Safaris

It’s Tuesday now.  Since last I wrote, we went on safari with the company Adventure threesixty (Adventure 360) in the Samburu Reserve and the Olpejeta Conservancy.  Both places are pretty close to Nanyuki, within three hours journey of Daraja Academy.  

On Friday, we were just about all ready to go at 9am when Joseph and John arrived.  Joseph had come the previous day to meet me.  As the trip from Nairobi is quite long, he, John, and Charity had gotten decided to stay nearby overnight.  

Before 9 am – Joseph and John were always early – they arrived, ready to fill the vans and to meet the group.  In a circle, we introduced ourselves and then we were away … with a rather long stop in Nanyuki to get money for the group.  It seems that the students generally only withdraw or exchange what they think will be absolutely necessary to spend on souvenirs, though budgeting for many doesn’t occur over the days.  Perhaps this is what I should consider bringing into my travel briefing before any future Jan Term class:  when to exchange and how to budget your money.  I think now that this is not always a lesson that college students have mastered or even encountered.  

Unfortunately, any time there is a stop at Nanyuki Mall, what should take about 20 minutes, ends up taking an hour… but eventually, we were on our way to Samburu Reserve.  

I started reading The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin again.  I finished much of it on the ride to the reserve.  

At the Reserve, as our entrance fees were being paid, I noticed a bright pink flower, seemingly bursting from a spindly bush with no leaves.  A desert rose.  Such powerful splashes of color in a very beige and dusty green landscape.  It shocked my eyes with its boldness, refusal to blend in.  Perhaps there’s something to be said for such a flower being a symbol of women’s empowerment.  Refusal to blend in.  Yes.  

From the first moments at the reserve, we started to see animals:  baboon, impala, dik dik, guinea fowls, and others.  Our first game drive began on our way to the Sopa Lodge, where we would be staying for two nights.  

Meals there are selected from a prix fixe menu, as meals were included in our trip price.  

In every case, the meals were remarkable.  The soups were smooth, flavorful, and evoked a sense of home in their warmth.  The entrees consistently found us in silence at the table, caught up in relishing each bite of the meal to the delay of conversation.  After each meal, there was dessert, generally either fresh fruit or a chocolaty treat.  Since I’m gluten free, it was all about the fresh fruit.  Papaya is super popular and common here, though not a favorite of mine.  I would pass that off to someone else and eat the other fruits like passion fruit, pineapple, and mango.  

The safari was well structured to always give us a little time to rest in the afternoon.  

Around 4pm, we headed out again, seeing more animals, including the small dik did and the large elephant.  

When we returned that evening, it was to shower and dress for dinner.   The students connected with the staff at the Lodge to learn more about identifying stars in the sky.  Even though we were at a hotel, the sky was so clear so as to see the lighted edge of the Milky Way.  I wish I could have taken a picture to share that twinkling clarity.  

At around 9pm, my mom and I left the students to their bonding and writing.  It would be an early night for us.  

It was an early morning for us all on Saturday with only a little rushed tea or coffee before we left and definitely worth an early departure.  That was the day we saw three lions in the morning and one on the hunt in the afternoon.   
When we returned, it was to a full buffet breakfast with all of the fruit juices, coffee, tea, cereals, yogurts, omelet and sausages.  By the end of the game drive and the breakfast, it was time to take naps … which is what most of us did.  Some made their way to the pool, but Mama and I went to the room, chatted, watched a baboon carrying her baby make her way across our patio.  At Sopa Lodge, there is no fence but there is a watering hole.  Sightings of animals like warthog, impala, baboon, and a number of birds are frequent.  

After another extensive bounty for lunch, we all headed out again for a 3pm game drive.  The bull elephant that we had seen earlier that morning that we had thought had been kicked out of its herd, had found it again.  We saw it with a large herd, including a baby elephant.  I had never been so close though I would find myself even closer to an elephant the following day.  That night we also saw another lion, stalking her prey, and eventually we followed her for a time along the road.  At one point, my mother thought that she might be leading us to an ambush, and knowing now a little about lions, it well could have been the case.  Luckily, this time when an animal went off road, we didn’t follow.  

On Sunday, we had another early morning game drive, which would result in two extremely rare occurrences:  the sighting of the kill of an African hare by a silver-backed jackal AND a pack of African wild dogs just after achieving a kill.  One of the drivers, Joseph, said that in 15 years, he had only seen African wild dogs/African hunting dogs twice.  

After breakfast, we all started on our way to Sweetwaters Serena Camp in the Olpejeta Conservancy.  We made a stop at the Samburu village, where we learned about the Samburu, who could be described as cousins of the Maasai.  Culturally, they are very similar, though there are different customs.  

After another 3 hours, we stopped in Nanyuki town to get more money and snacks, and then we were off to Olpejeta.  When we arrived, there were rhinos at the watering hole of the hotel.  How’s that for up close and personal?  

In just a short stay at Sweetwaters, we plumped after eating from the overflowing buffet; we had the most luxurious warm showers; and stayed in tents that felt like mini-palaces and came with bed warmers. Instead of the turn down service at Sopa Lodge, we all came to our rooms in the evening to find hot water bottles in our beds.  My mother, in her king-size bed, had TWO!  She said that it was her best sleep of her entire life.  While we were there, she spoke of wanting to stay longer at Sweetwaters, wanting to come back with her sisters, and loving “camping”.  My mother has only been camping really once in her life and hated it.  I count this as much a success as having her say that she was the dirtiest she had ever been after a dusty game drive in Samburu Reserve.  I recognize that these are perhaps strange joys to have.  I just like that my mother is doing new things in her retirement.  

At Olpejeta, we also saw the chimpanzees at the conservancy there as well as the rhinos (the 3 Northern White Rhinos, 3 of the 4 that exist in the world) outside of the rhino conservancy.  Inside the conservancy, we met Baraka, the blind black rhino.  So many of the animals that we saw have been hunted, tortured, used for bush meat, and driven to the point of extinction.  Conservancies help to keep that from happening, but they need more support to do that work.  I’m interested in learning what more I can do to help.  

While at the Rhino conservancy, I also met Agnes, who is the one woman working in the field at the conservancy.  I got her information to share with Stephen at Daraja.  The conservancy might be a great place for an internship, and, if not, it might be wonderful for the students to meet Agnes and have her speak to them about environmental work.  

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Olpejeta at the last day (Monday) had us in a morning game drive, coming back for breakfast, having a bit of a rest in our rooms, heading out, the rhino conservancy, driving to the equator for a demonstration of how water operates differently depending on what side of the equator you are (very interesting), picking up Charity, the owner of the company, and returning to Daraja for a relaxing lunch and return to our normal eating schedule.  

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