Saturday, December 31, 2011

Meru National Park

On Wednesday morning I set off with my friends Dave and Caroline out of Nairobi northeast towards Meru National Park. I was really excited to get out of Nairobi for a few days and see some more of Kenya and some of the magnificent wildlife this country boasts. After finally getting through the urban sprawl of the city we began to travel through lush green country side dotted everywhere with small homes and corn fields. The terrain was hilly for the most part but there were patches of flatter land which was used for growing rice. We passed through many smaller towns which meant speed bumps galore. Being in other countries has made me appreciate the lack of speed bumps in the States. Between the park and my place (approx. 355 km.) there are 259 speed bumps give or take a few. The countryside was very beautiful as we continued to make our way towards Meru with the terrain becoming more mountainous. After a couple of stops we arrived at the park after about 6 hours of being on the road. Shortly after entering the park we stopped at the education center where the main attractions were a display case with a couple dozen samplings of poop from different animals and a collection of "naked mole rats". The poop samplings were actually quite fascinating and helpful later on when we were driving through the park. The naked mole rats were quite ugly to say the least but still pretty cool to look at and watch. After we were finished looking at rats and poop we made our way towards our campsite to get set up and on the way we saw water buck, antelope, zebra, giraffe, and elephants. It is one thing to see some of these animals in a zoo, but to see them in their natural habitat is amazing. After getting our tents and the rest of camp organized we went back out for an evening drive which didn't yield as much game as we hoped but we still saw hippos, dik-diks, and some more of what we had seen earlier. We weren't able to find any maps anywhere so traveling in the park got kind of confusing sometimes and on our way back to camp that night we got slightly turned around, but Dave got us home. When we got back to camp we had a delicious supper of hot dogs, potato salad, and salad and then retired for the night.

Camping in the middle of the African wilderness is just a little bit different than campin in Central PA. In PA you don't really have to wonder if maybe hippos will come out of the nearby stream during the night and trample your tent or any other number of wildlife strolling through and snooping around your camp. Our camp sight had an abundance of baboons and monkeys nearby and they certainly made their presence known during the night. There were multiple times where they seemed to be a little upset with each other and there was a chorus of screams and shouts which didn't exactly make for great sleeping.

We got an early start on Thursday, 5 am, with hopes of catching some lions and other night time critters before they disappeared for the day, but we were largely unsuccessful. Since we just came through the rainy season the vegetation was quite tall which made it very difficult to see very far or spot smaller animals. There could have been lions 10 yards from our vehicle and we had no chance of seeing them. We drove to the Tana River but got there a little to early to see crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of the river. We returned to camp and had breakfast and then relaxed for the afternoon. We headed back out around 4 and made our way to the rhino sanctuary with high hopes of seeing rhino but ended up not seeing any. We continued to drive around and we still got to see a number of animals including water buffalo, wart hogs, and many more elephants, zebra, antelope, giraffe, and other animals but once again no lions. After polishing another wonderful supper we went to bed early again in order to be well rested for an early start. Thankfully it seemed as if the baboons and monkeys had resolved their dispute from the night before because it was a fairly quiet night. The campsite host said that he had heard lions roaring near the camp during the night, but I must have been sleeping too soundly to hear anything.

Friday morning was another early start and we ventured out for one last chance at seeing lions and once again they eluded us and we didn't see one. Thankfully there were still other animals including our first ostrich sighting. We arrived back at camp, ate breakfast and broke camp and made our way out of the park back towards Nairobi. It felt so good to get out of the city for a few days and see God's amazing creation, but as we got closer to Nairobi I actually got excited to be back in this crazy city. For the first time it felt like I was going "home" and it was nice to get back to the friendly confines of the guest house.

I'm off on another safari trip on Tuesday, this time with my brother Chad. He arrives on Monday morning and then we are off to Kenya's most famous park, the Masai Mara. I have great hopes of seeing many more animals including lions for sure.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope you all have a safe and joyous start to 2012!

Of course you have to take a sign with the Equator sign when you pass by it.

Naked Mole Rat

Water Buck

What an amazing creature to see in the wild.

There were about 6 hippos here at this pool, but it was hard to get good pictures of them in the water.

Baobab tree


The crocodile infested Tana River.

Leopard tortoise

Beautiful African sunset.

Our campsite.

My friends Dave and Caroline.

Our safari vehicle, Dave's Toyota Hillux.

On our way out of the park we ran into a family of Ostrich.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dwayne!

    Good stuff! Thanks for your diligent reporting. Great to hear that Nairobi is feeling a little bit like home already! The guesthouse really is an oasis isn't it?
    Loved your comments on hope that you wrote a few weeks back. Isn't it Fantastic that we are actually God's sons and daughters! what a legacy! thank you Jesus! Shalom, al longenecker