Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on September 12th, 2011
Categories: News

The power outages at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as rambled on in this column for the past two months, were reported in the local media to have been caused by vandals. Given that the power sub-station in question is located within the airport’s security cordon, it beggars belief that this is really a true story.

While in Malindi I had a good look at the new airport terminal there. Looks the business from the outside. I asked to be shown around the building but was politely declined – security is a big word. It will be officially opened on 10th December 2011. Lamu’s new terminal I’m told reliably is coming along nicely.

August was spent camping with family and good friends just outside the Masai Mara. A friend had a mobile camp on the Olaruk River and we took it over and fitted in between overseas clients for three nights; living the high life it might have appeared. While tents and a brilliant staff were supplied, we self-catered. I’ve never had such a good time in the Mara even if it was high season. The ‘greatest show on earth’, the annual wildebeest and zebra migration’, was in full flow with all major predators present and accounted for. Sadly, we never got to see a ‘crossing’ but I’m told there were many – I was also told that there were too many tourist buses crowding the banks of the river to watch the wildebeest cross and the crocs snap.

“Akin to a Nairobi traffic jam”, a wise old sage was heard to say.

Our guide, Barton of Naivasha, took us to places we’d not been to for many a year; down to the Sand River on the Tanzanian border where we were chased away by a game warden who miraculously appeared out of a bush. Well that’s a bit of a stretch. Would you believe, a fully armed group of game rangers in a Land Rover with blacked-out number plates, hiding in a bush – evidently waiting for poachers to cross the river from neighbouring Tanzania. We exited hurriedly stage right to find a picnic spot on the Burrangat Plains – guide Barton excelled himself in finding one under the only tree visible for miles, which was festering with flies and killer ants.

Continuing on, we wended our way back to camp via Rhino Ridge and the Musiara Marsh. Aside from the migrating wildebeest and zebra we saw an awful lot of lion, a huge male leopard in a tree with its dinner and on the way out a solitary cheetah, of which more about later. In the Musiara area it was almost like a zoo with all species present and correct to include a huge herd of buffalo. We were just leaving the area when we spotted a pride of lion close to the track – it turned out to be the Big Cat Diaries Musiara pride. We had them all to ourselves for all of five minutes until overwhelmed by many Governors’ Camp vehicles, which arrived en masse.

We spotted the cheetah on the side of the road while travelling on the C13 road between Mararianta to Aitong on our way home. It was no more than a hundred metres away and, wanting to take a closer look, we left the main road and took a track to within fifty metres of the cheetah. Here another ‘out of the bush experience’ occurred. A vehicle, albeit a small one, with unarmed – as far as I could see – game rangers miraculously appeared and asked us to leave. Why? They answered ‘You are in the Mara North Conservancy, and only guests of participating lodges and camps are allowed in.’ Oh! But, but, but – there are no signs to say this is private property, I pleaded. ‘No you must go’ was the tort reply. ‘Ok, then I’ll go back to the main road and watch from there, it is after all a Kenya government listed C road,’ I said. ‘That is not possible,’ was the reply. ‘You mean I can’t stop on the main road?’ To which the response was ‘The road runs right through the conservancy and you are not permitted to stop on it.’ Rather than burst a blood vessel, I headed home.

In the big scheme of things, and for all the good things that conservancies do around the Masai Mara, this sort of petty officialdom is not going to win them many friends in the greater tourism scheme of things. Or is it?

The Masai Mara is a place name and is gazetted as such.

I know and you know that the word Masai is spelt incorrectly. Until a change of spelling is gazetted it remains Masai and not Maasai – no matter what a website will tell you or the many folk that spell it incorrectly.

Eight hours Watamu to Tigoni, inclusive of all pit stops, says that the road to the coast is good – you just have to avoid the Changamwe and Mombasa traffic. Short cuts to the north and south coast abound: to Kilifi from Mariakani via Kaloleni – to Diani from Samburu via Kinango and Kwale. The Tsavo East shortcut from Manyani to Sala along the Galana River in the park is brilliant and totally stress-free, but best taken over two days.

We paid a nostalgic visit to the Driftwood Club in Malindi – still a magic place and looking the smartest I’ve seen it in a long long while. The erstwhile Roger Sylvester is managing it at present and tells me it is the best job he’s ever had. And there was I thinking that he was waiting for the cheque to arrive in the post. The sad news is that its sale is imminent – and that the new owners will more than likely bulldoze it and put up holiday villas or such like…

Seems like a party to bid farewell to this coastal icon, where lots of us grew up – and are still growing-up – makes a ton of sense. Roger over and out!

TCB

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