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Loiyangalani - Maralal


sunny 23 °C
View The Journey to the Jade Sea - Northern Kenya 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Day seven of our Journey to the Jade Sea with Undiscovered Destinations.

We set off early this morning, just as the sun is rising.




And so begins our long journey back to Nairobi.


For the first 45 minutes we follow the shores of the lake, which really brings home to us just how enormous the lake is! You can see from the map below that the distance we covered in those 45 minutes is tiny compared with the size of the lake!


On our right is the glistening life-giving water of the Jade Sea, on the left a sea of hot lava rocks of death as can been seen in the photo which shows the road we have just come along.



The stones fascinate me. Huge piles, as if someone has come along with enormous tipper trucks full of the things and just deposited them here. Quite surreal.


What's even more amazing is that right in the middle of these huge piles of rock, a tree will manage to break through, stretching its branches towards to light and the sun. Isn't nature wonderful?


Or some fluffy grasses.


The light is glorious this morning, with the magical glow of the early morning sun peeping over the horizon, casting a golden hue over the entire scene. It's already blazingly hot.






Instead of posting pictures, for a change I will share a quick movie – a whole day's driving in 47 seconds as the road goes from the fiery rocks around the lake, through soft sand, compacted washboard effect (affectionately known as 'African massage'), then climbing up through the hills with more and more vegetation appearing along the side of the road:

We even spot a few animals and birds along the side of the road, such as these dik diks and a kori bustard. A small herd of zebra graze in amongst the acacia trees and the odd hornbill flutters about.



We come across several groups of cattle herders, but I am warned not to take any photos as they are all heavily armed. I shoot a couple from the inside of the car anyway. OK, maybe the use of the word “shoot” wasn't my best choice under these circumstances...


Before we left Loiyangalani, we filled all our empty water bottles from the spring there, and we hand these out through the car window to the tribes-people we pass along the way. Carrying large amounts of water while they walk all day with their herds is not practical, so they rely of the generosity of passing motorists for water.


John finds a safe place to make a 'bush-stop' for a quick pee.


The car is filthy and the local kids yesterday were amusing themselves with writing in the dirt.



While we are strecthing our legs Abdi suddenly spots something – or more likely someone - on the horizon and becomes agitated. “Let's go!” he urges so we pile back into the car and zoom off.


This area is supposed to be a 'buffer zone' between the Samburu and Turkana tribes, a sort of safe no man's land, but it seems a few (armed) Samburu nomads have encroached onto this land with their cattle, which is seen as bad news. The Samburu have a fierce reputation and are mistrusted by other tribes.

Great Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley is a name given to the continuous geographic trench, approximately 6,000 km in length, that runs from northern Jordan Rift Valley in Asia to Mozambique in South Eastern Africa. The valley is bordered by escarpments to the east and west, with the floor broken by volcanoes, some still active. The valley floor also contains a series of lakes, of which Turkana is one, but with the surroundings being reasonably flat there, the scenery is not as dramatic and well... 'valley-like'... as it is here.



Maralal Safari Lodge

As we pull up outside this, our very last lodge on our Kenya trip, it looks deserted. At all the other places of accommodation so far, a small army of workers have magically appeared, ready to take our luggage, hand us a welcome drink or a damp face cloth, or merely to welcome us to the lodge. Not here.


The reception is empty. No one. No bell to ring. We call out: “Anybody home?” several times before someone eventually saunters in. He looks confused as to why we are here. “You should be expecting us...” we volunteer. Despite turning the pages of his register, he appears unable to find our booking. After more page turning, John hands over the voucher for tonight's accommodation. Still nothing.

Several uncomfortable minutes later, a young Aussie girl appears, and she seems to have a bit more oomph about her. She goes over to the reception and she too peers into 'the book'. Finally David spots our name in the register. That's a relief.

As we fill out the obligatory registration form, the owner of the lodge arrives and walks through the lobby to the office behind the reception, trying his very best - successfully - to avoid eye contact with us, before again disappearing.

The key to our room is handed over and someone is instructed to carry our bags. “Aren't you going to give a briefing?” asks John. The guy on reception looks perplexed: “Briefing...?” “You know, telling them where the restaurant is, what time lunch is, what happens next... that sort of thing.” John replies sarcastically with thinly veiled exasperation. The guy has obviously never come across such a suggestion before and says simply: “You go to room, have shower and then you have lunch” “And where is the restaurant?” I enquire. This is beginning to get a little tiresome.

Despite the totally underwhelming and disheartening first impressions, I find myself uttering little exclamations of joy as we make our way to the room. The pathway is arched with brightly coloured bougainvillea, there are flowers and trees in the gardens, even a swimming pool, and everything looks so green and fresh. Not at all like the dry dusty North.




The rooms consist of little wooden cottages dotted around the gently sloping grounds, each one with a balcony overlooking the valley behind. With its in-room fireplace and all that wood, it reminds me of a European ski chalet. While not in any way luxurious, this place has lovely rustic charm and is just up our alley.






After freshening up and relieving ourselves of the dust from the journey here, we make our way to the restaurant for some lunch. We see the owner again on the way, and this time he is full of joviality: “Are you the Howards?” Ah, fame at last! As in previous places, we are the only people staying, so I guess we are the Howards...

Having already mostly redeemed itself by the delightful cottages and grounds, the lodge has now gone right up in my estimation: the restaurant has an outside terrace overlooking a waterhole, complete with zebra!



