Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud”

When Flanders and Swann wrote this in 1939  they were picturing hippos but I think they would agree that it is just as suited to this happy herd of elephants. It was magical to watch as they frolicked and played one afternoon on Lewa Downs.

 The elephants were one of many highlights on this spectacular safari. If you have a moment have a look through some of Ninians other photos by clicking here.

Elephant 1 ©Ninian Lowis

Elephant 2 ©Ninian Lowis
elephant05
elephant2
elephant02
elepant005
elephant008
elephant63
elephant62
elephant09
elephant8
elephant08

Rubondo Island Magic!

 

Rubondo Island Camp

We set off in a state of huge excitement from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to see in the New Year at a newly opened camp on Rubondo Island in the south west corner of Lake Victoria, Tanzania. This was a first visit for all of us and we had high expectations with a list of must-sees and dos that included seeing the spotted-necked otters, catching Nile Perch and getting a glimpse of the resident chimpanzee population.

The flight is stunning. Leaving Nairobi we flew over the Rift Valley, and enjoyed great views of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. It was fun having Ninian point out landmarks in the Serengeti like the Grumeti River and Lobo Kopjes, probably most exciting was our first glimpse of Lake Victoria, its waters muddy where it is fed by the Mara River. Our first stop was Mwanza, a mining town on the edge of the lake, where we cleared immigration to enter Tanzania before continuing our journey by light aircraft.

P1080846

This is the second largest freshwater lake in the world – a massive 68,800 km² (26,564 miles²); the water was blue with occasional fields of green algae. We flew over a verdant patchwork of fields of rice and other staples colored every shade of green under the sun. The lake was dotted with islands, some with pretty fishing villages,others seemingly empty. From the busier islands, part of the trading route between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, we saw ferries carrying boatloads of people and vehicles, and dhows with white sails that looked miniscule from above.

Rubondo Island is much bigger than I had imagined – it’s a vast uninhabited gem. We flew in over a dense canopy of rainforest broken by beautiful glades and papyrus beds. Landing on the grassy strip, the place looked like something out of Jurassic Park.The drive to camp wove through giant trees and lianas down a sandy track with quartz rock and the occasional glimpse of bushbuck. The camp is built on a stunning white beach set amongst towering fig trees. We were woken each morning to the bassoon-like sound of the resident colobus monkey on his territorial patrol.

P1080887

We had sitatunga visit our room on numerous occasions, which was ridiculously exciting. Other visitors in camp included bushbuck, vervet monkeys, monitor lizards and hippo. Elephant were seen on the airstrip and, though we didn’t see them, the giraffe weren’t too far away. Otters swam lazily across the bay as we fished from the beach – MAGIC!P1090956

P1100033The island is so far west that the climate is more like Central Africa than Tanzania – even the sun rises and sets an hour later. The birds also have more in common with Central than Eastern Africa and we spotted Grey Parrots, Eastern Gray Plantain Eaters and a new bird for Ninian, the Vieillot’s Black Weaver. This is a birder’s paradise, and even the birding amateurs amongst us could tell that this was a very special place to see birds.

P1100048 We quickly realized that seeing a chimp was going to be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack – they are not habituated and the forest is extremely dense (the main island is 26 km long and ranges from 3 km to 10 km in width) – but that didn’t stop us from trying, unsuccessfully I may add, but they are seen very occasionally.

P1080981 The National Park comprises Rubondo and eleven smaller islands covering 457 sq km². 80% of the park’s surface is sheltered by unspoilt forest and the smaller islands were interesting places to visit by boat.

The walking was fantastic, especially for the kids, as there are no buffalo to worry about. It is by far the best way to get around the island.
P1080990

P1080971 We were bitten by the occasional tsetse fly and there are lots and lots of insects – but really amazing insects so it’s ok.

P1080977

P1100024

We had picnics on deserted sandy beaches, caught Nile Perch and Tilapia (they have a catch and release policy there) and Ninian caught his first ever Perch on fly.

P1100285

It rained heavily for almost 11 hours on one of our days – but we didn’t let that deter us from having fun. It rains fairly often here, but it is a rainforest after all, so best to come prepared with adequate rain gear.

P1090088

We walked, we fished, we swam (not for everyone – the waters are teeming with crocs), we danced until midnight to see in the New Year and we left very reluctantly, having run out oftime, and with a feeling that there was still so much to see and do. We can’t wait to go back and share it with our guests.

 

 

Rutundu and Lake Alice

We met these zebra in the forest as we drove up the track to Lake Rutundu on the northern slopes of Mt. Kenya

Kizita gorge is very deep so you leave your cars on the opposite side to the cabin and hike the last section to the cabins. There is a precarious looking winch system that works perfectly to get bags, firewood and supplies across the gorge so you don’t have to lug them across.

Baggage handling at Rutundu!

Amelia helps operate the luggage pulley at Rutundu

Lake Rutundu

Rutundu has two log cabins built out of cedar logs, the cracks between the logs have been stuffed with moss to keep the wind out. The main cabin has a quaint sitting and dining room with a big fireplace, a verandah with the most amazing view of the lake and the peaks of Mt Kenya beyond, and the small kitchen is perfcet . The main bedroom sleeps four and has en-suite  bathroom an the second cabin also sleeps 4

The main cabin

The main cabin

The area is beautiful and the big draw for our family was the hiking and fishing. There is a little boat on the Lake and on our first evening we caught a lovely big rainbow trout for supper.

