Tell me about unforgettable safari
My most unforgettable safari was back in 2004, in Tsavo National Park. It was a rainy season I remember very well and we left Nairobi very early in the morning, with five trucks of a capacity of around 25 people each, a very big group indeed. The group was composed of mainly Nairobi residents who love travelling like me. We got to the camp site after 12mid night. We got lost for about six hours. Because it was at night and we were not familiar with the place. We were hungry, tired but full of adventure. We arrived at the Tsavo gate at 6.30am and entered the park. We could not come out of the truck because of fear that lions would make us their next meal.
How do you plan your safari?
Impromptu! I just wake up in the morning and say I have never visited such a place. I ask my friends in case they want to join me. I also have a friend who loves safaris and he has his small company called ‘Camping Truckers.’ He has scheduled safaris for the whole year. What I do, I get his almanac of events and say which group I want to join and meet the people.
Are your safaris guided?
Mostly no, we discover places ourselves.
How much money would I need for a simple safari?
Most of these travels you do not need a lot of money. You need cash but not so much. Mostly what you need is food and fuel for the vehicles. You plan your safari like for example if one wants to tour Lake Elementaita for two nights. You do not need to pay camping fee. All you need is to go to a supermarket, shop for whatever you need, fuel the vehicle and move.
What activities do you engage in while on safari?
We normally have our own itinerary. We do game drives very early in the morning and evening. During the day activities are not many. However, my itineraries depend on the group I am with. At times I go with a small group of friends who love photography like me. We call ourselves, Wapiga Picha Photo Club (Photographers). We love photographs. This group’s itinerary is strict because it mainly focuses on good shots. We use smaller vehicles like vans or four by four wheels drive to be able to penetrate through areas of thick savannah to get good shots.
The other group we mainly do game drives in the morning and evening. If it is not a park we drive to a sight with nothing. No facilities. Pitch camp just for relaxing, away from the noise of the city, work and friends. We just go to relax and be one with nature.
We call it a ‘bum’ safari. We lie down for one day and sit and look at a lake if there is one, with our feet dipped in the lake. You have to be sure there are no crocodiles otherwise you lose your legs. Most of these bum safaris are for pure relaxing bila (without) programme.
How is the experience of sleeping in a tent in the wild under the stars?
It is the best experience. The tent is one with nature. You do not have to worry about burglar proof. The best thing about a tent is that you just zip up or zip down and you sleep. When it is too cold you sleep near a bonfire and of course no animal will come near you when there is fire. You put big logs so that the camp fire cannot die down. Some places are too cold so you need a sleeping bag others are too hot you do not need one. Sleeping in the tent is as good as sleeping in a bed in the house. It is very comfortable. The smaller it is the warmer it is. The air inside circulates therefore keeping the tent warm. Mosquitoes you have to find a way of fighting them but you make sure not a single mosquito enters your tent otherwise expect a sleepless night.
Have you witnessed one of the wonders of the world, the Migration in Maasai Mara?
Migration is one of the best experiences I have had and anyone who would want to experience wildlife should start with this.
The first time I toured the Maasai Mara I was told about migration. The first year that I went, I never saw anything. I was so frustrated. I was waiting to see the crocodiles munching the wild beasts as they cross the river. I was there waited for hours. I could see a herd of wild beast on the other side of the river. I waited for two hours they did not cross so I left and went back to our camp sight. Later, I was told by one of the Maasai’s around that they had crossed one hour after we left. I was like oh no! I want to go back. It was back in the year 2002. I was really frustrated but I did not give up. The following year 2003, I was there and I witnessed the migration. It was very fascinating.
What exactly happens?
This is what happens. They come in small herds and sometimes in very big herds.
First of all, there has to be a leader that jumps first and at times you find even other animals like the zebra or antelope testing the waters first. That is when the first wild beast jumps in and the rest follow. Once they cross on the other side of the river I do not know what happens. They run and run wildly like mad after they cross the river, deep into the bush. It is like some kind of a ceremony. It is very interesting.
How many times does it happen in a year?
Migration takes place only once a year around mid July and towards the end. In August there are a lot of activities then around September the wild beasts start going back to the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Tell me about ‘The big Five’ buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino
They are dominant in the animal kingdom. As a first time visitor in Mara, to see the big five in a day, count yourself blessed and lucky. In Kenya you will always find the big five.
Is it true that in a few years’ lions in Amboseli would become extinct?
I have been to Amboseli National Park three times. Amboseli is a big park and food there for the lions is scattered. I cannot call it the best park as far as habitation for a lion is concerned. When hunting for food they really have to work hard and use many tricks to get their food. The prey for the lions is less and so Amboseli is a hard place for the lions unlike in Tsavo where it is like living in a kitchen especially during the migration.
What is your dream adventure?
My dream adventure would be crisscrossing countries with a vehicle that is able to carry everything I need. A kind of vehicle that would be able to cross from Kenya to Ethiopia, Morocco and Asia.
I have tried once to do a road safari using public transport and went to several countries in Africa from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Bulawayo and Malawi. The cities I have journeyed are mesmerizing and the people very affectionate.
How many countries have you been to?
I have toured the whole of Eastern Africa region, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. I wish I had the time and resources I would have toured all the countries in East and South of Africa because the movement is easier unlike others where you worry a bit because of conflict.
Are you planning for a safari at the moment?
I plan on taking a voyage to Ethiopia and Eritrea very soon.
When did you start travelling?
Back in form one there was a group under Fr. Adelmo of Comboni Missionaries at Mji wa Furaha in Nairobi. It was called the ‘expedition group.’ We used to visit youth groups in other areas. The late Member of Parliament Emeritus Were was actually the patron of this group he used to organise our voyages. He would take us to Kisumu, Mombasa and we would meet other groups. While there they would take us to attraction places. Then we would engage in different activities like music, plays and dancing.
Does this group still exist?
These days there are no expedition groups. There is what we call exchange programmes in universalities like the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) and United States International University (USIU) among youth groups. The youth go for a camp somewhere or go to a certain hotel in the coastal region over the weekend and have fun.
Where would you recommend me to start?
I would advise someone or anyone who loves travelling to start where they are. If you are in Nairobi start with the Nairobi national park which is a park in the city. There the animals are in their natural habitat. If you want to see the caged ones visit elephant sanctuary, giraffe sanctuary, Nairobi safari walk and see how it goes.
What would I need for a simple safari?
One thing you should ask yourself is do I want to keep memories of what I see? You would need a good camera, a good binoculars if especially you are going for bird watching.
What is your advice to the fun loving young adults out there?
I would encourage every young person who goes out every weekend or twice a week and spends between Kshs 5,000 and 6,000 to put together that money. You can do a lovely budget safari for even three nights instead of the kawaida (normal) two nights and see places you never imagined existed. Not just having fun the old style of going out at night on Fridays and drinking like a fish and the next day you are a cabbage because of alcohol. You do not need alcohol to have fun!
You spend less when you go to the bush because you carry only what you need. It is fun and healthy. Travelling never stops, you keep discovering unbelievable places to visit.