This is one of those bucket lists that are at the bottom of your bucket. You always intend to achieve it but tell yourself when it happens it happens. Especially for someone living in Nairobi.
I mean, a drive through the park? I can achieve that in like 10 mins from the city. So why go 100km away to see the same thing?
Well, there is just something about the wild that never gets old. No matter how much you watch a lion hunt, An Elephant graciously walking on a designated footpath, A buffalo chewing curd while staring into your soul or a zebra’s black stripes on a white body, the excitement will always be fresh. Fresh like milk from a cow udder – did I just invent a simile? Well my English teacher must see me now. She will be proud, considering my mother tongue defined my essays back then. Actually, I think I should be the one consulted when the government is setting up the new curriculum.
Anyway, enough with the classroom stuff. Back to the Wild. Have you ever met a Cheetah looking for her cubs, chirping like a bird? That’s some NATGeo stuff there, right? We only see such while seated on a recliner with a dawa cup (especially during this covid period) right next to you.
We have only two days to explore this vast land, actually we have only a few hours, so we have to plan really well. I always have people for that. They save me a lot from a million phone calls before a trip. Well, this time it’s more of WhatsApp messages being sent to confirm that we have transport, and not just transport but some van that makes us look foreign. You know, one with those Pop-Up roofs that makes you stare a giraffe in the eye. The next thing on the list is accommodation. We had options for this, Do we do a bush camp or do we Glamp, kindly google that, don’t ask me what that means, I already invented a simile, my brain is overloaded. Last major item on the list is Food. We love our Nyama Choma well done except for a few, and what’s best at a campsite than the sizzling sound of Nyama Choma, trying to overshadow some Bongo or Amapiano music from a 90% discounted bluetooth speaker.
We set our Journey from the city, Departure time is at 8:00 am and ohh boy we kept our time this time round. By 8:05 am the roof popping van was off the city streets. We have all met before, so no need for introductions. The van is quiet, heads leaning on the car windows, eyes shut. None is praying though, we are all asleep. I have no idea where people were the previous evening, that’s none of my business. An hour later we stop for a health break, it’s healthy when on a road trip. Nothing much to see on the road by the way. So maybe I should skip to the good part.
We had a bit of hiccups on logistics. We were to have lunch somewhere along the journey, but here we are at 12:30 pm wondering what we should eat since we have just left the tarmac behind and we are headed to the park. Maybe we should slaughter one of the buffaloes. My thoughts run wild. I forgot that we need a licence for that.
Steve tells us that there is food at the campsite. The challenge is we are paying for it from our pockets and it’s ksh.1500 per plate. Like I said, we didn’t plan well this time round. According to our standards that’s like 3 times our meal budget. So we all go quiet on that as the driver proceeds.
This is the Good Part
The camping site. In the middle of nowhere, there is this simple manicured place called Little Amanya Camp. (Maggie tells me it means little lioness). Lovely is an understatement. It is LOVELY. I love views. Views that are vast enough to illusionize your eyes. Views that have a mirage at the horizon. For this camp the view is Mount Kilimanjaro. Majestically just showing off its peak above the clouds. That’s all it needs to make a statement at the moment. One day. I tell myself. One day I will be up there. I hope I will be able to spot Little Amanya. My eyes turn to the right. Another mirage? Not really. Lake Amboseli spreads across the plains. You can’t see much at the moment, but I bet you there is a lot in there. Flamingoes are the most.
It’s a dry season. Everything that the eyes touch is golden brown. Lions have an advantage with this.
We head to the restaurant and start making our orders hoping it will take 10 minutes as per the waiter. Long distance traders would have sold their goods by the time the orders show up, the portions are also disappointing. Especially for us who love food. Next time I’ll have to make meal reservations, that’s what Amanya recommends.
Poor planning just cost us lunch. It’s already 4:30pm. We had planned for an evening sundowner drive in the park. We have no choice but to proceed, the only problem is the park closes at 6:00pm so we have to rush through it. But before that, we need to check into our rooms.
This part made us forget what we just ate. The rooms are amazing. Each room has a queen size bed. Enough for me and mine or yours, whatever. I am used to bathtubs inside bathrooms well, these guys just reinvented that idea by placing the tubs outside. Some in front of the tented house, open to the wild view. Others enclosed at the back of the house but left open at the top for the star gazers in the team. Well that means I’ll be showering for like an hour tonight.
We have to go. The guide requests, we only have an hour or so left for the evening game drive. So we dash out. The road is not favouring the back benchers. Fifteen minutes later we are at the gate. A few payments later ( about ksh. 1000 per Kenyan Person), we are in.
The driver is one of those experienced tour guides. He had a radio call with him. He switches it on to listen for the best routes in the park, that’s when I realize each animal has a code word.
I hear, “ You can find Maskio on a certain path.” So that calls for questions. Maskio means Elephant I guess because of its large ears, Lion is named Kichwa, no idea why, big headed perhaps? Hehe. Cheetah is Madoadoa ya chini. Leopard is Madoadoa ya juu. Hyena is Madoadoa Chafu, Shingo…etc.
He has already identified which is the best route for the less than 45 minutes drive, through his radio call, so we rush through it. This time it’s maskio. But wait, there is just a lot going on in this area of the park. We have Gazelles, Giraffes, Warthogs, Hippos and even buffaloes grazing right next to the herd of Elephants. To add to that, the clouds have cleared off the Mountain and the view is to die for. The area is swampy so the vegetation is green and plenty. I would stare at this for hours without blinking, but we only have 15 minutes until the park closes, so that’s it for today.
Back to the camp, earlier on, my muslim friend slaughtered a goat, you know to make it halal. So now it is almost ready. We thought that the camp was done with surprises, but hell no. We find a table set outside right next to the bonfire overlooking the plains towards the sunset. That’s too much in one sentence, right?
We all sit down and take it all in. It’s a background worth a million photos and that’s exactly what we do. We take as many photos as the sunset could accommodate. Then just sit there waiting for the meat to fill our stomach. The sun drained the most that we had so we called it a night after a few hours of gossip. The next day is scheduled for 5:30 am. Goodnight.
Like I said before, we have a great team and time keeping seems to the least of our worries. We are off again. This time the sun will find us in the park, and boy oh boy you should see it rise. Animal silhouettes popping up from every corner. It is MAGICAL. We are lucky we brought the pop up van. We have a 360 view. The herbivores and amazing birds are everywhere. Then we spot a cheetah chirping, hyenas laying in the swamp, Jackals wondering how to hunt a giraffe, and of course Kichwa. That’s not all. Like I said the park has a lake, you have to drive around it just to see how amazing this place is. I thought we were done after the last drop of the lake, but again, hell no. We head to an observational point. I think it is the highest point of the park. This time you get out of the vehicle and hike about 100 steps while being educated about the park. At the top you have all that your eyes can see. Mount Kilimanjaro has been our background throughout our drive, but still I can’t get enough of it. One day. I keep telling myself.
Other teams arrive, carrying baskets with their packed breakfast. I wish we did that too. This prompts our stomachs to complain so we head back down and out of the park.
Breakfast is served, plus the remaining goat meat from yesterday’s dinner. What a meal. Nothing like yesterday’s lunch. Nobody is willing to go home so we ask for a late checkout. We need a dip in the bathtub, for the ladies at least. Softlife it is.