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Bristol - London - Doha - Nairobi

We're on our way

View The Greatest Show on Earth? Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti 2014 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The journey to Nairobi was surprisingly painless, with the only excitement being five passengers escorted off the flight at Heathrow. They didn’t look unruly, nor troublesome, but there must have been a reason. To our delight there was lots of spare seats on both flights – on the first leg from Heathrow to Doha we had a row of four seats each and the next flight three seats for the two of us. It really does make a difference to the comfort level being able to stretch out.


At Nairobi airport the bags were slow coming out, and by the time the same cases had gone round and round five times I was beginning to get a little concerned; until I saw the captain still hadn’t collected his bags. In fact we got ours before the crew did – I don’t think that has ever happened before!

As we were arriving so late at night (00:30), we’d pre-booked a taxi from the airport to the hotel in order to save time and maximise sleep. Having landed early, we had to wait a few minutes for him to turn up, or rather, for him to realise that the passengers from the Doha flight were actually coming through – he’d been there all along, just not holding up his sign for us.

On to the hotel, check in, to the bar. And so to bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 10:20 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Meru National Park

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs.

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Friday 14th November 1986

An early start this morning, getting up at 05:30 for a game drive before breakfast. We go back to the lions, but all the lionesses have gone, leaving the king with his limp leg.



We see lots more animals as the drive continues: antelopes, elephants, zebra, ostriches, vultures, kingfishers, giraffes and baboons.


Agame Lizard

Olive baboons

Grant's Gazelle

Somali Ostrich

Warthogs, Cooke's Hartebeest, Zebra and Oryx.

A little further along we come across a pair of lions, who after a while start mating. Wonderful.









Time for a siesta and lunch before going out on an afternoon game drive. We go to look for the elephants we'd seen in the distance at lunchtime and find quite a big herd with several babies. We are able to get up quite close to them.




I am amazed at how near they are to our lodge.


Searching for the white rhino, we find the pride of lions again instead, but are having trouble locating the rhino.




As there are only five remaining white rhino in Meru National Park, they are shepherded by two armed rangers, who bring them back to an enclosure each evening. So that is where we head. No sign on any rhino, just the ranger's young son (probably about five or six years old). We try to ask him where his father and the animals are, but the boy is Somali and doesn't understand Swahili. After a bribe of an Opal Fruit and a pen, he points us in the right direction.

Despite heading off in the suggested direction, we can't seem to find the rhino or the rangers. We do, however, endure a puncture, and the driver has to change the wheel in the pouring rain.


Naftari decides to go back to the enclosure and wait for the animals to return for the night. On the way we see them trying to cross the road in front of us. We are ordered to stop, and when they have passed, we carry on, but the guard is none-too-pleased and points his gun at us. After a few tense moments, he reluctantly lets us go.

Eventually we do get to see them at the enclosure. By this time it is really quite dark, and I am struggling to get any decent photos.



One of the young rhinos was born after the rangers started herding them, and is quite used to humans, so we are encouraged (for a bit of backsheesh) to go and 'stroke him'. He may be familiar with people, but he doesn't seem to like being scratched behind his ears and starts to charge. If you have ever tried running backwards, knee deep in mud (yeah right), fighting off an angry baby rhino as you go; you will know it is not easy.

Those shoes never did go back to England with me.

Going to sleep to the sound of crickets, frogs and what I can only assume to be baboons this evening.

Posted by Grete Howard 06:41 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Mount Kenya National Park - Meru National Park

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs.

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Thursday 13th November 1986

A few sykes monkeys join us for breakfast, but all that appears this morning other than that is one warthog and two bushbucks. Breakfast is good, but still no more game.



This morning we drive through green countryside with thatched rondavel mud huts in little villages scattered along the side of the road; and women carrying bananas and wood in baskets on their backs, suspended by a rope from their heads.



Ostriches on the side of the road

Meru National Park
The roads are a chapter in themselves, after 20 miles along an E-road, we reach Meru Mulika. Meru Mulika Lodge is a little oasis in the heart of the African plains - savannah as far as the eye can see, in all directions, with a little waterhole on site. The rooms are in rondavel-style thatched cottages and a dormitory block.





The afternoon game drive is a little disappointing at first, no animals to be seen anywhere. Then we spot the odd waterbuck and a couple of giraffes, some baboons and a few birds. Nothing exciting. Spotting lots of vultures perching on trees, we head off across the bush. Never mind the vegetation, we plough down the bushes and trees as we go. What do we find? A giant toirtoise, but no lions or any sign of a kill. Such an anticlimax!