The lodge is located inside the National Sanctuary of the same name, and overlooks the only permanent water in the park, hence why wild animals congregate here. I really did not expect to be doing any more game viewing on this trip, I thought Maralal was going to be just a convenient overnight stop on our journey back to Nairobi. What a lovely revelation this is turning out to be!


It may be a minor point, but a pleasure all the same: being able to order what we want for lunch rather than just having whatever happens to be available. It's the first menu we've seen since leaving Samburu five days ago.

While we wait for the food to be served, we get yet another delightful surprise: finding that the lodge doubles as an animal orphanage! Maralal Lodge is owned and operated by Africaility; a non-profit operation run to raise funds for the protection of endangered species.


The charity work includes employment of game rangers to counter poachers; the rescuing of orphaned animals, and the ongoing establishment of a wildlife orphanage. Kira, the Australian girl, brings us another enchanting experience: one of the inhabitants, a baby wild pig names Gus. I am not sure who is most content when Gus snuggles up to my neck. Not to mention that he has incredibly soft ears. Aww! This place gets better and better!



The burgers come sans rolls. Just two burgers on a plate with a heap of fried onion. David calls the waitress over: “Should this not come with rolls?” “I'll check” she says and goes off to the kitchen. “We have run out of rolls” she explains when she returns, “but you can have some sliced bread...”


My loaded chips are great.


We have almost finished our meal when one of the staff come running: “Would you like to feed the bushbuck?” Two injured bucks were rescued, brought back to health and released, but they come back most days to be fed. They have just turned up in reception (and they obviously got a better welcome than we did). The waitress babysits our food, protecting it from the marauding vervet monkeys, while we go and see the old deer.




OK, my initial let down has been fully redressed and more! This place rocks!

As we are finishing lunch, the bushbuck wander down to the terrace to take a closer look, to see if we have left them anything.



The pièce de résistance is yet to come: we are asked if we would like to go and see the cheetah. Cheetah?


If you can imagine my pleasure at finding the camp is run as an animal orphanage, then I am sure you can picture my excitement at discovering they have rescued two young cheetahs which are kept at the lodge.


Lesoro and Neten came to Maralal Lodge via Kenya Wildlife Service. The male is about six months old and is still thoroughly wild, hence his Samburu name 'Lesoro', which means 'Of the Wild'. The female is named 'Neten' ('The Fast One') and is probably around a year old. They are kept in an enclosure in the grounds until a larger and more permanent home can be found for them.


So, the camp is gorgeous, it is run as an animal orphanage and they have two young cheetahs – can it get any better? Oh yes it can! “Would you like go in to feed them?” The guard hasn't even finished his sentence before I answer a resounding “YES PLEASE!”

My exhilaration knows no bounds! Waiting for my turn to get close to this gorgeous cat, I am an agitated, euphoric mess. Jumping up and down with excitement (figuratively speaking of course, as the only real jumping I am capable of is 'jumping to conclusions'), I am literally shaking with the thrill of it all...... and yes, it really is all that!



Still on a tremendous high, we spend the rest of the afternoon on the terrace, with a drink, watching the comings and goings at the waterhole. What a great day this has been!

Black Faced Vervet Monkey who sadly had to have his hand aputated.


Black Faced Vervet Monkey at the waterhole

The warthogs arrive.

Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

Brown Babbler

Grévy's Zebra


Northern Black Flycatcher

Grévy's Zebra

Grévy's Zebra

Superb Starling

This is the ultimate lazy man's safari. Sit back in the bar with a drink and let the safari come to you!

Red Billed Oxpeckers



Despite being scared off earlier by my mobile phone which emits a loud quacking duck noise when receiving a text, the warthogs come back and bring the whole family!






Speckled Pigeon

Brimstone Serin

Red Eyed Dove

Things you learn while travelling # 2,663,187
Black Faced Vervet Monkeys have bright turquoise scrotum!
I have seen - and photographed - these monkeys numerous times in the past, in several different locations; how come I have never noticed their blue balls before?


It's not as if you can exactly miss them!


Speckled Mousebird

Heuglin's Robin Chat

Northern Black Flycatcher

It is only when the light fades that we reluctantly tear ourselves away from this gem of a place to go and have a shower and get changed.

For dinner we treat ourselves to a decent bottle of wine and sit talking to Jack, the proprietor of Maralal Lodge for a while.

Beef stew with chapati

Jack explains all the animals that can be found here in the park, from aardvark to zorilla! I cannot believe my luck when less than half an hour later I shine my torch into the undergrowth, and see two eyes staring back at me. Both David and I look at the owner of the eyes. For half a second or so, he stares back at us, then runs. OMG! We just saw a zorilla! That really is the icing on the cake at this wonderful place!

The staff build us a camp fire, and we bring out the marshmallows, much to the delight of Kira!


As this is our last night in Kenya, we have packed the toasting forks at the bottom of our bags, so we ask the staff if they have anything suitable. Some sticks are quickly fashioned into make-shift forks, and we teach the Africans about the delight of toasted marshmallows!



Purely for medicinal reasons: to bring me back down to earth from my cloud nine (believe that and you believe anything), I pour myself a Captain and Coke before bed.


Cheers and welcome to Maralal


Posted by Grete Howard 12:32 Archived in Kenya

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What an amazing place to stay! Feeding the cheetahs would excite me just as much as it did you!

by Sarah Wilkie

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