rstephens-Kenya Safari & Total Solar Eclipse - TravelQuest International
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Kenya Safari & Total Solar Eclipse

rstephens’s Travelogue

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Alson Wong and I flew into Nairobi where we met up with the group. After a brief tour of a local museum, we moved down the Kenyan highway to the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge. This is the main highway connecting Nairobi with the port cities on the east coast of Africa, very busy with trucks shipping goods. The painted lines are just a suggestion on this two lane highway. People will drive on the left side of the road. There was a very slow truck in the right line approaching. A line of trucks is passing him, pushing into our lane. So, of course, a car needs to pass the truck ahead of us on the left. There were several white-knuckle moments. This is the first time I have ever seen a double-pass. Two cars, side-by-side passing someone in a single lane.

We arrived Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge at the base of Kilimanjaro for two days of safari. This is a luxury resort. Monkeys are a perpetual problem at the East Africa safari lodges. They will steal food off your table, and if they get into your room, they may take your camera equipment. During meals, the lodges station guards with sling shots at the entrances to keep the monkeys away.

During the day, we saw many elephants, zebras, water buffalo, hyena, and several cheetahs.

We then few to the Masai Mara National Reserve using small commuter planes, get a great view of the Great Rift Valley from the air. We stayed at the Masai Mara Safari Lodge, and we got great views of some of the large cats. One evening, two lionesses with seven cubs were spotted. As it got dark, the cubs frolicked and play fought until we had to leave. The next day we saw a lioness feasting on a zebra carcass. Our guide said that now that she was full, she will not be able to defend it and the hyenas and jackals will probably come take it within a day. We also got to see Tanzania border on the Serengeti . There was nobody to stamp our passports.

I have strung together dozens of short video clips taken at our safari lodges in Kenya and Uganda into a YouTube video. It won’t win any awards, but at least vaguely tells the story of our whirl-wind trip through the three camps and national reserves.

Next, we drove back to Nairobi to catch a flight to the Entebbe International Airport, saying overnight in Kampala, Uganda. The next day we drove to the Paraa Safari Lodge located a couple hours south of the site picked for the eclipse viewing, a girl’s school in Pokwero, Uganda. The following day we toured Murchison Falls National Park Masindi taking a boat ride up to the base of the falls.

Eclipse Day was a truly epic day. A heavy rain occurred the night before the eclipse, and the dirt road was flooded with 18 inches of water. A bus hauling some eclipse observers was stuck in the mud. Our 4X4 Land Rover safari vehicle was able to drive through it saving a 2-1/2 hour detour.

Then, the Ugandan President decided to visit our predetermined eclipse viewing site causing us to go to a secondary location at a school.

However, clouds built during the afternoon, covering the sun just minutes before the eclipse. Although we expected the worst of the clouds would dissipate as the sun was covered and it cooled, high cirrus was pushing over the sun. We decided to bail on the site just 20 minutes before 2nd Contact. We are making a mad dash through a heavy traffic jam and moved 3 km to just get outside of the worst of the cirrus clouds.

Arriving at the ‘Plan C’ site just 8 minutes before 2nd Contact, we reset up our equipment in a convenient clearing beside the road. Most of us were able to get all our equipment running despite the short notice. I got a sequence of wide angle pictures that clearly shows the 15 km shadow projected onto the high cirrus clouds.

Then we had to ford that flooded road again to get back to the Paara Safari Lodge, this time through two feet of water.

As a companion piece to the Kenyan safari YouTube video, here is a longer one showing the events of Eclipse Day in Uganda. It starts out with the group having to cross roads flooded with a foot of water. Then, we pass by our original viewing site because the Ugandan President and his entourage had decided to set up camp there. It shows us instead at the other nearby school, but clouds started building late in the afternoon. Finally, the mad dash down the road.