We didn't reach the Samburu National Reserve at the easy way from Nairobi from the south along mainly tarred roads. We came from the north from Marsabit and the Ethiopian border.
From Marsabit it was a long and rough ride of about 10 hours, though it was only 260 KMs. En route it was extremely hot and dusty. Most of the time the area was rather flat and we hardly saw any traffic. Only a few hours before we reached Archers Post, we saw scenic rocks and mountains at the background
Local public transportation, by the buses, is very well organized and, what is more important, it is very very cheap. Almost every Kenyan can afford it! Do not expect luxury inside the buses, do not expect smooth drive or comfortable ride, but it works good and you wont miss your destination.
Just to mentione, I went to the Bomas by the taxi. The ride wasn't much comfortable and it cost me something less than 10 euros. On my way back to the town I went with the City Hoppa bus and the same distance cost me 20 cents only.
Although I loved my trip to Kenya, I think we attempted to do too much in too short of a time. It seemed like we were constantly driving from one place to the next without enough time to just enjoy one place. Masa Marai is a great place to visit and it would be best to spend a few more days there and less running around to other spots. Just my opinion anyways. The roads can be dusty and hot, so if you can avoid constant driving on them, you will have a more relaxing trip.
Some streets at Nairobi look almost blocked by the cars and it's not during rush hours only. Would be very wrong saying, probably because they are not skillfull drivers. Most of this guys wouldn't have any problem to drive inside European cities, however, only if strictly respecting driving rules and habbits, which they in Kenya don't.....
On the road from Moyale at the border with Ethiopia to Marsabit and Samburu National Reserve we hardly saw any local transport. There must be some buses on this route. In one of the few small villages along the track we saw this open truck.
In many countries in Africa people travel at the top of open trucks. In Nigeria and Chad we saw very heavily loaded trucks with dozens of passengers, sometimes hanging above the transported cows.
In the 80s in Ghana I have travelled myself this way in open trucks.
In 2004 we entered Kenya by road, coming from Ethiopia. From the bordertown Moyale to our next stop Marsabit was a long drive of ten hours, because the road was in a rather bad condition. En route the landscape was dry and dusty. the wind was feeling like a hair-dryer. We saw many camels along the road.
From Moyale to Marsabit and from Marsabit to the Samburu National Reserve all the vehicles mostly travel in convoy to minimise the danger of attacks. Travelling in convoy means you have to leave very early or wait for hours. We decided to hire a ''man with a gun'' ourselves in Moyale.
Um.... never dared to get in one of these death traps myself.... don't recommend it, the drivers are undisciplined, not passed any kind of test, young, reckless, on drugs or alcohol. They speed and drive dangerously...... All of the accidents are generally involving and caused by a matatu, a coach or a lorry...
Getting jammed up against people like sardines is normal for Kenyans, but the locals are targets for thieves, losing mobile phones, money, shoes, glasses.....
Personally, I always travelled by car and generally with a driver or guard who was armed.
I would caution about using the local transport, matatus, it really is beyond basic and safety does not come into it. These buses are filled to the brim and are driven at high speed and totally without care. All too often there are matatu crashes. If possible it is better to hire a car if you are not on a group tour, bear in mind though that although you have your own transport, those matatus are still on the road causing a major hazard.
However, bearing all this in mind, I have to confess to not being able to resist the experience of being piled into a 14 seater bus making up the passenger count to approx 20 and taking a ride squashed side by side, with some hanging over me and onto the side of the vehicle and all for 18pence there abouts.
In the north of Kenya we travelled again with our own truck, hired in Arusha this time, after we had to leave our first truck in N'Djamena in Chad. Because of the problems in Darfur in Sudan, we couldn't travel overland and had to fly from Chad to Ethiopia.
In the south of Ethiopia this truck from Tanzania came to pick us up and to bring us to Dar es Salam at the end of our trip. The Tanzanian driver of the truck from Arusha couldn't enter Ethiopia without visa. So a Kenyan driver from Nairobi, who didn't need a visa, was needed to cross the Ethiopian border to pick us up in Turmi in South Ethiopia with the Tanzanian truck.
In Samburu National Reserve we had to say goodbye to this nice guy, because we should made a detour to the west and at this point he travelled straight to Nairobi, only 250 KM from here
With local busses and matutu's you can visit nearly every town and village. At Kitale are normal matutu's and Nissan matutu's for twice the price.
The bus and matutu parks are often rather chaotic, but the people are very friendly to show you the right matutu.
