These early starts are getting to be a habit. I have a sinking feeling we are getting up at 5am every day. I suppose if I want to consider myself a serious photographer, you do need to get up that early to get the good light. And yesterday in particular it was worth it.
I was looking forward to flying in a plane with no doors with eagerness but not a little trepidation. It seemed to me we were placing an awful lot of faith in a flimsy little seatbelt. But there was no way I was going to miss out on those photos. After a very basic safety briefing, we were off. It was a tiny 4 seater plane. In fact only one door was removed – and I sat on the other side. But the seats were staggered so we both (in the back seats) had a great view. And I wasn’t nervous at all (except when we went through some turbulence – and then I wasn’t so much worried about falling out of the plane as the whole plane falling out of the sky). But most of the flight was very smooth & I was completely mesmerised. We flew over towns & villages, factories & Maasai settlements, rivers & farms. I even saw zebras. Then we entered the Rift Valley, considered the birthplace of civilization, as this is where the earliest human remains have been discovered. It is striking scenery, with volcanic craters, steep escarpments, and fertile valleys. Our destination was Lake Bogoria, famous for the huge flocks of flamingos that live there. Currently there are around 100,000 birds there. We did 3 or 4 circuits around the lake, flying very low so we had the most fantastic view. It was without doubt one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. The view, the flying, the photos, the whole experience was magical.
We landed an a little strip in a field, close to an army barracks. While we waited for a car to collect us we had a long conversation with a couple of Kenyan officers, who were extremely friendly. I suspect they were keeping an eye on us, but we had a lovely chat & they gave us their Facebook ID’s so we can “friend” them!
By the way, as I write this, I am sitting on a shady porch under a thatched roof on the shores of Lake Baringa, listening to the call of countless pretty birds. There are vervet monkeys in the tree behind me, and crocodiles & hippos in the water. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Finally the cars arrived to take us to Lake Bogoria, to see the flamingos at close range. We had been divided into small groups for the flights, and I was lucky enough to be in the first group, with Chris & one other (Maxine). We got to spend the whole afternoon at the lake, and were able to spend all the time we wanted to get the perfect photo. It was not the most pleasant place I’ve ever been – there are hot springs everywhere, so it was like being in a sauna. And we ran out of bottled water, so we were all hot, parched & sunburned. There was nowhere to sit and little shade. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!! We all got some great shots – but I’m afraid this network is too slow to share them – you’ll have to wait till I get to Nairobi.
We stayed till dark (and saw Greater Kudu, Impala, & Dik-dik as we drove away) and headed for our next camp. The roads were atrocious – huge potholes everywhere, such that we spent most of the time driving on the shoulders. Cars weaved all over the road avoiding the potholes. It seems there are no traffic rules here, or at least no evidence of anyone adhering to them. But strangely I feel safer on the road here than I do at home. Despite (or perhaps of) the complete chaos there is a high level of defensive driving. People overtake when it seems there is not nearly enough room, but the oncoming drivers slow down to allow you through. Cars compete with trucks, bicycles, people, goats & cows for road space, and somehow it all seems to work.
By the time we arrived at Roberts camp, where we are spending 2 nights, everyone was relaxing on the porch having pre-dinner drinks. There was a lovely cool breeze, and you could hear the waters of the lake lapping the shore. This is the nicest place we have stayed so far, we have a large house (and a personal chef). Until now the food has been plentiful but a little ordinary, but David the chef is looking after us very well here. The rest of the group has gone to see the flamingos & I am enjoying some much needed down time.
Of course, we were up before the sun again this morning. We hopped into little boats (4 to a boat, plus a local guide & driver) to see the wonderful bird-life on the lake. The highlight was feeding the Fish Eagles. The guide would whistle loudly, and throw a fish into the water, then the eagle would swoop down from a great height and at speed and pluck the fish from the water. We would focus our camera on the fish, and the guides would count 1-2-3 to tell us when to press the shutter. You only get a split second to get the shot. I managed to get a couple I am pretty happy with. We saw lots of other birds too – kingfishers, sandpipers, curlews, weaver birds, herons, doves, starlings. It was so much fun we decided we all want to do it again tomorrow morning.
That about brings you up to speed. After lunch we are going to a reptile farm & a walk along the lake to see the hippos. Keith unfortunately is a little under the weather, & is sleeping the day away. A few people have had some tummy trouble, but it has not lasted long, so I’m hoping he’ll be up & around soon. This is such a pleasant spot, I’ll be reluctant to leave tomorrow, but our next abode looks even better (and we have all been upgraded from tents to chalets, which look very luxurious).