Private homepage – Hans-Georg Michna
Kenya travel reports: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013-Goma, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Kenya Safari Travel Plan, Kenya 1980-2000 photos
A personal travel report from Kenya in November 2018
Last change: 2019-03-24 – Copyright © 2018-2019 Hans-Georg Michna
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Times are given in local Kenyan time in 24 h format (without "am" or "pm"), i.e. 0:00 to 23:59.
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EXIF times in these pictures should carry proper time and time zone information. Kenya time is UTC + 3 h.
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[I still use my latest camera—a Fujifilm HS50EXR. Most photographs in this travel report are reduced to 800 x 600 pixels and JPEG-compressed with medium strength to make them more palatable for the web.]
My Kenyan phone number, active while I am in Kenya, is +254724662096. It is good for SMS and calls, but the better ways to reach me are Signal, Telegram, Threema, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Skype, and email. For those chats that use telephone numbers as addresses, you have to use my German mobile number +491793217777, which otherwise does not work while I am in Kenya.
My travelling checklist in michna.com/kenya.htm#Preparations (German version: michna.com/kenia.htm#Reisevorbereitungen) is, as always, my means of packing without fear of forgetting anything important. As usual, the packing and other preparations take at least a full day of concentrated work, because they cover an immense number of small things and details. Without the checklist I'd be lost.
KLM, Air France, and Kenya Airways on their flights to Nairobi currently allow two pieces of check-in luggage of up to 23 kg each in the economy class. KLM also has a pretty good and informative web site and a reasonably good smartphone app (click here for the Android version if you fly KLM), allowing ticket purchase, online check-in, and seat selection, now also for the flights operated by Kenya Airways and Air France.
Our flights were nice and almost on time. We were worrying a bit about Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG), because of earlier bad experiences with long waiting lines and because we had only 1:50 h to change planes, shortened to 1:40 h by a slight delay in our flight from Munich to Paris.
But all went well, mainly because there was no security check. Apparently they can separate the people from those already checked at their starting airport from those entering the airport on the ground.
Flight routes; Italy detail
The intercontinental flight was in a Kenya Airways Boeing 787 "Dreamliner". It is a very nice aeroplane. However, it is the only one I know that is a Faraday cage, due to its (dimmable) LCD windows, so my GPS does not work. I took photos from the in-flight entertainment system's flight tracking screen instead. Crude, but at least you get an overview.
Unfortunately most of the flight, particularly past Italy and over the Mediterranean Sea we flew above clouds and could not see much. I would have liked aerial photographs of Rome and Naples.
Over the Sahara it was still hazy and dusty. We could see the Nile for a long time, then Lake Nasser, but we could still not take photographs.
We arrived on time in Nairobi, passed customs and immigration quickly, paid €80 for two visa, and took a taxi to the Aero Club of East Africa on Wilson Airport. There we settled into a nice, spacious, and comfortable room in the very new Captain Wing.
The room in the Captain Wing
On the first morning we collected the car, a black Toyota RAV4 4-wheel-drive with tinted windows, from the downtown car hire company. So far it works well.
The company consists of just one office with one woman running the show and a driver. I suspect they are just brokers, hiring out other people's cars. Not exactly what I want, but at least the price was not too high at $55 per day, including unlimited kilometers.
On the next day I renewed my Kenyan pilot license. I also bought Kenya Shillings for bitcoins and topped up my M-Pesa account. In the evening we had invited friends and had a nice dinner together.
Wednesday we drove out to check two other car hire companies. The first was nearly nonexistent. We parked the car on a dirt place in front of the building and tried to locate the office, but we could not find it. So we gave up, but when we returned to our car, we saw this:
A little parking fee problem
We learned that in Nairobi you have to pay a parking fee. There is an electronic system for this, which works through USSD codes and interfaces with M-Pesa. We were told that we would have to pay a fine of KSh 2,000 on top of the parking fee of KSh 300, which I did according to the instructions by the official parking lot cashier and his assistant.
First we had to create an account for our car and had to add KSh 2,300 to it, which I did. Then the man wanted to have us pay all this money into the parking fee system, but apparently he made a mistake and got confused. He could not achieve what he wanted in the electronic system and eventually gave up.
In the end we had paid a KSh 200 parking fee, and the remaining Kenya Shillings were still in our account. Unfortunately there was no way to pull the money out again, so now we have a balance of KSh 2,100 in Nairobi's electronic parking fee system. Perhaps I will use it one day.
The assistant went off, got the key for the wheel clamp, and unlocked our car. We could continue our search for real car hire companies.
At least the second one we found was real and had some cars, although they were even more expensive than the one we had. We will remember it for later visits to Kenya.
Later we met more friends and ended the day with another dinner in the Aero Club's restaurant.
