East Africa: Safari and Warriors

Reticuated Giraffe - A Samburu Special
Reticulated Giraffe – A Samburu Special

“There was Never Another Time Like that First Time in Africa” – The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway, 1936

Day 1: Arrive into Nairobi.  First impression: Kenyans must be the loveliest people in the world.  Even those who have nothing give smiles that melt your heart – smiles that can’t be expressed in words, smiles that ask for absolutely nothing in return.  Most important lesson: slow down and relax, I am in Kenya. “A hasty person misses the sweet things. – Swahili Proverb.

Day 2: Samburu National Reserve Lodging: Larsen’s Tented Camp Samburu – a wild and little visited region well know for its spectacular scenery and wildlife not found in the South – reticulated giraffes, Grey Zebras, the gerenuk antelope and Somali ostriches are some of the “specials” of the Samburu reserve. Just after coasting through this zone, we spot elephants, élans, waterbuck and the funny “dik dik”.  The colourful name of the latter is mentioned prominently and with laughter by all my safari mates and on my videos.

Dik Dik
Dik Dik

Lodging: Larsen’s Tented Camp:  Bumping along at a great speed along bright red colored clay roads toward the Samburu village, my husband shouted “simama”, the Swahili word for stop.  Alas we have spotted the elusive lion and our driver, Peter, backed the Land Cruiser up until the lioness, actually two lionesses came into range. The five of us, along with Peter and our guide, George, jerked to our feet and to capture the duo with our cameras and our binoculars.  The Lionesses lumbered forward, as dozens of sharp-antlered Oryx’s held their breath and a couple of decoy Impalas danced daringly nearby.  A closer look and we could see that the jaws of the lionesses bloodied and wet, and we now understood.  The laboured trot and the odd behaviour of the surrounding animals.  The Oryx’s were merely mourning that one of their own had been sacrificed.  While they grouped together in safety, one still had to be the victim in this cycle of life.  Two lionesses together would not have wasted their time hunting only a small impala and so today for dinner, it would be the Oryx.  The daring impalas nearby were only watching to insure that the lionesses indeed had satiated their appetite and were heading for home.  They saw the huntresses until they crossed the dirt road in front of our waiting Land Cruiser. We had hoped to see one of these predatory felines since our arrival into Samburu Game reserve the previous day, and happening upon the two killers just after a “kill” was an amazing spectacle.  When the lions approached our vehicle and walked exhaustively, and hair-raisingly close, we put away the binoculars and looked the animals in the eyes. S o brave we were, only because we knew that the ladies had already finished their dinner and after such a fight were tired and heading back to their pride.

The Lioness after a Kill
The Lioness after a Kill

As a guest of Micato, we were invited to visit the village of the local Samburu tribe.  The village Chief and his son welcomed us to their tiny village, a rare opportunity to see how this fascinating nomadic cattle-raising culture live.  A highlight for me was watching a dance that challenged all of the villages’ unmarried young bachelors to show their skill of jumping in place, the highest jumpers attracting the attention of the young maidens, also dancing and singing nearby.

The Samburu Tribe showing their Jumps
The Samburu Tribe showing their Jumps

Each family had a tiny hut made of twined wood and cow dung with one tiny room.  The parents and children all sleep on the floor and their smaller live stock are kept in a corral just in front of their hut.  All of the 24 families that make up the village have huts that encircle the village with an outer protective wall of thorns and wooden vines to help deter lion and leopard attacks.  Young warriors take turns guarding the perimeter.  Husbands may have more than one wife in different huts.  The children go to Catholic mission schools nearby.  The men are nomadic and travel with their cattle to green pastures, away for 4 months at a time.  All of their wealth is kept in the form of live-stock, not notes or other goods.  The Samburu are simple, but happy.  They are gorgeous people with elaborate and colourful traditional dress.  They are one of hundreds of tribes and sub-tribes in Kenya and in Africa.  Our Land Cruiser made its way on and off a maze of roads until reaching the hill top summit.  Here at the most spectacular spot with views of the glorious mountains, where expansive plains and sheltering sky mingle, our guides surprised us with “Sundowners”.  It was the first time that we actually stepped out of the vehicles and set foot on the game reserve.  It was slightly nerve-racking as everyone watched their backs for an elusive lion or charging buffalo.  The Micato team assured us they were on full watch as they set up a full bar on the hood of the Land Cruiser.  Drinks in hand we toasted the burning African sun and our good fortune of tracking the pair of lionesses earlier in the day.  As laughter rang out so did the clouds, which broke with a sudden down pour.  The cocktail party continued from within our three jeeps, parked at the summit overlooking the wild valley below, as rain continued to fill the mighty Uwaso Nyiro River.

