I awoke early again today and rather than go back to sleep I felt compelled to get downstairs early to check my email.
As I was enjoying a cup a coffee I was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of John Kariuki, Mumbi’s brother and our guide on Mt. Kenya in 2005. I was so thrilled to see him and the fact that he came all the way from Nairobi to have coffee with me. We had a great time catching up and then we called Fero on the cell. While hiking with John on Mt. Kenya, him and Fero would discuss politics for hours and John was thereafter known as Mr. President. Their conversation this morning consisted of a lot of laughter and it was so amazing to be connected with home in mere seconds.
John had to leave and Jim, Sian and I organized ourselves and Mumbi sent us on our Arusha National Park safari with Roman, the African Cowboy. He was dressed in true cowboy fashion, jeans, boots, hat, belt and buckle and my favourite – an Alan Jackson T-shirt. He loved his cowboy title and unlike the ladies from yesterday didn’t mind his picture being taken in the least!
We said our goodbyes to Mumbi and with a promise of buying popcorn for our mountain snacks she was off to get the supplies for our trek tomorrow. We too scrambled into the land cruiser and headed east to Arusha National Park with lunch boxes in hand.
Roman stopped at the Park Gate to obtain our passes and we were off to discover what animals we would see today. Roman asked which ones each of us would like to see. Jim’s choice is elephants although there isn’t many in this area, Sian’s choice is lions which we will likely see in the Serengeti and mine is giraffes. Before heading off, Roman lifted the roof of the cruiser so that we could stand to be able to see the animals in full view.
Not too far in we see several other land cruisers stopped watching black and white colobus monkeys. They are adorable, mostly black with long fluffy white tails and long white hair along the both sides of their backs. At a quick glance it reminded me of skunks – thankfully they weren’t! They were jumping (it almost looked like flying) from branch to branch and tree to tree making a huge racket. We tried to catch them mid jump but they were very quick.
After many photos we moved on and went up to the Ngurdoto Crater viewpoint. Here we saw a herd of water buffalo and retracing our route we came across more colobus monkeys in several spots. There were several babies learning to jump and pestering their moms with their antics.
Heading towards the Momelo Lakes area we see what looks like a huge boulder in the middle of a small lake. Is it a boulder? Nope, it is a hippopotamus almost completely submerged. The day is quite hot so I don’t blame him for staying in the lake. Shortly after we see several giraffe in a small valley, they are so graceful and elegant looking.
A little further we stop for our picnic lunch overlooking Small Momelo Lake. We have a beautiful view of thousands of pink flamingos lining the entire shore of the lake. After lunch we drive around the lake towards the larger lakes and the amount of flamingos was mind boggling! The ones here are quite pink and are called Lesser Flamingos (smaller in size than the Greater Flamingos – how imaginative!!). Winding our way through the Park, we see Pumba, the name given by Disney to the wart hog. I assumed this was the Swahili name for them but I am told that is not so by Roman.
We are now heading back to the Park Gate thinking we are nearing the end of our safari. It is around 4pm, sunny and hot and we are starting to doze off – we are still dealing with the 10 hour time change. Lulled by the rocking of the land cruiser we bolt up in our seats as only a few feet from the road is a majestic giraffe sitting in the grass – SO close. As we pull up it pulls its neck up to its full length, almost as if posing for our photos. We are so excited, however have learned throughout the day to keep quiet so as to not scare them away. After allowing us a few photos, the giraffe stands up on its LONG graceful legs and walks away – they are so beautiful to watch. In the same small area we see a roe buck (antelope family I believe), another giraffe in the distance and zebra. The clouds have cleared the top of Mt. Meru (a beautiful 4600m dormant volcanic mountain) and in the late afternoon light, the scene is stunning. Now this is what I think of as Africa.
Elated and much more awake, we turn a corner and gaspe in awe – eleven closer than our recent encounter is a whole family of giraffe including a juvenile. We excitedly count, 3 no 4, 5, 6 on my gosh there are 7 of them! The juvenile is adorable with large fluffy tufts of hair on his horns and unabashedly looks back at us. They munch of the leaves of the trees and ignore our presence. Sian hears rustling in the bush on the opposite side of the road but doesn’t see what it is. We pull ourselves away and within a minute stop to see a family of baboons complete with small babies – they are gorgeous. Snapping photo after photo one of the giraffes wanders into our photos behind the baboons – we couldn’t have planned it better.
Filled with awe we feel it has been quite the day. It isn’t over yet! Around another corner we see water buffalo in the distance and Roman excitedly shouts out – elephant, there is a herd of elephants on the far end of the field! He has never seen this many elephant together in the area – he is just excited, if not more so, than we are. Jim is very happily clicking away on his camera and very animated as he has spotted a bull. His dream it to have a photo of a huge bull – this one isn’t quite fully grown yet.
We have no reached the Park Gate and are amazed at the quantity of animals we have seen in this small 137 square mile park! I doze all the way back to the hotel and wake with a start when we stop in front of the hotel. It has been quite a day!
We all return to our rooms to relax and meet awhile later at the pool. Sian decides not to join us for dinner and Jim and I head in for a small meal before saying good night around 8pm. Mumbi said we would see her tonight however I received a text that she needs to do a wee bit more shopping for our food for the trek so we will see her at 9:15am rather than 8am. Hakuna Matata!
I reorganize my bags into trek and leave at the hotel and fall into a deep sleep by 10:30pm.