Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Ol Pejeta Conservancy
I’d heard the tales of the ‘Greater Honey Guide’ and their extraordinary relationship with man but never seen one before… But now at last here was one right in front of me. Of course it was Laetato, our tracker who heard it first, and now he was imitating its call as it fluttered ahead of us. In case you haven’t heard about this remarkable bird here’s a brief synopsis…
Many tribes throughout East Africa have developed a unique working relationship with this bird. It leads humans to a bee hive and in return the hunters offer the bird a little of the honey they find. Legend has it that if they fail to honor their side of the bargain then next time the bird will lead them to a snake or a lion.
Laetato is accompanying me, our guide Patnei and Alex Hunter on this late afternoon walk along the river bank in the northern sector of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy a little south of Mt Kenya. We’ve already spotted a pied kingfisher perched in a branch. Also on display were the tracks of Egyptian geese and buffalo, both after liquid refreshment.
Ol Pejeta’s Rhinos
Ol Pejeta is one of the best places in Kenya to see black rhino. It boasts with a population of around 80. Alex showed me several rhino middens – territorial dung mounds which are added to over time. The twigs on which the animal had been browsing were so cleanly topped and tailed that they looked like they had been through a commercial shredder.
As the sun set we headed back towards camp and Alex chatted about his fondness for running. Really ambitious runners can try and keep pace with Laetato but he thinks nothing of running 10 km! And the altitude here is over 2,000 m – though the benefit of this is that the conservancy is non-malarial.
A quick safari shower (for my money the best there is; although short they’re always hot and the water often carries the delicious odour of the fire that’s warmed it) and it was time for an elegant dinner outside. Lit by numerous lanterns which seemed in perfect keeping with the essence of safari. Read more about Ol Pejeta Bush Camp…
On the way to Nanyuki Airport, Laikipia, Kenya
Sadly my three days in this excellent conservancy are over and it’s time to head for the Mara. After my night at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp I was collected by Charles and driven across to Kicheche Laikipia. As it’s low season we have a lot of the 35,000 ha of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to ourselves. And on our afternoon drive we get some fantastic sightings of Burchell’s and the rare Grevy’s Zebra.
Later that afternoon we watch a small herd of elephant browsing on the grass which has sprung up after the recent and very welcome rains. I make one small addition to my knowledge of elephant behavior. We watch as they use a calculated swipe from their front foot to uproot a bundle of grass already grabbed in their trunk… Fascinating!
As dusk gathers we stop when Charles spots three male cheetah in the middle distance. Straining to see them through the half light I locate them in my binoculars. For a while they’re all seated. But we watch spellbound as they stir themselves and walk three abreast away from us – three brothers on a mission. But when their path is blocked by a pride of lion they wheel round to the right and cross the track close behind us.
We return to camp for a superb dinner with camp managers Andy and Sonja. Warmed by the open fire in the mess tent and elated by such a fabulous spectacle – for me context, mood and setting can be just as powerful as the clarity and proximity of the sighting.
Back at the conservancy gate I notice James, my guide at Porini Rhino Camp, is drawn to the sports pages (just like me!): Kenya are playing Nigeria later today and we discuss Kenya’s chances. Yesterday afternoon we were out walking with two of the Masai warriors at the camp. I failed miserably in a test of strength! Which involves trying to pick up a Masai spear by the very tip. After the walk we continued on a game drive with great sightings of reticulated giraffe, elephant, Thomson’s gazelle, zebra and impala. Returning to the camp for a few beers round the fire and a delicious and very jolly dinner with four Kiwis and their guide Campbell.
Traveling outside the Conservancy
On our way to the gate this very morning we had three game encounters, all memorable in their own way. Firstly we spotted a female Jackson Hartebeest with a fawn which James estimated to be only a couple of hours old. Then a lone female black rhino; and finally a white rhino and her calf. There’s something about the tiny eye in that relatively large head that is incredibly endearing…
Now out of the conservancy I start noticing all the cycles on the road. Several with assorted plastic crates on top of the other; another which has been hooked up to a wheelbarrow with odd pieces of string. Then I start picking up on all the churches we pass. Some little more than rickety shacks: Kenya Revival Church; Gospel Outreach Church. When I had asked one of the camp staff where he would most like to travel, he had immediately suggested Vatican City…
Waiting for my plane to land I chat some more to James about football. Like so many Kenyans he is passionate about football. But in addition he has played to a very high standard: he represented Kenya at the under-17 level.
Finally I shake hands with James. And I join a small group of American tourists for the flight to the Mara…