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Our trip started in New York on the next to last day of September. Thirteen hours to Dubai with a three hour layover and then five hours to Nairobi where we were met by private charter and flown to Siriko1, an incredibly beautiful camp on the Lewa Conservancy. Lewa was originally a 100,000 acre farm owned by the Craig family, and was turned into a wild animal conservancy by Ian Craig. Through Ian’s efforts, many endangered black and white rhino have been saved and now prosper at Lewa. This park is guarded by rangers who were former poachers, converted by Ian who demonstrated that through eco-tourism, a live animal is worth far more than a dead one. I woke the first morning, lifted my head, and out of the tent saw a small herd of elephants grazing and drinking at the water hole. They were joined by water bucks, impala, cape buffalo, wart hogs and a recued cheetah named Sheba who delighted in trying t o spook the animals. Our first night was punctuated by the sounds of rhino fighting on the lawn outside our tent, hippos grazing in the same area, and a lone leopard stalking smaller prey.
Our next camp was Sarara, set in Samburu country. The Samburu are cousins of the Masai, and our guides were all Samburu warriors and experts in spotting wild animals in the Bush. We saw “The Big Five”, lions, leopards, rhino, elephants and buffalo at Sarara, but the most special treat was dinner under the stars while we watched a family of fourteen elephants come into a clearing below to drink.
They were no more than 50 yards away, a distance that would later seem miles away compared to our next camp called Elephant Watch. This camp is run by the world famous Ian and Oria Douglas-Hamilton, who have spent the past forty years looking after and studying thousands of elephants.
They and their incredible guides have named the many different families for mountains, artists, royals and rivers, and know almost all the members of each family by name. One morning we set out with a picnic lunch at the river. When we arrived “The Royal Family” awaited us. There were at least thirty elephants, bulls, females, and young elephants suckling their mothers. They recognized the car and the guides by smell, and were not the least bit threatened by our appearance. We got out of the car, usually a big no-no when around any wild elephants, and had our lunch. As we sat there with a cool breeze in our faces, three other families passed by and went into the river to drink. On our way out of the area, one big bull came right up to my side of the car, and raised his trunk to sniff the inhabitants. His trunk came no more than six inches from my face! To say this experience was thrilling would be a gross understatement.

The Flamingo pictures were taken by Dr. William Conway, a former CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a world famous environmentalist/conservationis.

We ended our trip at Samatian Island, a small, beautiful place on Lake Boringa in the middle of the famous Rift Valley. Here we saw thousands upon thousands of birds, including the over three million flamingoes on a nearby lake. We saw eagles, hippos and crocodiles, and were very sad when we had to leave. In all it took us twenty-seven hours to get home. Tired, jet-lagged, but unbelievable thrilled by our experience.

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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!