Kenya Travel Story - "Safari in Tsavo East and West", page 2

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"...After some 4 to 5 hours of driving on the terrible roads we arrived in Tsavo East. Our part of the park was largely flat, with some single trees standing in the open plains. Not very interesting scenery but indeed, as people had told us, great opportunities for wildlife viewing. Though the red earth of Tsavo East – I don’t remember anymore whether it was the same in Tsavo West – is really impressive. All the roads (all unpaved) were of an intense, brown-red color.

Park rules said we could not leave the roads, so we drove around all morning looking for animals, and stopping near the side of the road once we spotted something interesting. There were lots and lots of elephants present, sometimes even as much as 30 in a group. Even the elephants had turned red from the red Tsavo earth. Often the elephants would hardly take notice and we would be only 10 meters away. At some point we encountered fighting animals at some 40 meters distance. Two big elephants were at loggerheads, trying to shove the other aside with their big tusks. There were also lots of zebras, buffaloes and many types of antelopes.

Our driver hardly said a word for the entire 2 days. Our cook, Albert, on the other hand was friendly and knowledgeable. He would tell us about the park, the animals and his life in general.

Main gate of Tsavo West National Park, Kenya

Tsavo West, Main Gate - (c) Kenya Travel Story

At noon, we took a break of a few hours at a public campsite in the middle of the park. The animals are hiding or sleeping at noon, and it’s too hot anyway. Together, we set up the tents and made our beds. The campsite was full of baboons, small monkeys who climb in the trees above your head, and Albert warned us that they steal your stuff and can also be aggressive. There was a small building with public toilets and showers. They were stinking and half broke. The showers gave a little bit of brown water. For lunch, our driver and cook brought something prefixed, a kind of chips with chicken legs. It tasted like shit. Well, that’s budget camping in Africa. There was another cook present at the campsite, John. He was from a different company but had apparently missed his group or something, and as he had nothing to do he joined our group and help our cook prepare dinner. A very nice man and an excellent cook. He never said anything about payment, but we gave him a good tip for his services.

In the afternoon we drove around again. We encountered a whole pack of dark brown buffaloes, over 50 of them, right besides the road. We parked the car and they weren’t bothered by us and kept grazing, walking slowly, etc. Not long before dark, we spotted a group of about 8 giraffes. They were solemnly strolling through the park, scattered over an area of several hundreds of meters. Beautiful animals, with strong muscled bodies like horses.

Giraffes in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya

Giraffes in Tsavo West - (c) Kenya Travel Story

In between, we made several ‘sanitary stops’ at big souvenir shops, with halls full of wooden animal sculptures, clothes, Masai shields and spears, etc. None of us had to go to the toilet, the reason was probably that our guides had agreements with the shop owners about a commission on sales.

Just before dark we drove back to our campsite. Together, Albert and John prepared an surprisingly (after the ‘lunch’) good dinner. It was terrific. Then we made a wood fire and stared in the fire until it was time to go to bed.

The campsite didn’t have any fences and we were in the middle of a wildlife resort with lions, elephants, buffalos, etc. Albert told us that when we had to get to the toilet at night, we would have to wake him so he could look around if it was safe. He assured us that nothing would go wrong. I had pretty heavy stomach problems that day and in the night I had to get to the toilet. I didn’t want to wake anybody so I headed to the toilet. But John was already next to me. He quickly threw some dry grass on the almost dead fireplace, so the flames were back. He grabbed his torch and started shining frantically around the park, his eyes nearly popping out of his head. Then it was clear to us that it wasn’t as safe as Albert tried to make us believe. There were indeed gazelles running at the border of the campsite (but no lions). Later we talked to a park guard who carried an AK-47 machine gun. When we were asked whether this was against poachers, he said it was mainly against wild animals. He advised us not to sleep in open campsites without guards. ..."

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