Hakuna Matata in East Africa.
One of the synonyms for the term “safari” is “journey”. If you ever consider making the journey into the vast open spaces of East Africa, where animals roam freely and birds fly, forage, perch or wade in abundance, I strongly recommend turning to Skyview Africa, Ltd. and its talented managing director Stephen Muiruri.
I, my wife and two of our relatives, Rick and Karen, enjoyed the many “game drives” in some of the best safari locations in Kenya and Tanzania. It was a private safari, meaning that we were not grouped with many other people. That was a good balance given that we met scores of others (many in large tour groups) at various locations in the evenings.
Each National Park and game reserve is a unique habitat in which mammals and birds are protected and thrive. Our itinerary included Amboseli National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, the fabulous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara Game Reserve (my personal fave), Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Aberdares National Park.
We were paired with very skilled guides who have a deep knowledge of the wildlife in each area and of the varying habitats. The guides did all of the driving, navigating the routes expertly and with a good sense of where to go to see the widest variety of mammals and birds.
The majesty of the “Big Five” (elephants, Cape buffalo, lions, leopards, black rhinos) awaits you. We witnessed large herds of antelope, wildebeest and zebra grazing, often times stretched across the dirt roads. We witnessed a part of the annual migration in progress; hundreds of wildebeest splashing across the Mara River from Tanzania into Kenya. We saw crocodiles on the riverbanks awaiting their next meal of a crossing mammal.
We were entertained by herds of elephants splashing and playing in large watering holes - a “pool party” of elephants, the babies incredibly adorable.
Hippos, lots of them, in the lakes.
And, my personal favorite, giraffes (three species: Reticulated, Masai, Rothschild) were stately grazing and strolling here and there. At times as individuals, other times in small groups that included their adorable youngsters.
If you like antelope there are scores of them: the agile impala and gazelles (Thompson and Grant’s). We saw topi antelope, waterbuck, eland and other species.
There were many groups of warthogs scurrying about, their “follow me” tails pointing skyward (hello Pumba!).
There were groups of monkeys and baboons in the trees or foraging or grooming on the ground.
We saw two species of jackals, and packs of hyena stalking about.
Flamingos, in a group of many thousands, lined the shores of Lake Nakuru.
If you are lucky (we were) you’ll see leopards sleeping on the branches of Acacia trees, cheetahs laying on boulders and prides of lions resting, well camouflaged in the amber grasses of the broad savannah. We saw lionesses moving about, often with their cute cubs trailing behind.
We now know the difference between the black rhino and the white rhino (we saw each). No, it’s not all about the color which is pretty similar in appearance. You’ll learn the difference when you get there.
And the birds. I managed to identify over 80 species with the help of a good pair of binoculars and a handy laminated field guide (I recommend a similar field guide for mammals as well).
You’ll love the Secretary Bird. It stomps around the savannah grasslands hunting for snakes.
There were numerous pairs of ostriches pecking about.
The accommodations were comfortable and convenient. The more interesting ones were well-appointed tent cabins, “glamping” style. These (and also the lodges) are located in areas where the animals roam. At night you might hear groups of hyenas calling out to one another or Cape buffalo grunting as they graze.
I enjoyed a private visit to a Maasai village at the invitation of one of the lodge’s security personnel. He showed me his small hut made of mud, straw and cow dung. The village medicine man showed which plants have medicinal qualities. Another Maasai warrior demonstrated how he starts a cooking fire by rubbing sticks together. They wrapped me in a traditional Maasai Shukah and handed me a club used to control animals.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a one-hour hot air balloon ride. You’ll get up early but it’s worth it to watch the sunrise over the savannah and then to look down at herds of animals from different elevations. A nice champagne breakfast awaits you upon the soft landing. The balloon pilot was great, and it was fascinating watching him at the controls.
Finally, let me say that Stephen was great in every respect. We had booked prior to Covid (May 2019) and had to delay the journey a couple of years. “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “no problem”) - Stephen kept our rates stable and made the adjustments needed when an originally planned lodge was no longer available. He was in close contact with us during the hiatus, being very responsive and patient in answering questions and providing information. This was in sharp contrast to several earlier emails to other travel companies that went unanswered. Stephen will fulfill any reasonable special request. On our final day we met with him over lunch, we then fed giraffes at a preserve before enjoying a unique restaurant on our path to the Nairobi airport . . .
. . . but not before we saw an interesting sign on a building along the route.
Thank you, Stephen, and a big “ASANTE SANA” (thank you very much) to our three guides/drivers, Elijah Mackenzie, KasandaMalando and Richard Kinyua. You may just hear from us again; Rwanda (and their gorillas-in-the-mist) anyone?
Jason and Susan Lauren