Ninian on the boat with Jamey and Amelia

When the fog comes down you can’t see much!

Lake Alice, is over 1,000 feet higher up the mountain and the hike takes about  two-hours walk further up the mountain (Amelia who is 8, managed it happily).

On the Rutundu airstrip with the peaks of Mt. Kenya behind us

Hiking up to Lake Alice – Lake Rutundu and the cabins are behind us on the other side of the valley
Jamey fishing on Lake Alice

Jamey fishing on Lake Alice

The end of our climb and the amazing view of Lake Alice

The end of our climb and the amazing view of Lake Alice

We also fished the little crystal clear river that runs through Kizita gorge that is stocked with Brown trout.

P1020804

 

Hungry Mara Crocodiles 2013

The start of the migration and  the crocodiles were hungry

Zambia – Sausage Tree Camp August 2013

Jamey, Amelia and I  spent 3 amazing days in the Lower Zambezi National Park before heading off to join Ninian in Zimbabwe. We stayed at Sausage Tree Camp where we were thoroughly spoiled by Nicci and her team. Endless hours were spent floating on the Zambezi trying for Tigers. Our guide Ali’s patience and great teaching eventually paid off, and both Jamey and I managed to our catch our first at 8lbs and 6 lbs – not bad we thought for a first time.

A magical bush dinner for just three of us and a night game drive on which we spotted over 10 civet cats was also a highlight!

 

A collection of my favourite Lowis & Leakey e-postcards – 2012

 

Nambia part II – Serra Cafema

Leaving behind the red dunes of Sossulveli we flew north along the Skeleton coast. This was a fabulous flight that took us over a sea of dunes – reminiscent of dollops of whipped cream formed into beautiful soft peaks.

It was fascinating to see the remains of old diamond camps swallowed by the dunes and the ancient wrecks of ships such as the Eduard Bohlen that was stranded in 1909.

The beaches were littered with seal colonies and we flew low over pods of dolphins and Sandwich Harbour which is home to an amazing variety of bird life.

An overnight stop in Swakopmnd and off we went again heading north west to the end of the Hartman Valley and one of the most magical places I have ever been!

Wilderness Image Library – © Dana Allen

 

 

Sossusvlei and the Namib – part one of our Namibian adventure

Our first night was spent at  The Olive Exclusive  a small boutique hotel in Windhoek.  The hotel is very stylish with great artwork all show casing Namibia’s natural attractions. Each room is different and there are three junior suites and four premier suites, the premier suites each have a private deck and plunge pool.  This is a very comfortable overnight stop to begin or end a Namibia safari. The food was very good and breakfast was delicious!

Image courtesy of The Olive Exclusive Hotel

Image courtesy of The Olive Exclusive Hotel

From here we flew by light aircraft to a private  concession belonging to Wilderness Safaris on the border of the Namib Naukluft Park. The scenery during the flight was stunning and it was fun to watch the landcsape slowly change to desert.

We stayed at Little Kulala, a modern spacious camp built out of natural materials. The white and neutral tones of the lodge are a wonderful contrast to the desert and provide a welcome respite from the heat that rolls off the mountains and  dunes.

Our arrival at Sossusvlei

 The  pool deck is connected to the main deck at the front of the mess overlooking a small waterhole.

Game is scarce in the area, but  from the cool of the deck we  watched ostrich, Springbok, Oryx (including this beautiful albino female), a  variety of birds, hares, jackals and saw the tracks of several brown Hyena.

 The rooms have a private deck and plunge pool (ours was very cold!), and a roof top terrace.  We slept out under the stars one night on bed rolls, on the roof top terrace above our room. it was beautiful and cool up there and the moon was almost full which was incredible.

Courtesy of Wilderness Image Gallery, Dana Allen

A young dune next to the lodge, it was fun to see all the fresh tracks in the morning.

We got up very early to go into the park and  explore the dunes that surround the Sossusvlei salt and clay pans. The dunes glowed pinky orange in the morning light and the sand felt cold in the early morning.

The dunes support some amazing creatures that can survive with little water and it was exciting to spot the occasional lizard or arthropod in the sand.

In the afternoon we went out on quad bikes. I was a little sceptical about going on the bikes but quickly became a convert – I loved the sense of freedom it gave me, the ability to stop and take it all in at my own pace.
And with  with temperatures in the high 40’s (ºC) it was definitely more appealing than exploring on foot!

From the side of the Black Mountain it felt like we were at the top of the world with amazing 360º views.

Next stop Serra Cafema!

Wild about wildflowers

Its always magical when the wildflowers appear after the rain.

The landscape is a riot of colour

and interesting shapes.

Insects buzz about happily

and the air is scented with perfume.

 

The evolution of the safari tent…

Old Camp

This was how our grandparents camped in the  1950’s

Ninians fathers camp was considered to be very comfortable in the 60’s and 70’s

As time went on the tents got bigger

with more comfortable furnishings

and lights run on solar,

Our guest tents today are big light and airy.
I wonder what our grandparents would think?

  • Categories

  • About us

    Lowis & Leakey is a dynamic African safari company founded by Ninian Lowis and his wife Lara Leakey. We are based in Kenya where Lara and Ninian’s families have been involved in exploration and safaris since the late 19th century. Ninian is a professional guide who has over 20 years of experience leading safaris throughout Africa. Lara runs our office and manages the safari logistics as well as the day to day business of the safaris. Both Ninian and Lara delight in sharing their passion for Africa’s people, wildlife and wild places with their guests.
  • Comments