Thu Hoa

A trip to Kenya inspires a sense of boundless wonder at the majesty of nature.

Cheetahs on the hunt

When I was a child, I read the poem “Girl and Boy” by famous Belgian writer Maurice Careme:

“If only I were a boy
Said the girl one day
I would have gone away long ago
And travel to Africa, who knows?”

The verse haunted me for long, and it was not until the fifth time I traveled to Africa and reached Kenya that I could truly savor the pleasure of Africa.

Kenya – a dream destination

Despite straddling the equator in East Africa, Kenya is cool all year round, at around 15 to 25oC thanks to the country’s proximity to the Indian Ocean and the predominantly hilly and mountainous topography. It is rich in natural resources, with ideal climate, breathtaking long coastline, abundance of perennial jungles, unspoiled and pristine plateaus, prairies, lowlands and a high density of wildlife. Kenya was in ancient times torn between powerhouses. In the 10th century, Kenya was invaded by the Arabians, taken over as a Portuguese colony in the 15th century and in 1920 was officially made a colony of the British Empire. These days, Kenya is a hotspot for anyone enthusiastic for wildlife and scenes of an almost primeval natural beauty.

Thousands of wildebeests migrating to Kenya

The Big Five of Kenya

Our journey started in the capital of Nairobi, one of the largest sleepless metropolises of Africa. Many in our group were taken by surprise by the visible wealth of this city; bikes and motorbikes were virtually absent, just cars and imposing mansions, along with a city center of hotels and offices. We noted a heavy presence of walled compounds and security guards as well, but concerns for safety where wiped away as our team embarked on a trip to Aberdare National Park at the foot of Aberdare Mountain, the third highest peak in Kenya. It is inhabited by the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic minority of the country, and regarded as “The House of God.” It was during a vacation in this park that Britain’s Princess Elizabeth learned that she had been proclaimed Queen.

Aberdare has the choicest nature to offer: fresh and cool air, diverse flora and fauna, a wide range of terrains from glaciers, mighty waterfalls and rivers to perennial jungles and tropical rainforests. Here, you can do what every visitor to this continent craves: watch the “Big Five.” These are the five endemic large beasts of Africa: elephant, rhino, buffalo, cheetah and lion. For the first time in my life, I rested in a cozy bungalow in the midst of a jungle, erected on sweet chestnut trees hundreds of years old. Opening the window, my eyes were filled with primordial trees, undulating mountains and gaily tweeting birds; it was an overwhelming sensation of being small and precarious in the boundless greenery of Africa.

Wildebeests are remarkably disciplined when migrating

Before the trip, it was unimaginable that I could savor all those delicious foods, sip some tea by the hearth and watch through a wall of logs herds of wild beasts drink and feed by a nearby lake. All the logs were erected by the lake and salt fields, because they were flawless sites to observe the animals.

There were in Aberdare numerous resorts designed in harmony with their surroundings. The following day our team moved to Aberdare Country Club, a heaven on earth sprinkled with green, gold and red leaves and radiant blossoms to the extent that all my posts on Facebook convinced my friends into believing that it was Europe. However, what did not exist in Europe and all other continents was that I could stroll around the vast complex of the club to watch gentle giraffes, flamboyant peacocks and witness a male chamois flanked by a dozen of its mates. Many in our team were fascinated and insisted on a return with their children next year.

A group of tourists on the journey to discover Kenya

The greatest journey on earth

A great deal of our time was spent on a visit to Maasai Mara National Reserve, a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and one of the great wildlife parks of the world. Masai Mara is part of the Serengeti Savannah that stretches from Northern Tanzania to Southwestern Kenya. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.

Before venturing into this safari game, we took a rest at the Fig Tree, right in front of which were hippos chomping on water. In the afternoon we sipped tea and played with monkeys that lurked nearby to steal our food. In the evening, we relaxed and enjoyed tribal dances and songs.

After two days of traversing Masai Mara Savannah and watching cheetahs hunting for prey, hippos, ostriches and herds of towering elephants in line across the plateau, the most marvelous scene of the day came: we were overwhelmed at the sight of millions of wildebeests bravely wading over Mara River after traveling thousands of kilometers from Tanzania in the face of hippos and lurking crocodiles to seek new sources of foods in Kenya.

Peafowls at the Aberdare Club

What is manmade can indeed be astonishing and admirable beyond compare; however, it is nature that defines magnificence and inspires boundless awe. I will never forget the scene of millions of wildebeests like valorous combatants crossing the savannah after a battle. And each of us was for the first time fed with such a phenomenal glimpse: the sense of being there among the greatest journey on earth – only observable by Mara River.

“Travelling to Africa, who knows” and watching the big five to marvel at the beauty of survival since the dawn of the earth, we continued to set out across Africa, heading next for Zimbabwe.