Sunday 24th July 2011
‘Team Nicholas’ ready for departure
(left to right: Alex, Susan, Terry, Nicholas, Sandra & Steve)
After breakfast we set out on the relatively short drive from Samburu to Sweetwaters Tented Camp near Nanyuki. Other than what we had seen and read in the brochure, we were not sure what to expect from a “tented camp” in Kenya, but we need not have had any concerns. The last time I had been camping had been with the Scouts in the late 1960s, but this on a totally different level!
The tents were spacious and comfortable, furnished with a full-size double bed and other furniture, including a full en-suite bathroom. This was camping in style!
Sweetwaters Tent… …camping, but not as we know it!
The camp was set by a waterhole that is visited by wildlife both by day, and night. Our tent was on the “upper level” so that it looked out over the lower tents and gave us a commanding view of the grounds and the waterhole.
Sweetwaters sits exactly on the Equator, just under 6,000 feet above sea level, and is located within the Ol Pejeta Private Conservancy. We arrived in plenty of time for lunch, and as we walked from our tent, a Maribou Stork came into land by the waterhole. On the fence by the kitchens, a Crowned Hornbill sat in hope of some titbits. On the far side of the waterhole two Rhino were browsing; while closer to us a pair of Grant’s Gazelle bucks decided to have a contest to see who was the more dominant one – it was all happening here and we hadn’t set foot outside the camp yet. This is Kenya!
Sparring Grant’s Gazelles
After lunch we set out on our game drive, which also included a visit to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and also a lovely surprise. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya and the population at Sweetwaters are in their own fenced area, having been rescued from Rwanda and Uganda where they are killed for bushmeat. While it was, in some respects, sad to see them in a large enclosure, in other ways it was heartening to think that at least they were able to live their lives free from threat from some of their closest relations, homo sapiens.
On leaving the Chimp Sanctuary we continued our drive, at one point coming across a Warthog who was casually walking along minding its own business. What the Warthog had, at that point, failed to spot was the Lioness lying in wait for it further along its path! As we watched the Lioness shuffled back into cover, while the Warthog continued to wander closer and closer to what we assumed would be its death! We watched and waited with baited breath… ….until about a hundred yards from the waiting Lioness the Warthog appeared to sense something; lifted its head to sniff the air; and then with tail in the air, ran off at speed in the opposite direction!
The Hunter and the Hunted
Resuming our drive we reached an area where we were able to leave the vehicle and a then came the surprise! A ranger met us and took us to an area fenced off with a low wooden fence, and introduced us to Barak, a blind Rhino. Barak slowly made his way over to us and in exchange for handfuls of fresh hay, seemed quite content to allow us to stroke him. What an experience, stroking a Rhino – we know that our youngest daughter, who considers Rhinos to be “cute and cuddly” (her words, not ours), would be really envious!
After a full afternoon’s game viewing we made our way back to camp for dinner. Tomorrow morning we move on to Lake Nakuru to continue our Kenyan wildlife adventures.