This morning we bid a sad farewell to Rhino Watch and piled into the cars for our next destination. We were heading north, and down the mountain to Samburu National Park. The drive was as bumpy as usual, punctuated with a couple of stops for petrol and supplies. It is always interesting to visit the local towns & villages and get a glimpse of the every day life of the locals. It is a land of such contrasts. The poverty & difficult living conditions for many are apparent, but today we popped into a supermarket that would have fitted into any city in the world. It was probably the most modern structure we have seen since we arrived.
Everyone was struck by the changing landscape as we travelled from Rhino Watch to Samburu. The green hillsides and snow-capped mountain gave way to dry, flat, scrubby plains. The people here are from different tribal groups, there are more Somalis, who are Muslims, and dress in the traditional manner. We saw many villages consisting of huts made of wooden poles and covered with animal skins. The pleasant coolness of the high country was replaced by intense but dry heat. All in the space of a 3 hour drive. Fascinating.
We reached Samburu at lunchtime. We are staying at a tented camp called Elephant Bedroom. Chris (and Frank) have really saved the best till last. This place is just lovely. Huge tents with possibly the biggest bed I’ve ever seen and every comfort you could wish for (including indoor plumbing). The common areas are all beautifully furnished (also in tents) with large comfy chairs, lots of timber & cane, and very attractive artworks. The whole site is shady & pleasantly cooler than the surrounding desert. It is right on the bank of the river, although the river is quite dry. But the most exciting part is that it is situated right inside the park, so wild animals roam free here. Particularly elephants! So we are not allowed to walk around at night alone. If you need to leave your tent you have to signal for an escort, and someone will come & take you wherever you need to go. In fact I’m pretty sure I can hear an elephant amongst the trees outside my tent, but it is too dark to see. We were warned to always zip up the opening to our tent because otherwise monkeys will get inside. During the day we can walk around unescorted, but were told to be on the lookout & to give the animals a wide berth (although we were assured this was for their protection, not ours). Definitely the most attractive, most comfortable & most different place we have stayed on this trip, and a great way to finish the safari.
After lunch and a short rest we went for our first game drive. The benefit of being inside the park is that the game drive starts as soon as you get in the car – no hour long bumpy drives to get to the gate. It would be hard to top the excitement of seeing the lions yesterday, but this came close & was lots of fun. Somehow the animals here are not nearly as skittish as the ones we have seen everywhere else, and with the low vegetation are much easier to spot. We saw lots of animals & birds, and several we had not seen before. There were some big ones (giraffe, elephants, lions), some middle sized ones (Greater Kudu, Impala, Gazelles) and some very cute little ones (dwarf mongoose, ground squirrel, dik-dik). But my favourite was the Gerenuk, a deer that looks like a ballet dancer, with long slender legs and a long slender neck. It is unusual in that it can stand on its hind legs to reach leaves higher in the bushes. Also some birds that ranged from beautiful to bizarre. Can’t wait till tomorrow – our last full day of game drives.
It is a full moon tonight, and the sight of the moon rising above the desert was something to behold.
Well, the generator has just gone off, meaning two things. It is dark & it is past bedtime! Even here we have internet access, though it is quite slow, so I’ll post this now and say Good Night.