I mentioned in my last post that my parents came to visit us here in Kenya just a few weeks ago. Naturally we wanted to show them the best of what Kenya had to offer and so we lined up a full itinerary of activities in and outside of Nairobi. Perhaps the highlight of their trip was our walking camel safari with Karisia in Laikipia. Prior to our trip with Karisia, my safari experiences were always from the confines of a car which we drove along dirt roads for hours in search of game. I'll never forget how magical my first car safari felt ... how surreal it was to see wild elephants just a few meters away. But after a couple more trips, the long dusty car rides quickly lost their appeal. When we learned that my parents were coming to visit, we decided early on that we wanted to try a more "authentic" safari experience. And after considerable research, we decided on booking with Karisia Walking Safaris for a number of reasons:
1.) While they do offer a luxury level camping experience, they also offer a more moderate level package that isn't quite so over the top... but still ended up being the most glamorous camping experience I've ever had.
2.) And because we didn't have to have feather pillows while on safari, it ended up being far more economical than any of the other options we looked into.
3.) Kerry Glen. She responded to all of my inquiries promptly and always explained things thoroughly. She also seemed genuinely keen on doing whatever she reasonably could to meet our needs. For example, normally their shortest trips last for three nights but she allowed us to shorten our trip to two nights since my parents were only here for a short time.
By the creeping light of dawn, we left for our safari on a Thursday at 5:30 in the morning. We decided on an early start partly to avoid as much traffic as possible and partly so that we'd have more time in the day to enjoy being at camp. Most of the safari providers that I had looked into seemed to recommend flying into Nanyuki from Nairobi in order to save time. But as our family once had a long running tradition of summer road trips, I thought it would be nice to hit the road again for ol' times sake.
About 6 hours and one wrong turn later, we rolled into camp and were immediately welcomed by the team of 9 to 12 Samburu men that would take care of us for the next three days. We were shown to our tents which we found to be spaciously welcoming, each housing a comfortable mattress made up with full bedding. Lunch was served quickly thereafter and we were impressed to be enjoying freshly baked pizza and potato salad in the middle of the African bush. We polished off our meal with a tropical fruit salad before retreating into our tents for an afternoon nap, waiting for the relentless equatorial sun to sink closer back towards the horizon.
Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we ventured into the expansive wilderness that surrounded us, led by our Samburu guides, Gabriel and Shillingi. Under their guidance we walked among zebras, gerenuks, gazelles, and an assortment of birds. But perhaps more fascinating was their superhuman, even magical ability to track these animals. Tall and muscular, Gabriel was an impressive presence, making him the obvious team lead. But aside from his physical attributes, he was also a veritable walking encyclopedia of Kenyan flora and fauna. Shillingi we learned was once a poacher who now lends his supernatural tracking skills to the likes of Karisia which seeks to celebrate and protect Africa's endangered wilderness. Suspected to be well into his 60's, Shillingi appeared to be the eldest among our Samburu hosts but we still had our hands full trying to keep up with his light tread.
By the time we returned to camp about two hours later, a campfire had been lit and awaited us next to a dining table already set for four people. Perhaps it's because of the lack of skyscrapers and towering apartment buildings, but I've often felt that the sky is much, much bigger here in Africa. As we waited for dinner to be served, we watched a dramatic transformation unfold above us, as the clouds darkened and spread across the sky and the stars quietly came out to shine. By the time dinner was ready, darkness had settled all around us and the winds had picked up. We wrapped ourselves with shuukas and ate by candle light underneath a moonless night. After dinner, we sought refuge from the chilly winds in our tents, dreaming of what the following day may have in store for us.