Posted by: Suzan | February 4, 2011

Surrendering to the Unspoken Language of the Wild Animals in Kenya


Part 2, Kenya, Lake Naivasha/Crescent Island

 After our day at the orphanage in the world’s largest slum, Kibera,we climbed into the back of a Land Cruiser with raised seats and no seat belts. Salim, our driver/guide sat up front to the right as they drive on the opposite side of the roads here and our cook, Christopher sat to the left.

 My body felt as if I had no brain attached. I wondered if I could formulate any thoughts or complete sentences due to lack of sleep for days, and the shock wave running through me after our experiences in the slum. I started to doze off and then my back slammed into the seat. After we left Nairobi, there were no real roads. Dirt, mud, potholes, crevices prevailed, and our vehicle with its deft driver somehow got through it all. I’m not sure if our bodies did though.

 Hours later, feeling like a pureed milkshake, we arrived at our first destination, Lake Naivasha and Crescent Island. Salim and Christopher set up our tents with cots inside, a bed table, and some fuzzy lantern. Such a treat to have someone else rig this up for us. Though we weren’t going to have much romance, or even snuggling, with cots barely large enough for one to sleep on. 

Walking around the grounds of this private reserve, we saw zebras grazing, giraffes’ necks at the tops of trees, impalas, and gazelles. Then a water buck leaped over the fence into our area knocking it down. I ran over to Salim, “Hey are the animals going to charge at us? Is it really safe to walk around here?” I asked.

 “Hakuna Matata, Suzan.”

 I would hear this Swahili phrase which means ‘no worries’ a lot during the trip, especially since I’m known to get a bit anxious now and then.

 Next I went to the outdoor toilet, or shed, out of desperate need to do so before they set up our ‘bathroom tent’ or rather dug the hole and placed the tent around it. Spider webs were wrapped around this hole in a box, with spiders too, of course. I used a stick to clear the area, sat above them all and did my best squat. Later we learned about cabins in the area with decent common bathrooms which we could use. At this point all the poor spiders had vacated the premises. 

Jim and I took a longer walk into the reserve and saw a herd of wildebeest grazing alongside the zebras and gazelle. With the assortment of Acacia trees shrouding us and the large open fields with wild grass blowing, it seemed I’d landed in a magical fantasyland. I didn’t want this spell to ever end.

 We then heard Christopher’s dinner call and walked back to sit at the outdoor table. He served up a fresh vegetable soup, rice and bananas, and chai (or tea) – a staple item since 2/3 of the world’s tea is cultivated in Kenya and Tanzania. I’m not sure how many dinner portions we had as Christopher continued to pour it into our soup bowls and plates until the very last drop. We surrendered since it all tasted so delicious.

 With full bellies, and weary bodies, we turned in early to our tent. We were in higher altitude so I put on my jacket and beanie cap, sweatshirt and sweatpants and still shivered.

 Then I heard the call for breakfast. How could that be? It seemed we just had dinner. I stayed in my ‘pajamas’ and enjoyed tropical fruit (pineapples, mangos, papaya) and eggs made to order with toast. Both Jim and I started drinking coffee again. Couldn’t help it. From the first smell of it, we were hooked again.

 Later Salim drove us to meet another guide, a ranger, who would walk with us around Crescent Island, housing an abundance of wildlife. We first passed around thatched huts with children playing in front. All of the workers live on the premises including our guide. Then we saw two young giraffes that dashed away. We learned they are very shy when young. Velvet monkeys scampered about while gazelle and wildebeest trampled by. 

From our binoculars we viewed a large herd of buffaloes standing near the water’s edge. Masego, our guide, told us we must keep a very large distance from the buffaloes as they are fierce and dangerous, running many people down every year. He also shared that the wildebeest do mini-migrations from one side of the island to the other. They can be challenged at any time and may lose the battle for being the herd leader. This leader has the privilege of impregnating all the females so this is a coveted role. If they are overtaken they are designated as ‘losers.’ Often ‘losers’ hang out together. We saw a pack of these ‘losers’ pass by us, with their heads pointed down. At least they had each other.

 Then a dic dic jumped out in front of us. These small deer like animals mate for life. When the mate dies, they leave also right afterward. We continued walking closer to the water, on the other side of where the buffaloes roamed, and it felt like a wave from the ocean had slapped my face. There snoozing on the grass was a hippopotamus and her baby. Masego said we could approach them since we were coming from land. If we were to walk toward them from the water’s edge, they would charge at us and kill us most likely. I’d never been so close to thousands of pounds of pure blubber, yet I treasured this sight as if it was the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris.

Intermingling with a myriad of animals in the wild created a bigger opening in my heart. As an annual member of the Zoo and Wild Animal Park here in San Diego for so many years, I didn’t expect such a reaction. Somehow in the wilds of Africa, these animals spoke a language which only my heart and soul understands. I surrendered to the oneness found in nature where all that matters is our connection and support of one another.



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