After our successful safari around Ol Pejeta, the decision was made to take the Parks clan to another favourite of ours, Samburu. We duly packed up the vehicles and travelled in convoy once more to Samburu National Reserve. After a quick stop for milk shake at Kissima, the journey was relatively uneventful until we entered Samburu National Reserve itself.
The Reserve itself is around 165 square kilometres in size and is around 345 kilometres from Nairobi. It is semi-arid being very hot through the day and relatively cool at night. On the day of our arrival in Samburu, it was a scorching hot day and driving through the reserve met with swirling swaths of dust. There had only recently, been an unprecedented amount of rain and the county had suffered with heavy flooding so the roads were unpredictable and we found that many of the tracks along the great Ewaso Nyiro river had been severely eroded and simply washed away. That said, the area was more fertile than ever and the vegetation was lush and green with the bushes and the grass standing taller than we had ever seen on previous visits.
The drive through the Reserve to get to our accommodation at Samburu Game Lodge was slow and steady and we were treated to spotting much of the wild life that Samburu is famed for. We saw many impala and gazelle, warthog and the Beisa Oryx along with Gerenuk, two species not seen at Ol Pejeta. We also saw many of the elephants that inhabit the reserve.
There are over 900 elephants within Samburu National Reserve and as we snaked through the desert like landscape, we came across one of those very elephants who was not at all happy to see us.
Ranger Phil in the lead car had come to an abrupt halt upon seeing what appeared to be a juvenile male elephant angrily tearing up the bushes and tossing them around. He was loudly trumpeting for all to hear, snorting and stamping his feet, kicking up the dust like a toddler having a tantrum and Phil anxiously communicated with the other vehicles that we needed to avoid contact with this elephant at all costs. The elephant was hanging around to the right of our convoy of vehicles and my line of vision was impaired by the bushes he was hiding behind but we could all hear him, and I could certainly see the greenery being uprooted and tossed around amidst the clouds of dust. Mr Nomad proceeded at speed past the stroppy elephant and then stopped at a safer distance away from us all. The middle car being driven by Ranger Vit then seized the moment and also sped past the errant elephant, again stopping at a safer distance away. As our middle vehicle had driven off, another vehicle not belonging to our group was seen on my right hand side reversing swiftly away and as I bemusedly watched this vehicle disappear rather rapidly, the elephant suddenly appeared from behind the bushes and whilst violently shaking his trunk and waving his ears dramatically, he charged towards us!
Thankfully, the instinct to run away took over and I was able to reverse at warp speed, and proceed down a right turning which presented itself as a convenient escape route. The elephant bore down on us and when executing the forward manoeuvre to get around the right turn, it felt as if he was no further than a metre or so away from the bonnet of the car. Having never had an elephant charge at me, this was an adrenaline fuelled moment I will never forget. Once we had got a safe distance away from the charging bull, I had to take a minute to gather myself but we carried on as if nothing had happened, although attempting to make haste towards our destination having been slightly terrified by the rampant elephant. At the time, I had the precious cargo of Nanna Nomad and nephew Oscar, as well as Becca and Stacey so failure to escape had not been an option although this close encounter had frayed my nerves somewhat. We could also all hear other elephants calling to one another so we decided not to loiter any further and proceeded to the Game Lodge as quickly as the terrain would allow us.
After the dramatic entrance into the National Reserve, we arrived safely at the Game Lodge and we were all grateful to be presented with face clothes drenched in eucalyptus and a refreshing glass of fresh passion fruit juice. I was sweating profusely from the drama of the day so this was much welcomed. We were delighted to learn that we were accommodated in the riverside cottages, where Mr Nomad and I had stayed previously so we all retired to our rooms to freshen up ready for dinner that evening.
We were greeted by numerous Vervet monkeys in and around the cottages so we warned the Parks clan not to leave doors open but brother Richard’s partner Kirsty, having been exhausted by the day’s events promptly fell asleep on the bed with the balcony doors wide open and the monkeys took full advantage of this.
Kirsty awoke to five monkeys rifling through their bags and they scampered off with a bag of M & M’s, another chunky chocolate bar and a carton of juice, much to the hilarity of the rest of the Parks family. We were all in adjoining rooms with balconies so we all could share the stunning views across the river, and laugh at the cheeky monkeys feasting on Kirsty’s goodies. One such monkey managed to sneak up on me, having slid down the roof behind me whilst I was watching the monkeys licking the M & M wrapper clean, and seized a tube of Germolene which I had carelessly left lying about. The monkey soon discarded this when he realised it was inedible and Mr Nomad swiftly retrieved it, bite marks and all.
On our way to dinner that evening, we spied numerous Nile crocodiles clambering up the banks of the river to their usual spot to await the bones that are thrown to them by the staff at the Game Lodge. It is always a privilege to see these magnificent beasts and the whole of the Parks family were enthralled by them. Some of the family were able to throw the bones to the crocodiles, much to their delight (or terror?). In the recent floods, the river levels had risen as high so as to be in line with the bar and I had feared that perhaps the crocodiles had been washed much further down stream but whether this had happened or not, there were more crocodiles in attendance that night than we had ever seen before.
Dinner was as ever, delicious and plentiful and to wind the day up, Mr Nomad was presented with a birthday cake along with the rapturous singing and banging of pots and pans, in a traditional African celebratory way. Mr Nomad was celebrating his birthday and was overwhelmed or more embarrassed, at the attention this received.
The following day, we went back out on safari within the reserve and we were treated to numerous wild life sightings, including lots of reticulated giraffe, more impala, gazelle, dik dik and even Somali ostrich. We also saw many elephants but thankfully, not quite as close as the previous days’ sighting. The tall grass made it impossible to spot any creature which may be lying down within it and although Samburu is famed for its big cat populations, we were out of luck this time with any sightings of any such cats.
On our second day, we had utilised the services of a ranger, Cyrus, to assist in trying to find big cats but this was all to no avail. I have no doubt whatsoever that the big cats were there, probably watching us with baited breath waiting to see if any of the vehicles got stuck, especially with a tasty morsel of a four year old with us, but we just could not spy them.
On our last morning, the same ranger came to our room, frantically knocking at the door to get our attention with the bold statement that a leopard had been sighted. Mr Nomad and I were unfortunately, just getting out of the shower so Cyrus the ranger sought out Ranger Vit and both him and Richard zoomed out into the reserve to see if the leopard could be spotted. Mr Nomad and I hastily dressed, collected the remaining Parks clan and followed as quickly as we were able to in the deteriorating conditions.
The sun had failed to materialise and was replaced with rain so the tracks within the reserve became more and more treacherous with driving conditions rapidly diminishing. Through all of our rushing, the leopard was seen from a distance only by Richard and Vit, but not by any other member of the family.
Although it was a little deflating that the leopard had wandered away, there had been much excitement in the frantic search and the mad driving in the difficult conditions had been exhilarating in itself. There was certainly never a dull moment at Samburu.
As we left the Game Lodge, we proceeded slowly just to see what else we could see on the way out. Although the rain abated and the sun decided to join us, we avoided going off the established roads for fear of getting the cars stuck in the deep mud. Some of the roads and tracks were perilous and only to be attempted when feeling very brave and given the antics on the day of our arrival, we had no desire to be put into such a risky position on our departure. We had all had a wonderful time and left Samburu National Reserve on a high, but with a heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to such a magical place.