The next morning after breakfast, we parted and headed for the area around Mount Kenya. The traffic in Nairobi was not too bad and as soon as we were on the main road north, we drove almost alone on the three-lane highway. For a late lunch we stopped at the ‘tree trout restaurant’ and enjoy their mixed trout dish. The trout farm is located in a forest and has five troops of black and white colobus monkeys that like to feast on the left overs. More cheeky than the colobus are however the Sykes Monkeys (closely related to the blue, silver and golden monkey) that get chased out of the tree house during our lunch. The campsite in Ngare Ndare forest, our planned overnight stop, is unfortunately not open and we needed to find an alternative campsite. After having seen two dreadful campsites, we reached a large flower and vegetable farm that had before welcomed some overlanders on their premise. Their point of contact was always the coffee and vegetable shop that belonged to the farm, but unfortunately, we found it already closed and decided to head for the farm itself… To our luck, the security manager as well as the owner of the farm had just arrived at the gate as well. After a quick conversation between the two, the owner gave us a warm welcome and, after learning we are Dutch, invites us for a tour through his flower farm the next morning. The security manager brought us to a very nice and quite place where we could set up camp.
The next morning we are went to the owner’s office and after a small introduction, where he showed us how his flowers are sold in Aalsmeer (he could follow the ‘clock’ via the internet) and explained how the Dutch completely ‘dictate’ the international flower industry. We went on a tour from one of his green house managers. During the next hour and a half we learned everything about growing roses and saw some the most beautiful roses (it turned out that this farms roses are the best of the country). We especially like the ‘Queen of Africa’; a very large white rose. To our big surprise, we were told that this farm alone sends on average 70.000 roses to the Netherlands DAILY and in peak season like Valentines day even 120.000 roses per day.
Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve
After the tour, we continue the smooth tar road north to the Samburu National Reserve. Thank you, China! At about two o’clock, we entered the gate and started a game drive towards the campsite to check it out. It looked reasonable and was nicely located at the river. We continued our game drive into after crossing the bridge in the Buffalo Spring National Reserve, which we can visit on the same ticket. The numbers of wildlife we came across were not overwhelming, but what made these parks special and certainly worth the visit were the high number of gerenuk (giraffe neck antelope), grevy zebra, reticulated (or Somali) giraffe and the Somali ostrich. These animals cannot be seen in any other national park in Kenya (or in the countries we visited before). Our campsite is nothing more than a spot on the muddy Ewaso Ngir River. After a quite night, we got up early for another game drive and left the park around eleven towards Henry’s camp in Marsabit.
The rest of the afternoon, we relaxed a bit and did the necessary chores that we had pushed forward in the past days.
The past days we had been debating whether or not we would go to Lake Turkana and make the loop via South Horr, Loyangalani, North Horr back to Marsabit. Many overlanders had marvelled the views and ruggedness of the landscape and we had been intrigued since we started planning our route through Kenya. The catch was however the poor condition of the roads in this remote area. We were strongly advised not to drive it alone as the chances of getting stuck in the (fine) sand or mud in the desert are high. Also your car would definitely get a beating… many stories online tell about broken springs or shocks and punctured tires resulting from the rocky, sandy or corrugated roads. What to do…
As we went faster through the parks and past Mount Kenya than planned, we had some days to make the loop and still be in time in Addis Ababa. So, we figured we should do it. In Amboseli NP, we met a South African family living in Nairobi. They moved to Kenya as he is managing the high windmill project at Lake Turkana. He offered us to step by in the compound if we decided to visit Lake Turkana for a bite and if needed some diesel and he told us that there was a very smooth dirt road build by/for the project from the village Laisami (90km south of Marsabit) straight to the lake. Although not as adventures as many before us had done it, it was the perfect solution for us driving to Lake Turkana alone. He had not lied, after the smooth 90km tarmac, we turned into a dirt road and could maintain our cruising speed of 80km an hour. The scenery was incredible, starting with hills in a bushy desert, it changed in to a serious mountain range. After about 2 hours, when we saw the first windmills on the hillside covered by rough lava rocks, we knew we were getting close to the views over lake Turkana.
After 200km of driving on a perfect dirt road up to and including the perimeter of the windmill project, the road got worse by the metre and we crawled the last 20 kilometres! However, we were also treated to very lovely views of the lake; also called ‘The Jade Sea’.
