As a family when I was young, we would watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on TV with host Marlin Perkins (how did I pull that name out of thin air??) , I was fascinated by the animals that were presented every week and in particular those from Africa.  I loved those aerial shots of animal running and thought ‘I’ll go there one day.’

People always talk about going on safari but as we have already established on numerous occasions – I am NOT about the great outdoors. The idea of spending a night or several in a tent on the open plain with no real ‘facilities’ has about as much appeal for me as a Polka (my least favourite dance rhythm).  It’s not that I don’t appreciate nature.  I just don’t want to be stuck in it for any length of time 🙂

I like it when nature comes right up to meet me – as it does with monkeys – which is why I love them.

Funny-Looking Papa in Nairobi City Park

I am the person that the day-long game drive in a park was made for. I have been on two in Kenya. Both times with amazing success.

The first was at the Nairobi National Park. There are all kinds of animals there and it is located something like 7km from the city centre. Can you imagine having a wild animal park in let’s say Don Mills? In the park, the animals fend for themselves as they would anywhere else in the wild. There are giraffes, rhinos, crocodiles, all kinds of birds….and….

Giraffe in Nairobi National Park

Lions. At least we were told that there were lions. We were driven around that park in one of those raised jeep thingys where the sides are windows that can be rolled up. (Another thing checked off the bucket list >>>) The roads zigzag across the park and just like trying to find a lost earring; there are no guarantees that you will. I mean, you know the animals are there but luck has a hand in whether or not you will see any.

We were on our way back to the gate. I sighed to myself that it would have been nice to see a lion. I put my camera away and was still feeling good about the number of  animals that I did see. I was just enjoying the ride. The Jeep slowed down – the driver told us to be quiet – LIONS!!!!

One of 2 lions that I saw in Nairobi National Park

Not far from Mombasa is the Shimba Hills Park – the only location in East Africa of the endangered Sable Antelope. Shimba Hills is also home to 400 Forest Elephants. Since the outing also included lunch in a hotel built on stilts – I was in. We had a game drive in the morning, lunch and another game drive through the park in the afternoon. For this tour we were in a pop-up Scooby Doo  type van – where you could stand and admire the scenery and take amazing pictures.

As part of our morning game drive, we stopped at the top of a hill to start a 2km hike downhill to the Sheldrick Falls. Beatrice, a Kenya Wildlife Service Ranger was charged with the task of escorting our group down to the Falls and back UP. She carried a 5kg G3 rifle. The gun is so she can shoot in the air and scare any animals that we might come across.

Beatrice - Kenya Wildlife Service Ranger

Did I mention it was 2km to the Falls? Did I mention that as she stated that no one was allowed to make the hike unless they were physically and medically fit – she was only looking at me???? HA! I fooled her – made it down AND back up right behind her. (I have since lost the ability to walk without pain – a small price to pay.)

It really was beautiful. Beatrice pointed out the evidence of all of the animals who had apparently been there shortly before; including the elusive elephants. She had this to say about her role:

After lunch, we hopped back in the van and resumed our zig zagging across the park. There were giraffes, warthogs, hartebeasts, antelopes, buffaloes – NO ELEPHANTS!  How could something that big stay out of view? I felt badly for our driver Bekka and our tour guide Ronald – they were trying every route they knew to see if we could see the animals with no luck.

Sadly – we pulled the top back down on the van and I put away my camera and we tried to put a brave face on a day that did not include seeing elephants at and elephant reserve. We passed through the checkpoint and drove the last little bit before the fence that signifies the boundary of the park. On the side of the road – 10 meters before the fence – FIVE ELEPHANTS!!!

Four of the five of The Big Five – elephants, lions, buffaloes and rhinos – the only one I didn’t see was a leopard. Thanks Kenya. Not bad for a city girl.

Elephant Peek-a-boo leaving Shimba Hills