Archive for May, 2010


On our second night at the Ngorongoro crater, we were celebrating a wonderful time. We had seen splendid game that day, close encounters with Elephant, wonderful Lion, Lioness and cubs, and cheeky monkeys who tried to share our food. We even spotted tourist, something we do at times for fun! Spot which country they are from. Amazingly enough they all have their own quirks. At one point, we had spotted some lions and we were parked there having a silent giggle watching the cubs wrestle with each other and one little guy would sneak up around the back of his mum and then pounce on her and think this was the funniest thing he had ever done! Mum would feel this thump on her back and then roll over and put a paw on his head, at one point she pulled him in to her with her massive paw and pinned him down lovingly and started to lick him all over, the little guy just lay there looking like a drowned rat! Too cute.

Then the loud tourist came, the driver politely drove up, and then unleashed his clients on all our serenity. They were loud Europeans, I am sure they had no inner voice barometer, even the lions who are used to being on stage, sat up! We looked at them, with kind smiles but slanted eyes! The driver put his head down and raised his hands in the air palms up and shrugged apologetically.

He didn’t know we were from East Africa, must have thought we were tourist too. So you can imagine the look on his face when Tanyth spoke to him in Swahili and asked him “tafadhali utaweza kuu mumbia hawa ma punda kuu nyamazia”, although with a bit of a teenagers twist of language, translation: Please would you ask your car full of donkeys to be QUIET! We all quietly cracked up laughing, even the other guide did. Then he turned to the back of his mini van and explained to them that they should lower their voices. They did and we waved to them in appreciation. The guide in the Europeans vehicle smiled at us as we drove off.

David our driver had a great sense of humour and thought we were all bonkers, but enjoyed being with people who also do safari, we laughed all day telling animal stories and of sightings we had in our pasts. There were a few animals between us that we had not seen in a while or ever. Anteaters, Giant Forest Hog, Large Python and a few others.

We were back at the camp and had a huge roaring fire and full tummies, although not fed by the Over-Lander this time, I had treated the girls to dinner at a nearby lodge.

We were full of laughter this night and being a bit silly, playing games and singing songs and joining us were the staff from the Over –Lander Truck. Their clients had gone off to their own fires and made it clear they wanted to be left alone.

The stories were amazing and funny from all sides and we started imitating different animal sounds to see who had the best imitation. Again much laughter followed. It was about 2am when most of us decided to go to bed. With hugs all around and shared appreciation between us all, I excused myself. About 30 minutes later, I was sound asleep. A little later in the night I was woken up by our driver David, tapping on my tent. I woke up thinking this was a joke that was being carried on from earlier and played along. “Yes, what’s up?” David Said “Tana, I have a Giant Forest Hog in my tent (Adult giant forest hogs can weigh between 300lbs to 600lbs and have very impressive sized tusks, and we had just been talking about how I hadn’t seen one in years and would love too)!” I broke out in laughter, thinking this is a good one, never heard that before! I laughed and told him to go to sleep and that was a good one! He walked away. I didn’t hear any ruckus or screams, so was convinced it was just a joke especially since he was casual about it.

In the morning, I woke to the beautiful sunrise and crisp air. I got dressed for the day. I climbed out of my tent to see who else was up. It was fairly early still, except for the Over-Lander staff, whom I waved to.

I walked over to our Land cruiser to get some supplies, only to see our driver sleeping in the back. I threw my hand up to my mouth in shock, as there could only be one reason he was in there and it wasn’t because it was more comfortable. I ran over to his tent and saw the entire front of his tent was torn to shreds and all his stuff was askew. I felt horrible, as I knew instantly that the poor man was indeed scared out of his own tent by a Giant Forest Hog. I seriously had thought it was a joke when he came to me that night.  And because he didn’t make much of it, I didn’t think twice about it till now! I turned around and he was standing there.

“Oh David, I am so sorry, I had no idea you were being serious last night! Please forgive me, are you ok?” He laughed and said “yes, but I thought you were some big animal trainer and stuntwoman who would come to my rescue!!!” I looked at him and he busted out in huge laughter, I joined him.