Reticulated Giraffe

Secretary Bird

Superb Starling




As the light is fading fast, we head back to the lodge after the disappointing game drive. On impulse, Naftali decides to turn off the main track and into the bush – heading straight for the lions! There are eight lionesses and the king, feeding on a buffalo carcass. Nearby is also a jackal and an eagles' nest in the tree above. The excitement! We are so close, only about ten feet away. I just can't believe it...







Posted by Grete Howard 05:55 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Lake Naivasha - Lake Nakuru - Mount Kenya National Park

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs.

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Wednesday 12th November 1986

After breakfast we leave Lake Naivasha and head out of town, then north. Turning off the main road onto a dirt track, we see impala, waterbuck and even a few baboons.


Lake Nakuru
Arriving at Lake Nakuru, we find it wonderfully non-commercialised. There is nothing there but us and a million or so flamingo plus a few other birds.





We spot what we think is a hippo in the lake, a thought which is disputed by a couple of the others. “They are just rocks”. The others soon change their minds when the rocks get up and walk off.


We are just leaving when we hear a noise – a hippo coming out of the water with her little baby. What a fabulous bonus.



Crossing the Equator
At the Equator we stop for photos, on our way to Nyeri and Outspan Hotel where we have lunch.


Outspan Hotel
A beautiful place, with a colourful garden full of jacaranda trees. When the wind blows, it rains blue petals – magical!











Mount Kenya National Park
We continue to Mount Kenya National park and Mountain Lodge.

Mount Kenya

Black and White Colobus Monkeys

Mountain Lodge
This place really is something else. Built of all wood, each room has its own balcony and there is a viewing bunker right down by the watering hole. When we arrive, there are a few buffalo, bushbuck, warthogs, a young elephant and some sykes monkeys at the waterhole. I find it hard to grasp the fact that these animals are wild, not semi-tame and placed there for our amusement.







The sound of the jungle, the noise of the buffalo horns smacking together, the birds and the frogs, a hyena laughing, the call of a distant elephant, the crunch of the forest hogs eating – these are sounds I will never forget; together with the smell of the rainforest and the eeriness of the tall trees lit up by the floodlights against the dark background of the African sky.

Sykes Monkey, Pied Crow and Hammerkop


Giant Forest Hogs






A hyena comes out of the jungle, grabs something and disappears back into the forest.




We go to bed knowing the game watchman will wake us if any animals we particularly want to see appears – we wrote out preferences and room number in a book. Such service, and so well organised. At midnight we get a call to see a genet cat, that's all.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:13 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Nairobi - Naivasha

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes writen at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs.

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Tuesday 11th November 1986

Montezuma's revenge strikes this morning.

We leave the Panafric after breakfast, heading out of town. First we stop to look at a coffee plantation, then later some tea growing areas.



Coffee Plantations



Tea Plantations



Great Rift Valley
We climb up (by mini bus) to view the Great Rift Valley from above – very spectacular. Our driver, Naftali, is very informative and friendly.



Naivasha is a typical African ramshackle town, the whole place is closed today with all the inhabitants out on the streets for the President's visit.

Lake Naivasha Hotel, on the other hand, is fabulous. We are given a welcome drink, and while the minibuses are unloaded with our luggage several porters hover, ready to take the bags to our rooms. They ask us which company we are travelling with, but our reply of "Speedbird", receives only blank stares. Eventually, after several people have repeated the same name over and over, the light goes on in one face: “Ah, Speedy Bird”. It's all action from now on.




Individual cabins are scattered around the well laid out gardens, with flower beds and an abundance of birds.





Tables are laid out under the shade of trees. I can just imagine how Mirella Ricardi lived in her Lake Naivasha home. The colonial past is very much present here. Our beds have mosquito nets draped over them too.



Great view from the balcony too:


Lunch is buffet style, but quite nice all the same, and the desserts are all super.


Crescent Island
This afternoon we take a boat across the lake, through hundreds of pelicans, to Crescent Island for a short walking safari.







We see various antelopes (I am not yet able to distinguish one from the other), dik-diks, Thomson's gazelle, horses, sheep, rabbits and a great variety of bird life. Most amazing is the hum of the mosquito swarms taking off, and the sound of the acacia trees rubbing together in the wind.





The boat is booked for the return trip at 17:30, but we are ready to leave an hour earlier. We are glad we didn't go earlier though, as the highlight of the whole visit is seeing hippos on the way back. They only put their heads above water, but it is still very exciting. While watching the hippos, the boat runs aground on an old log, which initially worries us as we think it's a hippo. Even the captain looks very concerned.



