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Africa Revisited – Capturing Kenya

Driving away from the Mara after such an inspiring and memorable time here, is not easy. It’s dusty and parched but that’s what makes the Mara what it is in the dry season and easier to find the animals. It’s sad , also, to leave behind the new friends I’ve made at Sarova. But it’s time to start a new adventure.

Dedan and I are embarking on a two week trip highlighting Kenya’s finest spots. It’s thanks again to John at Aramati Safaris for organising and making all the arrangements.

We’re on the very bumpy roads again as we leave the Mara. I look across in the distance and see it disappear from sight and , very soon, the landscape changes. Scraggy trees line the roadside .
We’re heading today in a northerly direction to a place called Naivasha which lies on the shores of a lake. Most of Kenya’s floriculture industry comes from here and , as we drive to my accommodation, there are many hothouses along the roadside. Roses are grown here for export and a large percentage of UK’s cut flowers are imported from here.

I’m staying at the Naivasha Sopa Lodge tonight and , as we drive in the gate, I’m blown away by this place. It’s huge and luxurious. Not what I am expecting. There’s the usual paperwork to be filled in before being escorted to my room. It’s one of the longest walks to a room I’ve ever had but it’s worth it. It’s upstairs with a view out over the grounds. I can see giraffes wandering around and a few waterbuck eating grass. There’s lots of tourists here and some are taking a stroll . I intend doing that a bit later. First things first though….it’s lunch time. I’m walking up the path to the main building and a very large giraffe leaps out of the garden right in front of me. I jump !!!!!!! I can tell you when you are standing directly beneath one of these beasts, they are taller than you can imagine. I make sure to look left and right in future in case something else decides to startle me. After lunch I spend time downloading photos and using the internet. It’s time to get out and go for a walk and take some photos. But, I’ve been so engrossed that I don’t notice the darkness outside. The light is no good for photos and it seems it’s about to rain. In fact when it does fall, it’s an absolute downpour. This is the first time I’ve experienced this in Africa. I’ve been instructed that I’m not to go to dinner on my own and to call reception for a guard. Hippoes frequent the grounds at night time and I’m to be taken to the main building. By the time I get there my shoes are absolutely sopping and my back is drenched. I decide it’s not a good idea to lean against the back of my chair whilst enduring wet clothes. The food is buffet and there’s so much to choose from . It’s delicious. By the time I am taken back to my room , the rain has more or less stopped. I walk out on the balcony and , in the radiance of the grounds lights I can see several sodden waterbuck hunched up together. I can smell the dry earth awakened by the moisture.

Nakuru is our next destination and we leave at 8am. We’re back into game driving again at the National Park. The environment here is very different to the Mara. The late afternoon rains have made everything green. There’s lots of trees and it’s lush in comparison. Here we see the beautiful Rothschild giraffe with it’s distinct pattern. They freely walk through the undergrowth surrounded by lots of zebras. They’re just beautiful.

Rothschild Giraffes of Nakuru

Rothschild Giraffes of Nakuru

Around a corner we see some lions sleeping in a bushy tree. It’s the strangest looking thing as usually lions sleep on the ground. The leaves are obscuring any hope of getting any good photos so Dedan drives around to see if a better angle will help. It doesn’t, and after some time we give up. There’s also some of the pride in the grass below but they’re too lazy and don’t lift their heads.

Following the road along the lake , we make a stop to see some of the bird life. There’s lots of pelicans, cormorants and maribou storks.

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The pelicans are busy cleaning themselves and splashing around in the water, pecking at their feathers and craning their necks. The alkaline/saline lake is also famous for it’s millions  of flamingoes that are attracted here by the algae in the water. This pink mass has been described as the most famous bird spectacle in the world.

Lake Nakuru Flamingoes

Lake Nakuru Flamingoes

We leave the birds behind and head back to the trees. There’s a congress of baboons wandering along the road in front of us so we stop. They aren’t at all concerned with the van being there. One rather large male stops by the open window. He makes a leap towards it most likely smelling the picnic lunch inside. Dedan swiftly discourages him and he drops back to the ground. He’s right in front of me now and eyeballing me. I don’t want to antaganise him so take my photos and look away. There’s babies attached to the underbellies of their mothers and juveniles picking fights with each other. Several couples are sitting on the road grooming each other.

