An email that sent us over the moon…A special person we met in our lives of travel…

Anderson, standing at the marker for the border between Kenya and Tanzania.

Yesterday morning, I discovered an email in my inbox from Anderson, our guide while on safari in the Masai Mara.  The email in his words:

“Jambo from masai-mara,Kenya.
Hi Jessica and Tom, how are you doing my friends?.long time since we meet at Maasai-mara at Sanctuary OLonana camp,where are you now?..since you told me that, you were traveling all over the world! sorry that i did not have time to visit you at Mombasa-Ukunda.
Concerning my employment, I resigned from Olonana a few months ago, and I bought a new safari land-cruiser to start my own safari business within Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. So please if happen that you want to do a safari, am always there for you,..and please recommend me to your friends for me. Thanks my friends, Best regards from Anderson ole Pemba.”

In October 2013, over 18 months ago, we went on safari in the Maasai Mara (aka Maasai Mara), situated in southwest Kenya as one of Africa’s most magnificent wildlife reserve. Connected to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania it is the world’s most popular safari game viewing environment.

We stress the fact that our expedition was game viewing, not hunting. We would never engage in the self serving slaughter of exquisite animals in the wild as their numbers dwindle based on the intervention of humans. 

How we got so lucky to have Anderson as our guide falls into the same “safari luck” category that seeing the Big 5 in our first 10 hours on safari seemed to fall into, all accomplished only due to Anderson‘s expert skills and keen eye. No one on the planet can drive across rough terrain with his expertise nor can spot a lion sleeping in a tree all the way across the plains.

Tom and Anderson really hit it off. This was within moments of arrival at the dirt runway airport in the Maasai Mara.

Not only was his warm, thoughtful and engaging personal a factor but his sense of adventure, willingness to literally “go the extra mile (kilometer) and his vast knowledge left us with a memory that will truly last a lifetime. 

An amateur photographer such as I with a less than ideal camera was able to take photos that will always stay in our hearts and minds and into infinity, located here on the Internet for generations to come.

Anderson‘s efforts made this lifelong dream of mine become a reality. As a child I dreamed of Africa, the Africa we experienced in the Maasai Mara, and Anderson helped make it a reality we’ll both always treasure.

When the short three day period as guests at Camp Olonana by Sanctuary Retreats came to a close my heart ached over having to say goodbye. Would we ever return to the Maasai Mara in Kenya with so much political unrest in the country and when there’s still so much world to see? 

I knew we were in good hands the moment we met Anderson. 

Yes, someday we’ll return to Africa to see Victoria Falls in both Zambia and Zimbabwe and to see the gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda, although there are other locations where they are to be found. Plus, my heart longs to return to Marloth Park for a period of time as well. Someday.

Although we spent only three days with Anderson, for as much as eight hours each day, the time was never enough. Realistically, three days in the Maasai Mara is enough time during which with a great guide, one can see and take photos of many of the treasures in this extraordinary location.

Not only did he ensure we could see all that we longed to see, he left an indelible mark on our hearts not only with his skills but, with his delightful demeanor, sense of humor and passion to please regardless of the size of the group in his vehicle, at most six tourists. 

When we arrived at the dirt runway airport in the Maasai Mara, Anderson was waiting for us immediately taking me into the circle of his strong arms for a bear hug. At that moment, I knew we were in good hands. He’d take good care of us, ensure our safety and equally ensure we had the time of our lives.

Anderson had arranged a breakfast in the bush with the chefs preparing foods I could eat along with standards for the others. 

At the airport we had to wait for another couple’s plane arriving in an hour and a half. Instead of standing around waiting in the hot sun, Anderson suggested he take us out to see what we could find in that short period of time. 

And find, we did, as shown in the many photos in this post which we uploaded that first evening when we were exhausted after a quick meal having arrived too late from an sunset safari to shower and change for dinner. 

With dust all over our clothes and with no Internet access in our tent, after dinner we sat on the sofa in the lodge with a wifi poor connection attempting to upload multiple photos and story, knowing our readers were waiting to hear from us. 

With wild animals all around us, we dined on a perfect breakfast without a moment of fear. We always felt safe with him even if we were only 15 feet from a hungry lion.

The posts were a mess with poor formatting and typos but, we knew once we returned to Diani Beach, Kenya, we’d have plenty of time to go back and make any necessary edits. 

At 7 am the next morning we were ready to go again although the gurgling sound of the hippos in the Mara River outside of our tent awoke us at 4:00 am. I fell back to sleep with a smile on my face relishing every aspect of this amazing experience.

Our first day out, Anderson explained that if we needed to pee to simple say, “I need to check the tire pressure.”  Within a matter of minutes, he’d find a rock or a bush appropriate for providing a modicum of privacy. 

That’s not to say that the trek to the rock or bush wasn’t fraught with a bit of trepidation for what may be lurking in the tall grass. Those breaks were vital to our experience as the daytime heat kept us sipping on bottles of beverages he kept on ice in a cooler in the front seat.

I took this photo of our group on safari that morning.  Its cool in the Masai Mara in the mornings, heating up considerably as the day worn on. That large rock to the right was the spot where we’d “check the tire pressure.”

I could go on and on. Instead, I’ll let our interested readers click back to the posts to read the remainder that continued over a period of over two weeks. The stories and photos seemed never ending, as did the memories with Anderson.

Yesterday, when we received the above email we were thrilled to hear from him. At the time, we’d given him our card knowing it was unlikely we’d hear back with lack of Internet access in the area. We’d invited him to stay with us in Ukunda (Diani Beach) when he’d hoped to make a trip to Mombasa although he was unable to come. 

If any of our readers knows of anyone interested in a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda, feel free to contact Anderson here at this link. We noticed that he’s working in Uganda. We only hope by the time we’re ready to see the gorillas, that we can be with him once again.

Notice my BugsAway hat wrapped around my lower face while we were in Tanzania in an effort to keep the flies out of my mouth.

Speaking of Tanzania, when Anderson was concerned that I was greatly disappointed that we’d missed the Great Migration by one week, on the last day, he drove us over some mighty rough terrain to the border of Tanzania.

There, we were able to see the tail end of the migration while batting off zillions of flies as a result of the dung from 2,000,000 wildebeest and other animals crossing the Mara River numerous times as it winds through the Serengeti, on this annual trek. Only he would try to please to that degree for which we’re eternally grateful.

Thank you, Anderson, for an experience of a lifetime, that in many ways changed our lives and in many ways enhanced our desire to experience more of the wild and its treasures that we’ve yet to behold.

                                                Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2014:

A huge pile of yarn was lying on the ground in the souk, ready to be woven into an article to be sold. Notice the black cat cuddled up on the yard. At this point one year ago, we were three weeks from departing Marrakech, Morocco and we were ready to go. For details please click here.

A rewarding final game drive in Kruger National Park…Tomorrow, we’ll share the most romantic bush braai ever…Photos and more photos…

Yesterday, while waiting outside the African Reunion House for our ride to the Crocodile Bridge Gate for the upcoming game drive and bush braai, we spotted this Golden Orb Spider and her web which is gold in the sunlight. The colors in the background are the designs painted on the outside of the house.  Moments after taking this photo, Tom accidentally walked into the web, taking over half of it down. I was sorry for the spider but couldn’t help but laugh as he was flailing his arms to get the web off of him. Today, she’s still hanging onto her web, although, it’s considerably smaller. 

