Friday, April 4, 2014

Pre-Cycle Camping Safari - Part 1

In anticipation of an upcoming cycling safari we are hosting in January 2015, our very able team set out to taste the water. The pre-cycle tour was to map out and inspect a safe route for the cycling tour. The goal at hand was to familiarize with the routing in order to facilitate for precision planning. They ended up having so much adventure and fun; they share their experience in our blog.

The team members comprised of;
• Eric Sindiyo – Stared driver guide
• Peter Mungai – Handling reservations for the tour
• Coleman Karanja – Coordinating logistics and operations
• Michael Mwaura – Camping specialist
• Frans Staal – Biking safari specialist and tour / group coordinator.


They share…


eric-sindiyo-2 DSC03516


The pre-cycle inspection tour started on an interesting note; we set out not knowing where we would sleep, eat, bathe or take a dump. We packed up our trusty Land Cruiser with tents, sleeping bags and mattresses, cooking utensils and a gas cylinder for cooking. This particularly made us un-easy as we had no idea what to expect on the way, if we would get secure camping grounds and if there were any animals in the way. The plan was to use the camping gear as a last resort as our itinerary literary indicated ‘sleep or camp somewhere’.


The approximately 520 km drive to Diani in the South Coast was very eventful. This is where the cycling tour should begin at. We made several stops along the way; bathroom break, lunch break, stretch-your-legs break, supplies break, another bathroom break, no-reason break… well,; we made just about every necessary break. Over our lunch break, we took the opportunity to teach Frans a tactic or two on getting additional food from the hotel for free. We call it a ‘sossa’ addition, a corrupted version of ‘saucer’. We all ordered for fries and steak and within minutes we had finished eating. We complained to the waitress that our fries were too little and we requested for sossa fries. She went to the kitchen and returned with a plate full of fries and went ahead to equally share it out for us, everyone getting their saucer portion. Fraans was amused and amazed at this and was quite impressed that we got free food. But we warned him, this doesn’t work at every hotel and restaurant.

We got to Mombasa in the heat of the evening and hopes for a swim were high given the escalating temperatures. Well, it was disappointing as we did not get a chance to swim, none the less we had the luxury of a hotel room on our first night. The following morning was a very early departure. Into the abyss we went.




The start of the routing was very smooth and all was going like clockwork… until we stopped to ask for directions to Kilibasi. This is where the getting lost started, driving in cycles for hours. Finally we got directions from one of the locals who had relocated here from Meru in Mt. Kenya region. We were quick to figure this out after one of her son’s warned us about one of our tyres saying “haina meruki” – a mix of Swahili and Meru which loosely translates to ‘the tyre has low pressure’. We had already had one puncture earlier and pointing out to our tyre got our stomachs turning in panic. On checking, the ‘meruki’ (pressure) was fine; just the right amount of pressure we needed to traverse these animus terrain. Quite a relief I must say!


meruki buying-maembe


At this point, we confidently had our fingers pointer out at the ‘John-know-it-all’ who was getting us lost. We agreed from here on, we use the GPS and nothing else for directions. Armed with directions from the local lady and trusting on our GPS, we embarked on our journey to the unknown, and then it started to rain. Having driven quite a distance away, we were damned… we had a second puncture… in the rain! At least it was not the ‘meruki’ tyre, otherwise we would have seriously started to question our judgment. As Eric took charge, unbolting the replacement tyre from the back of the cruiser, we couldn’t help but sigh in defeat… ‘There goes our only remaining spare tyre’. How could this happen? We were literally in the middle of nowhere! It was that moment when a dark cloud perches atop your head. Five grown men overcome by a great sense of fear and hopelessness. What will happen if we get another puncture? How far is the next town? Where shall we find a professional tyre fixer in nowhere-land? We hadn’t anticipated this and it threw us aback.


