Continued from What Kenya Did To Me,- Kibera Part 1
Ashnil Samburu Camp: February 21-22, 2016
We leave the main road and turn onto an access road to Samburu Nature Reserve. The jeeps are stopped and each guide pops the roof so we can stand and take photos from inside. We are immediately faced with a large group of gazelles. Some are grants, some thomsons, I hear the other members of our tour saying, but I can’t tell the difference. I just want to take pictures of them. They are everywhere. Some are standing up to reach into the tree limbs where they graze on bits of tender shoots; others lie under trees for shade. I see large anthills we are told are termite mounds; numerous little nests hang in trees with yellow birds fluttering about. A crane flies about our heads and I follow him and capture him in mid-flight. Yay! First exciting shot! Monique and I are the greenhorns among our group of pro- and semi-pro photography enthusiasts. I am having sensory overload, so much to see. We head for the lodge to get settled, then it will be an afternoon game drive.
If I was excited about the crane, you should have seen me with the Grevy’s zebra – this is where most of them live. They are extremely rare – fewer than 2,000 remaining in the wild – and hunted for their extraordinary coats. We are fortunate, a male strolls by. He is alone, walking a steady pace forward and seems to know exactly where he wants to go.
We spend the day combing the countryside, up over hills, following paths and making our own trails. The animals pay no attentions to us as they move to the river to drink in its coolness and bathe. We spend some special time with a lovely ham of a giraffe and then he is joined by two others. ( top photo) They have long black tongues and their eyebrows give them an expression of superiority. I love them instantly, they seem harmless and cooperative.
The sun is going down, the full moon has taken its place in the sky and we catch a lucky break – we get to see a pride of lions out hunting by its light.
Monique and I change into our dinner attire. The staff have put together cocktail hour down by the river. We take pictures of the moon shining above the water and we all laugh like pirates at the spoils of our day.
I could smell the turmeric, cumin and coriander before I knew what was being served. The curry is fantastic and I return for a second plate. Several of our group who had done this tour before regale us with tales from past adventures. One by one the group retires for bed. Monique and I stay up drinking some beers, clinking our glasses together in a toast and promising not to waste a moment of our short time here. “We can sleep when we are dead,” we giggle. We can’t believe where we are. We sit in lounge chairs talking, enjoying the moonlight. When we finally turn in for the night one of the staff walks us to our room. We thought he was making sure we found our way to our tent. He was making sure we didn’t fall off the path and get dragged away to be eaten later.
Sometime during the night a throaty roar blares like a foghorn and we bolt upright in our beds. “What the hell was that?” one of us says. Next comes a the sound of animals pouncing on the canvas tent overhead. We simultaneously leap from our beds and dash to the door in our skivvies — pulling up just short of exiting as it dawns on us the roaring was right outside.
You can call us fools, but the urge to have a look was overwhelming.
“On three,” Monique whispers, and we count up together.
“One….. two….. three.” She yanks the zipper up from the floor, and I peel the flap back. The roaring trumpets again and we shoot backwards, stumbling over each other. I toot and we both start laughing so hard the roof-dancing baboons depart and whatever was roaring outside quiets down.
The early morning arrives quickly and we are up before the others, getting coffee and taking a seat in the kitchen for breakfast. Our group filters in slowly and the talk is all about the lion that had walked by the river, just inspecting his territory, being king of the jungle. Next is a scramble to gather our camera bags, hats, bug spray and suntan lotion, the jeeps are heading out. We are off in search of whatever the day offers up.
The light is beautiful this morning, making the grass appear as strains of gold. We are slowly meandering around. Eric is calmly talking to the guides on the radio when we suddenly pull a u-turn and accelerate through the bush to a bridge crossing the river. He says nothing about where we are going, but the landscape is a bit more forested on the other side. At the entrance is this sign: Where Nature Defines Itself. A lioness adopted a baby oryx here 2001-2002.
We four-wheel to an outcrop of large boulders where several jeeps are lined up. I hear camera shutters rhythmically clicking at high speed. I don’t see anything to photograph. “What are we looking at Mo? I don’t see anything.” Someone from another tour group yells out in a sarcastic voice, “The big cat on the rock!” I still can’t see it. I ask Monique to point toward it for me, to give some direction to his location but it is difficult to do – how do you tell one rock or shrub from another? Finally, at the flick of a tail I see him, his camouflage veil is lifted and my eyes can see him plain as day.
Having spent a considerable amount of time watching the leopard we leave him on the rock and go in search of elephants at the river’s edge.
Suddenly there’s someone shouting rapidly on the radio and we’re again tearing through the brush, back to the ledge. The leopard had moved up into a tree where he had a carcass hidden. He brings it down and moves it across the road, threading between the numerous jeeps. Leopards hide their kill to protect it from being stolen. Hard not to notice how the food chain works here.
We travel along the far side of the river. We can see our accommodation directly across on the other bank, but we have been brought here because it is an access point to the river for the elephants. We watch them approach from far back; they head towards us in a neatly organized procession. The elephants make my mouth hang open, I have never seen anything like this parade. They walk within meters of us and don’t waver a step, slipping between jeeps and descending the bank to the river.
They stand still for long moments, frozen, while one of the youngest babies lies down in the water to rest from the long walk. I feel like I am intruding on a family moment but I can’t tear my eyes away, it is magical.
Please join me as we head to Sweetwater’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. In What Kenya did to me: Ol Pejeta, Part 3 And if you missed Part One of my African adventure, here it is. What Kenya Did To Me,- Kibera Part 1
Happy Travels from Maritime Mac Please
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