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We’re checking out some white rhino now. We’ve seen two different lots but one group, male, female and baby, are too far away for any signficant photo opportunities so we concentrate on a mother and sub adult. They are grazing very near the road moving from side to side looking for the best grass. I’m hoping they will come right up close…..and they do. I have the oppourtunity to not only get excellent photos but video too. This will be used later in a short film I will put together. Sitting quietly observing aand listening to the muffled snorts as they eat is simply amazing….taking it all in. And being so close…..BRILLIANT !

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It’s a fantastic day of game viewing and it’s time to head to Sunbird Lodge for the night. Driving in to the lodge is unassuming compared to the mind-blowing view from inside the reception. The lodge sits high about Lake Elementaita and the view stretches out across the lake and surrounding hillside. It actually reminds me of Queenstown in NZ and it’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this in Africa. Beautiful.This evening is a bit chilly and it’s welcoming to sit around the fire with my Tequila Sunrise before dinner.

We’re still heading in a northerly direction and it’s on to Lake Baringo. I have chosen to do a boat ride on the lake today as opposed to looking from the land.I’m joined by a driver and a guide. For one hour I am shown along the shoreline at the various birds and waterlife. There are hippoes and crocs ( small and scared of the boat ). We stop to watch the beautiful weaver birds making their nests. Because of the early rains this year, the low lying lodges are underwater. It’s tragic for the business owners as tourists are sent elsewhere to stay. I’m told that a hippo had gone through the door of one of the lodges and had been seen swimming inside.

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There is an African Fish Eagle sitting in a tree quite some distance away. The guide says he will throw a fish into the water then call it. I am to focus my camera on the fish and he will watch the bird and count down for me to take a photo ,moments before it takes it in it’s talons. He whistles loudly and before long begins to count. I can’t see the bird at all as I’m looking through my lens at the fish and have to trust this guy has his counting right. Bang…..the bird swoops in and takes the fish and flies off back to the tree. We repeat once more. Fantastic experience !

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

It’s not long and the guide is hitting me up for money for his local school. Again because of the rains , the children can’t go to school plus they need food. I’m not at all comfortable by being propositioned like this when I am stuck on a lake in a boat and feel somewhat cornered. However, I listen to his story and he does give me a choice so I oblige with a small amount which he is forever grateful for. I can only assume the money goes where it is intended.And he does give me a receipt and all his contact details.

A short drive to Bogoria Resort for lunch followed by a game drive around another lake. Lake Bogoria also has masses of pink flamingoes. I’m allowed to get out of the van this time and walk ever so slowly towards the birds. They are skittery and take to flight . No sooner have they lifted their wings, they are literally walking on water before lift-off. The pink colour is just beautiful as they congregate in their hundreds. Flamingoes have been a favourite of mine since a very early age.

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Lake Bogoria is also alkaline/saline and contains the highest concentration of true geysers in Africa. As we move away from the flamingoes, we come to a flat piece by the lake with hot springs. There is water bubbling and steam wafting into the air. Just like NZ’s Rotorua only on a smaller scale.

Bubbles and steam rise from Lake Bogoria

Bubbles and steam rise from Lake Bogoria

We go away from the water and inland to see impala, kudus and lots of dikdiks on the roadside before leaving the park.

We leave at 7.15 en route to Samburu. It’s a long and bumpy drive again. Along the way we stop to repair a flat tyre. It’s actually amazing that this is the only one we’ve had considering the state of some of the roads. While repairs are being done, I am joined at my window by two locals and we have the most entertaining conversation with lots of laughs with one teasing the other about his night time jaunts. I get a bit of an understanding from these two about African relationships…enlightening to say the least !!

Continuing on we hit a very heavy patch of rain. Another first for me…..driving in the rains of Africa. But lucky it doesn’t last long. While Dedan makes a quick stop, again there is someone at my window using every opportunity. A woman is trying to sell me bananas. On this occasion I happily oblige and she goes off with a big smile.

By the time we reach Samburu National Reserve it is very dry and dusty. Here it is only a few kilometres north of the equator. It’s now 3pm and staff are waiting to give me a late lunch. It’s standard that afternoon game drives take place at 4pm and Dedan waits for me. I say NO game drive, he has been driving already today for 8 hours and needs to rest. I take an early shower and head to the restaurant area where there is a waterhole only a few metres away. A cold wine goes down well as I sit and wait for the nocturnal activity.

