Yesterday we left Nairobi to start our safari. We flew to Samburu National Park on a small single engine plane with a pilot and co-pilot only. There was no divide between the cockpit and cabin and the snack cart for the flight was a plastic box with hard candies that the co-pilot passed back. It’s been a long time since I was on a flight that was this relaxed. It was great.
The flight stayed at or below the clouds the whole time which have us great views of Mount Kenya and the surrounding areas. The bright red-orange soil made the green bushes and trees jump up at us. Before landing, we circled the runway once to make sure it was clear before coming in for one of the softest landings we’ve had all trip. Odd since it was only runway that wasn’t paved.
We were met at the plane by guides and loaded into an open sided Land Rover to drive to camp 22km away. Along the way we saw a more birds than I could hope to list, a couple of giraffes, a herd of gazelles and a family of hippos. Not bad for the drive in. When we arrived, there were four elephants hanging out in the shade near camp and we learned why it is called Elephant Bedroom. We dropped our bags, got a quick briefing about not going near the river (for fear of hippos and crocodiles), not to leave camp (lions and baboons) and don’t leave your room without a guide (elephants). So obviously there were a lot of things that could do us harm, but this is an established camp, how close are they really going to get?
We found out soon enough that these critters don’t care much about people and camps, established or not. About half way through lunch, we were told it was time to move onto the raised platform. An elephant was approaching, so we grabbed our camera and left the food. Apparently the elephants aren’t interested in our meals, but there some nice plants near by. After a few minutes, he moved more towards the river and lunch continued.
Lunch ended around 2:00 and our first game drive was at 4:00 so we went back to our room and soaked our feet in the plunge pool on our deck. The bird life was phenomenal. So much color and so many noises coming from every tree, it seemed unreal.
Just as we were about to get ready for the game drive, there was an explosion of barking, howling and singing from behind our tent. We looked around to see a lioness chasing one of the baboons! All the other baboons were making as much noise as possible. The lioness did not get her meal which we had surprisingly mixed feelings about.
At this point, we had seen almost everything we had hoped to see on safari and we hadn’t even gone on our first game drive. As we loaded into the Land Rover, the sight of more elephants was not worth pausing for. There were more exciting things to seeand the elephants would be here when we got back.
The game drive was amazing. For two and a half hours we drove slowly around the area surrounding camp. That much time in a car is what I normally think of as torture, but the time flew by. We saw zebras, dikdiks, ostriches, several types of antelope and gazelle, oryx, bustards, secretary birds, giraffes and of course, more elephants. The highlight was the lioness by the side of the jeep track we were on. We got within 10′ of her and she just eyed us with a look that said, “Do not disturb my nap!” We sat there for several minutes as she waited, then sensing we weren’t a threat, rolled onto her back with paws the air. She looked like she wanted someone to scratch her belly, but the guides weren’t keen on me jumping out to try.
After the drive, it was time for dinner and then much needed sleep. We still hasn’t caught up on the sleep we missed while on the train. As we climbed into bed, the birds had quieted down and silence was approaching. Then the elephant arrived and used our tent platform and an adjacent tree as rubbing posts. We stood there staring him in the eye and he just looked back with “yeah, did you want something?” What an amazing day.