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Dust flew and the earth shook as the six-thousand-pound elephant trumpeted its fury. The mother, separated from her baby, was furious. Pale-faced and trembling, our driver lay on his horn as he tried to restart our vehicle. We watched helplessly in fright, then suddenly the baby elephant appeared from the back of the rover and ran towards its mother. The drama ended as suddenly as it began.
Lesson: Never convince a driver to break the rules. On that April morning, on the open plains of Kenya, he did just that. Leaving the main road, he drove too close to a herd of elephants, which could have ended in disaster.
A full moon, a soft breeze and a smiling guide welcomed us as our East African adventure began. Nairobi, a bustling city of 33,829,590 people, was in full bloom when our group of four made our way to the Nairobi Serena Hotel. The five-star hotel has all the amenities required for luxurious comfort. Colorful flowers and giant trees surrounded the hotel and the atmosphere was a pleasant surprise after the long flight from London. Our guide, still smiling, suggested that we stay inside the hotel. However, if we wanted to venture out, we needed a bodyguard.
Refreshed and camera ready, our group headed to Mara Simba Lodge, a safari resort on the Talek River. The elephant incident caused quite a stir, but the afternoon ended on a more pleasant note as we photographed lions, giraffes, zebras and cheetahs. Made of natural wood and stone, the spacious cabañas at Mara Simba Lodge overlook the river and are very comfortable. Lights illuminate the many paths from the cabins to the main house. A huge stone fireplace dominates the dining room, where everyone gathers for dinner between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. From the balcony of the bar, crocodiles are seen chasing a prey that ventures to the river to drink. Not for the faint of heart like me. Even the men were shocked when a cherry grabbed a deer.
Sunshine, blue skies and a temperature of 72 degrees framed our perfect morning. The breakfast buffet is served at 7am and the quiche is one of the best I have ever had. At 8:30 we left for the Masai Mara Game Reserve. A herd of zebras wandering in the wind swept across the plains and the mountainous backdrop kept the cameras clicking during the scenic drive that took us through the valley to Thompson Falls, down to the Rift Valley and then to Lake Nakuru National Park.
In the early afternoon, we visited the Masai Warrior Village, a cattle-breeding tribe still proudly remote from Western civilization. The children gathered excitedly as I scattered candy, whistles, paper and pencils among them.
The tall, aloof and proud Maasai warrior chief turned out to be a good businessman. Therefore, in exchange for the photograph, I was obliged to offer him something of mine. It seemed to get pretty shiny on my leather notebook. Without a doubt, I tore out all my notes and handed him my book. The smile on his face understood a little discomfort. .
Vibrant orange highlighted the watery sky as the sun rose over the Serengeti plains. My heart was pounding, I got into a hot air balloon and was whisked away. Fear dissipated as we rose into the wild blue. Five hundred feet below, a herd of elephants moved slowly across the Rift Valley as we soared over the plain. We flew high above lakes and forested highlands. The giraffes munched on trees, while the zebras drank water from their natural well. A colony of pink flamingos greeted us from the lake, then they spread their wings as if they were flying. The smell of freedom was overwhelming as I watched these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.
Joy filled the air as we landed on a mountain plateau in Tanzania. A picnic was waiting for the experienced hot air balloonist. The food and wine was a culinary delight as we talked, laughed and enjoyed our adventure.
In the afternoon, we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. We boarded the bus and headed back to Kenya and Lake Nakuru Lodge. Simple, natural and comfortable characterizes the accommodation, which fits well with its surroundings. An enticing blue swimming pool awaits, and Nikki Bar overlooking the pool is a place for fellow travelers to meet. After dinner, drums beat while the Masai Warriors perform a war dance for the guests. What a fabulous show.
The sweet scent of jasmine highlighted another wonderful day as we set off for Aberdare National Park. Located near Killimanjaro, whose snow-capped peak rises to 19,340 feet, it provides a wonderful backdrop for photographing the animals as you tour the park.
Dining at Aberdare Country Club is a culinary delight. Over the years, the club has hosted many celebrities. William Holden was an important guest who was intrigued by Africa and the many animals roaming the plains. In the 1950s, he founded the Holden Wildlife Foundation to care for sick, injured and abandoned animals. After her death, the foundation continues to thrive under the directorship of Stefanie Powers. Donations are never requested, but greatly appreciated.
The Ark Game Lodge in the heart of the Park is famous for famous visitors such as Queen Elizabeth 11. Named after Noah’s Ark, the lodge is built on stilts and has four decks and a platform for viewing the animals. There are 60 cabin-style rooms, and each room overlooks a waterhole and a salt flat that attracts wildlife. In case you are asleep, each room has a buzzer to announce animals that venture into the night. If you don’t like it, the sound signal can be turned off. An elusive bongo and a giant wild boar are also occasionally seen in the area.
Breakfast and dinner are served in the main dining room. The bunker on the ground floor provides an excellent photo opportunity. After breakfast we returned to Aberdare Country Club for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, our driver escorted us back to the Nairobi Serena Hotel, where we rested until our flight.
Our group rated the trip to Africa with a five-star rating. If adventure is in your heart, there is no place like Kenya. Flying out of Nairobi I felt an inexplicable sense of peace and couldn’t wait to get back.
The entire trip cost $1,500, including tip. I highly recommend Rhino Safaris.
A code of conduct is required when traveling in Africa: radios and cassette players are prohibited in parks and reserves. Speak softly and never try to get the animals’ attention. Do not bring any souvenirs, not even a pen. Do not try to touch or feed the animals and never litter. More importantly, never ask the driver to break a rule.
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