we headed straight to Arusha which was a 5 hour shuttle ride. We stayed at the Impala Hotel out here and with not much to do; the rest of the day was spent looking out for exquisite artifacts.
The next morning we had our Rover with us with an experienced safari driver behind the wheel and soon after breakfast with packed lunch left for Serengeti National Park. Spanning over 14763 sq km which is as big as Northen Ireland, Serengeti is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in the world. As the herds move to new grazing ground, they are followed by predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals and hunting dogs waiting for weak prey while vultures soar overhead waiting for their share of the kill. Serengeti's low vegetation means that game viewing is relatively easy. It varies from grass plains in the south, Savannah with scattered acacia trees in the center, hilly wooded grassland in the north, to extensive woodland and black clay plains in the west. We had our lunch at the Naabi Hill gate and soon started our afternoon game drive. We came across countless gazelles, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, impalas, jackals and even a few lions and a couple of cheetahs. Was pretty much a good start for us! Later in the evening, we checked in at Serengeti Sopa Lodge. Being situated right in the middle of jungle, it offered an unparalleled view of Mother Nature. For dinner we were served an excellent mixture of Indian and Continental cuisine, which was prepared especially for us. In the middle of the night I was woken up by some sound which ended with me spotting a few hyenas right beneath my balcony.
The next day began at 8 in the morning soon after our breakfast. After an eventful previous day, we couldn't wait to get started. Though having seen numerous animals, the best part of the day was the sighting of the lions on top of a rock. We had our packed lunch right in the middle of the jungle at a spot where we were allowed to get off. Standing in the middle of the never ending glasslands and having our lunch was some experience. Though our search for leopards failed, we had an amazing time experiencing the beautiful landscapes of the region. On our way back to the hotel we also ended up spotting a huge pride of 12-15 lions.
Now it was time for us to bid adieu to Serengeti and proceed further. The next stop was Ngorongoro, visiting the Olduvai Gorge on the way. The Olduvai Gorge which is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley and has been instrumental in furthering understanding of early human evolution. We had our lunch during our halt out there and soon thereafter left for Ngorongoro. After a bumpy ride for a couple of hours, we soon reached Ngorongoro.The jewel in Ngorongoro's crown is the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world - 19.2 km in diameter, 610 m deep and 304 sq km in area. Ngorongoro was an active volcano some eight million years ago whose cone collapsed, leaving the crater. A lake in the middle of the region surrounded by the high mountains truly makes this place one of the best natural wonders of the world. Our game drive took off with the spotting of two cheetahs followed by hundred of flamingos, zebras, warthogs, wild buffaloes etc. The best part of the day's game drive was the spotting of four rhinos which is always difficult to sight in the region. We even spotted hippos, hyenas, lions and a variety of birds. After our game drive, we headed to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.
The next morning, we left the cool and misty Ngorongoro for Amboseli thus, ending our amazing time in Tanzania. Our safaris in Tanzania surpassed all our expectations. I will also cherish the hospitality extended by the people of Tanzania. On our way to Namanga border we took a brief halt at the Cultural Centre in Arusha. Soon we parted ways with our guide cum driver Mr. Steven at the Namanga border. We were all saddened on having to part with him. He was an extremely polite person having tremendous knowledge about wildlife. After a long day's drive at 6 pm we checked in at Amboseli Serena Lodge. We all rested for the rest of the day.
It was now time to experience the lands of Amoboseli. What we experienced out there was entirely different from Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Amboseli National Park is a dry and dusty land. In the morning we spotted a few lions and hyenas along with other herbivorous animals. The evening game drive was absolutely an unforgettable experience. We were fortunate enough to see a pride consisting of 8 lions eating their kill. Other than the sense population of animas, Amboseli is also famous for its breath taking view of Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest peak in Africa and is just 3 degrees below the equator. We decided to call it a day on having spotted two jackals chasing an impala. Later in the night, delicious dinner was served to us with few delicacies cooked specially for us by the ever smiling chef.
Our next stop was Mount Kenya. After having our breakfast, we checked out and drove back to Nairobi where we had our lunch at a local restaurant. At around 2:30 in the afternoon we left for Nairobi for Mount Kenya and reached at 6 in the evening. On our way driving through the Great Rift Valley escarpments we stopped briefly at Nyahururu falls. It was pretty much a tiring day. We checked in at Sarena Mountain Lodge which typically a tree house hotel offered from its rooms a direct view of the natural pond. I caught up on Manchester United's Champions League match against Chelsea in the night along with the staff of the hotel at the servant's quarter. It was one heck of an experience. That's when I actually realized just how wide spread football was across the world. Mount Kenya on a whole was quite disappointing. People can afford to give it a miss as there's nothing much to do out there and you definitely won't find any pleasure as a wildlife enthusiast after having visited the wildlife parks I mentioned above.
After an early check out, we left for Lake Nakura the next morning at 7. It was the worst road trip ever because of the pathetic state of the roads. We reached Lake Nakura around 1:30 in the afternoon and started our game drive at 4 pm. Along with the pelicans that Lake Nakura is known for we also saw a couple of white rhinos brutally fighting against each other which resulted in quite some bloodshed. Countless flamingoes, few extremely healthy lions among other animals ended our day at Lake Nakura.
We checked out from the Sarova hotel and started for Masai Mara. It was another 6 hour bumpy ride. I guess this is the 3rd or the 4th instance where I am cribbing about the roads, but well that's just how it is. Make sure you have good cushions around you to help you sleep well if you are light sleeper. We reached Masai Mara around lunch time and later around 4 pm we started our game drive for the evening. Masai Mara is perhaps the only region left in Kenya where the visitor may see animals in the same super abundance as existed a century ago. After having been done with our evening game drive, we checked in at Sarova Hotel late evening.
The entire next day passed by exploring the park. We got down a couple of places as well with one being the Mara River which happens to be on the path of the Great Migration. With an armed guard we walked around a part of the river and it was truly amazing. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't the period of migration when we visited Masai Mara. Our day went by pretty well as again we spotted various animals. This was our last evening in Africa and we had a perfect end scripted for us as we witnessed a large pride of lions consisting of a few cubs as well. We followed them for an hour and then it was time to head back to the hotel.
It was time for us to proceed to the second leg of our journey which was Egypt. Having our lunch packed for us, we went for our last game drive early morning and soon thereafter left for Nairobi. We were deeply saddened on having to leave this part of Africa. This part of our earth is best left untouched and I hope it continues to stay so by staying away from the lust on turning into a concrete jungle. On having reached Nairobi we headed straight to the airport in the evening and left for land of the Pharaohs. The frames of the stunning beauty of the landscapes was still running inside my head, but at the same time having a keen interest in History right from my school years I was pretty excited to visit the Egypt as well.
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