Day 3: of Angie Sloan, our Regional Director’s amazing trip to Kenya:-
Today was all about wildlife and at 0530 we headed from Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club across to Ol Pejeta Conservancy for a game drive. In the first hour we had seen Rothschild Giraffe, elephants, impala, warthogs (think “Pumba” from The Lion King), ostrich and the beautiful lilac breasted roller.
Then we came across the elusive black rhinoceros – a mother and her calf. The black rhino tends to hide in the bush as they are shy, so to see two together was amazingly lucky. Twenty minutes later we came across another black rhino and then another! Four black rhino in the space of an hour – unbelievable and something I have never seen in more that fifteen trips to Kenya.
The list of wildlife went on; gazelle, hart beest, jackals, guinea fowl, zebra (100s of them) and numerous herds of African water buffalo.
An amazing morning ended with breakfast at Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp right in front of their watering hole with impala grazing just a few metres away. With the group already buzzing, there was near hysteria when three white rhino sauntered down to the watering hole, in front of the restaurant. I personally was gobsmacked to see this incredible and endangered species right there – they were completely unphased by the constant click of cameras.
Excitement rose to fever pitch when another two white rhino joined the others grazing, drinking and then all collapsing in a heap to have a snooze in the warm morning sun. A totally surreal experience and incredibly lucky to see this wonder of nature.
Later that morning we headed across the conservancy and came across a pack of eight wild dogs. Our guide from Glory Safaris, with seven years experience, had only seen them three times – how lucky were we! Tom from Exodus and Phil from Bales were equally excited having never seen them before. For Mal from Six Star Holidays and Jeannine from Travel Weekly, it was his first time to Kenya and he couldn’t believe what was unfolding.
Porini Rhino Camp laid on a lovely bush lunch. The Porini Camps are one of the best examples of eco-tourism I have seen. The camps can be dismantled in 24 hours and four weeks later there would be no trace of the camp. Porini lease the land off the locals who then see a steady stream of income from tourism. The camps employ mainly local people who are trained by hospitality experts. It is a truly brilliant concept.
Just after we left, Gilly from Kenya Tourism Board had a call – three cheetahs had walked through the camp 20 minutes after we left. Such a shame as apart from rhino, what I had really wanted the group to see was either a lion, leopard or cheetah.
We were about 3km from exiting the conservancy when Gilly from KTB and Francis from Glory Safaris, turned around to head towards another part of the conservancy so we could visit the blind rhino, Baraka.
About 30 minutes into the drive, 10 metres from the track sitting close together in long grass, was a lion and lioness. Hardly breathing, we sat and watched – I knew they would move. The guide explained to us they were on honeymoon – basically, they go off on their own for a week to mate up to 45 times. I won’t comment on that bit!
Within minutes they were mating after which, the lioness got up and strolled to within four metres of our jeeps. Collapsing onto the grass, she was joined by her partner. They sat and gazed lovingly (or longingly) at one another until a herd of zebra walked into view. Viv from Acacia Africa noticed one of the zebra limping and then we knew why the lioness was staring intently – easy prey equals easy dinner.
The lions stood up and strolled right towards us, eyeballing us as they skimmed past the back of the jeep and sat two metres in front of us facing the zebra. Luckily for the injured zebra, the mating took over and he hobbled off with his friends and family.
An hour had gone by, the storm moved in, we had to leave the lions to, by now, constant mating.
Last stop was to see Baraka the blind rhino – he was blinded in a fight with another rhino and has cataracts in the other eye. He is being cared for by the conservancy in acres of land for his own safety.
Another group of rhinos were in a very large enclosure nearby. Our ranger explained that this group were four of the Northern White Rhino that had been transported from Czech Republic. There are only seven Northern White Rhino left on our planet – four are now in Ol Pejeta, one in Czech and two in the USA. They have been moved to Kenya in the hope they may breed to save the species from extinction – Stephen Fry filmed a documentary of the relocation programme.
Beyond lucky, emotional and incredulous of what we had seen all in one day on safari in Kenya.
Me and three of the group cited the game drive as the best they had ever experienced. The others had it up there in the top three – and these are operators responsible for the product selection for Africa.
Personally, I was completely humbled to see such an incredible array of wildlife.
An incredible day.