SWEETWATERS FINALE

SAFARI BLOG 09

Monday July 7, 2014

blog9-13

Well, it’s all over. We’re 39,000 feet above the blue Tasman Sea, speeding towards home aboard a big Emirates A380 Airbus. New Zealand is just a couple of hours away, and Africa lies a long way behind us, on the other side of the world. Our final few days went by far too quickly, and our wild, wonderful safari already seems like a dream.

Did we really do all that stuff, go to all those places, see all those animals? Pinch me please …

We enjoyed our last safari game-drive in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 90,000-acre wildlife reserve situated between the foothills of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya – and our last night under canvas at the luxury Sweetwaters Tented Camp. It overlooks a popular waterhole, and we had the pleasure of watching families of elephants and other species coming and going, drinking and bathing, foraging and arguing just across the ditch from us. Then, in big beds warmed by hot-water-bottles, we drifted off to sleep for one final time, listening to the symphony of the African night.

Ahh, yes …

Next day, we bid a reluctant “Kwaheri!” (goodbye) to Kenya’s amazing wildlife, and followed the main road south to bursting-at-the-seams Nairobi for lunch-with-a-difference: a ‘beast of a feast’ at Carnivores Restaurant, where every type of meat imaginable (including crocodile, ostrich, and camel) was roasted over charcoal and carved at our tables!

That’s appropriate, don’t you reckon? The animals hadn’t eaten us, so we now get to eat them …

The following afternoon saw us checking-in at Nairobi’s airport … then flying (four-and-a-half hours) to Dubai where we grabbed an air-conditioned night’s rest … before venturing out the next day for one extra highlight in the 43-degree heat. Belted-up in a fleet of four-wheel-drive Toyotas, we motored out into the surrounding desert, where we romped up and down the endless orange sand-dunes – before stopping at a mocked-up Bedouin Camp for some camel-riding and a Sundowner BBQ in the still-warm Arabian night. From there we headed back into the city to the world’s most-visited mall and a nearly-midnight ride to the top of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa

Which just about says it all …

Our MAD MIDLIFE SAFARI has come to an end. We’ve had a wild, once-in-a-lifetime experience, plus we’ve made some great friends – and we’ve got stories and memories and photos to prove it!

PEOPLE NEWS

It’s never too late to win a Midlife Madness yellow duck … and several more have quacked their way into eager waiting hands:

  • Trevor earned himself our ‘Dental Disaster’ Award … when he sneezed in the shower, blew out his bottom teeth, and broken them in two on the tiled floor. Fortunately, his ever-resourceful wife had packed a tube of superglue, so Trevor was soon back in action, chomping his way happily through more hearty meals.
  • Henry carried off our ‘Sex-Change’ Award … for coming down to breakfast wearing Anne’s pink nametag.
  • And Bruce is going home with our ‘Customs Confusion’ Award … for leaving his precious camera in one of those plastic trays at Nairobi Airport’s security x-ray machine. Fortunately, a panicked run back through the plane soon reunited the two.

COMING UP

You’re no doubt wondering: ARE WE GONNA DO ANOTHER SAFARI? And the answer is, YES, YOU BET! We’ve GOT to! And if YOU would like to come with us, please contact Roger Glynan (our booking agent) and ask him to pencil you in. The date has yet to be set – but if enough people are interested, it could be sooner rather than later. Phone 0800 277 477 – or email roger.glynan@lionworld.co.nz.

Over and out – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And if you want to receive future blogs hot-off-the-press in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!

RIFT VALLEY LAKES …

SAFARI BLOG 08

Sunday June 28, 2014blog8-43

It’s impossible to exaggerate the endless smorgasbord of wildlife we’ve tasted every day on this safari – some of it in the far distance, some of it amazingly close, some of it watching us shyly from the acacia-clad slopes, some of it sunbathing on riverbanks or lolling in pools and mud-holes, some of it flitting from branch to treetop, and some of it (lots of it, actually) grazing on the grassy savannahs that stretch beyond the horizon. And we’re often (no kidding) unsure which way to turn, where next to look, what to aim our cameras at.

