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Night in the wild, in heart of city

By Tony Mochama | May 16th 2021


The first tented camp Inside Nairobi National Park.[Standard]

From curfews to inter-country lockdowns, phrases like ‘One Zone Lockdown’ simply mean that nocturnal outing and travel outside of one’s immediate environment have become limited at best, and inaccessible at worst.

Frequent visitors to Kenya like Andrei Arkady say: “I want to book a ticket for August vacation in Kenya, but I'm worried that the day we land in JKIA is the same day Uhuru will announce intercounty town lock (sic) so we will be stuck in city (of Nairobi) with Stolichnaya, yet plan is to go and see wildlife in the Masai Mara.”

Which is why we sought ‘exotic excursions’ right in the heart of the county of Nairobi.

Last Saturday afternoon, we got into the Nairobi National Park through the Langata Gate, and 10 minutes later, we were at the Nairobi Tented Camp. The great thing is that one can even use an Uber. Before we got to our site, as we passed the salt lick, we ran into a ‘nuclear family’ of rhinoceros – male, female and baby rhino.

The playful-looking baby rhino was reluctant to leave the rough road, but it budged once its mother gently prodded it with a horn back into the bush.

The male white rhinoceros, built like a truck, turned its entire bulk to face our matchbox taxi, leaving our Uber driver sweating profusely. If he chose to charge that tiny vehicle, it would be like a head-on collision with a matatu on Langata Road.

After what seemed an eternity, the rhino turned around and marched off into the bush. “He was just protecting his family,” friendly and knowledgeable travel guide Hezbon would later explain, during the evening game drive. “Giving the female and baby time to get away. It is good you stood still.”

All the Big Five, except the elephant, are to be found here, and if pachyderms are one’s absolute passion, then one can still go and visit baby elephants at Sheldricks Orphanage nearby.

We join a couple called Lati and Mary Jane in one of those bush land cruisers that handle terrain wonderfully well, while giving one a 360 view of the surrounding bush land, and animals therein. There is a downpour this Saturday evening, which keeps most of the animals, if not quite ‘indoors,’ then out-of-sight.

In spite of this, we still get to see lots of buffaloes, enjoying the banquet of grass in the wild brought about by this blessing of rains. The buffaloes eye us furiously as they chew at the grass equally furiously.

Back at the camp, our dinner will be lamb chops. A ranger-like gentleman called George, will keep the beer and liquor flowing, so that as I sit there chatting with Joseph and the Latis, notebook nearby, with the tattoo of rain on canvas and the gush of a nearby river that runs through the woods in my years, the mood is very ‘Ernest Hemingwayesque,’ except here they conserve animals and environment – unlike a century ago, in 1921, when Big Game hunting was a (bad) blood sport.

After a night in the wild – hard to remember one is 15 minutes from Langata Road out in this bush – there will be a hot bucket-drawn shower that warms ones very bones, whilst still conserving water; followed by a hearty breakfast during which naughty monkeys and small gentle antelopes come to camp.

If not for ‘Back to School’ Sunday preparations, I would have loved a morning game drive past the Impala Observation Point, down to the Lion Corner to see those majestic park beasts, before a leisurely lunch at the Kingfisher Picnic site next to the Hyrax Valley.

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