An elephant at the gate: great safari experience in kenya

An Elephant at the Gate: Great Safari Experience in Kenya

I remember the drive was long, dusty and bumpy. At first the smooth highway from Nairobi (capital city of Kenya) led northwards into lush, green highlands, whose slopes were squared off into maize fields, cow paddocks and coffee plantations. From the cool shoulders of Mt. Kenya, the road branched eastwards and veered downwards into the vast savannahs and scrublands of Meru National Park.

Driving along, the tarmacked freeway gave way to an all-weather, murram (earth) road that guaranteed a rutted, dusty drive to the untouched wilds of the eastern frontiers.  It is a vast terrain of flat, tawny earth and olive-green trees bathed in the brilliant sunrays of equatorial Africa; a land of unspoiled rugged beauty that stills the mind and stirs the soul.

The first sightings of grazing gazelles, antelope and zebras were greeted with delighted ‘oohs’ and finger pointing by my siblings and me. But after countless kilometres and (seemingly) a hundred hours on the road, the excitement inevitably fizzled into the sweltering mid-afternoon.

“I’m hungry…Are we almost there…Mum, he’s sitting on me!”

Cries of three tired children and a toddler crammed into the backseat of a saloon car without air conditioning. With vast relief we finally arrived at the safari lodge in the park. Tumbling out of the car with stiff knees, the khaki-uniformed staff received us with wide smiles and warm greetings. We ran about the cool interiors of the reception with its flagstone floors and thick, wooden beams that held up a tall, thatched roof.  In the luxurious lodge bedrooms we explored every inch, even onto the porches that overlooked the yellow-bark acacia trees along the river. It’s such a sense of adventure for city children arriving at a new game park and a new safari lodge. Even now, a safari holiday still fills me with a child-like thrill.

Having investigated everything down to the toilet-paper brand and hastily staked claim to the various beds, we decided to mosey about the lodge grounds. Permission granted by the parents, with strict instructions to stay within the lodge boundaries, I scooped up my year-old brother and off we went.

After some time of wandering around we found ourselves in the car park area, with the gated entrance about 100 yards off and the staff quarters close by it.  It was getting to early evening now and we took it into our heads to go and check out the staff quarters.  What novelties we expected to find there I’m not certain anymore, but what found us was far beyond our expectation.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  He suddenly emerged from behind the staff lodgings, walking in a slow and stately manner; a solitary bull elephant sauntering silently towards us.  I remember thinking, ‘Oh, here comes an elephant’, much the same way you’d blithely dismiss a cat or dog that crossed your driveway. After all, what else would you expect to come strolling through safari lodge.

Ah, the blissful ignorance of the young. It never occurred to us that the situation might be dangerous, what with a wild, six tonne giant coming our way. Plus there wasn’t a single adult in the vicinity to knock some sense into our heads. So we continued walking towards him and him towards us. Finally, about ten yards ahead, the bull elephant halted. That must have been when he finally saw us — or smelled us.

Elephants, alas, have notoriously weak eyesight and the wind must have been blowing away from him. We too stopped in our tracks and for a few idyllic moments, in the golden-orange light of dusk, we just stared at each other quietly.   A lone elephant and four children: me, the eldest at 11 years, my 9 year-old sister and my two brothers, 5 and 1 year respectively. The ‘tusker’ was massive and magnificent with brownish-gray creased skin, broad ears and a long, wrinkled trunk. Only a gentle flap of the ears broke his statuesque stance.  After a while, convinced that we meant no harm or perhaps his curiosity satiated, he turned round and trod quietly off, disappearing into the twilight of the bush.

Many years on and mother still breaks into a sweat, thinking of how she could have lost all her four children in a day. I, on the other hand, will forever treasure that wonderful encounter with an elephant at the gate.

Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved.
Kari Mutu, P O Box 25310-00603, Nairobi, Kenya.

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Опубликовано 01 May 2011 в 3:23 pm. Рубрика: A. Вы можете следить за ответами к этой записи через RSS.
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