Safari Sampler

 

In Pursuit of Peace

The continuous world wide security warnings have hit this beautiful country badly. Tourism, which had risen to our No. 1 industry has almost been arrested in its tracks. As a result hundreds of Kenyans and their families have a bleak New Year to look forward to. bleak New Year to look forward to.
The National Parks, maintained by the Government have seen their income dwindle below minimum upkeep levels. In the end not just people but wildlife and the environment will suffer.
It is ironic that the warning specifically stated for visitors to ‘stay away from areas where foreigners congregate’ – What better place to visit than Kenya !!
At the best of times, in our vast and unique National Parks there is no congregation of people. Even during the famous migration in the Maasai Mara, humanity is outnumbered by the wildlife as much as 500 to 1. As of now, you can almost feel like the traveler of years gone by. Few people, masses of wildlife and hospitality beyond belief as eager Kenyans welcome you to a world free of pollution, worries and haste. Your perspective changes, priorities are re-arranged , a system overhaul directed by nature.
We cheered as we watched on TV how orange alerts have not kept New Yorkers from celebrating in Times Square.
What’s keeping you from your dream vacation in peaceful Kenya ?
‘Out of Africa’ you will emerge changed, refreshed and focused on what it is that really matters in the end : Your peace of mind !

Mutamaiyu Mugie

Last month we had the unexpected pleasure to be invited to Lunch at a very special place. It was an experience I want to share with you.
Many years ago, when we went on Safari to capture wild animals for translocation, we spent much time in the northern parts of Kenya.
Referred to as "The Northern Frontier district," it was a vast and untouched rugged and natural area. I never forgot the special feeling of freedom, the vast skies over a picturesque landscape often filled with game.
Even then we knew the special privilege to be there that we enjoyed. The writing was on the wall, this remote paradise would not be able to escape "progress," and all its negative side effects.
Eventually a lot of the land was split up for settlement. Poaching ensued. Many of The Northern Maasai moved away and took with them a harmonious co-existence with nature.
Mugie Ranch was such a place of tranquility. Assuming that it had met with the same fate, I had not been back to visit.

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The Last Wilderness

n the cold and windy pre-dawn hours when you are still in the phase of really deep sleep, constant and penetrating screams drag you out of your vivid dreams. Reaching for your watch it shows 5:30am. It is the yellow-necked and crested Francolins announcing and celebrating the beginning of yet another day in Tsavo.
Just as the sun begins to rise and the hill behind you is still covered in mist, the white-headed Buffalo Weaver is trying his best to persuade you to come out of your tent, by sitting right in front of it and singing his song. And the Drongo, sitting on a branch just next to the tent, is imitating the Starlings’ song. Looking at him closer, he is actually hopping up and down whilst singing, as if to show what great effort he is undergoing to imitate other birds’ songs.
When you finally give in and leave the tent, the Buffalo Weaver is right there, sitting by your feet and looking at you with his head slightly tilted to the side, asking for bird seeds, which he will defend vigorously – in good old Buffalo fashion – against any other birds.

Hermanus

At Hermanus, B&B means blowing and breaching… or where to find the best land based whale watching in the world! IMAGINE SITTING HIGH ON A CLIFF with the Atlantic Ocean thrashing against the rocks below you.

Kenya Wildlife Svc

July is travel month for students. If your curiosity knows no boundaries, you are on a budget and you feel the pull of adventure in the real Africa, this is for you.
The Kenya Wildlife Service has recently renovated an old idea.
They have reopened and added to their legendary “self help bandas” inside the National Parks.
When I first came to Kenya, that’s were I stayed. In those days the bandas were very basic, one never knew what to expect, it was a roof over your head for the night, not much more.
All that has changed. The KWS is now operating a network of cottages inside the National Parks with all the basic comforts. You just bring your food (and your cook if you are lazy).
Most of these houses are in exceptionally beautiful spots and your privacy is guaranteed.
The added advantage is that they are very affordable, probably the best deal here.
There are several mountain cottages, two of them on Mount Kenya. You will also find some on the beach in the marine National Parks.
A few of the lodges are the old game wardens cottages from yesteryear. Imagine yourself in the fifties. No Satellites, no cell phones no GPS. Just wilderness, your gun and your knowledge of bush craft to keep you alive. That is how those legendary wardens built the parks. The adventure is yours for the finding.


Nothing Going On

t was called “Nothing Going On” It was a delightful account of how it was at most Safari Lodges then.
Come early afternoon, after a sumptuous Lunch we see the guests falling asleep on the verandah of the Kilaguni Safari Lodge at Tsavo National Park… The big game they have come to see has equally retreated to rest in hidden shady spots during the heat of the day.
And then Alan’s camera discovers all the other creatures missed by most tourists.
The industrious weaver birds now venture closer collecting scraps and working on their nests.
Flamboyant lizards sunning themselves, the dung beetle collecting what he was called after.
Kaleidoscopic critters in the sand everywhere going about their chores, while the striking superb starlings are hopping around cleaning up crumbs left behind by the now dozing and unaware ‘wildlife enthusiasts’. The film ends with yawns and other signs of wakening humanity. Some waterbuck are appearing back at the waterhole, followed by a Giraffe. Picture-book Africa is once again open for business.
Alan Root went on to become a famous wildlife film producer.
Now that sophisticated camera equipment is available to most of us, you can have a ball with a micro lens, or letting some exotic bug fill the frame of your 200mm lens.
Let those others at the top of the food chain rest in their innocent but ignorant slumber. Some of your best time on Safari can be had watching those fascinating creatures at the bottom.
And when the curtain opens for yet another slide show of the big five you will forever cherish your memories of when there was "nothing going on."

