July 2017 – Umani Springs
Our next stop is a bit of an adventure. We are leaving the beauty of Giraffe Manor, for a five hour drive toward Tsavo in the northeastern slopes of the Chyulu Hills . As newbies to Kenya, we don’t really know what to expect on this drive, but we know our first stop needs to be at a grocery store. We are headed to a camp, where a cook is provided, but we have to provide the food. It was a bit of a challenge to food shop on a whim, gathering food for three days. There is also a little uncertainty about where we are going, plus asking someone to cook for us with the food we provide adds a little more adventure to today. Our meals were so extravagant at The Safari Collection hotels, we thought we would go real simple, with classic pasta, pb & j’s etc. It was perfect!
The drive is long, slow, on a one lane road that connects the coast of Kenya (Mombasa), to the land locked nation of Uganda. Therefore, it is well traveled by loads of trucks carrying goods. It’s also filled with locals, who have established their villages along this road, trying to sell fruits, vegetables, water, and other goods to travelers cruising by. We take the opportunity to enjoy some fresh grilled corn, picked up some tomatoes and onions, and stopped at a local butcher shop so our driver can bring some fresh meat to the local hosts at our next lodge.
It’s an eye-opening experience getting out and seeing how people in this developing country live! As fascinating as exploring each country can be, it has also helped us develop a deeper appreciation for what we have, and how fortunate we are to live in an amazing country that provides so many opportunities for us!
After hours on the road, we make a right turn down a dirt road. “Where are we?!”, we begin to think to ourselves. This rocky, bumpy, windy road through thick brush of the Kibwezi Forest takes about 30 or 40 minutes into an unknown world, opens up to a slice of paradise. Who knew!!!
Staying at the Umani Lodge requires each traveling group, to enjoy the entire property to themselves. Say what!! Yup, we get the entire property to ourselves, and are treated like gold right from the start from the local hosts (we had a staff of five to cater to our every need). The property sleeps 10 and has 3 houses. We got to walk through each house and pick our sleeping quarters for our stay! Quite fun to say the least! All revenue generated from this facility off-sets the concession fees payable to the Kenya Forest Service and the costs associated with the sustainable protection and preservation of this uniquely beautiful yet essentially fragile ecosystem. By staying at Umani Springs you are directly contributing to the protection of this area. We loved this about out stay! Giving back!
Our house we picked….
Umani Lodge is set about five minutes from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphanage where the elephants are placed in a setting to thrive! They use this place as a staging post for their release project at the fabulous Ithumba Hill in Tsavo East. The trust is heavily involved in the conservation of these critically important forests. Activities are centered upon the orphaned elephants, which are available early morning, for a late morning mudbath and again in the evening. Before we head over to welcome in the ellies for their evening milk, we explore this exquisite hidden gem in paradise (Go Pro video to follow later).
Not sure this site will ever get old… ellies bumbling down the road eagerly running into their stockade to grab their milk. That’s right, a few of them even pick up the milk with their own trunk, and start guzzling! The others are welcomed by their caring keepers, who provide them with two bottles. About half of the sweet baby ellies have permanent damage to themselves. Most of them are leg injuries that unfortunately
will never heal properly. Because of this disability they will never be released to the wild because they will not survive. The other half is there because they are their buddies!!! Haha. They couldn’t separate them so they bring them along! So cute!
After an hour of talking with the head keeper, feeding babies, and enjoying watching them safely nestle in for the evening, we head back to our picturesque lodge. Our chef took our groceries, and prepared us our first delicious meal, as we watch mongoose eat their dinner in front of the lodge.
We wake to the sight of a the sun rising through our perfectly enclosed bed with a troop of baboons strolling through our front yard!
Have we mentioned there are monkeys everywhere!? We are getting accustomed to strange noises of animals running across the top of our lodge, and the site of animal encounters so close to us on a regular basis! Kenyans are so proud of their land, and love to boast about their knowledge of the animals and their habitats.
Breakfast, followed by a 5 minute stroll to the area in front of our lodge where the elephants meet for their midday milk, romp in the field, and dust themselves (mudbath). We loved the genuine, enlightening experience as we watched them get fed again, roam the field, and of course taking lots of pictures with them, and even snuck in a few hugs.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a phenomenal organization! It is really apparent when you spend some time with the ellies and their keepers. They treat them like family, and commit their lives to these amazing creatures! For years, we have fostered babies and donated to this cause, and what we experienced over the few days at their camps only reassures us that this first-class organization deserves the support they are receiving! Here is the link to foster a baby in case you missed it in the last post. It is $50 for the year!! Money well spent!!
As we leave the field, one of the keepers asks, ‘Would you like to see an African Python digesting a bushbuck?’ Uh…. YEP!! So we take a quick ride, and a little hike toward the springs, and holy hell! We walk right up to a 15 foot python, digesting an enormous animal in its midsection. Luckily we can get really close to this massive reptile as it is so consumed with digesting, it isn’t bothered by us taking pictures and videos.
Back at camp, we enjoy a peaceful afternoon, interrupted for a few minutes listening to a bushbuck get killed by a predator. It’s just part of the experience! As we relax, we see 4 troops of over 50 baboons playing in our fields, highlighting our wonderful afternoon!
Our evening is exciting, as we are headed to the orphanage to welcome the ellies back home for the evening, a sight that never gets old!
After enjoying this experience for the last time, we head out to the sundowner deck. OUr last sundowner in Africa. We enjoy our last few Tuskers as the sunsets over Tsavo National Park!
Back at camp, our chef is eagerly awaiting to cook us dinner. Once again, we enjoy a delicious meal as we are joined by the mongoose, and genet cats who are enjoying a meal of their own in front of the lodge. The hosts set out food each night to feed these fascinating, elusive animals. Just another magical experience!
Pack, sleep, and an early, long drive back to Naroibi. Dreading our long journey back home, and even more sad to leave Africa. Kenya has treated us well, and we are fortunate to have met so many amazing people, enjoyed some incredible experiences, and grew a greater appreciation for the people and culture of Kenya!
Until next time……….