I left Saskatoon nice and early on my flight to Los Angeles. I had one connection in Calgary, which was fairly straightforward. I followed the signs to the United States connections and the arrows on the floor to the connecting US flight baggage claim to take it through to customs. I flew with Air Canada the whole way and had TV entertainment with my flight from Calgary to Los Angeles. I was picked up from right outside the baggage claim in the centre pick up island by the colourful Disneyland Resort Express.
Be sure to pay attention to which Transit Company is picking you up as they will pass you by if you do not signal them or make it clear they need to pick you up, (they have many stops to make at LAX). From LAX airport my bus ride was about 40 minutes to Anaheim, (traffic depending).
My room at the Marriott hotel in Anaheim is spacious and nice. Our first stop for the evening was Medieval Times, a fantastic dinner show that really takes you to another time. Medieval weapons, horses, battles, and theatre set the mood for a chicken feast that you have to eat with your hands. The following morning we stopped into the Anabella hotel for a tour and breakfast. This mission style boutique motel is a great choice for a stay in Anaheim, the rooms and size of this hotel are ideal; it has a great location being close to Disneyland Park. Only a 10 minute drive away we were off to Knott’s Berry Farm. Learning about the origin of the park was very interesting. Who knew it all came about from a Boysenberry plantation then later on a busy chicken dinner restaurant? My favourite ride was the Xcelerator. Going from 0-132 km in 2.3 seconds is my kind of thrill ride. During the Halloween season they have opened up the night time Knott’s Scary Farm. We were only there during the day but got a sneak peak at one of the spooky mazes. I know the night time park would spook kids as well as adults. They have done a great job with the decorations and the whole theme of the park.
After Knotts’s Berry Farm we drove 35 minutes to Balboa Island. This is a beautiful long coastline beach with lots of housing, shops, fun and a we did a wonderful harbour cruise. The Balboa
Harbour Cruise was only $14 per adult, and $7 per child which is a great value for the seeing massive yachts and ridiculously large past and present homes of the famous. We finished the night off on Newport Beach at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort for dinner and a s’more dessert offered by the hotel, fireside on the beach across the road from the hotel. I am loving California – I knew I was going to. There is a lot more to explore, I have not even been to Disneyland yet! That is to come tomorrow!
This was our last day in the Masai Mara. Three of us decide to take a hot air balloon ride across part of the game park. It was a very early flight and we watched the sun rise. It was a spectacular ride and we saw many, many animals from the air…not that we were very high off the ground for much of it…sometimes as low as 20 or 30 feet so we could easily see the animals.
We had a very soft landing (as far as balloon baskets are concerned). They had set up a champagne breakfast near where we landed and the other three members of our group had come out for breakfast. While we had the excitement of the balloon ride, they spotted a couple of the elusive black rhinos – which we did not see.
The balloon ride was quite expensive at $450US but it has been one of those experiences I had always dreamed of doing…it was well worth the cost.
We are now off to our next adventure…Amboseli Park. The flight to Nairobi was very smooth, despite being a small 12 seat plane (Ken even got to sit up with the pilot). A quick lunch and we start our 4.5 hour drive to Amboseli.
Amboseli is much different than Masai Mara. The ground is covered in mostly ash so the roads are very dusty, yet there are lush swamp areas. The amount of wild life is not as plentiful, but it is well known for its elephant herds. When we arrive we drive through the park and indeed there are many elephants. We also spotted lions, hyena, ostrich and of course wildebeest. There are also large herds of zebra and I am fascinated by these marvelously decorated animals.
The Amboseli Serena lodge is very different than our last accommodation at Little Governors Lodge. It is a 5 star resort with a great viewing area and a nice pool area. Smaller rooms but still very nice. Perhaps we won’t be awakened by the sounds of wild animals tonight.
September 26, 2011
Our morning game drive starts very early as that is when many of the animals are most active. We are awake at the suggested time with coffee and tea service in our tent. At 6:15, we cross the Mara River in a small boat pulled from side to side by a fellow using a rope they have secured…kind of fun and a journey we do several times a day.
Our guide Stanley is already there and off we go in search of animals we have not yet had a close encounter with. In Africa when you go on safari, the idea is to just let things happen. The animals are constantly moving so where one animal was spotted even hours before, they may not be there later.
Our first such encounter is a pack of hyenas on a fresh kill. While it is a little gross, it is also very interesting how the hyenas, jackals and vultures interact. One must understand it can be a very cruel circle of life in the wild.
Later, a huge coup…cheetahs have been spotted. It turns out they are 3 brothers and they have stayed together for a couple of years. They pay absolutely no attention to the several safari jeeps now congregating and at first we think it’s going to be a distant viewing but they are on the move and they walk right in front of our jeep…I swear we could have reached out and touched them! After watching them for a while, we’re off looking for whatever else presents itself.