Lake Turkana, which is the world’s largest permanent desert lake,
We stayed overnight in Loyangalani, which stands in utter contrast to the dour desert shades surrounding it. This tiny village is colourful in many ways; feather headdresses and blood-red robes as it is an important meeting point of the great northern tribes: Turkana and Samburu, Gabbra and El Molo. Our campsite is Palm Shades Camp, a small campsite and some bandas in the midst of large palm trees that provide the much needed shade. During the day temperature rose to 45 degrees, cooling down to 29 degrees when we went to bed at eleven thirty. There is always wind in this region; hence the windmill park, and the palm trees next to our truck made a rustling noise the entire night.
The next morning, we take it slow as we plan to go back to Marsabit and knew the way. We spent our last days in Kenya updating the travel blog, maintaining the truck, laundry and cleaning the truck of months and months of dust and sand.
Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks
Amboseli National Park
Our next stop on the Kenyan safari circuit was Amboseli National Park and, yes, it is very easy to see why this is one of the top safari destination of Kenya. Its signature attraction is the sight of hundreds of big-tusked elephants set against the backdrop of Africa’s best views of Mt Kilimanjaro. Africa’s highest peak broods over the southern boundary of the park, and while cloud cover can render the mountain’s massive bulk invisible for much of the day, we were very fortunate and rewarded with stunning vistas of an almost clear Mount Kilimanjaro.
You can drive to Amboseli National Park via two ways; all the way back to Nairobi or to go round Mount Suswa and stay below Nairobi, through the swamps to the highway that would lead us to Namanga. The plan was to stay below Nairobi since traffic is terrible in this city. However, since we did a game drive in the morning, we stayed over in Karen, one of the Southern suburbs of Nairobi at Wildebeest Eco camp. The next day we reached Amboseli quite early and found Mount Kilimanjaro still in the clouds. But, little by little, the clouds disappeared and at sunset, the whole mountain was ready to be photographed. As the campsite did not look too good, we tried our luck at several of the luxury lodges…at the Serena, we were not allowed to camp, but they made us a very good offer and we decided to spend the night with them. Like in Masai Mara, we saw plenty of wildebeest including many babies, elephants, antelopes, birds, plenty of lions, spotted hyena’s and a cheetah.
Tsavo West and East National Park
When we exited the park exactly 24hrs later, the guards were very amused. As it took a while to get the creditcard transaction processed, Judith gave them a currency calculation lecture that saved us 17 cents.
Tsavo West and East form the largest national park of Kenya. Tsavo West is more renowned for its huge variety of landscapes from swamps, natural springs and rocky peaks to extinct volcanic cones, rolling plains and sharp out- crops dusted with greenery. This is a park with a whiff of legend about it, first for its famous man-eating lions in the late 19th century. The lions killed more than a hundred people working in the railway line from Nairobi to Mombasa. They even made a Hollywood blockbuster about these incidents, called ‘The ghost and the Darkness’.
Although the road to Tsavo West was pretty good (for a dirt road), we entered the park late afternoon, around 05.00pm. Not really fancying to spend the night on a camping that has worse reviews than the one in Amboseli, we tried our luck again at a lodge. The lodge we chose was on the south side of the game area. On the drive we came across several wildebeest, antelopes, giraffes, dikdiks and zebra’s, but it became very clear that the density of the vegetation will make it very difficult to find any predators. At sunset, we reached the lodge, but unfortunately, there is no last minute deal possible and camping was not option either and we decided to drive through the park in the semi-dark to the campsite after all. At the end of our small night drive, we had seen several hares/rabbits and a large genet. Once at the campsite, we luckily found it unfenced and more importantly, without a locked gate. Even the ablutions are unlocked, but unfortunately the main water tap had been closed.
The next morning, we woke up very early to be able to enjoy the very diverse landscapes throughout the park. We had a small breakfast at Poacher’s Lookout overlooking the planes to the West towards Kilimanjaro. From there, we decided to go to the Mzima Spring that pushes through 282 thousand litres per minute into the small lake and river. Ten percent of which is enough to provide all of Mombasa from water. After the small walkway at the spring, we continued our way towards Rhino Valley passing Lava hill. Instead of exiting at the East gate close to the Rhino sanctuary, we made a short detour and also visit the ‘lava stream’ on the West side close to the campsite where we started our day. It was the right choice, as this turned out to be the highlight of our day in Tsavo West.
