Unravelling the beauty that’s Hell’s Gate National Park, Naivasha

Hell's Gate National Parkmai mahiunairobiNaivashaolkaria geothermal spa

So here we were. At Olkaria Geothermal Spa. In the middle of Hell’s Gate National Park. With our cars keys locked in the car. The reality was sinking in that we had to think fast before darkness set it.

Kenyans are such a friendly lot though. A couple of young guys who’d come to visit the spa via Safari Africa Adventures saw our dilemma and offered to help. From using crooked hangers lent to us by the spa askaris, to crawling underneath the car to pry open the car bonnet, we tried everything! Spanners were being sourced from nearby drivers and all sorts of tools to get us access to the car. Nothing worked! 🙁 It was getting dark and we’d been informed about wild animals coming into the spa compound at night. We had two stark choices, to stay behind and keep trying or to leave for Nairobi and come back the next day.

Fortunately and really from the generosity of this kind driver and his passengers, they made room for us in their van and let us ride with them all the way to Nairobi! Lesson learnt, with travel, expect anything 🙂 Despite the situation and shock at the turn of events, we still drove through the park, which was our goal after all. I was lost in the beauty of the towering cliffs, vast plains and gorges with the sunset painting it all in gold. Rock extrusions and gorges characterize Hell’s Gate National Park. Additionally, you’ll spot giraffes, baboons and buffaloes. Better still you can hike and bike amongst them! 🙂

We used the Mai Mahiu route to Nairobi and reached late in the evening. Thanks again Safari Africa Adventures!

Early the next morning we set out again with spare keys in hand to Naivasha town 😀 Almost checking and double checking accompanied by our friend Wycliffe.

Once you’re in Naivasha, you can get to the KWS gate by taking a matatu to Oserian, with the fare ranging between Ksh. 80-100. You can also grab a bite at Mother’s Kitchen (located opposite Naivas Supermarket), a favourite with people throughout the week in the town.

We reached Olkaria Geothermal Spa late afternoon and found the car in great condition. You should have seen the anticipation on our faces. All this hustle for just this spare key. And with one click, we got access to the car once again. Thank God! Lesson learnt. Check your car keys people before closing the doors because one little action can turn your trip into major distress!

We were finally back on course to explore the park. If you’re driving from Olkaria Geothermal Spa, you’ll get to see some of the power grids & stations set in place. All the fencing, power grids and piped steam gives off that industrial charm, with machinery churning and pipes running along the road.

For a minute there you’ll forget you’re in the park until just round the bend your eyes are arrested with the view of plains and gorges.

Hell’s Gate National Park is surrounded by sky high cliffs, gorgeous landscapes, stunning extrusions of rock (e.g. Central Tower & Fischer’s Tower), punctuated with clouds of smoke from some of the Ken-Gen plants.

While we didn’t get a chance to visit the famous Ol Njorowa Gorge ( we hope to soon visit on our next camping trip ? ) We did get a picture from afar, and for those of us who love Lion King here’s the place that inspired the highly acclaimed classic ?

The Lion King_Gorge View Image Source: http://disney-hiddensecrets.tumblr.com/tagged/the+lion+king

As you drive through the park, the road transitions into murram. On both sides of the road are jagged rough steep rock faces, met by a peaceful valley with animals grazing below.

This park is home to buffaloes, baboons, elands, giraffes hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and zebras among others.

The great thing about this park is that it’s close to Nairobi. Activities include swimming at the Olkaria Geothermal Spa that we covered here, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Sunset at Hell’s Gate National Park

This wondrous place will have you awestruck. Visit and I guarantee you’ll be blown away.

Have a look at our gallery here for more enchanting views.

See you on our next adventure! ?

Olkaria Geothermal Spa, Hell’s Gate National Park, Naivasha

Hell's Gate National ParkKaragitakengenkenya wildlife serviceolkaria geothermal spa

How fast is 2017 flying? We promised to share more this year, and here is another exclusive travel edition. ? In one of our previous articles we mentioned that travel need not tear a hole in your pockets; a deep one for that matter! Our recent visit led us to discover Hell’s Gate National Park. This park inspired the making of a classic animation, The Lion King (a favourite!). It’s also home to KenGen operations, the Olkaria Geothermal Spa, and amazing rock formations, gorges and wildlife.

