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Amazing Amboseli

TRAVEL & DESTINATION
By Gathenya Njaramba | March 13th 2016
A herd of elephants at the Amboseli National Park.

The chirping of birds lures you out of dreamland.

After a peaceful night, you are at peace with yourself and the surroundings. You feel rejuvenated and relaxed.

A glimpse outside the window reveals a magnificent sunrise overlooking Africa’s highest mountain, the majestic Mt Kilimanjaro.

Some people claim it is the tallest single-standing mountain in the world, because Mount Everest is made of clusters of huge blocks.

The clouds cascade gently down the slope to unveil white snow at the peak. The view is breathtaking and connects you to your inner-self and the so-called divine being.

It is amazing as you place yourself into nature’s order of things and momentarily forget the daily struggles we immerse ourselves in, worrying about the future.

What shall I eat? Are my children safe in school? Will the traffic jam be lighter today?

A game drive in the park also offers a great opportunity to view the majestic Mt Kilimanjaro

This morning, these worries, including the din of matatus, private motorists and cart pushers as they jostle for space, are nowhere in your mind. You are part of God’s seamless art and you feel no pressure to alter a single thing.

Indeed, you linger a bit longer in the shower as warm water runs over your body like a river does to Mother Earth. That is only possible deep inside Amboseli National Park where an exhilarating experience awaits you.

It is unforgettable and mind-blowing at the same time. For where else will you watch the elephant up close  without getting scared?

Our guide, Reuben Kirangi, says that it is only at Amboseli that you can park a vehicle near an elephant.

“Elephants in other parks do not like the sound of vehicles. You would be dead meat if you stopped this close to an elephant in other parks. Elephants are generally humble animals and their reactions in the other parks is probably  because of increased poaching,” Reuben says, as awestruck colleagues take selfies with the jumbos in the background.

The morning game drive offers a face-to-face encounter with other animals too such buffaloes, hippos, zebras and if you are lucky, a pride of lions could just be hunting the antelope.

There is also a wide variety of birds and Reuben fascinates us with stories of each variety.

He shows us the white stork, which he says flies all the way from France non-stop to escape the winter. How does that happen and for how long, I ask.

He says the white stork flies for nearly three weeks without feeding and at a very high altitude so that it just cruises in the air. Wow! Nature always has its way.

Maasai traders sell their wares to visitors outside the Amboseli National Park. PHOTOS: JACKSON NJAMBA/STANDARD

A few metres away, we come across a herd of buffaloes. A few of them look at us, shake their heads and begin to urinate.

They are agitated and Reuben says buffaloes kill more human beings than any other animal. We spot a few gnus and the lone ones we are told are males waiting for females to join them for mating. What a way to begin a family!

Along the drive, catastrophe happens. An elephant’s calf is stuck in a swamp and its mother is frantically calling for help with the trunk, its tail pointing sharply at the sky.

Park senior warden Zainab Salim and her deputy Joseph Dadachi quickly swing into action. They mobilise several rangers in some three Landcruisers for the rescue mission.

After struggling for about an hour to disperse the baby elephant’s furious family and pull it out of the mud, they rescue it from what would have been its muddy grave.

“Elephants are proper families and the mother protects her siblings jealously. They must have wondered what we were doing to their calf, but they seem happy to have reunited,”    Dadachi says after the successful rescue.

On the horizon, the sun begins to set and the scene is a spectacle to behold. I take in the moment which lasts about five minutes as the wind blows furiously at my clothes and threatens to blow away the Maasai shuka I had been offered by a local moran to keep the cold at bay.

We take a few sips of our drink and toast to the sundowner. It was a day well spent  even as we look forward to tomorrow.

During the game drive on the second day, our guide tells us that Kenya has the best view of Mount Kilimanjaro, even though Tanzania hosts it.

“Here it is easy to view animals  because they graze together,” he adds. And indeed in the evening, we meet more elephants ‘returning home’ after a day in ‘the office’.

The calves are playful and engage in what a human being may consider a fight. And because elephants are matriarchal, the mother of each family leads the way  ‘home’.

A visit to Amboseli, which means a dusty place in Maa, would be incomplete without the Maasai moran’s dance. So, as we enjoy a bush dinner, a group of morans and women belt out some songs.

On this particular night, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, his PS Fatuma Hersi, Kenya Tourism Board acting chief executive Jacinta Nzioka are in the house, too.

At the fireplace, we crack jokes and regale each other with humorous stories of our experience in the wild. In the process, a few bottles of premium whiskies are put where they belong till the small hours of the morning. Laughter fills the park even as the roar of the king of the jungle, the lion, breaks the session once in a while.

Reuben says you can hear the lion’s roar as far as four kilometres away. With that seemingly ice-breaking announcement, sleep takes over, and we hit the bed one by one.

Soon, morning comes and as I pack my belongings at the Amboseli Serena Lodge, which hosted us for the weekend, I long for another tour of the world famous park.

The connection with nature, the food and the hospitality will surely beckon you to this place. At the Amboseli airstrip, the pilot starts the engine for the 40-minute flight back to Nairobi as I save the date in my mind and vow to return. Very soon.

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