The Gamewatchers portion of our Kenya trip was an add-on for us. It wasn’t originally planned, but once the elephant-focused portion of the trip kept getting delayed we decided we deserved an even longer vacation since we were travelling so far and had waited so long. And by ‘we’, almost everyone reading this blog that knows us knows that it was me. And those same people know hubby didn’t mind extending, either! There was extra vacation time from having severely cut down on trips since 2020, so why not?
So the day after our arrival in Kenya saw us beginning this ‘bonus’ trip-within-a-trip. This part had been planned in 2022 with the help from a TA from Gamewatchers. He was helpful at the beginning and as it got closer to the trip and I had more questions (and my payments had been made), he got extremely rude. I debated using his name, but decided against it. I will share a little more info later on, but for now just know that we had an extra week planned out, that started the trip, with Gamewatchers. Our goal was to spend 6 more nights in safari camps. The first three were focused on rhinos, so we would be going to Porini Rhino Camp, and the last three were focused on leopards, so we would be going to Porini Lion Camp. Yes, I said leopards – that wasn’t a typo. Lion Camp wasn’t a typo, either. I’ll explain more when we get to that part of the trip, I promise! Patience, my dear readers, patience.
Getting to Porini Rhino Camp
I woke up first and had slept through the whole night with prescription help. I wanted to make sure I got a full night’s rest since I hadn’t slept on the plane. Poor Sal woke up for 2.5 hours in the middle of the night because his body didn’t know if it was coming or going. It was breakfast time, and I was afraid to leave the room because the hotel didn’t give us a key. You guys? I was all, “what kind of hotel just checks you in with no key???”. Please remember that I was jet lagged and also probably a little loopy from my sleep helper when I tell you that Sal went downstairs and got a key and when we were wheeling out an hour later we discovered the original key by the door to control the lights and air conditioning. Geez. It’s like we’d never stayed in a hotel before. I’m embarrassed for us on that one. I wonder what the front desk thought.
I opted for no food because I figured there would be a two hour drive from the airstrip to the camp (after close to a two hour flight) and I really didn’t want to have to, “check the tires” (i.e. pee behind the jeep or behind a bush) on my first day. Spoiler alert: I never had to the whole trip! Good job, bladder!
We discovered that in transit our deet bug spray had leaked and the clear plastic cosmetic bag it was in partially melted. You guys – there was a hole in the bag now and deet all over everything else in the bag. How can deet do this to plastic, but somehow our skin is ok? Anyway, Sal washed everything off and we brainstormed how to pack the liquids now that we were down a bag. Then I remembered that Kenya Airways gave the hoity-toity wannabes in Business Class a little bag with toiletries in it. I had taken mine for some unknown reason, even though we were at capacity with our weight limit. Confession: it was because it was a cute bag…almost like a purse. It was a bag that could now carry the items that were previously in the cheap plastic cosmetic bag! See? Upgrading to Business already was paying off. Sure.
We packed up and met our driver and other guy that worked for Gamewatchers. I’m not really sure why there were two guys to take us to the hotel the day before, then to the airport the next day. Isn’t it a job for one guy? Maybe the other guy is like me and doesn’t drive, though. I would hate to drive in Nairobi. It’s a nightmare. I’m rambling. Anyway, I feel slightly strange calling him the ‘other guy’ as he was very helpful once we got to Wilson Airport. He got us through security very quickly and had us checked in without any issue.
As I stated in the last post, I had been worried about the weight limit and we had gotten rid of a lot of weight (extra camera and accessories) the night before the flight to Nairobi. Sadly, we still were over weight (story of my life). We had this grand idea of how to make the flight without penalty weight payment. Basically we were going to carry our cameras around our neck, maybe the binoculars, too. I read about it on Tripadvisor, so it had to work/be true. (A little bit of sarcasm there as some things posted on Tripadvisor are severely dated now.)
So the plan was to carry as much on person as possible to avoid a couple of dollars of penalty. Make it make sense after spending our retirement on Business Class to get there. Just kidding. Sorta. Anyway, the ‘other’ guy had our stuff through security scanning and before I knew it had grabbed our two big bags and took them over to get weighed. EEK! I didn’t have a chance to take anything out of the backpacks for our grand idea to work. It’s amazing how much time I spent thinking about what to pack and how to make it so we weren’t over weight, only for it to go up in smoke. Oddly, I accepted it pretty quickly; I mean, what else are you gonna do? So we get penalized. Big deal. It’s only going to be a few bucks, right? And after all this time I was actually in Kenya and going to see ellies soon. Once I reminded myself of that I smiled at the baggage guy, who gave me a big smile back, and said, “Jambo!”. He smiled back and then said we didn’t need to weigh our backpacks since our other two big bags were fine with weight. Say what, now? Our other two backpacks were more than this man thought, for sure, because we had weighed them the night before. I’m convinced that we just got an instant blessing because we were so grateful to actually be there and very friendly to the baggage guy. That guy was the best.