From the gate of Tsavo West, we take the high way towards Mombasa to the gate of Tsavo East. Tsavo East is markedly flatter and drier than the West park. The flipside is that spotting wildlife was much easier here to the thinly spread foliage. This was where we finally saw the generuk (giraffe neck) antelope for the first time.
Again we arrive late in the afternoon and we do a short game drive towards the campsite where we wanted to stay. On this short drive, we already encounter more animals than we had seen in Tsavo West in total…although the campsite did not look too bad, we decided to also check what prices the tented camp next door was asking for a full board stay (camping was about $50…). The manager started at $100, but after some negotiation, we agree to a tent, hot shower and full board for $85. After a really nice diner, we turned in for an early game drive. Little did we know…
The next morning, we found the car slightly out of balance and it turned out that we had our second flat tire. Not wanting to waste any time, Wilfred started changing the tire, while breakfast is being prepared. A small hour later than planned, we started our game drive and found ourselves following about six other cars towards a cheetah sighting. We did see a cheetah, but at a distance of about 200m…when we continued our drive in the direction planned, we came across several cars at the side of the road. It turn out that five cheetahs were in the area. To our surprise however, we also see a couple of gerenuk that actually seemed to have become the attention of the cheetahs as well.
A few minutes later, the gerenuks had disappeared out sight and we continued our drive towards the swamp and next to the dam. After lunch, we took the long way towards a more northern gate to exit the park around three thirty expecting to get to Nairobi around seven…traffic on this Saturday was however horrific. Even on a Saturday, there were plenty of trucks crawling up the hills…after a very long and horrendous drive in the dark, we finally arrived at the campsite little after nine.
Back in Nairobi
The next day, we hoped to get the tire fixed and get two new tires fitted. Unfortunately, the company that sells the tires we wanted, was not able to fix the punctured tire and we had to wait till Monday to sort in al out. So we did some sightseeing around Nairobi and visited the Karen Blixen museum (if unaware, please enjoy reading or seeing Out of Africa). She left after a series of personal tragedies, but the lovely colonial house has been preserved as a museum. It, along with the adjacent agricultural college, was presented by the Danish government to the Kenyan government at independence. We had lunch at her manager’s house (now one of the best restaurants of Nairobi). Our last visit was the Giraffe centre. This is one of Kenya’s good-news conservation stories. In 1979 Jock Leslie-Melville (the Kenyan grandson of a Scottish earl) an his wife Betty began raising a baby giraffe in their Langata home. At the time, their African Fund for Endangered Wildlife was just getting off the ground there were no more than 120 Rothschild giraffes (which differ from other giraffe subspecies in that there is no patterning below the knee) in the wild. Unlike the more common reticulated and Masai giraffes, the Rothschild’s giraffe had been pushed to the brink of extinction by severe habitat loss in western Kenya. Today, the population numbers more than 300, and the centre has successfully released these charismatic creatures into Lake Nakuru National Park (home to around 45 giraffes). At about five, we picked up our Belgium overlanding friends (doing about the same as we do, but then in an orange air cooled VW combi from the year 1989) at the campsite and went to the mall for groceries.
After an enjoyable evening and breakfast sharing stories and tips, we parted and continued our tire repair quest. Around 4.00pm, we had the tire fixed and two new ones fitted and headed once more to the house of our Nairobian friends for an another cosy and luxurious evening (likely our last till we are in the Emirates) and to be united with our passports that include the Ethiopian Visa.
Kakamega Forest Reserve and the Rift Valley lakes
Kakamega Forest Reserve
After the border crossing from Uganda our first destination in Kenya is the Kakamega forest. Not so long ago much of western Kenya was hidden under a dark veil of jungle and formed a part of the mighty Guineo– Congolian forest ecosystem – even gorillas are rumoured to have once played in the mists here. However, the British soon did their best to turn all that lovely virgin forest into tea estates. Now all that’s left is the slab of tropical rainforest surrounding Kakamega; hence the Kakamega Forest Reserve. The campsite in the reserve is seriously run down, but the staff is very friendly and made us some hot water to freshen up. During our morning hike we heard many Black and White Colobus monkeys, before we finally noticed a couple of them, high up in the trees. We also saw trees actually kill each other – seriously! Parasitic fig trees grow on top of unsuspecting trees and strangle their hosts to death.
