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Camping with Wild Animals in Africa

Home > Nairobi > Adventure | Animals and Wildlife | Game Reserves | National Parks | Outdoor
by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published November 23rd 2022
Have a real adventure in Africa with wild animals
Lion in Masai Mara National Park
Lion in Masai Mara National Park


We arrived in Nairobi on Friday 9th August 1985. We had 6 weeks to spend in East Africa before heading off to Nepal for 6 weeks We planned to climb mountains and see as much wildlife as we could. I have previously written about our climbs of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro. I recently found my diary and have started to digitise some of my photos of wild animals we saw on that trip.

Baboon with baby
Baboon with baby


Zebras crossing the road in Masai Mara
Zebras crossing the road in Masai Mara


A few days after arriving, we hired a 4-wheel drive car and set out to explore the National Parks on our own. On the way to the Masai Mara, we saw a lot of vultures around a fresh kill of a Wildebeest. The vultures were all fighting with each other. Soon a lone Maribou stork flew in. A spotted hyena came up and started eating the carcass and the vultures let her in. She had lactating breasts. The vultures stopped fighting and about thirty of them just stood quietly until the hyena left after two truckloads of tourists arrived.

Spotted hyena and vultures with dead wildebeeste
Spotted hyena and vultures with dead wildebeeste


Spotted hyena, vultures and maribou stork
Spotted hyena, vultures and maribou stork


The vultures all swooped in and started fighting again after the hyena left. The African truck driver told us to drive back down the road to see a cheetah. We did and it was wonderful to see it. It was under a shady tree eating an impala and had blood all around its mouth.

Cheetah in Masai Mara National Park
Cheetah in Masai Mara National Park


We drove back a few hours later to the Wildebeest carcass and the hyena was back feasting on it. The vultures were still there too and a young male hyena was patiently waiting to have a feed. The more dominant female one kept chasing the young one away.

Our campsite at Masai Mara National Park
Our campsite at Masai Mara National Park




As we drove around we saw lots of Africa's wild animals in their natural environment including elephants, giraffes and cape buffaloes. It was wonderful to see animals wild and free. We had a scary moment when we stopped the car to look at an elephant.

Elephant
Elephant


Elephant with baby at Amboseli National Park
Elephant with baby at Amboseli National Park


It looked pretty big to me but suddenly a huge elephant appeared from a gully. It was the mother of the younger one. She came charging at us with her large ears flapping. Luckily the car didn't stall as we took off in a hurry. She could have rolled the car and killed us. e saw baby elephants suckling from their mothers.

Bustard fowl at Masai Mara
Bustard fowl at Masai Mara


On our first night in our small two-man tent in the Masai Mara, we were camped near the Sand River. There were some huge cape buffaloes near the campsite and we were the only campers. Soon after, we had gone to bed we heard a lion growling very close to the tent. I had read somewhere that lions don't like light so we put the torch on until the batteries went flat. We were both terrified and didn't sleep much that night. In the morning we found a dead wildebeest nearby that the lion must have killed.

Wildebeest
Wildebeest


There were lots of little monkeys around our campsite. One poor one had a can stuck to its hand and had to drag it around with him. A careless camper must have left it behind.

Colourful lizard at Tsavo West
Colourful lizard at Tsavo West


As we drove around the next morning, we saw a large male and a female lion under a tree, and lots of hippos in the river that kept emerging and then going back under the water. The female lion was sleeping while the male one was on guard.



Black faced Vervet monkey
Black faced Vervet monkey


After our Masai Mara adventures, we headed to Lake Naivasha. We camped by the river and there was a lot of wildlife and beautiful birds around including hippos, cormorants, ibis', pelicans, kingfishers and lots of other waterbirds.

Masai Mara
Masai Mara


One poor English camper was terrified during the night when a hippo trod on the corner of his low one-man tent. After his scare, he moved his tent right up the bank away from the water the next night. The hippos come out of the water at night to chomp on the grass, and we could hear them munching grass around our tent.

Hippos at Mzima Springs at Tsavo West
Hippos at Mzima Springs at Tsavo West


Hippos are very dangerous animals and kill lots of people in boats.
We then went to Nakuru National Park where we saw thousands of beautiful greater and lesser flamingos and some waterbuck. After that, we headed to Lake Bogoria, which is a saline, alkaline lake south of Lake Baringo.

Road to Lake Bogoria
Road to Lake Bogoria


We took a road to the lake, but it was very rough and just got rougher and rougher. It was lucky we didn't break down or get a puncture. We were the only ones at the Acacia campsite and it was a bit scary and remote but absolutely magnificent with thousands of flamingos, pelicans and lots of other waterbirds.

Flamingoes on Lake Bogoria
Flamingoes on Lake Bogoria


The lake was surrounded by high green hills. It has one of the world's largest populations of lesser flamingos. The lake is one of the lesser celebrated of the Rift Valley lakes but it provides as much beauty and inspiration as any of the other dramatic lakes in the region. It has been declared a Ramsar Site and the Lake Bogoria National Reserve has been a protected area since the early 1970s. The lake is approximately 34 km long by 3.5 km wide.

