Saumya is 11 years and studies in Standard VI of J.B.Petit High School, Mumbai and here she shares with us her first hand experience of having visited East Africa during her summer vacations of 2010.
I don’t know how to start writing about my wonderful experience to Kenya and Tanzania. It is such a memorable trip that one can never forget. I never in my wildest dream could think of such a place.
In my family there were my dada, dadi, mom, dad, younger brother and me. We were a group of 25 people. All the people were Parsis excluding my family and two other doctors’ families.
Parsis are very humorous and fun loving people. They cracked many jokes making the trip more fun. I made friends with 5 youngsters who were in their 20s or early 30s. Urvaksh from Melbourne, 2 girls Zinnie and Taronish from Sydney, Phiroze from Amsterdam, and Rayomand from India.
My dad was the tour consultant for the trip and chose all the places to stay for 9 nights and 10 days. Those places turned out to be fantastic. Every night we changed places – a bit hectic yet filled with fun, adventure and a wide range of experiences.
The Kenyans are very friendly and talkative people – especially the cute children. They always wave to us in the jeep and it feels extremely good to wave back at them. We also got a free safari suit and cap to wear for every game drive, thanks to the generosity of Darayes uncle, the leader of the group thanks to whom I wrote down my daily schedule which made it easier for me to go about writing my East African experience.
The day we landed in Kenya, it was very cool and breezy. We landed in the wee hours of the morning and left the airport at 0800 hours after passing immigration.
Our first halt was at 0945 at the giraffe centre. It was amazing. We learned plenty of interesting facts about them. Did you know that giraffes sleep with their eyes open for 25-30 minutes? Another interesting thing is that to defend themselves, they can kick really hard with their hind legs. Their solid kick can also kill a lion. Giraffes are herbivores and they don’t have any upper jaws to bite. There are three types of giraffes – Masai, Reticulated and Rothschild.
The most amazing thing about the giraffes was that we could feed them. But I was too scared to and everyone except me did it including my 8 year old brother.
It was windy, cloudy and we could feel the fresh air with the nature looking so beautiful. The leaves of the trees were waving at me, and I could hear the whisper of the wind trickling in my ear. Everything was gorgeous and peaceful that for a moment, I felt like I was in paradise.
After a couple of hours at the Giraffe Centre, we headed to Karai King, an Indian restaurant to have an early lunch. After a scrumptious meal, we headed straight to our first lodge at 1400. On the way we saw a few zebras and impalas, and at 1815 we reached the Ark lodge.
We reached around 1845 hours and after checking in, we went for dinner . We finished our food at 1930 and after that there was a small presentation. I gave it a miss and instead we went in the viewing area to see the water hole which was illuminated. Here the animals come in the evening to drink water. We saw a Cape Buffalo and a couple of huge elephants. I was too tired after a long day and went early to bed.
It was day 2 and we got up at 0730 and after breakfast left for the country club which was an hour away from the Ark Lodge. On our way we saw a water buck, a few wart hogs and plenty of cows in the meadow. I wished that our city was as cool and green as Kenya. The people here too are very calm, without any stress or tension unlike the fast pace of Mumbai.
At 1100 we reached the country club for our luggage as we had just carried one overnight bag with us the previous evening whilst heading to the Ark Lodge. We were greeted warmly with fresh orange juice and a warm towel. Thereafter, we went to Sweetwaters Tented Camp which is in the same area known as the Aberdares National Park. On our way, we saw beautiful flowers and interesting shapes of trees , making the place look like paradise.
In some places we stayed in tents and in the others were small hotels in the jungle. At 1230 we stopped on the Equator. It is the line that divides the Earth into the north and the south. On a large poster the word Equator was written and we took plenty of family pictures near it. There were about 14-15 small shops where I bought a bracelet for me and some of my friends. Here we were shown how the water rotates in different directions on either side of the Equator.