After a plentiful breakfast (knowing that we would skip lunch) we leisurely packed everything into our car and drove out of Wilson Airport. In the Shell petrol station at the entrance to the airport we checked our tire pressure (was somewhat too high on all four wheels, but slightly low on the spare wheel), filled up the almost empty windshield washer water tank, and checked whether we really had a 4-wheel-drive. The Toyota RAV4 is also available as a front-driven two-wheel-drive version. I believe I saw all four axles, so that was OK. It would not be very clever to import a two-wheel-drive version of the RAV4 into Kenya anyway.
We benefitted greatly from the new Southern Bypass freeway, because it is only a short way from Wilson Airport to the nearest on-ramp. The Southern Bypass is as good as any 4-lane freeway in Germany, except for the general speed limit of 100 km/h, but we rarely drove that fast because of truck traffic, etc.
We continued on the A104 road, which also has four lanes up to the turnoff to Mai Mahiu and Naivasha, but is otherwise not as good. Because we had ample time and I wanted to check the road through Naivasha, we turned off as if going to Masai Mara, and drove down the steep slope of the Great Rift Valley.
The road into the Great Rift Valley
We reached Mai Mahiu, but instead of turning left towards Narok and Masai Mara, we continued straight towards Naivasha. This road turned out to be new and in perfect shape, so we could drive leisurely among the trucks, which must all drive here, rather than on the main A104 road, which is reserved for smaller cars along this part of the way.
We drove past Mt. Longonot and could soon see Lake Naivasha on our left, with its characteristic Crescent Island, a volcanic crater edge that is partly under water.
Soon we reached Naivasha, which has grown tremendously since I had first visited it many years ago. It now stretches along the road until it joins the main A104 road again.
In increasingly dense truck traffic we continued to Nakuru and checked into our favorite, the Nuru Palace Hotel. A twin room costs KSh6,000 for residents (and somewhat more, payable in US dollars, for non-residents).
In the evening we met a friend for dinner in the hotel's restaurant, where no alcohol is served. Apparently the owner is a very religious Christian, who follows the scriptures seriously.
After breakfast we drove north and first visited my virtual geocache at N 0° E 36° (where the equator crosses the 36° east meridian). It is in a sisal plantation next to a small canal. I took some photos, because the vegetation changes quite a bit after only very few years. Since there is no marker (it is a virtual geocache), the only way to prove that somebody was really there is a photo. This took a bit less than 1½ hours.
Not far from there is the Mogotio petrol station, where we filled our tank, just in case the stations further north have no fuel.
After another hour and a half we reached the Lake Bogoria Spa Resort, a four-star lodge, and checked in for the night. I hadn't been here in many years.
At dinner time we met a German missionary, Michael, who told us a lot about this area and invited us for a drive tomorrow.
After a good night's sleep, in spite of the rather weak air conditioning system, we had a nice breakfast and then jumped into Michael's big Land Cruiser for a drive along Lake Bogoria. There were quite a few flamingos in the lake.
Flamingos in Lake Bogoria
After lunch we jumped into the cold swimming pool, because the warm one, 35°C, fed from a hot spring in the lodge compound, was being serviced. I must say that the "cold" one was still too warm to make me feel cool. Everything is quite hot here.
In the early evening Michael took us to the new entrance gate for a brief look over the lake.
Sign at the gate; the older gate is now partly submerged
This lake, like the other Rift Valley lakes, has experienced rising water levels due to more rain.
After breakfast we visited our new friend Michael in his self-built home on a hill, nicely overlooking.the whole area.
Around noon another friend arrived, Zakia. She studies project management at the Unviversity in Eldoret. Together we had lunch in the lodge. Since the most interesting, warm pool was closed for renovations, we skipped the swimming and drove off to Baringo.
On the way lies Marigat, where Zakia's mother lives. We greeted her and some relatives, dropped Zakia off, and continued to Baringo, where we moved into a banda (a little hut with a double bed, a toilet, and a shower) in Roberts' Camp.
After a dinner in the Thirsty Goat, the little restaurant of the camp, we soon fell asleep.
We visited the RAE Trust (Rehabilitation of Arid Environments) project and got invited to spend our next night in the guest house of the couple who runs the project, which we gladly accepted. So we had some time to talk and also to visit one of the private fields that are promoted and supported by the project.
After breakfast we drove off and followed our planned route Baringo – Loruk – Tangulbei – Churo – Mugie Ranch with the intention to spend the next night in the ranch. First I had a nice and quite inexpensive lunch there, then we looked for the accommodation.
Unfortunately both kinds of accommodation that are normally offered there, were being renovated, and no accommodation was available at all. So we continued to Kisima and then to Maralal, which is out of the way by 15 km, but has several small hotels and guest houses and a nice, but expensive wildlife lodge in the adjacent wildlife sanctuary.