In the beginning we only knew about the Olkaria Geothermal Spa, also known as Mvuke Spa (Owned by KenGen) after a recommendation from one of our close friends. So far, we know of two main entrances to Hell’s Gate National Park:

  1. The first is a short distance after Karagita town along Moi South Lake Road, on your left.
  2. The second entrance is farther along Moi South Lake Road heading towards Oserian. Right before Oserian, there’s a road that leads to KenGen plant, take the left and drive towards the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) Gate. The Spa is best accessed from this gate.

At the KWS gate you’ll have to pay park fees for your vehicle as well as for the people accessing the park.

The spa is within sight once you drive into the park. You’ll pay for the facilities as Hapa Kenya listed here.

Directions from Nairobi to Olkaria Geothermal Spa (Either through the Main highway or the Mai Mahiu route)

You could also visit the KenGen website here.

What makes this place so special? The spa is the only one in the continent powered by underground energy. The water has an acrid smell of boiled eggs, real stinky due to the sulphur properties! It takes sometime to get used to, but what really gets you going is the benefits they say the spa has. The water is rich in minerals such as sulphur and silica known to cure diseases such as psoriasis, fibromyalgia, arthritis among others. Also, who can really resist hot, rejuvenating waters! Definitely not me!

You’ll enjoy watching the billows of steam puffing from some of the power plants in the distance. The scenic view lets you soak in the serenity of the environment, birds chirping and occasional baboons stopping by, so watch out for your things! There are lockers in the changing rooms so request a key from the reception in case you’d like to store your items and enjoy a stress free swim.

The water is cooled through 3 different pools of different temperatures, 90degrees, 60 degrees (both not swim friendly due to the extremely high temperatures!), then the main pool, usable with temperatures ranging between 30-40 degrees. They’ve also made a baby pool so the kids won’t miss out.

Make sure you visit this fascinating Rift Valley ‘hot tub’ and tick it off your list this year! ?

Meanwhile, our plan was to visit the park (finally) soon after our swim. All packed up and ready to leave, we put our things in the car and automatically locked the back doors. When we tried opening the front doors, we realized the worst…we had just locked our keys in the car with the rest of our bags and we didn’t have the spare keys with us!

Good Morning Kenya, From Nairobi National Park!

KitengelaMokoyeti GorgenairobiNairobi National Parksavanna

Confession Time. Who’s not been to Nairobi National Park? Hands Up!

It’s been on my list for quite a while now, and I finally got to it on one Sunday morning. With the alarm buzzing at 5.30 am. We made it to the main gate accessed from Lang’ata Road around 6.30 am. Sundays mornings are always beautiful.

We were not expecting the many nature enthusiasts all queued up waiting to go into the park. We reached and found over 50 tourists in line all being served by just 2 receptionists! After some time the murmurs began and rose into full-blown complaints regarding efficiency at the ticketing booth.

So heads up, if you can, get there early to pay for your entrance fee as well as the car fee. If you can load your safari park card (For more info, click here) in advance, even better. This will save you time as you’ll have access to the park gate directly. Since we didn’t have the card, we lost about an hour waiting to pay at the reception, as well as detail confirmation at the park gate. We ended up getting into the park at 7.30 am.

Upon entrance to the park we were in awe at how the morning sun drew the city in perfect light.

The new skyscrapers in Upper Hill area are most visible, forming a concrete backdrop to a serene grassland. We were definitely not prepared for these stunning views.

We visited the park mid January when it was scathingly hot & dry. As far as the eye could see, one could see the impact of the drought on the vast land of stiffened grass yellowed by the harsh sun. Even then, we still saw fat healthy animals like the zebras, elands, impala, buffaloes, warthogs, giraffes, wildebeest and dozens of bird-life.

The beauty of the park is that it is surrounded by views of the outskirts of the city. You will experience planes landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Towards the Mombasa Road side, you will view plains that oversee part of Kitengela and some of the cement factories in the distance.

Within the park, towards Rongai you’ll get to view a part of the famous Masai Lodge. This area of the park was much greener, due to the river flowing through. You get to see lots of hyraxes here and monkeys who’ll want your snacks ?. With this serene view into the Mokoyeti valley gorge you’ll get a refreshing break from the city! There’s a picnic site here for you to enjoy on a lovely sunny afternoon. Be vigilant of wild animals though.

