|VIII Nation Coast
||DAILY NATION, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2000
|An exciting taste of the wild
|By ROBERT NYAGAH
||Children from the rising Sun Children's Home in Malindi make notes at Buchuma gate at Tsavo East National Park. Inset (left) the children watching game at Lugards Falls and on the right, John Boothroyd, signs a book on wildlife which he presented to Tocta Ozozi, the youngest child In the group.
||visibly well fed lion walks majestically past our tour van less than 10 metres
|away. It has just led a family on a feast of a buffalo next to Aruba dam in the huge Tsavo East National Park.
As it crosses the road in front of us, it seems oblivious of our inquisitive
|glances and cameras. About a 100 metres away, the lion joins the rest of the pride under a shrub. He is received by four playful cabs, while the mother ignores the whole show.
On our way from Buchuma where a Kenya Wildlife Service game ranger Zablon Jumbe has just wished us best safari, excitement starts to build as birds, zebras and elephants appear on our way.
Less than four kilometres as we strain our eyes for a glimpse of the lions known as "kichwa" to the tourist van drivers and guides, we come across a herd of
|Before our arrival at Sobo camp, we had an opportunity to stop at hippo Point on the banks of Galana River where a group of hippos were struggling to submerge themselves into the drying river.
From Sobo the next morning, we encountered birds, buffalos and elephants before a short stop at Lugards falls. The children were disappointed that there were no steep falls they all dream about. But the zebra rocks at the falls, now also reduced to a trickle, are a great attraction. An elephant appears to enjoy the view of the falls from a distance while a lonely crocodile basked in the sun less than 30 metres from us.
We are back in our vehicles and the drivers complain that our time has run out, hence we must reach Voi Safari Lodge soonest.
Suddenly we burst into a herd of buffalos and a family of elephants. This affords us a very close view of these animals.
Our drivers are quite keen and Mohammed Ali surprised me for his keen eye to spot birds, * * and a lizard resting a tree about three metres from the road. Yes, they drive with their eyes wide open and will keep explaining to you their names and other interesting details.
At Voi Safari Lodge perhaps the best view for animals, the British couple and Anne confess that since they started going on safaris they, had never encountered such heavy number of animals in a single safari.
Even the children feel satisfied and would not be disappointed had we avoided the last stretch of the safari from Voi Safari Lodge through Kanderi Dam to Aruba for lunch and out of the largest park in the country.
Kanderi Swamp is best known for vultures, but this time we view gazelles, giraffes, baboons, buffalos and a handful of vultures.
Happy and hoping for a safe journey back to Turtle Bay Beach Club, the roofs to our van are closed, our booklets safely tucked away in our travel bags and all of us try to catch nine winks.
|elephants. No sooner than we are set to take pictures and savour the sight than we are enthralled another elephant herd feeding in the bus along the Bachuma-Aruba dam track.
The current drought has pushed most wild animals nearer to watering holes and along Galana River which has been reduced to a mere trickle but somehow manages to sustain the animals and provide shelter to crocodiles and hippos.
A sense of indecision grips our driver on whether to slow down or accelerate. In that brief moment of indecision, we get a clear view of a jumbo at close range and as the animal apparently becomes agitated, it blows its trumpet and prepares to charge the van. Ali drives off at high speed as the other members of the elephant family rumbles away clearing bushes, creating a stir and raising dust, perhaps to protest against our interference with their privacy.
From here on, we are in the jungle with the frequency of animals such as elephants, buffalos, zebras and giraffes - overwhelming to say the least.
The children in the safari package from the youngest, Tocta Ozozi 9, to the oldest Abdi Sammy, are very excited. The only talk in the two vans is when the children try to match the photos of the wild animals with what they see in the wild.
|The sponsoring couple had given them booklets, rubbers and pencils to mark the animals and the frequency of sighting. The tour is highly educational because it took the British couple who had prepared educational maps covering the safari route almost a year to organise.
