Out of Africa
Out of Africa. Exotic Africa and its exciting safaris when you get to lock eyes with a lion or a cheetah and freeze the moment for posterity. It is...
Exotic Africa and its exciting safaris when you get to lock eyes with a lion or a cheetah and freeze the moment for posterity. It is everybody’s dream. Mine too, luckily now, a fulfilled one
Nairobi, with a pleasant climate throughout the year, welcomes me with open arms. A timely escape from the great Indian summer ( imagine Hyderabad at 32 degrees !!).
I am quite amused by the cute little caravan planes of “Safarilink”, as Gilbert tells me that it is Kenya’s premier safari airline with a network of connecting domestic scheduled services to all the best safari destinations within Kenya and across the border into northern Tanzania- going to be our confident carriers next few days. Hopping into one ( carries 8 to 10 persons ), sitting just behind the pilot duo, I look down to view the beautiful landscape. We fly close to the ground, just below the clouds and sometimes on par with them, slashing through the misty wonders.
As we reach Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki, it is a different scene. Savannas abound with wildlife, providing the perfect setting for a nature lover. “Sweetwaters Tented Camp” is a sheltered retreat, clustered around a waterhole and set in the untouched calm of its own private reserve. I see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, gazelles, elephants, all lovable creatures roaming like pets in the compound. Silently they graze, pervading harmony and peace as they all share the same terra firma. I watch with wonderment, the sunrises and sunsets, as the silhouetted animals move gently against the faint sun rays. The classy tents built on stilts offer under canvas ambience with charming luxury. Great food and wines further add to my quiet experience. One day, an early morning game drive ends with a surprise “ Bush Breakfast”. Sitting under large trees as the birds chirp to the murmur of the nearby stream, it is a delightful way of breaking the routine fast.
During our safaris we see the often sought after “Big Five” game animals - the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Gilbert tells me that the members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. The big five are among the most dangerous, yet most popular species for big game hunters to hunt. Flocks of zebras, gazelles and various other deer species are seen regularly during our drives. Giraffes with their newborns present a pretty picture, mums and babies bonding in the morning sun.
We visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the conservancy and find it touching to see the orphaned and abused chimpanzees given lifelong refuge. The pretty keeper Letty, takes us around as I can perceive the love she has for these animals. Jane Goodall had certainly inspired many an environmentalist.
Ol Pejeta House is a gorgeous place, formerly owned by a rich Arab with a colourful character sketch. This super luxurious property comes with its own interesting stories and anecdotes about the previous owner. It spells class, with elegantly furnished rooms, suites, swimming pools, barbeque etc. But what attracts me is the huge willow tree overlooking the balcony and the hundreds of golden yellow weaver birds hanging upside down, fussing over the females as they inspect and assess the males’ nest building talents. I just fall in love with the scene and never want to leave the place !!
We go to visit Baraka, the Black Rhino who lost one eye in a fight and slowly losing the other to an infection. But he is cheerful and eats the dry grass from our trembling hands ( try approaching a pachyderm to pat him on the back !). Black rhinos are known to be very aggressive because of their territorial nature. Blind and fully tamed, Baraka no more poses danger, but wins our admiration, as he quietly goes about his 100 acre enclosure.
As we fly to the ever popular Masai Mara, I am full of expectation and exhilaration. The wildlife films that I saw as a child and the endless documentaries on National Geographic and Discovery, all quickly replay in my mind. We spot a few lions lazing around after a heavy meal and a cheetah basking in the sun. As we drive down to Mara Leisure Camp, we see the tall and sturdy Masais herding their cattle and their children attending schools. Majestic Masais clad in red, wave to us, and I find them quite friendly, contrary to popular belief.
Located along the Talek River, in the “Mara Leisure Camp”, my tent is picturesquely placed, on the bank of a stream. I hear the cowbells at dawn and dusk as they go for grazing in the park. Birds with unique bird calls regale me with their music, on lazy afternoons.
A hot air balloon ride, as the sun rises on the Masai Mara National Reserve is a memorable and an elating experience. Nothing can match the spectacle as one glides over the vast expanse, with aerial views of the animals grazing, frolicking, hunting and running for life. It is a different world, beautiful and pristine. The balloon ride ends with a fabulous champagne breakfast, where all the travellers bond and exchange notes. Sharing adventures across the globe, laughing and re-living the moments, it is a fabulous end to a splendid journey.
Will I go to Africa again? Yes, of course! When the good memories keep resurfacing, and the land beckons again and again with a warm heart, can anyone resist?
Immunizations for Yellow fever and Polio are compulsory, administered well in advance.
Kenya Airways from Mumbai has a short, non- stop 5 ½ hour flight to Nairobi.
Visa on arrival, costs US $ 50
SafariLink provides daily scheduled flights to the ever popular Masai Mara, Nanyuki & various other interesting destinations.