When a public holiday falls on a Friday or Monday, it creates a long weekend. This is always anticipated by the Kenyan working class. It offers a chance to travel outside Nairobi. Tour operators take advantage of it by creating group packages (mainly road trips) commencing on Friday to come back on Sunday. This past weekend was not different. Madaraka Day (1st of June) fell on a Friday. You know what this meant for me? You are right, #TembeaKenya moments.
Safiri Nasi Limited had a road trip starting Friday to Sunday. What caught my eye was the destination, i.e. Lake Jipe and Lake Chala. These two lakes have been in my bucket list for days! I wasn’t going to let them slip away this time. I signed up hurriedly like there was a prize for registering first. I couldn’t stay calm. I even packed a day before to avoid forgetting anything come the travel day.
1st June was here with us. Armed with my camera, a few change of clothes and a spirit of adventure, I got to the pick-up point at 5.00am. The departure time as communicated was 5.45 am. I boarded the overland truck and shortly after, we departed.
The organizers of this trip seemed to have read my previous article Time, a very important factor for a good travel plan. They were not taking chances. 5 people missed the truck. The first 3 took a cab and came to us at Nyayo round about. The fourth person got to us at Athi River while the fifth and last person caught us at Konza shopping centre. Just like prominent people in the society, we had chase cars :P. We were on time.
The next stop was Mtito Andei. We took an hour to have lunch and purchase snacks for take away. Our chef also took advantage of the time to stock up a few items he had not carried from Nairobi.
1.30pm, we were inside the legendary land of the "Man-Eaters" - Tsavo National Park. The 21,000 sq km park is one of the largest in the whole world.
According to a KWS customer service agent I met at the gate, this wilderness is home to over 1000 plant species, 400 bird species and more than 60 major mammal species such as lions, huge herds of buffalo, the solitary and ill-tempered Rhino and at least 12000 elephants. The park is the location of Africa's most famous adventure story "Man eaters of Tsavo", in which two lions where responsible for eating over 500 workers who where building the Uganda railway also known as the "Lunatic Line " by it's opponents in the British Parliament in 1898. The story was made famous in the 1996 movie "The Ghost and the Darkness." We accessed Tsavo west National park through Mtito Andei gate. This 9,065 sq km part of Tsavo is rewarding. The rains have done justice to the vegetation. The park looked alive and plenty of food for animals.
A game drive in an overland truck is the best experience you have especially at Tsavo. The shrubs are tall and this means that when an animal gets into the bushes, you cannot be able to see them when in a small car or even tour van.
You are not in Tsavo until you see the famous red elephants.
They walked majestically across the plains like they owned the wilderness.
We spotted other animals such as Zebras, giraffes, Hartebeests, Less Kudu, Impala, Dik dik, Oryx, buffalo and ostriches among others.
The drive took us to the famous Mzima springs.
What have you heard about Mzima springs? According to our guide, these are a series of four natural springs located 48 km from Mtito Andei gate.
The source of the springs is a natural reservoir under the Chyulu Hills to the north. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Instead, rain water percolates through the rock, and may spend 25 years underground before emerging 50 kilometres away at Mzima.
The natural filtration process gives rise to Mzima's famously clear stream, which flows through a series of pools and rapids. Two kilometres downstream from the springs, the stream is blocked by a solidified lava flow and disappears below the surface again.
Mzima is one of Tsavo's most popular wildlife attractions owing to its resident populations of hippos and Nile crocodiles. We had a good time here viewing colored fish from an underground glass cabin. We did not want to leave this place, but time was not on our side.
We left Mzima springs for Chyulu campsite. We got there at 5.45pm. This was a very good time to set up a campsite. I love camping. This was a plus for me specifically because the campsite was right in the middle of the park with no fence. Pitching tents was easy and fast and I helped a few people with the set-up. The chef did his set-up and dinner was underway.
Sunset thanked us for pitching tents on time.
Night came and bonfire was lit. Before we know it, dinner was ready. Being the month of Ramadan, moonlight graced our night and we could see meters away. After dinner, it was time for introductions. This is a special occasion where people mention their names and what they do for a living. Acquaintances, business partners and prospects are created at this juncture. I retired for the night as some people extended to ungodly hours.
I was up at 4.00am. I took a shower, brought down my tent and assisted the chef in preparing the breakfast. We closed camp at 6.00am and left for Lake Jipe. Unfortunately, the short cut we were to use had a broken bridge probably due to the rains. We went back to Mtito Andei, to Voi and then towards Taveta. We re-entered the park at Maktau gate.
A game drive came in handy and voila, lake Jipe!
Here I got a moment to myself. I have always wanted to visit this Lake for years. The lake is beautiful and stretches for 19km.
The lake is fed by Lumi River, which descends from Mt. Kilimanjaro and streams from North Pare Mountains. It has hippos and crocodiles. There is a campsite here and a KWS rangers post.
Herds of elephants come to drink water here daily between 1 and 3 pm while the hippos visit during the night. The beauty of this lake and the landscape around it is breathtaking.
We left the park before our 24 hour ticket expired and embarked on a journey to Lake Chala. After a few kilometers, we got stuck. The road had a lot of sand accumulated from the flash floods that hit the area in the previous weeks.
As we were figuring out how to get the truck out, a boda boda guy approached from where we were headed. “Don’t even try to go beyond here”, he exclaimed. We asked why and he said it had rained an hour ago and the road is impassible. What to do? The only alternative was to go back to the park, exit through the same gate we used to enter and connect to Taveta through the tarmac. The organizers called KWS to allow us pass through the park without paying extra and they were very kind.
We enjoyed sunset on our way to Lake chala and it was magical.
We checked in at River Lumi resort in Ziwani. This resort has a well-manicured ground for camping, children play ground, bar and rooms.
Setting campsite was quick since most people had learned how to do it. The chef was on top of his game. Bonfire was lit and we were ready for the night. This location was a bit cold compared to Chyulu campsite but that can be attributed to the fact that it is located at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Morning came and it was beautiful morning. Her majesty Mt. Kilimanjaro decided to show off. She stroke a few posted and showcased her magnificence.
Breakfast was served and we checked out at 9.00am enroute, Lake Chala. The lake is 5km from River Lumi resort on a rough road. We got there and hiked up a distance of one kilometer. Immediately we got to the rim of the crater, we were served with nature’s greatness. Lake Chala!
A beautiful round lake. It was made even more beautiful by the color of a clear sky. This was worth the entire trip and every coin. I think we were undercharged. It’s a place you want to sit and just stare.
Lake Chala is Crater Lake in a caldera 8 kilometers north of Taveta. It is located on the eastern edge of Mt Kilimanjaro at the Kenya-Tanzania border. The Lake is fed by underground water flows from mt Kilimanjaro.
We hiked down the crater following a steep path. The water was room temperature and we couldn’t resist swimming temptations. There is a canoe on sight that offers rides at 100 bob per person. We enjoyed the lake for almost 3 hours before hiking up.
We left Lake Chala at 11.30am and started our sad journey to Nairobi via Oloitoktok. We stopped along the way on a clear road to take a few shots.
This marked the end of our adventure. We arrived in Nairobi with enough beautiful memories for days. This trip was a highlight for me this year. I kicked two items out of my bucketlist, i.e. Lake Jipe and Lake Chala. You too can do that this coming December.
Safiri Nasi Limited is doing the same trip again on 12th December 2019 at Kshs. 17500 per person. Do not say you weren’t told. Reach out to them and secure a slot to experience this magic.
Until next time, keep traveling.
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