07 June 2009

On safari - Tsavo West and Amboseli National Parks

The reason why we ended up in Voi was to meet with our safari guide/driver who was coming in the opposite direction from the beach resort of Diani. We had booked a 3 day / 2 night safari to the Tsavo West and Amboseli National Parks with a company called Kenyan Adventures.

After an hours driving from Voi we reached the gates of Tsavo West and made our way through the park to our lodge, the Kilaguni Serena Lodge. After the hell that was the Vision Guest House in Voi it felt like we had died and gone to heaven. The accommodation and it's location were absolutly stunning, built around a watering hole with a view of the Chyulu Hills and Mt Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

The lodge dining room was a huge open sided affair that faced directly onto the watering hole. Sitting down to eat was like being in front of the worlds biggest widescreen TV that was stuck on the Discovery Channel. It was quite hard to concentrate on your food what with all the animal activity outside.

The game drives into Tsavo West were also spectacular. Even without the animals the landscapes were really dramatic, sweeping savanna peppered with volcanic hills and massive lava flows.

We saw some stunning wildlife including elephants, giraffe, zebra, hippos, hyrax, warthog, buffalo, baboon and more types of antelope than you could shake a Masai stick at.

We were also incredibly lucky to see a black (hook-lipped) rhinoceros. Our guide hadn't seen one in the park for years, since they moved the parks last 49 rhinos to the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Unfortunately we only got photos of its bum!

We also visited the Mzima Springs which produces 93 million gallons of water a day and is the main source of fresh water for the city of Mombasa.

The spring looked like a beautiful spot for a cooling dip but unfortunately the crystal clear waters were out of bounds as they were teeming with hippos and crocodiles.

We had to be escorted by a guide armed with a rifle just in care any of the local wildlife got too friendly.

The following day we made our way from Tsavo West out to Amboseli, stopping by the Shetani lava flow on the way.

Unlike Tsavo, Amboseli is fairly barren and mainly consists of flat plains and swamp land. This makes spotting the wildlife a lot easier but means that the scenery is not as spectacular. The other big disadvantage is the wind and dust storms that sweep across the plains mean that you spend most of the evening picking mounds of sand out of your orifices.

Thanks to the lack of vegetation we were able to see some of the larger predators that weren't visible in Tsavo, including; spotted hyena, cheetah and a very close encounter with a lion.

Liz also got to live out her Torquay / Fawlty Towers / Basil Fawlty fantasy and see the "herds of wilderbeest sweeping majestically across the plains".

You definately could't see that view from a Torquay hotel bedroom window.

Although not quite as swanky as at Tsavo, the Amboseli Serena Lodge was still far plusher than our usual standard of accommodation and again provided more wildlife encounters. We were quite suprised to find a stampede of hundreds of startled zebra and wildebeest charging through the lodge garden when we returned from our afternoon safari at sundown.

The lodge gardens were also home to a troupe of vervet monkeys, of which the male of the species has bright blue testicles!

We also saw a rather scary looking giant beetle that was about three inches long, trumping the one that we saw on Gili Trawangan.

In the evening the hotel also put on some entertainment, what one of the waiters referred to as the "Masai disco". Que lots of shouting, jumping and beating of sticks from the local tribe of Masai warriors.

We had an amazing time on our safari and it more than made up for the difficulties of our first few days in Africa. Driving through the savanna, watching the wildlife from our open top Landcruiser was certainly a fantastic experience.

However; we thought it was all going to go wrong at the very end of the trip. We were making our way to Diani Beach in the safari truck when the driver pulled in for lunch at the very same restaurant in Voi where we had our strange dinner earlier in the week. We feared another 2 hour wait for some inedible mutant food. Thankfully they had a buffet on so there was no waiting and you could see how odd the food was before you ordered.

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