An Unforgettable Kenyan Safari
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Kenya is the country where the safari originated. It is where one comes to discover a beautiful diversity of landscapes, myriad of animal, bird and plant life, and fascinating traditional culture and warrior tribes. Almost every known landform – glacial ice to arid desert, mountain massifs to sprawling savannahs, large lakes and dense forest – is found in Kenya.
The Great Rift Valley, its floor littered with
beautiful lakes and extinct volcanoes, cuts through this land from north to south. Mt. Kenya, at 17,058 feet, is impressive with its snow-capped peaks; it stands above the rolling grassland plains and the intriguing semi-desert wilderness much further to the north. Lake Victoria, the
largest lake in Africa and source of the Nile, dominates the southwest of the country. To the south, Kenya meets the Indian Ocean in a brilliant blaze of blue, where the
waters meet the fine white sands and amazing coral reefs.
However, Kenya's ultimate attraction, of course, is its concentration of spectacular wildlife found in the 48 national parks, reserves, marine parks and game sanctuaries. That was the purpose of my latest visit. I'm awestruck, at times, during my forays to Africa and, as I trek through Kenya and recall some of the country's earliest explorers – Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen, Lord
Delamere, Elspeth Huxley and Ernest Hemingway. All have experienced the excellent variety of privately owned bush homesteads, small hideaway lodges and nights under canvas in exclusive permanent or mobile camps.
It is truly possible to experience the magic of this country as it was done in days before.
I enjoyed a long, yet relaxing flight on Air Canada from Toronto to Zurich and then on to Nairobi, where Annabella of Maniago Safaris – the company that I
always use when in Kenya – met me. I consider Maniago to be the best because they best understand the client's needs. The same driver/guide has been with me for many years and I consider him a friend now. He always manages to position me in the best spot for that perfect picture.
After energizing my battery and gathering some steam following the long journey, it was off to Samburu National Reserve, 325 kilometres north of Nairobi and located in the hot and arid fringes of Kenya. The reserve offers plenty of water, trees and shade to attract wildlife that includes elephant, lion, the reticulated giraffe and the Grevy zebra from the surrounding savannah plains. Leopards are also regularly spotted. There are more than 350 varieties of birds. Samburu is often grouped together with the Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves as they lie so close together. These include the famous Somali ostriches (distinguished by their unique purple/blue legs during mating season), kingfishers, humming birds, eagles, guinea fowls and vultures.
While on the reserve, we stayed at Elephant Bedroom Camp situated on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and so named because of the number of elephants that frequent the area. It is a small, exclusive camp, nestled in the shade of the doum palm trees. Elephants roam the gaunt hills, which punctuate the scrubland and where occasional clusters of the vividly coloured desert rose challenge the arid surroundings. These elephants seek solace and contentment in the shallow waters of the river and, from time to time, a visitor finds herds bathing and drinking in a spectacle of unconscious pleasure.
The river is at its best in the reserve, broad and sluggish with a large population of crocodile seen on sandbanks at almost every bend. In the lower reaches, where permanent pools have formed as a tributary joins the river, are hippos. The river is fringed with giant acacias, figs and doum palms all of which provide shade and sustenance to the wildlife, that comes to water. For most of the year, Samburu National Reserve is under the unsympathetic equatorial sun. Relief comes from the wide swathe of the Ewaso Ngiro River which rises hundreds of kilometres to the west on the foothills of the Aberdares and which vanishes beyond Samburu in the recesses of the Lorian swamp.
From here it was off to Elsa's Kopje, located basically next door to the Samburu National Reserve in Meru National Park. Often described as Kenya's best-kept secret, it is a hidden jewel in the untamed wilderness of Meru National Park and made famous by the book and film, Born Free, and named after Elsa the Lioness. The lodge is built on the site of George Adamson's first campsite, with each of the nine individually designed and luxurious cottages offering complete privacy and the ultimate room with a view. Invisible to the eye as you approach, »
the lodge offers stunning 360-degree views over Meru's landscape of giant baobabs, doum palms and hot bushland, interwoven with lush springs and myriad of rivers. This is home to the rare northern desert species of Beisa oryx, Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, lesser kudu as well as large herds of elephant, prides of lion, cheetah and leopard.
The elephants of Africa are still very much under threat. Culling continues, due to claims that increasing numbers threaten to destroy the habitat and trample other species. Elephants are still at risk for their ivory, which is even on sale in some duty-free airport lounges. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to the unhappy situation into which all elephants are born. Baby elephants are still being taken from the wild for sale to unsuitable destinations, including Chinese circuses and zoos.
One of the highlights of every safari I take in Kenya is a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to see the tremendous work that continues to be done in the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife. These include anti-poaching, safeguarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness, addressing animal welfare issues and providing the veterinary assistance to animals in need. An important part of the trust is the rescue, hand-rearing and rehabilitation of elephant and rhino orphans, as well as orphans of any wild species. As you can imagine it is a wonderful experience to be able to visit and see all the amazing work done to rehabilitate these orphans.
The trust has grown over the years and expanded its conservation programs considerably under the Sheldrick. The elephant orphanage is world-renowned with the work subject to countless documentaries. It's as simple as this: the work saves motherless baby elephants that cannot survive on their own for the first three years of their life.
Overall, Kenya is a destination you must experience and one you will never forget.


For more information on Maniago Safaris:  
www.maniagosafaris.com

Kenya Tourist Board, Canada  

www.voxtm.ca/clients_kenya.php

Bart will be on Safari again in June.

Call or email: (905) 251-1258 or  
bartcard@rogers.com.

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