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Val’s Kenyan Experience: Day 1 – Welcome To Kenya

For some it's the idea of combining travelling across Kenya on safari with meeting and helping 'real' Kenyans. Some take part because October is the time when their kids are leaving the nest to go to college or university, and they want something positive to focus on.

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Val’s Kenyan Experience: Day 2 – The Kilaguni Lodge
November 2015

Up early at 5 am for our early morning safari. All is quiet, and a quick coffee and the fresh air from the Chulu Hills wakes us all up.

We head off with Jethro, our driver, who is a real character, – he welcomes us every morning with his ‘Good morning to you’ song.

The first game we spot are impala with their unmistakable antlers, then we come across a herd of zebra crossing (that becomes a well-used joke), dik-dik and giraffe. We stop every now and then to take in the quiet and peaceful landscape, observing the wildlife and to photograph these wonderful creatures.

On returning to the Lodge for breakfast, we find that a herd of zebra has made its way to the watering hole. They are the most nervous of all the game we see, constantly surveying the land, and always making way for other animals. This morning they have good reason to make way, as a herd of around 200 buffalo appear – they put on quite a show right in front of us, and we delay our departure to our next safari to take advantage of this amazing sight. It feels like we’re watching a living painting with the reddy brown soil and the brown buffalo merging into one. But, just like the buffalo we have to move on, and as they emerge from the watering hole and depart, so do we.

This is an impressive and somewhat bleak, black landscape, which you can imagine being the backdrop to a science fiction film

Our first stop is Shetani – meaning devil – an extinct volcano which last erupted 1000 years ago. This is an impressive and somewhat bleak, black landscape, which you can imagine being the backdrop to a science fiction film. Our next stop, Mzima Springs, couldn’t be more different – this is the source of all water feeding Mombasa. The springs are surrounded by a beautiful forest with, among others, a large variety of acacia trees.
Our guide, Robert, leads us through the forest pointing out rhino skeletons and elephant droppings – and many other interesting facts on the wildlife and vegetation. We come to a large pool where we spot the eyes and ears of a pod of hippos. One hippo regards us with what can only be described as animosity, and although few people are now killed by them, they are to be avoided at close quarters. We also spot a crocodile beautifully camouflaged and positioned in a shallow stream, his mouth permanently opened and swallowing any fish that pass.

We are ushered on to a circular dug-out with viewing panels to observe shoals of a variety of fish underwater. It’s the first time I’ve seen fish pooing – and they do a lot of it!

Above water, Kate, the keen bird-watcher in our group observes a pair of pied kingfishers – not as pretty as its colourful cousins, but still impressive.

Our next stop in this action-packed day is Chaimu Hill, composed of black volcanic rock. It’s 1.00 pm and pretty hot, but reassured by the fact that it will only take 20 minutes, some of us decide to make the ascent. It turns out that it does take about 20 minutes, it just feels like more, as it’s pretty steep and the shingle-like surface is constantly moving. But when get to the top, the panoramic view is well worth it; we get 360 degree views, and have some time to take in the sheer immensity of the African plains.

After scrambling down, and feeling that breakfast was a long while away, we drive off to Roaring Rocks – so called because of the sound the wind makes at the summit. The ascent is mainly in the 4x4s, and we only have to walk a short distance before we reach a covered picnic area with stone benches and tables overlooking the plains and the Chyula hills in the distance. During a lovely picnic lunch provided by Kilaguni Lodge, we spot a small herd of elephants moving in the distance, but very little else in the heat of the mid-afternoon.

We head back to the lodge to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing, and for the more energetic, there’s a walking safari on offer. Jane and Harry take advantage of this guided safari, which includes getting very, very close to some buffalo.

Dusk, Kilaguni Lodge

After the previous night’s performance at the watering hole, we are full of anticipation for the evening ‘show’. We grab a drink at the bar and position ourselves on the terrace. First a buffalo herd appears, not as many as in the morning, but still a good number. Some get right into the water, others hold back, then a slow-moving herd of elephant, maybe 20 or so emerge stage-right. We feel sure they will break up the buffalo party, but instead divert away from the watering hole; it looks for all the world like a parting of the ways through the buffalo as they slowly make their way towards the hills. The buffalo are the next to depart, and with the coast clear, some tentative giraffe appear. Only one of them braves a drink of water; the time it takes to position their long legs and necks leaves them vulnerable.

After a delicious dinner the staff suddenly break into a singing and dancing routine to celebrate a guest’s birthday. We all join in the rhythmic dancing (we’re obviously not as rhythmic as the Kenyans however!).

a family of elephant approach just a few feet away – they don’t seem to be disturbed by the lighting

Once everything calms down we re-take our positions on the veranda to watch the night performance. This time a family of elephant approach just a few feet away – they don’t seem to be disturbed by the lighting – to feed on the bushes, tearing them apart with their trunks. The family has just had a new arrival – a baby just one day old. With the elephant busy feeding, and the watering hole empty of guests, the zebra finally get a drink. It’s the first time I’ve been so close to these animals in the wild, and I’m totally awe-struck.

This story is listed in: About Nasio, Fund-raiser stories, Video Diaries, Volunteer Stories

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