7am and we’re off to find animals. By 11am it’s stinking hot and the air is dry. The earth here has a distinct red tinge.

It’s my first sighting of the Grevy’s zebra. It is the largest and most endangered species of zebra. One characteristic of them that is unique is the lack of stripes on the belly and around the base of the tail. They are only found in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Grevy's Zebra

Grevy’s Zebra

Yet another different animal for me is the gerenuk….the long -necked species of antelope. They seldom eat grass , instead prefering to eat prickly bushes and trees. They do this by standing on their hind legs…..a very strange sight. They do not appear to drink water, getting what they need from the plants they eat. This makes them adaptable to dry conditions such as Samburu.

Gerenuk

Gerenuk

Continuing with different species we see a blue -legged Somali ostrich.This blue tone is seen on the neck, flanks and legs and becomes brighter in breeding season.

Somali Ostrich

Somali Ostrich

The Vulturine Guinea fowl is another new finding for me. With it’s cobalt blue plummage , it makes a striking sight. They have heads similar to a vulture but are not even closely related.Samburu is a particularly good place to see these birds.

Vulturine Guinea Fowl

Vulturine Guinea Fowl

The species of giraffe found in this part is the reticulated or Somali giraffe.Their polygonal spots are outlined by distinct, white lines. We see lots of them wandering through the bushes near the river.

Reticulated giraffes of Samburu

Reticulated giraffes of Samburu

It’s been a very interesting morning game drive….different to other parts of Africa. It’s back to the lodge again now though. The power is off during the day here so there’s nothing to do but rest. Having been travelling virtually non stop for over two months, it isn’t that easy to just sit and do nothing. It rains during the afternoon game drive and the top has to come down in the van. As with other afternoon rains, it doesn’t last long but is heavy when it does . This turns the earth to mush and driving becomes slippery. Especially when there are other vehicles driving over the same tracks. And that’s because we are following some lions around low bushes. It’s a guessing game where they will come out so it is necessary to watch the peoples’ reactions in other vehicles to establish this. A couple of elephants trumpet there awareness of these lions and they make for a nearby hill where we reluctantly leave them for the day.

The following day we acquire another flat tyre. There’s a brief stop at the equator while Dedan attends to that issue. I’m taken to stand at a specific point and shown a demonstration using water as an indicator of the equator line. At this point the water flows directly out of the container. Yet walking away  a few metres in one direction it flows out clockwise and a few metres across the equator line in the opposite direction, it flows anti-clockwise. Fascinating.

We’ve moved south now to Aberdare National Park and I’m dropped off at the Aberdare Club for lunch. I’m to be taken to a lodge called The Ark and won’t meet up with Dedan again until the following morning. It’s built just like that too…..like Noah’s place sitting on top of a hill surrounded by bush. I love this place…it’s so different.

The Ark

The Ark

The temperature has dropped considerably here though and the fire is burning in the lounge area. The Ark has four viewing decks, on different levels, each with their own lounge. Here we don’t need to go and look for animals…..they come to us. There is a floodlit waterhole and the Yasabara salt lick….the attraction for the animals. On ground level there is also a hide with open spaces to take photos and view the animals directly. It’s kept in darkness so the animals aren’t aware of us. There are other groups here too…..mostly Italian and Spanish and they keep to themselves so I’m feeling out on a limb somewhat, being on my own. No matter, I keep myself occupied exploring the best level for photos. Two bull elephants fight, on and off, for two hours…..trunks entwined and clashing of tusks. It’s a fight for dominance with neither wanting to give in. Herds of buffalo come to eat the salt lick and , again, there are shows of dominance amongst them. I spend all afternoon and later, after dinner, between the viewing deck and the hide taking photos or just standing watching…listening…taking in the serene atmosphere. That is until the very noisy Spanish disturb the peace. They are told several times to keep quiet but either don’t understand or don’t want to. No animals will come with all this noise so I retreat to my bed. There’s a buzzer in the room that will alert me during the night if any ” important” animal comes ie/ leopard, rhino….