I’ve reported already on the stunning Masai Mara – but there was far more that I had to leave out. And we’ve since added two more days on the floor of the great Rift Valley, enjoying the astonishing birdlife (amongst others things) of Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. I wish I had time to tell you about the banded mongoose family, scurrying along to who-knows-where. The oh-so-cute elephant babies with their tiny learner-trunks, toddling along beside their ever-protective mothers and aunts. The handsome male lions we caught resting up in a shady decline. The trio of mud-smothered hippo-giants we disturbed on one bend in the road – and the others, looking pink and scrubbed clean, that we gave a wide berth too during our boat-ride out on the lake. The elegant ‘tower’ of giraffes that stood to attention as we parked-up and studied them … the big bull giraffe that wandered the lawn near our lodge-units … the curious youngster that played hide-and-seek with us in the tall fever-trees … and the elegant family that marched across the far horizon like a row of construction-cranes. The stately water-buck with its curved spiral horns that allowed us to walk so near. The lion-cubs we spied, playing tag on a dirt-pile while their mums rested-up before the evening hunt. The eye-catching Colobus monkeys, black with long white tassels, that were stealing goodies from a bird-feeder. The leopard we lucked-upon, dragging a young  bush-buck through the long grass, then stopping to fix us with a cold, green stare – plus the second leopard that appeared right out in the open, just an hour later, en route (most likely) to his favourite tree. The pair of prehistoric rhinos we saw, almost out of range, grazing unconcerned at the lake’s edge.

And don’t get me started on the birds

These shallow, alkaline Rift Valley lakes, lying some 1880 metres above sea level, are a bird-watchers’ paradise – and we just couldn’t get enough: cormorants (feed their chicks), pelicans, herons, king-fishers, spoonbills, and water-birds of every description in the wetlands … and colourful starlings, bigger spurfowls, tiny bee-eaters, weavers, mousebirds, and other even more exotically-named beauties of the most gorgeous shades and hues (like the purple grenadier, and the red-cheeked cordon bleu) – never still for more than a second as they foraged busily on the ground and in the branches.

Fuchsia-pink flamingos were traditionally here in their squillions, feasting and frolicking in the nutrient-rich waters. But, due to rising water-levels in recent years, they’re now doing their feasting and frolicking elsewhere – which meant we missed out on that natural wonder. But for the rest? Well, our cameras were running hot, so I’ll let the pix tell the story.

PEOPLE NEWS

Our esteemed little yellow ducky awards have been handed out at a quacking pace recently:

  • Robbie walked away with our ‘Arrested & Thrown In Jail’ Award … for blissfully photographing the armed security guards at the border the other day, and receiving a stern and grumpy warning for his trouble.
  • Donald received our ‘Don’t Faucet’ Award … for an embarrassing episode in a lodge bathroom. When he turned on the shower, the entire tap-fitting came out in his hands, causing water to gush everywhere and Donald to attempt a DIY-rescue.
  • Margaret T won our ‘Failing To Pull The Plug’ Award … for forgetting to remove her and her room-mate’s power-adapters from their rooms in lodge after lodge, leaving these essential little gadgets all over Africa.
  • Finlay took away our ‘Last Of The Big Spenders’ Award … for mistakenly tipping a porter US$200 when the man assisted him and his wife with their bags. (Fortunately, Finlay managed to eat some humble pie and retrieve the big bucks!)
  • Julie received our ‘Panic Attack’ Award … for temporarily losing the little bag that held the vital keys to their big bags. Julie was seen running a frantic sub-four-minute mile around the grounds of our lodge, trying to track it down.

TOMORROW

Our final game-drive (plus another night under canvas) awaits us at the Sweetwaters Tented Camp. Don’t miss this, whatever you do …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And if you want to receive future blogs hot-off-the-press in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!

MASAI MARA HIGHLIGHTS …

SAFARI BLOG 07

Thursday June 26, 2014

blog7-05 Masai Mara

HIGHLIGHT #1: Imagine lifting off, very early morning, in a huge hot-air balloon … rising slowly above Kenya’s famous Masai Mara Regional Park. Imagine floating gently in the wind-currents, one minute skimming the treetops, next minute soaring above the endless grasslands … the only sound the occasional roar of the gas burners. Imagine playing spot-the-animals from your high-up vantage point … while dawn slowly lights up the sky and a big orange sun creeps over the far horizon.

