2020-01-23, 08:00: Nairobi National Park
We arrived a day before the tour was to start (just in case something
went wrong in transit), so we booked a half-day safari in Nairobi
National Park, 117 square kilometres within the city
itself. Unfortunately, we only managed about an hour in the park, as
recent rains had made many roads impassable, and larger vehicles than
ours got stuck or turned back. Still, we did see some wildlife, and
got a few good photos. Here are some not superceded by ones taken later.
2020-01-23, 09:00: Nairobi Safari Walk
When we ran out of places we could reach in the park, our driver
suggested the nearby Nairobi Safari Walk, run by the Kenya Wildlife
Service on park land. The animals (many of whom cannot survive in the
wild for various reasons) have large enclosures to roam in, while
visitors walk on pathways or elevated walkways. So it's like a zoo,
but with more animal space, less people space, and less signage. Here
we saw a number of animals we would not later see in the wild.
2020-01-24, 10:00: Giraffe Centre, Nairobi
The two of us met our two driver/guides (one of whom had picked us up
at the airport on arrival) and the other six members of our tour (one
other couple, two women travelling together, and two unaccompanied
women) for our first tour day in Nairobi. We started at the Giraffe
Centre, which is trying to re-establish the endangered Rothschild's
Giraffe by releasing breeding pairs raised in captivity. Their
facility, close to Nairobi National Park, is a popular tourist
2020-01-24, 11:00: Sheldrick Nairobi Nursery, Public Visit
For a small fee, one can participate in the daily public visit to the
Sheldrick nursery carved out of Nairobi National Park, where the
smallest orphan elephants are raised before moving to a reintegration
unit. They range in age from a few months up to four years.
2020-01-24, 15:00: Sheldrick Nairobi Nursery, Private Visit
We didn't know what to expect from the private visit. It was held at
the same place as the public visit, but only our group was there, and
there were no ropes. The elephants came in, were fed, and then grazed
and wandered around, while we walked among them, and talked to the
keepers, for an hour. It was magical.
2020-01-24, 17:00: Sheldrick Nairobi Nursery, Foster Visit
The daily foster visit is open to those who have sponsored an animal
($50/yr). It's not as crowded as the public visit, but not as hands-on
as the private one. Visitors line up along a road that the elephants
return on, and after the elephants go into their enclosures in the
stockade for another bottle and some greens, visitors can interact
with them through the bars. But before seeing the elephants again, we
saw a couple of other animals who live at the nursery.
2020-01-25, 08:00: To Ithumba Hill Camp
We left Nairobi in the morning and headed southwest on the A109, the
highway to Mombasa. Our destination was Ithumba Hill Camp, in Tsavo
East National Park. Outside Nairobi, the road dropped to one lane in
either direction, and was thick with freight traffic.
2020-01-25, 17:00: Ithumba Hill sunset feeding
The purpose of Ithumba Hill is to reintegrate the orphan elephants
into the wild. There are no fences around the unit, which is open to
the much larger park (nearly 14,000 sq km). The elephants range in age
from four to seven years. They spend much of the day foraging nearby,
returning for bottle feedings (those not weaned) and to sleep
overnight in protected enclosures. Eventually, they make the decision
2020-01-26: Ithumba Hill, morning
We got up early for the 6am feeding, but overnight rains had made the
road impassable, and we had to turn back. It was pretty discouraging,
and we wondered if the whole trip would be washed out. Fortunately,
that proved not to be the case, though consequences from the
exceptionally wet weather continued to challenge our guides.
2020-01-26: Ithumba Hill sunset feeding
After lunch at the camp, and time in the afternoon to relax, we
returned to the stockades by a different route that avoided the
2020-01-27, morning: To Galdessa Camp
The drive from Ithumba Hill to Galdessa Camp would normally take 1.5-2
hours through Tsavo East, but because of the rains, our guides chose
to take a more circuitous route on more paved roads, which meant a
travel time of about 5 hours. But on the way to and from the paved
roads, we did see some wildlife.
2020-01-27, 17:00, Voi stockade
Sheldrick's first reintegration camp is close to the town of Voi but
about an hour's drive from Galdessa Camp. Due to the vagaries of
rescue and reintegration, Voi had fewer than fifteen elephants when we
visited, while Ithumba Hill was over capacity with more than thirty.
2020-01-28, morning: Tsavo East game drive
The distance between Galdessa and Voi made it infeasible to visit the
early morning feeding. Instead, after breakfast, we headed out on a
roundabout drive to the late-morning feeding and mudbath, with the
intention of spotting game along the way. On these drives, and the
ones in Amboseli, our guides were on the radio to each other, and
stopped to talk to guides in oncoming vehicles, many of whom they knew
from previous trips.
2020-01-28, 11:00: Voi feeding and mudbath
2020-01-28, afternoon: Galdessa Camp
The road delays cut into our downtime at Galdessa Camp and limited our
options. The guides offered us a short late afternoon tour in the
vicinity of the camp, and those of us that accepted could fit into a
single vehicle with both of them.
2020-01-29, morning: leaving Galdessa
After breakfast, we left Galdessa Camp and drove back to the highway
(our last game drive in Tsavo East) and on to Umani Springs Lodge, in
the Kibwezi Forest.
2020-01-29, 11:00: Umani Springs late-morning feeding
Umani Springs, the third reintegration camp, specializes in difficult
cases, including animals whose injuries or disabilities may make
reintegration impossible. It was a short walk from the lodge, but we
were escorted by rangers trained to deal with wild animals.
2020-01-29, 5:00: Umani Springs late-afternoon feeding
The late-afternoon feeding was at the stockade, again a short walk away.
2020-01-30, 06:00: Umani Springs early-morning feeding
We finally made it to an early-morning feeding, driving the short
distance because it was so dark. Photography was really not possible
until there was sufficient light, by which time the elephants had been
fed and were out for the day. They were induced to stick around a bit
by the pellets we were given to feed them.
2020-01-30, 11:00: Umani Springs late-morning feeding
2020-01-30, 5:00: Umani Springs late-afternoon feeding
2020-01-31, morning: to Amboseli
We reluctantly left Umani Springs, our last Sheldrick property, and
headed into Amboseli National Park, where we would stay at the larger
and more conventional Ol Tukai Lodge.
2020-01-31: Amboseli afternoon game drive
Our schedule at Amboseli was: early-morning game drive (sometimes
before breakfast, sometimes after), lunch and down time,
late-afternoon game drive, dinner (usually our group met in the bar
for a drink first). The class structure reasserted itself: our guides
ate in the main dining room, but at a separate table in the corner
with the other guides. We protested, but they pointed out that the
tables couldn't really seat ten.
2020-02-01: Amboseli early-morning game drive
2020-02-01, Amboseli afternoon game drive
2020-02-02: Amboseli early-morning game drive
2020-02-02: Amboseli late-afternoon game drive
I told our guides I wouldn't be disappointed if we didn't see any big
cats, but I knew others in our group would be. They tried hard to find
some on this last drive, but it was just too wet. What we did get was
some nice birds and some great landscapes.