Lions and zebras and chimps, oh my!by kenya on Jun. 13, 2011, under Life
June 12, 2011
Dispatch from Kenya
By Athena Roesler, St. Gregory Class of ’12
Hamjambo Mafrafiki! (Hello to all!)
As Ali, Lauren, and I woke up this morning to Lion King’s The Circle of Life, we got even more excited for the unique African experience we were going to have today. When you think Kenya, safari is the first thing that comes to mind, so we were pumped for today. We climbed into the vans and headed off to Sweetwaters game reserve and to meet Mr. Roberts on the road. He left two hours before us so he could get in a 15 mile run! As we entered the gates and popped up the tops of our vans, the first thing we saw were a couple of warthogs, both real Pumba style ones, and two buses full of rowdy British Army men. As we thankfully left the men behind, we immediately were greeted by a large group of baboons in the middle of the road. After staying there for a while they finally moved their bright colored behinds off the road. Mr. Roberts was able to show us the difference between impalas and all the different types of gazelles that were all over the reserve.
Within Sweetwaters is a chimpanzee sanctuary that rescues and houses chimpanzees that were sold as pets or orphaned. It was established in 1993 by Jane Goodall and currently there are 48 chimps there. We got to see them swing around the trees and play in a more natural habitat compared to their previous lives where they were kept in cages or chained to a tree for onlookers to gawk at. They also have learned how to get the attention of visitors, and it was really funny to see a male chimp fling mud at a British solider. Olivia even “adopted” one the chimps to help the reserve out.
After visiting the chimpanzees, we headed off to try to see hippos, but had no luck in seeing them in the muddy river. The reserve also houses a rhino center where injured black and white rhinos come to rehab. Some also have been relocated from South Africa or Sudan. One tame black rhino named Baraka, which means blessing in Kiswahili, unfortunately lost his sight and is now cared for at Sweetwaters. We were all ecstatic to touch Baraka’s nose and feed him, seeing how docile the tough looking animal actually was. The ranger who escorted us to Baraka also educated us about the different types of rhinos and wildlife at Sweetwaters, and we saw the amazing conservation efforts that are taking place there.
I never thought I would say I was sick of looking at wild gazelle and baboons, but they quickly became old news and we were itching to see a big cat or something more spectacular. After getting a little bit discouraged and driving around to no avail, we heard Mr. Roberts whisper “simba” and look at a small speck across a water hole 200 yards away. We drove up very slowly and saw not only a majestic male lounging under a tree, but also two females a little bit farther away. Even though we were only fifteen feet away, the lions were still as we sat in silence, snapping pictures for at least 30 minutes. It is crazy that such calm, beautiful animals are on top of the food chain. Even after we thought our safari could not get any better, we came across herds of zebra, including a little baby!
After our amazing animal adventure, we headed to a group of souvenir shops on the equator to face another type of aggressive animal, but this time it was the shopkeepers vying for our attention and money. As we stepped out of the vans, they shook our hands and tried to lead us into their storefronts.
Before we began bargaining with the shop vendors, we took a group photo on the equator. We then saw a demonstration of how water will spin clockwise a mere 25 yards to the north of the equator and counter clockwise 25 yards south of the equator. And right on the equator, the water doesn’t spin at all. This is due to the Coriolis Effect. We then went to get souvenirs in the different shops. I usually see shopping as relaxing, but I have never felt this much pressure to buy things before.
The haggling started with the vendor writing down a special price just for you that was still outrageously high. Then, for another 15 minutes, you would ‘spar’ with the vendor until finally reaching a reasonable price. Then somehow you would have to get your change and wrapped object in the next store over, where you were supposed to look around and usually were pushed into the same cycle. I never thought buying a carved giraffe or a piece of fabric could be this exhausting. Even though it was a long process, both the buyer and vendor ended up with smiles, and promises of future business.
It has been an amazing weekend and we accomplished so much! Tomorrow we head back to school for more teaching and spending time with the students we have traveled half way around the world to interact with and learn from.