This is how I feel right now:
This trip is 3 years in the making. It had to be postponed twice. Thanks, ‘rona!
Guys… you know how I love the ellies and the highlight of the last Kenya trip was seeing those sweet babies for one hour of bliss at the Sheldrick Nursery in Nairobi? Well, I didn’t tell you much more about Sheldrick because it didn’t apply to the last trip, but it does to this one. The Sheldrick Nursery isn’t the only place the rescues live. They usually start out at the Nursery, where they get around-the-clock care. Their keepers even sleep with them! Elephant babies are precious and vulnerable and need a lot of help in their early years and Sheldrick is dedicated to trying to provide as much of that as possible. They do such good work. So the ellies eventually graduate from the nursery to their next location, which is sort of like a halfway house. It’s at these locations they are introduced to wild elephants and most of the rescues learn, through the wild ones, how to live in the wild and then most rescues eventually join them when they are ready – the ellies decide for themselves. Three of these locations also have camps that visitors/adopters can stay at, but you have to rent the whole camp out and you have to bring your own food. Of course, once I found out about these camps it became a dream of mine to stay at one. I wanted to meet our rescues that were staying at these locations. There is one fellow, Ndotto, we have adopted yearly for our niece for many years that I really want to finally meet and see how he’s doing.
Several years ago I discovered a site with safari trip reports called Safari Talks. Before our Botswana trip, this was another source of information about camps and just taking safaris in general that helped me plan things. I never would have guessed I would be *so close* to a wild animal, among other things, if it wasn’t for some of the pics and words written there. It really helped get me excited for Botswana and I continued reading the trip reports for other places sporadically after our trip. Once we knew we were going to Kenya in 2019, I focused on reading trip reports again so I could get an idea of what areas we should visit for the best experiences. As I was reading these older trip reports I discovered one that talked about visiting these Sheldrick halfway locations, and their experiences. I was so jealous! I would have totally loved to do that, but obviously we weren’t going to rent out an entire camp for two people! So I shot my shot and sent the person that wrote the trip report a DM that basically said, “Hi, if you ever need two more people…please consider letting us join your group!”. And long story short, eventually it happened! Lesson: Take your shot – the worst they can say is no.
The planning of a trip with 6 strangers is interesting, to say the least; especially when they all don’t live in the same country. Thankfully the organizer had two trips planned under their belt and had the contacts and experience to plan this trip overall. We’ve all been extremely grateful for them taking the reins of this trip. I tried to help in creating a budget where I could, so everyone could see what the projected costs were for most things to help them plan a little better. As you can imagine, we’ve had a *ton* of email exchanges over these last three years, so nuggets of information would be scattered in various emails and I tried to gather it all into one place for planning and expectation purposes. After the success of the proposed budget, one of the ladies requested I make a group calendar of who is arriving and when. I used to be a project manager (PMP represent!), so this stuff is right up my alley.
We decided if we were going all that way to see the ellies, of course we wanted to go back to the Masai Mara and go on a proper safari. We decided to add 5 nights at a budget camp that came recommended from the group. Very reasonably priced, too! We shall see – it will be our first experience with bucket showers, so I’m sure there are going to be some stories!
Then the first postponement happened. And the next year the second. We finally agreed 2022 was going to be the year. Since hubby had some vacation days burning a hole in his pocket, and we hadn’t been anywhere in quite a while, I suggested adding more safari time to the beginning of the trip. My excuse: it’s a long trip, we have the vacation cash, life is short, etc. So I found a new travel company and TA (not that warm, but very efficient, even after payment, which is more important). I chose one camp that is rhino focused near the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The other camp I chose is in the Masai Mara, however it’s in a different conservancy – the Olare-Motorogi Conservancy. I chose this one because they are supposed to have more leopard there and I really would love to see one again; they were so beautiful in Botswana.
So now we are looking at the following itinerary:
- Nairobi (1 night). Focus: sleep.
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy (3 nights) Focus: rhino – specifically the world’s last two northern white rhinos, that are under guard!
- Olare-Motorogi Conservancy (3 nights) Focus: leopards and cheetahs.
- Masai Mara (5 nights). Focus: leopards and cheetahs.
- Nairobi (2 nights). Focus: Sheldrick nursery, and grocery shopping for Sheldrick camps.
- Tsavo West (3 nights). Focus: ellies and whatever we happen to see on safari drives.
- Tsavo West 2 (3 nights). Focus: ellies and whatever we happen to see on safari drives.
- Tsavo East (3 nights). Focus: ellies and whatever we happen to see on safari drives.
- Nairobi (1 night). Focus: Sheldrick nursery again, probably, then go home.
First 1/2 vs. Second 1/2
There are a couple of differences in the first half of the trip compared to the second half. The first half of the trip is safari focused, with the first two camps being in a conservancy. In a conservancy there are less vehicles and you are allowed to drive your vehicle off road. The third camp is near the Mara Triangle. It is not in a conservancy, so we will be required to stay on the road. As the trip progresses, I will be writing more about each camp with more details. We will fly to the first and second camps, and drive (I believe less than 2 hours) between the second and third camps. We will fly back from the third camp to Nairobi.
The second half is focused on the ellies and visiting the halfway locations. We will spend a couple nights in Nairobi and grocery shop and get everything together, then we have two drivers who will drive us all between each location. This should be interesting, because the first drive, I believe, is 5 or 6 hours and we’ve never ridden in a vehicle that long on Kenyan roads nor dealt with their traffic beyond Nairobi (we’ve always flown between camps).
Have you guys seen the trailer for that movie Beast (or something like that)? About the attacking lion? What the hell? Why did this have to come out right before my freaking trip? Come on, man. Of course I’ve seen this more times than I can count. It’s no coincidence I started having my lion nightmares. I’ve gotten them before my other two trips, too!
Secondly, remember how I told you about how I like reading trip reports to read more about the places I’m going to visit? I was really happy to read a recent one re: the area with the rhino. It had so many great pics of the two surviving rhino and talked a lot about the camp and how great it was to stay there. I’m pretty excited by everything they said, except…the writer wrote about how one night he heard a noise outside his tent and then heard the tell tale sound of two lions yawning, and then eventually bumping into his tent and hanging around there. He said he was terrified and it was hours before he fell back asleep.
You guys? I really, really, really, really don’t want that experience. And did I mention ‘really’? Because I really don’t. I know there are some crazy people that think, “Oh man, it would be so cool to have lions sleeping right outside my tent!”.
Me? I’m not one of those people. I’m sane in that respect. I’m praying to the safari gods to please not let my weird lion attracting powers kick in this trip. I don’t want to have to pop an Ativan to prevent soiled sheets or a heart attack.
I have no idea when I will start updating the actual trip report. I know the first camp doesn’t have WiFi. I can’t imagine any of them have very good WiFi, and we’re only bringing the iPad. It might be weeks. Hard telling. Keep an eye on my Instagram: Neeners815 & Neenerstravels. I’ll try to at least post pics/stories there in the meanwhile.
Before I go, I will leave you with this in case you’ve never seen it before. I do not want this to happen. No thank you. I’m putting it out there in the universe – NO THANK YOU! No lions outside the tent at night! I’d also appreciate none outside the tent during the day.