An early departure from Nairobi on a Saturday morning meant the choking traffic had less of a hold and we managed to escape the city relatively quickly. The drive to Aberdare National Park begins on a highway and winds its way through the outskirts of the city, past smaller townships that hug the highway, small vegetable farms and plantations of bananas, tea and macadamias. It is fascinating to watch the shifting landscape – I had no idea that Kenya had such dense, lush jungle like that seen in Aberdare National Park.
After a three and a half hour drive (which included a brief stop at an African Curio shop full of “stupid ripoff idiots” selling outrageously priced African souvenirs), we arrived at Aberdare Country Club, the access base for The Ark. As we drove through the entrance to the Country Club, we were greeted with warthogs and impalas wandering across the nine-hole golf course! It’s then a good forty-five minute drive from the Country Club to The Ark.
The Ark is this amazing and unique lodge set in the middle of Aberdare National Park. The building is ark-like in style and sits perched on the edge of a waterhole and saltlick which attracts a variety of wild animals from within the park. Guests can sit back and observe the animals from the numerous viewing decks and lounge areas that are spread across the four levels of the building. There’s even a bunker (or hide) that offers an unbelievably close view of the animals as they feed, drink, play and even hunt their prey. I was beside myself when I was down next to the bunker watching a herd of elephants that had recently arrived at the waterhole. The male was looking around when suddenly he reared his head, let out a terrific trumpeting sound and then charged towards the bunker. I shrieked and then raced around to the other side of the building to see a female and her baby racing down the side towards the water. It was extraordinary to see, and at ground level only about eight metres away from me.
Now before I go any further, I have to make it clear that while I have done my absolute best to channel David Attenborough on this trip, I know absolutely nothing about animals – and even less about birds. Also, whilst I have tried to be an astute student and pay attention as my guides have explained about the different species we have encountered during this trip, I have been too busy posing as a “spotter” from the back of the 4WD to take detailed notes on what we’re seeing and to cross-reference this information with any books or scientific facts. This is my disclaimer: I am a passionate traveller who can tell an elephant from an ostrich and a guinea fowl from a red-billed horn bill, but that’s as far as it goes. Don’t blame me if I haven’t specified exactly which type of impala or giraffe I’ve come across – just enjoy the ride and excitement of seeing these animals up -close as much as I have.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, November in Kenya is the “little wet” season. This meant that due to the rain, less game came to the waterhole during my stay at The Ark. However, I still managed to see caped buffalos, elephants, a pack of spotted hyenas, bush bucks, water bucks and warthogs. Warthogs are seriously the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen. They are also apparently one of the most stupid – the Kenyans have nicknamed them “pumbafu” which is the Swahili word meaning “fool” or “idiot”. The name of warthog character from The Lion King, Pumba, is a derivative of the word too.
After our night at The Ark, we headed back down to the Country Club in readiness for the next stage of our Kenyan safari.
Impala; Warthog; Bush Elephant; Caped Buffalo; Bush Buck; Water Buck; Spotted Hyena