We first looked at the Sunbird Guest House, which had been recommended to us, and found it acceptable, but we wanted to compare it with the Maralal Safari Lodge, so we went there too. To my utter surprise we found something akin to a ghost town, perhaps one should call it a ghost lodge. The gate to the sanctuary was wide open, but nobody was in the lodge. We looked through the windows and saw chairs put on tables and absolutely no sign of any recent use of the lodge.
The only sign of life we found were a few pieces of laundry, hung up for drying behind the adjacent employee quarters, but we could not find the person who normally wears these clothes. We did see several wild animals though, like impala antelopes, zebras, and warthogs.
What a pity! Instead of lowering their prices to attract more visitors, it seems they just gave up.
We went back to the Sunbird Guest House, moved into a small, but functional room upstairs, then went to the small restaurant that belongs to the guest house. There were not many food choices, but the food was better than normally expected in such a place.
Then we went to sleep, because tomorrow's drive would still be a long one.
We had breakfast early in the morning and quickly set out for our still long drive to Samburu, first back 15 km to Kisima, then east through Lodungokiwe, past Wamba, then turning off the main road to Archer's Post towards Ngutuk Engiron Primary School (also called Ngutuk Ongiron). We passed the school in the afternoon and continued to Samburu West Gate, where we were received, but then asked to proceed to the ranger post at the bridge. Apparently the West Gate is so rarely used that nobody cares to issue tickets there.
So we continued to the bridge. The post was occupied, and the rangers told us to come back tomorrow to get tickets.
We drove the short distance to Samburu Lodge and were warmly welcomed by the crew and by John, the giraffe researcher, who had arrived back only a few days earlier from abroad.
We moved into room/house no. 46, more or less our favorite in the lodge.
Nothing much to report today. We settled in, drove around a bit in the nature reserve without taking photos, and chatted with John and with other people.
We wanted to do a short drive after breakfast, but met more and more interesting animals not far from our lodge. First we drove east along the river.
Reticulated giraffe; vervet monkeys
Then we went away from the river to the north and found a group of kudu antelopes, which are difficult to find, because they are normally nocturnal. It seems they occasionally go to the river to drink during the day though, and that is when they become visible.
On other days they go up the hill slopes where cars cannot go, and they move very slowly, if at all, so they become virtually invisible.
Note the big ears of these nocturnal antelopes.
Nearby we met several gerenuks (German: Giraffengazelle), and we repeatedly saw flocks of vulture-headed guinea fowls.
Male and female gerenuk; vulture-headed guinea fowl
Back in the lodge we met this colorful male agama next to the open-air restaurant.
Because of their colors these are sometimes called "rainbow lizards".
We stayed in the lodge in the afternoon and tried the swimming pool, which is a rare example here of one that really works well, with the pump running and edge overflow keeping the water clean.
Even though the water felt relatively cool, I could stay in it almost for a half hour until I started feeling cold. But after leaving the pool that feeling very quickly goes away in the warm air.
In the relatively cool and mostly cloudy morning I drove out and along the river again to find some animals and take some photos. First I found some vulture-headed guinea fowls again, and I think they were quite photogenic.
Vulture-headed guinea fowls
Then I saw a group of elephants standing on the other side of the river. I can easily stay with elephants for long times, because I always find them interesting and pleasant to watch.
Then they crossed the river.
In the afternoon we looked for a giraffe bull that had been killed by a veterinary after a failed treatment. The old giraffe bull had severely swollen joints in his left foreleg. The vet had immobilized and treated him, but afterwards the giraffe could not get up. He might not have been able to get up at all for years because of old age and the disease and spent his last years standing.
In any case the vet had no choice but to kill the giraffe to release him from his pain.
Dead giraffe bull
We drove out again in the later morning and photographed some animals.
Two giraffe bulls
Shortly before we arrived back at the lodge we saw some elephants crossing the river.
Elephants with our lodge in the background
In the late afternoon we made a short drive not far from the lodge and saw, among other animals, 16 giraffes more or less in one place. Considering that the giraffe populations have gone down dramatically (losing 80%) across Africa, this was a good sight.
Landscape with riverine forest
During the last few days there had be some rain. Today it rained in the late evening and into the night.
These photos were taken during the morning drive.
Male desert warthog
During the afternoon I drove relatively far in a northeasterly direction and found a dozen of the shy and rare Grevy zebras in the hilly area.
I think the Grevy zebras are very beautiful and impressive because of their size and the fine stripes.
As usual, we drove into the wilderness in the morning and saw some interesting animals.
Hoopoe (German: Wiedehopf)
Male and female ostrich
The afternoon and evening drive made this the day of the big cats.
