Kenya & Tanzania
NOTE: The following pages are a portion of my safari journal.
I came to understand how important this safari was to me when I realized I would have no goal left in life when it ended except perhaps another journey to Africa. I went to Africa because I did not want to die and discover that I had never really lived.
I don't know what I expected to find there. I had seen and photographed nearly every kind of animal I would see on the trip. I had studied Kenya and Tanzania and their tribal cultures for many years. And I already had numerous genuine African artifacts in my home office. But beyond this was the dream turned reality. I was not a tourist on vacation. I was a serious photographer on safari, who came not to see Africa but to immerse myself in it and have it become a part of me. I wanted to be like Karen von Blixen or Kuki Gallman or Joy Adamson. I wanted to experience all the agony and ecstasy, the full emotional and physical range that is Africa. I never wanted to return home, because from the moment the plane touched down in Nairobi, East Africa became my home.
After 24 hours in Frankfurt and a lengthy flight to Nairobi, I arrived at Jomo Kenyatta airport to be confronted with well-armed police guards at close intervals. They did not smile. After a long wait for luggage due to the manual baggage handling system, our San Diego Zoo group breezed past customs and was whisked away in Micato Safari vans to the Nairobi Safari Club.
I lay awake listening to the street sounds of Nairobi. I didn't want to miss anything.
The next morning we headed for Sweetwaters Tented Camp. Along the way our driver, Stephen, stopped in Karatina. This town is worth a visit on market days (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), when it hosts one of the biggest fruit and vegetable markets in East Africa. It attracts buyers from as far as Mombasa.
But this was Sunday. We entered a market area next to the Post Office. We were directed to the toilets, where a young local man stood outside dispensing toilet paper as we went in. The stall doors wouldn't latch and it wasn't the cleanest
place, but certainly better than a porta-potty and sufficient when you really need to go - - as we all did.
The Sweetwaters Tented Camp was excellent, except that the running water in my tent never got warm. I think it was simply its location in relation to the "water heater." But my room steward (who was very kind and later even offered me his mailing address to write to him) gave me two hot water bottles for my bed (which remarkably stayed warm all night) and put flower petals on my pillow when he turned down the bed in the evening.
The food was very good. Our only complaint was having to pay a small fortune for drinking water, which you also have to use to brush your teeth. Huge storks, giraffes, elephants, warthogs and jackals were just outside the dining area - - watching us as we watched them.
The game drives were superb - - especially a night drive where we saw a cheetah stalking its prey and five lions feasting on a kill. There were elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, gazelles, warthogs, duikers and more. Of course we also went to the Ol Pejeta Game Reserve (ranch) where we petted Morani, a rhino. I also "got in with" the warthog who was a model for The Lion King's "Pumbha." Sweetwaters was a place I'd definitely like to return to and spend more time at.
Our next destination was Mountain Lodge Treetops. We stopped at the equator along the way. Several of us got an "equator certificate." At the Mountain Lodge I photographed elephants, cape buffalo, bushbuck, Sykes monkeys and more. The monkeys were out of control, running rampant everywhere and even breaking into some people's rooms. One was very pleased with himself for stealing a bag of M & Ms trail mix.