Since I was a child, I always wanted to go on an African Safari. With my husband and two other couples, we decided to book a private tour. We departed Nairobi and connected with a charter bush flight from Wilson Airport to the Chyulu Hills. We stayed four nights at Campi ya Kanzi, which means “Camp of the Hidden Treasures”. The camp is located within a 400 square mile private ranch with a spectacular view of Mount Kilimanjaro. It accommodates 14 guests in seven luxurious thatched roof guesthouses, with elegant bathrooms. At night, the Maasai guards, patrol the camp, as the animals roam freely about.
The Maasai own the land, making it one of the last unspoiled areas in Africa. It connects three national parks and becomes a highway for the vast wildlife population. A portion of the daily rate, is given to the Maasai people of the KuKu Group Ranch. The money is used to improve the health facilities and education of the people. It provides water and the preservation of the land and animals.
Twice a day we would go on a game drive in two 4 wheel drive Landrovers with our Maasai trackers. Elephants, cape water buffalo, hartebeest, giraffes, cheetahs and lions, were in constant view. We learned about medicinal plants and discussed animal behavior. Pashiet, our tracker, explained that until recently, the way a Maasai boy would achieve warrior status, would be to kill a lion single-handedly with his spear. Pashiet, himself was a warrior. Their bright red robes set them apart. With a spear in hand, they are calm and courageous, regardless of danger. Normally, the Maasai and the wildlife live together peacefully.
One morning, we had breakfast down by a watering hole, where the animals were going for a drink. They were passing right by us, as if we were not there. We could not believe they were not looking at us, as a meal. Some evenings, we would experience a great tradition known as the “sundowner”. We would climb the hills and look at the magnificent sweeping views and watch the most beautiful sunsets, we had ever seen. Afterwards, we would take a game drive back to camp in time to freshen up for supper. Our guides took us to their village and explained about their culture and traditions.
The Maasai are mainly cattle herders and measure their wealth by the number of cattle. We were able to visit and see them in their daily life. The women construct an “enkang” (corral) in a circle, enclosed by a fence of thorn bushes. The huts are made out of cow dung, urine, sticks and ash. They walk many miles daily to get water and carry it back. They care for the children and prepare the meals. The men and boys tend to the sheep and cattle. The men are allowed to marry more than one woman, but it is expensive as they must pay about 20 cattle to her family. She then lives in the same village as the first wife. The first wife also builds the huts for her husbands other wives. Periodically, the group will abandon the enkang and build a new one in an area with better grazing and water.
We visited a Maasai school. The children, who attend school, must wear a uniform. They were delighted to see us. In front of a classroom, I asked if they had any questions. They asked where I lived. I explained I lived in Florida, near an ocean. They had no idea what an ocean was. I explained that it was like seeing the Serengeti, only with water, instead of ground. I told them I swim in the ocean. They asked what animals I swim with. They liked having their pictures taken. They are taught 3 languages, Kiswahili, Maa (a spoken language) and English. They learn history, and Algebra. The children were so happy and eager to learn. They asked if we would come back and teach them. Reluctantly, we had to move on to the next part of our trip. We flew by bush plane to Tanzania and drove to Ngorongoro Highlands, to stay at Kibo Farm House. The camp is built on a 500 acre farm and tends a 6 acre organic garden and 15 acre coffee plantation. They produce their own fruits and vegetables as well as lamb, chicken and beef.
We departed in the morning for an all day trip into the Ngorongoro crater, which has been designated a World Heritage Site. It is a two million year old, 126 square mile volcanic crater. The crater walls are 2000 ft high. It contains three rivers, several swamps, a soda lake, an acacia forest and open plains. It is said that it rivaled Mt. Kilimanjaro in size. The lava that had filled the volcano, collapsed when the molten rock subsided. There are over 25,000 larger animals within the crater. When we approached the soda lake, it looked as though it was outlined in pink. Only when you drive closer, do you realize it is flamingoes and other water birds in the lake, on the floor of the crater.
After breakfast we drove to Serengeti National Park, where we stopped at Olduvai Gorge, the famous archaeological site where the Leakey’s discovery, brought us to a better understanding of the evolution of the human species.
We drove to our next stay in ‘luxury’ mobile tents, with king size beds, flush toilets and bush showers. This was supposed to be the same way Hemingway stayed. When we entered our tent, we noticed a battery operated lantern and right next to it a very large machete, to protect ourselves. I cut myself slicing a bagel!
That night, we were so surprised to hear this loud deafening sound. It turned out to be the wildebeest and zebra. They are very vocal with grunts and snorts. It was especially loud, as there turned out to be 1 million of the estimated 1 ½ million migrating through our campsite. This became our background over the next 5 days.
The Serengeti is the most impressive wildlife sanctuary in the world. We spent our days up close and personal with all the animals. One day, we were driving through some high grass when our other car got stuck in an elephant footprint. It had rained the night before and as the elephants passed through; they made large ruts in the ground. The cars tire was in this hole as they tried to push it out. Our car was on ‘cat watch’. The time had come to say “kwaheri” (goodbye) to our guides and Africa. I will always have a special place in my heart for the Maasai. I don’t feel there will ever be a trip that will come close to this one. A piece of my heart has been left there. I will be back!