Zebra butts & more – from Nairobi to Arusha on a bicycle

Nairobi

The sweet encounters with wildlife on the way around Lake Elementeita and the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary experience made us change our mind about visiting Tsavo Parks in Kenya. By the time we reached Nairobi we’ve seen a bunch of zebras, some giraffes, buffalo, pumba (warthogs), monkeys… And baby elephants! But we couldn’t leave Africa without seeing full size elephants, lions or cheetahs… So we thought we’ll go to Nairobi National Park and see all those that we haven’t seen. It’s a small park so it should be crawling with life!

Well, guess what, we were driving around for half a day, occasionally spotting some herbivores and rushing to the lion sightings where just as soon as we join a group of safari jeeps, they all start moving away, apparently lions changed their minds and went elsewhere. Sooo, you can only imagine our impressions of the safari… Should we ever do it again? It’s just so exhausting! I felt more wiped out after 10 hours in a car than 10 hours on a bike. And then factoring in the cost…

The highlight of the day was the company of Jane and Best, and a short visit to Nairobi Giraffe Center where we could offer the residents some stinky but clearly delicious pellets, Tomas even put one to his mouth and got a giraffe kiss! And I got to secretly pet them while they were gobbling up their treats.

Best on the way to Nairobi National Park
Giraffe action

The safari wasn’t all bad though, we saw the rhinos which we didn’t see anywhere else neither before nor after this outing, and those beasts are just plain weird. Their eyes are set unexpectedly low – you’d think to find eyes near the ears, while still on the roundish part of the head. No! They are sooo low, right next to the horn on the nose extension, and rather small compared to the whole size of the animal. Really prehistoric looking folk.

That little bulge below the horn is an eye!

Later on we met some people in Nairobi who we shared our disappointment about the Nairobi National Park with, and they all said the same thing – what do you expect from the urban park?! And they were all touting about Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. Bev, Simuli’s (my primary Kenyan falimy connection in the US) best friend, is very passionate about traveling and she also recommended to visit Ngorongoro, so we decided to do so after all. It’s tricky though, cause it’s the most expensive park – the entrance is about $80 per person, plus the vehicle entrance fee $295 per day, plus vehicle rental, a driver/guide, and overnighting! Well, we had reserved a chunk of $$ for Tsavo Parks, we could just burn it all on a 2 day trip then 🙂 it better be worth it!

Inspecting Maasai market in Nairobi with Bev

We didn’t do much of touristy stuff in Nairobi, but had a decent rest between the Christmas family visits and working out the wheel repair.

Christmas lunch with family

By the way, we stayed at a superb Airbnb which was a bit above our usual budget but we really needed to freshen up! Here’s the link if you’re planning a trip to Nairobi. The location is great, space is superb, and hosts very helpful.

We set out from Nairobi to Arusha early morning, had a good downhill for some 30 km (18 mi) and arrived at the town that would’ve been a potential stopover for the night at 11 am, so the only choice was to continue all the way to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border town Namanga, because there were no other towns with guest houses on the way, and also all roadsides were inhabited so camping was not an option too. We ended up having the longest day! 167 km, a little over 100 miles, with nice downhill in the morning and up&down kinda terrain for the rest of the day. We only reached Namanga at dusk and settled there for the night.

Arusha

The next morning we crossed the border and started heading to Arusha, a center town of the so called northern circuit (a cluster of tourist favorite sites), some 109 km (68 mi) away from the Kenyan border. We spent over 3 hours sorting out the customs, money exchange, sim card and such things so we had a late start and no suitable villages to break up the 109 km which meant arriving to Arusha in the dark. We were rewarded by amazing views of mountains at dusk, especially the Mt Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kilimanjaro peaking through the clouds

Tanzania is beautiful! On the way, we met maasai men and women so nicely dressed, in their intricate ethnic attire, but we felt it improper to stop and photograph them, so I went to the masaai demo village later, especially I wanted to hear their folk songs, it’s a beautiful poliphony.

Maasai welcome song

Back in Arusha, we found ourselves a safari tour to Ngorongoro and added Tarangire National Park that has one of the densest populations of elephants. Styve Mziray helped us find his office (can’t remember how it’s called, big 5 something…), and negotiated the price down to $560 for the two day trip. We joined the group of other 5 travelers, later we learned that folks who booked the safari online paid about $500 each, so it’s really a good idea to book your safari once you arrive! You can contact Styve at stevebiccom@gmail.com/ + 255 755 093 686 via Whatsapp.

After the Nairobi safari our expectations were rather low… But boy oh boy were we wrong! Gorgeous groups of African Elephants roaming free in the lush bush, giraffes grazing juicy acacia tree tops, cheetahs resting after a hot long day, short rains producing double rainbows over the fat ass baobab trees…

Elephants crossing Tarangire river
Cheetah chill
Ancient baobab
Hoo r u?

And Ngorongoro was even more breathtaking! Tomas and I dubbed it The United Nations of Animals. Zebra, wilder beast (gnu), gazelles, antelopes, hyenas, jackals, ostriches, lions, hippopotamus and a whole bunch of various birds like the grey crowned crane or lesser flamingo and baboons, all convened in this one relatively small flat crater dotted by a few shallow lakes. There are rhinos too, but we spotted one from so far away it was hard to make out even with binoculars. That place is crawling with wildlife and is absolutely astounding.

Yawn not roar
Wilder beast and zebra
Grey crowned crane

Now, the important part.

Zebra butts

These animals are just so interestingly designed. The stripes following natural body curves, starting and ending seemingly nowhere, an eternal squiggle of complex lines. I love watching animals with binoculars – every tiny detail is so fascinating, when you’re close enough you can see the eyelashes and fine hair around the fluffiest of ears, and of course, the butts! Zebra definitely has the most intricate butt, with giraffe in a close second. All those strange stripes rounding up on the rear and meeting at the finely printed tail, ending with a pom-pom like fluff at the bottom. It is stil a mystery to science why is zebra’s coat black and white. I get the stripes, but they really fall out of the context both in bushy savannah and in grassy plains… Giraffes also wear rather bizarre coats. To my eye, they don’t really blend in with the environment either but they look absolutely striking! We were really blessed to have seen big heards of them in the wild. Those eyelashes!

Talking about butts and stuff… The first elephant we saw in Tarangire was a sort of loner old man with a huge single tusk. He showed us his cute butt either. And more! Maybe our jeep looked attractive to him, but he suddenly got horny and oh, that enormous manhood of his was swaying heavily side to side as he was pushing through the grass…

Only the behind

It’s funny that things like that still give giggles to the full car of adults. On the other hand how could it not? Animals feature such a variety and some are real fancy!

“Hmm, that looks interesting…” Vervet monkey in Tarangire national park

On a similar note, did you know that elephant females have two breasts between their front legs? Just like humans between their arms!

You can probably tell we (I) were mesmerized by our safari. My heart shook every time I picked up my binoculars and got to observe all the complexities of the wildlife. Every single one is a king in its own way. And yes, lions are awesome, especially when grooming and yawning like their domestic relatives we all know so well, but I don’t know, maybe zebra is cooler. Or maybe the wilder beast? They’re a real life watercolor painting walking! Peculiar at first, admirable at last. Tomas says cheetahs are the best.

Check out the the Nairobi photo album here.

And here is the (mostly) safari gallery.

None of our photos have been photoshopped, so it’s all Tomas’ natural talent 😊

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