Kenya Safari Adventure

Welcome to our latest international adventure BLOG. Sonia and I are leaving soon for Kenya on a 20-day adventure to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and several other eco-tourism destinations in central Kenya as well as the Serengeti. We’ll be flying from San Diego through Seattle and Paris to get to Nairobi. From there we’ll be driving and flying to several destinations in Kenya to visit several wildlife conservancies and National Parks. Our internet coverage may be quite spotty but I’ll try to upload pictures and provide updates as often as possible. I’m very excited to visit Africa, which will be my 7th continent; another bucket list goal.

We are getting very close to our departure date and are busy collecting all of the documents, tickets, visas, money, medicine cabinet items and personal effects for an 18-day safari with lots of airplane time on each end. We are visiting 4 safari lodges in Kenya plus several days in Nairobi visiting various local places of interest. It’s always a challenge to try and make sure you anticipate every need you might have without knowing what kinds of infrastructure you’ll have access to. We leave early Saturday morning for our 10,000+ mile marathon flights (SAN-SEA-CDG-NBO) arriving in Nairobi a scant 26 hours after we leave San Diego. We are sharing this adventure with Mark’s brother Rick and his companion Karla. The group leaders, Adam and Megan, are coworkers of Karla’s at the Minnesota Zoo.

We arrived in Nairobi around 11:00 Kenya time, just over 31 hours doorstep to doorstep. Plane travel is never dull; our flight from Seattle to Paris was delayed 2 hours due to a pilot calling in sick, making us a bit anxious considering we had a 2:15 connection in Paris. It was 30° and snowing in Paris so, even though our flight was delayed, we made our connection and boarded another Boeing 777 for our second 9:30 minute flight into Nairobi. After another hour and a half getting through immigration and customs we made it to the shuttle and finally got to our hotel.

December 4, 2023 – Nairobi, Kenya

We had to get up pretty early as our first day in Kenya was going to be busy. Our first stop was the Sheldrick Widlife Trust, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants. Some are injured but most are separated from their mothers and would not survive in the wild. They are raised in an open facility location in the Nairobi National Park where they are allowed to leave and return at will until they are healthy and mature enough to survive in the Park and freely decide to stay in the larger park rather than returning to the orphanage, We got to see them come down to a viewing area where the juvenile elephants are fed mass quantities of baby formula from giant 4 liter “baby bottles”.

After our baby elephant encounter we were off to visit one of the many Kenya companies committed to sustainability, Ocean Sole is a Nairobi company that recycles over a million flip flops recovered from Kenya’s beaches every year, and transforms them into artistic animal figures for resales in zoos all over the world. We got to tour their factory and visit their factory store where you can choose from the myriad animal figures carved by local artist from the recycled flip flops.

Every recycled flip flop is hand washed in preparation for the artists
Then the pieces of plastic are glued together and formed into different shapes and animals
Many of the artists used to be wood carvers before Kenya halted the domestic lumber cutting industry
This large giraffe is among many of the large, and often life size sculptures sold to museums and zoos worldwide.

Our third stop was to visit the studio of Joel Rintari, a local glass etching artist who recently received international attention when he created a special memento for King Charles during his recent visit to Kenya. He has been actively involved in training glass etching skills to young people to help them start a career.

he does all of his etching freehand using dentistry tools
This large glass piece was created using a mirrored pane

December 5, 2023 – Lewa Safari Camp

Today was an incredible adventure in the Lewa Nature Conservancy, a 62,000 acre preserve where all of the animals are allowed to run wild and free where ever they desire. The conservancy employs over 1000 people from the local areas to ensure the safety and health of the animals as well as run their eco-tourism business. I’ve included a fraction of what we saw our first day with plenty of exciting stories to follow.

December 6, 2023 – Lewa Safari Camp

Today was another unbelievable day of driving through remote sections of the 62,000 acre conservancy in search of the 100+ species of true wild animals living in the preserve. It’s hard to explain what it’s like hen driving over the rolling hills of this 6000′ in altitude savannah, cresting a small hill and seeing 100’s of zebras, gazelle, Cape Buffalo, rhinoceros, and kudus grazing in a huge grass plain! We split into 4 groups of 6 riders in each safari truck with the most friendly guides imaginable, all with encyclopedic knowledge of the mammals, birds and fauna throughout the park. We spend about 6-8 hours a day driving along the myriad dirt roads through canyons, valleys and plains searching for all of the 50+ mammal and 300+ bird species that call Lewa home. Today we saw lots more of everything we saw the first day plus a number of spectacular additions. Huge herds of Plains and Grevy Zebras (they are the rare ones with many smaller stripes) was spectacular. Also interesting was the fact that almost every hoofed animal we have seen was grazing nearby in the same plain. The other surprising find was two mating pairs of lions laying out in the tall grass of the plains not more than a couple hundred yards from the other animals. The variety is surprising and our ability to often get close enough to have the animals within reach distance is an unbelievable experience.

As part of our morning safari drive we stopped by the Lewa Conservancy headquarters and met with a few of the administrator. They gave us an overview of the community development programs they fund that provide infrastructure and economic development opportunities to the surrounding local communities, e.g., womens’ small business grants. They also overviewed the sophisticated tracking systems they have developed to monitor the health and movements of many of the rare and endangered species, as well as the rangers who manage and protect the animals and lands.

After lunch we drove out to one of the valleys in the NW corner of the reserve and saw several new animals for us: Dik Dik, Klipspringer, Duikers, warthogs, giraffes and a mother/infant pair of rare black rhinos. The evening drive always includes a sunset cocktail party on some high spot in the park before heading back to camp for dinner and story sharing.

Tomorrow we visit one of the local schools to donate items several of the group brought along for the children. Two more safari drives and who knows what other animals or fauna we’ll see then.

December 7, 2023 – Lewa Safari Camp

Today we headed out to the Lewa Conservancy headquarters to learn about the educational programs being implemented to ensure that all of the children in the Lewa area get a consistent and complete educational opportunity and experience. Several of our group brought educational supplies for the center to distribute to some of their 30+ local schools.

As usual, everything we do and every place we go is another safari drive and the ones we took today were no disappointment. We had repeat encounters with an a pair of ostrich parents raising their clutch; we were happy to see that they still had the same number of chicks as the day before. We also got to see a mother giraffe and her baby for the second day in a row, she is possibly less than a week old. Encounters with the cape buffalo are always exciting. They are aggressive animals that account for more loss of human life than any other animal in Africa. Please enjoy the collection of photos captured on today’s encounters.

December 8, 2023 – Lewa Safari Camp to Borana Lodge

Today was our last day at Lewa Safari Camp as we were moving to the Borana Lodge in the neighboring Borana Conservancy. The geographical differences are obvious and stunning. We leave the savannah and head into the Borana foot hills to the west. The land is rugged, covered in shrubbery and trees, and contains much more water than we’ve seen for the last 3 days. In the morning as we head west in the Lewa lands we see many of the same, and now familiar animals like the giraffe with infant that we’ve seen every day. We also see the gazelle, rhinos and ostrich that live in the plains. But as we cross into Borana we now see more zebra, wart hogs, and Grevy’s zebra. We take a short drive past the famous Lion King pride rock on the way to our next accommodations, the Borana Lodge, built 30 years ago by a 4 generation Kenya family. We spend two nights here before moving on to our next destination.