Error correction from yesterday’s post:  With the assistance of local friends, the photo I referred to as a Duiker was actually a Bushbuck. In addition, we’ve added the names of all the bird photos in the post, three of which we didn’t know. Thanks to Lynne and Mick once again!  Please check yesterday’s post which has since been amended, by scrolling down on today’s post if you’re curious about the bird names.

Spotting wildlife, such as this wildebeest in Kruger National Park is different from the Masai Mara where we could literally drive across the bush to get up close and personal. Kruger is a combination of paved and dirt roads. Off-road driving is forbidden often preventing closeup photos unless the animals are close to or on the road. Many visitors to Kruger are able to see the Big Five close to the road at times. We did the best we could from afar. But, we were having so much fun, we weren’t disappointed. 

We’ve decided that “safari luck” presents itself in many ways. It no longer revolves around seeing the Big Five on a game drive. For us, it extends to many areas of our lives:  a good time, safe travels, avoiding snakes and other poisonous creatures, meeting new people negotiating a good price on a future vacation home, or simply having a fulfilling day.

These two hippos popped up their heads as we drove across the bridge.

It may sound as if I’m rationalizing the fact that we didn’t see any lions on last night’s game drive. Perhaps I am. But, we had a great time beginning with the moment the driver picked us up at 3:30 pm for the drive to Crocodile Gate, the entrance to Kruger National Park, when we rode along with a delightful couple from Australia, Tiffany, and John, with whom we spent most of the evening.

This baby impala was no more than a few weeks old. It was alone, lost from its mother. We watched for quite a while, hoping the mom would return, only to be saddened when she didn’t. Hopefully, another mom would adopt her which often occurs.
This baby impala, only a few weeks old, starting approaching our vehicle and Excellent shooed her off, to avoid her learning that the road was safe.

Returning home close to midnight, we were shocked at how late it was after never asking Tom the time, indicating a fabulous experience was in process. As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And fun, we had. That was “safari luck.”

From a considerable distance, we spotted this Goliath Heron.

A total of eight guests loaded into the game vehicle once we arrived in the park, all the rest of whom were residents of Marloth Park who definitely know how to have a good time. 

This muddy cape buffalo watched us approach.

Annoyed by our presence, he and a few other Retired Generals moseyed on down the road, taking their time.

Endless comments and laughter ensued in the vehicle during the three and a half hours of the drive. Our guide and driver, Excellent (yep, that’s his name) was not only informative but very entertaining. At times, we were all singing “oldies.

This giraffe’s cheeks were filled with vegetation she’d gathered from the treetops. What appears to be horns at the top of a giraffe’s head is called ossicones which are hairy at the ends in the female and bald at the ends in the male. The males use the ossicones in fighting during the mating season, which wears off the hairs.

Nope, we didn’t see lions or leopards, two of the Big Five. But, we did see three of the Big 5: rhinos (at too far of a distance for photos), elephants, and cape buffaloes, as shown in the photos here today. We were content with that. 

 Often birds sit atop high bare branches on the lookout for food.
Later, we’ll post the names of these birds after doing some research. 
 Although we enjoy taking photos of birds, we seldom know what they are which is frustrating. Our guide Excellent, pointed out many varieties. We’ve found it difficult to remember the names of each of the birds to match with our photos. Many bird enthusiasts keep paper and pen handy.

At around 7:30, we drove into the bush braai area for the one-day-late-due-to-rain romantic Valentine’s Day Bush Braai, hosted by Louise and Danie, an event we’ll always remember. 

As the sun began to set, we spotted these elephants and a baby.
In many areas in Kruger National Park, many of the trees have been taken down by the elephants. However, they leave the Marula tree intact since it bears fruit that they eat. In South Africa, a popular after-dinner liqueur is Amarula (the letter a is added to the beginning of the word to connote the liqueur, not the fruit) which was served last after the romantic bush braai. Laden with sugar, once again, I had to pass on this drink. Tom thoroughly enjoyed both of ours.

Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of what we’d imagine being the most extraordinary bush braai ever held in South Africa; the food, the décor, the guests, and the experience of being surrounded by lions, hippos, elephants and more, while “‘Lucky,” a military guard with a rifle and spotlight, continually scanned the perimeter to ensure our safety.

The vultures, checking for dinner at the end of the day.

A safe evening in the dark with wild animals all around us in itself is “safari luck” which surely we experienced on this special day!

This was only the beginning as the sun began to set giving all of us the opportunity to take photos of the most amazing sunset that we’ve seen in our almost three months in South Africa, all of which we’ll share tomorrow along with photos of the romantic bush braai. Amazing!

Happy birthday to the man of my dreams, whose made my dreams come true…The photos below explain how…Yesterday’s safari…

In our travels, we’ve found that “two heads are better than one!”  We were so close to these rhinos that it took our breath away.

Without a card to give to him, a gift for him to unwrap, Tom’s 61st birthday could potentially be a letdown. But, it won’t, if I can help it.

Only minutes after commencing the game drive, we drove over the Crocodile River to spot these Hippos.
Although we were facing the bright afternoon sun, we were grateful to get the Hippos photos.
One last shot as we pulled away.

Yesterday afternoon’s game drive in Kruger Park fulfilled our now deep-rooted expectations after the hard-to-match experience we had in the Masai Mara only a few short months ago. The photos we’ll share today will show why.

A small crocodile in the Crocodile River where no boating is allowed due to the viscous predators.
Throughout the game drive, we saw many wildebeests.

This was the first time we’d seen baby wildebeest.

Kruger Park is very different than the Masai Mara. The regulations require that the safari vehicle stays on the paved or dirt roads at all times, limiting the opportunity to “chase down” amazing sightings while driving across the bush. Thus, one is dependent upon the lucky sighting of wildlife that happens to be near the roads at any given time. Talk about the need for “safari luck!”

An hour into the game drive, we spotted rhinos.
Thanks for turning our way rhino.
The situation with rhino poaching is a serious issue worldwide. In Kruger Park alone, there were 425 killed in 2012 with 2013 stats coming out soon. When a mother Rhino is slaughtered, the babies are left to die. We’ve seen armed guards moving quickly along the roads in the park, on their way to a possible poacher being sighted. They are shot on site, hoping to deter future poachers. It’s been proven that the horn of the Rhino has virtually no medicinal benefit and yet millions worldwide believe otherwise. These amazing animals will be extinct in the near future if their senseless slaughter isn’t stopped.

Our first time in Kruger Park a few weeks ago was disappointing, as we’d posted here a few weeks ago. Expectations were high when sightings were mostly birds. Don’t get me wrong. We like birds. 

She’s got something in her mouth.

Yesterday, once again, “safari luck” kicked in!

Nothing flips our hearts over in our chests more than the sighting of an animal in the wild and the opportunity to take a photo in order to recall the experience at any time in the future. As we began to tour the park in the huge game vehicle loaded with 19 participants and an excellent driver/guide, Dion, we were surprised how few participants were taking photos.

