On Safari with Lions and Crocodilesby kenya on Jun. 26, 2012, under Life
June 25, 2012
By Becca Rogers, St. Gregory Class of ’13
When last year’s group returned from Kenya, my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with pictures of everyone jumping into a stone pool surrounded by a vast savannah. Back then I was very curious as to where this had taken place. Yesterday afternoon I discovered the mysterious swimming spot was Buffalo Springs, a natural spring flowing up from the rocks in a very dry environment. It was like an oasis in the middle of the desert. We had to drive about an hour to get there, but it was worth it as we practiced our cannon balls and group jumps into the water.
Mr. Roberts had told us the previous group had algae fights in the spring, so we attempted to do the same. Just as we were getting into the heat of the battle and having fun splashing around, the skies grew very dark to the south. The wind picked up and it slowly began to rain. It was like someone had thrown a switch and the weather went from sunny and hot to rainy and chilly. We called our algae war a truce and quickly had a delicious lunch of hamburgers, salad, watermelon and cookies before the rain began in earnest. We were all in the vans when it began pouring and the dirt track we were following became slick. Trying to look at animals in a rainstorm is no one’s idea of a good time, so we headed for a nearby lodge to wait out the weather.
The beautiful, pristine lodge was quite the contrast to our sandy, riverside campsite patrolled by baboons. The lodge was made of study logs and everything was ‘outside.’ By that I mean the lobby, restaurant and large lounge area were a huge verandah covered with a high thatched roof. In every direction were expansive views of Samburu. I think we were all a bit surprised to find ourselves in such a place.
It was nice to be out of the rain and after Mr. Roberts inquired about whether it was OK for us to stay, which it was, we headed straight for a table of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cookies in the lobby, soon coming back for seconds. We feasted on our snacks in comfortable chairs around a large table and played a few games of cards while we waited for the rain to slow down.
I couldn’t help but think of how different an experience it would be to stay in a nice resort, as many tourists do, go on a game drive during the day, and then return to a cozy bed and warm shower at night. This would certainly be the easiest way to experience a Kenyan safari, but our two nights of camping provided a much more memorable and interesting trip. No one will forget the baboons and vervet monkeys hanging from the trees above our tents, long conversations during dinner around the fire, and falling to sleep to the sounds of the animals across the river. In the lodge, you’re simply having an American experience surrounded by African animals. By camping, we were actually in the midst of the animals and nature and much more engaged in the safari.
Once the rain let up we said farewell to the Samburu Simba Lodge, with many words of thanks for the very friendly staff. With the new-fallen rain our surroundings looked very different. There were puddles of water on the road, and at one we found a tortoise drinking. While it may have been my imagination, it seemed as thought the leaves of the acacia trees and the grass were just a bit greener. And the smell! So fresh and moist, unlike the hot and dusty air to which we had become accustomed. We took a slow drive back to camp, arriving at 6:30, a bit later than normal.
Before any of us could relax and think about dinner, Mr. Roberts announced that we were departing again in 20 minutes for a surprise. None of us had a clue as to what he was up to. We piled into the vehicles again and went to a lodge that was a half a mile away. We walked through the spacious lobby and out to a large viewing area overlooking the river. There on the bank, just 15 feet away, was a HUGE crocodile! We had seen many crocodiles already, but to be so close was something we hadn’t experienced. A second one, nearly twice the size, joined it, and we watched as the two crocodiles chomped down on cow bones thrown to them from one of the lodge employees. This is one of the many ‘attractions’ created by the lodges to entertain their visitors. It was incredible being so close to the crocodiles, watching them crack the bones with their huge jaws, but we knew this was more of an act than anything else. While unnatural, I don’t think the crocs had any objections. This was entertaining but our memories of the Samburu crocs will be of them sliding through shallow river or basking on the bank. Another special ending to our day in Kenya.