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Tuesday, September 27

Kenyan Luxury

Mary: Lake Elmenteita Serena Lodge, Lake Elmenteita – Claire & Russell treated us to an early Christmas present of some luxury: first up was a Serena Resort in the Soysambu conservancy at Lake Elmenteita. The place was total luxury, and the staff made sure were looked after. We ate like kings with the 3 course lunches and 4 course dinners, slept like kings in the huge king-size bed in our luxury tent house, and treated ourselves to a massage. It was bliss!

Next, we took the corrugated (apparently on purpose to reduce poaching and encourage tourists to fly in) main road to the the Seronera Gate at Masai Mara and went to Tipilikwani Lodge, just outside the Talek Gate. We stayed in big permanent tents on the banks of the Talek river and again were fed 3 course meals in a day and treated to lovely game drives. Dee, our Masai guide in full traditional Masai dress, was our driver for the game drives. He was very good at finding the animals – helped by other guides phoning through tips on his blackberry. We saw many prides of lions, including a lioness with two gorgeous lion cubs of approx 2 months old. We were also lucky to see rhino, leopard, jackal, and heaps of ellies. Our 100-days-on-the-road anniversary passed while we were at Tipilikwane – quite a milestone!

We extended our stay in the Masai Mara after Tipilikwani. Entry is $80pp and $4 for the vehicle – tickets are valid for 24 hours, but there is no time written on them, so if you arrive in the morning you can stay for 2 full days. We travelled along the Mara River and stopped to watch a cheetah, only to be interrupted by several cars rushing off for a wildebeest river crossing. The wildebeest must have been a bit confused because they crossed to our side of the river, walked about 20 meters down the bank, and then crossed back to the other side again! We ended up climbing on the roof for the best views and watched them slide down the bank, belly flop into the river and climb out the other side. We saw a croc watching the wildebeests and a little later, we saw it again looking very pleased and resting it’s head against a wildebeest carcass - unfortunately we didn’t actually see the kill. On our way out the park for the evening, we saw more leopard and a massive traffic jam of safari vehicles getting stuck while going off-road to try get a better view. We spent the night outside the park at Mara Springs ($7pppn camping), near the Sekanani Gate. The campsite is fairly run down (although the bandas looked quite nice and the staff were friendly) and there are plenty other camping options advertised at this gate, but we went to Mara Springs as it was in the GPS and it was getting dark…We decided against staying over in the park on cost – it works out at about $30pppn camping plus it seems that two guards are required at an additional cost of $20 per guard (although there was some confusion over whether the guards were necessary in Masai Mara itself or just in Mara Triangle).

On our last day, we went into the Mara Triangle – it is actually run as a separate park; although Masai Mara tickets are valid here, the 24 hour rule doesn’t work i.e. if you enter Masai Mara in the afternoon and then try to enter Mara Triangle the following morning they will turn you back – you need to have a ticket for the day of entry into Mara Triangle. We were planning to drive through Mara Triangle and exit the park at Oloololo Gate, and they kindly gave us a 2-hour transit ticket to get through the triangle. Although it is not a huge distance, it makes for quite a rushed experience. The Mara Triangle has different rules – you can’t drive off-road in high use zones near the river and there are fewer tracks around, but the park is much more pristine because of it, the viewings incredibly dense and the scenery excellent. We saw another big group of wildebeest looking for a place to cross the Mara river, but we ran out of time to wait and watch.

Brett: As we headed north the scenery became more and more beautiful, and we finally got to the Oloololo Gate. The roads in Masai Mara were fairly corrugated, but in the Mara Triangle they were excellent, so we were not really prepared for the road outside the Oloololo gate. Particularly from Oloololo Gate to Lemek the road was very bad – far worse than we have had before, except for the actual 4x4ing. It consists of big, sharp rocks sticking out of the ground, and loose rocks, so at times we could do only 15km/h and at the end of it our tyres look a lot more used. From Lemek to about 20km before Narok is a bit better, and from there to Narok it was good tar. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to do the 110kms between Oloololo gate and Narok, but we decided to take the long drive back to Naivasha rather than try to find a campsite in Narok. We stay at Carnellys campsite in Naivasha again for 2 nights. After a quick dinner in the restaurant we fell into bed.

In the morning, Mary had her first proper injury – there was a sheet of metal lying on a path in the campsite, and she managed to kick it with her toe, lifting the 2nd toenail and cutting underneath the nail bed. Fortunately the metal was not rusty! She was very brave and cleaned it all up, strapped the nail down with plasters and built a toe-protector out of a cut up plastic bottle. She was initially worried she would lose the nail but fortunately it has healed very well and the nail now seems to be firmly stuck in place. Quite a worry, considering we had been planning to hike up Mount Kenya and spend some time exploring Nairobi on foot…The following day we set off for Nairobi with plans to go to the Westgate shopping centre (our first really big shopping centre) to stock up and go to movies for the first time in 3 and a half months…. 

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