The next morning, we departed by mini-bus to Amboseli National Park. The roads in Kenya vary from good to abysmal; and traffic – especially large-truck traffic – can test a saint’s patience. That said, the drive itself was interesting and very beautiful in some spots. 2.5 hours in, we turned off the main road for a quick break in a great gift shop then resumed our journey into the Selenkay Conservancy and on towards Amboseli Porini Camp. Selenkay is 10 miles north of Amboseli over the northern its boundary. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy views of Mt. Kilimanjaro on your drive to the camp. The Conservancy shares the same eco-system as Amboseli and is established on lands leased from the local Maasai by Porini Camps with the aim of protecting the habitation and encouraging wildlife conservation as an alternative to farming as a means for the local population to earn a living.
There is only one camp in the conservancy. Visitors (only 18 at any given time) benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Masai who work in the camp as game rangers, trackers and camp staff and enjoy an environment still in its wild and unspoiled state. Elephant are nearly standard in Amboseli, but visitors can also expect to see Thomson and Grant’s gazelles, lions, cheetahs and leopards, bat eared fox, mongooses, porcupine, giraffe and yellow baboon among the many now indigenous species. We even managed to see a genet one evening as we made our way back to camp.
Upon arriving, we settled in to camp and enjoyed a nice al fresco lunch. The tents are basic but comfortable. Each of the 9 spacious tents have a double and a single bed. The bathrooms are equipped with flush toilet, a basin with cold running water and a ‘safari’ (bucket) shower. There is a desk in the room, and the night stand has a basket with ‘Doom’ (bug killer – not needed at all during my stay in any of the camps), insect repellent wipes, a flashlight and a whistle. Each tent also has a small veranda with chairs to enjoy your morning coffee or relax and read a book in the afternoon before tea.
After a rest and tea, we headed out for our afternoon activity – a walk with the Masai and a visit to their village. We were driven a short way from camp, then dropped off with our Masai guide, Jonah, and his companions. During our walk, Jonah taught us about some of the finer points of the African bush and we got close up to bushes, bugs and termite mounds. Additionally, the Masai demonstrated their skills in spear throwing with quite impressive results! The walk is on a dirt track through the bush and is appropriate for anyone with reasonable mobility. The walk takes about an hour including stops for questions and learning opportunities. Dust is probably the most major issue along the way; my shoes were caked in the conservancy’s copper-colored soil when we finished.
As we approached the village, Masai women and their children came out to greet us and escort us in. All of the Masai began singing a beautiful welcome song and I’m pretty sure I had goosebumps by this point. Walking into the village with the Masai was a special and memorable experience. During our visit, we were given demonstrations of village life. Games, fire starting, hut building and animal enclosures were just a few of the activities that we were privileged to observe. The warriors also showed their jumping prowess (as did the soon-to-be little warriors). It was the most authentic village experience that I have ever had in East Africa and I enjoyed it immensely. It is the conservancy model that helps to maintain the authenticity of the village and allows the Masai to continue their ways relatively unchanged; it appears that what Porini (and other camps and safari companies in Africa) is doing is working.
We ended the afternoon in the best possible way. After departing the village, we did a game drive through the conservancy and ended up on a plateau overlooking a stunning vista – Kilimanjaro – nearly cloudless with sunset approaching. We stopped for sundowners in this idyllic spot and enjoyed time with other guests from the camp around a fire while watching a magical sunset. What a day!
Next – all day game driving throughout Amboseli and visits to three of its distinct properties.