Look out for this signage within the park for directions to different sights and picnic locations.

Most of the mid morning as we drove around looking for the elusive lions, we bumped into herds of gazelles, zebras and ostriches.

We were hoping one of our highlights of this visit would be to spot a lion or a cheetah. Fellow drivers directed us to where they had seen the lions but every time we got there the lions seem to have left. We’ll blame it on the heat, for now!

Visit our gallery to see more sights we saw at the park ?

If you have a free afternoon (preferably not a weekend!) visit the park and I hope you’ll have better luck spotting the lions ?

Till then, stay adventurous!

How about starting the year with Ngong Hills?

nairobiNgong' Hillswind mills

Happy New Year folks!

What are we up to this year? Sharing more of our amazing country with you!

Many times, I get asked,

  • How do you choose where to go?
  • What is the criteria?
  • Do you have a list?
  • Do you blindfold and pin a place on the map? (Sounds like a plan this one ? )

Honestly, there usually isn’t a solid plan. :-p Okay that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it is out of sheer interest of wanting to find out what a place has to offer. One of those memorable trips was Isiolo. Another thing is location scouting, where we can get some great photos.

Travel doesn’t have to be some far-reaching place in the clouds where you only dream about going! We have some cool places right here in Kenya and around Nairobi!

Last year in December we took a random drive to Ngong Hills late evening, only to be treated with nature’s showdown. You cannot afford to miss the views at Sunset people! In a word, BREATHTAKING! The wind was super gusty I almost thought I’d be blown down the hill! And I didn’t even carry my parachute! :-p

The sun sets really quick, so be sure to get there in good time to take in the view. And do leave in good time since the place has wild animals roaming around and security can be an issue.

Getting There:

We used Ngong Road, drove past Karen, through Ngong Town and up the hills. Factor in traffic from Ngong Road (ongoing construction) as well as the traffic within Ngong Town. We got there just in time to catch the sunset!

What to Carry:

Carry a wind breaker, dress warm and most importantly, hydrate.

There’s so many places to explore within & around Nairobi and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you. Until then, get your adventure hat on! ?

Have you been to Isiolo County? Read Part 2! :-)

Ashnil Samburu LodgeBeisa OryxBuffalo Springs National Park IsioloEwaso Nyiro RiverGenerukIsioloMount OlolokweReticulated giraffesamburuSimba Samburu LodgeSomali OstrichSpecial 5Unique 5

The Isiolo adventure continues…

There we were, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into! However the wardens were quick to reassure us that we were just fine. We started setting up camp and quickly realized we had left the pins for the tent. The horror! We improvised with stones that held down the tent for the night ? The best way to know about any place is by talking to the locals. The wardens were very friendly as they shared stories on how they’ve tackled poaching over the years. One of the sad stories we heard from the rangers was that 2 weeks before, some poachers had killed 2 reticulated giraffes. Good part of this story, they recovered the guns.

Day 2, Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Isiolo

Having arrived at the public campsite late the day before, we didn’t manage to explore the grounds we were camped at. The public campsite doesn’t have bathroom facilities, water etc. Be sure to carry lots of water and a shovel too.

Morning came. It was quiet, not a single animal in sight. Just calm, dancing grass. By 6am the sun had not risen, all around us were hills, palm trees, long grass. Nothing like what I imagined Isiolo to be. I quickly setup and soon the big fireball I had been waiting for came alive. You simply have to see this sunrise.

By then, our little camp was stirring. The rangers left us for the main gate and we were left to explore. I was sure we were going to bump into a canine at any time. The horror! Right behind our camp, a few metres away was the big reveal. The great Ewaso Nyiro River. Silent. Majestic. Golden. Peaceful. Huge. She was a beauty to behold. The water levels were low at the time with no crocs on sight. But who knows! We didn’t get too close to lest we leave the park without our femurs. The river was the definition of serenity. You could have sat there for hours watching the day go by.

After experiencing that little piece of flowing paradise, we set up our cooker and prepared the breakfast. I can’t begin to describe how breezy the place was. We had to improvise with some tile samples just to keep the fire in check. Monkeys were all over, curious to see what we were up to. Hehe.

Nevertheless we had breakfast in the car. Black tea, bread and sausages. With a cool box you can carry items to last you a while. The cool bags they sell at the supermarkets I can’t promise work for very long. They didn’t work for us!

