I had a Discovery Channel moment in Kenya, when I came face to face with a herd of wild elephants. Elephants are a familiar sight in India. You can spot the tamed ones taking instructions from their mahouts in the middle of Delhi’s crowded roads. But the sight of a herd of elephants is something you will only see on an African safari.
Apart from elephants, my stay at the Shaba National Reserve introduced me to buffaloes, pythons and sometimes lions. I was taken on game drives where the rest of Samburu ecosystem — from the Grevy’s zebras, to giraffes, to Gerenuk (or the Waller’s gazelle) and the rare desert species, Oryx — was presented in its mighty glory. The highlight of those drives was watching a leopard making a kill. It took a while before I could accept that this is what a real safari is — roaming the jungle in the day and listening to the roars of lions at night. Luckily, the roars were heard from the safe confines of my Moorish style tent at Joy’s Camp, located in the middle of the arid Samburu region.
My next stop, a slightly less adventurous one, was the Lewa Conservancy — 96,000km of privately owned land. The conservancy was green and full of wildlife. Our day ended with a spotting two lionesses, three feet away, just before the sun set. The guides at the conservatory are from the Masaai tribe. There were few wild animals at my final destination, the Sabuk lodge. But this was compensated by gorgeous views and an insight into the lives of the local Samburu community.
The rooms in the lodge had only three walls. The fourth side is left open, affording a spectacular view of a gorge with the river flowing at the bottom. My bed faced the hills. The voice of the river was my soothing lullaby and the chirping of birds as the sun rose my alarm the next morning. Breakfast was served amidst bushes at the top of the cliff where we reached riding on camels. We saw young Samburu boys celebrating the arrival of rains and noted with amusement how they wooed the women with their traditional dance. The tribals here are used to interacting and inviting the tourists; some of them even speak English.