I love starting trips on weekends. The traffic to escape Nairobi is clear and we don’t have to start a safari in a jam. Emily and Lee conveniently started their journey to Mombasa on a Saturday morning, and we found ourselves bright and early at Wildebeest Eco-Camp in Karen. It was a reasonably unremarkable drive, therefore, to Amboseli. The only potential for disaster arose when I inserted my foot firmly in my mouth with a cynical remark about the aid industry… only after the words were out did I remember that Lee works as a fund raiser for an NGO. couches melbourne
But their humour remained intact, even after the 22 kilometres of corrugated road on the last stretch to the park (it’s nothing compared to the road to the Maasai Mara, but not having that for comparison, 22 kilometres can also be tiring).
Our arrival at Kibo Camp was like a homecoming for Francis and me. First Charles, the supervisor, cracked a big smile in welcome as he saw us emerging from the van. Francis had only been there a few days before, but I was pleasantly surprised they remembered me after several months.
We checked in and Charles generously gave us a new guest tent. The tents are floored with stone and covered with cow-hide rugs. The four-poster bed in the middle of the room is surrounded with a mosquito net which is set up during the evening turn-down service while we have dinner. At the rear of the tent is the en suite with flush toilet and hot shower. The water is solar heated – part of Kibo’s eco-friendly efforts. No time to linger in our luxurious tent though; it was lunchtime.
As Francis and I entered the dining room our old friend Gona was preparing our table. When he turned and saw us, it was like meeting a long-lost pal. “Mama and Papa Overland” he cried and shook both our hands energetically. Nothing is too much trouble for Gona – as he says “my name is Gona and I’m gonna serve you.” Gona had christened us Mama and Papa Overland on my first visit to Kibo in 2013. We were quietly tickled by the name and are glad it’s stuck.
Safari in Amboseli
Emily and Lee had their first game drive that afternoon. They were lucky with an early lion sighting! Even better, it was a lion couple on their honeymoon. Of course they also saw plenty of elephants and a hippo with her baby out of the water.
Emerging from our tents at sunrise the next morning, we were greeted with a perfect view of a naked Kilimanjaro. Usually covered in cloud during the day, early morning is the best time to see the mountain and Amboseli is the best place for those views. Francis whisked Emily and Lee off to the park for an early morning game drive. Over breakfast, Lee marvelled at the incredible variety of birds they had seen during the drive, many of which they had never heard of, including the Secretary Bird. We all had a giggle at Francis’ imitation of the Secretary Bird as it hunts. Amboseli National Park comprises a large swamp in the middle of a massive arid area and thus attracts many water birds including water rail, egrets, herons, ibis, kingfishers and plovers.
After breakfast we bid our farewells to the awesome staff and started back to Mombasa Road. The highway between East Africa’s main port and the rest of the region is only single lane in each direction with some trucks hurtling along at hair-raising speeds while others barely make it up the gentlest of inclines. Side mirrors are a needless accessory it seems and rarely used. It’s not my favourite road to travel on and so I like to either turn around to talk to people behind or pretend to sleep – anything to not look at my impending death over and over! Francis is masterful though and navigates the other drivers’ craziness with cool calm.