For ten days on safari, traveling across the Samburu and Masai Mara regions of Kenya, our tribe of nine women melded into a herd of forty elephants while they played, ate, scratched and trumpeted; became one with a pride of 12 lion during a light rain shower; migrated with thousands of wildebeest and zebra on their instinctual drive to green grass; caressed dik-dik, giraffe, and elephants; and rode camels while imagining ourselves on a desert trek with a Toureg tribe.
We laid on the earth, absorbing negative ions – healing our bodies and souls.
We sat silently in the bush with a Masai herder boy, listening to cow bells and the wind, later pondering how different our children in America would be if they spent their days outside watching after animals as opposed to staring at TV, and texting.
Our fist night in Nairobi at the Giraffe Manor, a giraffe stuck her long neck into the dining room. Her 18 inch tongue curled around our fingers as she plucked giraffe food pellets from our hands and watched us with dark soulful eyes. The next morning she joined us again for breakfast.
Leaving Nairobi behind we flew North to the dry Samburu region. We saw the rare Grevy’s Zebra, the elaborate mating dance of the Somali Ostrich, and many Gerenuk whose body stretches into a straight line while balancing on its hind legs to eat. We visited a research station of the Ewaso Lion Project, and were welcomed into a Samburu tribe Manyatta early in the morning.
The children played a kick-the-rock-into-squares game, while baying goats were led out to pasture, and clucking chickens wandered the parched empty dirt. Later we found a group of women, children, and donkeys from this same Manyatta washing their clothes and collecting water in the red colored river. They ran nervously away from us to hide their nakedness and told us not to take photos.
Temperatures reached 100 degrees in Samburu as we plunged into cold water pools at Sasaab, our Morrocon themed eco-lodge overlooking the Ewasa Nyiro River where elephant came to drink and hyrax and dik-dik observed our every move.
We then flew to Mara North Conservancy where Masai graze their goats and cows, competing with wildlife for grass and water. The communities benefit from tourism and work out grazing rights to certain areas at certain times of the year so that the ecosystem remains in balance.
At sunset we watched a pride of lion with cubs stalking birds for practice and fun, licking the rain off of each other, and calling in a low grunting to an adult female who was temporarily missing from the group. Our tents at Kicheche Camp looked over a lush valley, and at night my askari’s torch waved through the bushes highlighting the shining eyes of baboon, hyena, and bushbuck.
The dawns chorus of howling hyena and grunting wildebeest were natures alarm clock before French pressed coffee and biscuits were delivered to our tents as an official wake up call. Lion, cheetah moms with cubs, and a leopard sighting made it our best day for big cats sightings.
The famous river crossing at the Mara was a cemetery of floating wildebeest bodies, rank from decay.
Fifteen-foot long crocodiles lay on the banks, bored and unable to move from weeks of gluttony. Hippos crowded together in the water and vultures lined the sides of the river not able to finish the copious carcasses.
People wait for hours with cameras in hand in hopes of seeing the wildebeest and zebra cross the crocodile filled Mara river.
Not our group.
We instead chose to put our vehicles in the middle of the live herds, as they migrated in lines of thousands of animals across the plains, on their instinctual trek.
We stood on the seats of our vehicles with outstretched arms as the largest migration on earth grunted their way past our Land Rovers. Without speaking we felt the dry winds tossle our hair and flip our hats almost inside out, breathing in the air and earth of the place of our ancestral beginnings.
On our last night at Rekero, my favorite tented camp, we fell asleep to the sound of hippos within a stones throw away from where we slept, and the next morning waved goodbye to one of the most magical places on earth knowing our experiences on this safari have changed us forever.