Hello. I can only answer for Kenya as I lived there for three years and visit frequently. The last time was November 2009. The general condition of Nairobi has improved greatly. The street families and street boys have been taken to churches or back to the villages and the street hawkers have been given a market in which to trade which means the streets are less crowded and it is safer to walk around Westlands and Sarit Centre, although I would never walk in Uhuru park without an escort. The potholes have all been filled in and there are now rules about how many people can be on board a matatu, everyone should have a seat. There are also some lady touts and lady drivers which means less aggression and slightly safer driving.
The main road from Nairobi to Mombasa was 75% dual carriageway which is a marvellous improvement. The lorries are regulated with regard to tonnage so that they don't break up the roads too soon. Most of the cars in Nairobi are automatic now which makes driving easier. The older matatus, buses and lories have been scrapped which make for cleaner driving and less of the vision obscuring diesel smoke which can be very dangerous.
If you are a man, you may consider travelling on the big coaches upcountry towards Kisumu. Ethiopia is a bit tricky. I am sure you are well aware of the dangers of hijacking and breakdowns.
You might consider going from Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond by train.
To be on the safe side, I would hire an airconditioned reliable 4wd with a competent driver who is also a naturalist. If that is not what you had in mind, travel very light and go by public transport. Always let people know where you are going and have a mobile phone. You know the drill re malaria and your shots!
Matatus, the local variation of shared minibuses are actually much cheaper - but I must say I decided against: they were more than overcrowded - usually with a couple of people standing on the open door and gripping firmly on the roof. let's say they did not look neither comfortable nor safe, especially because of the high speed. There are plenty of taxis around - but they are geared towars foreigners - hence the prices aren't as low as you would expect - not even after bargaining - but if you can share it, it's not too bad. As a rule of thumb, however, the price listed for a one way trip, can easily become the one for a return trip, including waiting time. No comment about the state of the cars: they are rustying away and are falling apart - at one point we drove into a mud pool and water entered the car from the bottom - leaving us laughing and with wet feet.
My husband told me specifically *DON'T get on a motorbike or in a matatu* so I disobeyed and did both. The bikes are reasonably well maintained, except I had a couple of back tyre punctures on the rough roads between my lodging and the main road.
Having been a Hot Biker Chic in the 60's I hadn't been on the back of a bike since then as my Dad explained about ending up as strawberry jam on the motorway. Now, my only option was to get on the back of a bike or walk. Actually, I could have got on the back of a bicycle, but the seat was a metal grille, not suited to my bum. Fortunately, everyone in Kenya has a mobile phone now, so I could order my bike by phone. However, they have such a thing as Kenyan Time which means they don't stick to it. Your Taxi Driver could be on his way to pick you up at 8.30am, but be a couple of hours away, possibly picking up a fare on the way. A Reliable Driver is worth his weight in gold and I had a few. Nelson, an old man who drove me around like he had a box of eggs on the back, Evans who was a younger man, but still careful. The most fun was with Ronny, the Lab Technician at the Facility I worked at. He was hilarious, full of life and a wonderful sense of humour. The fact that he didn't know where I was living was irrelevant. I also had a Boy Racer who was determined to get me there in the shortest possible time. My back and old slipped disc paid the price. As did his puncture and broken sump. The young will learn but not understand. Now I sound like an old fart.
The price I paid per trip was 100Ksh (about £1.00) which was a tad higher than usual, but they all think Mzungus (Europeans) are rolling in money. The sad fact is that they are on a budget just like everyone else. I will cover this point elsewhere in my Kenya Rambles.
This is supposed to be the "Highway", the main road connecting Mombasa and Nairobi.
Actually I am glad sure we only had to take it once, on our way to the Tsavo National Park. It is the same road that separates Tsavo east and Tsavo west.
Half of it (the one beginning from Mombasa, close to the Airport) about 50 km the road can hardly be called a road, not to speak of highway.
It is covered from side to side by holes, some as deep as 15 cm and more and wide. You will have to swerve around trucks that got stuck with brocken axis, flat tires etc, and of course avoid being hit by the mad speeding mini bus drivers. The mini busses are the local form of transportation - next to walking of course, if you can?t afford a car yourself (which of course most can?t).
After these 50 km?s (it took us about 2 hours to get there), the road suddenly changes. From there on it is maybe one of the best maintained roads in Kenya. Well paved, not a single hole.
I believe that it is far better to get a good local driver than to take a rent-a-car.
Local people have eyesights measured scoring about 5 or 6. And they also have their safari drivers network that they exchange informations in the field.
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