Sundowners!
Sundowners!

The day was long and busy but infinitely rewarding in a way that only Africa can be.  Our tented camp alongside the mighty and heaving Uwaso Nyiro River looked slightly vulnerable next to such a giant tonight, but we laughed if off.  It was wonderful to watch the movement and the rip tides, which appeared higher than the land. I have seen the Amazon, and the Nile, and the Rio Grande, but I have never seen a river as alive as this one.  I said to myself this is REAL Africa, the Africa of dreams, of “Out of Africa” and of “West with the Night”, it is just more powerful here.  We went to sleep lulled by the sound and movement of the water.  By breakfast however, the water appearing to be higher than land, was not just an illusion, it really was surging and spilling.  By the end of breakfast, the water levels had made their way towards the tented camp and the 16 passengers and 6 drivers and guides were quickly bidding farewell of the camp team.  What happens next will forever be ingrained in my mind when I think of Africa.  It was an incredible adventure that no amount of money could have bought.  It was confirmation of two incredible brands and products – Micato Safaris and Toyota Land Cruiser.  It has a sad and trying ending for the local people.  It was perhaps “another day at the office” for our drivers and guides from Micato, it was scary, and exhilarating, and trying of the 16 travelers that made up our group.  It was in essence the real Africa!

Elephant - One of The Big Five
Elephant – One of The Big Five

Day 3: Samburu Game Reserve: My story starts at Larsen’s Tented Camp on our departure day, where at breakfast, we literally watched the river take over the banks of the tented camp with a great surge of water from the upstream tributaries.

The heaving Uwaso Nyiro River
The heaving Uwaso Nyiro River
River Surges Higher than Land
River Surges Higher than Land

Our three Land Cruisers, very able drivers, and our group of travelers departed as the staff of the tented camp moved the furnishings to hire ground and secured what they could.  Our plans were to drive to the local airport for a charter flight to Mount Kenya.  The roads in Samburu Game reserve are as one would expect roads in the bush to be – rugged dirt roads that lead in a million directions, only navigable by natives with an intuitive GPS and great driving skill.  We quickly found that each direction our convoy headed was averted by a washed out road, or bridge.  The Kenyan team made several incredible passes through areas that most Americans would never attempt, each time with success and cheers from the passengers.  After making a dizzying number of changed plans and directions at roads now too wet to pass, our convoy did make it to the main bridge out of the reserve, only to find it now completely submerged by a wicked river which was 30 feet higher than it was just the day prior when we passed the same point.  At this stage our 5 Kenyan guides and drivers convened, each with a cell phone in hand and fast Swahili exchanged between each other and the head office of Micato.  We all watched with amazement as they came up with yet another plan.  We would now not take the charter flight since we could not reach the airport but would exit the reserve from a gate on the far side and make our way via road down to Mount Kenya.  Another 90 minutes of negotiating washed out roads, ravines, and all along the way helping other Kenyans who did not have the capability of our drivers nor the massive and sturdy Land Cruiser Safari vehicles that Micato provided.  Eventually we made it out of the game reserve to see hundreds upon hundreds of villagers at the paved highway watching the waters continue to rise over their villages.  We crossed the much higher highway bridge, which was also seemingly precarious, and at last got on the road to Mount Kenya.  Our convoy of three vehicles congratulated the Micato team for their bold and brave efforts as we made our way south battling the unseasonable and heavy rains that continued to fall from the vast African sky.  Half way to Mount Kenya one of our vehicles signaled to turn right into a shop and rest stop for a break when out of nowhere a reckless driver swerved into the right lane at an attempt to pass and collided into one of our Land Cruisers. (Remember in Kenya, driving is on the left hand side of the road).  We were in disbelief as our vehicle watched the entire incident happen.  How could this be, after such heroic driving, that some reckless individual wreak havoc on our spirits.  Luckily, everyone was fine, and there were no injuries whatsoever.  A crowd of locals quickly converged on the scene where everyone provided their opinion into the matter. A British military jeep pulled up and politely asked the crowd to settle down.  Promptly the Kenyan police arrived to assess the situation and finally, the accident vehicles were now allowed to be removed from the road way.  Again a testament to both the Micato drivers and the durability of the Land Cruiser, our vehicle was not in the least damaged and after un-lodging the culprit’s mangled vehicle, our party re-boarded and the convoy continued on to Mount Kenya.