Next game drive we’ll go in a smaller group, allowing ample time to wait for the best photos. I would have waited for this ostrich to pick up its head, but the others preferred to move along.
Then again, few are as driven as we are to document the wonders of nature in our travels with stories and photos. If we didn’t write here, most likely we’d never learn even a little about taking photos and most wouldn’t be saving, sorting, and cataloging them as we do now. Actually, we thank our readership for joyfully inspiring us to capture as much as we possibly can.
We never tire of seeing giraffes and look forward to them visiting our house again after the tourists leave Marloth Park after the holidays. It’s apparent the increased traffic and people have had a bearing on the number of visitors to the houses.
Our guide, Dion, explained that this giraffe was no more than three or four months old. The oxpecker birds take up residence on the youngsters as well.
This female, evidenced by the hair on the little horns, had three oxpecker occupants.
The giraffes graceful legs are surprisingly powerful.
From afar, a lone giraffe against the backdrop of the African bush.

The elegant “bush braai” hosted again by Louise and Dani was as equally enjoyable as the last experience, the food hot and delicious, the wine and beer freely flowing and the service was impeccable. Our table mates were fun and the conversation and laughter never ceased.

As the sun began to set, it became difficult to spot any wildlife. Dion handed out three torches or spotlights handing them to participants who wanted to scan the surroundings for wildlife in the dark.  
We peed in the makeshift outhouse, that was missing a few walls when rhinos had decided to decimate it. We laughed as we checked the ground for scorpion with our little flashlights, as we’ve become more and more at ease with the insects.  
The setting sun in Kruger Park.
Our armed guard wandered about the braai site, ensuring we were never at risk and we never felt unsafe for a moment.  I noticed a few women wearing sandals. Perhaps someday, I will become accustomed to the bugs and not feel a need to wear my boots in the bush. 
These Citronella filled lanterns at the bush braai kept the insects off of our plates and out of our food.

This morning we headed to the Farmer’s Market to pick up our cabbage and carrots, but they hadn’t yet arrived from the farm. This afternoon, we’ll return, hoping they’ll be available.

Check out this creature that joined us for the bush braai.
Closeup, taken in the dark.

With too many photos from yesterday to post in one day due to the Internet traffic, we’ll spread them out over the next several days.

Hope you’re all enjoying the holiday festivities as we rapidly approach Christmas. Stay safe, stay warm, be healthy, let happiness and love envelop your hearts, now and always.

Most extraordinary day yet…Is this really happening?…

On Thursday morning as I stepped outside onto the veranda, camera in hand, this was the first thing I saw. Quietly alerting Tom, who was still inside the house, he rushed out to witness this same sight. And then, in minutes they were everywhere. No words can describe our elation.
At first, we thought there may only be a few when we saw only this one. Giraffes hang out in groups, often changing to a new group every few hours with no special loyalty to any grouping, other than moms and a baby of which only one is born at a time.
Walking out onto our driveway we were able to see the others arriving.

It won’t always be this exciting. After a while, we’ll have shared more and more new photos of visitors that have already visited us in the past. But for us, this is only the beginning of our adventures in South Africa. 

As they entered the yard, they scattered about, making it impossible to take photos of more than a few at a time. 
They enjoyed nibbling on our untouched tree touch, full and flavorful from recent rains.  On December 21st, summer begins in South Africa. In the winter, the leaves will be gone, and everything turns parched and brown, leaving less food for the wildlife.
Scratching an itch.

In six days, we’ll pick up a rental car to use for our remaining days in Marloth Park. With many plans on the horizon over our remaining over two months, we’ll have much to share.

They often stopped dining to look at us. We kept our distance, not wanting to disturb and as an inducement for them to return another day with little intrusion from us.
Nice pose with the right leg bent.
Tom with three giraffes behind him.

We’ve found it’s best not to get into “what we’re considering doing” as opposed  to “what we have locked in, via dates and reservations.” Doing so prevents us from feeling pressure to follow through on the possibilities as opposed to the realities. This is low-stress living, right?

Adding a frame of reference in the driveway.
Reaching for a low lying morsel.

A lone warthog wanted in on the excitement. No problem. You’re in!

Tentatively, we present these photos today knowing full well that it will be a tough act to follow. Living in the bush anything exciting can happen at any moment, as we’ve already witnessed. We sit back in watchful anticipation, welcoming magical moments our way. 

Perhaps a bit of romance brewing? Check out the eyelashes on the female on the right, definitely involved in the flirting process.
The “togetherness” continued.
“Stop with photos already.  I have to fill up the right cheek with these tasty greens.”

We call it our “safari luck” that began when we went on safari in the Masai Mara in early October and saw the “Big Five” in the first ten hours in the vehicle with Anderson. Even he commented on how lucky we were. On the little plane when upon departure, many other travelers commented that they’d only be able to see four of the Big Five and their subsequent disappointment. Yes, we were lucky. 

This male was sitting in the yard taking a break from being so tall.

That same “safari luck” has been with us since arriving in Marloth Park only two weeks ago. This is evidenced by today’s photos. From the day we arrived, we longed for the Giraffes to visit, the visit Louise and Danie assured us would definitely transpire over a period of three months. And they did come. All 12 of them on Thursday morning, a day we’ll never forget.

“Please,” says Mr. Warthog, “one more photo of me and the tall ones. I’m always camera ready”

If this was a typical two-week vacation/holiday as most travelers plan when visiting Marloth Park, we would have had a rich and memorable experience. But for us, the fact that we have the opportunity to reach out and grab more of this magic leaves us humble and grateful.

We counted 12 giraffes as they gathered for their joint exit after their hour-long visit.

This morning when once again, the family of nine Warthogs appeared, standing in the bush partially hidden by low lying brush as if waiting for us to come outside. As we stepped to the railing to our veranda, they freely marched toward us, all nine of them, two moms and seven babies ready to make us laugh, ready to entertain us, and ready to respond to my goofy high pitched voice welcoming them. 

Thanks for the visit giraffes!
But somehow, we knew they’d return.

Not for one second, did we ever feel we’d had enough of them or that we’ll ever tire of their visits. If we have “safari luck” and the giraffes to visit another time, we’ll be in as much awe as we were this first time.

Your visit meant the world to us!

There is no doubt in my mind that when these three months come to a close, it will be difficult to leave all of this behind. It will be difficult to no longer constantly scan our surroundings for a hint of movement, the sound of hooves, a snort, a growl, or a gentle call. 

For now, we let those thoughts waft away to allow ourselves to live in the moment, knowing in our hearts that this, dear readers, is “Why,I always dreamed of Africa.”

Sunset game drive in Kruger Park…Dining in the bush…The Big 5 hovering…First loves…

With mating season essentially ended, our guide said these 2 males were “practicing” dominance for next season.

A phenomenon has occurred in our world travels, first loves, a syndrome hard to avoid when on a path of many new experiences.

Sitting back several rows in the huge open game drive vehicle, it was difficult to take photos of this Kudu as he crossed the road so I took this one through the blue tinted windshield.