It was getting late into the evening and it was clear that everyone was very tired and hungry. We had been eating peanuts all the way and a made a few local stops for fruits. We had been reduced to eating fruits and nuts like monkeys. Yesterday’s fries and steak at the roadside hotel seemed like a luxury. Now the real camping mode has set in. After a long wacky day, Frans did not fancy the idea of sleeping ‘thin’ in a tent or in a cheap lodging / hotel. He needed a miracle! He checked his GPS and saw a Taita Hotel mapped to be 14km away. We followed the tracks that led to the main road and onto the path to the hotel. Arriving at the Taita hotel we were glad to find it was the famous Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. We called our office in Nairobi to organize for accommodation for Frans at our rate, otherwise they would have demanded he pay the rack rate. Plus we didn’t have dollars for that anyways. Frans was elated… thrilled to be precise. Finally a little luxury!

puncture-2 sarova_salt_lick_lodge_05
banana sarova-saltlick frans-at-saltlick saltlick-bed


As for the rest of us, we had to find alternative camping accommodation – remember, we were camp scouting to facilitate precision planning. We had to tow the budget and plus the lodge was full. We drove to a place called Agnes’s Place. She owns the only bar and lodging in the locale and was very excited to see 4 strong men walk in and ask for dinner, bed and breakfast. We were happy that Frans didn’t have to spend the night here with us. There were so many mosquitoes I’m sure they would have sucked him dry. The following morning we commenced; well rested and fed.


After driving for hours, getting our tyre fixed and securing several camping sites along the way we got to Loitoktok town. It’s a big town and we were advised to ask the local Catholic Church for camping grounds. The reception was the coldest we had received the whole safari. After we were denied ground we headed to the next Amboseli Chapel where the pastor agreed and welcomed us.


fixing-tyre amboseli-chapel


After securing this ground we headed on not knowing this will be an even tougher drive than the one before. The trusting GPS indicated we take a left turn at Makutano Junction. From here we asked for directions to Selegei River for the next camp. We were given direction and told do go at our own risk. To say the road was bad would be an understatement. We got to a point the road was completely washed out and looked like an un-cultivated stretch of land. In simple terms, there was no road ahead… just traces of a once beaten track. Unbelievably the GPS insisted the road we were on is major government road and should continue on.


end-road-1


We were ready to retire for the day and the idea of setting up camp started creeping into our minds. Not until we noted the giant elephant foot prints all around, the fear being trampled on by elephants got us going. We were lucky we had our 4×4 cruiser and it got us through the very rough terrain. In most cases, we almost got stuck in the mud but our very experienced driver guide got us out in no time. We finally got to the end of the road where the flood waters had completely washed it away. We were forced to turn back and look for an alternative route. By now darkness was sipping in and the idea of setting camping was inevitable, but the fear of elephants and camping right in the middle of the waters way, made us decide to drive to the nearest town Emali for cheap accommodation.


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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Our NEW Air-Con Cruisers

We are proud to show off our two new off-roaders and the latest addition to our growing fleet… our BRAND NEW Toyota Land Cruisers.

What’s unique about our new safari cruisers?... some attention has been lavished on the interiors:
•    They have Air-conditioning making them among the first few in Kenya and a definite first among our fleet to flaunt this facility. Now each guest can personalize their air conditioning as per their liking.

•    The seats are fitted on adjustable rails and are reclinable, which means ample legroom and maximum comfort. PLUS the seats are leather covered; something away from our traditional canvas covering.

•    Both are fitted with inverters which means they offer on-board charging facilities

•    Each has a fridge on-board, a feature earlier only present in our safari patrols

•    Each offers 7 opportune window seats as well as pop-up roof positions… Yes! Six seats at the back and one up-front next to the driver, with its own frontal pop-up roof.




Like every last of our safari vehicles, the new cruisers are fitted with GPS Tracking, radio connection and all required safety amenities.

We proudly own and operate our own fleet of over 30 custom-designed safari vehicles which consist of:
• Minibuses / Safari Vans (2WD and 4WD)
• Safari Land Cruisers (4x4)
• Safari Patrols (4x4)
• Transfer Bus

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bush fire at Loisaba Wilderness

Some Really Terrible News:
We regret to inform you that there has been a bush fire at Loisaba Wilderness, which combined with strong winds, has caused severe damages to the Lodge and the Private House. Due to this, the property, including all other units will not be operational until further notice.

