Being a world traveller with a penchant for the unusual-Africa has always been on the list. And Kenya lived to every bit of my expectations when I was there sometime back.
I was lucky enough to see a cheetah hunting down his prey, kiss a giraffe :-p, have a giraffe gate crash (if that’s the right word) my bedroom 😀 enter a cheetah cage with 3 cheetahs in it (yes, it’s true and I have pictures to prove it too :-)) and I also managed to see the annual migration of the Wilderbeest which included seeing them cross a crocodile filled river. All in all, I came back with memories of a lifetime and so I have lots to write about Kenya.
I have so much to say about Kenya but am going to try and compress all my experiences there into “10 Must Dos in Kenya” list-so here goes…
1) Catch the Annual Migration of The Wilderbeest-
Also called the “greatest natural show on earth” it’s a must experience…During the migration, about 1.5 million wildebeest along with about half million zebra, gazelle and eland cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya every year. The lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and of course the crocodiles await this annual migration with eagerness. Around 250,000 wildebeest do not make it across. The migration and the crossing has no fixed pattern so when we went on a 2 week vacation to Kenya-we knew, it was largely dependant on our luck as of whether we would get to see the actual crossing.
Our very first day in Kenya, we set off in the wee hours with our personal guide and driver and lay in wait for the wildebeest hoping to see them cross the Mara River. Our guide warned us that the wildebeest are unpredictable and follow no particular pattern so we may or may not see the actual crossing. He also dishearteningly told us about an Australian tourist who was back to the Masai Mara for the 6th time in a row hoping to see the wildebeest crossing. So it was with faint hope that us (along with around 10 other tourist vehicles) lay in wait for the wildebeest to cross. In front of us was the gruesome sight of a river with satiated crocodiles and quite a few carcasses of dead wildebeest. Some of the tourists who got over enthusiastic and tried to open the windows were warned of 2 lionesses and a lion in the hedge nearby-less than ten feet away. We hadn’t even seen them till the guide pointed them out. They were playing with a freshly killed wildebeest from last night.
To cut a long story short, the wildebeest herd came to the edge of the river many times-they would move around as if in search of the perfect spot and then move back. After doing this for most of the day and when we had finally given up hope, they suddenly jumped enmasse into the river. The crocodiles-which had been floating around like logs suddenly got active. There was a mad rush by the wildebeest who swam across and then climbed out on to the rocks on the other side. We had our hearts in our mouth as they made innumerable attempts to climb out and kept slipping back into the river-obviously since their hoofs are not made for scaling steep surfaces. Our batch of wildebeest (if one can call them that) were lucky-all of them including the calves made it across. We did see the heart breaking sight of one particular wilderbeest who was with this group the whole afternoon but didn’t finally jump in the water with the rest. He couldn’t have made it across the river anyway since he had a broken leg. The guide told us that he had been trying to cross with various different groups for the past 3 days but hadn’t been able to make it cross each time. He also said he would never last the season because he would be an easy kill for predators…:-(Sigh…….! Talk about an extreme crash course in the harsh realities of nature..)
2) Stay at the Giraffe Manor- it’s a beautiful manor which can accommodate only 25 people at a time in luxurious comfort and it’s sold out a year in advance. The guests are only temporary-it’s permanent residents are the herd of giraffe that inhabit the place. They frequently poked their heads through the window, constantly expected a treat and as you can see I kissed a giraffe 🙂 Of course only later I was told that giraffes also head butt-luckily that didn’t happen to me and I lived to tell that tale. 🙂
2) Serena Mountain Lodge- it’s an absolutely beautiful and romantic tree lodge built around a natural watering hole. There is 24 hour animal traffic through the day with peak traffic hours (:-)) during 10pm and 5am in the morning. At dinner time you are given a chart to fill which asks you to list which animals you would like to be woken up to see, in case they pay a night time visit to the watering hole that is. We saw the black rhino and the extremely rare white rhino visit the watering hole as well as quite a few elephants.
3) Cross the Equator- 🙂 pretty self explanatory 🙂 after all how many times in your life does one get to do that?
4) Visit a Traditional Masai Village- and interact with the locals. It was most informative and they showed us all kinds of things including how to make fire from two twigs. Also they told us the coming of age ritual of a man in their tribe includes hunting a fully grown lion. (Gulp!) The Masai warriors also showed us their traditional war dance and showed us how they decide who leads the charge (apparently the one who can jump the highest, gets to lead the charge). Though I miost admit that the conversation with them hit a dead end when they told us their favourite snack is cow blood mixed with milk and we told them that we come from the country where we worship cows :-p
The list continues into next week to finish off my Top 10 🙂