Part IV – Arms Dealers, Blowhards, and Giraffes

The drive from Lake Nakuru to Mt. Kenya followed the equator. As we ascended through the mountains, we passed coffee plantations and fields of tea leaves. The many switchbacks continually crossed between the northern and southern hemispheres as indicated by the frequent signs along the side of the road. At one point, we stopped for a quick demonstration proving we were in fact on the equator. We walked about 30 feet north of the sign and the demonstrator poured water into a bowl with a match stick that immediately began spinning counterclockwise. We then walked 30 feet south of the equator and the matchstick spun clockwise. Before having our picture taken next to the sign, the final demonstration was to show that the matchstick barely moved when right on the equator.

As we approached our destination, Mt. Kenya came into view. Despite being close to the equator, the steep peak was covered in snow. The majestic mountain was obscured by clouds and barely visible from our next camp in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Driving into the wildlife preserve, we passed the former home of Adnan Khashoggi, an infamous arms dealer who was rumored to have lavish orgies (our guides regaled us with stories that he had a harem and used a bed atop a real boat with elaborate mechanical controls to replicated the pitching and rolling of the sea – a completely unsubstantiated story that we have not been able to find any reference to on the internet). Our own accommodations were much less conducive to lavish orgies. Instead, we stayed in a comfortable, luxury tent with a pleasant balcony overlooking a drinking hole for many of the animals. The bathroom was spacious, if a bit reliant on the camp staff. The bed had the warm bladders of water for heat, but the shower required someone to boil a bucket of water and then just the right amount of time to balance the risk of scalding with the desire for warm water. This approach worked better in theory than in practice since every morning our requested warm water failed to materialize and we shivered under the bracing stream of frigid water.

Unlike our peaceful solitude at Mbweha Camp, the Porini Rhino Camp had several other guests and the itinerary was designed for socializing. Upon arrival, we met a couple of other guests and then were told to meet the rest of the group for lunch. Despite it being almost 3:00 pm, the entire group had awaited our arrival before sitting down to a formal lunch served by Amos, the gracious cook for the camp who came around with a soup course to start each meal and provided the best service this side of Mombasa. The conversation among strangers, mostly American with a few Swiss there to keep things neutral, was a bit forced and was largely domineered by an irritating woman from the World Bank who was based in Nairobi. No matter what the subject or her level of knowledge on the topic, she would attempt to shift the discussion to some elaborate story about her birding or her mild hatred for the World Bank (where she had worked for 20 years). Thankfully, she departed soon after lunch, so we were not subjected to her tedious presence for the remainder of our stay. The other guests were pleasant and made good dining companions.


After lunch, we went on a short guided walk led by Maasai warriors. They explained their traditional customs and provided a plethora of information on the plants and animals of the region. The four warriors then performed a traditional dance and demonstrated hunting techniques. The group was then picked up by the camp Land Rover and we went on a short game drive before stopping on a hilltop for a sundowner that we enjoyed watching the sun set.

The camp manager, who looked a lot like Herman Caine, was determined to manufacture memorable moments and meaningful discussion. All of the camp guests met around the campfire for drinks prior to dinner to discuss politics, conservation, and a range of topics that no one in the group had either the influence or the knowledge to do anything about. The conversation continued inside during the formal dinner that lasted until nearly 11:00 pm.

The game drive the following morning started at 6:00 am as we shivered in the Land Rover. The mornings were cold and stayed frigid until around 9:00 am when there was a comfortable half hour before it became oppressively hot in the afternoon. The morning did appear to be the ideal time to see wildlife as the nocturnal animals were still awake and almost all animals were out hunting or grazing. While the wildlife was not as densely populated as Lake Nakuru, the range of animals on display was just as impressive. Ranging across a wide expanse of the huge park, we saw a pride of lions, elephants, rhinos, Thompson gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, giraffes, jackals, hyenas, zebras, monkeys, buffalo, eagles and just about every type of animal imaginable. The highlight of this outing was seeing a group of cheetas.

In the early morning light, the scenery was stunning. It seemed like every picture we tried to take of a new animal would have other animals in the background or would be framed by the majestic Mt. Kenya. Like our earlier guide Charles, our guides at Ol Pejeta were knowledgeable and pointed out animals that were difficult to see. They also educated us on what the animals eat, how long they live, their migratory habits, and how they move as groups. Throughout our entire time in Africa, it was fascinating to learn more about the animal kingdom. The diversity of animals, how they interact, and the harsh realities of their lives was so far removed from our everyday experience that it was interesting to learn more.

Despite the long days, forced socialization, freezing cold showers, and lack of time to ourselves, the stay at Porini Rhino Camp was a nice change of pace and exposed us to even more of the abundance of wildlife that Kenya has to offer. The other guests were all friendly and it was nice to be able to get to meet some other people who shared an interest in the culture and wildlife of Kenya. Another nice aspect of Porini Camp was that all of the workers were members of the Maasai tribe. The camp was very much focused on conservation of animals and on the preservation of Maasai culture.

After 6 days in Kenya, Megan and I were fully adapted to the new time zone and embraced the rhythm of the safari routine. Early morning game drive, picnic breakfast, a late morning game drive or visit to a local attraction, lunch at camp, late afternoon/evening game drive, meet around the campfire to discuss the colonials, dinner, and a sound night of sleep surrounded by the sounds of the wild. It was an easy life to get used to and each day delivered new discoveries and the opportunity to see something amazing.

(Click here for the final installment … Part V – The Maasai Mara)


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