We come back to tea on the lawn, with a uniformed waiter standing to attention by the table. This place is really super.


There are ten people in our group: Neil and Jackie from Bristol; David and Liz from Dorking, 2 ladies: Joan and Hilda who are animal campaigners from London; and two Norwegians, Kristian and Unn who live in Wiltshire. All are non-smokers thankfully, which is quite unusual. As we leave to go for dinner, three members of staff come to spray our room.


Dinner is really quite good: crayfish and grapefruit cocktail, cream of cauliflower soup, and tilapi for mains. Both the crayfish and tilapi came from the lake. The Norwegians try the Naivasha wine but thought it was too young – they said it tasted like un-matured home-made wine. It is quite dear too, at £5.50.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:41 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Nairobi and Surrounds

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Monday 10th November 1986

I slept well last night after a bottle of wine and several Remy Martin, waking up feeling refreshed this morning.

Breakfast is full English, but self service.

Nairobi Animal Orphanage
After an hour or so by the pool, and a couple of sandwiches with some very nice fresh passion fruit juice, we go off the Nairobi National Park, first calling at the Animal Orphanage. Built along the lines of a zoo, it isn't anything new to us, although I do defy the notices “Do not stick your fingers through the fence” to scratch a lion behind the ear.





The roads in Nairobi leave a little to be desired and they seem to go in for a lot of speed-bumps. The pavements are not tarmaced, just dirt tracks. The centre of Nairobi is just like any other large city centre.

Local housing estate

Nairobi National Park
The National Park is a safari park on a vast scale, with the animals roaming free all in one place. We don't see any lions, but plenty of zebra, impala, eland, warthog, giraffe and guinea-fowl. My first wild giraffe totally captivates me, and I name him Gerald. He is just standing there, gazing out over the plains blow. Totally magical. I am in love.






It then starts to rain. And boy does it rain! We decide to call it a day and make our way home. One old deer – I mean dear – is ill, spewing up out of the window on the way home. At least the rain washed the sick off the side of the minibus. Another old dear lost her suitcase and a man has lost his jumper. Not a good start to their holiday then.

Posted by Grete Howard 02:21 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Bristol - Rome - Nairobi

This is a historic journal, from our trip to Kenya and Seychelles in 1986, taken from notes I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs

View Kenya and Seychelles 1986 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Sunday 9th November 1986

After 18 hours of travelling from Nailsea, we finally arrive at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi. The journey has been rather tiring as we were delayed at Heathrow, touched down in Rome, and the plane developed a leak in the toilet (it's the only plane I have been on with an en suite swimming pool).

The hotel seems OK. There are lots of bluey-purple trees everywhere, which I later find out are jacaranda, and bougainvillea in all shades imaginable. The weather is sunny with a few clouds around.


Great views from the room



We are now the other side of the equator. It's a bit of an anti-climax that the water does not appear to go down the other way round in the plug hole.

We have a BBQ lunch by the swimming pool which consists of kebabs and sirloin steak with salad. One of the salads is very nice, hot and sweet with tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillies and pineapple.

Bomas of Kenya
This afternoon we book an optional trip to the “Bomas of Kenya”, which is a commercialised but well laid out area, with mock up tribal villages and traditional dances. It is quite interesting, with the Masai village with their cow-dung huts and all the woodcarvings being the most fascinating. They also have some very good acrobats, but quite what that has to do with traditional dancing I don't know.




The drums, rhythm and beat of the local dances gives me visions of real villages, where the local tribe perform their rituals around a large fire, driving out the evil spirits.


We buy the 'compulsory' safari hat and I would really like to get a carved giraffe. On the way back we go past the Norfolk Hotel with its delightful colonial ambience. I can just imagine it in the days when Britain really was GREAT Britain.

Dinner is an experience! The dining room is quite nice with tablecloths and candles. We have soup to start off with, then Chateaubriand. The chef comes out to our table with the whole piece of fillet, cuts it, then fries it and sets fire to it. He is just about to serve it up, when one of the waiters comes along and tips it all on the floor. So he has to start all over again, all the while mumbling “sorry sorry...sorry sorry.... sorry sorry...” It is worth the wait though.

After that palava with the main course being flambéed at the table, I am cheeky and ask for crepe suzette for dessert. We have a good laugh with the waiters and I really enjoy the evening. The food is superb and the service... well, it is slow, but courteous.

Posted by Grete Howard 00:47 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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