On January 3, 2013, Tom and I embarked on our first cruise on the Celebrity Century, an older renovated ship, reminiscent of the “old Hollywood days,” a style we both found appealing. The maximum number of passengers was 1770 with a crew of 858, a fact we especially enjoyed as a smaller ship than most. 

These warthogs appeared to be of a different species than those that have previously visited.

The ship was headed through the Panama Canal, a dream of Tom’s on which I gladly ‘tagged along” knowing he’d be “tagging along” with me in my dreams of Africa. Little did we know at the time, that we’d end up loving each other’s  dreams as well as our own, as we sit on the veranda again this morning after two batches of visitors have already come and gone, leaving us smiling and grateful.

Impala families hanging out in Kruger National Park.

That cruise on the Celebrity Century was extraordinary, although neither of us had a frame of reference, until, as we moved into the New Year, we sailed on seven more cruises. In the end, our first experience was the best, perhaps never to be outdone.

Bird watching enthusiasts went wild with the many sightings in Kruger Park at sunset including viewing this eagle at quite a distance.

This isn’t saying that the cruises that followed were inferior in any way. They were just different. Maybe it is tied to some romantic notion of that first feeling of excitement and adventure. Maybe is comparable to our own memories of our first loves. 

This vulture was high atop a distant tree, one of several we sighted along the drive in
Kruger Park.

Appropriately, we have now named this phenomenon, “The Celebrity Century Syndrome.” As we find ourselves enthralled each day living in Marloth Park, we imagine we’ll never again, find an experience such as this.  Where, I ask you, in the world would one have wildlife, to this degree, to this frequency, wandering around their house?

Another Vulture sighting, again far from the road.

Last night, once again, we fell prey to our “syndrome” in the game drive into Kruger Park, one of the largest game reserves in the world. The ‘first love” in this case, was our safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya, beginning on October 5, 2013, a mere 60 days ago, a tough act to follow.

More impalas.

Kruger Park is huge at over 2 million hectares, 7722 square miles, literally filled with wildlife. It has a rich ancient history and a geological history shared with us by our knowledgeable guide on the over-sized open game vehicle in which we traveled for approximately four hours with sixteen other guests.

Yes, there were power lines running through Kruger Park, a necessary reality due to its enormous size and requirement for safety, security and maintenance.

As explained to us during the sunset drive, Kruger Park doesn’t allow off-road, travel into the bush. Thus, we were subject to seeing only the wildlife that appeared within view along the road. For us, this was a limitation we’d hadn’t experienced in the Masai Mara.

As we entered the bush brill site, Danie is on the left with a raised arm and Louise is on the right. They worked so hard to host this event, cooking, setup, and cleanup in their hands. Everything was to perfections. To top if off, they appeared in our driveway this morning to inquire as to anything we may need.  Their hard work and dedication are evidenced in every activity they host and property they manage. This photo and the next were taken before I realized I needed to clean the camera lens.

When Anderson, our guide in the Masai Mara, saw a point of interest with his eagle eye and powerful binoculars, he took off expertly maneuvering the sturdy open sided Land Cruiser across the rough terrain of the bush, while the maximum of six of us, held on squealing in joyful anticipation of what was yet to come.

The candlelight place settings were befitting an elegant dinner. No paper plates here! All prepared for our group of 17 to perfection. The camera lens was humid resulting in these blotchy photos.

Last night, with the sun setting on a cloudy evening, the requirement that we couldn’t use a flash, with the limitations of the camera I am able to manage with the bad shoulder and the limitation of staying on the road, we were disappointed in our photos. For those having never been on safari, this may have been enough to fulfill their expectations. For us, the Celebrity Century Syndrome kicked in.

In any case, we did have a wonderful time last night, the guide was over-the-top expert on not only the wildlife but the history and geological aspects of the park, the group of guests were lively and animated and we enjoyed it all.

Not quite the jumbo sized beer in Kenya, Tom had a few of these during dinner.

Louise and Danie, our “hosts extraordinaire” were busy setting up the phenomenal meal, beautifully presented, truly in the bush and not at a campground. The linen napkins, lovely dinnerware and the beautifully set tables created a venue befitting an elegant dinner.

Unfortunately, our new friends from the UK, Lynne and Mick, are returning home on Tuesday. Had they stayed longer we certainly would have shared many more evenings with them.

Much to my delight, there was plenty of items I could eat. They’d made a special point of ensuring that there were several items befitting my way of eating. I so appreciated their delicious efforts.

More new friends from the UK at our table, also seasoned world travelers with considerable experience in many countries in Africa.

But, what they had made that worked for me was flavorful, well seasoned, and cooked to perfection. My plate was piled high with wonderful meats and veggies, some of the likes I’d never seen but hope to see again.I’d expected that the food had been catered by a local restaurant only to discover that Louise and Danie have made everything themselves.

Arriving at the bush dinner, we were surprised and grateful to find a restroom facility roughly put together. This particular site is frequently used as a “bush braai” location. The gate around the toilet area was smashed.  Louise explained that the rhinos were responsible. We laughed.

The entire bush braai dinner was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before, surely putting “bush braai” into the first love category. Seated with the lovely couple we’d met at Jabula Lodge on Wednesday night and good friends of theirs, all of whom were from Jersey, UK, our table of six had an excellent dinner, laughing, talking and educating us on the numerous insects wandering about on our drinks and plates. 

Seasoned travelers to many countries in Africa and as homeowners in Marloth Park, they gave nary a thought to the multitude of walking and flying insects, making every effort to educate us on their purpose and benefit. This did put help us by reframing some of our thoughts about certain insects, putting us more at ease.

Appetizers of grilled prawns (they don’t call them shrimp outside the US) and Boerewors, a frequently served sausage of South Africa. Notice the dinner plates are upside down to keep the bugs off of them. I failed to take more food photos.  We were too busy having fun!

However, during dinner, we notice a crowd gathered around one of the other tables for six to discover they were looking down at the ground at a scorpion. One of the diners had open toe shoes and Louise and Danie gave her two empty wine boxes to cover her feet. Oh, dear.

Several times during dinner, I used my LED flashlight to check the ground beneath me. Of course, the others chuckled over my frequent inspections. I suppose in time, I will become as fearless as they seem to be.

As we dined there were several armed guards with spotlights perusing the area around us. They had used torch lights to set up a perimeter in which we were required to stay. Oddly, busy chatting with everyone, we didn’t give the prospect of any intrusions by wildlife a thought.

The only wildlife we’d seen thus far, nearby the braai area, was a hippo. Hippos have proven to be the most dangerous animal to humans with the highest incidence of fatalities worldwide. He seemed disinterested in us and took off.

To all of our delight, coupled with a bit of trepidation, and with rifles aimed and readied by the guards, a herd of elephants walked past our braai, as many as a dozen. We all held our breath in the excitement of seeing them within 30 meters of our table, never turning our way or looking at us.

It appeared the largest female, the matriarch, held up the rear of the line while the moms and babies stayed cocooned in the middle. Unable to take photos with the flash restrictions (rightfully so), it was impossible to get a photo. But, the sight and sounds of the graceful steps of the Elephants in the bush will be emblazoned in our minds forever.

