"We only have the land for a short time, we must leave it intact."
I'm back with another novel of a post to recap our last two days in Selenkay. So grab your coffee (or wine if it's after noon) and settle in! Selenkay Conservancy is located about 10 miles north of Amboseli National Park. The land is leased by Gamewatchers from the local Maasai. Their model promotes both wildlife conservation while also providing economic opportunities for the local Maasai communities. You can read more here and here about how these conservancies are making a difference for the both the animals and the people.
As I mentioned, we researched probably hundreds of companies, but wanted to ensure we were travelling as responsibly as possible and in a way that wasn't exploiting the local people or wildlife. After our trip I couldn't of been happier with Gamewatchers. Staying in these conservancies vs. the parks allowed for so many additional benefits that made our trip extra special (and should be considered for anyone planning to go on safari). In the national parks you're confined to the roads and they are generally crowded with tourists and minivans, especially during high season. Within the conservancies, there is a max density of 1 tent per 700 acres. In Selenkay Conservancy where we stayed there were only two camps, meaning you often never saw another vehicle when out on game drives. Additionally, we were able to off road everywhere and get really close to the animals. Because of this low density of tourists and no poaching in the area, the wildlife wasn't fearful of us and we got to observe them engaging in their natural behaviors.
Our schedule the next two days looked like this:
Wednesday July 5th
- 6:00 am - wake up call with a warm jug of water (best way to start a cold morning)
- 6:30 am - breakfast with tea & coffee
- 7:00 am - departed for Amboseli National Park
- 8:30 am - arrived at Amboseli, coffee & tea break
- 9:00 am - 2 pm: Explored Amboseli National Park
- 3:30 pm - back at camp to shower, relax, and enjoy the camp fire
- 8:00 pm - dinner (butternut pumpkin soup + vegetable curry + apple strudel)
- 9:00 pm - camp fire and then bed
Scroll through for a small smattering of pictures from our day in Amboseli. SO many great memories. We saw two lions try to take down a giraffee, they weren't successful, but I loved watching the behavior of the wildebeest and antelopes in the presence of the lions -look closely at two of the photos to see one of the lions in the background.
Elephants galore in Amboseli. Including an elephant named Angelina and her two daughters who Wilson, our guide, had been studying for the last decade. I think we sat and watched Angelina and learned about her from Wilson for at least thirty minutes.
Per usual, the chef back at the Gamewatcher's camp had packed us a delicious lunch. This was WAY better than just about every single other tourist we came across who were eating shipped in boxed lunches. (Note, those people also were creating substanially more waste)
There were so many wonderful memories and cool stories from this day I feel like I could fill this entire post with them. One of the neatest things we saw was back in the conservancy, on our drive to Amboseli: a baby giraffe antelope, per Wilson likely just a few hours old. Both parents were near by, when they saw our vehicle they hid the baby and then took off. This is their way of protecting the newborn and trying to distract/confuse the predator as the baby wasn't old enough yet to run. We ended our evening, just our group, around the campfire as the other people staying at the camp went to bed. We talked for hours with Daniel, the camp manager, the cook, and several other staff members. It was a chilly Kenyan winter night where we all sat around the fire, underneath the stars, sharing stories about life back in the US vs life in Kenya and all things Maasai. We discussed climate change, politics (ours and theirs), healthcare, travel, food, etc. Easily one of the most magical nights and will go down as one of the fondest memories of my life.
Thursday July 6th
- 6:00 am - wake up call with a warm jug of warm water
- 6: 30 am - left camp for an earlier morning game drive to witness the sunrise
- 9:00 am - back to camp for a large breakfast
- 10: 30 am - nature walk with the Maasai Warriors
- 1:00 pm - back to camp for lunch
- 2:00 pm- 4:00 pm - siesta
- 4:00 pm - Maasai Village Visit
- 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm - sun downer & night game drive
- 9:00 pm - dinner, camp fire, sleep
We spent our morning drive tracking these 5 lions that were roughly 2 years old, all siblings, and had been recently kicked out of the pride by their dad. One was really friendly and kept investigating and coming near our vehicle. We watched them attempt an unsuccessful hunt - I know everyone has to eat but I was fine with the outcome.
That afternoon we went on a nature walk- which mostly turned into talking with Amos, one of the warriors, and learning more about Maasai culture. The last picture is of elephant footprints we came across.
That evening we visited a local village. This is the only part of our entire trip that I still feel unsure about. The village is paid extra by Gamewatchers as a cultural experience. Everyone we met was very passionate about sharing Maasai culture. Additionally, the camps supplies the village with clean drinking water and has built a school near by (do you hear me justifying the experience?). While on one hand, I feel enormously blessed to have had this experience, it doesn't feel quite right to simply "drop by" and observe human beings, in their real daily lives and homes, as if I'm at a zoo or observing the animals. The performed a welcome song and dance for us, toured us around their village and homes, and posed for pictures. In the welcome dance the men jump and in Maasai culture those who can jump the highest win the most girlfriends. As we were walking around the village, the warriors came up to me because they wanted to see my pictures to judge the height of their jumping. Although they spoke no English, and I did not speak any of their local tribe dialect, it was special to share a moment and connect. One of the warriors was quite pleased with his jumping. :)
We ended our last day with a late evening and night drive back to camp, for our last dinner out underneath the stars, and chats around the camp fire. The next morning we would be packing up for our flight out to Ol'Kinyea Conservancy near the Maasai Mara. Stay tuned!