Day 2 was mostly an exploration day.

The area was largely scanty and desolate, rocky and harsh. Trees were really dry with some being felled by passing elephants. At some point we didn’t think we’d encounter any wildlife. The amazing thing about this place is the bird life and grazers. We spotted several kinds and they were easy to miss since they blended in with their environment. As we drove towards the gate, we found buffalo springs. It is completely blue with an algae like look in it. The natural springs are very popular with tourists and locals. A permanent spring runs below it and supposedly cures skin ailments, leaving one with a refreshed after spa feeling.

With the harsh dry environment, we figured we’d leave the reserve and drive on towards Archer’s post. We were encouraged by the gate warden to go back and look around, since the previous evening we had missed a lion crossing near the gate by minutes. How’s that for incentive!

We encountered impala, warthogs, water bucks, lots of bird life, and rough terrain while driving around for 4 hours. This reserve is not fenced, and is a passageway for animals. It is also interesting to note that palm trees grow predominantly along the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Thankfully the signposts in the park are of much better help compared to the highway located ones.

The drive in the park can get you parched and hot, so we followed the road leading to Ashnil Samburu Camp. Behold, a herd of the endangered Grevy zebra. Unlike their counterparts, Grevy zebras are taller, have narrow stripes, a white belly, a black dorsal stripe, large rounded ears and a brown muzzle. You can have a look here.

The staff at Ashnil Samburu Camp are polite (I must admit I love the Ashnil Aruba Lodge Voi way more than this one), and we sat near the fence overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro river. You could tell the animals from the park were thirsty but extremely cautious to approach the water because it normally infested with crocodiles. It took a cool 20minutes for the Impala to settle in and have a few sips before running off.

Isiolo being close to the north hosts the unique/special 5. They are the:

We decided to leave the park when we got to explore Samburu Simba lodge. Thankfully it was not too far away from Ashnil Samburu Camp. Here we got other views of the river and glances of the Somali Ostrich. The hospitality at this lodge was amazing from the word go. From the guard at the gatehouse to the General Manager, it felt like home. We were ushered in to sample the buffet. What was more enjoyable was the open views to the river below, and the arched open spaces. One interacted with the birds in the trees close to the dining area.

Should you visit this lodge, which I highly recommend, make a point to meet with the General Manager, Mr. Halake. He shared the history of Isiolo with us, places we hadn’t thought of exploring that he knew about. He is an encyclopedia, a great host and conversationalist. He explained about the warring communities, how it had affected tourism over the years and how most of the hotels have had to adopt the name Samburu as opposed to Isiolo in order to reach markets abroad. We (domestic tourists) need to see Isiolo for the gem that it really is. Here are some views to the rooms and you can see more on their website here.

You will meet a smile everywhere you go. Again, highly recommended.

We left the park and I have to say the sunset is definitely an experience. The sun glows down on everything in sight and what you had seen as beaten down will reveal the softest serene scenes you have ever seen. See some of the views here.

Our plan was to camp somewhere within the town, and the advice was to explore Rangelands Hotel, one of the places we had tried to call in advance but calls went unanswered. We arrived to find a graduation wrapping up and getting an attendant at the reception to process our stay took a long time. It turned out the graduation grounds served as the camping grounds as well. The cost to camp here is Ksh.1,000 per person per night. We eventually set camp, ate and rested. The irony was that this place was way windier than the park. The wind settled down around 1am in the morning.

Day 3, Rangelands Hotel Campsite, Isiolo

The campsite facilities at Rangelands are existent, with running water, only a tad bit run down with broken window louvers and lack of bulbs in the bathrooms. At least we had a place to freshen up and have breakfast (the graduation party tents and tables were still in place).

Isiolo is a sleepy town which gave us a chance to capture the outskirts of the town.

To see more, have a look at our gallery and share! ?

Overall

In summary here was our general trip coverage:

We learned a lot on this trip:

  1. Carry lots of water
  2. Make sure your car is in good condition for this terrain
  3. Carry snacks, lots of fruits and non-perishable foods
  4. Check all your camping gear beforehand (Note to self!)
  5. Charge your devices and carry solar lamps and torches since you won’t have access to facilities while in the park
  6. The public campsite doesn’t have bathroom/toilet facilities
  7. Sunscreen and hats are advisable to carry. Sunglasses if you wish.

