Shortly after Christmas, we had the pleasure of the Parks family descend upon us. Mr Nomad’s mother Trish came to visit along with sister Amy and her partner Vit, sister Vicky, sister Becca and her partner Stacey, brother Richard along with his partner Kirsty and their son, our nephew, Oscar. Having missed our family immensely at Christmas, it was wonderful to have them join us in Kenya and we could not wait to show them the sights! It was delightful to be reunited with the Parks side of the family and Solo and Zuri were just as excited as we were. Whilst Solo does remember his grandmother and his various aunties and uncles, and he duly lapped up the fuss and attention, Zuri had never met the Parks clan before so it was a wonderful introduction to the extended Nomadic Family Unit (Parks side).
After the long drive back from the airport in Nairobi, time was extended to allow them all to settle into Casa Del Parks but following that first day, feet did not touch the ground and we whisked them off on safari. Because there were so many of us, we hired three hefty cars and we set off in convoy to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, communicating with each other on our walkie talkie’s. Mr Nomad travelled in the lead vehicle, with sister Amy and her partner Vit driving the middle vehicle, and I travelled at the rear. Vit is used to city driving (on tarmac!) so the off road driving was new to him, although he is to be commended on his ability, and his ever prevailing sense of adventure.
After we stopped at the Equator sign for the obligatory selfie, we were instantly treated to our first elephant sighting, much to the exhilaration of the entire Parks clan.
A huge bull elephant stood in the middle of the road, nonchalantly blocking the way so we had no choice but to park up and wait for him to saunter away at his own pace. Once he had moved on, we continued in convoy weaving our way along the murram roads across the savannah grasslands and rolling plains within Ol Pejeta. Travelling across the plains allowed us to see the epic sights of various ungulates including gazelle, impala, zebra, Jacksons Hartebeest, waterbuck, Eland, all of which were plentiful and we were also able to spot the amazing rhino! They are simply breath taking in their sheer size and presence.
Ol Pejeta is a world renowned rhino sanctuary and is home to the last two remaining Northern White rhino – two females by the names of Fatu and Najin. The last male Northern White Rhino, Sudan, died at Ol Pejeta on 19th March 2018 so this sub species of rhino is functionally extinct, the species having been wiped out through poaching and their habitats destroyed through civil war. There is hope however, that the species can be resurrected and considerable work has been done in this respect. In August 2019, ten eggs were successfully harvested from the two females and seven out of ten of those eggs were successfully matured and artificially inseminated (four from Fatu and three from Najin).
This has been achieved through Intra Cytoplasm Sperm Injection (ICSI) with frozen sperm from two different Northern White rhino bulls and it is hoped that viable embryos can be frozen and transferred into Southern White rhino surrogate mothers. This is clearly a difficult process but there is a glimmer of hope that the species can be saved. The Parks clan were shocked and saddened when we visited the rhino cemetery but the work done at Ol Pejeta to ensure the future of these beasts is astounding and it is always pleasing to learn that the anti-poaching work is successful, with not a single rhino having been poached from Ol Pejeta for two years now.
We proceeded at a very steady pace and stealthily entered the dense bush in quiet pursuit of big cats and to our utter delight, we were privileged to see two lionesses sprawled out and relaxing under one of those said bushes.
We were all stunned into silence at their majesty although we had no desire to disturb them and after a glimpse of them, we respectfully left them alone and continued on our journey. This was to be the only sighting of any big cats during our two days at Ol Pejeta but it was wonderful to see these two in their natural environment, undisturbed by anything else around them.
At every turn within Ol Pejeta, the wild life was stunning and in abundance and we were thrilled that after seeing hundreds of buffalo, we had sighted four of the ‘big five’ within the first hour on the first day of the safari.
We saw plenty of giraffe over the coming days and there was a thrilling moment by the mighty Ewaso Nyiro river, witnessing a herd of elephants drinking, larking about and taking a dip in the water.
On our travels around, we stopped alongside a herd of Jacksons Hartebeest and we noticed to our surprise that a female was trying to give birth. This was truly magical but our presence appeared to be upsetting the Hartebeest so we did not wish to cause stress to her and we moved on to give her some privacy. The head of the baby was crowning but we respectfully left her to it. We pottered off to take lunch and then returned to the Hartebeest around an hour later and we were overjoyed to see a brand new baby Hartebeest.
It was emotional to see a new born animal, literally taking its very first steps, having only entered the world in the last hour or so. What a privilege for the entire nomadic family to witness.
We visited Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary and saw some of the rescued chimps playing on an activity area. Ol Pejeta is the only place in Kenya where chimps can be seen as they are not indigenous so it was a pleasure to see them. The chimp sanctuary was established in 1993 when a rescue centre for chimps in Barundi had to be closed because of civil war, and Ol Pejeta stepped up to take care of the chimps, with a view to providing lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimps.
Chimps share 98.6% of the DNA with us humans so they are curiously very human like in their behaviour. Our nephew, Oscar who is only four years of age loved seeing them, and declared that he wanted to be a ranger. Outside of the chimp sanctuary, we were able to see many baboons carrying their babies, playing around and enjoying the blistering sunshine.
We also were incredibly lucky when Amy, Mr Nomad’s sister on her first ever safari spied a hyena, hunkered down in the long grass. The spotted hyena was standing over a den so we parked up and sat mesmerised, watching the hyenas relaxing around the den, chilling out in the dusk, as the sun began to set and the evening drew in.
Some of the roads around Ol Pejeta were challenging and gnarly but much fun was had in some tricky conditions. The cars coped well with the extreme mud and rutted roads, and we did not get stuck, nor sustain any damage! Oscar, the newest ranger in the Nomadic Family Unit even got in on the action and had a go at driving.
Our newly acquired giant thermos flask used to provide liquid refreshment did become a casualty in a particularly bumpy section of road but we all managed to get around unscathed, and utterly thrilled that the wild life had come out to play allowing the entire Parks clan to experience the joys that Kenya had to offer. Ol Pejeta proved once again that it is a magical place and beyond compare.