"I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy."
We were awaken dark and early with coffee, shortbread, and a jug of warm water to wash our faces with. July is winter in Kenya, and starting the morning in the warmth of our tent with a cup of coffee was lovely. The staff at Nairobi Tented Camp were so attentive and accommodating while we were there. Despite an early departure time to make our flight out to Selenkay, the staff had an early breakfast prepared for us and by 5:45 am we were on our way via a short 20 minute drive over to Wilson Airport.
Wilson Airport is a small, but nice, regional airport in Nairobi vs Jomo Kenyatta which is the city's large international airport. If you're departing Nairobi for a safari, and choose to fly vs. drive, Wilson Airport is where you'll depart. When we arrived, our names where checked against a manifest, and we were given fun plastic boarding passes. A side note, we flew Yellow Wings out to Selenkay and AirKenya to Maasai Mara. Although AirKenya had a nicer and larger lounge that included a gift shop and coffee shop, I preferred Yellow Wings. Although both sets of pilots were lovely, I really enjoyed our pilots on the Yellow Wings flight. It was also a much smoother flight, that could of been for numerous reasons, but tiny planes are not my thing. Commercial jets - sure - sign me any day, but tiny planes make me nervous, so the smooth flight was very much appreciated.
Not long after we sat down, we began talking with a father and son who were in Kenya on a mission trip. They were originally from St. Louis, the father began reminiscing with us on his first date with his wife at the St. Louis Zoo! What a small world! Soon we boarded our flight out to Selenkay. We flew at a low altitude and got a good luck at Nairobi from the air, which was nice since we missed an aerial view of the city a few days earlier as we landed at night. The closer we got to Selenkay we began flying over several giraffes, antelopes, and a few Maasai Villages which was really neat.
After landing, our Guide Wilson and driver picked us up and we went on a mini game drive back to camp. I've been researching safari's, safari companies, and safari guides for probably the last 8 to 10 years and immediately recognized Wilson from a Conde Nast article back in 2013. I can still remember where I was when I read that article. I also still have the magazine. Weird? It was a fluke that he ended up as our guide and was completely unexpected. We hadn't even been within the Selenkay Conservancy for an hour before coming across 2 female elephants and a baby. Words can not describe the feelings that washed over me. For as long as I can remember, I've said, I don't want to leave this planet until I've witnessed elephants lively happily and freely in the wild. Here I was, witnessing it. It's an indescribable feeling to realize that you're not only living a dream but crossing off the #1 item on your life's bucket list. Anyways, I've digressed. Our time in Selenkay could not of gotten off to a better start. We continued our drive, stopped for coffee and tea at a watering hole, and then made our way back to camp for lunch.
We arrived at camp and met our camp manager Daniel, some of the staff, and the other guests. Guests ranged from all around the world from Washington D.C., the U.K., to Norway and Australia. Unexpectedly, one of my favorites part of the trip was getting to know the other guests as well as the local staff at the camp.
Lunch, for those who are curious, was salad, carrot slaw, curry lentils, and fresh bread (and lamb for the meat eaters). Dessert was a homemade passion fruit crumble. If you haven't already noticed, we ate well on this trip. After lunch we headed back to our tents for a welcomed nap until our evening game drive. We gathered back up for coffee and tea around 4 pm, and then headed out with Wilson for the evening drive. This would essentially remain our schedule for the rest of the trip. This particular evening we came across a different elephant family that included teenagers and TWO babies - one of which was only 3 months old. Beyond basic facts, Wilson knew the animals intimately, and could share so much with us about the individual elephants, their family dynamics, and their history. The animal lover and previous Zoology major in me soaked up every detail. We spent a large part of the drive following the family- the tiniest baby was still trying to figure out how to use her trunk. I promise, you haven't seen anything cuter until you've seen a tiny elephant not understand how to use their trunk.
Once back at camp, we had our bucket showers underneath the stars, and settled in around the campfire to swap stories with our new friends. Dinner was served out under the stars that night and consisted of vegetable soup, a cauliflower dish for vegetarians, and a sticky coffee cake. After some more fireside chats, we headed to bed and fell asleep to the sounds of laughter around the fire and animals in the distance.
Below is video footage I shot with my cell phone on our first evening drive out in the Selenkay Conservancy. It you skip ahead to around the 50-55 second mark you'll see some pretty cute footage of the 3 month old.