One that reads this may think the day was a disaster.  While certainly there are many that will have suffered from the floods and forlornly this gentleman who destroyed his car and lost his licence will be excruciatingly disappointed.  For me and my 15 fellow travelers it was a day that was an incredible adventure.  I won’t lie and say that there weren’t moments when we wondered if we would be helicoptered out of the Samburu Reserve or if disaster would ensue, but we participated in a day that most only see if they are local Kenyan residents.  We saw what nature in Africa can do, we saw local villages and life along the road to Mount Kenya, we saw how conflict and justice is managed – and all this before 2pm in the afternoon!  Most importantly as a travel professional, I saw how an incredible company with the experience and attention to detail and staffing and equipment like Micato operates.  Yes, Micato is more expensive than most, but they share Africa in a way that is incredibly special with no detail missed, and when disaster strikes, I can guarantee you that it is worth every penny to be under their care.  Not for a minute did any of their team seem flappable or incapable and as travelers we all shared a bond, an experience, and even unimaginable laughter and triumph as the events of the day unfolded. This is the real Africa!

No place that our extremely capable Micato drivers could not get us out of!
No place that our extremely capable Micato drivers could not get us out of!

We arrived onto Mount Kenya, an incredible lush mountain of fresh cool breezes, fertile farm land, and snow covered peaks and into the famed Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, home to heads of states and celebrities including Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Robert Redford, Sean Connery and Catherine Deneuve since 1959.

Day 4: Mount Kenya Lodging: Mount Kenya Safari Club:  On 120 acres of idyllic gardens gazing at the snowy summit of Mount Kenya, is the legendary Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, a welcome respite after our adventures of the previous day.  The gardens are beyond gorgeous on this property that literally straddles the equator.  Every cottage, suite and room has a large wood-burning fireplace which is lit on arrival and in the evening to enjoy as you return home from dinner.  The views and grounds are unbelievably lush and fertile.  Two large black Labrador puppies (just 9 months old) beckon to be walked by guests, the tennis courts are on the equator, the golf course winds down the hills of Mount Kenya, and the 6 horses are available for rides in the bush. and trout fishing, lawn bowling, and swimming will keep everyone busy.  It is a wonderful place for families to relax in between safari rides. The William Holden Wildlife Animal Orphanage is also on property and a great way to see rescued wildlife up close.

Merry Christmas From Kenya - Acacia Tree adorned with Weaver Bird Nests
Merry Christmas From Kenya – Acacia Tree adorned with Weaver Bird Nests

Day 5: Masai Mara Lodging: Mara Safari Club Tented Camps:  The flight to the Masai Mara exhilarated my senses as I saw below me the Africa of my imagination.  Masai villages, the Mara river, rolling grasslands and acacia woodlands are all visible from the air.  On touch down, our charter flight was met by 6 impossibly tall Masai gentlemen who greeted us with a song and dance and again, impossibly kinds smiles.  Again, their jumps, to show their strength and virility, were unreal!  Arriving at the Tented Camp along the banks of the Mara River, we were glad to see the calm waters and hear the sounds of groaning hippos bathing below us while their indifferent friends, the crocodiles, sun on the banks above.  These two massive animals agree to co-exist in harmony, or at least with indifference of one another.  Sitting on my tent deck as I type, I can help but smile as the waters below team with groans and splashes, while across the river I hear the faint bells of a Masai tribe.

