Every year in April, we head out to Nanyuki, home of the rugged peaks of Mt Kenya to celebrate Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year with our family at the temple built by our great grandfather. A trip that resonates deeply with all us Ubhi folk and one that we look forward to every year with much anticipation. This year though, we stopped over at the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp for a couple of nights before heading to the temple. Sweetwaters is part of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the home of the black rhino and the critically endangered northern white rhino, housed in the endangered species boma. There are only seven of these rhinos left in the world and four live right here, in Kenya. A trip to the boma was definitely on the cards!
Staying in the newly built Morani Wing, our tent – is really a tent! Despite the interior being fully carpeted and the furniture made of solid wood, and having a proper luxurious bathroom with double sinks and a backlit make up mirror (very important for this wanderluster), the walls and roof are made of canvas, covered with the signature thatching of the ecologically friendly Serena brand. And, each tent in the Morani wing has a large patio, perfect for chilling, or hanging out in!
The bunch of us soon made ourselves comfortable on the patio to enjoy the view, a game of monopoly and some beautifully chilled wine. Now, we were not “bored to be playing a board” game in such an incredible setting – this is a ritual for us, when we go on road trips within Kenya with the whole wanderlusing gang – and this is why: there is a long standing rivalry between M, my sister, Esha and I. The upshot being that M and Esha team up and eventually gang up against my sister and I, and we always lose!! So this time, we had my mum and Nav with us and were hoping to break that jinx. No such luck, even in such gorgeous surroundings and with two additional team members- we lost! Face it sister, we are ‘monopoligically challenged’!! There. I invented a new word.
The view….oh my, the view. A rolling green landscape right in front of the tents upon which roam a myriad of wildlife that come to drink from the watering hole nearby. Peppered with impala, gazelles, waterbuck and warthogs, kneeling and digging away for worms or whatever they eat. And in the distance, Mt. Kenya trying to peek out at us from above the clouds, and a giraffe, calmly eating away. There is a Zen like calm around this lodge…I think it emanates from the stillness of the plains, and I could sit for hours on the patio just watching the wildlife calmly go about their lives and meander in my thoughts.
4 pm rolls around, and we head out for our sun downer game drive. The conservancy has the largest number of buffalo that I have ever come across, wallowing in mud baths, and on the plains themselves.
We were quite excited to spot the northern black rhino, and quite a few babies too! Suffice it to say, that as I have not seen rhino in the wild in Kenya (despite having gone to all the major parks) it was quite a treat to see these ones! They are quite a rare sight in most parks, but certainly not in this conservancy!
And the crowning glory – large herds of elephant with their babies, which are always such a pleasure to see given the alarming rate at which these gentle giants are being culled for their ivory by ignorant heartless poachers. Thankfully, poaching has been in the limelight recently and there are quite a few initiatives in saving these majestic creatures – one such venture is my sister and her friends company “Ellie Tees”. Ellie Tees is a not for profit company, where all proceeds from the sale of t-shirts go towards various organisations that are dedicated to the conservation of elephants and the fight against poaching. Do click on their Facebook page, and join in the fight!
Sadly, we did not see any lions or other species of the cat family, but it was pouring with rain, and so any hopes of seeing any cats were dashed, although we were told that the conservancy does have a good number of cats.
Now, I mentioned the endangered species boma, which houses the rare northern white rhino. Access to the boma is limited to two carloads a day, and it is advisable to book your trip on check in to the lodge. It costs $15 per person, and the sheer size of these rhinos is worth paying to see!
Suni, Najin, Fatu and Sudan are four of seven of their kind left in the world. Yes, the world. Roaming the plains of this conservancy, seeing these rare and almost prehistoric looking animals is literally a once in a lifetime experience.
Heading on from the boma, we visit the chimpanzee sanctuary which rescues mistreated chimps from all over Africa. This is an initiative between the Kenya Wildlife Services and the Jane Goodall institute to rescue mistreated chimps from West and Central Africa. The stories behind each rescue are tear jerkers – they bring to light the mistreatment of these animals and the cruelty of mankind – it never fails to shock me that man can be so cruel! The chimp sanctuary is free and is open from 9:00 am to 10:30 am and from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. I would definitely recommend a trip to give a donation to this worthy cause, adopt a chimp or simply marvel at this human like creature and its antics.
Final stop on our morning’s tour is Baraka the blind rhino. This is a ‘friendly’ rhino that unfortunately lost his vision in a fight and is now housed at the Morani Information Centre, and can be visited anytime during the day and fed from a viewing platform.
And once you’ve had your fill with Baraka, and seen enough rhinos and animals for the morning, stop over at Morani’s restaurant and drink in the beauty of Kenya with a chilled beer!
All in all, and as always some fantastic memories were created during this trip, with the wanderlust gang. We had a blast and for sure, as ever, look forward to many more trips together and hopefully, one fine day my sister and I WILL win a game or three of Monopoly!!!