The sun rises in a cloudless sky letting the rays of lights warm up my room on an early Monday morning – there go my Monday Blues.The aroma of freshly ground coffee tempts me to walk into the coffee shop where I am greeted with a sweet morning smile and a request for my order – “A Malindi Macchiato and a chocolate croissant – warm please”. As the chocolate melts in my mouth, the day suddenly looks brighter than it did when I woke up – my taste buds have been tickled with the sensation of sweetness and I continue to glide into my unfolding day…
I drive through the CBD – short for Nairobi’s Central Business District – an acronym that didn’t exist 5 years ago! I feel proud as I see tall buildings, bill boards and fly overs, and I laugh as carefree drivers pass me without seeing what I see! Oh how Nairobi has grown – there is excitement as Vision 2030 unfolds its futuristic plans of development and innovation.
I reach the entrance of one of the most unique places in the world – the gates to a National Park located in a capital city – the only one of its kind on the planet! As I drive through, everything around me comes to life. The leaves start to rustle as a whisper of wind begins. A giraffe looks straight at me as I drive right past him and the plains start to reveal themselves to me as I move deeper into the Nairobi National Park. I look left and see Pumba cross the dirt path with little mini warthogs trailing after him. I look right and a flock of birds take off as the vehicle ahead of me passes them. As I delve into the mysteries of the park, a stunning sight greets my eyes – the presence of wildlife with a backdrop of a city! Where else can I see this?
Zebras and Giraffes as seen in the Nairobi National Park
I am reminded of my trip to the elephant orphanage last evening, to see the one I had adopted…his name is Kithaka, and I couldn’t stop giggling when I saw him and his buddies waddle their way out and about around their caregivers. I got close enough to see the smile hidden beneath their trunks – what beautiful creatures!
Left and Right: Aleema at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
A stop over for a delicious meal at a camp in the National park (is it normal that the Nairobi Tented Camp is THE ONLY one in the park, and one of its kind in the ENTIRE world?) , and I am whisked off to the airport for a flight to a game reserve – Which one you may wonder?
Do I pick the northern lands of Samburu and Shaba, rich with the presence of northern specialist species known as the Samburu 5 – the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx amongst the big 5 that we all know of – the elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino? Or do I pick the World Heritage Site that has enfolded Lewa and Ngare Ndare into its realms of natural and cultural treasures with its magnificent protruding peak in the name of Mount Kenya with its snow-capped topping?
The Somali ostrich, Mount Kenya and a Grevy’s Zebra
But then again there is the call of the Maasai Mara, world renowned for its magnificent Migration (which has already begun this year by the way) where I am guaranteed to see the dramatic dance of the wildebeest crossing during the migration season, and capture an incredible cheetah chase. What of the different bird species that criss cross the air, the jackal twins that do not leave each other’s side and the king of the jungle whose roar and stare paralyze your thoughts?
I thought of dropping by the Laikipia region to catch a glimpse of the rare wild dogs again and visit the Chimpanzee sanctuary to catch this lot monkeying about, but then again the idea of watching a herd of elephants walk pass me tempted me to turn to Amboseli with its landscape dominated by the towering and majestic Mount Kilimanjaro in a place of open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush, swamps and marshland.
If I am going to contemplate Amboseli, I might as well think about the Tsavo National Park – the largest one in Kenya – so large it had to be split into Tsavo East and Tsavo West for administrative purposes! At least I know that I would see elephants, rhinos, buffalos, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk, Hunter’s hartebeest and more than 500 species of birds! Hmmm … Maybe I should pick something closer to home? I could just travel from lake to lake along the Great Rift Valley and let my journey take me through a contrasting world of landscapes and sceneries: From papyrus fringed Lake Naivasha with its abundance of birdlife, through to Lake Nakuru or Lake Elmentaita with its famous flamingo population (who are now searching for a less deeper lake), or the steaming geysers of Lake Bogoria, and through the crocodiles and hippos of Lake Baringo and all the way North to the mighty Jade Sea of Lake Turkana!
Left: Over looking Lake Nakuru Right: The Great Rift Valley region
I ask myself whether a beach holiday is more suitable to my mood. It is also only an hour away by flight – I could find myself relaxing on a sun bed overlooking the white sandy beaches of Diani sipping coconut water from a “Madafu” (coconut) whilst I contemplate a visit to the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park – a magical paradise surrounded by coral reef and over 250 recorded species that include fish, dolphins, sea turtles, whales, corals, sea grass and gastropods. I must say the coastline is lined up with exotic white beaches enveloping the inviting waters of the Indian Ocean which holds the spectacular underworld of marine life. There is also the remarkable pull that the coast holds in its enduring history with the traditional passage of the Arabian Spice Trade. The coast is lined with Arab and Portuguese forts, Old Towns and the ruins of Swahili outposts, where the medieval streets of Lamu and Mombasa’s Old Town truly reflect on the famous saying of “There is no hurry in Africa” – where life continues on – unhurried and unchanged for the last 400 years!
Left: Diani Beach Right: Mombasa
I eventually settle for a few days away into the Meru National Park – a wilderness region that is incredibly wild and beautiful. It straddles the equator and has 14 rivers flowing through it as one side stretches into the slopes of the Nyambeni Mountain Range and the other is spotted with doum palms. My nights are spent in a luxury alcove embedded in one of the Hills of Meru. The night brings with it an explosion of a starry sky and an increased beat of my heart as I hear the teasing sounds of the hunting hyena. My days are left to search for the hunting predators, and I find myself face to butt with a target marked waterbuck’s backside!
The elephant’s closest relative circles my path and the bush baby refuses to open its rounded eyes for my camera. I yield at unseen cheetahs and the hiding nocturnal creatures as I let myself enjoy the peaceful night that surrounds me. As I close my eyes and reflect on my dreams, I have barely touched the magic of Kenya; the Matthews Ranges, the Tana River Delta, Mount Longonot, Taita and Chyulu Hills, Shimba Hills, the Aberdares, the closeness of wildlife…
This is Why I Love Kenya…