He then said, “it was pretty scary trying to get out of my tent while he was trying to get in, I had to throw all the apples and oranges at him, I think he liked that part!”  I could visualize this scene immediately and I started to laugh with him at this point, then remembered when we had come back yesterday that we had dropped off food supplies at his tent and we all had forgotten to put them in the vehicle before we went to bed. We were in the wrong, as you never leave food out, but this was thankfully a lesson well reminded with out anyone getting hurt, except of course our tent.


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I decided to take my daughters and Tiva’s best friend Tanyth (whom I call my adopted daughter, she lives here with her Father, Step Mum and three Brothers) and Seb (a son of a friend who was visiting from the UK) on safari to Ngorongoro Crater ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngorongoro_Conservation_Area) in Tanzania one summer. We all piled in to our old beige Land Cruiser and set off on the road with water, sodas, bitings, music and plenty of excitement.

We set out that day around noon and drove in to Arusha that early evening. This would normally be about a four hour drive, but we were delayed at the boarder because Seb forgot his passport and we had to send him back to Karen with my driver to get his passport and ID. We had to leave them there with money in their pockets to grab a bus back to Nairobi while we carried on on our own. Seb took a bus the next day to Arusha and we collected him at the hotel where we were staying.

There are many stories to tell while we were on this amazing holiday, but the one I am going to tell for now is about what happened when we were camping at the crater itself.

We hired a driver in Arusha to drive us to the crater, as I had never driven there before. We unloaded our gear and put up our tents. We hit the mother lode when we saw an overlander (these are the big trucks that take 15 plus people all together on safari, I call them cattle trucks) pulling up just below where we had set up, this meant they could cook food for us if they felt like it. As there were always leftovers after feeding their guests.

We made friends right away with the driver, guides and cook from the overlander and negotiated a deal as their smaller vehicle had broken down and all their firewood was in it, which lead to our good fortune, as we said we would collect dry wood for them if they fed us. As they were exhausted from a grueling drive and breakdowns along the way they happily agreed. We happily obliged.

After about an hour of collecting wood we started a fire for them and piled up the remaining wood.

My daughter Savanah had been watching how to fire dance via Zoe – Zoe, my friend Dawn’s (the Goddess) daughter, had been learning and Savanah had been watching her and started teaching herself. I had not allowed Savanah to light them for at least a month until I saw she wasn’t hitting herself and Tanyth had been fire dancing for years and convinced me Savanah was ready to light them up. That night was going to be her first time fire dancing with fire!

A few of the people that had arrived with the overlander where not at all the friendliest of sorts, they were loud, disruptive and judgmental of the fine crew who were looking after them and showed no appreciation of where they were. They were also complaining that they had not seen an elephant and blamed it on the guide.

It was dusk and the beautiful orange and red sky was getting darker by the second, Tanyth decided Savanah was ready to light up and give it a go! We were all so excited for her and sat on the lawn and awaited her debut.

With all the grace Savanah possesses she lit up and started to dance in amazing unison with the fireballs blazing by her head. I was so proud of her and we were all clapping and cheering her on.

The not so nice clients of the overlander were sitting nearby and started making very rude comments of how dangerous it was to let a child do that, loud enough to make sure that I could hear. We all ignored them and kept our attention on Savanah who after about 4 minutes was finished performing and smiling from ear to ear. Just around this time and before it was completely dark, I looked up and pointed towards the bush about 20 yards from us, walking out of the bush was this massive six ton male elephant. If I had not been sitting where I was I would not have heard him as he was in stealth mode. By his movement we could tell that he knew these grounds very well and knew exactly where he was going.

The girls looked at me and said should we tell the mean people? I just smiled and said if they are meant to see him they will. We all just sat there and looked on at this magnificent creature for about 5 minutes, moving so gracefully along the path as he then disappeared back in to the bush.

It was one of those moments where you felt blessed to be alive and in the presence of Mother Nature. The mean people never saw him, as they were to busy complaining to one another.

