travel guide Masai Mara

Roho Ya Chui, Swahili for "soul of leopard", your partner for innovative training solutions in combination with safari packages and wildlife photography.

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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 s a I W a s W a M P N a T I o N a l P a R K with views down to the lowlands. Rooms are plain but clean and meals are available. 8 Getting There & Away From Kitale, catch an Endebess-bound matatu to the park junction (KSh100, 45 minutes), from where it's a 15-minute motorbike taxi ride (Ksh100 to Ksh150) to the park gate. Be sure to grab your driver's phone number so you can contact him for a ride back to Endebess. Saiwa Swamp National Park North of Kitale, the small, rarely visited Saiwa Swamp National Park (www.kws.; adult/child Us$25/15; h 6am-6pm) is a real treat. Originally set up to preserve the habitat of Kenya's only population of si- tatunga antelope, the 15.5-sq-km reserve is also home to blue, vervet and de Brazza's monkeys and some 370 species of birds. The fluffy black-and-white colobus and the impressive crowned crane are both pres- ent, and you may see Cape clawless and spot-throated otters (watchtower 4 is the best place from which to look for these). The park is only accessible on foot and walking trails skirt the swamp. Duckboards go right across it, and there are some rickety observation towers. Guides are not compulsory, though your experience will be greatly enhanced by tak- ing one. T Tours Maurice Sinyereri ToURs (% 0728272339; ornithological day tour Ksh2400) Expert bird guide Maurice has been in- volved with Saiwa since its earliest days and is a highly regarded guide to the park. Ask him about his bird-collecting past. 4 Sleeping Public Campsite caMPgRoUND $ (; camping Us$20; p ) A lovely site with flush toilets, showers, two covered cooking bandas and colobus in the trees above. Sitatunga Treetop House HUT $ (; tree house Us$50; p ) Perched on stilts overlooking the Saiwa swamp, this KWS tree house can sleep three in a double and single bed. It has electricity, bedding and mosquito nets. There are no cooking facilities, but you can use those at the camp- site next door. Sirikwa Safaris gUEsTHoUsE $$ (Barnley's guesthouse; % 0723917953; www.sirikwa; camping Ksh500, tents excl breakfast s/d Ksh1500/2500, s/d with shared bathroom excl breakfast Ksh4500/6000) Owned and run by the family that started Saiwa, this beautiful old farmhouse is 11km from the swamp. You can chose between camping in the grounds, sleeping in a well-appointed safari tent or, best of all, opting for one of the two bed- rooms full of National Geographic maga- zines, old ornaments and antique sinks. The mother and son who run it will en- tertain you for hours with stories from their more than 70 years in Kenya. Traditional English meat-and-two-veg-style meals are available (dinner KSh1500) and they can organise superb excursions, including or- nithological tours of the Cherangani Hills and Saiwa Swamp. It's 5km north of the park turn-off road on the Kitale–Lodwar road. 8 Getting There & Away The park is 18km northeast of Kitale. Take a matatu towards Kapenguria and get out at the second signposted turn-off (KSh80, 15 min- utes), from where it's a 5km walk or Ksh100 moto-taxi ride. SAIWA SWAMP NATIONAL PARK Why Go Kenya's smalle national park has great appeal to ornitholo- gi s, thanks to profuse birdlife. It's also the mo reliable place to see the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. When to Go The park can be visited at any time, though access roads become very slippery after rain. Practicalities This is an easy and cheap park for independent travellers to visit, but a knowledgeable guide is useful. Budget Tips Stay in Kitale and catch a matatu to the junction for the park. Walk to the gates and explore the park with- out the aid of a guide. 1 4 5

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