The Brave Masai Warriors, showing us their jumps
The Brave Masai Warriors, showing us their jumps

We had the wonderful pleasure of personally visiting a Masai village and meeting with their chief, their children, and their youth.  The way of life of the brave nomadic cattle-raising culture is mind blowing.  While some have great wealth in the way of cattle, they chose to live in a very primitive yet proud way.  The villages do not have electricity or running water and their huts are built 100% from man-made materials.  They are nice and neat and warm with cooking stoves in each.  It is bewildering to drive across the plains and see a single Masai warrior with his spear and wooden stick in hand.  All alone in this vast wild where at any minute his cattle can be attacked by lions or he can be rushed by the extremely dangerous and ill-tempered buffalo.  They would lose all honour if their cattle is attacked and these young boys are trained to fight off any animals with their primitive weapons.  Young girls can be seen walking alone or in pairs for water.  A lone figure, dressed in red, the color of the Masai is striking against the endless green plains.

Zebras on the Masai Mara
Zebras on the Masai Mara

The Mara is considered to be the finest game sanctuary in Kenya, home to an astonishing amount of wildlife. During the migration a trip by hot air balloon to experience the hundreds of thousands of migratory wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra is a must a “1000 Things you Must do Before you Die”.  (July for the Migration in the Mara, but fantastic game viewing year round).

Our Tent at the Mara Safari Club
Our Tent at the Mara Safari Club

And indeed it is here in the Mara that I was able to complete my encounters with the Big Five!  The Big Five are the fiercest and most dangerous animals in Africa and in days past, when legal, were the five that hunters came to Africa to conquer as trophies:  The leopard, the lion, the rhino, the elephant, and the Cape buffalo.

The Most Dangerous of the Big Five, the Buffalo
The Most Dangerous of the Big Five, the Buffalo

In the Mara we saw hundreds of wildebeest, those that missed the Great Migration to the Serengeti.  We joked saying those “dumb wildebeest forgot to migrate”.  They are a fascinatingly ugly animal said to be a mix of all the leftover parts – seems to be a part horse, part buffalo, part goat, part cow, part antelope.  I was introduced to the topi, an antelope that appears to wear blue jeans due to the dark color of his waste down to his feet.  The Masai giraffe is completely different looking than the reticulated giraffe of the north, the zebra is the short stocky type with thick stripes, a contrast to the Grevy zebra of the north – with the white stomach, leaner and taller body, and razor thin stripes found in Samburu.  Of course the ubiquitous Thompson and Grant Gazelles, the infamous dik-dik, impalas, and the families of warthogs that run like crazy with their tails sticking straight up in the air until they realize they don’t know why they are running at all!  A tender and frightening moment was finding a very young, baby gazelle wondering alone – separated from his mother and confused.  He seemed to think our jeep might have been his mother.  We stopped and hoped to see the mother appear, but she did not and the baby ran in the opposite direction – very quickly to be the dinner of a leopard.  It was here in the Mara that our amazing driver helped us spot the very elusive and shy leopard, the final animal to complete our big five.  They are solitary animals and hide in the bushes until they attack their prey.

A Pride of Lions, with their cubs
A Pride of Lions with their cubs
Heading out for the Afternoon Game Drive
Heading out for the Afternoon Game Drive