No clients or staff have been affected and the Laikipia community are still fighting parts of the fire.
………………………………………………………………

ABOUT LOISABA WILDERNESS
Loisaba Wilderness, consisting of the Loisaba Lodge, Loisaba House and Loisaba Cottage, stands at the centre of a 61,000 acre wilderness, which was originally owned by the late Count Carletto Ancilotto, who fell in love with it after visiting Kenya on safari in the early 1960s. The Wilderness accommodation, which was the Count's home, was built in the 1970s and, while considerably renovated, it remains very much as he planned it. Not only did the Count love the Loisaba wilderness, but it was also his aim to preserve it for future generations. Thus, he ran it as a cattle ranching operation, rearing the superb Boran cattle of Kenya, 1,700 of which still roam the plains today.

The Lodge stands high on the edge of a plateau with long views south towards the glittering spires of Mount Kenya. It was constructed from local stone, cedar and palm thatch; and features seven rooms each with cantilevered decks soaring off the edge of the natural escarpment. A thousand feet below, verdant water-hole acts as a potent draw for the abundant wildlife with which this unique wilderness teems.

The Lodge has been simply presented in the traditional style, much of the furniture having been crafted in the ranch's own workshops using acacia wood, which has been felled for us by the several hundred elephant, who also call Loisaba home.

Remote, romantic and evocative, the Lodge was chosen by Prince Bernhard and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands as the ideal place in which to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

The Loisaba Wilderness (150 sq km) is a privately managed, wildlife conservancy situated on the edge of the Laikipia Plateau, approximately 100 kms north of Mount Kenya. In size, the wilderness equates to that of the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania; and, as such, is larger than many of Kenya's national parks. -READ MORE

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WTA Africa 2013 - and the winners are...



World Travel Awards Africa Safari
The 20th World Travel Awards Africa chapter the Oscars of the travel industry, were last night held in Nairobi. The 16th October gala ceremony hosted in the Kenyan capital was a huge success, unveiling the continent’s leading travel brands for 2013.

East Africa scooped 18 out of the 56 contested categories as South Africa and Kenya dominated the charts. Kenya managed to steal the East African spotlight, sweeping 14 out of the 18 slots and sharing in 2 of the remaining 4 categories.

The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) came out top in the Africa's Leading Tourist Board category for the 2nd year running. Brand-named Magical Kenya, KTB won this prestigious award against other nominated tourist boards of: Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Morocco and Gambia.

Zanzibar also came out top in the Africa’s Leading Beach Destinations category as the Serena Hotels was crowned Africa’s Leading Hotel Brand, Masai Mara Game Reserve took on the Africa’s Leading National Park title and Mount Kilimanjaro stood tall as Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction.

The winners are now in the running for the prestigious World's Leading Travel Brands Award at the Grand Final, which will be hosted by La Cigale Hotel, Doha on November 30, 2013. For more info see World Travel Awards

East Africa shone as follows:

Africa’s leading brands
Africa's Leading Airline - Business Class
Kenya Airways
Africa's Leading Beach Destination
Zanzibar, Tanzania
Africa's Leading Eco Hotel
Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, Kenya
Africa's Leading Eco-Lodge
Il Ngwesi Lodge, Kenya
Africa's Leading Green Hotel
The Aberdare Country Club, Kenya
Africa's Leading Hotel Brand
Serena Hotels
Africa's Leading Low-Cost Airline
Precision Air
Africa's Leading MICE Hotel
Safari Park Hotel & Casino, Kenya
Africa's Leading National Park
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Africa's Leading New Hotel
Villa Rosa Kempinski Nairobi, Kenya
Africa's Leading Resort
Alfajiri Villas, Kenya
Africa's Leading Safari Lodge
Finch Hattons, Kenya
Africa's Leading Spa Resort
Leopard Beach Resort & Spa, Kenya
Africa's Leading Tented Safari Camp
Porini Camps, Kenya
Africa's Leading Tourist Attraction
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Africa's Leading Tourist Board
Kenya Tourism Board