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I’m up at 5.45am and , with camera in hand, back at the hide before anyone else is awake. The noisy people are nowhere to be seen of course. It’s ever so quiet and I feel I am the only one in existance …alone with nature.Bliss ! The buffaloes are here for their morning salt, and bushbucks.

All too soon it comes to an end and the group reassembles at 8am to depart back to the Club. My driver says we may be fortunate and see a leopard on the road…but so such luck.

Back in the van with Dedan again and we are on the road to Amboseli NP…passing through Nairobi on the way in a southerly direction still. It’s 2.30 in the afternoon when we arrive at Serena Lodge. It’s not far from the lodge I stayed at in 2009 and it brings back memories as we drive by. Mount Kilimanjaro provides a spectacular backdrop…although it’s hit and miss amongst the clouds. Again I tell Dedan NO game drive this afternoon as he’s had a very long drive. I spend time downloading photos before wine and dinner. This is a lovely lodge with lots of character. There’s vervet monkeys dashing up the trees and , at one point, a zebra rushes by. A maasai tells me that it is a sign a lion is nearby although I don’t get sight of it.

7am and we leave on our morning game drive. There’s lots of elephants here which is what this park is famous for. And lots of zebras. It’s very dry but not as dry as it was when I was here in 2009. At that time Amboseli had not had rain for two years and animals were dead and dying all around the park. I recall refusing a game drive as I didn’t want to see any more or smell the stench or be inundated with dirty, big black flies in the van. It’s not the case this time though which I am grateful for.
At one point we are parked on the road in the path of a bull elephant. As he gets closer he takes a bit of an exception to us being in the way and demonstrates with kicking the dust and waving his trunk. I’m at window level and get good shots of him only metres away before he sees we’re not moving and walks behind the van and crosses the road.

Mount Kili is peeping out of the clouds ever so obligingly today.

Classic photo with Mount Kilimanjaro ( peeping out of the clouds ) dwarfing the elephants

Classic photo with Mount Kilimanjaro ( peeping out of the clouds ) dwarfing the elephants

We’re back at the lodge at 11am and I decide to treat myself and replenish the toenail polish and have a massage….do some girlie stuff.The young girl who does this is just a whisp of a thing but….aagghh, does she have strong hands. I’m feeling a bit pulverised but , at the same time, the muscles are soothed. Another one of those occasions that ends too quickly.

More elephants and zebras………

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I tell Dedan I’m looking to photograph giraffes against the sunset and we’re driving around looking for the opportunity. We see some in the distance but they’re too far away and there’s no road access near them….so I give up on that idea and keep a watchful eye out for other animals to use.

There’s a large group of vehicles assembled on the roadside and Dedan tells me they’re looking at some cheetahs. When we arrive the cheetahs are quite some distance away and I tell him to keep driving. I say this with a smile and he knows me by now that, if the animals aren’t close, don’t bother stopping. He returns the smile as he too knows in our travels so far, and particularly in the Mara, we have been very spoilt with close encounters for photos.

Along the road I spot a large herd of wildebeest and they’re kicking up the dust. I invisage an image in my mind and we stop.

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Yay …..there’s some elephants at sunset !!! Quick stop !!

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Got it !!!!!!!   ( This photo will later be chosen for publication in Safari Interactive Magazine )

The sun has set and it’s time to get back to the lodge….uh, oh….the van has broken down . It’s coughing and spluttering and we have to stop. The park rules state we have to be back before it’s dark and that poses a bit of a problem right at this point in time. Dedan applies his mechanical skills and , after some time, we’re moving again but it’s a mad dash back to the lodge. It’s well and truelly dark by this time but it ends ok.

We’re using a short cut road tomorrow to Tsavo West that requires a police escort….just routine procedure Dedan tells me !!!

The day dawns…no police escort. The reason being there had been an assassination of a prominant figure in Mombasa…my destination in three days time…and all police had been called to the city to assert law and order. John has been loyally keeping a close watch on the situation ( which I am aware of ) in case it is to be necessary to change my plans. There had been shootings , riots and burning down of churchs. I am pleased when we finally pass this road , with no escort, and no problems, and reach the lodge at Tsavo West.

The grounds are lovely and colourful bougainvillea surround the pool. There’s a floodlit waterhole here too . I am a fan of places that have these as they are fantastic opportunities to just sit and watch whatever animals may come to drink. In come the zebras, eland, baboons, waterbuck…….

