No need to explain any of these photos of some of the wildlife we saw on game drives in the Maasai Mara.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.