Lake Baringa and Bogoria lake
We hadn’t planned to visit these lakes in the Rift Valley, but since we left Uganda a couple of days sooner than planned, we made a short detour. The fist lake we visited was Lake Baringa, a rare freshwater Rift Valley lake, encircled by mountains and with a surface dotted with picturesque islands and we thought it was the most idyllic lake of the Rift Valley lakes we visited, as well as the most remote. The next one, Lake Bogoria, an alkaline lake, is renowned to be one of the best places in Kenya to see the massed flocks of blushing pink flamingos. It also houses several hotsprings, one of which is in use by the lodge and campsite where we stayed. At the lodge we had the worst meal since we started our trip 8 months ago, so Wilfred went to see the manager and told him:’ I want to help you because we just had the worst lunch on our trip through Africa’. The manager listened very patiently to our complaints and afterwards came to our table with the head chef and waiter and we were invited to have dinner on the house. So we did, reluctantly, but to our surprise the food was a lot better than lunch and they really made an effort !
In 2013 floods took place in this region, the Rift Lake region; destroying many houses, lodges and campsites on the shores of the lake and leaving a view of many dead trees just beyond the shores of the lakes.
Lake Nakuru National park, Lake Naivisha, Hells Gate National Park and visiting friends in Nairobi
Lake Nakuru National Park
The first national park we visited in Kenya is Lake Nakuru, a few kilometres from the hustle of central Nakuru (a rather large city). In this park we hoped to see massive flamingo flocks that made the lake famous, and of course some lions, leopards, endangered Rothschild’s giraffes, buffaloes and zebras. And, as it is also renowned for its black and white rhinos, it would be great to see those again! The last time we saw a rhino is at least a couple of months back.
On our first afternoon in the park we did a game drive, but were not lucky at all. The number of animals we saw was limited and the rain that started did not improve our chances. We still enjoyed our afternoon as the landscape was very diverse; fringed with euphorbia trees, acacia forests, an escarpment, and lovely views of the lake. The next morning, luck seemed to be on our side; we saw a couple of lions with young cups, three white rhinos and lots of different antelopes and bird species.
Lake Naivisha and Hells gate National park
The freshwater Lake Naivisha is the highest of the Rift Valley lakes (1884m above sea level). Its shores are fringed in papyrus and yellow-barked acacias. At night we heard the snorting hippos as our campsite was located right at the shores of the lake. That night one of the staff made us a nice campfire…well actually a huge bonfire ! So big, that we needed to move the truck to a safer distance.
Close to Lake Naivisha is a small national park, called Hell’s gate. Why it is called Hell’s gate still remains a question to us…the park is one of the most scenic parks we have visited in Kenya so far and because it is mostly a predator-free park (with only a leopard and hyena’s that a rarely seen) you are allowed to walk and cycle next to just driving through the park. Our initial plan was to go cycling, but as we were meeting up with friends that evening in Nairobi our time in the park was short. So we drove most of the park with only a short hike in the Ol Njorowa gorge.
While driving though the park we started to hear a strange noise in the car, but couldn’t really discover the problem. However, when we exited the park we made a short video to record the noise and Wilfred finally localized, that the strange sound was coming form the back of the car. Oh, shit…Africa had finally taking its toll on our truck…one of the OME leaf springs had broken. With a ‘bush fix’ Wilfred temporarily fixed the problem (or at least the noise) by using a ratchet strap to tighten the leaf springs. We still needed to drive about 150 kilometres to Nairobi. It was a good road, but not as smooth that we hoped with our broken leaf spring. We drove very carefully to avoid every bump, speed hump and pot hole. During the drive, Judith started making calls to the different 4x4 shops in Nairobi and fortunately one had the leaf spring we needed on stock.
A day later than planned due to the repairs to our truck we left for the Masai Mara Conservation Area. Two nights before we met Rajiv, a safari company owner, and he gave us lots of tips on where to go in the conservation area as most of the wildlife is currently near the Masai Riante area.
The Masai Mara is probably Kenyan most famous and visited national reserve. It borders the Serengeti (equally famous in Tanzania) in the south. The park get reliable rains and is plentiful in vegetation to support the millions of herbivores living in the Mara. Wildebeest, zebra, impala, eland, reedbuck, waterbuck, black rhino, elephant, Masai giraffe and several species of gazelle all call the short-grass plains and acacia woodlands of the Mara home. This vast concentration of game accounts for very high predator numbers including cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, caracal and it has the highest lion densities in the world !
