23-Mar-2009 - We have been back for some weeks now and reality has finally set in! I have been busy sorting and editing some 1100 photographs taken during our whole two week visit to Kenya, the highlight of which was, of course, our safari organised by you.

It was easier all round, rather than try to direct him to where we were staying, to meet Peter Kariuki in a car park in Westlands which is what we did at 0630 on Monday 9th February for the journey North to Samburu which was the first stage of our 8 day safari. From the start, we were impressed with Peter's ability as a driver and guide. He is a very competent, thoughtful and considerate driver who never once during the many miles of our journey slipped from that position. His driving was exemplary and we very much enjoyed his company at close quarters for the 8 days we were all together.

The drive to Samburu was largely uneventful until just after Isiolo when the road - running alongside the new one under construction - was dreadful. We, nevertheless, arrived at Elephant Bedroom Camp in time for a late lunch, short pumsika and our first game drive of many to come. Samburu is an excellent game park with masses of animals to be seen and photographed. The tented camp, which was very comfortable, was staffed by the very nicest team of people who could not have been more attentive and kind to us. We had two nights there which were bliss and we were sorry to leave on Wednesday 11th for Sweetwaters Sanctuary. When we left Elephant Bedroom Camp, the whole staff turned out to bid us farewell. I am sure that they must do this for everyone, but we were very touched, nevertheless.

The tented camp at Sweetwaters was in direct contrast to Elephant Bedroom Camp. It is much more civilised and based on the main house with a large number of semi permanent tents laid out in the grounds of the house. It is, of course, part of the Serena empire and is a lot more touristy than Elephant Bedroom Camp which was well and truly in the bush. Nonetheless, there was plenty to see, not least many spectacular views of the mountain as the sun changed the colours and the shadows throughout the day. We enjoyed ourselves there.

Our journey from Sweetwaters to Nakuru National Park took us round the Aberdares and some wonderful scenery. Peter certainly knew his way from Sweetwaters to the main highway to Nyahururu where we stopped to have a look at Thompson's Falls and what had been known in our day as Barry's Hotel. We were a bit startled to be invited to pay to take the car in to see the falls, but Peter paid the fee as there seemed to be no alternative. Although it was irritating to be pestered by some locals for us to take their photographs, they soon realised that we were a hopeless bet and left us alone to look at the falls and to wander up to the hotel which, at least from the outside, looked charming. We did not have time to look inside.

Next stop by arrangement was at Pembroke House Gilgil where I had been at school from May 1944 until December 1949. I have been back many times since, but it is always a thrill to walk around as memories of those happy days flooded into my mind. We did not need to linger for very long here and were soon back on to the new (to us anyway) road to Nakuru.

I remember Nakuru Park long before it was accorded that title. There was a little on the lake, like flamingo although Elementaita was more crowded with flamingo normally. Otherwise, there were always lots of monkeys around but nothing much more. This park is now a very good place to see game and it was on our way roughly from Sweetwaters to the Mara anyway.

Flamingo Hill Camp where we stayed was excellent again. The staff were especially nice to us here and we thoroughly enjoyed our one night there before setting off for the long drive to the Mara.

Peter drove extremely well as usual. The main Rift Valley road was relatively new and in outstandingly good condition. We had a small hold up on the outskirts of Naivasha, but other drivers sorted this out while we scouted the problem and proceeded on our way. Once we turned off this main highway, however, the road in parts was appalling and it took a great deal of concentration on Peter's part not to make it unnecessarily uncomfortable for us. He drove especially well on this leg.

We finally reached the Mara where we had planned to stay three nights. The Mara has always been our favourite - and we have over the years visited Tsavo East and West, Amboseli, Meru, Ngoro Ngoro, Serengeti and Ruaha. The Mara lived up to its reputation and our expectations. There had been recent rain in the park - not enough to make the roads too muddy for 4-wheel drive vehicles, but enough to make the grass green (but not too tall to see the animals) which was quite different to all the other areas where we had been so far.

We saw everything that we would have wanted to see with the help of Peter who certainly knew his way around, even if sometimes the local Masai guides did not do everything to help him!

Our first impression of Ilkeliani Tented Camp was not very good, I am afraid. I can only put this down to the contrast between Sweetwaters and Flamingo Hill, which were relatively close to habitation, and the wilderness of the position of Ilkeliani outside the Talek Gate of the park on the bank of an almost completely dried up river, the long drive there and the distance of our tent from the mess tent. We could not have been more mistaken: this is an excellent camp. It is basic but it is extremely well run by a most pleasant manager (evidently a friend of Peter) and a well motivated and charming staff. Ilkeliani Tented Camp had our vote very soon and rounded off the most spectacular phase of our safari. One should always leave a party on a high: we certainly left the Mara in that frame of mind.

The long drive back to Nairobi was interesting and once again Peter was the model driver. We stopped briefly in Narok for a leg stretch and to take pictures. We stopped again at the foot of the escarpment to visit the little chapel built during the war by Italian POW - I remember it being built and passed it on the way from Pembroke House at the end of my first term there. We didn't pass it on the way to school because the old road into the Rift Valley then went close to the Ngong Hills before descending into the valley. The then new road was complete a few weeks later.

We stopped again at the top of the escarpment for final photographs and were soon back in Nairobi where Peter left us outside my brother-in-law's flat. We were very sorry indeed to take leave of him. He had been a wonderful driver, guide, companion and friend for 8 days. Peter had an excellent eye for game and that he and his vehicle were always immaculately presented. We wish him very well with this report and have just posted a photograph to him.

Diana and I could not have enjoyed it more. Thank you and Peter for making it so special. We intend to come back to Kenya and will certainly be in touch for our next safari. Meanwhile we shall try to tell as many people as possible about you and your Go-Africa Safaris.

Thank you

Jake Francis-Jones