We were well into our second year in Kenya before we truly discovered the country’s amazing birdlife. Scrolling through the photos of our early safari trips, we’ll come across the occasional picture of an eagle or ostrich, but none of the dozens of other colorful birds that our guides must have pointed out only to be met with blank, vaguely uninterested stares.
The temptation when one first arrives in Kenya is to rush to the country’s renowned national parks, such as Amboseli, Nakuru, and of course the Maasai Mara. It took us several safari trips to realize that there are other, more private ways to experience Africa’s wondrous flora and fauna. The Laikipia Plateau, which occupies part of what used to be the White Highlands during colonial times, quickly became one of our favorite destinations for undisturbed game viewing, free from the restrictions of park rules.
It seems that half of Nairobi had gathered at the National Museum on Saturday, at least the half that we know. Jane Goodall had decided to work Nairobi into her busy travel lecture schedule and this was one talk no one wanted to miss. Just in case there were some in the audience who were not already hanging on her every word when she took the podium, Goodall made sure she had everyone’s complete attention.
After spending the better part of two weeks on safari, jostling along many of Kenya’s bumpy roads, we decided to end our holiday vacation with a trip to the coast. November to March is typically dolphin season in Lamu so we headed there in the hopes of getting a chance to swim with these remarkable animals.
After our brief but fantastic visit to Samburu National Park, we headed further north to spend a couple of days in the Matthews Mountains. So few tourists make it to the Matthews Range that this scraggly sierra does not even appear on Google’s otherwise reasonably detailed map of the country, making this area one of Kenya’s many hidden treasures.
Last week Kenyans went to the polls in the country’s much anticipated political party primaries. The rapidly approaching March 4 general elections will be Kenya’s first since the disputed 2007 presidential election plunged the country into horrific ethnic violence, leaving over a thousand people dead and displacing half a million others. The primaries were viewed by many as an important litmus test, a gauge of Kenya’s preparedness for peaceful, democratic transition.
The sun was climbing towards its zenith by the time we reached the Save the Elephants research station. We were forced to cut our visit a little short as we had a long drive to our next destination. Still, we were glad to have spent some time with Shifra, who shared a few interesting tidbits about the elephants she studies. Before we left, she also showed off a mangled car that was conspicuosly rusting in the shade of a nearby tree.
Leaving Umoja with the first rays of the rising sun, we headed to Samburu National Reserve, one of three nearly contiguous game parks in Kenya’s semiarid northern lands. In years past, one could cross from Samburu into the nearby Buffalo Springs reserve by driving over a bridge that spanned the placid Ewaso Nyiro river. The bridge has since fallen into disrepair and the park authorities have happily kept it that way, extracting double entry fees from tourists keen on visiting both protected areas.