In the afternoon I’m taken to Mzima Springs. The clear water bubbles out from a mass of volcanic boulders having travelled from volcanic hills some tens of  kilometres away.I’m taken along a small bridge which leads to an underwater glass house. In here I can see the fish swimming . I’m told it’s possible to see crocs too and there’s one  basking up on the bank I see later.The springs are replenished with two hundred and twenty million litres of water per day and are the source of Mombasa’s water supply.

On the way back we pass the Shetani lava flow and Chaimu Crater. The black lava covers about fifty square kilometres of the savannah grassland region of the Chyulu Hills. Standing on this very dry and brittle lava is not easy. There’s little vegetation growing here which makes for a rather rugged landscape .

A Klipspringer stands on the lava flow

A Klipspringer stands on the lava flow

As the sun sets I sit and watch the elephants at the waterhole…splashing and trumpeting. The babies running around excitedly. To the left, in the distance, is the mighty Kilimanjaro bathed in the red hues of the sunset. How I love Africa and all it’s diversity.The van is playing up again as we make our way towards Tsavo East NP. We make a stop at a local garage where it is deduced there is water in the fuel. After a refill we are on our way again.The lodge sits high on a hill overlooking the plains of Tsavo East….the view from my room is AMAZING. I can see herds of elephants coming in to the waterhole below and lots of buffaloes.

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There’s a hide here too so I am anxious to get there to photograph the elephants . It’s a steep downward climb through a concrete tunnel before getting to the room for viewing. There’s a stone man-made trough right outside the windows which the elephants can drink from and some even climb into it. Bars go across the windows for protection. This is real close-up stuff here. There’s elephants of all sizes, including several babies. When you’re this close and they trumpet, it rings in the ears. They push and shove for position and slurp when drinking. Fantastic experience……and I am the only one in here !

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I spend quite some time with these mighty beasts before I realise it’s time to go back up for lunch….it’s certainly a lot harder going up than it is going down !!

It’s time for the afternoon game drive. All the animals here are tinged with red…a product of the earth in this region. The landscape here is different again from where we have just come from.  Elephants are prevalent here but there’s also lots of buffaloes, zebras, eland, ostriches. Several times we meet up with different elephant herds. We sit and watch them come closer..some stopping to scratch on a tree trunk . There’s the usual dominance issues and even a juvenile flapping it’s ears and waving it’s trunk at us. There’s a mother feeding her baby and we both notice one of the baby’s legs is very swollen and it’s holding it off the ground.As we proceed we find a large herd wallowing in a red, muddy waterhole. They are covered in this slush and enjoying it immensely. The babies are running around , flapping their ears . Once finished , they climb out and cover themselves with dust…..all protection from biting insects and searing sun.

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It’s been a fantastic photo opportunity here….lots of different poses from these elephants. I note that their tusks are much longer and slimmer than elephants I’ve seen elsewhere. Time to move on………….our first, and only, sighting here of a lion. Even from a distance I can see it’s mangy…certainly not like the well-fed lions of the Mara. As we drive back to the lodge ostriches run away , with feathers fluffed, beneath the rays of the late afternoon sun.

This is my last game drive organised on my Aramati Safari’s itinerary. I’m still waiting to see if my arrangements to return to the Mara will fall into place. If not, then I will be on the flight back home to New Zealand. I give thanks to John for all his time bringing this past three weeks into fruition. It’s been a fantastic journey….one I will treasure.

But before that, I have one week relaxing on the beach in Mombasa. Getting to feel another side of Africa I haven’t yet experienced. Dedan leaves me at my hotel and returns to Nairobi. After an incredible three weeks in the Mara and around Kenya, it is time for him to take a break from driving and to have time off. And for me, after two and a half months virtually non-stop travelling, I welcome this rest.

The Severin Hotel where I am staying is gorgeous. It’s right on the beach….with it’s white, fine sand and blue water. It has it’s own little shop complex. There’s even a hairdresser here which I make quick use of. I still have my braids which , after nine weeks now ,are looking rather tatty. After a visit to the salon, they come out looking refreshed. I must say these braids have been a hit wherever I have been. I’ve had so many compliments, I am amazed really. I’ve had both tourists and Africans take photos of me ( with and without my permission) . Next I pay a visit to the massage lady where I have the most divine treatment…..she has the ability to draw all the tension out and it is so relaxing I almost fall asleep. This is going to be a week of energy replenishment.