It’s not long and our guide spots another cheetah, this time a solitary female lying on a termite hill. Again, we are able to slowly approach her for some fantastic photos. She’s not interested in us but watches the plains carefully and then she’s off. Our guide races ahead of where he thinks she’s headed and we spot the baby gazelle. But our cheetah has stopped and is not pursuing the gazelle that, with her mother is running for their lives. Then we discover why…a hyena is lurking in the grass and if the cheetah makes the kill, the hyena will dominate the kill site and the cheetah will not get her just rewards. A baby gazelle was saved today…by a hyena!
Many more animals are seen this morning and we go back to camp for breakfast. Instead of a mid-morning game drive, we opted for an optional visit to a traditional Masai village. It is amazing how they once lived and they performed some traditional dancing and singing for us. I’m not sure that we would do it again as it was somewhat staged and not well done but it was interesting after this it is back to the camp for lunch. Later that afternoon, we are off again on another safari.
While we have seen the odd hippo, we really want a better view of them and so Stanley agrees to take us to an area he thinks will be good. On the way, we pass by a herd of female elephants, with a number of young. Another great photo opportunity and as soon as I can, I will upload some great pictures.
On the way to the river to view the hippos, we join a couple of other safari jeeps that have spotted a leopard. It’s in a tree and somewhat difficult to see but she’s beautiful for sure. The last stop before the river we come upon a sad sight – a dead hippo in a small body of water. It seems that less dominant males can be shunned from a family and they leave the river to fend for themselves. At the same time, hippos leave the river and forage in the evenings and night. If they come across a renegade hippo they will attack it. In the case of the dead hippo he was not killed by the other hippos but hurt and perhaps died of infection. We arrived just as the vultures we starting to feed…not a pretty sight but again the way of the wild.
Finally, down to the river and Stanley did not let us down. We saw a family of over 40 hippos in the river. He also surprised us with a couple of bottles of wine, which we savored as we watched the hippos.
Back to Little Governor’s Camp for another nice meal outdoors where some Masai warriors entertained us with some dancing. Excellent, except Karen didn’t appreciate the lone bat that kept flying around the dinner tent.
OMG…I don’t know how to describe our first day of safari at Little Governor’s Camp on the Masi Mara. But let me start with the morning…our luggage arrived … Yeah! It arrived about 5 minutes before have to leave for the airport. We had also found out that we were allowed only 15kg weight including our carry on. We had thought it was plus our carry on, so some quick repacking and with leaving our extra bags with the tour operator, we were off.
We flew from Nairobi to the Masai Mara on a Dash 8 which looked like the planes Time Air flew back in the day, but it was a very nice flight and 45 minutes later we were on a dirt runway in the middle of the Masai Mara.
We expected to have an uneventful ride to Little Governor’s Camp with our first safari that afternoon but wow, the area teams with wildlife and we got up close and personal with antelope, gazelles, baboons, giraffe and warthogs. We were thrilled.
After lunch and a rest, we were off on the real safari. Lots and lots of animals but there were a couple of big highlights. Our guide Stanley is excellent and we spotted a couple of lions resting on a termite hill. Talk about up close and personal, we parked about 15 feet away from them, watched them and took some amazing pictures. After that we followed some elephants and came across some lionesses feeding on a carcass.
Dinner in the open overlooking the plains, sipping on some wine as warthogs wander through the camp, it’s truly an experience we won’t forget.
Day 1 – Enroute to Nairobi
Travel days tend to be uneventful, low energy days and so we will keep the blog to a minimum for our first day. Thank goodness that Air Canada (AC) settled with the flight attendants the day before we left! We flew with AC to Toronto, all in all an uneventful event (the way they should be). We were flying with British Airways (BA) from Toronto to Nairobi via London in Business Class (thanks to points) and we were able to check our bags straight through from Saskatoon to Nairobi.
Upon arriving in Toronto, we went to the BA lounge to await our flight (we had about 4 hours). I mention this only because instead of serving us supper on the overnight flight to London, they served us a very nice buffet supper in the lounge and consequently, we were left to enjoy the lay flight seats on the flight due to this we actually got a pretty good sleep.
Our connection in London was pretty tight as we left Toronto late and we should have only had a little over an hour to connect, this was fine because we arrived into and were departing from Terminal 5. Unfortunately, and to make a long story short, we were delayed leaving London by 5.5 hours, meaning we arrived in Nairobi at about 3:30 in the morning. But hey, rather they fix the mechanical problem and get us safely there than take any safety risks. In the end, they used a different plane.
Upon arrival in Nairobi, we waited and waited and waited for our luggage, but it was useless as our luggage decided not to fly on the same flight as ours. Apparently, it is not lost just delayed and we hope to see it before we leave on safari. The good news is that our SITA Tours rep was still waiting for us upon arrival and we made it to the hotel without any problems at 05:30…good night!