Thermal Springs at Lake Bogoria
Thermal Springs at Lake Bogoria


There are hot springs around Lake Bogoria that have a high content of carbon dioxide which causes wild boiling in the springs. The next day, we drove to Lake Baringa and camped at Roberts' camping ground. We met up with some other travellers and had a great night telling our stories. On the way back to our camp we almost got between a big hippo and our tent. It was munching on grass. It is very dangerous as hippos can charge and crush you easily. We almost didn't see him in the dark.

Our next stop was the Aberdare National Park after a camping overnight at Thomson's Falls in Nyahururu. We walked down to the Falls, which were Spectacular.

Thomson's gazelle
Thomson's gazelle


When we got to the Aberdare, we headed into the National Park office and they gave us a guide to show us around the park. He was very good and pointed out lots of animals we couldn't even see. The park was very beautiful and misty and mountainous with deep forested ravines and open moorland.

Cape buffalo in Abedare National Park
Cape buffalo in Aberdare National Park




With the guide's help, we saw water hogs, cape buffaloes, bushbucks, a spotted hyena, a giant hog, elephants and Columbus monkeys. On the way to the park, we saw some beautiful terrestrial orange patas monkeys.

Patas monkey
Patas monkey


After all our camping out, we decided to have a splurge and stay in a lodge for one night for a bit of luxury. We booked into "the Ark". I did enjoy it but I think I preferred camping out with the wild animals. It wasn't the same watching the animals through the large glass windows at the lodge, although we did see some night creatures when we walked outside on a boardwalk at dusk. We saw a genet cat and a white tailed mongoose. We also saw our first rhinos through the glass.



During dinner, they called us out and there was a mother and baby rhino at the salt lick. I was tired and went to bed early. I did hear a lot of animal noises during the night. Before going to bed I did see some buffalo mating. There were also lots of elephants, ducks, wart hogs, hyaenas, water buffalos and giant bush pigs around the park.

Crested cranes
Crested cranes


After a stop off and 2 nights on Mt Kenya, we rang and booked the car for another couple of nights so we could go to Amboseli National Park and Tsavo West. We arranged to drop the car off in Mombassa. Unfortunately, we couldn't see Kilimanjaro from the park because it was cloudy but we weren't too worried because we were heading there soon to climb it.

From Kilaguni lodge in Tsavo West
From Kilaguni lodge in Tsavo West


We saw lots of different animals at Amboseli, including zebras, wildebeests, elephants, ostriches, ground squirrels and a white headed go away bird. It was pretty hot and dry there. We also saw lots of monkeys and baboons. Some monkeys were doing acrobatics on monkey bars in a park. One baboon was sitting by the road with its thumb out, looking like it was hitching a ride somewhere.

Hitch hiking baboon
Hitch hiking baboon


After exploring Amboseli, we drove to Tsavo West. It was a long four-hour drive but very interesting with Masai herdsmen and lots of animal sightings. The scenery changed from dry, red country to basalt flow from the Shitani flow. There were beautiful green hills. In Tsavo, we went to see the roaring rocks and the hippos at Mzima Springs. Some of the hippos were out of the water. We got tired of driving around and called into the Kilaguni Lodge for lunch. It was so nice, we decided to return there for dinner after having a wash and clean up at our campsite.

Giraffe at Tsavo West
Giraffe at Tsavo West


Dinner was lovely. We had a nice candlelit table overlooking a waterhole and watched the animals coming in. We saw genet cats, jackals, elephants, zebras and Egyptian geese. We also saw some lovely little moles in the rock crevices and a rock hyrax. At lunchtime, we had seen zebras, baboons, wart hogs, marabou storks and elephants at the waterhole.

Eagle in Amboseli
Eagle in Amboseli


We spent one night camping at Diani beach before dropping the car back in Mombassa. It had been a fantastic two weeks of camping out with wild animals. We didn't see any leopards during our visits to the national parks but we did get to see one at a park outside Nairobi. I think we saw most of the other main African animals.



I think it may be too dangerous these days to do what we did. Even back then, we had a few scary experiences. We had a Masai warrior chase us with a spear when we stopped to take a photograph.

Curious monkey on our car
Curious monkey on our car


We also had a man in full camouflage uniform with a rifle try and get us to stop the car. Afterwards, we thought he could have wanted to check we weren't poachers, but we didn't stop as we were scared. We could have broken down miles from anywhere and this was in the days before mobile phones and PLBs (personal location beacons).

A giraffe checking us out
A giraffe checking us out


The wild animals could have been a problem too with charging elephants, hungry lions and trampling hippos. Luckily for us, there was plenty of food for the hungry lions as it was the wildebeest migration season and there were thousands of them for the predators to kill and eat.

Hornbill Tsavo West
Hornbill Tsavo West


It was a great adventure that I am so glad to have experienced it. I think these days you would have to pay to go on an organised safari tour, which could be very expensive.

Checking for animals
Checking for animals


I was on a high the whole time I was in East Africa. I could feel my adrenaline raging which I think was partly caused by stress worrying about wild mountains and wild animals. If you ever get the chance to go, you should go to Africa. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Road to Masai Mara
Road to Masai Mara
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Where: East Africa with the wild animals
Cost: Airfares, Accommodation, Safari fees
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