The crescent moon in South Africa is positioned differently than we’d seem in Kenya.  How interesting!

It was an amazing evening, in itself responsible for several “Celebrity Century Syndrome” first love moments that we’ll add to our repertoire of memories of adventures that we’ll carry with us wherever we may be.

Tonight, we’re going out on yet another sunset drive, right here in Marloth Park, as guests of Vic, Executive Director of Royal Kruger Lodge followed up by their popular Boma Dinner.

Of course, we’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and stories to tell.

Plus, we’ve had seven sets of visitors so far this morning. Can’t wait to share

The wonder in South Africa continues…

This giraffe didn’t seem to mind be included in the photo with us.  This photo was taken in our neighborhood. Louise explained that the giraffes will soon come to our house.
The warning regarding the monkeys is posted on the refrigerator door.
There’s so much to do here, it’s astounding. With safaris in Kruger Park to be arranged at any time we choose, game walks, bush dinners, trips to other areas, cultural experiences, and more, we’re absorbing the fact that we have three full months to plan and experience those we find most appealing.
For the moment, continuing to be thrilled with the bush around us and getting our equipment and supplies in order, we’re at peace with the decision to stay in this particular private home that has almost everything we need. 
A portion of the dirt road from the main road to our house. We’re isolated, but don’t mind.
With its two large bedrooms with two en suite baths, two living rooms, each on its own floor, and an open kitchen with almost every amenities (Louise is bringing us an electric coffee pot), including Tupperware, quality stainless steel pots and pans, dinnerware, we are more well equipped than we’ve been in a very long time.
This shot from our veranda reminded us of a scene in the movie, Out of Africa. But, this is the real deal, not a movie set in England.
Sleeping in a cool room with the covers over us in itself is an amazing treat. To take advantage of the two bedrooms, Tom and I each picked a bedroom and bath as our own, although we sleep together on the main floor. This way, we were able to unpack in our own chosen room and have the option to clutter our respective bathrooms. I picked the upstairs bedroom with the soaking tub. It was nice not to have to share a small cupboard space with our remaining sparse supply of clothing.
Our new home in the bush, far from the nearest house.  The house has a security system and all windows and doors have steel accordion-type safety gates to keep out any intruders, animals, or human.
Unfortunately, there was no hot water this morning so I opted for the shower in my bathroom, albeit with cold water. As of now, noon, there’s hot water again, which hopefully lasts until Tom shower’s before dinner. 
This large dirt driveway is befitting the property and easy to navigate including wildlife visitors and, human visitors, each of which we’ve had several.
Our new houseman is Zeff. This morning he and Louise appeared at our door at 8:30 so he could clean and, she could see if we needed anything. The price of our rental includes two weekly visits from Zeff, all of our laundry, towels, and changing the linen. If we want him for addition visits, we pay ZAR $50, US $4.90 per visit. We’re tidy and doubt we’ll need additional visits.
The braai is the South African word for a barbeque. This is in our massive yard, only feet from the veranda and the pool.
Having already used one large bottle of water, Louise took to the bottle to be refilled at the local water store, Credence Clear Water Revival, returning it refilled a short time later. The cost of this is included in our rent. 
The service is unbelievable.  Louise is unbelievable.
Another view of our 2 story house.
She brought us a jar of organic coconut oil as yet another welcome gift. Also, she explained how we can save money booking our own events since the company she represents requires they charge an “upcharge” for organizing safaris and tours. Giving us phone numbers of their preferred tour guides, we have begun contacting them on our own.
There are three verandas in this house.  We are free to move any of the outdoor furniture to fit our needs.  This second main floor veranda doesn’t provide as good a view for watching for wildlife, so I doubt we’ll use it.
Last night, Dillon, a suggested local safari guide, stopped by offering (without any prompting from us)  to contact us when he has two open spots for safaris, enabling us to get a discounted price. The last minute is fine for us. By throwing on the BugsAway clothing, hats, socks, and boots, we can be ready in five minutes, camera, and binoculars in tow.  After all, we don’t have much of a schedule to follow. Yet.
Yet to find the name of these birds, we were excited to get this shot of mom or dad feeding a baby. Look at those yellow eyes!
After all of our whining in Kenya about the heat and bugs, we continue to sit outside all day, fearful of missing  “visitors.” However, if we get hot or the bugs are annoying, which are present in abundance, we need only go inside the house to park ourselves in either of our two living rooms, one of which has a TV. We doubt we’ll ever watch it. Yesterday, I suggested that we watch the news. But, Tom said, “Why bother? It’s only frustrating.” I agreed.
Mom or Dad and baby looking out for food sources.  The baby is well protected by her parent. These birds kept flying about, but I waited patiently to get these shots.
Last night, we dined in the house. Tonight, we’ll dine outside paying special attention to never leave food on the table when we go indoors. It’s a necessary precaution with the monkeys we’ve seen watching us.
“I’ve got a bug for you, darling.  Come and get it!”
Our dining out routine begins tomorrow with the hope of dining out three nights per week. There are three restaurants in Marloth Park but a 40 minute drive each way to others. I’ve already begun contacting some of the all-inclusive resorts nearby to see if they’ll allow us to dine at their lodges with their guests. 
By explaining that we’ll post reviews and photos of their properties, the response has been very good. With our worldwide readership, this option for “free advertising” has been a benefit to us, getting some ‘extras,” not expected but none the less appreciated.
Tomorrow, we’ll post more wildlife photos of visitors to our property and photos of the interior of the house. Every day in Marloth Park is a new day. 

Goodbye Kenya…We’ll remember you always…A few favorite photos…

Tom took this photo in the Masai Mara using the little Samsung camera. Wow!

It’s almost 10:00 am Friday. In a few minutes Tom will go with Alfred, the best taxi driver in Diani Beach,  Kenya (click here for Alfred’s email), to the ATM and to drop off the remaining empty water bottles for the refunds at Nakumatt.

We were so close.

The refund on the bottles is KES $1000, US $11.50 (the value of the US dollar declined $.28 since we arrived in Kenya three months ago). With the three jugs, we’ll receive KES $3000, US $34.50 back.

After an exhausting day in the bush, this older elephant was tired of holding up his trunk. So, he tossed it over a tusk to lighten his load.  Sounds like us, attempting to lighten our load.

The packing is almost completed except for the shorts and tee shirts we’re wearing today and the BugsAway clothing we’ll wear tonight for dinner at Nomad’s, our choice for our final night in Kenya. A driver from Nomad will pick us up at 7:00 pm for a leisurely dinner at their oceanfront restaurant. 

“OK, I’ll pose for you!”

Once we return, we’ll pack the clothing we wore to dinner, check our email, and go to bed, hopefully getting a good night’s sleep.

“It’s a birdie day!”

Today, we’ll say goodbye to Hesborn, our houseman for the past three months, Jeremiah, our security guard, and of course, our gracious hosts, Hans and Jeri. Then, of course, our borrowed pups, Jessie and Gucci, who will each get a hug as they offer up a round of “snappy kisses.”   