We reached Sweetwaters Tented camp at 1415 and after lunch we had a little rest before leaving for an afternoon game drive. Kenya and Tanzania is home to the BIG 5 and we were indeed lucky to see all of them – the lion, the rhino, the leopard, the elephant as well as the wild buffalo.
As we left our camp, we saw baboons , impalas and zebras. We also visited a Chimpanzee sanctuary where we met Poco – a chimpanzee who is believed to have been captured and caged for 9 long years. Did you know that the Chimpanzee is the animal specie which comes closest to a human being in its appearance and intelligence too? Poco seemed to be ill at ease seeing such a large group and started running from one end to the other, jumping and clapping his hand. We thought he was entertaining us until the ranger told us that he was disturbed as he was imprisoned for several years before being rescued by a lady. Chimpanzees are always kept behind barbed wire fence as they could be dangerous for humans and a strike from a chimpanzee can be fatal.
Did you know that animals live longer when caged or rather captured, because they are fed at the right time and sometimes cared for, though they lose their freedom. They only live for 25-30 years in the wild and much more in captivity. I wonder why the caged animals in India do not live long enough.
An interesting fact about elephant’s ear is that they have very big ones to cool themselves. So at 1645 we headed back to our game drive and saw a few water bucks, impalas, warthogs and a crown crane. The crown crane is the national bird of Uganda. We also saw giraffes, a jackal and many pretty, bright and colourful birds. It all was just beautiful. We also saw animals called Thomson’s gazelle and grant gazelles. At 1725 we reached the rhino sanctuary. Out there we saw this poor rhino that was blind. He was given plenty of grass and he kept on eating it because though it was blind it could feel the grass. Its grey skin was patched in some places and it looked like a very old rhino. There were so many mosquitoes on it, but it stayed calm, eating the grass. I still have pity on the poor blind animal. Anyway, at 1805 we left from the sanctuary and we reached Sweetwaters Tented Camp. One unusual thing of this trip was that we used to sleep very early every night as we either had morning game drives or morning departures.
It was day 3 and next morning after breakfast we left Sweetwaters. It was a clear morning and we could see Mount Kenya with its snow capped peak. Also further down we spotted a Rhino and a giraffe as well. As we were having breakfast, my brother Shaurya was busy chasing a few storks in the garden. The storks collect around meal time and flap their large wings. We left for lake Nakuru and within 2 hours from Sweetwaters we halted at the Kiawara foothills of the Aberdares Mountain.
At 0810 we departed from sweet waters to the Nakuru Lake to see the flamingos. At 1010 we reached the Kiawara foothills of the Aberdares Mountain Range. We had a short stop to see the majestic Thomson falls and here is where my 8 year old brother upset me. He held a chameleon which creeped up his hand and he approached in my direction and I was quite upset as I like seeing animals and reptiles at a distance and not being too close to them. There were a few tribal people with whom we danced for a while and also clicked a few pictures. As we headed down from Thomson Falls towards Lake Nakuru, we saw a lot of Kenyans jogging alongside the road and our guide informed us that they were professional marathoners. My dad added that the world champion marathoners originate from this region known as the Rift Valley. I sure believed him as my dad does participate in the Half Marathon in Mumbai.
We reached Lake Nakuru around 1250 hours. We saw the Napier grass grown for dairy farming cattle.
We entered the Nakuru Park and within 40 minutes from the gate we arrived at Sarova Lion Hill game lodge. After lunch, we got a break and I took the opportunity to play some table tennis with my dad. After which we explored the property which was spread at different levels and assembled for a group picture. We then departed for a game drive. The site of the baboons with their little babies clinging on them was a great sight. Also we saw a few gazelles, waterbucks and impalas too. As we were approaching the lake we saw two big rhinos very close to our vehicle and then we got one of the most amazing sights of the pink flamingoes all lined up in the lake.
It looked like a pink ribbon running across the lake – amazing beautiful. There could be over a few thousand birds stretching as far as the eye could see.
