Nestled within the county of Laikipia in Kenya, the Lolldaiga Hills can be found. Mr Nomad and I have visited this stunning place before but that was to ‘wild camp’ and this time, it was to stay in the luxurious tented camp with Safari Series.
The Lolldaiga Hills is a working ranch of around 200 square kilometres or around 49,000 acres and is a small conservancy in the shadow of Mount Kenya with outstanding views of the Aberdare mountain range. It is breathtakingly beautiful with an ancient landscape of rolling hills, cedar forests, open grasslands and wooded valleys and the terrain is undulating and incredibly varied in comparison to its near by neighbours of Ol Pejeta and to the north, Samburu.
It is well known for its significant archaeological finds including cave paintings and burial mounds left behind by ancient civilisations including the infamous Maasai tribe.
Mr Nomad and I had to leave Blue Thunder at the gates to the conservancy because we had been informed that the roads within had been compromised by recent heavy down pours so we were collected in an old Landrover driven by our trusty guide, Alfred. The journey to the Safari Series camp was challenging on the recently rained on tracks but we immediately saw a few of the many elephants that occupy the ranch. We also came across a Leopard tortoise ambling along the road so we stopped to greet it, and admire its intriguing markings.
Lolldaiga Hills is known for its epic diversity in wild life, as well as over 400 species of birds and we were ever hopeful that we would spot some of this wild life. We were off to a great start within the first 10 minutes of entering the conservancy and we couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for us. Alfred took us back to the camp to get settled in where we enjoyed a delightful lunch before setting off back out into the conservancy to see what we could see.
The camp itself is deep in the African bush and hidden from view and I am quite sure that if Alfred had not been escorting us, it may have taken a little exploration to locate it. It makes for an incredibly private experience and was a welcome break from the realities of a busy life.
It was pure escapism and we couldn’t wait to be able to relax and unwind. The tent was far more luxurious than our own tent that we stayed in the last time we came to Lolldaigas, but it still retained its rustic charm and was still very much in keeping with its surroundings.
We set off for a game drive late afternoon and as the vehicle snaked its way through the conservancy, one couldn’t fail to notice the spectacular scenery. The topography was different to the other conservancies that we had previously visited in that the many hills were spectacular, there were amazing rock formations and escarpments making up an interesting landscape. There was an abundance of ungulates including zebra, gazelle, impala, eland and warthogs and the bird life was immediately apparent. We discovered the fresh tracks of a leopard although we didn’t see the leopard itself.
We were lucky enough to spot various buzzards, kites, eagles along with grey crested cranes, purple roller, cormorants and hornbills. Alfred, our guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all birds so it was a delight to us that he indulged our requests to constantly stop to allow the vehicle to become stationary to take in the majesty of such birds.
It was to everybody’s delight that we spied two Tawny eagles feeding on a carcass. It looked like a fully grown female Tawny eagle, with her juvenile child and they were feasting upon a dead baby gazelle. Alfred took us a little closer and upon inspection of the carcass, he informed us that the eagles had probably killed this gazelle as there were quite obvious talon shaped wounds in the deceased creatures neck. Whilst these huge birds of prey are majestic in flight, they are clearly ruthless killers and we joked that they could quite easily take one of our dogs, if they so desired! This was rather unnerving but still, an amazing sight to witness.
We travelled on, spotting many elephants as we went, along with copious amounts of giraffe. The vehicle tentatively climbed up a steep hill where we alighted the vehicle to be treated to sun downers – a welcome liquid refreshment in the most stunning location! The views at the top of this hill were breath taking. The landscape unfolded in front of us and as we watched the sun setting, Mr Nomad and I revelled in the views and inhaled in the beauty of this vast land. Kenya has never failed to impress!
We made our way back to camp to enjoy a veritable feast and on that same evening, we again set out into the bush to go on a night drive. Whilst my eye sight is not the best, and certainly in the dark, I always feel that a night drive gives a different perspective and it is always interesting to see how the animals behave in the dead of night.
When the sun has gone down, there is a noticeable and dramatic drop in temperature so I wrapped myself in numerous shuka’s and we trundled slowly through the conservancy in the darkness to observe the wild life at night. Mr Nomad was in control of the torch which was not overly powerful but was supplemental to the headlights on the car and we were lucky enough to see numerous elephants, and hear them munching away on the bushes and trees. As the darkness enveloped us, the outline of a hyena out on the prowl was seen which in the blackness of the night, I did find unnerving! Especially so when the car stalled and didn’t want to re-start! After a couple of turns of the key, the car fired back into life again and we were on our way again, away from any danger.
As we headed back to camp, the vehicle had to traverse an almighty puddle which had seemed fine in day light hours, but in the dark when your eyes conjure up tricks, this puddle seemed to grow into a lake and as the vehicle tried to negotiate its way through this boggy lake, it got slower and slower and seemed to stick in the deep mud until it stopped completely, stalled and then refused to re-start.
Whilst we did not seem to be in any immediate danger (there wasn’t any dangerous wild life nearby!) it was so dark that you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face, the night was the blackest of black, with no visible light anywhere and no form of civilisation any where close by. Every rustle from the too close bushes seemed like a lion, poised to pounce on us. If a lion had indeed been creeping up on us, we would never have seen it coming. I had visions of my tombstone reading “Eaten.”
Privacy from the world and being in a seriously remote location does have its negatives but due to modern technology in the form of a mobile phone, we were able to call the cavalry to come and rescue us! We were stranded for only around 20 minutes before reinforcements arrived and I have to admit that this deviation to the programme was treated as just another adventure.
As opposed to being scared or worried about the minor mishap, it was an opportunity to listen to the enigmatic sounds of the bush and whilst we had to keep our wits about us, we were safely ensconced in a vehicle so no harm would come to us but more a peculiar sense of peace overcame me and it was a minute moment in time uniquely capturing the very essence of calm.
Or was it that I was frozen to my seat, not daring to breath or make any slight noise which may attract the attention of the beasts that lay in wait for us, revelling in our vulnerability? Who knows the actual reality of the situation but it was an exploit which we found ourselves laughing about, enriching the experiences we were having in this fabulous wilderness.