Savanah has been fire dancing for several years now and has been asked on numerous occasions to perform at events through out Nairobi. I am so proud of her.

God Bless and Best Wishes to everyone!

xxx, T

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Hello Beautiful People, Below I have posted my future Son-in-laws (Eddie) Camp Questions and Answers. I found this to be hysterical, as it is so true. Please know his answers are how most of us in this field would like to answer our guest after living in the bush 3 months straight, answering the same questions for the 400th time , but we are all very professional and have to keep these thoughts to ourselves. Maybe those of you who are coming to visit this amazing country in the future will have many of your questions answered here. If you would like to add some questions, please do, I will be more then happy to answer any questions on camp life, safari or life in Kenya for you in a professional manner, I promise. Hope everyone not in this field can appreciate the humor in the below Question and Answer statements. Huge Hugs to everyone, Tana

Why don’t lions just jump in the vehicle and eat you?

Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, lions are not on a mission to consume all human life. In fact wherever possible they would rather avoid you. It is they that view us as a threat and will, in most cases, run away if they can. They largely ignore you in a vehicle because they see the car as a barrier if you will: you are safely inside your cage and can therefore can do no damage to them. You are not seen as meals on wheels.

Can we get out and take photos with the lions?

Sure, why not? You’ve signed your waiver and release form and obviously have no understanding of the term ‘WILDlife’ so go ahead and I’ll write up a report for the Darwin Awards.

Can elephants run?

The common answer to this is no. However, running is far more complicated than simply having all your feet off the ground at one time and involves things like transfer of kinetic energy in the limbs. Recent study shows that when elephants travel at full speed they somehow manage to run and walk at the same time, in fact they run with their front legs and walk with their back, or the other way round according to some. Basically scientists can’t agree so I don’t know, but what you need to know is that they will easily outrun/walk you whichever way they do it.

Why is it raining?

This involves all sorts of complicated things about weather systems and such, but by your tone of voice I deduce you are implying that I am somehow responsible for this unseasonable downpour. You’re right of course, I apologise, I do control the weather and chose this moment for it to rain so you could sit there and give me grief.

Will we get to see alligators in the river?

(Sigh) No we do not have alligators in Africa; they exist solely in the Americas. What we have here are crocodiles. I could explain the difference but you will forget it so I won’t bother, just accept that there is one.

Are there snakes here?

There are snakes just about everywhere except Antarctica although for some reason they couldn’t quite tolerate Ireland either. This is Africa, this is the bush so yes there are snakes. You are unlikely to see any but they exist and no they are not all waiting to ambush you.

What about spiders?

Ditto, except for the Ireland bit, you’re not safe there either.

Would the lions come into the tent?

No, and sleeping next to the zip won’t put you in a more dangerous position. Even if they did want to eat you their grasp of the zip mechanism is fairly limited.

What do we do if there’s a lion outside our tent?

Be very polite, laugh with and not at, remember to say please. No, just stay put. It will leave, especially after hearing your scream.

We saw a jaguar in a tree

No you did not. I’ll make this clear: jaguars – South America; leopards – Africa… and Asia as well but let’s keep it simple.

Is this local beef/chicken/lamb/vegetables/fruit?

Why yes; Kenya is surprisingly capable of producing its own food and it tastes great. Actually the veggies you purchase from your local supermarket are most likely from here too so it should make you feel right at home.

How does your cook come up with these meals?

I’ll ask him, I suspect it’s magic.

How does one approach the Maasai?

They’re people; treat them as such and the outcome will be wonderful.

Do the Maasai still kill lions?

Not legally.

But does that mean…

No comment.

What would your askaris do if a lion walked into camp?

Would the answer to this question make you feel any different about your stay here? If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then they would chase them away fearlessly. If your answer is ‘no’ then nothing.

How bad is malaria?

Bad, but not that bad. Quick treatment and you’ll get over it pretty quickly, but given that you’d probably only develop symptoms back home where a diagnosis would require a ‘tropical disease’ specialist, I’d say keep taking your Malarone.

Why are the lions roaring?

Despite what you’re feeling they are not planning an all-out killing spree on the camp. Roaring is simply communication between pride members, however bowel-loosening the sound may be.

