By the middle of April, the time was drawing close for me to return to the UK. My flight was booked for April 27.
We planned to travel to Nairobi via Nakuru and Naro Moru to strengthen the friendships we had made on earlier visits and to complete our six months adventure by revisiting places we had first been to at the beginning. Full posts on Nakuru (Punda Milias) and Naro Moru have been published before so this one is more in the way of a photo gallery update.
Our arrival in Nakuru coincided with the first prolonged downpour of the year so we were glad of a taxi ride from town to Punda Milias. Soon we were being welcomed at the porch which exudes a Mediterranean feel.
Travelling light without a tent we chose a banda for our one night’s stay.
The canvas front unzips in the fashion of a floor to ceiling window to allow maximum light and air
There were plenty of birds in evidence and the onset of the rains had caused a flurry of nestbuikding activity, especially amongst the masked weaver birds.
Male masked weavers compete to build the best nests and then flutter desperately upside down to attract the attention of passing females who are expected to inspect their craftsmanship and choose their mate based upon his construction skills!
One of east Africa’s iconic birds is the tropical boubou. Males and females of this secretive shrike duet in bell like Itones to each other and the responses are so immediate they seem to come from one bird. Appropriately named purple grenadiers were much easier to photograph as they foraged on the ground close to us as we ate breakfast.
In typical Kenyan lodge fashion all meals are taken on a covered verandah. The variety of fruits and artistic presentation were as mouth watering as before.
Over the last couple of months Danny and Queen, the lodge’s managers, have completed construction of a new cottage with two large living/bedrooms for visitors. The simple, spacious and comfortable rooms are furnished with handmade furniture upholstered in the Punda Milias zebra stripe pattern. Sea shells serve as ornaments and complement the rustic carved tables.
During our visit in early December, we received numerous tips, advice and encouragement from this dynamic duo. Despite the adverse publicity which has damaged many tourism businesses in Kenya over the last two years, visitor numbers to Punda Milias are holding up thanks to their innovative approach of offering fully flexible accommodation and meals in place of a standard, costly all inclusive tariff. As a result, Danny and Queen are confident enough to enter into negotiations with the Kenyan owner who lives overseas to take on a five year lease. We wish them all the best and are sure they will go from strength to strength.
Our next port of call was Naro Moru River Lodge. We had hoped to call past and pay our respects to Terry Stephenson and Jane, but they were abroad at the time. On the other hand, Daniel, our driver guide who had taken us on a memorable New Year’s Day safari to Ol Pajeta, was enthusiastic when we asked to visit his own plot of land in the forest on the lower slopes of Mt Kenya.
Returning to Naro Moru River Lodge was like a homecoming. The manager, head of food and beverages, chef and receptionists all remembered us from our earlier visits in November and New Year. It was nice to be made to feel so welcome. The prevailing atmosphere there is one of dedication to providing guests with unpretentious service of the highest quality. The rains were just starting in this more central region of Kenya, but already the river flowing through the garden was in spate and attracted this lovely mountain wagtail.
Daniel’s property extends to ten acres of beautiful woodland sloping down to the Burguret River. After collecting us at Naro Moru in his trusty 1970s Toyota Landcruiser, he first offered us some tea at the house, where we sat in the porch, before setting off down the slope into the surrounding forest.
On the lawn outside the house,this gorgeous golden breasted bunting allowed us to approach to within a few feet.
On Daniel’s property there are some truly enormous forest giants, such as this fig tree.
Near the river, cinnamon chested bee-eaters perched on exposed branches in between flying out to snatch large flying insects.
A short distance from Daniel’s own house, a modern bungalow has been built looking across to Mt Kenya. We were told it is the holiday home of a German couple who visit for a fortnight twice a year. The wife and her previous husband took out a ten year lease thirty years ago which has been renewed twice. The lease is about to expire again. Daniel is now contemplating taking back this portion of his land and using the bungalow as part of his own lodge project, since the whole area is becoming increasingly popular as a getaway vacation site for families from Nairobi. Whilst from Daniel’s perspective this idea makes a lot of sense, we wondered what the German couple would make of it after building a house there and spending part of each of the last thirty years enjoying the peace and quiet and spectacular view……… It was a warning to us, if we needed one, never to enter into a lease with a local landowner, nor some shared development scheme.
Here is a photograph of Mt Kenya taken from Naro Moru River Lodge to remind you how iconic the view is.
You may recall how beautiful the lodge gardens are. They are renowned for their birdlife. Here a crowned hornbill perches in a treetop.
Even more spectacular are the Hartlaub’s touracos. These splendid frugivorous birds appear like a cross between magpies and pigeons. Predominantly dark green with smaller blue areas of plumage, their dazzling crimson wings are only visible in flight. Touracos are one of Africa’s most special avian families, dependent upon mature trees and extensive tree cover, so their presence (or absence) is a good indicator of a healthy environment and biodiversity. There are around twenty species widely scattered across the continent.
Having taken our farewell of Daniel for the next five months, it was time to set our sights on Nairobi. Apart from serving as a departure point for me, we had arranged to meet the owner of our target site at Kakamega Forest to negotiate acquiring it. But now I am getting ahead of myself. The next and final post will bring you up to date with developments with Mamumu and our own project culminating in the negotiations in Nairobi just before I left to fly back to the UK on April 27.
Meantime, I leave you with a couple of additional photos depicting the beautiful gardens at Naro Moru.