A Kenya Safari Fit For A Toddler

Planning to go on a Kenya safari with a toddler did make me question our sanity and whether it was the right choice for us. There were numerous questions that crossed my mind such as safety, illness that could come up during the trip, food that my little one could eat, costs involved and many such criteria.

Our planning for this trip to Kenya revolved more around these issues than anything to do with tickets, etc. We spoke to people we knew who had lived in Kenya with their kids, scored various reviews and received a good amount of advice. Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

The day before the trip my little one got a slight temperature but it quickly went away. Still, it managed to give us a scare at the airport in Kenya where they measure the temperature of alighting passengers through some high tech gadgets.

Finally we decided to go ahead and book our tickets for Kenya because after all, they have children in Kenya too.

Once we landed we boarded a safari jeep, which would be our home for the next three days as we explored in Kenya. We had chosen to hire an entire jeep as opposed to sharing it with other tourists in order to be in control of our time and decide when we went on a safari and when we rested.

Our first stop was Lake Naivasha, which was the most beautiful but eerie looking lake I have ever seen. While taking a boat ride around the lake, the whole expanse of it hit me. It was a bit chilly in the evenings and since I was traveling with a toddler I was prepared with enough clothes to last us for a few months.

Lake Naivasha had many hippos and that gave me a bit of a scare as hippos are known to be territorial and can easily attack if anyone crosses their territory. Hence, whenever the guide insisted that we take a closer look, I flatly refused and relied only on the ability of our zoom lens. The resulting pictures are a treasure–never before in my life had I seen so much wildlife out in the open, all seemingly without a care. By the end of the boat ride, my toddler had learnt how to grunt like a hippo with quite some flourish.

One trick the tour guide did was getting an eagle to swoop and take fish from his hand as he made a whistling sound.  He said it was safe, but the mama instincts in me did not want to experiment with this. Also, I firmly believe that wildlife should be respected and when people go on safaris, the rules that need to be followed are the ones that the animals make.

By evening on the first day, we reached our lodge at Lake Nakuru. My son refused to get into the comfortable room and bed, which was what we adults needed after a long and dusty day on the road. To him, the end of the day signaled that the day of fun in the safari jeep was over.

Kenya and India have a slight time difference but how do you explain this to a two-and-a-half year old who promptly got up at 3:30 am Kenya time and started bawling to go out? He was so loud that a Masai, who was keeping watch outside, came to our window to inquire if something had happened to the child. After a packet of biscuits and some of his favorite stories, we finally got him to go back to sleep.

When day broke, we pushed aside the curtains in the lodge to find the most spectacular view of the safari park dotted with herds of animals. Lake Nakuru is known to be a haven for flamingoes and that is just what we found on the safari drive we took after a lovely breakfast at the lodge. We learnt a lot on this safari, including that my child loves cornflakes and can never have enough of it.

The African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Words cannot describe the experience of the safari, the open top jeep and the bliss we experienced while seeing this piece of paradise tucked away in this corner of the world. In all of the safaris we have embarked on before, the animals looked at us through thick forests and shrubs. But, the African grasslands is a great equalizer, and I felt like I was just another animal in this landscape as the animals allowed us to enter their part of the world.

Wherever we went with our kid we received warmth, compassion and friendliness which put aside many of the fears we had when we embarked on this trip. This is not to say that we did not have bumps on the road, as well.

Published first on Pink Pangea

The Surreal Experience of seeing the Big Five in Masai Mara

I still can’t believe that these pics were taken by us in our own camera. The experience of traveling in an open jeep in the fabled Savannah grasslands of Kenya was surreal and if I die and have a stupid smile on my face, I am probably thinking of this trip. We planned our safari to the Masai Mara with Cosmic Safaris a tour group in Kenya and they helped make our 4 day trip to Kenya worth every penny.

The safari included Lake Naivasha which I will always remember as the eerie lake which is said to be a paradise for herbivore and Lake Nakuru the salt water lake which is home to flocks of pink flamingos and the white Rhino and the open grasslands of Masai Mara which is legendary for the Great Migration and the big cats call home. Seeing the Big Five is the holy grail for any safari and once we were able to see the leopard the most elusive of the five our safari guide Joseph was all grins and so were we as we drove out of the Masai Mara.

My two year old still talks about the safari in his limited vocabulary of, ‘ jacket, trucku (referring to the jeep we traveled in) and LION! We saw the first of the Big Five- the Rhino at Lake Nakuru which is 5 hours away from Nairobi. The Rhino is very difficult to spot as the black Rhino feeds at night and hides during the day so on a day safari you would count yourself lucky if you spot the rare White Rhino. Hiding is quite a feat for these animals in the open Savannah but they pull it off quite efficiently. We even chanced upon a lioness who had strategically climbed up a tree and the only thing one could see was one of her huge paw.

The next big cat we spotted on our first drive in Masai Mara, this was the cheetah- though technically the cheetah is not part of Big Five which quite baffles me. This cat sat oblivious to the safari jeeps nearby that it continued licking its paws while brilliantly hidden in the tall grass. I am sure the cheetah is not worried as much because if it really needs to take off it can do so at 80 km/hr in less than a minute. We saw the African elephant next, this huge untamed creature is a sight to behold and is quite easy to spot in the Masai Mara.

The buffalo is also part of the Big Five and is another untamed African animal, I draw this analogy because in Asia elephants and buffaloes have been domesticated for centuries but their African counterparts have staunchly refused any such attempts by man instead it is the donkey that is bearing the burden in Africa.

The most magnificent of the Big Five was a pair of male lions that were enjoying a healthy breakfast of a wilde beast with hyenas, jackals and vultures waiting at the table for their turn. One jackal looked mighty pleased with herself as she found an unappetizing organ that the lions had discarded. Chancing at this smorgasbord in the midst of the Masai Mara and being 30 meters away from them was definitely a high point.

Seeing the diversity and the ease with which the animals roam in this slice of land that they call their own is humbling since humans walked these same grasslands as primitive man not very long ago. There are still some tribes like the Masai that live in harmony with the animals on the periphery of the Masai Mara. I will write about our time at the Masai village next, stay tuned.

Pictures credited to Razor Rasu as I was holding the baby.