So I was riding on a very temporary high, thinking, “We did it, Joe!”. We were sitting waiting patiently for our flight while charging our headphones. Then I found the only real mistake, besides being a rude jerk, the Gamewatchers TA had made. He had in our paperwork that we would be flying into an airstrip that was 1.5-2 hours away from the camp. This wasn’t correct. Our tickets had us flying into a different airstrip that was apparently 15 minutes from camp and nobody had told us. Well, well, well. Look who wasn’t actually all-knowing after all! Sure, it looked like a mistake in our favor. At least for a few minutes.
Unfortunately it was raining and that airstrip was flooded and the plane would not be able to land there. Spoiler alert – every time we try to go see rhino (ok, it’s only been twice now, but humor me!) it rains in that area. So they switched our flight to the airstrip I originally thought we were flying to; that meant our flight was going to be a few hours later. Boo. I spoke to who I thought was the camp manager (it was the interim manager) on one of the nice employees phones (they offered) so I could understand what was going on. I was confused because I was a jet lagged zombie and what they were telling me at the airport and what the paperwork said was confusing. The airport employees couldn’t have been nicer. I found my favorite baggage guy and he made sure to get my bags from the other plane and put the new tags on the bags. He was a gem. Sal and I decided to hang out at the new upstairs cafe and within like five minutes I got paged. I walked back downstairs and back to the check-in only to have them tell me they were changing our flights. No, they weren’t changing them again, they just hadn’t talked to each other to know someone had already told me all this and we had already gone through the rigmarole with the bags, etc.. Man, I needed a Diet Coke and some caffeine. It was definitely too early for anything stronger. So I walked back UP to the cafe, got a Diet Coke and some coffee and danish thing for Sal, then proceeded to spill the Diet Coke all over the table. Sheesh. I told you that happy high after avoiding paying over weight baggage was temporary!
The cafe was quite nice, though.
I’m quite happy to report that there was no other drama and no rain Wilson Airport. Before we knew it we were boarding our new flight.
We had to make one stop before our stop and we saw our first Maasai of the trip picking up their guests.
At the next stop we had finally made it!
Our guide and spotter picked us up in the game drive vehicle and (thank goodness) it wasn’t raining 🙂 We left immediately to get to Porini Rhino Camp.
An added bonus was we got to visit the equator. Super cool!
The gate was quite far from the camp. I guess I didn’t realize that when I booked it. But that was OK because that drive to camp would be our best game drive (due to weather and animal sightings).
Side note: rather than try to type each day out, Sal suggested that I record it and use the transcription from it to save typing/time. It was a mostly good idea, until I noticed that the transcription was wrong in a lot of places – sometimes in hilarious ways. I realized I would just have to listen back and write from there. It did still save me from typing out daily notes, though. I have to tell you, listening to me repeatedly whisper, “elephants!” because the transcriber is transcribing incorrectly is actually pretty funny. Maybe some day I will release the recordings for a little giggle. Now is not that day, though, so back to the story.
According to my voice recording, a waterbuck (antelope) was the first animal we saw. No, there isn’t a picture. Then a baby warthog and mama in the distance, followed by a Secretary bird. No, there’s no pictures of any of this. I told you I was a zombie. BUT I do have a video of the next sightings…
The first wild ellies of the trip! AhhhhHhHhHHhHhhhhH! I was such a happy lady.
Then we hit the mother load with a tiny baby!
The only thing better than one little baby?
We saw more animals and the stand out was a buffalo who mock charged us! This was before we even made it to the camp. What an exciting day. No worries, though, because it was on Sal’s side. He said he didn’t have time to get anxious because it all happened so quickly. P.S. Buffalo is one of the most deadly animals. Keep this in mind for one of my future blogs (spoiler alert: nobody dies, thankfully, but I have a good buffalo story).
I feel like this is a long post, so we are gonna stop right here where we haven’t yet made it to Rhino Camp. Stay tuned for Part Two!