Safari Companion

There are not too many visitors from abroad on safari in Kenya at this particular time. Many have been scared away by warnings – or maybe it’s only a vague nervousness – that air travel could be dangerous, or safety could not be guaranteed!! It’s an old story for us. A bomb goes off 2,000 miles away in Cape Town, for instance, and our imminent visitors cancel their flights to Nairobi !
Meanwhile we wait, we who live here, enjoying one tranquil, sunny and otherwise ‘perfect’ day after another in incomparable Kenya. We’re sure of course, that sooner rather than later, irrepressible human wanderlust and spirit of adventure will revive tourism here as everywhere else in Africa.
As you perhaps, start re-planning a deferred safari, one piece of essential travel information we’d offer is… NOT to forget to bring along a good guidebook. There are plenty on the market, but for we resident cognoscenti, one stands out far beyond the others :
Dr. Estes, an Associate of Mammalogy at Harvard University and current eminence at the World Conservation Union (IUCN), has spent many years studying African wildlife. He visits us frequently at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch – (pictured at left in March with Don Hunt at the Animal Orphanage.)
His book, The Safari Companion* is indispensable for the more discerning safari travelers – specially designed for those interested in finding out more about the lives and complex interactions of the magnificent animals they see.
After Safari (or even instead of) you will often reach for this most interesting book. I am seldom without it !
*Published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, also available in Kenya.


Flying Doctors

Because I live here friends often pick my brain about what to expect on Safari.
Probably the most frequently asked question is that of safety. What if a medical emergency should arise, while you are in the bush, hundreds of miles from a good hospital, and thousands of miles from home and family ?
Well, we experienced just such an emergency ourselves. It has given me a better understanding of why people are apprehensive about this aspect of their Safari.
Recently, on a Saturday night Don came down with violent pain which he self-diagnosed as coming from his appendix. He is 71 years old; we were not going to take any chances. We were lucky to find a doctor in the remote area; I took the precaution of trying to organize a charter plane to take us out and to the safety of a hospital. But it was Saturday night. Darkness was setting in rapidly and no charter could be organized fast enough to land on an unlit bush airfield.
The doctor diagnosed Don’s situation as most urgent. Thank goodness for the guys at the flying Doctor Service in Nairobi. Once I managed to get through to them everything happened very fast and very efficiently.
Being a member, all that they asked me was to show up at the nearest airfield with my patient and a credit card for the hospital.
I have been a pilot for decades and I wondered how, after a landing in the dusk, they would accomplish a take off in the dark on a short, unlit and badly maintained airfield.
Once the Cessna Caravan arrived the paramedic took over and immediately dealt with the patient, checking vital signs hooking him up to oxygen etc. The pilot had quickly connected his plane to his own ground unit to provide ample light and electricity for the medical monitoring machines. While I signed some forms, the patient was made comfortable and we were ready to go. The ground-generating unit was disconnected and loaded back into the plane. As we shut the door I could not help but feel some concern.
It was now pitch black and you could not see in front of you let alone the runway. After the engine was started, suddenly we were bathed in very bright light illuminating the entire apron around us. I had never seen landing lights that bright on even much bigger jet aircraft. We taxied out and the takeoff was no problem with the runway lit brightly by the planes own lights.
Once we arrived in Nairobi, an ambulance stood waiting. To make a long story short, the patient was operated on an hour later and as it turned out none too soon as peritonitis had already set in.
After this experience with a lucky ending I cannot thank the good folks at the Flying Doctor Service enough, and I must recommend that you join. A temporary membership for Tourists is available and your tour operator can organize this for you prior to your arrival.
The Flying Doctor Emergency Service is an Air Ambulance Service for East Africa and beyond. This includes worldwide repatriation. They have their own fleet of fully equipped aircraft and ground Ambulances that cater for the needs of patients 7/24. Their team of full time medical and aviation professionals are able to respond to all medical emergencies.
Your membership is a small price to pay for peace of mind. As you will probably and hopefully not require their Services, your membership contribution will go towards the 3000 or more needy patients that receive free evacuation and surgery each year from the Charity component of AMREF’s Flying Doctor Service.

Trout Tree Restaurant

Coming from Nairobi, the great road north winds its way through the rich farmland once called the white highlands. “White,” of course referring to the settlers of the early last century that had made their homes here.
Before there was barely a road they made their way in ox wagons loaded with all their worldly possessions of which there were few. They all had dreams in their young heads strong enough to keep them pushing forward to an uncertain future.
When the rains struck suddenly the small caravans would get stuck in the mud, delayed for days on end. There were no doctors to tend to their fevers or assist the young mothers in childbirth. No guards against attacks by "natives" whose land they were trespassing on without permission. Not unlike the American "wild west" perhaps, but for the wild animals that also roamed the land.
The plains outside Nairobi were lined with Gazelles and Giraffe in the thorny outcrops. The mighty Aberdare and Mount Kenya forests hid Elephant and Buffalo in great numbers. Leopard sightings were not rare. Sudden charges by an enraged Rhino or a rogue Buffalo were all in the order of the day.

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