“I am in Africa. I am in Africa. I am in Africa.” This was the mantra that rang loud in my mind the second I landed in Nairobi. Having always wanted to go to Africa, the cornucopia of all things wild and natural, I could not believe that I was finally standing on the very soil where our ancestors evolved from being cavemen to whatever evil form of life that we are now.
We were received at the airport by our tour guide Anthony Mwai, a very sprightly and knowledgeable person, who kept us occupied throughout the trip with interesting information and titbits about Kenya. He took us under his wing immediately, and no sooner than half-an-hour later we were zooming across the plains towards our first destination- Amboseli National Park. Famous for Mt.Kilimanjaro and the thousands of elephants that live in its foothills, it truly is heaven on earth for all elephant lovers. On our way there, I was surprised at how much the cities reminded me of India- the small shops along the road, the roads themselves, people standing by the dozens along the highways- the sights were all so very much like the ones I am used to seeing every day, with the only difference of seeing giraffes and zebras roaming about on the barren lands along the highway instead of the cattle that you see in India! It was also very amusing to see school children skipping along with bags on their shoulders past the giraffes and zebras that graze undisturbed, which to them is an everyday common sight!
It took us about five hours of smooth driving to get to the gates of Amboseli. We kept our eyes peeled open for our first glimpse of the great mountain, but unfortunately, it was a very hazy day and all we could see was a small part of the white snow cap on the regal acme of the volcano. After a brief stop for changing a punctured tire (for which Antony devised a very ingenious method), we were back on the now rutted road, bumping our heads on the roof with each teeth-jarring jolt. Thankfully, we soon arrived at Sentrim lodge, black and blue with bruises, where we were to stay for the first two days of our trip. After a brief dinner, we retired early to gear up for our first trip into the African jungle early the next morning.
Elephants by the hundreds- our first sighting on our first trip. They were making their everyday journey from the woods at the foothills of the volcano, where they stay the night, to the marsh lands, where they come for food and water in the day. Massive elephants with large fanning ears, each adorned with tusks so thick and so long that they almost touched the ground for a few. Five hundred or so of these pachyderms ambled towards us in a single file, with the matriarch leading the group and all the little ones safely tucked between the legs of their mothers and aunts, and crossed the road right in front of our jeep one by one. It was a sight that I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to witness. It was a sight that I simply cannot put into words.
Moving ahead with our eyes and hearts full with these gentle giants, we realised that we had hardly scratched the surface of what Africa had to offer us. We spotted the Thompson’s gazelle, the Grant’s gazelle, the Impala, zebras and wildebeests by the dozens, giraffes, and even a Savo cat, which is a very shy jungle cat that we were lucky to spot. We also saw two lions mating and stayed with the couple for around half-an-hour before they slunk away into the bushes to get some privacy that we so unabashedly intruded. It was indeed a great start to a great trip, my mind already overflowing with unforgettable images. As we headed back to the camp that evening, Anthony turned around and asked us, “So how was your first day in Kenya?” and we all shouted back, “Zuri Sana!! Very good”!!