Driving through the Masai Mara was challenging at certain points due to some river crossings and very rocky tracks (and of course… we did choose them ourselves). We had some luck on our side as we saw four of the Big Five with the exception of a leopard, many wildebeest, zebra and many hyenas as we discovered several holes of them.
Kakamega National park, Lake Nakuru National park, Lake Naivisha and Hells Gate National park, Nairobi, Masai Mara, Amboseli National Park, Tsavo West National Park, Tsavo East National Park, Nairobi, Mount Kenya National Park, Samburu National Reserve, Lake Turkana, Marsabit National Park, Moyale (border crossing).
Kakamega Forest Reserve, Lake Baringa, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru National park, Lake Naivisha, Hells Gate National park, Nairobi, Masai Mara, Nairobi, Amboseli NP, Tsavo West, Tsavo East, Nairobi, Mt. Kenya/Lapikia plateau (Kisima Farm), Samburu & Buffalo Spring NP, Marsabit, Lake Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale (border crossing).
The colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of a German protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions in 1885, followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. Incipient imperial rivalry was forestalled when Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain in 1890. This was followed by the building of the Kenya–Uganda railway passing through the country. While building the railway through Tsavo, a number of the Indian railway workers and local African labourers were attacked by two lions known as the Tsavo maneaters. A still to be taken into service railway with a large inland terminal has been build next to the original Tsavo track between Nairobi to Mombasa and, hopefully, will relieve the highway of all the trucks soon…
During the early part of the 20th century, the interior central highlands were settled by British and other European farmers, who became wealthy farming coffee and tea. By the 1930s, approximately 30,000 white settlers lived in the area and gained a political voice because of their contribution to the market economy. We saw that during this time a lot of forests have been deforested in favour for tea plantations, especially around the area of Kakamega and Kericho.
Throughout World War II, Kenya was an important source of manpower and agriculture for the United Kingdom. Kenya itself was the site of fighting between Allied forces and Italian troops in 1940–41 when Italian forces invaded.
During the 1950’s Kenya was in a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The governor requested and obtained British and African troops, including the King's African Rifles. The British began counter-insurgency operations. In May 1953, General Sir George Erskine took charge as commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces, with the personal backing of Winston Churchill.
The Colony of Kenya and the Protectorate of Kenya each came to an end on 12 December 1963 with independence being conferred on all of Kenya. The United Kingdom ceded sovereignty over the Colony of Kenya. The Sultan of Zanzibar agreed that simultaneous with independence for the Colony of Kenya, the Sultan would cease to have sovereignty over the Protectorate of Kenya so that all of Kenya would be one sovereign, independent state. And in 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya's first president.
He ruled Kenya until his death in 1978 when Daniel arap Moi became President. Daniel arap Moi retained the Presidency, being unopposed in elections held in 1979, 1983 and 1988, all of which were held under the single party constitution. The 1983 elections were held a year early, and were a direct result of an abortive military coup attempt on 2 August 1982. Under his rule the one party system was abolished and in democratic, multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, he won re-election.
In 2002, Moi was constitutionally barred from running, and Mwai Kibaki, running for the opposition coalition "National Rainbow Coalition was elected President. Reports announced that the elections were judged free and fair by local and international observers, and seemed to mark a turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution. He stayed in office until 2013 when he handed over to his successor Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the first president of Kenya. Kenyatta won the election in 2013. In august 2017 new elections will be held in Kenya and even though still six months away the country already seems to be under the spell of political propaganda.
KM’s driven : 1841km
Total liters of fuel : 263lt (to spent our last money as diesel is very expensive)
Fuel consumption : 6,6km per litre
Average diesel price : 2940UGX
Punctures : 1
Nights Camping : 9 nights
Nights B&B/Hotel : 1 nights
Fines : 0
Bribes : 0
Theft : 0
Highlight : Seeing a flying Shoebill and lioness killing a waterbuck
KM’s driven : 906km
Total liters of fuel : 47lt (to spent our last money as diesel is very expensive)
Fuel consumption : 8,3km per litre
Average diesel price : 939RWF
Nights Camping : 11 nights
Nights B&B/Hotel : 0 nights
Fines : 0
Bribes : 0
Theft : 0
Highlight : Views of Lake Kivu and driving the Congo-Nile trail