As we were driving along the lake side we saw a few Ostriches and our driver guide informed us how to identify a female ostrich from a male ostrich by its colour. The female is lightish brown and the male isn’t. They can run for 35 kilometres continuously, and last but not the least, to protect themselves they either kick or scratch their enemy.
It was a satisfying evening and the picture of the pink flamingoes was still in my mind. I was however disappointed not to see either lions or leopards. However, as we were approaching our lodge we happened to spot a lioness and that really pleased me a lot. We returned to the lodge at 1900 hours and then participated in a tribal dance. It was fun and entertaining to dance with the local tribal people who were very friendly and encouraged us to learn their style of dancing.
Next morning we had to get up earlier and leave the lodge at 7 am as we had a long drive first to the Masai Village and then to Masai Mara. We reached the village in 4 hours where we saw the Masai dance and we were thoroughly entertained. We participated in some of the dance steps and also saw the Masai village and the way they live in the houses made of soft mud. As we were approaching the park, we saw a herd of Ostriches and Giraffe, followed by herd of Elephants and antelopes. We also happened to see a few lions, including a few cubs too. Very close to our vehicle was a cheetah and then we saw a few lions feasting on a wild buffalo. We drove to a side of the park where there were several jeeps collected as they could see a kill of a leopard on a tree, although the leopard was missing. The most amazing sight for me besides the wide variety of wild life we could see in a few hours was the beautiful sunset. I have never seen the sky so beautiful coloured with shades of pinks, yellows and oranges. And to add to that we could see a rainbow as well. As we were closer to the Sarova Camp, our driver guide informed us that one of the vans was stuck near a herd of lions who were feasting on a buffalo and we had to head back to rescue them. I was scared for a moment as the lions did look hungry and angry. However, one of the jeeps pushed the van out of the area where the wheel was stuck and we were on our way to the Sarova camp.
The next morning was an early wake up call for us as we left the camp for a game drive on our way to the Serena Lodge. As we were leaving our camp, I saw a few Dik Diks – the smallest of the antelope family as if they were waiting to say goodbye to us and they were the smallest of animals that I have ever seen.
As we were driving towards Mara Serena Lodge, we saw a few wildebeests and giraffes as well. A little further were baboons, impalas and elephants too. I was having the time of my life as it was cool, breezy and the landscape was picture perfect. We also crossed the river known as the Mara river where we saw a few hippos and crocodiles too. One of the crocodiles was sitting with his mouth open as if waiting for an animal to straight walk in. We also reached a point where there was a large stone – and we took group photos as this was the point where on one side is Masai Mara, Kenya and on the other side is Serengeti, Tanzania. We reached our lodge in the evening and it was one of the very interesting lodges as we could see the park from the lodge and could see a few elephants very close to our lodge. There were many colorful lizards and chameleons too around the lodge area and I was careful to get into my room without any wild companion.
Like every morning, the colorful chirping of the birds woke us up and we left Masai Mara early enough to reach the border of Kenya and Tanzania. It had rained heavily the previous night and we drove on one of the most difficult roads and the wheel of one our vehicles got stuck in the soft mud on the way.
Some of my friends got off the vehicle and helped the driver guide to get the vehicle on track. The ride was bumpy and we all had fun with the natural jumps and bumps we experienced as the vehicles were going in and out of several pot holes on the way. I must say that the friends I made were very nice and were carrying cameras with large lenses and they showed me a trick or too on how to click good pictures. I did manage to click quite a few and I may want a camera of my own one day to click pictures and write about interesting places too.
