Images of Kenya – 1983
Virtually all of my travels start with the preface “Many years ago….” (Which, I suppose, is better than “It was a dark and stormy night”).
In 1983, I had the opportunity for very little money to visit Kenya and Egypt. Airline fare was cheap and it was November and December, a slow time for travel. Flew on a Pan Am 747 that haunts me to this day – the Clipper of the Seas. It haunts me because a few years later it was blown up over Scotland.
According to Wikipedia, it was the 15th 747 built, a model created because of the vision of Pan Am’s Juan Trippe. I was on a proud aircraft and airline, now but a memory.
But what a flight it was – the Pan Am Flight attendants told me (I was in that plane for 17 hours, as I recall) –in the industry they were known as “African Queens”, for the time they would be gone. Sorta like meandering up that river, minus the malaria.
And minus Bogart & Hepburn.
We left JFK, flew over the Atlantic – stopped in Senegal. I thought, officially being in Africa, I was almost there but I had a bit to learn.
Africa is about as wide as North America, and we had more stops at Lagos, Nigeria, Monrovia, Liberia (where, peering out the door, almost got my Nikon F3 confiscated by a soldier for daring to take a picture of the then President’s dilapidated 727 (thanks to a lovely Flight Attendant who talked him out of it), and finally, some time later, Nairobi.
It was at the Norfolk Hotel that so many celebrities from the 1930s made their first stop. Including Ernest Hemingway.
With that introduction, let’s get started. The Echtachrome is a bit washed out in some of the pictures, but I am posting those pictures anyway.
First stop – the Norfolk Hotel. I’d been in the plane so long didn’t even know what day it was when I got there 😉
Built in the 30s, it was the stop of Hemingway and others who were going big game hunting. I was going to do my hunting with the camera. The vans in the front had pop-up roofs for use when out in the field and photography…
This was the Masai Mara game preserve. Before I went to Kenya, I thought that the game preserves were simply fenced off areas for the tourists. Not so – they are 100s of thousands of acres set aside along migratory paths for the animals.
Accommodations at the Masai Mara. Concrete floor, and actually a primitive bathroom in the back – complete with 2 55 gallon drums of water fed by a fire in back as the water heater. After dinner in the dining area, we were escorted back by guards with automatic weapons, and told to stay in the tent until morning. That’s because there would be nobody to keep the animals from wandering around the grounds – lions, Cape Buffalo, you name it.
BTW, a sub story. One night in the tent at 02:00 (I specifically remember the time) I am awakened by my tent mate saying “Bill! Wake Up! There’s a Rhinoceros right outside the tent! ”
I groggily open the window flap and it is a cape buffalo just grazing maybe 6′ away. Considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, I closed the flap and went back to sleep. Figured it it wanted to kill me there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
Later, someone asked me, “Why didn’t you take a picture of it?” (Dumb tourist story #1). Can’t you just see the flash and the head of a cape buffalo – and those horns as ‘Bill’s last picture” 😉
One of the first sights we saw next morning after we got in the van and started driving. Actually, to me, Africa is a magical place because coming on to the preserve we saw lions and giraffes just wandering along the by the highway.
There’s just more of them in the preserves.
A common sight. Actually, I came to view lions as simply 400 lb house cats. With no disrespect intended. Never will forget a national Geographic special decades ago on cats – in essence they profiled everything from a house cat to a lion and determined that left to themselves in the wild, they all had more in common with each other than any other species. Don’t know if this is the same program but in watching it the first few minutes seems similar .
These lions would be feeding during the night and just relaxing with full bellies the next morning.
Dumb tourist story #2: We we shooting pictures of a lioness maybe 6′ from us, all standing up in the van with the pop-top – a woman turns to me and says “why don’t you throw something at her so she’ll look our way”.
Later on I saw some of these 400 lb “house cats” leap and that lioness, if agitated, could have been on the top of that van in a heartbeat.
We came up to another group of elephants and this big bull had a look at us – that even I, city dweller, knew was big danger. I can’t describe it but if you saw it and had a modicum of common sense you knew we were going to be attacked if we pressed forward. The guide threw the van into reverse and we backed away.
BTW do you know which is the most dangerous animal in Africa? My vote is the cape buffalo but the hippo is up there – both with nasty tempers and unpredictable.
A few weeks before we arrived we were told of 2 women who decided to take a midnight stroll from their tent – and their bodies were found gored and crushed the next day not far from the campsite.
…some Cape Buffalo
Getting breakfast at the Masai Mara – outdoor tables, good Kenya coffee and an English-style breakfast.
You will see lions just wandering around the countryside – I asked a British ex-patriot back in Nairobi what she did if one was sitting in the middle of the roadway – she replied “We honk the horn!”
When I say that I thought they were just big house cats – I obviously respect them –
…at a Masai village. The Masai are a nomadic people covering parts of Kenya and Tanzania. There are 6 “tribes” in Kenya; the Masai are one but probably the most famous. That is one reason there is so much strife in Africa – the country borders were created without regard to the tribes.
A leopard in a tree. The leopards and cheetah were very elusive. We were following this leopard – he had disturbed a lion at the base of this tree and literally in a split second we heard a blood-curdling roar and this leopard was 15-20′ up in the tree . Faster than you could even realize it.
Lake Naivasha Hotel – a reminder of Britain’s past. Beautiful lake with 1000s of pink flamingos and other birds. You had a mosquito net over the bed (and you did have a malaria tablet to take every day). All I needed to get into the mood was a pith helmet.
when we got back from the lake tour tea was offered – tables were set up here.
The next stop was impromptu. Wm Holden was a big game hunter in Africa who had a change of heart, and wanted to promote animal conservation. In 1959, he started the Mt Kenya Safari Club.
You really have to see this place to believe it – out in the middle of nowhere, you would go through a gate and it was as if you were at the Del Monte Country Club and Pebble Beach. At the time we were there it was a private club with members flying in from around the world.
But now it is part of the Fairmont hotel chain.
Mt Kenya is right behind me, keeping with tradition. When I went through Switzerland I did not see 1 mountain because of fog and rain.
A view of the golf course. Back to my story, the tour guide knew the manager there and wanted to takes us to lunch. So for an agreed upon fee for lunch and “temporary membership to the Mt Kenya Safari Club”, we got to see how the other half lived 😉 Never will forget this sight – all 20 or so of us filing in with blue jeans and these 2 elderly ladies playing cards looking up at us.
If looks communicated they sniffed, “They’re letting in anybody these days”.
This town was maybe 20 miles from the Safari Club. I got a kick out of the “Bar & Butchery”. Watch the hogs being slaughtered while having a gin martini?
…now we are at Amboseli, up north close to Somalia. As you can see it was semi desert with Mt Kilimanjaro in prominence (the title picture). Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania.
…finally saw a cheetah – the most elusive cat of all
Next stop was this hotel called the Ark. Like its more famous Treetops Hotel, you sit around all the animals – the other side had a glass wall and you could sit just watching the animals come up to get a drink.At night they pull the drawbridge up.
A British soldier – I forget whether he was on leave or on maneuvers – I think it was the latter.
Visiting a coffee plantation
…back in Nairobi