02.25.2011 – 02.27.2011 - The ride to Samburu is beautiful, which we depart from the rain forests of central Kenya, and head north around the mountains and over the hills, finally reaching the dry, but not quite, desert-like reserve. As we enter the park gates, we are greeted by a couple giraffes, and a few elephants in the distance; the team is excited to explore the grounds. We come across three cheetah’s who quickly sense our presence and scurry deep into the park. Then, word comes the lions are out and a leopard has been spotted. Given the lions are on the other side of the park, we head over to try and spot the elusive leopard. Fourteen vans quickly swarm on the area of the sighting, and each one tries to position itself anticipating the leopard’s next move. The leopard finally settles on a watering hole to grab a drink, and we can check off one of the big 5. We head back to base camp for dinner as light quickly turns to darkness and I prepare for my first night of camping in over 20 years. I have never seen so many stars in the sky, and just before we turn in for the night, our guide leaves Joshua (China) and I with one warning, if we see the elephant at night, just calmly go back into our tent, and keep quiet.
The tents are initially hot, and as the night progresses, becomes cooler. Our 6 am wake-up call arrives, and with all my tossing and turning, I managed about 2 hours of sleep. We head to the lions den, however, they are spotted across the dry river, and we will have to wait until our late afternoon drive to try and spot them. While the dry river is covered with baboons, we hear a cheetah has killed an animal and head over to the area. The heard of the dead animal gather near the cheetah, debating whether or not to charge it, however, they decide to back off. We then return back to camp for breakfast, then a trip to the Samburu village for traditional dances and culture. The children are excited to see us, and it is an interesting learning experience. After an afternoon break (because it is too hot for the animals in the day time), word comes over the radio that 5 female lions have killed a warthog, and we rush over. From out under a tree they appear, and we get within 50 feet of the five, two moms and three children. An awesome site, and hopefully they are full and I will not have to worry about them being hungry tonight as I sleep. We end the day by seeing both a heard of African Elephants and water buffalo, which are two of the other big 5 (lion is the 4th and rhino is the 5th, however there are no rhino’s at this park).
Sunday’s wake-up call occurs a little earlier, and throughout the night, we could hear a lion roaring (although it sounded more like a bark). This morning we are searching for the male lion, and after watching the sun rise rapidly over the horizon, we quickly find the male lion, along with 4 others, just resting, although one appeared ready to hunt prey. This time the male lion passes within a few feet of our van. As we chase off a few baboons from our camp area (they actually break into the tents and take things), the giraffes are near the park entrance to wish us on our way. After a quick stop at the Equator, I return to Nyeri after a great weekend with local food, wonderful memories, and just under 700 pictures. One thing I am looking forward to is my rooster friend waking me up tomorrow, and not an animal looking at me as breakfast.