Africa Stories and Tips

Safari Day 12: Mt. Kenya to Samburu

River near Archers Point Photo,

There are risks and dangers in Africa, but not to the degree I had imagined or prepared for. My perceptions lead to a greater degree of apprehension than other places I have traveled. This uneasiness has been slow to dissipate, with my wife and daughter developing new fears as fast as the old disappear. We are, in the end, having a good time and acquiring an education about not only the wildlife but also life in East Africa. My only apprehension is that I may have planned too long a safari. I always fear boredom more than anything else. This is why I hate cruises, and I fear that this trip is starting to have that feel. We observe without interacting, we move from place to place without moving our legs, everybody wants to please us, we have the potential to stuff ourselves with food, and we always end our safari days with a clean bed in a small, well-manicured room safe from the environment. We have found the people of Kenya to be kind, considerate, and polite. The food and accommodations are mostly better than that in Europe. The roads, so far, have been very tolerable, but that is probably because we are in a large 4WD and not the tiny, packed minivans I see all over. And the animals? More plentiful then I expected. We have seen far more animals in a very short time than I anticipated. I hate to say it, but the game drives are getting boring because I am seeing more of the same but in different poses.

We woke up at about 7am. It was very cold. The watering hole had only a few waterbucks and nothing more. As we were packing, a Sykes monkey scurried to our window and reached inside before running away. We went to the restaurant for breakfast. We continued our restricted diet of only hot coffee, hot milk, dry cereal with nothing on it, unpeeled fruits, and lots of bread, in spite of other tourists having an absolute feast! My wife and daughter are complaining about deprivation, but I remind them that we still have a couple of weeks to go, so this is not the time to experiment. We went out to our vehicles, followed by six porters carrying our luggage. We made a course due north. The mountain air was cool, crisp, clean, and refreshing, but I knew that would soon change and we would enter another hot, arid area. We passed wheat and cornfields, small towns, and cattle, but no game. Our journey took us to an altitude of 8,100 feet before starting our descent down into the Kenyan heartland. The sky was cloudy and it started to sprinkle. Uticus was surprised. He told us that it is usually very hot and he has never seen rain here before. The landscape was now very parched and desolate. We passed colorfully dressed Turkana tribal people. The road was full of pot holes but our 4WD handled it well. As we drove on, we saw lots of traditionally dressed Moslems and several mosques. Uticus said that hese are refugee Somalis (we are 300 miles from Somalia). The road petered out to some potholes, but was mostly dirt, as we approached a military checkpoint. Uticus registered us and we were allowed to proceed north. I asked if there was anything to be worried about in the northern region. Expressionlessly he said, "No problem". Hmmm... not according to Paul Thoreaux in Dark Star Safari, where he wrote about banditry in this region and shots fired in a place called Archers Point. Uticus and I had several candid discussions about my concerns for my wife and daughter. He was very reserved and reassuring that this area is not dangerous. He would only say that the military wants to keep track of all vehicles coming and going from this area. As we continued, the land became even more arid and desolate, dotted with Acacia and scrubby plants. Occasionally we saw mud huts surrounded by Acacia branches, a few colorful Samburu, and a few Moslems with herds of domestic camels in the distance. Vegetation was very sparse and now the only remains of civilization was this dirt road. Nothing out here at all!! A sign to our left noted the direction of the national park. We headed in this new direction. Before long we came upon a small bridge crossing the only wet river we had seen. There were several Moslems in the river with their herd of camels drinking. We entered a tiny flake of a town called ARCHERS POINT! Well, at least I did not have to wonder how close I was to an area of banditry. We entered the Samburu park entrance. Immediately we saw many colorfully dressed Samburu with painted faces. Except for the black skin, the people reminded me of Native Americans. Not much farther we saw herds of elephants and impala. About 10km farther we came to an oasis of trees beside a shallow, slow-moving river. This was the Samburu Intrepids Club tented luxury camp. I looked right out of Disneyland. There was entry, dining, lounge, and gift shop all on wooden platforms, with tall, peaked thatched roofs. Rock walkways lead to tented rooms. Tents were canvas, large, on wooden platforms, with thatched roofs, all under the shade of tall trees. Inside the spacious tents were teakwood furniture (desk, poster beds, and chairs), ceiling fan, and lights. A solid wall separated the bed area from a modern bathroom (two sinks, large shower, and a flush toilet). There was plenty of hot water and electricity from 4am to midnight. The perimeter is guarded by an electrified fence and Samburus armed with spears (very comforting!). We were warned that the river area is unguarded and that we should be vigilant for rogue elephants, which can be dangerous. They also told us to ignore gunshots as they are blanks to scare elephants away. We went on a game drive at 4pm. The first animals we came upon were most peculiar, called gerenuk. Looks like an impala with a very elongated neck and cute, long ears protruding straight at right angles to the head. What is also amusing is the way they stand on their hind legs, for long periods, eating acacias. We saw lots of dik diks, which are the smallest of the antelope family and about the size of a large cat (but with longer legs). We saw lots of giraffe wandering this barren wilderness eating acacia. There were herds of dark, gray elephants. Lots of interesting birds including; eagles, vultures, guinea fowl, colorful, small bee eaters, buffalo weavers making hundreds of nests in the acacia, hornbills of several species and colors, and ostrich. Lots of impala, waterbuck, grants gazelle. Wildlife not as concentrated as other places we have been but interesting nonetheless. We drove quickly over the dusty-sandy trails as Uticus used his radio to find some big cats. As usual, there were lots of other vehicles out as well. Mostly minivans, some 4WD LandCruisers, and even some huge diesel trucks filled with campers. We were all driving furiously through the bush in search of cats. Something came over the radio in Swahili that had Uticus driving more fervently and us holding the grips of the hatches we were standing in for dear life. We pulled into a group of about a dozen other vehicles as we too gawked at a lioness and another small female lion lounging on a dead, low-lying tree. They paid us no attention as the cameras clicked. A few feet below them were two other lionesses lounging. After awhile, we moved down the road and encountered another pair of lionesses lounging. We drove back standing in the hatches savoring this surreal experience and feeling the comfort and exhilaration of the humid air rushing passed. We relaxed in a large, leather skin and wooden chairs in the dining room, and atmosphere and food were first-rate. It seemed so out of place in the middle of a vast wilderness and being surrounding by luxury. We were escorted back to the tent by a Samburu with a spear and kerosene lantern. Before he left, I asked if there were any dangers at night we needed to know about. He said that we need not worry. It seldom happens that leopards come into the camp, and if one does comes close, we will hear baboons scream. I sprayed the nets and room. So there I was, writing, sitting in a comfortable teakwood bed surrounded by mosquito netting and a ceiling fan. Outside were the exotic sounds and howls of animals. This is right out of Hemingway’s "Green Hills of Africa." The howls of the animals put me to sleep. At about 1am I heard what sounded like a human scream. I listened closely and heard troops of baboons moving quickly by screaming. I placed my flashlight and Swiss Army knife under my pillow and went back to sleep.

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip