Steph and I just returned from a very memorable trip to celebrate numerous occasions. In June, we passed the 10 year mark for our marriage (we delayed any type of major celebration). Steph’s birthday also happens to fall on Valentine’s day so we spent the past couple days at Ngerende Island Lodge to celebrate all of these events at once. Many people have showed interest in these trips so this is a brief overview of the past couple days. (If you’d like to see more pictures you can check my Facebook page or our Kelleys in Kenya page.)
Living in Kenya has been difficult but it has also provided us with amazing opportunities. I am so thankful for the “Tenwek discount” that several establishments have that make these trips reasonably affordable. I’m also thankful for the employment I had in the states that allowed me to save for experiences like this.
After making arrangements for the boys to be watched (a huge thank you to everyone for helping out!), we set off. This was only the second time Steph and I have been able to get away without the kids since arriving in Kenya. We arrived to a ceremonial Masai greeting complete with singing, dancing, and jumping. We were escorted from the vehicle to the entrance of the lodge hand in hand with the Masai at which time everyone (including Steph and me) participated in the Masai jumping (you have to see it to believe how high they can jump).
We were soon taken to our room/tent which was amazing. The flaps open up onto a porch that overlooks the river just yards below us. The river is full of activity as >150 hippos and ~30 crocodiles live there. During the day they hang out in the river making all kinds of interesting noises. At night they walk out single file on “hippo highways” to feed.
Steph and I took advantage of not having kids with us and enjoyed lazy time on the porch watching the hippos and reading. It was awesome! There were several baby hippos that were so cute. They would climb up and lay on their mommas’ backs. One of them kept falling off so you would just see stubby little legs flailing before a splash. There was another one that climbed up and would jump off. Sadly I didn’t get any video or pictures of this.
We went on a total of three game drives and saw a lot. Our Masai guide asked us what we wanted to see. We told him that we hadn’t yet seen any male lions or leopards on previous trips so those became the goals. I don’t think it is possible to explain the grandeur of creation here in Kenya. Even pictures fail to accurately capture the beauty that exists here.
The morning game drives start off pretty chilly until the sun comes up. Everyone is provided a Masai blanket to help stay warm. I absolutely love seeing the trees and landscape surrounded by a layer of fog. The first day out we discovered that our Masai guide was actually one of the men that helped when our vehicle became stuck on our last safari (when mom and Phil were visiting). The truck we were in was even the one that had pulled us out. We stopped at the mud hole we had been in and our guide named it “Aaron and Stephanie crossing”.
It is interesting to listen to the guides because they know the stories of many of the animals. The two cheetahs that we saw are brothers and they often hunt together, which increases their success. On this day, they had taken down a wildebeest but a pack of hyenas chased them off and stole it.
We were successful in seeing male lions on two separate occasions. The first we saw was ~4 years old. This was the second one (who is about 5 years old). Male lions are not the primary hunters in their pride. Usually they let the females hunt and catch food. This male lion was tracking some animals but eventually he too decided to lay down and watch them instead of hunt.
On past game drives we have seen some hyenas but this time we found an entire family. There were babies, young pups and adults. It was fun to watch them run and play. Our guide tested our knowledge of hyenas with this question. Does anyone know what a hyena and giraffe have in common?
We saw so many lions on this trip. We came across a pride of lions with several lionesses and many cubs of varying ages. They ran around and played while we (and people in several other vehicles) watched.
While we didn’t focus on them, there are countless amazing birds as well. These are just a couple that we saw.
We never did get to see any leopards (they are quite elusive) but we did get to enjoy seeing much of the wonder of creation.
The meals at the lodge were phenomenal. At times we would eat on a porch overlooking the river. At one meal, they took us to a separate location where the chef prepared a Japanese meal in front of us. On the last morning, the chef had prepared a special birthday/anniversary cake for us. About ten Masai came in singing, dancing, chanting for us. The chef had us ceremonially cut the cake and then feed some to each other. Everyone at Ngerende made our time there extremely special.
We are so blessed to live here and have the chance to go on special trips like this. The hard days and ongoing inconveniences seem so much easier to deal with when we get to enjoy experiences like this. Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support that helps to keep us going here. From prayers to financial support to care packages, they all mean so much to us!
I would ask that you pray for the staff at the locations like Ngerende. Many visitors and long term staff go to these places. It is obvious that many of the staff still hold to their tribal beliefs. May we be a light bringing truth into their lives. Pray specifically for Daniel. We had a chance to spend a lot of time with him. He is married and has four children. He at least has some superficial knowledge of the Bible but it wasn’t clear if he was truly a believer or not. We had a chance to pray with him and our driver after our last morning game drive. We are praying that God will make Himself increasingly real as Daniel shares his love of creation with others who come to visit the mara.