This cub was at one of the ends of a culvert under the road.  When she got tired of our photo taking, she got up, walked across the road, and re-entered at the other side. What a site!

It hasn’t been easy for us here. Nor was it easy in the heat of summer with the awful biting flies and bees in the mountains of Tuscany, Italy either. But, Tuscany certainly served as preparation for our more trying time in Kenya. How we’ve changed.

Lions in the Masai Mara seldom climb trees.  Anderson spotted this cub and raced across the bush to get as close as possible.  The mother lion and more cubs we lying under this tree.

Had we known how trying it would be, would we have done it differently?  Perhaps. But, we still would have done it. Nothing, and I mean, nothing, will ever match the experience in the Masai Mara on safari or even our three-day experience with the monkey and the snakes at the seaside resort. That is what brought us to Kenya in the first place, the hope of seeing the Great Migration. 

This lion was sleepy after his big zebra meal (behind him).

Not having seen the Great Migration was incidental to the life-changing adventure we had in its place. At this point, we have no need to see it in the future. When Anderson, our guide, took us to the border of Kenya/Tanzania to see the end of the Great Migration, the flies were so bad that we had to cover our eyes, mouths, and faces. You know how I feel about flies.

Only once for a period of 30 minutes, did we have an opportunity to watch the antics of the Colobus monkeys. Many people living in Kenya have never seen a Colobus.  Getting this shot made me want to swing from trees.

And now, we move on to more heat in South Africa (where it will be summer soon), with more bugs (wildlife results in more bugs), and a new sense of caution for the wild animals in our midst at every turn. Tougher now, we aren’t afraid. Instead, we’re mindful and cautious, and, more than anything we’re excited and curious.

Within minutes of entering our ocean cottage at The Sands Resort for our anniversary, holiday, this monkey was peering into the window wondering what we were going to do with our complimentary fruit plate. Many guests feed them putting them on alert each time a new guest arrives. We didn’t feed them.  This photo was taken through the glass window.

Earlier in a post, I’ mentioned that we’d share our total costs for our three months in Kenya. This total includes every possible expense: rent, food, transportation, entertainment, safari, resort stay, taxes and tips, fees and airfare, and overweight baggage fees to travel here. Every expense, however small, was included, such as a KES $260.85, US $3.00 trip to the produce stand, a beverage purchased at the airport, a tip handed to a bellman.

This photo was also taken through the glass (notice reflections) as this young mom came by hoping for some tidbits for her babies.

Our grand total for living expenses for the three months in Kenya was KES $1,388,746, US $15,971.78 which averages to KES $462,916, US $5323.93 per month. We are very pleased with these numbers, especially when it includes the high cost of the safari, our anniversary holiday, and the frequency of dining out.

This winking chameleon made us laugh, especially his funny little mouth.  He appears to be made of quality beadwork. We met him at the Snake Show at the resort. Tom is holding him.

Goodbye, Kenya. Thank you for your friendly people, for your exquisite vegetation, your breathtaking scenery, and for the wildlife that freely exists in your natural environment which your citizens so adamantly protect with grace and reverence. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms, as you proudly release us to send us on our way.

An extraordinary evening…Out of Africa, the movie, while living in Africa…

Watching this movie last night had a special meaning for us.

While living in Tuscany, Italy we watched the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” becoming delighted scene after scene of the mention of familiar language, towns foods and customs.  Several years ago, having watched the movie On Demand, Tom read the newspaper in the background, while I drooled over its content.  He referred to it as a “chick flick.” 

Once we were living in Tuscany, we watched it together with a new meaning for both of us.  No longer was Tom grumbling about the “chick flick” factor.  Instead, he was pleasantly surprised by how much we related to its contents.

The replication of the house that Karen Blixen, a writer depicted in her true story, the basis
of the movie.

Isn’t that typical? Having an experience of our own we often find that we become entrenched in a similar experience presented by others; in a story told, a book or a movie.

Last night, this is exactly what transpired for us as we watched yet another timely movie, “Out of Africa,” while sitting in the dark in our outdoor living room munching on nuts, wearing our BugsAway clothing.

The household staff played substantial roles in the movie, as they do here in Kenya in our lives.

I won’t bore you with the romantic storyline of the movie.  Perhaps you too had seen the movie years ago after being released in 1985.  After considerable research this morning, we discovered that none of the film was actually filmed in Africa, although much of the scenery depicted included various parts of the bush, Ngong Hills, the Masai Mara and the Maasi people, all of which according to our experiences, were well represented.  Where the movie was filmed was of little concern to us.

What prompted us to watch the movie, more than anything, was when Anderson, our fabulous guide while on safari in the Masai Mara, pointed out an area that was filmed on site that actually appears in the movie.  And yes, last night, we recognized that very spot, reveling in its familiarity.

Although, when watching a movie we don’t dwell on, “Gee…where was this filmed?”  Instead, we focus of the realistic depiction of a place we may have visited at some point in our lives.  After all, it is a movie: A step outside of our own reality to engage in a compelling story that satisfies our minds and emotions, sufficiently taking us outside of our own lives for a short period of time.  Mission accomplished.

This is the veranda to the house that was built for filming the movie in England. It was only yesterday that Tom and I commented that we’ll have to stop calling “porches, decks and patios” a “veranda” after we’ll arrive in Hawaii, where of course, they’re referred to as the “lanai.”  It was only recently that Tom finally stopped saying “grazie” for thank you, when in fact, “asante” is most appropriate while in Kenya!

But, last night, as while in Tuscany, we found ourselves slapping each other’s knees time and again, in a sheer state of enjoyment as we watched the movie’s details unfold, so much of which has become familiar to us over these past three months living in Kenya, where the movie’s story line occurred.

Particularly, we embraced the representation of the wildlife, the Maasai people, the familiar words in the Swahili language, the traditions and the scenery bringing us back to the glorious safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya, an experience embedded into our hearts and minds forever.

Review of “Out of Africa” by now deceased reviewer Roger Ebert

Music from “Out Of Africa”

Meryl Streep and Robert Redford both played award winning roles in the movie which won the Academy Award that year for the best picture with Meryl winning best actress award.  Redford won as best actor in other awards granted to foreign films.

This link to the Youtube full video of Out of Africa can’t be played here in Africa in order for us to test it, as is the case when we try to connect to certain other websites as the servers detect that we’re in Africa or out of the US.  Please try this link if you’re interested in watching the movie. 

In the event this link doesn’t work for you, it can readily be watched on Netflix, Hulu and others and may also be offered for free from your cable company from Movies on Demand.  There are also numerous websites that offer the full movie at no cost, by using a search engine (such as Google), entering:  Out of Africa video.

As the movie was ending, the battery on my laptop indicated it was running out of juice. Quickly, we moved to the glass table, close to the only electric plugin (using our converter and adapter) in our outdoor living room, as we watched the ending. (No spoiler alert here).

This blurry photo (almost 30 years old) has significance after watching the movie.

Need I say, we loved every moment of this movie as it reminded us over and over as to why we came to Kenya.  As depicted by Meryl Streep in the film, “I had a farm in Africa,”  I was reminded of my own words notched into my memory for as long as I can remember, of “I had a dream of Africa” that now, has finally been realized. 

