In conjunction with Savage Wilderness Adventures
Written by Tim Shaw
Photos by Peter Meusburger and Tim Shaw
We are always stoked to use kayaking as a means to explore, go on adventures and see new parts of the world. When traveling with kayaking as a goal we end up in places and seeing things way off the beaten track. We are even more stoked, to aid others in this adventure. This years Kenya trip was no exception!
Our trip would include, crazy Kenya driving, flat tires, Jungle bashing, and even a first descent!
For most, the adventure started with finding our driver Nicholas at the Airport in Nairobi. For Krista, it would be canceled flights and just trying to get here in time for the start of the trip. In the end, Krista made it just in time to paddle on the first day after an absolute epic getting here.
Day One, we found an already high Tana River, this was however to be one of the lowest flows we would have all trip. We fired up the Dogs Back Rapid right off the bat and the highwater theme was set.
High water meant the Tana, the main river in the Sagana area was mostly way above the level that we wanted. This had the side effect of allowing us to explore many of the smaller less paddled rivers and sections. This often ended or started in jungle bashing on beta that is a few years old.
The first half of the trip went by really fast with our slip and sliding down to the Thiba, getting super stoked on the Upper and Lower Gura thanks to great beta from James. High water day on the Pumphouse section on the Tana. Anne and I getting acquainted with how things work in Kenya. The theme for all the river sections was continuous and often only a few eddies and the water up in the trees.
Camp at Savage Adventures was fantastic. Right beside the Tana river in a beautiful location. We stayed in little cabins with solar showers and electricity. This was camping in style! Food was not fancy but certainly hearty and delicious. On warm mornings we were greeted by monkeys and all sorts of geckos and lizards.
The crew headed off on safari for a couple of days. Anne and I stayed to check out a couple of rivers that we wanted to paddle with the team the following week. We headed off to the Rubingazi, this is when it all started. When traveling in warm places like Kenya it is always inevitable that at least a few in the group will get sick. By the end of the day, I was not happy. The next day turned into a Doctors visit in Sagana rather than another day of paddling. That afternoon the crew arrived back and we learned that Phil was not feeling well either. The following morning Courtney had joined the sick team. Luckily the Antibiotics I had were starting to work. Peter decided that his Life Straw drink bottle and crushing Vitamin C kept him from getting sick.
With more rain in the forecast, we prepared for even more high water for the second half of the trip. After all, this is the rainy season so I am told there is always rain in the forecast haha. We headed back to the Gura. The Upper was about the same flow as the previous week. At the takeout for the Upper Anne, Krista and I headed down the lower. We reached the Tana confluence, what was before a slow flat pool was now a raging wave train and the large boulders in the first big rapid were completely gone. Tana was coming up and coming up big. The water just hadn’t made it to camp that morning about 50Km away. We committed to a massively high Tana. 3 Rapids to the bridge, first one down. Scout and portage at the second. Then a scout of the 3rd, better make the takeout! The Upper Tana below the takeout bridge is gnar at a low flow let alone at high flow.
Pulling into the takeout, wouldn’t call it an eddy! I found Phil PFD on, anchored to the bank by a throw bag ready to grab me. Super stoked on the teamwork and Phil’s initiative to make sure we all got out ok.
Epic jungle basting the following day on the Nyamindi brought us to the stunning Natural bridge.
With lots of rain overnight, James went on an epic driving mission. Driving around for 9hours that morning scouting and checking out rivers for us to paddle. THANKS JAMES! He found us an unpadded section on the Gura River. After a quick google earth scout, I decided we should check it out. We found one giant class 2+ rapid from start to finish with a couple class 3 rapids to keep you on our toes. With few eddies and lots of blind corners, we had to take it slow. This was a real team effort! We decided that having an Upper Upper Gura was silly and Named the section the Maple section.
Our last day we spent most of the morning driving around looking at rivers that were coming up and already the highest level of the trip! In the end, Glen (Lead instructor from Savage) Anne, Krista Courtney and I paddled a charging Pump House to Question Mark on the Tana. We were then treated to the craziest driving any of us had ever seen as we drove into Nairobi in rush hour traffic. Who would have thought that a two-lane road could be turned into a 6 lane road with a little Kenya imagination.
The following morning before flying out, we received a message from James. Photos of camp, the river had flooded the paths and walkways. Lucky the crew at camp raised the walking bridge up clear of the water.
Photo: James Savage - Looking across camp, normally grass...
After some more epic Nairobi driving through traffic, we found ourselves at the airport waiting for our flights. After all air travel is all about hurrying up and then waiting haha.
Casual 26hours of flying and we were back in New Zealand. It can be very surreal how fast we can now get from one side of the world to the other. Looking forward to next Fall's trip! Keep an eye on AQOutdoors.com for when and where and come and join us on an epic adventure.