There are sun chairs lined up across the grass frontage of the hotel. I learn quickly that if I want a prime spot I need to get here by 9am. There are palm trees all around the grounds and if I don’t want shade the chairs near the sand are the best. Hence, I’m usually one of the first to arrive here each morning. The humidity is diabolical….certainly not what I have been used to. Although the breeze from the water is very refreshing, once back in the room, it’s air cond on for sure. Beyond the grass are the local ” beach boys ” who call out and wave, trying to get someones attention to make a sale or organise some jaunt or another. From my sun chair I am observing their behaviour and note that it’s almost impossible to go down on the beach without being accosted. Coming from a place where I can walk some days without seeing a single soul, I find this concept quite daunting.I had looked forward to a nice walk on the beach, but now I’m having second thoughts. There are security guards patrolling back and forth along the premises and I have a chat to one of them about this situation. He knows how the boys operate and says he will get me a maasai guide to escort me….in that way I will not be bothered by them. I tell him thanks, and will consider it. There’s camels walking along the beach and I make a note to myself to have a ride on one while I’m here. When the tide goes out the boats are stranded on the sand. It’s a strange sight to literally see the water moving over the sand on it’s way back in.

The view from my room

The view from my room

Here on the coast it usually rains in the morning and , like other places, doesn’t last long. I decide because it’s wet, I will go to a nearby mall. The hotel has it’s own taxis which is convenient and I know that’s a safe option. Yusef drives me to the mall where every vehicle is inspected underneath for bombs before being permitted into the carpark. Then, before entering the mall itself, my bag is checked and my body scanned by officials in uniform. I’m not used to this but I will come to be familiar with it. I’m looking for something specific and Yusef doesn’t leave my side. He says he is my personal bodyguard. On the way back to the hotel he points out the exact place the assassination had taken place some days before, and where the vehicle the deceased had been driving had crashed into the wall. It’s a bit scary thinking that incident took place only a matter of a few hundred metres from where I am now staying. At least now, it’s all quiet and the rioting has stopped.

I’m doing an excursion to Mombasa proper this evening. The hotel I’m in is up the coast and I want to see the city. Mombasa itself is an island connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries.Theres a young Dutch couple from the hotel coming too but all the rest on the bus are visiting doctors from Nairobi here for a conference at a neighbouring hotel. We’re all bused to the dock in the city and make our way down steps to a waiting traditional sailing dhow. We are welcomed with passion juice and simosas before a half hour sail up Tudor Creek. I sample some “Mombasa Medicine “…vodka, lime and honey…which tastes nice but, on an empty stomach, begins to have effects by the end of the trip so I stop drinking it.

By the time we arrive at The Old Town it is dark. We walk the narrow, winding streets filled with Arab and Portugese architecture….a historical influence. We are shown the slave markets and pass Mandhry Mosque, the oldest mosque in Mombasa. The buildings are old but full of character. I’m lagging behind the group taking photos and I notice one of the woman doctors is watching me. She comes and tells me to keep up as this is a dangerous place at night. I appreciate that she has my safety in mind.

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We’re now at Fort Jesus , built by the Portugese to protect the Old Port of Mombasa.It was built in the shape of a man ( viewed from the air ) and named Jesus. Between the 1600’s and 1800’s the fort was won and lost nine times by rival nations. It is now a World Heritage Site. At the entrance we are welcomed by fire bearers standing at guard.

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We’re here for a Fire and Light Show and I’m really looking forward to it. This to be followed by a candlelight dinner in the grounds. We are seated in front of one portion of the fort. There are fire torches burning up a stairwell. The show will take us on a re-enacted journey of history. Depictions are projected onto the stone fort walls, there is a commentary over a loud speaker and locals are dressed in period costume . It’s a moving experience and I love it.

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Now we’re taken to the middle of the grounds where tables and chairs are set out for dinner. Each table has a waiter. The candles are lit. One of the doctors comes and asks if I would like to sit with their group as she sees I am sitting alone. I thank her and appreciate her kindness , but decline. The food is delicious. There are palm trees lit up to excentuate their graceful shape. Music is playing over the speakers. Stars are sparkling in the sky and the lights from the city shine up over the fort walls. There’s a line of cannons beside a nearby building.