Day 6: Masai Mara Lodging: Mara Safari Club Tented Camps:  Piping hot coffee and biscuits delivered to our tent along with our wake up call.  In the Africa bush, the wake up calls are a friendly and hardy “JAMBO”!” shouted into the tent by our room attendant.  A day on safari always starts early, as we pull on our safari wear and down a quick coffee before heading out for the morning game drive.  Always an exciting moment of anticipation as we regroup with our driver and wonder what will we see today!?  We called our vehicle “jeep number 1” as we had an amazing group of 5 that we stayed with the entire trip – many, many great laughs were had along the trail.  Our driver, both in Samburu and in the Mara, never got his vehicle stuck on the wild, off road adventures in the mud.  How we never got lost was beyond belief, but most importantly the drivers and guides are absolute experts at locating the best game viewing.  They are experts on the animals’ habits and patterns. There were a total of three vehicles on safari this week with us and for some reason, we always seemed to be the first to encounter a great siting – thus the name, “jeep number 1”.  It is as competitive for us safari-goers as for the drivers themselves to be the first to spot the best wildlife.  Whenever there is a great siting, the radios are used to alert to the other two cars, but the lead vehicle so eventually everyone may get to see your find.  Today, just as we felt our bodies had enough jostling along the bumpy drive, and were ready to head in for lunch, John silently drove on and pulled to a stop with a huge grin on his face – “here you are” he presented to us.  What a bunch of rocks?  No, not at all, the rocks began to move and 6 feet before our eyes – a pride of lions were there. Four mothers taking turns nursing 8 cubs as they lie on the rocks warming themselves in the sun of their den.  It was a spectacular site, as the mothers nursed and played with their babies.  One mother had had enough of her cubs rough nursing and scolded him by wrapping her jaws gently but firmly around his head.  When another cub appeared for some nursing from her, she shoed him off too – enough from here, someone else’s turn.  The lionesses nurse each other’s cubs too.  This baby was not to be deterred and like a cat, played with the mother’s moving tail – trying to grab it with his small jaw each time she swatted it his direction.  The male lions were not with this pride.  The mothers rear their cubs alone, they are the primary hunters and also they fine the dens.  Even when the females have a kill, the males eat first, followed by the females, followed by the cubs.  In order to hunt, three of the lionesses head out to find their prey while one of the lionesses stay behind to mind the cubs until they are all called to eat.  If the cubs are too small to go to the kill, they are left alone hidden in their den, but sometimes the hyenas do find them before the mothers return.  It was an absolutely spectacular day only to finished with a spectacular sundowners arranged at the summit of a great hill while the African sun once again set on the plains.  The Mara Safari club arranged a huge bond fire, cocktails and hot canapés, but also had a flushable toilet in a small tent arranged for the group.  A wonderful detail that allowed everyone to relax more was a staff member armed with a gun watching for predators and we toasted the spectacular trip. After Sundowners we were completely surprised when we were taken in the pitch dark to yet another site. When we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the site of enormous hippos who had trekked out of their submerged day time river location and were now grazing on the planes.  I learned that the hippos spend all day in the water and can walk up to 5 kilometers at night to graze.  The site of dozens of these hippos fully exposed on the plains just feet in front of our vehicles was surreal.  Another enormous bond fire awaited us, a full bar and table seating for 16 of us at beautifully set tables.  Again, the details or a tented toilet, and armed wildlife spotter, and the chefs and service teams from the Mara Safari club were waiting for us.  My servers from breakfast and lunch, called out my name and brought me a glass of South African Stellenbosch.  The smiles are contagious!  All still slightly on edge from the wildlife that certainly was lurking nearby, we were stunned when a group of Masai warriors ran out of the bushes and began their trance-setting dancing and chanting around the fire – and of course, the men competed at showing off their highest jumps – a contest I have grown to love!  The Masai are very tall and one of the guests, a basketball recruiter for the pros, wished he could recruit a few Masai!

Sunset on the Serengeti

We sat down to a lovely barbecue dinner and I tried my first barbecued crocodile – delicious – a mix between, yes, chicken and swordfish to me.  We all gave the team a standing ovation and synchronized “Asante Sana” (thank you very much) before heading to our waiting jeeps.  As our jeeps pulled out of the bush dinner the head lights captured the dozens of hyenas who had circled the dinner clearly in a frenzy over the smells of barbecued meat.  I could only be thankful that indeed the staff who was left to pack up from the bush dinner had the security of their armed colleague keeping watch.  An outdoor barbecue is one thing, a dinner in the bush among fiercely wild animals glad to rip any of us apart for their own dinner adds a whole new element to the excitement of the wild.