They have conducted seven such tours in the past. From these, they have developed illustrated complete with names of wild animals in both English and Swahili. Following these guidelines, the children mark each animal sighted and the frequency of sighting.
For a moment, I am turned into a teacher and a guide trying to explain to the children details about some animals, plants and the changes in weather and climatic conditions.
With his expansive experience of the park, our driver, the British couple and Ann Loehr are frequently at hand to assist the children in marking the names of the animals they see.
Taking the safari for the first time, I am part of a group of 10 orphans from the Rising Sun Home in Malindi who are enjoying a two-day one night safari in Tsavo East National Park. The excursion was organised by a friendly and loving British couple John Boothroyd and Alison Meek, Eco-Resorts.Com directors, Neel Inamdar and Anne Loehr and the management of the Turtle Bay Beach Club.
KWS had offered reduced gate charges for the British
|couple and waived the fees for the drivers and Anne.
Eco-Resorts.Com which co-ordinated the Safari package made a dream come-true for the children, to enjoy and become part of the thousands of tourists who visit the park every year.
Alison Meek, a market research manager from a pharmaceutical farm in England and John Boothroyd an expert in computerised security systems donated $500 while the Eco-Resorts.Com matched the donation and established communication with KWS for reduced gate fee and Turtle Bay Beach Club provided safari vehicles.
Accommodation was at Sobo Camp, an environmentally-friendly camp operated by the Turtle Bay Beach Club on the banks of Galana River. Here, fear and tension grips us as the duty manager Chunusi Salim explains that it is not rare for lions, elephants, crocodiles and hippos to be frequent neighbours in the tents at night.
The manager of the Eco-Resorts.Com Anne Loehr noted that her firm had organised an international environment friendliness competition last November in which the British couple won a cash prize of $500, but decided to donate the prize to the Children of the Rising Sun Home in form of a safari.
The Eco-Resorts Corn according to Anne Loehr consults and creates tailor-made safaris using East
|Africa's friendly properties, providing information, reservations, safari organisation and payment services through the internet.
Before moving to internet marketing, Anne Loehr and her husband managed the Turtle Bay Beach Club and initiated a closer relationship with the children of the Rising Sun Home where they spent at least Sh60,000 a month to feed and cater for the education of its 29 children, most of them orphans and former street children.
The children clearly indicated their enthusiasm to learn right at the start of the Safari when from the safari kit provided at Turtle Bay beach Club they set ready the wildlife books, pencils, rubber and writing pads to record their experiences.
Of course they were disappointed that we could not use the Sala gate route to Tsavo East and had to travel to Mombasa and then join the Mombasa-Nairobi highway to Buchuma gate a journey of more than 220 kilometres instead of less than 120 to Sobo through Sala gate.
From a welcoming brief by the KWS game ranger, the children learnt that the Tsavo East is the largest park in the country covering 11,655 square kilometres, that the speed limit at the park is 30 kilometres per hour and nobody is allowed to get * the car.
After Anne Loehr and the driver sorted out the gate fee
|issue, the children tried to peep into Tsavo's wildness expecting large number of wildlife. Less than two kilometres into the park, impalas, antelopes, waterbucks, various birds and then elephants and buffalos started appearing as our van penetrated deep into the reserve.
Tour drivers keep in touch through radios and communicate with other tour drivers. Even before our arrival at Aruba Dam, we were already aware that a family of lions was feasting on a buffalo.
The anticipation of seeing lion, which I gathered most children had not nearly made the package avoid the numerous number of buffalos, elephants, giraffes and zebras we were seeing between Buchuma gate and Aruba Dam.
At Aruba Dam we had lunch at what used to be a lodge, which is now abandoned but has a small canteen where soft drinks and snacks are offered.
While at Aruba dam, one gets to hear gossip from the various tour guides and safari drivers. A driver with one of the leading tour firm complains that his firm is portrayed negatively yet just a moments before he had witnessed other vehicles driving on the grass in total disregard of park laws.
However, when asked why he did not report the matter to the rangers, he argued that he did not want to be considered malicious.