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Kenya Review

Written for The Courier, Newcastle University’s student newspaper

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Kenya Review

Cue Summer 2009 and the long-awaited trip to Kenya arrives. After years of watching the Discovery Channel wishing I was David Attenburgh, I am finally travelling to the home ground of the safari. Nine uncomfortable hours of switching between commercial planes and Kenyan Airways’ rickety old biplane (a white knuckle ride which I honestly considered could be my last) was a small price to pay for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The journey to our first safari lodge took us through the most deprived parts of Mombasa, where dead goats and emaciated cows line the pathways, as commonplace as bins and parking meters in England. Shacks made out of corrugated iron and old boxes serve as homes for the most privileged natives and children carrying huge buckets of water or vegetables smile and wave to you as you drive by. This is one of the most heart-warming things about Kenya: even those living in the most desperate of situations still seem to have an incredible zest for life. The Maasai tribe are a perfect example of this. We were lucky enough to stop off at a traditional Maasai village and be shown around by the tribal people on our way to the lodge (meaning that they live smack-bang in the middle of a safari park, with lions and elephants as neighbours). We were greeted by a traditional dance from the whole tribe and invited to join in and take pictures (a very embarrassing experience as my attempts at joining in with their chants involved making noises that resembled a rhino in labour). However, this was a very warm welcome and a great way to break the ice. Their huts are made from cow dung and house an entire family of about 8. Well, I couldn’t turn my head for fear of knocking down a wall but apparently families cook, eat, sleep and play in them. Enkai, the medicine man, showed us how to make traditional remedies for a number of diseases, telling us that he was 100% successful in curing malaria. However, when I asked what the biggest killer of the Maasai was, his response “malaria” left me doubting the effectiveness of his methods slightly. The Maasai were such hospitable and warm people that I was almost tempted at their offer of staying the night, although when one over amorous warrior offered twenty cows to keep me as his wife I quickly declined, realising the nature of this proposed stay was not as innocent as I first thought.
Moving on to the lodge in the heart of Tsavo East National Park, we came across a family of elephants who were particularly protective of their newborns. After what seemed like twenty minutes of sitting extremely still under their irate gaze, we zoomed off, thankful that we had not been crushed and left for the hyenas within our first half hour of being in the park. The lodges we stayed in were luxury in all its glory, a far cry from the Mombasa-style shacks I had been expecting. Dinner was served “on the balcony”, i.e. a raised platform beside a watering hole where hippos, giraffes, ostriches and elephants had gathered for their evening tipple. Mount Kilimanjaro provided a particularly breathtaking backdrop to the landscape. The hyperactive monkeys provided top-end entertainment, throwing themselves off trees, slapping each other and er, “play fighting”. I was in awe, although also slightly anxious upon hearing that whilst tourists were having their breakfast that morning, the lions also enjoyed an early morning snack of zebra only ten feet away.
  Following a mother lion and her two cubs on their first hunt was a particular highlight of the holiday. They definitely had an extensive buffet laid out for them, with every African animal you could think of roaming the baron planes of Amboseli National Park. It was an incredible scene, with the lions slinking around the packs of zebras and wildebeest, and the terrified stances of the bravest animals at the front of the pack upon realising there was a cat amongst the pigeons. I couldn’t help but keep drawing parallels to The Lion King, and wondered why “Oh I just caaaaaaan’t wait to be King” kept popping into my head.
  A safari is an experience which I would recommend to absolutely everyone, and it may be once-in-a-lifetime but the memories and photos are ones which will never fail to take your breath away.

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