Never in our wildest dream did we ever believe we’d actually come to Africa.  We pinch ourselves almost daily, hardly believing this is our lives.

Three months from now, we’ll begin packing to head to Morocco.  There’s a movie we’ll be watching after we’ve been in Morocco for awhile, “Casablanca,” a movie we’ll surely watch again, with new eyes, new hearts and new minds.

First time posted safari photos… Dinner on the town…Plus we’re going on “vacation” in three days… Details coming…

This mom had a baby on her opposite side.  We waited, hoping the baby would appear. The mom, seemed aware of us, never allowed the baby to make an appearance.
Although this croc looks small in this photo, Anderson our guide, speculated he was no less than 15 feet long. Although less than 20 feet from us, we cautiously stood on a steep embankment, impossible for him to climb with his size and girth.
Another hippo is swimming in the river while this one was sniffing for breakfast.
Anderson chuckled when we zoomed in to get this shot of an impala during our first few minutes in the Land Cruiser after he’d picked us up at the airport.  He said we’d see so many of these and other animals in the antelope family, we’d soon lose interest in taking their photos.  How right he was, although these graceful animals are enchanting to watch.
Young lions lounging under a tree on a beautiful morning.

Mom keeping out a watchful eye while her brood lounges. From time to time, she nodded off, quickly startling herself awake.

Grunt.  Life is hard for a “Retired General.” This one may have been newly banished as he’d yet to meet up with other such males. He looked forlorn and miserable. 
We took at least 10 shots of this exquisite male lion looking satisfied and sleepy with the remains of his zebra meal behind him. Anderson said that most likely a female killed it and he took it from her. The male’s MO is to watch females hunt in order to steal their catch, although when desperate, they’ll hunt for their own meals.

When shooting multiple shots of one scene, many shots may look similar or at times almost identical. Luckily, I have access to a link where I can review all of the photos I’ve already posted to ensure I don’t post lots of duplicates since each photo has its own unique number. Although on occasion, as mentioned in the past, I may make an error or simply want to repost a shot.

While on safari, we kept took over 600 photos, keeping approximately 500. We posted many of those 500 over a 13 day period at about 20 per day, leaving us almost half of them that our reader hasn’t seen, mainly due to the appearance of many being duplicates. From time to time, we’ll post a few of these as we’ve done today.

Dinner on the town…

The elegant lobby at the Diani Reef Resort and Spa.
The elegant offerings at Diani Reef Resort and Spa were breathtaking.
A coy pond and glass floor in the reception area were only a few of the highlights at the
Diani Reef Resort and Spa.
Our intent had been to arrive in daylight for the benefit of better photos.  Perhaps, we’ll return during the day to partake in the several additional restaurants, the offered pool lounging, and the free WiFi.
Dining out three times a week has made a world of difference to us. Yes, it’s a pain to getting ready to go out each time;  the heat, the repellent, plus trying to figure out what to wear. But, we’ve found that once we’re on our way in the taxi, we’re always happy to be on our way. 
Tom standing in front of the popular local Baobab trees located in the lobby area of the resort. That’s my purse, not his, although on occasion he does carry it for me.

In our old lives, we seldom dined out. Many of our friends lived in our neighborhood making staying in dining with them easy and fulfilling. Plus, we’d had our fill of nearby restaurants, preferring to dine at home.

Although this appears to be an exterior photo, it was actually taken from inside the massive courtyard in the lobby area.

Now, with a multitude of amazing resorts with phenomenal restaurants within a 20 minutes drive costing no more than KES $1500, US $17.69 for the round trip drive including tips, dining out certainly has its appeal.

As we approached the bar area where we had drinks and excellent service. 

With many highly rated standalone restaurants nearby, we’ve been tempted to try them. The problem has been my restrictive diet. The standalone restaurants mainly have “cooks” managing the preparation of the meals. But the fancier resorts have trained “chefs” who totally “get it” when I say: no starch, no gluten, no grain, no sugar. 

A view down the hall as we sat on the bar stools. There is one fabulous seating area after another offering privacy or socialization with easy access to MiFi.  Although appearing empty,  the huge property had many guests enjoying the facility’s wide array of areas.

Still, with most of the professional “chefs,” I must explain the fact of “no rice, no corn, no corn thickeners, no potatoes, no potato thickeners” which is often difficult for them to understand when most gluten-free diets do include corn, potatoes, beans, rice, and gluten-free grains, none of which I am able to consume due to the high carb content.

At 7:30, the hostess arrived at the bar to alert us that our dinner reservation was ready, carrying our drinks on a tray as she escorted to Sake, the Japanese restaurant

Some may say, “Gee, take a break. Enjoy a few bites here and there.” I appreciate this mentality. But, 26 months ago, I was a near invalid in constant debilitating pain. At that time, I would never have considered traveling the world, let alone going on a day’s outing.

This was Tom’s dinner, tempura pork loin with a Japanese seasoned side salad.

Now pain-free after over two years of eating this way, I can sit in a bumpy safari vehicle for eight hours a day with nary a moment’s thought of pain, or walk many miles for hours on the uneven pavement to see Petra in Jordan, walking up and down steep cobblestone walkways in Mikonos, Greece and on and on. 

The rice, miso soup, and sauce was included in Tom’s meal. We shared a delicious appetizer before dinner but were so hungry we forgot to take a photo before devouring it!

Need I say more?  No type of food is worth the pain returning and never will be. Thus, the fancier restaurants, although more costly, are worth it to us. 

Most likely, the restaurant/resort we visited on Thursday night was the most expensive thus far. The total for dinner, drinks, and tips at Diani Reef Resort and Spa at Sake Restaurant, was KES $7566.70, US $89.23 which included some cocktails for Tom at KES $763.20, US $9.00 each. As is the case in most of the resorts, the cost of cocktails is high with soda and beer less so. 

My dinner.  Yea, I know that my ongoing calamari meals look repetitious but there’s nowhere in the world we’ve visited thus far that offer this un-battered tender calamari.  I can’t seem to get enough!  It’s caught locally served fresh the same day.  How can I resist?  I’d rather have it than lobster although, the fresh locally caught lobster is firm and flavorful from the Indian Ocean.

Tom worked for 42 years to earn this retirement. He can have all the cocktails he wants, although overall, he’s a lightweight drinker. I don’t drink any alcohol. Instead, I order bubbly water with lemon or lime.

The moment we entered the gorgeous resort, we anticipated an enjoyable evening and we were never disappointed for a moment. From the welcome reception we received upon entering, to being greeted and chatting with Susan, the assistant GM, and Mohammad, the GM when departing, we were enthralled with the quality of service.
 Our table after our entrees were served created an eye-catching presentation. I requested a sauce made without gluten or sugar and this sugary sauce was removed.

The ambiance was over the top, one of the most beautiful resorts we’ve yet to see.  The design and the décor were developed and embellished to the utmost of creativity, with a theme of a warm elegance unsurpassed in the resort industry. 