Well, guess what? We didn’t imagine it – we DID IT (well, most of us did) this morning!

We were awoken at 4:00am and delivered to the launch site while it was still dark. The big balloons (two of them) were slowly inflated. Then, when they were more-of-less upright, we climbed into the big baskets ­– which were lying on their sides. Gas flames and heat gushed into the vast space above our heads, and before we knew it we were upright … and then airborne!

I could write at length about what was a totally fabulous experience – the finish being a champagne breakfast out in the open African plains. But I’ll let the photos speak for themselves … and your friends can give you the riveting details when they’re home.

HIGHLIGHT #2: This afternoon, for something a little different, we found ourselves in a traditional Masai Village (or kraal), where we were given an introduction to this colourful ancient nomadic culture. We were shown how they make fire … how the menfolk prove their worth by jumping up and down (a favourite, if unusual, sport amongst youthful Masai males) … and how the womenfolk perform their traditional singing and dancing. We were also encouraged to poke our heads inside their humble mud-and-cow-dung huts.

Then, having spent some Kenyan shillings on their home-made crafts and necklaces, we wandered up the road to the village school, where a crowd of cute, happy kids welcomed us, sang for us, and showed us their schoolbooks. When some of our group handed out little gifts and goodies, the grins on those little faces just got bigger and bigger.

HIGHLIGHT #3: The world-renowned Masai Mara (and its much-bigger sister, the Serengeti, which we farewelled yesterday at the Tanzanian border) are both centre-stage for the most dramatic wildlife show on earth: the legendary migration of vast herds of wildebeest and zebras (up to 3.5 million animals on the move at the same time, according to some estimates). We were a bit early for the vast herds (they were still warming up back in the Serengeti) … but yesterday we watched in awe as considerable numbers of first-arrivals braved the fast-flowing Mara River and its residents, waiting crocodiles, and scrambled frantically up the opposite banks.

Then, today, one lucky truckload of Mad Midlife Kiwis got to see them at it again, in even greater numbers, and witnessed one unlucky wildebeest get caught and dragged under by a giant croc. An incredible sighting, for sure, and one our friends are still talking about.

Life is tough out here on the wild game-parks of Africa, and death is an ever-present reality. But there’s a natural rhythm and balance to this place that becomes more remarkable the longer you’re here.

PEOPLE NEWS

Our hotly sought-after quacky yellow ducks have been flying out recently, so forgive me while I attempt a catch-up:

  • Heather received our ‘Lost & Found & Lost Again’ Award … following a not-so-good day when she (i) lost her purse (including her cash and credit-cards), (ii) then found it again, then (iii) accidently wiped all her photos. Bummer!
  • Barb received our ‘Little Too Close For Comfort’ Award … for dropping her expensive sunglasses over the side of the open-topped 4WD she was in – almost right on top of a snoozing lion! (No kidding!) Barb decided not to attempt a rescue, and the lion was last seen wandering off with Barb’s sunglasses on its head. (Just kidding!)
  • Hillary received our ‘Inside-Out-&-Upside-Down’ Award … for putting her shirt on inside-out and upside-down the other morning when she got dressed in the dark. (Well, it was early – and she didn’t want to disturb her sleeping husband!)
  • Jan received our ‘Putting Her Foot In It’ Award … for stepping right in the middle of a big juicy stinky black cow-pat today at the Masai Village. (We made Jan walk home!)
  • Margaret C received our ‘Pest Control’ Award … when she was spotted peering intently down the front of her shirt. When asked what she was doing, Margaret explained that she was looking for a rogue “titsee fly” (her exact words – and she was serious) that had somehow got down there.
  • Cliff received our ‘C Stands For Cold’ Award … for turning on the wrong tap before taking a shower yesterday, standing around naked for at least four hours wondering why the water wouldn’t warm up, He even left it running while he nipped down the road and did some shopping. (Just kidding. Or did you guess?)

 

TOMORROW

We’re off to visit two bird-watchers’ lakes in the Great Rift Valley and get up-close-and-personal with their gorgeous feathery inhabitants. This show ain’t over yet, folks, so don’t go away …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And if you want to receive future blogs hot-off-the-press in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!