Postcards from Abroad

Whether your dream is to stay in a colonial-era bungalow in the middle of a tea plantation, an Indian princely palace, or to cruise in luxury the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, we never tire of searching for your next great travel destination. This is the place to share with us your most recent adventures.

In and out of Africa by Paul Booty

Image taken by Paul BootyI decided many years ago that I would love to go on Safari to shoot some wildlife, big game hunter me. So armed with my Canon for my 50th birthday I went in and out of Africa. Booking was made through Eastravel (Ipswich) and they came up with a plan that should work, using Somak Safari, and this is my story.  

My wife and I set off from Heathrow with Kenya Airways for the 8-hour direct flight to Nairobi. Kenya Airways are not the most polite or helpful and the food is dire, but hey, that’s not why we are going. An ill passenger had us diverted to Cairo and when I saw all the fuel being dumped into the desert I was a tad concerned. 3 hours of delay for the poor passenger and we were off again.

Nairobi was, well hot, hotter than expected. We met up easily with our guide and driver Yusef a 12th generation Kenyan with distinctly Asian looks and colouring, now I thought that was weird! What a lovely man. We went first on a 4 hour drive to Aberdares County Club for an overnight. Colonial in its styling the staff were fabulous. Hot water bottles in the beds and a great room and food. There was also the ‘Kumars’, who were a group on tour and caused a little annoyance when after dinner they did Bollywood to a ghetto blaster disturbing the sounds of African evensong. Morning prayers were an amusing sight and even the staff struggled to keep a straight face.

Yusef arrived on time and at 7 we were off, 4 more hours on the road to our first lodge proper. We were to stay in a tent for 2 nights in the wilds of Africa at Samburu. First though the spectacular sight of sunrise with an Acacia tree in the foreground. We were nervous, the roads were awful, police checkpoints and speed humps everywhere. The tent was a tent, big enough for 12 but with its double bed and ensuite shower room and toilet it became quite luxurious. We did our first game drive that afternoon after a few hours by the pool and by now my wife and I were enjoying singing ‘riding along in our army truck’ (look it up on you-tube, from Trumpton or Camberwick Green when I were a lad), interspersed with “Sorry, sorry” as another big bump spoiled the perpetual massage. We saw animals, big animals, lots of them and close up too! Dinner was prepared and we bedded down for the night at about 8.30. Here the electricity was from a generator with strict hours of available light and hot water was twice a day from a boiler heated by a wood fire beneath! You couldn’t make it up and it was heavenly, views were spectacular and again the staff were just so friendly. Yusef was teaching us to speak a few words so we could get into the swing of it all. The next day a 7.00 morning drive and I surprised Yusef with an untaught phrase ‘Simama Hapa’ (stop here). It was a hilarious reaction and so throughout our stay we got random phrases from the waiters to surprise Yusef. Another great drive and we had 3 of the big 5 conquered (only the Rhino and Leopard escaping my shutter). A pm drive and another great dinner ready for our 6.30 start.

Kenya Safari by Paul Booty

Off we went to Serena Mountain Lodge, near the Presidents weekend pad so roads were a little better. Serena had a watering hole so look out for random wildlife. The staff were not good, the rooms tiny and the porter was very intimidating regarding a larger than normal tip! They did have a special though, a sheep’s head chained to a plinth for the wild cat to come and take away. My neighbours have meaner and bigger looking tabbies, pathetic. You can’t be held accountable for the lack of wildlife and here there was a lack of it but I was seriously disappointed and told Yusef to tell the porter who took my bag the next morning to see the big guy for his share of the tip! I would not book another Safari that included Serena as it is a waste of a day with rude staff. The one wow was we saw an eagle owl and some yank said “did you see an owl? What did it look like?”. I replied, casual like “Wings, feathers, head that goes all the way round!” Turns out he wrote the book “Birds of Africa”, took him years and he was just over to do book revisions!!

Image taken by Paul Booty-Kenya Safari

More humpity bumpity and off to Lake Nakuru crossing the Great Rift Valley enroute. Pictures do not do this place justice, the immense enormity of it simply can’t be captured. Another fabulous lunch on the veranda with jaw dropping views of the park. Here we got Black and White Rhino (even if we did have to run the risk of the wardens by going out of bounds for whitey!) as well as the rest of the Gazelle, Impala, Zebra, Water buffalo, Monkeys, Flamingo (who appear to be emigrating to Lake Victoria as the water has changed as the Lake expands) a host of different birds including various Heron and Pelicans. After lunch we drove to Lake Naivasha, more a small sea than a lake as I understand it! Into a boat with Yusef no. 2 and off to see more and more. Get up close(ish) n personal with the Hippos and across the lake to see the Sea Eagles fish, stranded Wildebeest and a Hummingbird! $40 for an hour and a half of high quality viewing and knowledge. Then overnight in Naivasha Sopa Lodge. This really is a posh gaff and a half, with security to take you and collect you from your room in case of a stray hippo. In the morning you have Giraffe grazing on the trees in your back garden!!

On we go to the Mara, be very warned that there really is an end of the road! The tarmac just stops for no logical reason and you have 2 hours of a full body massage at 50 mph! Trust me it’s worth it. 2 nights in an ensuite tent that truly is better than the last with your patio in complete privacy overlooking a family of Hippo!! Lunch on the second day was hilarious when, due to their noise, I said “Bloody Hippo”. Just think about the bizarre nature of the phrase and simply being able to utter it in truth. Anyway more safari, Cheetah stalking, saw a kill (2 Cheetah lunch on a Gazelle) more Lion, Elephant etc etc. On our last morning Yusef parked up and through us out into the bush. He had only organised as a surprise, a bush breakfast, with our very own chef, waiter and game warden! How totally amazeballs!!

 Now for a well-earned rest and back to Nairobi, Precision Air to Zanzibar, yep the plane was precision, precisely 3 hours late and lost precisely half the luggage of all the passengers!! Ja Ja our taxi and guide recovered our bag by lunchtime!! Blue bay beach resort is a little out of the way, but its paradise on legs, reception staff bit grumpy, well they are inside all day, everyone else is awesome, we were Jambo’d out! The Indian ocean is the most beautiful colour and the temperature of a warm bath 24/7 no exaggeration. The sand has the softest, whitest sand and the beach boys are not annoying if you can stand up to them (Hapana!) Take and pay for a tour of Stone town and Spice world, I promise on your own you will miss sooo much. It is dear but you get the works.

Zanzibar Beach by Paul Booty

The above really truly is just a summary. This holiday was worth every single penny and so much more. Well done Eastravel, Somak Safari and above all the animals and people of Kenya and Zanzibar and especially the wonderful Yusef and Ja Ja. Thank you for a wonderful unforgettable 2 weeks and 1400 photos!!

PS we did arrive home on time but a bag lighter!!

Kwaheri.

More images on the way.

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