After an exquisite dinner in the Japanese restaurant Sake, Susan and Mohammad invited us to return for a full day’s enjoyment at their pool where they’ll reserve a padded lounge chair for us. We’ll be able to use their free WiFi and dine in another of their several restaurants at our leisure. We look forward to taking them up on their offer soon. 

Yes, folks, we’re going on another three-night “vacation” starting on Tuesday, October 29th, returning on Friday, November 1st. Some might call it a “vacation within a vacation” but for us, it is the perfect way to celebrate on October 31st, the anniversary of our first full year of travel after leaving Minnesota on Halloween, October 31, 2012.

Tomorrow, we’ll share our plans and of course, next week amid our “vacation” we’ll we writing and posting stories as they occur. 

Flight from Maasai Mara to Diani Beach…Also, Tom’s photos…New safari photos…Please scroll to the end…

As our final safari came to an end, a sudden burst of rain surprised us on our return drive to camp. During the entire time we’d been in the Masai Mara, we’d seen only beautiful billowy clouds.  After raining for less than 10 minutes, this rainbow appeared, quickly disappearing. Tom captured this photo. It was goodbye for us, a final indication of a perfect adventure that we’ll carry in our hearts forever.

Moments before the rain, Tom captured the clouds rolling in at precisely the right moment. This was shot with an extra camera we carry with us, a US $100 Samsung.  Wow, Tom!

Flying in yet a smaller plane on the return flight to Diani Beach, we find ourselves seated behind Edwin, our sole pilot. With no wall or divider between us and Edwin, this single-engine 12 seater plane feels like the “real deal.” At this point, a 4 or 5 seater won’t be much different.
I won’t go as far as saying that I’ve conquered my fear of flying in small aircraft but at least this time my heart isn’t racing, my mouth isn’t dry and I’m not watching the clock agonizing over how much longer until we’d land.
Instead, I’m writing with exuberant anticipation of sharing more details in writing of these past exhilarating days, the writing in itself a divine blessing in its ability to divert my attention away from the 2-hour flight.

Today at 1:00 pm, Anderson drove us to the tiny landing strip from Olonana making a stop along the way to pick up our pilot Edwin who was having lunch at a nearby lodge.  Chatting with Edwin on the remainder of the 20-minute drive provided me with a modicum of comfort. Why?  Was it due to the fact he was breathing, coherent with his wits about him? Perhaps.

After 15 minutes in the air, we landed at another landing strip to pick up seven more passengers. As their multiple bags per person were being loaded into the equally tiny luggage compartment, I began to wonder not only about the weight of those bags but also of the people carrying them. Only I would think of this.

The plane leaned to and fro as they positioned themselves on board. Tom moved up to sit next to me. A friendly young man sat across from us, cheerily making conversation. All we ever heard before the engine started up again was, “We never got to see The Big Five.” Tom and I smiled at each other, knowing our experience may have far surpassed that of others without Anderson at the wheel.

Once we were airborne again, fast and furiously I started making notes on the notepad app on my smartphone to aid my memory in the multitude of amazing experienced we’d have in a short 3 days. Three days we’ll never forget.  Three days ingrained into the essence of who we really are, who we’ve really become, somehow to be changed forever.

Not to sound too romantic or melodramatic, visiting Africa, with all of its hardships, has made me feel as if I’ve come “home.” I doubt that I’ll ever understand the “why” of this profound awakening. But, the “why” doesn’t matter.

This bewildering sensation encompasses me, leaving my knees weak and my heart filled with an indescribable familiarity that I’ve chosen not to question.

Tom although less poetic than I, in these past days has exuded a peaceful resonance in his voice and a loftiness in his step, that I have witnessed on occasion. And that smile on our faces, not intended for a photo op, seems to have a mind of its own, making our faces hurt after a long day.  (And today, October 18, 2013, I can’t stop smiling as I transpose that which  I wrote on the plane now, a full 10 days ago).

All I know is that bouncing around in an open-sided Land Cruiser over the bumpiest roads I’ve ever traveled, driving through creeks and riverbed for almost 8 hours a day, occasionally stopping to “check the tire pressure,” fearless in the tall grass, I never questioned for one moment why we were doing this. For this short period in time, I belonged to the bush, to the wild, and to nature more than I’d ever felt before.

As my fear continued to diminish over the occasionally turbulent return flight, I realized that if God forbid something unforeseen occurred, I’ve lived a full life at 65 years old. I’ve loved, I’ve been loved, I’ve failed and I’ve succeeded but most of all, I’ve learned more about myself in this past year of travel than I’d ever learned before.

Life is fragile but we are strong…and with my strong and brave partner at my side, I’ve pushed myself to reach for my dream, some of which I only recently allowed myself to realize.

To realize a lifelong dream of Africa, in the bush, on safari, enmeshed in its culture and its people;  I feel free, I feel grateful, I feel fulfilled.

Thank you, Maasai Mara.  hank you to the most amazing guide on the planet, Anderson. Thank you Camp Olonana.  Thank you, Kenya. And, thank you, Africa.”

Most of all, thank you to my husband, for not only “stepping outside the box” but “leaping outside the box,” and for your courage, love, and compassion to make this dream come true.

The cloud darkening the sky moments before the rain fell.

Also, thank you, Tom, for killing that disgusting poisonous thing I spotted on the wall in the bathroom at 6:00 am this morning with nary a complaint and for eating tuna out of the can mixed with mayo, a few slices of cheese, and a sliced tomato (which you hate) for dinner last night when our propane fuel ran out when we were only halfway through cooking a pork roast, again without complaint. 

Tom was excited to see this plane and get a shot. It’s an 80-year-old, DC3 with obviously, new engines and props, commonly used in World War II. I said, “Thank goodness we don’t have to fly on this oldster.”

And thank you for helping me with literally everything including putting on my shirt when my bad shoulder has been painful since we returned, after taking over 600 photos on safari. And, for lighting that problematic green coil thing 10 times a night to keep the mosquitoes from biting me as we spend each evening in our outdoor living room. Thank you, my husband, my partner, and my friend.   

 Arriving at the landing strip, this tiny plane was the only one in sight.  Then I knew this was Edwin’s plane and we’d be flying in it. 
Edwin prepared for takeoff while I was sitting behind the empty co-pilot’s seat. For the first leg of the flight, it was just Tom and me on the plane with Edwin. Tom sat behind me so he too could look out the window.
Approaching the landing strip to pick up seven more passengers.
 Control panel of the single-engine plane.
 A breathtaking view from the plane.
 This was a body of water.
 As we neared the body of water.
 As we flew over Diani Beach the smoke from burning clouds the view. In Kenya, there’s no ban on burning often resulting in noxious fumes filling the air.

More safaris photos below…

A termite hill we saw on the way to Tanzania, possibly 4 or 5 feet tall.
More of the Retired Generals hanging out together.
These cheetah shots were taken from afar after a group of 3 had a successful kill.  Notice the bloody face.

Hard to see from the far distance, these 3 cheetahs are devouring their kill which we witnessed from a distance, occurring so quickly, we couldn’t get a shot.

 On our way back to camp on the last night, for the first time, we spotted these mongooses which are known snake killers.
The King of Jungle never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for close-ups and the opportunity to observe his/hee playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions.
 Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this journey with us.