My sleep addled brain struggled to determine the unfamiliar surroundings.
“What was that noise?” A low heavy “harrumph” was emanating from somewhere nearby. Clarity and memory flooded back. I was alone in my tent located in the Elephant Camp in Samburu National Park and that noise could only be one of the local pachyderms making their way to the river.
I frantically started waving the flashlight we had been given by the staff to signal for assistance. Immediately there was a calm reassuring voice outside my door. “Miss Joy, its okay. He is only scratching against your tent for a moment. There is nothing to fear.”
MY INTRODUCTION TO SAFARI LIVING HAD BEGUN!
We arrived into Nairobi in the late evening as is the norm for most international flights. Clearing customs was quick and efficient and the transfer to our overnight at the Sarova Stanley Hotel uneventful. The following morning after a filling breakfast and introduction to the tour guides, our group of 13 loaded into our two seven-passenger Safari Land Cruisers and began the first of many long drives.
LESSON ONE: Driving in Kenya is arduous! Traffic is unrelenting and in many areas the roads are no more than goat tracks. Being in the right vehicle is imperative. We saw other safari operators utilizing minivans and small jeeps and I couldn’t imagine how restricting and uncomfortable their journey was. Game viewing requires that you can stand up for easy access to photo shoots and to allow equal opportunities for all occupants.
LESSON TWO: Accommodations in Kenya range from large resort-style lodges to intimate luxury tented camps. The large resorts offer pools, spas, fitness centers as well as satellite TV and entertainment. The luxury tent camps are either fenced or un-fenced. The difference becomes the proximity of the local wildlife. Unfenced allows the animals unrestricted access through the camp and limits your ability to wander freely in the evenings without mandatory security assistance. WIFI and electricity in the small camps are provided via generators and only available during set hours.
During our safari we stayed at three luxury tented camps. This is beyond “glamping”! These permanent fixtures are furnished with king-size canopy beds, clawfoot tubs, outdoor showers and amenities that rival the best hotels in Europe! The staff are professional, kind and hospitable. Local Masai are employed as security for each individual tent between 6pm and 6am. They are at your beck and call for assistance in getting to and from the main lodge area and in my case to “shoo-away” elephants.
By moving around to three different locations we were able to enjoy an ever-changing variety of wildlife. The game-viewing days began after a sumptuous early breakfast. We would head off into the national parks to see what awaited us. The guides from various operators all work together via radio to create a network of viewing opportunities. The result is that all the visitors have equal access to The Big Five. In fairness, we probably did wait 15 minutes before advising the others about our leopard!
LESSON THREE: Being in the bush in Africa is very different from Canada. The animals in Africa are more likely to hunt you than run from you. My request to “go for a run” was met with incredulity. “No Madam, you cannot go for a run! The animals are everywhere whether you can see them or not!” There isn’t much exercise while on safari!
These are but a few of the lessons I learned.
The best way to create an African Adventure that is perfect for you, is to work with a supplier that can provide all the components that best suit your expectations and budget. Fly instead of Drive? Tent versus Lodge? High Season versus Shoulder Season? With the expert guidance of professionals, proficient in their knowledge of the destination, and support from the local operators you can’t go wrong.