Day 4 (September 13, 2013)   Amboseli


Route from Amboseli to Naivasha

   We must wake up early this day as Mount Kilimanjaro use to be covered since around 10 AM.

   We will leave the Sopa Lodge to drive all through Amboseli National Park from East to West by the Northern part of the park, where we expect to find the herds of elephants in the swamps.

   Then we would drive all the way back from Namanga to Nairobi direction to leave it just by getting the Maasai Ostrich farm, in the white point in the center of the map. There we can get a ride on an ostrich before going on in our way to Naivasha.

   We will have our first sight of the Rift Valley and will go down to it to our goal of spending the night in a banda of Carnelley's Camp, in the Southern shore of the lake.

   It is 370 Km route we can cover in around 8 hours. We know we will spend the whole day inside the car.  


   We didn’t set any alarm because we wanted to rest from the tough last night. I’m woken up at 7 AM anyway. People usually leave to safari very early because it’s when animals are more active and, specifically for Amboseli, because Kilimanjaro gets covered by clouds as the morning pass by, but we’ve already changed the plan for today to drive directly to Naivasha when we leave the park and lunching a sandwich on route like yesterday. We got good pictures of the mount clear yesterday at dusk.

   This morning Kilimanjaro looks magnificent and there are fantastic sights of it from the Sopa Lodge. I walk exploring the garden and enjoying the views as I’m waiting for my wife to be ready for going to get our breakfast in the place with the best views.

Cottage in Amboseli Sopa LodgeMount Kilimanjaro from Amboseli Sopa Lodge

   When we finish a myriad of birds come to our table to finish with the crumbs.

Feast in breakfast at Amboseli Sopa Lodge

   We’ve already started our safari, if we understand as “safari” watching animals: monkeys all around the lodge, some bats sleeping hung from the tree branches, a frog trying to hide from us… These last discoveries are pointed by the friendly Maasai taking care of the market in the lodge. We’ve bought some items from it and end making some pictures with him.

Monkeys in Amboseli Sopa LodgeMaasai market in Amboseli Sopa Lodge

   It’s time to face the problems: I’m almost decided to get into the park without spare wheel when I check we also need to get fuel and I’m told both things must be done in Kimana, the closest town, which is 10 Km away, but in the opposite direction.

   We go to there to find a small village, after changing rough road by tarmac, with Kilimanjaro as background. We get fuel by 113 ksh litre and some teenagers try to help us to find the garage. One even takes our wheel to carry it to the place, always expecting a tip in exchange.

   The tyre is useless and the mechanic changes it, and the broken air camera too, with the only help of an iron bar, by the only tyre he has got there of our right size, which is in its last days. But I prefer that than nothing.

   As I haven’t asked for price before, I’m trying to press for a fair one by asking to the man the receipt explaining I need it for delivered to the rental company as they’re going to pay me this back, but it doesn’t seem to affect as he charges me 4000 ksh by a ruined tyre.

   We’re finally ready to officially start our safari. It’s 10h and we take again the damned rough road to Kimana gate for spending some hours inside the Amboseli Park. A few minutes after the entrance we can see a herd of wildebeest walking in a perfect line and some gazelle here and there in a dry landscape full of dust with just some acacias around. Kilimanjaro is not still covered, but some clouds are touching it.

Wildebeest in Amboseli

   But a bit later we find a bunch of life. In the first green area we meet with hundreds of big herbivores grazing quietly: several different species of gazelles, wildebeest, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, elephants… It is a vast terrace and the visual amplitude is so great that allows seeing from far the dust twisters so typical of this place.

Fauna in Amboseli

   In every junction of Amboseli roads there are stone signs pointing where each way is going to, which helps a lot in orientation. We use them to reach the Observation Hill.