                                                                                                               
Kenya leading brands
Kenya's Leading Beach Resort
Swahili Beach
Kenya's Leading Business Hotel
Nairobi Serena Hotel
Kenya's Leading Car Hire
Avis Kenya
Kenya's Leading Domestic Safari Carrier
AirKenya
Kenya's Leading Golf Resort
Windsor Golf & Country Club
Kenya's Leading Hotel
The Sarova Stanley
Kenya's Leading Hotel Brand
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Kenya's Leading Resort
Leopard Beach Resort & Spa
Kenya's Leading Safari Camp Brand
Porini Camps
Kenya's Leading Safari Lodge
Ol Tukai Lodge
Kenya's Leading Spa Resort
Enashipai Resort and Spa
Kenya's Leading Tented Safari Camp
Encounter Mara


Tanzania leading brands
Tanzania's Leading Hotel
Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel
Tanzania's Leading Resort
The Palms Zanzibar
Tanzania's Leading Safari Lodge
&Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge


Uganda leading brand
Uganda's Leading Hotel
Kampala Serena Hotel


Zanzibar leading brands
Zanzibar's Leading Hotel
The Palms Zanzibar
Zanzibar's Leading Resort
&Beyond Mnemba Island Lodge


Rwanda leading brand
Rwanda's Leading Hotel
Kigali Serena Hotel

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Migration Diaries - August 2013

What can we say… the gnu are everywhere; they have taken over the Masai Mara landscape, dotting every horizon. The Ashnil - LookOut area is totally carpeted with them and their striped kin in their hundreds of thousands! But it’s particularly crazy at the river crossings. Everyday there are reports of crossing at the common crossing points as well as new ones.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to see the gnu do what they do best. I had friends who hanged out all day near the Purungat Bridge, a common gnu crossing point. They only saw a handful of the migrants cross – about 250 of them or less. In a minute the crossing was over and their thrill, crashed. But they are better off; there was a group that had waited with them. They got quite impatient and left, 20 mins later, the mini-crossing happened.

The next day, another batch of friends minding their own business on their game drive, witnessed these huge hordes, at the same crossing point near Purungat Bridge. Oh! They had a field day!!! It was a treat of a lifetime and it went on for hours on end. They could swear it was like never seen before… not even as ever documented by the Nat Geo.

Then it rained a few days later… and the rivers deluged. An unfortunate batch of the migrating herds happened to have scheduled their crossing for that day. Despite the torrents, they leaped into the river, one after the other, to an untimely death. You can only imagine the disaster. It was like a tsunami! But, it must have been a ‘HAPPY DAY!’ for the crocs and other flesh eating opportunists. A gnu buffet of some sorts :-)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

UPDATE: Resumption of Business ‪#‎JKIA‬ after the Fire

Following last week’s fire incident at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) that caused the disruption of business, the Kenya government is keen on resumption of business at the airport. The current update from this end is as follows:

Air Navigation Services
The ruling notice of airmen (NOTAM) classifies JKIA as now open for all passenger operations. International operations have fully resumed as of august, 11th 2013 with the airport handling 19,919 passengers on 11th august 2013 gains a usual average of 16000 passengers in a day, 67 international arrivals and 70 international departure operated on the same day. All international airlines operating from JKIA have resumed operations with SN Brussels having been the last to resume operations. Swiss Airlines which was previously landing once a week has resumed it’s twice a week schedule.

Cargo aircraft operations
Cargo aircraft operating time has been revised from 9:00pm to 6:00am strictly. This is to avoid congestion. Cargo aircraft requiring only crew change and fuel (e.g. Lufthansa) has been advised to use Moi International Airport Mombasa in the interim.

Passenger operations
All arriving international passengers are being cleared at fully operational tents which are also hosting essential services like port health, immigration, baggage collection area, customs and screening machines. Exit of passengers is via unit 3arrivals.

