What an amazing experience--I can hardly believe all that we saw and did in the last two days. Our trip to East Tsavo Park was really perfect in the every way. We drove about 2 ½ hours with our wonderful driver, Pius, who has been with us all week. The drive was over very rutty, brick red, dirt roads. Tsavo is the largest park in Kenya and we drove forever over it, it seemed, and yet we covered only a small corner of it. We saw so many animals I can hardly remember the names—elephants, gazelles, impalas, lions, crocodiles, hippos, cheetahs, dik diks, warthogs, giraffes, many different kinds of birds including ostriches, and others. It was so fabulous to see the animals in their natural habitat, grazing, drinking at the waterhole, dusting themselves and just being free and natural. We couldn’t get too close or get out of the van, but the top lifts up to allow you to stand up for better views. We were so grateful to have our good binoculars along!
The camp, Satao (which means giraffe in Swahili) was the most plush tent camp I’ve even seen. Each of 20 tents were quite large with a thatched roof overhead and a nice, stone verandah. It had lovely beds, and some carpets on the floor, lots of lighting and a few little tables. At the back was an enclosed bathroom like I’ve never seen—stone flooring, a gorgeous stone sink that separated the toilet from the shower area, big fluffy towels and lovely soaps and shampoos. The shower area was simply a large canvas bucket that got filled with solar heated water at 6:30 pm each night. The shower head just sprayed water to the floor which then drained out. It was a delightful shower before dinner, especially if one compares it to the rather scary shower we have in our room at A Rocha (you are afraid to touch the walls for fear of contracting some dreadful disease!)
The wait service couldn’t be more accommodating and formal as we sat outside on the veranda overlooking the waterhole for lunch, then inside the open-aired restaurant for dinner and breakfast. One could hardly start to pour their own coffee, before a server jumped in to do it for you. The food was fabulous, and we especially enjoyed the BBQ for dinner. To each table was brought a red hot grill. You chose your own kebabs of chicken, lamb or beef and then cooked them at your table. For dessert they made a crepe for each person and filled it with your choice of fillings. Delicious! We slept with elephants trumpeting and lions roaring within earshot and I loved it, but one of the others, Meredith, was very frightened and didn’t sleep hardly at all.
Today we toured a bit more and then came home to A Rocha. We arrived just in time for lunch then out to the Ruins for 4 hours of following monkeys. I was thrilled to track Nancy for 2 hours and 40 minutes! She let me get within 3 or 4 feet of her and completely ignored us as we watched and recorded what she was doing every minute on the beep. The sole male of our group, Maurice, is completely comfortable with us around now and usually stays on the ground near us posing regally and making sure his ‘women’ are around and safe. I am starting to see some personalities in the different monkeys; Athena is very happy being by herself, Kamili is a grouch both to humans and other monkeys, Nancy is a sweetheart and lets me get so close to her. They all seem to be good mothers and the babies are now old enough to be on their own for most of the time, just periodically checking in with Mom for a little snack or some grooming. We watch our monkeys go over the fence to steal corn and mangos from the farm next door. A woman sits there all day by the fence trying to scare them away and probably can’t figure out why we are allowing them to take corn and are just quietly follow the monkeys! They see them as pests, and indeed that’s what they are to farmers.
Monkey "Nancy" attempting to steal corn from over the fence.