Observation Hill

   The hill emerges from a big surface full of water, with lakes and swamps, coming from Kilimanjaro snow melting. This area, which is the one the rangers in the gate from yesterday recommended to us, is full of elephants, hippos and buffalos in the water among a ton of birds and the rest of game we’ve already seen before. Some hyenas are getting a feast with a buffalo corpse at feet of the hill.

Elephant in AmboseliHyenas feeding in Amboseli

Hippos in AmboseliElephants in Amboseli

   There are several buses in the parking area, where there are the stairs to go to the top. It seems some groups of students are visiting the place. This is one of the few spots in the park where people are allowed to get out from the car and we star our climb to the beautiful views of the top.

Observation HillAmboseli views from Observation Hill

Amboseli views from Observation Hill

   Three girls ask us for taking a picture of them just for checking themselves in the camera LCD. All the students we’re meeting in their way down back to the buses are dressing uniform. We’re taking the same way down some minutes later with the plan of taking the way to the Northern gate and avoiding the road we used for coming and, therefore, the worst 50 Km of our lives. We’ve been told the Northern way only have 18 Km of rough road, then tarmac until the popular motorway Nairobi – Mombasa and, from there we can continue until Naivasha.

Elephant in AmboseliBuffalos in Amboseli

   This area is full of elephants and we enjoy our time watching them while looking for our way. In the next junction the signs are broken and cannot be read so we cannot know the right way. We try one and, obviously, results to be wrong. We find out when a man tells us we’re in the public campsite, so we’ve gone South, close to Tanzania border, as trying to go North.

Once in the right way we drive all through a deserted landscape, full of dust, following a track over the stones. We think is funny remembering now how hard I tried to avoid every little stone yesterday. We go through the lodge area, in the center of the park, just before turning right in the road to Iremito gate, our selected exit point.

Deserted area in AmboseliMonkeys in Amboseli

   Once out of the park, and while we’re waiting the tarmac to appear in one point of the 18 Kms of hell, we still find animals, as giraffes.
Giraffe after exiting Amboseli
Iremito gate

   The way to the tarmac is eternal because the speed average is around 15 Km/h, but once on it, we are in a familiar environment, driving at 100 Km/h until reaching Nairobi – Mombasa motorway. It is a busy road, with a lot of slow big trucks making things harder. Everybody here are driving at their own, taking over vehicles when they can regardless of signs or the rest of cars. With only one lane by direction, there are moments I can see clearly I have no time for taking over three cars in a row, so I wait for a better moment, but big buses are taking over me and the rest. It is not I’m calculating wrong, it is these big vehicles make cars in the opposite direction to slow down in order of letting them go. We’ve even seen here big trucks taking over a slow vehicle by the side with no road! With the right wheels over the tarmac and the left ones on ground, very leaning because of the level mismatch, in the most amazing sight on this drive.

Motorway Nairobi - MombasaMotorway Nairobi - Mombasa

   In Nairobi the traffic gets busier and slower and the roundabouts are so chaotic that we prefer not leaving the lane in the middle for keeping in the motorway. Somehow, when the dark is over us is when I learn why is it so recommended Su8nset in our way to Naivashanot driving in this country by night. It is horrible and I’m feeling like I’m not going to manage it: the bright lights are on for all the cars in the opposite direction and I can barely see the road I’m driving on, so I cannot avoid the big potholes on it. What I do is taking a truck with an appropriate speed and driving on its back the whole way to Naivasha.

   We don’t know what the driver of that truck thought about us, seeing us behind him for hours, but we’re reaching Naivasha this way and now we only must follow the GPS to Carnelley’s Camp.

   We find it late, some minutes past 10 PM, and its gate is closed. When we’re opened, a man with a lantern walks in front of us to be followed to our banda. It is dark and it is difficult walking around the place with no lights, but we manage to get the bar area, where we’re explained kitchen is closed and we’re not going to be able of getting any dinner, so we must resign with another sandwich with the goodies we’ve got in the car.

Bar area in Carnelley's CampRoom in Carnelley's Camp