Back logs in the hotels are expected to clear by end of day. There are buses provided to passengers to facilitate the transfer of transit passengers to the domestic terminal. Most airlines are now using bigger aircrafts to alleviate the pressure of backlog of inward bound passengers outside the country (Dubai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Cairo, West Africa, etc)

Safety of passengers
Passenger screening areas are functional for ease of transfer of passengers. All other security checks in the airport are in place as usual. Enhanced signage in key areas is in place to assist passengers locate the various areas

Update Courtesy: MagicalKenya

Monday, June 24, 2013

Edging closer - Annual Wildebeest Migration

2 months ago, all indicators pointed at the annual wildebeest migration running behind schedule this year. But now, the gnu beg to differ! By the beginning of June, the migration herds had already moved into the central plains of Serengeti stretching as far back as the western corridor. Some of the fore troopers were crossing the Grumeti River and heading towards Seronera and quickly moving further north into Ikoma… Well ahead of the usual schedule I must say!

By mid month, our good friends down at Kirawira Serena Camp were in jubilation and sent word; that the herds had taken over their horizons. The swelling herds are speedily surging northwards they say.

It’s just a matter of time before the mayhem and pandemonium at the Mara River crossing unfolds – The epitome of the year round migration. As with every migration, we’ll be there to catch the action. Don’t miss out… book a slot on our Migration safari.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Migration is on the Horizon


The great wildebeest migration is a fĂȘted annual safari occurrence that witnesses a year round movement of millions of wildebeest across the Serengeti ecosystem that hems together Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Dubbed the ‘Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth’, the migration features a cast of millions, covers an 800-kilometer circuit, and weaves birth, life and death into a spectacular tapestry, which illustrates the concept of ‘the survival of the fittest’ in all of its tragic, comic, violent and awesome splendour.

 Where's the migration at?

As of mid March, the migrating hordes were still ‘home’ – largely placed around the Ndutu area in southern Serengeti. It is apparent that the birthing this year has been slightly higher than previous years’ recordings. There has been quite some rain in the recent past and the mother gnus are well fed, translating to better milk for the baby wildies. The big cats and other predators have smelled the opportunity and the landscape is rife with hunting activity. The camps and lodges around the Ndutu area now enjoy busy horizons with plenty of action. 

Soon the migrant herds will begin to form huge columns and surge north-westwards toward the Ndabaka and Grumeti area. The fore-column has reportedly already grouped up and is setting out. The main mega-herd seems to be preparing to follow suit and has reportedly shifted a distance equivalent to 20 minutes drive in a period of five days. 



Migration Safari Special


Our migration safari has been especially designed to track the progress of the annual wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania. Typically scheduled for July-October, this exceptionally popular tour sets out from Nairobi and is guided by Hanne Lindemann, a biologist, wildlife and conservation specialist and ‘migration expert’.
Travelling by road, the tour allows our visitors to experience both the thrill of a luxury tented camp and the comfort of a traditional safari lodge. Crossing from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara, it also enables the visitor to follow in the footsteps of the migration, without having to return to Nairobi.




Tour code: KTMS12
Duration: 13 days/12 nights
Operation: Set departures at the indicated prices (or daily on request/Private basis – prices on request)
Group size: 12-24 adults
Minimum group: 12 clients
Travel mode: Road on a standard 4x4 Landcruiser
Package includes : All meals as specified in the itinerary, one litre of mineral water per day, game drives, half-day crater tour, visit to Olduvai, park fees, English speaking driver guide and English speaking tour leader
Price excludes : Sundowner cocktails and other activities not included in the package price
Accommodation: City hotel, safari lodges and luxury tented camps
Activities Game drives, nature walks and sundowners
Regions: Nairobi
Amboseli National Park
Ngorongoro Crater
Serengeti National Park
Masai Mara National Reserve
Nairobi
1 night (Bed & Breakfast only)
2 nights
1 night
3 nights
4 nights
1 night (Bed & Breakfast only)