Amboseli Safari

It seemed a shame to be traveling to Kenya and not experience the magic of a Safari to a game preserve to see some of the diverse wildlife that Africa offers.

So Stephen and I set out for a 24 hour trip to the Amboseli National Park in the southwest corner of Kenya in the shadow of Kilimanjaro.

We stayed one night at the Serena Amboseli Lodge that is within the park and handy to access the many dirt roads that wind throughout. We had a great time driving around in our own vehicle which gave us the opportunity to just stop and observe the animals as long as we liked. At times we were within a few meters of elephants and hippos and wildebeest and as long as we just sat there quietly they went about their business and paid us no heed.

Video: Sixty seconds of our game drive highlights.

The park was very dry as there has been a prolonged drought in the area so the savannah portion was brown and dusty and lacking much for the animals to feed on. Amboseli Park does have several small lakes that are fed from springs so there is water and even aquatic vegetation that the animals could feed on. The peak of Kilimanjaro often hides in the clouds and unfortunately we didn’t get a clear period to see it although the base is evident from the park.

The stars of the show are the Amboseli elephants and there are lots of them. I have put together a 5 minute YouTube video of the elephants we spent time with. (Below). Put it on full screen. Elephants are big. Enjoy.

NOTE: This post has a video image. If you are reading the post on an email you must click on the title of the post to be taken to the WordPress site where the video can be streamed.

Safari 2016 in photos.  Part 2 Ngong Hills

On our second day , some of the group went to a giraffe park and the Karen Blitzen museum while others went explored The Ngong Hills, including w Women’s Empowerment Centre CanAssist is constructing in association with Nancy Stevens, a hike along the ridge overlooking the Rift Valley and a visit to our longstanding friends, the extended Moiko family.

These women will benefit from the CanAssist/Kenya Help building that will house vocational training programmes to help them become more self sufficient.


No visit is complete without a trip to Baridi Corner and this tree in particular. One of my favourite places in the world.


Young people are similar all over the world. a Moiko boy selfie on our hike down the hill.


Happy to introduce my friends and family, including my brother, Bob, to the Moiko family and vice versa.



Wondering where the lions are…

When one goes on a game drive in Africa, there is always the hope to come across lions.  Sometimes they are not that easy to find, particularly during mid day when they tend to lay under the bushes and nap.  I really didn’t expect to see lions on our morning drive in Murchison Park, Uganda but within half an hour we came upon two young female lions right out on the road in front of our vehicle.

We stopped and watched them for a while – always a pleasure.


lion 1

Lion 2_filtered

lioness 2

Finishing our safari in style in Jinja, Uganda

On our first morning in a cabin by Kibale Forest,this big baboon boldly came in through our back door and grabbed  bag containing a dozen eggs.  Our breakfast became his.

On our first morning in a cabin by Kibale Forest,this big baboon boldly came in through our back door and grabbed bag containing a dozen eggs. Our breakfast became his.

David Kay and I have been on safari in Uganda for the past three weeks. Our accommodation has varied throughout from a cabins by the rainforest where we cooked our own food using fruits and vegetables purchased from local trading centre kiosks, to the accommodation we have for our last two nights here in Jinja. In our cabin by the forest, we even had a huge baboon come into our “kitchen” and steal the eggs we were planning to have for breakfast. Today, we are staying at Surjio’s Guest House and Pizzaria in the upscale areas of the city not far from the place where the Nile River begins out of Lake Victoria – the infamous “Source of the Nile”.

The best food of our safari was curry at Aaswad's.  We are going back for  another Aaswad meal tonight.

The best food of our safari was curry at Aaswad’s. We are going back for another Aaswad meal tonight.