Till the next adventure, keep checking Picha Journal for more on our beautiful country!

Have you been to Isiolo County? Read on!

Beisa OryxBuffalo Springs National Park Isiolochokaa gate isioloIsioloKenyaNanyukiNgaremara GateSarova Shaba LodgeShaba Game reserveTimau

Day 1

July 2016 I set out with my partner and friend to discover Isiolo and surroundings. We’d garnered a bit of camping gear and courage (Thanks Kenyan Camper) and set out. This was clearly a learning experience, I’ll get back to that soon ;-). Check some of the shots we got from Isiolo here.

After getting some last minute shopping in Nairobi the night before, we set off next morning by 7am with a few stopovers along the way. (Sagana home sweet home, Nanyuki you always look great, Timau you take our breath away every time we see you). It’s always a bit strange how people stare & wonder what you’re up to when you stop the car to take a few pictures. Timau was one such place. The large scale farming is an eye feast for any nature loving person. I love the golden season, when the sun has beat down on the earth, and it’s almost harvest time. A sight to behold. Pictures don’t tell the story like the real deal.

Isiolo is close to Timau, and with a few calls to a few friends who formerly worked at Isiolo (thanks Carol) we had to figure out where we’d be setting camp. (We literally had no idea!). Online searches bore no fruit as attendants for most campsites wouldn’t pick their calls. A few on-ground searches gave us dubious options so we figured the first thing would be to have a late lunch at Northern Galaxy in Isiolo town.

The sun was setting faster than expected so we had to figure out where we would sleep. It was about 4pm. We were informed we could camp within the park, and this is where you know assumption and miscommunication bear a fruit called frustration. Having been to Isiolo once, Sarova Shaba Lodge in particular, I assumed that would be the official park access gate. With camping in mind before sundown, we drove out of town to the Shaba gate, about 40min away.

(4WDs would be good. It’s quite rocky once you go off road. You’ll also encounter baboons.) Another thing to note is signage is not clear, if you aren’t keen you’ll drive to Moyale looking for signboards. Google maps is your friend. Sometimes.

We had reached the gate right before park closing hours, but guess what! We were at the wrong gate! We had passed the park gate we were supposed to go to! They say travelling brings out the best or worst in you. This was starting to be a real test. #gameofthrones.

After some directions on the old pasted map in the ranger’s office, we realized we had gone off by about 10km.

The gate we were looking for was Chokaa Gate Buffalo Springs National Park.

Back on the main road, on the drive back towards Isiolo the search began again. (Did I mention there isn’t any signage?) We drove towards what we were sure was the right gate, (off road again), only to get to what was now Ngaremara Gate.

And now we were told that if we entered the reserve through this end we’d get lost. So guess what? We had to make our way back to the main highway, AGAIN! The darkness had already set in and the feeling of exasperation was building up. I think you’ve picked the moral of this story; leave early, camp early, explore later. (It was always the plan anyway ? ) Eventually we made it to Chokaa Gate.

The rangers on site were quite helpful despite arriving later than we had hoped to. While we had to wait for our assigned rangers to come back from Isiolo town, the feeling of getting to the park was sheer relief. The drive to the public campsite is about 20km from Chokaa Gate. On arrival our worst fears were confirmed. Picture yourself in pitch darkness, surrounded by long, spiky dry grass. No human settlement in sight. Just you and the wilderness and the leopard’s cry from afar. How were we meant to set up camp not knowing what was around us? Then we hear the lion’s roar…

Kiriaini, Murang’a County, Home to most things Green & Cold!

ChingaChinga DamChinga Girls' HIgh SchoolCoffeehillsKiriainimathioya rivermurang'aMurang'a CountyOthayaOthaya RiverTea

I was invited to Kiriaini by one Roselyn Mwangi for her “Kuhanda Ithigi”. Finally, an opportunity to learn how African Wedding Culture is celebrated. This peaked my interest, an opportunity to learn how the negotiations happen! (Story for another post). Besides the opportunity, it was an exciting chance to learn about the county.

So off we were on Thika Road, and to my surprise, within the hour, we were in Murang’a. Murang’a had literally changed considering the last time I was here in my schooling days. There is Town Council managed parking and well done roads. A branch off towards Kiriaini drew my breath as I saw the other side of the busy town. The hilly landscape is divided by the Mathioya River. Dotted with green scrub bushes, you’d be surprised at how blessed with views the place is. One sees beyond the windy road to appreciate the steep hilly topography we have locally. We made a stop and you can see some of the pictures here.

