We had a Maasai guide for our final days in Kenya. There are about 500 guides in Kenya’s best game park, the Maasai Mara. Only three are women: “our” Lucy was one.
Two days after national elections, results have yet to be announced but the country looks increasingly like it will accept the outcome peacefully. Lucy won’t be the only beneficiary of peace. In 8 of Kenya’s 47 counties (comparable to our states) provisional results give governorships to women.
Unusually, we chartered from Kenya’s best game park directly into the international airport rather than normally into a smaller airport across town to avoid having to make that transfer.
We’re hunkered down in a new hotel inside the secure international airport complex waiting for our evening departures to Europe. Violence so far is only in the west of the country, but even here the tension is palpable.
Incredibly punishing rains fell last night. Lightning kept the night alive as if it were a fire. Water fell into the wee hours and ended with a cold wind that continues to blow under overcast skies.
It’s election day in Kenya. You need to pay attention. No country’s problems will be solved within their own borders, anymore. No matter where in the world you live, the frustrations you feel are likely global; solutions must be global. You’ve got to understand the rest of the world, even if you never leave home.
A good safari is an adventure, and an adventure takes effort. I keep thinking of the phrase, “No Pain – No Gain.” Sure, we can end the day at an unbelievably luxurious place with bubble bath and champagne. But just take a look at a successful safari traveler stepping out of her vehicle at the end of the day:
You won’t see the Belle of the Ball.
People come on safari to see lions and elephants, but they return for another trip and refer their friends often because of the surprisingly moving non-game viewing experiences.
Just as there’s more to America than Disneyland and Vegas, there’s a whole lot more to the places where the great animals still roam the wild.
As usual for this time of year it was bone dry. Mornings were still and cold. Saturn twinkled above in the ink blue predawn sky almost as brightly as the half moon which had set in the middle of the night. The sun rose as a giant orange ball behind a charcoal grey curtain of dust and the first breezes tossled the fields of dead, blonde grass. By noon dust devils twisted across the veld. By afternoon strong winds obliterated the cloudless sky with layers of dust.
Pundits like to advise potential safari travelers that this is the best time to see cats. To a certain extent that’s true. But what they see isn’t often what they expect:
Riding cabs in Nairobi isn’t fun. Traffic is unbelievable. You really get to know your cabbie.
Mine said he worked right through the last two elections. I didn’t believe him. I’d spoken to other cabbies, hotel workers, airport staffers – none plan on going to work August 8, the next election. He caught my wry smile in his rear view mirror and shouted, “I will!” then told me why.
I’m in Paris on my way back to Africa, stay tuned! It’s a fabulous Kenya/Tanzania safari that ends in the great Maasai Mara where we hope to encounter the great wildebeest migration.
I’ll be guiding a private family of four with two kids, and I love kids on safari!
Here’s where we’re going:
● Serengeti at two different places, Seronera and Ndutu
● Ngorongoro Crater
● Maasai Mara
I’ll post as often as I can!
The middle of sub-Saharan Africa, about a million square miles, includes the “sand river” big game wildlife parks. We’ve just finished 16 days exploring these less visited areas, and we had a ball and some incredible successes game viewing.
This entire swath of Africa, roughly from mid-Tanzania south to the Zambezi River, is mostly vast, sandy scrubland that reminds many Americans of the midveld near the “Four Corners” where Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico meet. The big difference with Four Corners and this area is its namesake, the great sand rivers that drain so much of the continent.
Here’s a quick summary of our trip:
Finishing our first extraordinary dinner on the banks of the Luangwa River, the best of South African wines were still pouring into our glasses. Hurricane lamps lit our elegantly set table and the southern cross with a million other twinkling stars bounced off the river like fireflies.
The robust conversation ebbed with the last of the chocolate-laced profiteroles washed down with still more Shiraz, and the African symphony which of course had never abated took over the night.
The rains north of the Zambezi were good and normal as they had been the year before. So the wild highveld of the valley was saved from the devastating drought just south. There was nothing unusual that the great Luangwa was slowly drying up, pulling in from its sometimes third-mile wide caked sand banks. This was normal. It was the solstice. Winter was here and all was still well.
The cloudless, mostly windless vistas of the valley seemed to expand as the river shrunk. The landscapes of the Luangwa Valley are massive, reminding me of the vast Serengeti plains in an odd way because here the river dominates everything, not the plains.
Well, we aren’t where we’re supposed to be! We’re supposed to be in Zambia, heading to the great South Luangwa National Park shown in the picture. But our flight from Nairobi was canceled. And the next flight was canceled, and it makes me worry that something bad is happening in Zimbabwe, where both flights were supposed to make a stop, first.
So we’re finally booked tomorrow on a nonstop flight right into Lusaka, with just exactly enough time to jump onto the domestic flight to the far east of the country to the national park. Hope we make it! If we do, I’ll be out of touch for a while. But I promise to post as soon as possible!
I wish everyone I know could have been with us in Zanzibar. The troubles in the world are like flotsam in a still lake: just when you think you see an object it dissolves into murk. In Zanzibar we experienced one small puddle of clarity: the hatred between the Shia and Suni.
As we telescope in from our incomplete and unsatisfactory understanding of the world, today, we learn that refusal to compromise is the only position shared by all. Here’s how we saw that in Zanzibar:
We just ended six days in Tanzania’s remote central game parks of The Selous and Ruaha. Zanzibar is not exactly Manhattan, but flying into here from Ruaha was like returning to civilization from a Jurassic Park time warp.
The entire massive area is defined by great sand, catchment rivers that drain nearly 100,000 square miles into the Indian Ocean. We spent almost all our time game viewing in Ruaha along the Ruaha, Mwagusi and smaller rivers. Here in this most remote wilderness the rivers are mostly sand and little flowing. Most of the landscape is dominated by expansive bushland not unlike California’s chaparral country.
The Mwagusi and its little tributaries were dry, and this was early. The drought of last season, which had followed a devastating El Nino flooding, had broken but weakly. A major moisture deficit crinkled most of the bush leaves and had turned everything brown early. Only along the Great Ruaha itself, or in slight depressions in the veld, did the sandpaper trees and acacia flitter lively green leaves in the warm breezes.
But this made one giant tamarind tree on the embankment a perfect place for the dominant troop of baboon in the area. Its deep roots and self-shading had protected it from the drought and rejuvenated it from the light summer rains. It had produced abundant seeds, its leaves were still succulent green and its ever winding and gnarled trunks provided numerous places for the dominant troop of baboon to feel safe at night.