Last night we wandered along the Main Street seeking a restaurant that had been recommended to me by Hugh Langley. He said it had great food but an unfortunate name. Yes the place is called Aaswad’s Forever. The restaurant has mainly Indian food and we likely had the best meal there last night of our whole trip. So good, in fact, that we are planning to return tonight. Today rode a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) into the countryside to see the Bujagali Falls, listed in the lonely planet things to do in Jinja. Unfortunately the falls are no more…since a dam just below them flooded the area and raised the water level several feet. Dave has headed off to do white water kayaking on the Nile. I elected for something more sedate. I found myself on Main Street at 1 pm so I stopped at a little restaurant obviously catering foreigners where I had a midday treat of Apple and Passionfruit crumble with a big scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream and a cappuccino. Now this all sounds as if today I am living the life of luxury. Relative to most Africans, I am. But if you are willing and able to arrange your own travel and maybe take some motorcycles around town rather than a taxi, it is not that expensive. My lunch treat and coffee mentioned above cost me the equivalent of $6. Our dinner last night – Two large beers and a table ladened with delicious curried dishes cost us $16 each, including a tip.

The pool view from the patio in front of our room at Surjio's Guest House in Jinja, Uganda.

The pool view from the patio in front of our room at Surjio’s Guest House in Jinja, Uganda.

Our hotel, by far the most upscale we have taken will cost $120 for the two of us in a twin room and includes a full breakfast of fresh pineapple and banana, a Spanish Omlette with toast and a large bodum of coffee. Uganda is a land of great diversity and we have had that in our accommodation and food as well. We have been in places with no light, running water or indoor toilet and also in a hotel that is clean, comfortable, secure and with full amenities, including high speed internet WiFi. And with a little planning and flexibility, even comfortable upscale travel here can be less expensive than anything comparable at home.

Cappuccino, warm apple and Passionfruit crumble with  ice cream - $6 at Flavours on the Main Street of Jinja, Uganda.

Cappuccino, warm apple and Passionfruit crumble with ice cream – $6 at Flavours on the Main Street of Jinja, Uganda.

Vacation on the Equator in July?

While Canadians sweat it out on the 45th parallel with July temperatures around 30 degrees Celcius, can you imagine what it is like on the Maasai Mara in Kenya, just below the equator?

Well, it is fantastic! Daytime temperatures in Kenya are around 24 degrees during the day in July and dip to a comfortable level in the teens at night. It is perfect weather and generally not rainy, either. My African friends complain that it is cool and call it their “winter”.

Giraffes on the Maasai MaraCombine that with the fact that it is summer vacation time here in North America and it makes the ideal time to travel to East Africa on a holiday.

The weather in East Africa has traditionally followed the pattern of having two rainy seasons, one in October to December and one in April and May. And when it rains in Africa, it rains.

During the dry season the ground gets packed down and hard and the first rains flow over the land in rivulets, causing great furrows in the roads and problems with erosion. So avoiding the rainy seasons are a good idea if you are planning a safari. Unfortunately, the weather conditions have become less reliable with climate change and rains tend to occur a bit more unpredictably.

But, in general, July and August and January and February remain pleasant and relatively dry.

Added to this weather appeal is the fact that the famous Wildebeest migration happens in July and August. Two million of these oddly constructed creatures migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, bringing with them hordes of zebras and enticing carnivores like lions to activley gorge themselves with the plenty. Even the crocodiles in the Mara River wake up for this passage, feeding while they can and then lying dormant for months between feeds.

The Indian Ocean coast, by comparison, is hot all year through. If you like to swim in the ocean or scuba dive or snorkel, the clear reef waters are the perfect place for a beach vacation.

Another unusual thing is that, despite it seeming quite summery, the days remain on an almost 12 hour cycle throughtout the whole year. The sun comes up between 6:30 and 7 in the morning and sets between 6:30 and 7 all year round. Early to bed and early to rise is the habit.

The only down side of traveling in July and August is that it is a more expensive time to fly to Nairobi since all the flights from North America tend to bounce through Europe and connect from there south. Being the peak season for travel in the Northern Hemisphere adds to the cost.

Wanting a trip of a lifetime? Kenya in July might fit the bill.

I took my “once in a lifetime” visit to Kenya in July 2003. I have been back to East Africa ten times since that trip. Indeed, it was a safari that changed my life forever.