Our adventures in Kenya began at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta airport. As Shawn Billerman and I landed, we felt like little kids, peeking out the window and trying to believe that we were finally actually in Africa! I actually bit my tongue to make sure that I was awake. Inside the airport, while waiting to retrieve our luggage, we were greeted by a nice big sign that said "Smile. You're in Kenya." So we did!
A few of us started searching for wildlife right at the airport, while waiting for everyone to arrive on their respective flights. Some superb starlings and pied crows came to feed on our muffin crumbs. We would later find out that these birds were dirt common, but we couldn't help but be excited initially.
We eventually managed to leave the airport, after some delayed flights, lost luggage, and getting a new van (one broke down!). On the way out of Nairobi, we passed through jua kali areas. Here, hundreds of poor workers live, make, and sell goods ranging from chickens and animal products, to wooden furniture, to tires (spelled 'tyres' - British influence?). The word literally means "hot sun."
We drove for a few hours, passing from grassy shrub to the wetter valley where many crops such such as (Del Monte) pineapple, coffee, and tea grow. We stopped for lunch at a very unique restaurant called the Trout Tree; a hidden tropical oasis along a river, surrounded by dessicated bush land. Just about everything on the menu includes trout, which is farmed in the ponds behind the restaurant. The black-and-white colobus monkeys enjoyed trying to take our food. We watched one man's toast get snatched.
After the Trout Tree, we drove on through Nanyuki and finally reached the Mpala Ranch. At last, we saw some "charismatic megafauna:" plains zebra, giraffes, dikdiks, Thomson's gazelles, impala, Grant's gazelles, duiker, elephants, mongoose, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and maybe more - all on our first day! Not to mention the numerous bird species, a task which I will leave to Shawn the expert (and keeper of the bird list). I don't know what time I actually fell asleep, but it was not late at all. I actually passed out so solidly that I did not hear a single animal noise in the night...