The drive to Serengeti was pretty long and after 5 hours of driving we reached the border of Kenya and Tanzania where we filled a few forms to cross over to Tanzania. We had packed lunches with us and stopped for a meal on the way and reached Serengeti around 1700 hours. We were greeted by several baboons at the entrance of the Serengeti National Park which is believed to be one of the largest parks in Africa. Serengeti is bigger than Ireland and although we entered the park at around 1700 hours, we reached our lodge at 2200 hours. So from the entrance it was a long five hours drive. On the way we saw herds and herds of zebras, wildebeests and giraffes too. We saw a leopard right in front of us on the road and I realized that we had seen the Big 5 by now. As we were approaching the lodge and a few metres after seeing the leopard, it was pitch dark and one of the vehicles had a flat tyre and the driver guide took all steps to change the tyre very carefully as we could see nothing at all except the spotlights of the vehicle. This was the longest drive of our trip but it was the day when we probably saw the most animals in a single day. Next morning we left the Sopa Lodge in Serengeti at 0700 hours and for a game drive. We saw a few vultures perched on a tree, followed by a jackal and then we saw some warthogs, followed by baby impalas, a hippo grazing on land and then we saw wildebeests, more wildebeests and even more wildebeests. They were all following each other for the migration which is supposed to be when all the wildebeests and zebras move from one park to the other. One of the most incredible sights was the 4 lionesses who were resting on branches of the same tree as if eyeing the wildebeests. A little further we saw an elephant so close to the tree and my father joked that the elephant was born out of the tree and this is an Elephant Tree. We saw some amazingly colourful birds, one in striking blue known as Superb Starling. I would say it was a Superb Blue bird indeed. We had a full day game drive but we were not at all tired as we saw a lion and lioness on a rock. We also crossed an area where it is believed that the Lion King movie was pictured. We saw a few lions herds of zebra and wildebeests, plenty of birds including crown cranes . That evening as we were having dinner in the lodge, the stewards and chefs sang and danced on songs including Jambo and Hakuna Matata. Yet another interesting day came to an end.
Next morning we left for Ngorongoro Crater and on the way we saw a lion and lioness sitting on a rock and as we went we were told they started to mate and a few other jeeps captured a few interesting pictures. A little further we saw some more lionesses sitting on a rock, this time on a hill, a few zebras , giraffes and elephants too. We also saw lots of wild buffaloes and it was interesting to see several birds resting on one of the buffaloes. We drove across the most amazing area of Ngorongoro before arriving at our lodge. We saw these yellow flowers for as far as the eye could see and between these yellow flowers, the black and white zebras were simply looking amazing. The yellow flowers reminded me of a famous movie I had seen – Dilwale Dulhaniya Leh Jayenge. We also saw a lion very close to our vehicle and we soon reached the Ngorongoro Lodge which had an amazing view of the Ngorongoro Crater. This was one of the best lodges we stayed both in terms of size and location too. I brought a few key chains, bracelets and necklaces for my friends and we then had dinner where again we had some waiters dancing and singing which seemed a tradition at the lodges especially in Tanzania.
Next morning as we were leaving the lodge, we were blocked by a herd of lions as if telling us not to go away as it was our last day before we were heading to Nairobi. Our vehicles had to wait for a while before we could pass through for a long drive to Arusha where we had lunch and then crossed the border to enter Kenya. After the border, we all got off from the 4 vehicles and we drove in one bus up to Intercontinental Hotel. It was great fun to be with the whole group in one bus and we played many games on the way. I forgot to mention that the Parsis were leaving the same night for Victoria Falls and South Africa whereas our family along with the doctors’ family were heading back home. We could not go as my dad had to be back in Mumbai as he had to plan holidays for many other people travelling thru his company.
Lastly, I must say that every new day was better than the previous one because we experienced a lot and the last day was one of the saddest days for me as my dear friends were leaving. As we had a flight the next afternoon, we visited the Masai market in the morning, went to a mall and had an Indian meal with friends of my dad who had organized the trip in East Africa for the entire group. We boarded our flight and reached Mumbai the following morning at 0545 hours and I must say that this trip to Kenya and Tanzania was one of the most memorable trips with a wonderful group and lots of wildlife and natural beauty which I always will cherish.
Although I was sad, I was glad to know that I would be meeting many members of the Parsi families after they would return from their trip from South Africa as some of them were staying back in Mumbai before returning to Australia and I would get a chance of living my trip once again with them by sharing the pictures taken during the trip.