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Andrea Boccelli’s song “Time to Say Goodbye” is playing now and we are asked to leave. The firebearers walk out to light our way down the path. This is really moving stuff. I shake hands with the waiters and give thanks for a brilliant evening as they hold their flaming torchs, and descend out of the fort and to our waiting bus.As usual there is entertainment at Severin and this evening is Disco night. Never one to miss a chance to dance to a good beat….I’m up on the floor until late. I try to get some of the other sitting tourists to join in….with no success. Oh well……….. !!!The hotel has a group of people responsible for getting the clients to get a bit of exercise or play games. One of them has taken to giving me swahili lessons when I’m on my sunchair. One of the waiters also helps me with this. I’m going for a walk on the beach today and one of the team will escort me. I’m looking for a top to buy and he’s taking me to a woman he says is his aunty. There’s lots of stallholders along the beach…each group designated to the frontage of a specific hotel. There’s quite a bit of name-calling in my direction from beach boys…” Rasta Woman ” they say. All in good fun though and , because I’m escorted, they don’t hassle me directly. I find the woman and choose a top. Plus a piece of fabric from her stall. It is to be made into another top and she asks me to come back the following day and collect it. On the way back up the beach to Severin I stop and have a photo with a camel and chat about when I will have a ride on one…….maybe tomorrow.There’s a live band entertaining this evening….yep….dancing time again. FUN

I’m booked for another massage this morning and welcome it. For some reason I have a very sore shoulder and it soothes it a little. I decide to get brave and walk on the beach unescorted. The water is so warm and the sand is soft and smooth….not like the sand I’m used to in NZ. To my surprise I’m not hassled. I’m going to find the woman with the top to collect…but I can’t find her. HHmmm…..where is she ?  After sunning for the rest of the day, I make another bid to find the woman. I will have to ask for assistance as it’s my last chance before I leave this place. Apparently I haven’t walked far enough as a lovely woman by the name of Eunice takes me to where I need to be to get my top. On the way back I have my camel ride. It’s great…..it was on my list of “things to do ” before I came here. It’s another beautiful day in paradise.

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It’s my last day in Mombasa. After last minute bag packing and a  spot of laundry, I go for my final beach walk. I have one of the hotel animation team with me this time. It’s a lovely, relaxing walk and I take in the scenery and atmoshere . It’s been a great week at this African beach, with very friendly people and a good restful environment to stay in. I’m not actually leaving the hotel until the afternoon so there’s no immediate hurry. The time comes all too quick though as I say my final goodbyes to the staff. My taxi is late as there’s been an accident up the road. He informs me he has very little fuel and as we make our stops at various service stations it becomes apparent this may become an issue. There is no petrol in Mombasa he’s told. After some time, I do become a bit anxious as I have a plane to catch . Finally….we find a station that doesn’t wave us away. It’s on to the airport at last !!!  Going through the gates , we are stopped for a routine police check. After we get passed it, my driver tells me the policeman had been trying to extort money from him in order for us to pass. He smiles as if he’s used to such things…..!!

After one of the smoothest flights and landings I’ve ever had, I am back in Nairobi. Dedan is waiting. We’re back in the crazy traffic and it takes two hours to get to my accommodation.

I have had all my arrangements confirmed and Dedan and I are heading back to the Maasai Mara for another two weeks. My friends at Sarova are surprised to see me and it’s high fives and hugs from them. Their smiles light up the beautiful faces.

It’s two weeks of full-on game drives….animals, animals and more animals. And , yes, we DID find the elusive leopard. Not once but four times. The endangered black rhino was seen twice more plus lots of cheetah and lion sightings. We didn’t get to see any more river crossings however so will have to try our luck next time.

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I’m getting used to the dust and stoney roads here in the Mara. I’m even beginning to know pretty much where I am ….getting familiar with parts we are driving in….knowing which direction to go. I love this place. The wide , open spaces and nature at it’s best. It’s a priviledge to be permitted into the space that belongs to the animals…it’s their domain. We are simply visitors.

Even so….I feel like I am home.