Is the Maasai language a different dialect to Swahili?

They are entirely different languages with no connection whatsoever, and while we’re on the subject there is no such language as ‘African’, just because I speak Swahili it does not mean I can understand Zulu.

We want to see a leopard.

So do I. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Unfortunately they’re a bunch of divas and are very picky about when they show themselves. You’ll just have to hope and deal with it if you aren’t lucky enough to see one.

Can we see Shakira?

Big Cat Diary naming animals is a pain in the rear. Shakira is as special as the next cheetah and so be happy to see any at all. Alternatively I could tell you than any cheetah we see is Shakira and there’s very little you can do to prove me wrong.

How do you find your way around here?

It’s not an innate skill, I’ve been here a long time. Drive around enough and anywhere will become familiar – I don’t know why people find this incredible. I couldn’t begin to find my way around London but you can, because you’ve been there for years. The Maasai don’t have inbuilt GPS, they’ve lived here their whole lives. Are you getting my point?

I can’t quite get my camera to…

That’s because you went and bought an overly expensive piece of equipment that you haven’t the first idea how to use and can’t be bothered to read the instruction manual. It’s highly unlikely that this trip will turn you into a wildlife photographer extraordinaire, so why not get something simpler and more familiar that you can at least use instead of spending half your holiday trying to figure out why the photos are blurry.

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As for the ex-landlord, he has agreed to pay some money, but not all. And it appears that he can hold me to a quote I sent him via email, but I can not hold him to an email I was sent acknowledging what I am owed for the fencing I put up! Hmmm… So, still up in the air, this is exactly how everything goes in Kenya, slow, very, very slow! If anyone ever needs to learn patience they must come to Kenya to live.

Now for the Kenyan story: My future son in law to be, Eddie, was on a job and driving back from upcountry with his driver, Steven. They were on a notoriously bad road. The driving in this country is the worst I have ever seen, and I have traveled to many 3rd world counties. You must always be so careful when over taking here, it is how many people die as although there are laws, the only laws that seem to apply are the individuals’ own laws in his or her head.

Steven was behind a matatu (public minibus transpiration) and the matatu was behind a Bus. The matatu had his indicator on to over take the Bus, he started to pull out only to pull back in and start to go off the other side of the road, looking as if he had a passenger ready wanting to get out. Steven started to accelerate to then over take the bus, when out of no where the matatu came back into his lane and side swiped Steven and Eddie, then the matatu speeds up and starts to leave the scene.

Eddie suggest to Steven that he will just take the license plate number and they can report it! Steven would have nothing to do with this as quite rightly number plates are often not registered or are just fake, so they proceeded to chase the matatu. Eddie was now on a white-knuckle ride of his life and thinking, “Oh my this is not for me.” Eddie kept asking Steven to stop as it wasn’t worth their lives, but Steven was holding to his resolve on this one. No one in his mind would get away with crashing in to the company car! And he knew, as we all do, most companies will take the damage out of your salary or fire you!

Steven was now right behind this matatu and they were in a part of town no one wants to be in, Eddie was now saying his prayers and Steven was hell bent on getting his man!

Finally the matatu had cornered him self in a back alley somewhere which was blocked off and he had no where to go!

Steven jumps out of the car and runs over to the matatu, unbelievably the owner of the matatu was also in it! After many words in Kikuyu, Steven is now pulling the owner out of the matatu by his shirt! And drags him in to the car and throws him in it! Eddie was standing outside while all this was happening in case Steven need back up, so when the owner was thrown in, Eddie got in next, then Steven got back in the car!

They were now on their way to the police station. They arrived dragged this man out and walked in the station. They filed their report and justice was served up a platinum platter!

Steven was satisfied, Eddie was still in a bit of shock, but all ended well and Steven job was secured.

This is not normally what we do, but then again, it is not normal to have an African that would rather die then let someone get away with breaking the law! Well Done men.

Hope everyone has a great week. xxx

Thank you Eddie for approving your story for my BLOG! Mwah xxx

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