The rest of the drive was marked by clay brick making and small colourful shopping centres. Othaya is introduced by Kiriaini, a small but busy town, with architecture much similar to Murang’a’s. I must tell you a walk on foot calls for preparation to climb those steep hills.

Those hills! Several homes here bring their produce to the stalls outside their gates to sell. Also several milk cans were spotted upside down on some stumps stuck outside their gates. “Milk collection happens in the mornings”, my host confirmed. There are also many collection centres, as most families here grow tea and coffee and deliver them here.

A few hours after arrival I was raring to go. I got a tour from a very bright and welcoming girl Shiru, who has recently joined Chinga Girls. She showed me the local cattle dip, now overtaken by personal animal care techniques.

While I was only looking for landscapes to photograph, we quickly found company in some curious children who wanted their pictures taken. Soon after, Shiru was ecstatic about showing me the local church, PCEA Gathanju; but there was a big hill that needed to be conquered if we were to get there before the sun came down. That hill had me on all fours with the camera on my back! It was so steep I was clutching at every root I could see. Almost on all fours and out of breath, Shiru coaxed me to look behind me. Kiriaini is very beautiful, all green, trees, bananas, grass, everything is green here. We stumbled into someone’s tree cutting area, which gave us some material for this adventure.

Breath caught, we reached the church and I got to meet one of the gems of this quiet neighbourhood. Big surprise, it turned out that my host’s brother, (Eutychus Mwangi who’s directed a movie, Undu na Hi!) had been their Sunday school teacher and they were coincidentally preparing for the provisional level drama festivals to happen the following day. “What are the chances? A Sunday School Kikuyu Drama Performance?” I thought.

Their performance blew me away. I have not seen dedication, love & discipline from kids so young! They were united, had big smiles, and they could not wait to show what they had been preparing for over the months for one last critique! Turned out it was in English, choreographed by a 2nd year student at Kenyatta University. He was nurturing talent at the roots. One’s heart could not help but swell in pride. I hear they came through 10th in the competition.

As darkness drew in and a new morning dawned, I got a tour around the neighbourhood, graced in tea and coffee farms.

I managed to walk down a hill of tea to enjoy a good old bite into a piece of sugarcane. The slide down that hill though, they are so steep!

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing Chinga Dam. Eerily beautiful, the calm surround of water welcomes its guests on boat rides. One can also experience a taste of the tiny fish for sale. Our few minutes stop was interrupted often with tourists stopping for a photo. This quiet place is popular in its own right. The dam is bordered by Chinga Girls High School, which is Shiru’s high school. The girl can spot her home from her dormitory!

What’s a trip without talking about the best part, THE FOOD! Othaya River feeds the farms along it. Apart from tea & coffee, there is a lot of arrowroots, sugarcane, maize, cabbages & fruits. So experience it and dress warm because the temperatures drop dramatically in late afternoon. And one last thing. Brace yourself for those tough hills!

Discover Tsavo East National Park, Taita Taveta County, home to the Red Elephants & Many More!

ashnil aruba lodgeelephantsgalana riverlugard fallsmudanda rocksavannataita taveta countytsavo east national parkvoi

Tsavo East National Park is the one place I would love to go back and visit. Oh the memories. It was a perfect combination of sun & beauty. The sun bit we can discuss though. The great memory of the place never quite left me.

The quiet famous town of Voi leads to the park gate, and already baboons came to welcome us. Fees paid, we proceeded to the amazing, ever so unexplored experience ahead. It was so surreal, it was like checking into another world. It was a vast sea of red soil, red coated elephants, scattered trees & occasional dik diks. The earth was a red canvas that stretched as far as the eye could see. Clear blue skies. Dust everywhere, we had to keep the windows closed.

Our gracious host was Ashnil Aruba, with arguably the best pancakes I have tasted. The rooms opened to the wild and a watering hole close to the pool.

The most amazing thing about elephants, is how huge they are, yet are so quiet. The silent giants. One minute you see them, then next you can’t tell when they left.

Our morning game drive let us see the sun kissed plains, so quiet, already hot at 6 am. Tsavo East National Park is the home of birds of different kinds, elephants and at the time we were there (June) it was incredibly dry. Bone dry.