The fact that it took us a week to see the first big cats is an indication that wildlife numbers have dramatically decreased over the last decades.
This morning we found the remaining big cat species and some more animals.
Young lion; lion family
Male baboon; elephant bull
Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis, German: Kaptäubchen); male gerenuk
Superb starling (German: Glanzstar)
In the afternoon we drove across the bridge into the Buffalo Springs Reserve, which had been overrun by livestock during the last years. The bridge had been swept away by floods and was recently rebuilt.
Bridge over Samburu River, connecting Samburu on the northern side with Buffalo Springs in the south
Apparently this has been improved, as we did not see any livestock there. However, due to the lower number of tourist visits the wild animals on that side of the river are shy and more difficult to see and photograph.
So after driving a large circle through the beautiful reserve we returned to the north side and met several waterbucks shortly before sunset.
Male waterbuck; female waterbuck
At dinner in the open air restaurant we had this visitor.
It is often called "genet cat", but it is not actually a cat. It is shy, but it liked bits and pieces from our dinner, like meat.
In the morning we kept looking for Oryx antelopes and Grevy zebras. We found some Oryx, but could not get close enough for good photos, so we just enjoyed watching them.
We saw two kills with a few vultures each. The animals were killed during the night, and the vultures were nibbling on the remains.
In the afternoon we drove across the bridge into Buffalo Springs and around in a big circle, but the density of animals was very low. No photos from that side today.
We were lazy and busy with other things, so no photos and no story on Thursday.
On Friday we drove a large circuit around the core of the Samburu reserve with John, looking for giraffes. At first we could not find any, but when we drove back to the lodge along the river, we found 11 altogether. We were busy taking identifying photos, which are not good enough to post them here. Identification is done mainly by the patterns on both sides of the neck.
After an early breakfast we drove out of Samburu over the bridge and through Buffalo Springs, which is a 15 km shortcut, compared to the route through Archer's Post. It hardly saves any time, but allowed us to watch the wonderful landscape and some more animals.
Samburu and Buffalo Springs reserves with giraffe and ostriches
On our way we met a group of elephants who were marching straight towards us as a front, so I felt like backing up and giving way. Fortunately they did not drive us back very far, because they then went off the track, straight towards the river. I guess they had been away for a day or two and were thirsty. I had no time taking photos while handling the car, so you'll have to believe me and imagine.
We drove a little detour into the town Nyeri to have lunch at Betty's Place, a restaurant that accepts bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies.
Exterior; bitcoin poster; sign; aquarium
We met Betty and chatted a bit, we had lunch, and we paid in bitcoin. Finally we drove on to Nairobi.
The car rental manager came to the petrol station at the entrance of Wilson Airport, we filled the tank, drove on to the Aero Club of East Africa, where we had the same nice type of room again. We handed over the car and went to the club's restaurant for one last dinner. We also met the taxi driver, who is a regular at the club and with whom we had already gone to the international airport last year, and arranged our airport transfer tomorrow early in the morning with him.
We went to bed as early as possible, set our alarm clocks, and slept relatively well, but short.
Entire tour in Kenya
I woke up at 3:00, one hour early, so I had plenty of time.
At 5:00 we loaded our bags into the taxi and drove off to the other, big airport. We arrived there after less than ½ hour, which was well in time.
Our plane was the same type as when we arrived, a Kenya Airways Boeing 787 "Dreamliner". It took off on time. We saw Mt. Kenya to our right, looking out of the cloud cover, and we could see Lake Turkana. Later, except for the Sahara and the Nile river, it was almost always cloudy. I watched two movies and the beginnings of a few more. We swapped our Kenyan SIM cards (Safaricom) for our German ones and put the Kenyan ones into our spare phones. Finally we landed in Amsterdam
Route Nairobi - Amsterdam (detail)
Amsterdam Schiphol airport, outside and inside
We had 5 hours to change planes, so we wandered through the big airport, its shops and restaurants, and read the latest news on our phones, enjoying the new European roaming rules.
Our flight from Amsterdam to Munich was done in a KLM Boeing 737 and was equally uneventful and on time. Our bags made it too. Our younger son collected us from the airport. After the fall from 33°C in Samburu to 0°C in Germany I perceived the weather here as inhumanely cold. Finally we arrived at home in good shape.
If in this text you find any typos, orthographic errors (even small ones), ungrammatical sentences, wrong or illogical information (like wrong names of birds), if you want me to write more details about something in particular, or if you want one of the photos in full resolution, please click on the email sign below and write to me. Many thanks!
Copyright © 2018-2019 Hans-Georg Michna.
Private homepage – Hans-Georg Michna
Kenya travel reports: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013-Goma, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Kenya Safari Travel Plan, Kenya 1980-2000 photos
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