travel guide Masai Mara

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M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya W E s T E R N H I g H l a N D s M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya g E T T I N g T H E R E & a W a y M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya E l D o R E T through the floorboards if you used one), but they'll bring out the inner Tarzan in even the most obstinate city slicker. KEEP Bandas BaNDa $ (% 0704851701; camping in safari tent per person Ksh650, banda per person with shared bathroom Ksh900) S The bandas here are almost swallowed up by jungle, but even though all you get is a small hut with no electricity and communal cold-water showers, it's very atmospheric. Meals (KSh350 to KSh500) can be arranged with the caretaker if you don't wish to self-cater in the basic kitchen. oRondo Retreat gUEsTHoUsE $$$ (% 0733299149, 056-2030268; www.rondoretreat. com; s/d full board Ksh17,600/22,000; p ) To arrive at Rondo Retreat is to be whisked back to 1922 and the height of British rule. Consisting of a series of wooden bungalows filled with a family's clutter, this gorgeous and eccentric place is a wonderful retreat from modern Kenya. The gardens are ab- solutely stunning and worth visiting even if you're not staying. Make sure you're around for the afternoon tea and cake on the verandah. Dinner is a fairly formal affair: you should dress smart (no shorts). Profits go to a Christian charity. 8 Getting There & Away KAKAMEGA FOREST NATIONAL RESERVE Matatus heading north towards Kitale can drop you at the access road, about 18km north of Kakamega town (Ksh80). It's a well-signposted 2km walk from there to the park office and Udo's. KAKAMEGA FOREST RESERVE Regular matatus link Kakamega with shinyalu (Ksh70), but few go on to Isecheno. shinyalu is also accessed by a rare matatu service from Khayega. From shinyalu you will probably need to take a boda-boda to Isecheno (Ksh100). The improved roads are still treacherous after rain and you may prefer to walk once you've seen the trouble vehicles can have. shinyalu is about 7km from Khayega and 10km from Kakamega. From shinyalu it's 5km to Isecheno. The dirt road from Isecheno continues east to Kapsabet, but transport is rare. Eldoret P OP 289,000 The Maasai originally referred to this area as eldore (stony river) after the nearby Sosiani River, but this proved too linguistically chal- lenging for the South African Voortrekkers who settled here in 1910 and they named their settlement Eldoret instead. In 2008 Eldoret achieved notoriety when 35 people (mostly Kikuyus) were burnt alive in a church on the outskirts of town. This incident was the largest single loss of life during the 2007 post-election violence. Today, Eldoret is a thriving service town straddling the Kenya–Uganda highway. It's the principal economic hub of western Ken- ya, but for the traveller there is little to see and even less to do. The highlight is a visit to the Doinyo Lessos Creameries Cheese Factory (Kenyatta st; h 8am-6pm) to stock up on any one of 20 different varieties of cheese. 4 Sleeping White Highlands Inn HoTEl $ (% 0734818955; Elgeyo st; s/d Ksh2000/2500; p ) In a quiet corner on the edge of town, this place offers good value. Its spacious rooms were so spotless that we actually lay in the bathtub as opposed to just looking at it wist- KAKAMEGA FOREST Why Go For a rare chance to see a unique rainfore ecosy em with more than 330 spe- cies of birds, 400 species of butterflies and seven different primate species, including the rare de Brazza's monkey. During darkness, hammer-headed fruit bats take to the air. When to Go The be viewing months are June, Augu and October, when many mi- grant bird species arrive. October also sees many wildflowers bloom, while December to March are the drie months. Practicalities As the northern section of the fore is managed by KWS and the south- ern section by the Kenyan Fore Department, it is not possible to visit the whole park without paying both sets of admission charges. Both areas have their pros and cons. Budget Tips Entry fees to the southern Kakamega Fore Reserve are lower, and accom- modation generally cheaper, than in the northern Kakamega Fore National Reserve, so it makes sense for budget travellers to base themselves here. 1 3 8

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