Big game spotting at Aberdare National Park
Ever wonder what a voluntouring holiday is like? Corinne Taylor of Bucket List Travel Adventures shares her experiences on safari in Rift Valley, Kenya.
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Hippo spotting 101 in Kenya
Continuing our adventure from our last column, we were heading back to Fisherman's Camp hoping the rain would clear out so we could enjoy our boat cruise. As luck would have it, the weather did clear and we made our way down to the dock, donned our lifejackets and loaded into the boats. The lake was calm as we headed out along the shore line, spotting several large fisher eagles in the trees but no hippos.
Ok Hippos we are you hiding?
As our boat toured the lake, we were mesmerized by hundreds of pelicans all around us. Suddenly someone shouted and we spotted little grey ears above the water line. Training our eyes to the shore line, we noticed several more hippos.
Abedare hippo safariOur driver thought this the perfect time to advise us that hippos can move 8 kilometers an hour in water and stay under for 3-5 minutes. They can also be very aggressive when protecting their young and we had spotted several babies. All eyes kept watching to see where they would pop up again after they went under - they've been known to charge boats. Thankfully, we made it back to dry land as the sun was starting to set.
As we tucked in for the night, we thought of the electric fence and drifted off to sleep with the sound of hippos munching on grass in the distance.
Elephants in Aberdare ?
We woke up bright and early the next morning to sunny skies, packed up our campsite and headed inland (away from Rift Valley) to Aberdare National Park, which is located in the higher areas of the Aberdare mountain range.
hippo spotting on safariAs we headed higher up into the mountains, it was hard to believe we were still in Africa. With overflowing creeks and thriving fields, we were amazed at how lush the area was. We were hoping to see elephants today, perhaps hiding between the leafy green trees. As we made our way deeper into the park, we detoured off the main road and followed the waterfall sign. Unsure of what to expect as we parked and headed down the trail to the waterfall, the sound of roaring water telling us we were getting closer.
As we rounded the corner and walked out onto the viewing platform, we could not believe our eyes. A 300 foot waterfall thundered down the side of the mountain, lush with greenery all around. As we looked around the area, we noticed several other waterfalls on the other side of the mountains and were mesmerized by the sheer natural beauty of this area.
It's not a safari until you get?
After these amazing views, we went looking for a spot to picnic lunch. Unfortunately, the weather had plans of its own and we were forced to head for shelter in our vans to finish off lunch.
buffalo ~ Kenya-style ... close-upAfter lunch, we headed back down the now muddy road, we jokingly wondered whose van would get stuck first... and for how long. After all, it's not a safari until someone gets stuck.
Several "Ohs" and a "that was close" later and we had made it halfway out when Kepha, in the lead van, slowed in a large muddy rut and then involuntarily stopped. After some jostling and good natured kidding, our driver Sammy and cook Jon hopped out of the van fished out the rubber boots and ropes. The duo then proceeded to pull the other group back out of the mud.
After dislodging them, our van went first to show them how it was done and we continued to the paved road without further incident.
Time to pop the top
No one could have foreseen that the excitement of our misadventure in the mud would pale in comparison to the next leg of our tour. As the rain stopped, we popped the roofs and were off to see what other animals we could find. It didn't take long to spot a hyena sauntering across a road off to our left and we decided to slowly move in for a closer look. As we crept closer, the hyena was joined by a companion.
hyenas in KenyaAs the van slowed to a stop, we could hear snarling in the bushes in the gulley below us and we noticed several other hyenas ready to pounce on their catch. Having lost track of the other two hyenas, we scanned the area and noticed they had gained a little courage and were heading closer to the van.
As the hyenas closed in on the van, Rachel Clark, our co-escort, started to become very nervous and we joked that we'd use her as hyena bait. Before the joking could fade, the hyenas were already sniffing our bumper. Luckily, they quickly became bored and headed into the bushes to check out the ruckus we had heard earlier.
On our way to the entrance of the park, we rounded a corner and noticed a large Kaped Buffalo standing alongside the road along with some black and white Colobus monkeys (similar markings to a skunk). No elephants but another day of diverse and amazing scenery. We were promised elephants for the following day and some more of the Big Five, but you'll have to wait until next month's adventure to see what we find at Sweetwater's Game Reserve.
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About Corinne Taylor
Corinne Taylor ~ Bucket List Travel AdventuresI started in the travel industry over 17 years ago. I took my first journey to Peru in 2007, with my Mom, to hike the Inca Trail and venture into the rainforest, and that is how my love of adventure travel all began. The following year, I began arranging small group tours to South America. Requests from my clients to do other adventure destinations soon followed. Starting an adventure touring company was on my personal bucket list, and in February of 2011 Bucket List Travel Adventures was born.
What's on your list?