Later during the day we drove towards Galana River, where we passed an initiative that KWS & David Sheldrick Trust have been setting up & maintaining some windmills in the park that once turned pump water from the earth into troughs for the animals to drink. Being so dry I could see why they came all the way. This tackles the wildlife pressure seeking water. You can read more about it here.

By now I am sure you know we are talking about Tsavo East National Park.

Galana River is almost impossible to see from the road, though as you approach Lugard Falls, a series of short falls and steep rapids on the Galana River, is surrounded by relatively hard rock.

Lots of beautifully grained rock, with shiny sparkled specks. June was dry, so we had the opportunity to walk in and explore the nooks and crevices.

It is a testament that water had cut such hard rock through its persistence and viciousness slowly over the years.

The rocks have formed over time and are a sight to behold. I know several Architectural students who’ve been here from UoN to study its formation. The sun here is so hot, it literally burns. Cuts into your skin. Taking photos here was quite a challenge as the sun was overhead seeking to eliminate all below it. The caves formed are so big, about two people could stand in them.

We soon left for the famous Mudanda Rock which acts as a water catchment that supplies a natural dam below. It offers an excellent place for the hundreds of elephants and other wildlife that come to drink during the dry season. It is a towering rock, spanning 1.5km overlooking a pool of water providing a great hunting spot for leopards as it grants them the perfect vantage point as the animals come to drink water.

One of the must go to’s is Voi Safari Lodge, constructed to blend with the surrounding environment. Its highlight was the tunnel they have designed leading to the watering hole at the bottom of the hill. They have steps in place lined with carpet designed to make your walk down as quiet as possible to avoid disturbing the animals. The viewing area is caged partially to allow viewing. This is one of the closest you will get to the animals, it is simply an amazing experience. You get so close you could touch the animals. I know I would like to touch that elephant skin! My closest experience was walking down the steps and looking through the window on my right and meeting a large, brown, gentle eye surrounded by folded skin, red kind wrinkles that have stood the test of time in the harsh savanna. I could not wait to see more. At the watering hole, a herd of buffalos was pushing against the elephants for water. Clearly might spoke loudest here. Yet the watering hole was so dry.

Young ones got caught up in the melee, as the giants battled for water. Soon realizing there was not much water, the slowly shifted their weight towards the neighbouring hills to search for it. Some elephants were in luck as they could access the small square holes of water with their trunks.

I could not help but have an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Who knew how far they had to go to find water. All in all it is an experience you would not want to miss! See more of our galleries here ?

Tsavo East National Park is a beautiful canvas, the sun, plains and elephants make for a great story and memories. It is clear to see where the passionate plea to keep  comes from. Right behind you Paula Kahumbu!

My very first post! Here’s to telling the positive Kenyan story!

CultureKenyaPhotography

So is this what it feels like!
I have dodged and looked for excuses, and finally here I am. Ready? Here we go!
This blog is inspired by a trip to Isiolo and years of a nagging, pestering thought to do what needs to be done; telling the positive Kenyan Story through travel photography. I bet you have yours too, shared with a friend, ever so enthusiastically. Maybe with family. Okay, and maybe anyone who has cared to listen to your adventures.
What really happens though? You find yourself on a picturesque trip, the world is all around you, your cares are behind you, you decide that nothing will hold you back. You are going to enjoy the world! Off you go, click click click, cameras go, phone cameras unleashed, shared on Facebook, IG or whatever rocks your boat. ? Some likes here, some oooohs and aaaahs there, comments, and you feel the world is right there with you. You wish you could share this with everyone you know. Your trip comes to a close, you are back at your desk, the excitement starts to die down, pictures soon turn to memories way back when you went somewhere. Memories are then stuck in folders in your computer, hard disk (we haven’t really printed for the family albums in a while) and after a while those memories are tucked away and like a whisp of vapour in the wind, they are gone.
But wait. So much darkness already? Too soon! This is my large folder, sharing photography and stories about a Kenyan’s experience; where I have been, what I have wanted to share with the world in the moments of excitement. This is a journey, and the footprints are the tracks. It’s culture, landscapes, people, laughter, hills, our athletes. It’s the great Kenyan story we know.
Karibu. Drop by every so often. And spread the word! ?