Mombasa, Tsavo and a detour to Amboseli

It’s time for us to return to Nairobi and take a flight out to Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city. Lying next to the Indian Ocean, this is a cosmopolitan city attracting many tourists and expatriates because of its friendly culture. We decide to catch our breath here and enjoy some of the wonderful hospitality.

After a couple of days, we are en route to the Tsavo National Park, which is Kenya’s largest national park and one of the largest in the world. Due to its size, this Park is divided into two, Tsavo East and Tsavo West.

Having left Alphy and James behind in Nairobi, we are joined by our new driver, the staid Julius, and make our way to Tsavo East which covers an area of 13,747 km and is situated 1388 ft above sea level. Although this Park is not as beautiful as the Maasai Mara, it still holds enormous opportunity to spot game. Our luck continues as we come across large herds of dust-red elephants in this open savannah. These enormous pachyderms are covered in fine red dust that makes them distinctly different. We also spot Water Buck, Lesser Kudu, Maasai Giraffe and herds of Grants Zebras and the rare sighting of a couple of Bat-eared Foxes. But as is expected, it is the sightings of the Cheetah and the Lions that excite us most. Solitary lions sleep soundly, unperturbed by our proximity whilst a couple of females search the landscape for a potential kill.

Apart from that, we also see lots of birds like the African Hawk-eagle, Egyptian Geese, Fischer’s Sparrow-hawk, Kori Bustard, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Brown Snake Eagle, Crowned Plover, Golden-breasted Starling, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, to name a few.

Driving across to Tsavo West, we are amazed at the change of landscape. This side of the Park is covered in volcanic cones, rocky outcrop and lava flows. In contrast to the dusty red of the East, the West is black because of the volcanic outflows.  About 4kms west of Chyulu Gate, the main access to the Tsavo West National Park, are the spectacular Shetani Lava Flows. This vast expanse of folded black lava spreads for 50 sq kms across the Savannah at the foot of Chyulu Hills turning a better part of the Park into a black landscape which is barren of vegetation. About an hour of travel, we come across tall vegetation, which makes it difficult to spot game and the elusive Black Rhino.

Our camp for the night is the Ngulia Safari Lodge. The balcony of our room overlooks a wide expanse of wilderness and we could see zebra, gazelle, and elephants grazing below. Across from the restaurant is a wide terrace cum viewing point overlooking a massive waterhole about 20 yards away. To our amazement, a herd of about 30 elephants, led by a massive matriarch arrives at this waterhole. A few minutes later we spot a couple of leopards edging their way to the waterhole waiting for their opportunity to get a drink of water.

After a day in the park, it is time to return to Mombasa and on our way out we visit the Mzima Springs which is the source of much of Mombasa’s fresh water, spurting 220 million litres of crystal clear water every day. A popular tourist attraction, we also took the opportunity to walk down to the springs. Along the banks are crocodiles basking in the sun whilst hippos hang out nearby.

But this was not to be the end of our safari as we came across a fork in the road: one road leading to Mombasa whilst the other indicated 93kms to Amboseli. I looked at Anya and she immediately nodded her head in agreement and in unison we instructed Julius to drive us to Amboseli! This was a decision we shall never regret.

One hour later, we check into the Sentrim Hotel in Amboseli. This luxurious tented lodge offers 60 modern tents with a private view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We dive into the soft beds and spend a few minutes digesting our wild detour!

This park is awesome. The sheer vastness merges into horizons that stretch to the distance becoming one with the sky. As if to blend with the enormity of the Park, the herds are as large with the elephant population drawn to the lush swamplands. But the most impressive sight has to be the backdrop of the Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s largest mountain. A picture perfect moment is seeing a single tusker against the snow-capped mountain with the rainbow coloured air balloon in the background which is a timeless African image.

Photograph by Anya Ratnayaka

This is a ‘happy’ park declared Anya. Home to large numbers of elephants, herds of wildebeest graze with zebra and impala on the open plains. We have beautiful moments with hyena at close range as they rolled in the grass in a rare display of spontaneity. Many more sightings of lions and lionesses, cheetahs, and a variety of birds make this one of the most fantastic experiences we have had. The next day we reluctantly return to Mombasa and spend hours going through the hundreds of photographs we have taken. Our first, and definitely not the last, trip to Africa has ended. Fifteen days, five parks and amazing sightings…. Priceless!

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