Lasting impressions of the painted dogs’ habitat

By Margeet Pot

The people at Inspiral Africa invite their guests to create their own African story. Well I did. Want to hear it?

This story starts in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi. It is believed that this suburb is named after Karen Blixen, a Danish writer made famous by the movie ‘Out of Africa’. Her farm occupied the land where this suburb is now situated.

Inspiral Africa’s founders, Eefje and Tim, picked me up there for a long journey of more than five hours to Laikipia Wilderness, a Tented Camp south of Lake Turkana. Imagine fossils of our earliest Human ancestors have been found there! The Laikipia Plateau is known for its traditional ranches and farmland and is set against the back drop of  Mount Kenya.

Taking care of its people, land and of course the wildlife has become a community responsibility. Laikipia Wilderness is a basic safari Camp on the top of a hill where all tents have a magnificent view over the valley. Animals are often seen when you sit in front of your tent having breakfast or when you just look around for anything to happen.

Big numbers of elephants and giraffes can be spotted and also the Grevy Zebra, which is a threatened species. The area is also known for the wild dogs(also known as painted dogs), although at the time of this story, they were  recovering from an infectious disease. 80% of the population have died. The wild dogs are also known for the  beautiful stripes on their coat. Hopefully the population will recover soon to inspire us again.

We took an alternative route to Laikipia, passing Lake Naivasha, Nyaharuru and Rumuriti. When we came down the escarpment of the famous Rift Valley the beautiful lake and Mt Longonot on our left side. During the five hour trip, Tim talked about the people living in the areas we passed through, their history and even about his family who are originally from the other side of Mount Kenya.

We drove on bad roads, new roads and finally on red dusty bumpy roads passing small villages where people did business by selling fresh vegetables and even by selling all kinds of handcraft to make this story complete back home.

When we arrived at the camp the welcome with a firm Karibu Sana from the heart made me look forward to the experiences to come. The camp is known for their game drives, night drives, birding and other adventures.

Every guest gets the chance to create his or her own story in his or her own way. Late in the afternoon when the heat was driven away by the wind, we started our first game drive. No other cars, just the guides from the camp, Jasper and Steven, Eefje, Tim and I to experience that Africa’s nature is there to tell us a story too. A story of life and death but also of hope. A kind of wisdom in nature to tell to our children and grandchildren. It is amazing that there is a continent where you can touch heaven and earth on the same time without being spiritual or religious but just being a part of nature. It is amazing how many birds in unpaintable colours can fly through the air, can sit on branches or on top of trees making sounds we only recognize from the ringtones of our smartphones…All animals flying over, passing red roads or sitting under bushes watching us curious but wary, told us stories we can learn from. I felt humble and gratefull to be a part of their lives for one little moment in time.

Our guides told us about previous experiences, just to understand what we were looking at. Nobody was in a rush or needed to go anywhere and time was only given by the position of the sun.

The second day we experienced a very early game drive, so we could share the start of the new day with impalas, dik diks and giraffes. We also witnessed hyenas having breakfast. They were eating the remains of a female elephant who had died a couple of days before. We had our lunch of fruit, pizza and vegetables near a small lake where animals came to drink and hippos were resting and minding their own business.

In the late afternoon we were driven by the guy that runs the place, Stephen, to a spot where we could walk down river for over an hour along the its banks. On the way there we were lucky enough to see a leopard as it crossed the road.  The walk was beautiful! We saw elephants on the opposite bank looking at us carefully because they had young ones to protect. We saw giraffes moving gracefully between the Acacia trees and hippos in the river. Behind us dark clouds entered the scenery, a rainbow smiled at us and the rain started to fall slowly. We couldn’t have our dinner under the African sky in the bush as planned because of the rain, so the guides took us back to a great dinner at the camp instead.

We went to bed early again because we wanted to get up early to try and spot lions on our last morning. Despite the huge efforts of Steven, the professional Masai guide who was trying to trach them for us, we did not trace any lions.

Nevertheless we knew they were there, living together with the people under the same African sky.

After a nice breakfast with sausages, pancakes and fruit, we left our friends from the Wilderness and promised to come back.

We did not see the renowned painted dogs but I left with a lasting, positive impression of the Laikipia region.  I am sure that Inspiral Africa will co-create new stories with new guests. Not necessarily because of the best Big Five sightings or drinking of the best wine, but just because of making guests feel a part of Inspiring Africa!

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