Bush Flights on Kenya Air
Bush Flights on Kenya Air

Day 7: Nairobi The Norfolk Hotel A day in Nairobi while transiting between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti in Tanzania brought us to the historic and lovely Norfolk hotel, a small oasis in this congested and dizzying capital city.  The highlight of the day was being personal guests in the home of Jane and Felix Pinto, the founders and owners of the family-run award winning Micato Safaris.  The Pintos, a family who traces their routes to Portuguese Goa in India, have been living in Nairobi for several generations.  They started Micato Safaris 44 years ago and have won the Travel and Leisure readers’ choice awards for 8 consecutive years as NUMBER ONE TOUR OPERATOR.  They have hosted heads of state and personally welcomed Indira Gandhi, Mother Theresa and just last week personally escorted George and Laura Bush and their family to the Sasakwa Lodge in Singita, Tanzania – where I will have the pleasure of checking into tomorrow!!  Lunch at the Pinto home was served by their long time chef and dedicated staff to the family and included live singing by a band of Kenyan singers – a truly lovely and personal afternoon. All guests of Micato Safaris enjoy lunch at the Pintos.

Day 8: Singita Gremeti Reserves, Tanzania Lodging: The Sasakwa Lodge:

Our
Our “Cottage” at Saskwa Lodge in the Serengeti

Wow!  Beyond belief.  First of all wonderful little planes piloted by great looking young Kenyan women.  Such a breath of fresh air.  Flew to Kilimanjaro to clear Tanzanian immigration and then boarded a 12-passenger plane to Sasakwa with a touch down in Kigali to collect a Chinese couple.  The weather closed in quickly as we passed Mount Kilimanjaro, flying in clouds, without instruments, but a very able, and tiny Kenyan pilot.  She rocked and delivered us more than safely to the dirt air strip on the Serengeti plains.  The Serengeti in Tanzania is the Southern extension to the Masai Mara….and sharing it’s Western border, the Singita Grumeti Reserves encompasses 400,000 acres of unparalleled, pristine wilderness.

Lunch at Sabora Tented Camp, Serengeti
Lunch at Sabora Tented Camp, Serengeti

Arriving to the Grumeti Reserves, a private concession off the Serengeti privately managed by Singita, a leader in luxury tented camps and lodges in South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.  Sasakwa Lodge did not disappoint, in fact the English manor house impeccably designed in African antiques and furnishings from a bygone era with discreet and intuitive service was the lodging highlight of the journey.  The 10 cottages are exquisite with views of the Serengeti plans, comfortable furniture, exquisite artwork and furnishings worthy of the finest turn of the century home, plunge pools and observation decks with telescopes for wild-life viewing. Located in the middle of the game reserve, on a bluff rich in wild-life, guests are instructed to never leave the room before dusk or dawn without an “askari” escort.  The askaris, imposing large Tanzanian men in armed and in full uniform, are primarily former poachers, that are now employed by the game reserves to keep the guest safe. It is a wonderful feeling to have them on hand when encountering buffalo or hyenas around the lodge.  Many former poachers are employed on the game reserves throughout Africa, now acting on behalf of the game reserves and working as rangers, protecting the wildlife from the poachers.  An interesting juxtaposition for sure, but a much safer and sounder employment for these young men.

“Camping Out” at Sabora Tented Camp

A Relais & Chateaux property with absolutely exquisite food, wine and spirits and service, every meal was an absolute delight and surprise.

Day 9: Singita Gremeti Reserves, Tanzania:  The charming and confident team was a true compliment and the setting was unparalleled.  Game drives from the property are on open vehicle Landrovers that allowed us to get exceptionally close to some of the animal – in the case of a lion and later an elephant, frighteningly close.  In the Serengeti, the migration is a coveted time of the year to be at Sasakwa and her sister property, the exquisite Sabora Tented Camp on the plains, but even in December there were large herds of animals grouping together.  The highlights of our game drive today were coming upon a male lion who had just killed his dinner and was taking a break from devouring the nearby zebra.  Buzzards and hyenas waited very patiently nearby, knowing that it may be up to a day before it is their turn.  To creep up in our open vehicle just 6 feet from the lion, I felt my heart-race.  If the lion were to feel that we were coming between he and his prized kill, he could turn on us to defend his dinner.

