Monday 18th July 2011
After breakfast at the poolside restaurant, we checked out and boarded our Toyota Land Cruiser for our safari. There were only 11 people in our party, split into two vehicles. In our vehicle were Sandra and me; Terry & Susan from Edinburgh; and Alex from High Wycombe. Our driver and guide was Nicholas Kahura.
At the first roundabout we reached the Nairobi rush hour traffic and made slow progress out of the city, stopping at a garage en route to put some air in one of the tyres. By the time we left Nairobi and were on the open road, Nicholas had tuned into our sense of humour, and we into his! This was going to be a fun experience and little did we know that by the time we returned home we would have formed a bond and relationship with Nicholas that still endures seven years later.
Once we reached the Mombasa Highway progress speeded up and it was interesting to see the improvements that had been made to this main artery between Kenya’s two main cities, funded by the European Union, since our last trip in 2008.
En route we saw the overnight Mombasa to Nairobi passenger train, nearing the end of its journey, and a freight train heading in the opposite direction. We stopped at one of the roadside curio shops for the toilets and had a browse of the items for sale, gathering ideas for purchases later in the trip.
Resuming our journey, we eventually reached the entrance to Tsavo West National Park and made our way to Kilaguni Safari Lodge. We had enjoyed our stay here on our 2008 safari, so knew our way around and what to expect… ….or so we thought!
After being given a cold fruit juice to drink and hot towels to clean the road dust from our skin, we sat down to fill out the registration card. One question on it was, “Have you stayed at Kilaguni before?”, as we had, I ticked the box for ‘yes’ and thought nothing more of it. We were handed our room key and were escorted to room 1. Having dropped our luggage in the room, we made our way to the restaurant for lunch.
We had only just got our food and sat down to eat, when the manageress came over to our table. “I need to change your room”, she said. I asked if we could finish our lunch first, to which she readily agreed, and said to just ask one of the staff to find her.
After lunch we found the manageress who advised us that she had seen on our registration card that we had stayed at Kilaguni previously. As returning guests she wanted to upgrade us! We were then taken to room 22, a larger room on the first floor, and with a better view of the waterhole! The room had also recently been refurbished.
A Burchell’s Zebra under an acacia tree… …as seen from our room
At 3.30pm we set out on our game drive; spotting Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Thompson’s Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle and a large variety of birds. We also visited Mzima Springs again, where we saw a Crocodile, a couple of Hippos in the distance, a Pied Kingfisher, and an African Fish Eagle. We returned to the lodge at 7pm, in time for dinner.
African Fish Eagle at Mzima Springs
Earlier, we had been offered the option of a Night Game Drive, led by the lodge’s resident naturalist. So at 9pm we set out in one of the lodge’s vehicles. Most of our companions in the vehicle were American, who nearly caused an international incident when they mistook Sandra’s Yorkshire accent, for an Australian accent and enquired which part of Australia she was from! Her response, delivered in broad Yorkshire vernacular, I am sure left them no more enlightened as to her lineage than they were before their error! As they say in Yorkshire, “eee bah gum, tha’s reet gormless!”
What a fantastic experience the night game drive was! The African bush is totally different at night and while photography was out of the question in the total darkness (no light pollution or ambient light out here), we saw a host of nocturnal creatures which we might not see during the day; including Nightjars, African Rabbit (which has large ears like a hare), a Silver-backed Jackal, Giraffe, Zebra, Gazelles, Hyenas, Bushbabies, and a Genet Cat. Some of these were quite clear sightings, aided by a powerful spotlight; while others such as the Bushbabies, were merely the reflection of their eyes in the spotlight.
At one point we saw a group of female Lions, one of which was definitely in hunting mode and proceeded to stalk something. After an exhilarating experience in the pitch dark of the African bush, we returned back to the lodge at 11.30pm and so to bed, to snatch a few hours sleep before tomorrow’s adventures.
Pied Kingfisher at Mzima Springs