Thursday, October 6, 2011

Safari - Sweetwaters Tented Camp

We departed Samburu, passed back over the equator, and headed to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, known for it's large numbers of both white and black rhino, being home to a chimpanzee sanctuary that was helped started by Jane Goodall, and is active in conservation for many species. An American TV company actually made a mini TV series about this place, called the Ol Pejeta Diaries, following the wildlife rangers of the park. The conservancy used to be a private ranch and our camp was located on the grounds of the former owner. When on safari, there are two types of accommodation - lodges or tented camps. But these are not your average tents, and even if you don't like camping, you would love sleeping in one of these luxury tents.They are just like a nice hotel room, but instead of locking your door, you just zip up the canvas door. We are really roughing it here.

Sweetwaters camp surrounds a water hole and from your tent you can watch any animals coming by for a drink. After the disappointing waterhole at the Ark, we weren't sure what to expect, but this one was pretty good. Lots of warthogs, antelope species and birds. We were told though that this waterhole isn't "needed" as much as it is in other places (like Etosha) because part of the conservancy is wet marsh lands. However, During breakfast, we spotted these rhino coming in for a drink.

We spent the afternoon exploring the different species being protected at Ol Pejeta. The chimpanzee sanctuary was started in order to give orphaned chimps, from all over eastern Africa, a safe place to go and today it is home to about 85 chimps. Each chimp has a different story - some were orphaned because their parents were killed, some were abandoned by owners who had them as babies and simply let them go once they got too big, and some were rescued from retails shops, where they were used as a lure to get customers. A second and third generation of chimps is now being born at the sanctuary, as the original population is having babies. This little guy is just 3 months old.

There is a rhino here named Baraka who lost an eye in a fight while in the wild, and then developed a cataract in the other eye that vets were unable to successfully treat, so he is now blind. Since blind rhinos don't fare that well in the wild, he has come to rely on the conservancy staff and has become domesticated, so much that guests like us can feed him.

There is a hippo viewing spot which it is easy to spot the hippos. The hippos were quite active, hiding in the water and then jumping out, splashing around, before ducking under again. // While cruising around we saw a herd of impala, all bachelors and we were wondering where all the ladies were. A couple of minutes later we saw another herd, with about 25 females and one lucky stag. He decided to try and show us what he has going on, but the ladies were not letting him mount successfully while we were around.

In Kenya's National Parks, they do not allow night game drives. But since this is a private game reserve, it was available. Hugh went on the game drive alone (If Lynn is reading this, then he did this without leaving Betsy). It was promoted as a way to see some nocturnal animals, but in general it turned out to be more of a continuation of a daytime drive, seeing water buffalo, elephants, antelopes, hyena, etc. Did catch some zebra mating action, which was a bit more successful than the impala earlier that day. However, up until this point, the lions we've seen have generally been resting. On this night drive, we first spotted a female lion drinking water, and then followed her for about 10 minutes as she was hunting. She did not have much success, but then again, with two cars following her and shining lights on her, I imagine the impala were not caught by surprise.

The conservancy's land straddles the equator and they had the appropriate signage to let us know. While on the road leaving, we saw several signs letting us know that we were crossing the equator, every few miles, suggesting that we stop to take pictures and visit their curio shops. Even though we are not familiar with the roads here, it didn't seem possible to cross the equator that many times. The thrill of crossing has now warn off.

Location:Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

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