A lion taking a break from his Zebra dinner
A lion taking a break from his Zebra dinner

Next stop, up close to a family of elephants, the large male bull is frustrated and angry – no females to mate with.  When our Landrover pulls up, he is not happy and lets out a large rumbling and threatens to charge our vehicle.  We take a few pictures, back up, pull forward – a suddenly – the elephant is in a full charge towards our vehicle!  Our adrenaline is on full throttle as our driver expertly manoeuvres out of harms way.

A Frustrated Male!
A Frustrated Male!

Lunch today is a the fabulous Sabora Tented CampAlong the plains of the Serengeti on the great migration route.  Ten uber-luxurious tents designed with breathtaking 1920’s antiques, décor and artefacts from throughout the continent beckon.  Pure romance and in-your-face wilderness creates an experience that one might call “the REAL Africa”.  No detail is spared, a spa tent, gorgeous bush dinners under lanterned trees, a swimming pool, a clay tennis court with no fence, outdoor showers in every suite, king four poster beds, and even air-conditioning.  Our final night in Africa, slightly melancholy, the journey nearly over.  The physical journey was indeed nearly over, but in risk of sounding clique, 11 days in Africa were truly life-changing.  The beauty, the extremes, the raw nature, the people – that is something that will never leave my head.  Piping hot chocolate awaited our Land Rovers as we rounded the final circle of our afternoon safari and arrived back at the hill-top Sasakwa Lodge.  I glanced at the guest book and saw that indeed just this week George Bush and his family had just checked out, after taking over this bespoke lodge for several days.  I can see why a family like that would enjoy Sasakwa – not just the impeccable good taste, the pain-staking detail and design, but more importantly, the way one can feel anonymous and small in this vast land.  In the vast and isolated Grumeti Reserves of the Serengeti, a human being – famous or not – can lose themselves completely and realize what a tiny insignificant part we play in the world’s nature.  We enjoyed an incredible dinner and drinks by the roaring fire before retiring to our cloud-like beds in our cottages.  The next morning, I woke with the sun and sat quietly on my terrace, and overlooked the game of life below on the plains as the animals sought their first meals of the day. 

Day 10: The Journey Home:  Tears in my eyes, as I bade farewell to our hosts, and started the long journey back home.  Flying by small aircraft shaves hours and days off an itinerary in Africa, but still we made 4 touch-downs it Lake Manyara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, and finally Nairobi before starting our international trek back to the US.  As I type these final thoughts, I am 20,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean after an overnight in Amsterdam.  It is a long journey, but my journey and yearning for Africa has only just begun.  I think of our incredible hosts, Micato Safaris, the personal invitation to lunch in the Pinto’s beautiful home, the deep care and comfort provided by our guides Kennedy and George every step of the way.  Our favorite drivers in what we deemed “car number 1” during each of our safari rides.  These people have changed my life.  They have introduced me to an Africa – to a Kenya and a Tanzania – I did not know.  To think that many of these professionals, themselves from small tribal and still primitive villages, who have been educated and now escorting heads of companies and heads of states, as well as regular people like me on journeys throughout Africa – flawless, well managed, anticipating every need, always ahead of the game with an alternate plan as unforeseen challenges arise.  How fortunate, I was to have experienced Micato’s Africa.  How I long to return to trek the gorillas in Rwanda, to discover the South African wine region and the vast wilderness of Kruger national Park, to see the deserts of Namibia and the wetlands of Botswana.  Travel is so enriching, but it is like water, you can never tire of it and a sip only makes one thirst for more.  Kwaheri, or farewell for now, my dear friends.

Farewell, Kennedy, our amazing Micato guide
Farewell, Kennedy, our amazing Micato guide

“The Spirit of Man is without Boundaries” – African Proverb

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