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Game drive in Tsavo West National Park

Impressive and eye-catching carvings of the big five in animal kingdom and Maasai warriors could hardly go unnoticed

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

Exactly three hours and 10 minutes after leaving Nairobi’s Syokimau Railway Station via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), we arrived at Mtito Andei, located halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa.

The journey was awesome for first timers like me. Upon alighting at the Mtito Terminus at 11.10am with my photographer Rodgers Ndegwa, we found a grey Tsavo Institution branded car waiting for us. The driver helped us load our luggage onto the vehicle and soon, we were being driven to Tsavo West National Park gate.

Some 15 minutes later, we were cleared to enter the park, so we drove slowly past the gates decorated with rhino carvings. The next 40 minutes were a bumpy and dusty ride on a murram road heading to the hotel we booked.

This is when I realised why the Probox is now so popular in Kenya and should not be underrated: the car was quite sturdy in the rough park roads. It was also hot and windy, but from about 4pm later that day, the weather became cold.

Finally, we arrived at the Rhino Valley Hotel. A butler adorned in full Maasai moran regalia welcomed us. Impressive and eye-catching carvings of the Big Five in the African animal kingdom (elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion) and Maasai warriors— called morans— dominated the reception area. It was well lit too, with large seats made of rare hard wood.

The receptionist, Fredrick Nzai, who is fluent in German, French, English and Kiswahili, gave us warm towels to wipe our sweat away. We were then served with ice cold orange juice. After checking in, we were directed to separate rooms.

The king-sized bed, which was several times bigger than my humble bed back in Ruiru, surprised me. Charges per night average Sh25,000, inclusive of breakfast, dinner, lunch and accommodation.

It was lunch time, so I quickly freshened up and went straight to the restaurant where I met Rodgers. We were offered a delicious chicken soup for starters, which was served with brown bread.

The main course was finger-licking chicken curry served with white rice and some vegetables on the side. For dessert, I opted for fruits while Rodgers chose to indulge his sweet tooth in the carrot cake and pudding. Feeling full and lazy, we chose to lounge around as we admired the beautiful views of Ngulia hills.

Later, we used the same vehicle for our three-hour afternoon game drive starting off at 3pm. Music blared from the vehicle stereo as we began our game drive. Money fall on you, banana fall on you, my photographer sang along to Nigerian Davido’s fall tune. Jacob Sasini, the butler, also doubled up as our tour guide.

“Now is a great time to see the wildlife because some of them come out after hiding under bushes or in cooler places to escape from the midday heat,” he said.

As we approached an old rock christened Mzima Springs, a herd of a elephants crossed the road ahead. This was one of those times in my young life that I was visibly scared while in line of duty — save a tear gas melee in Nairobi. Our Probox looked diminutive compared to the jumbos.

“Don’t be afraid, Grace. When we stop, they will not harm us,” Jacob laughed as Rodgers fearlessly asked to alight from the car so he could get better pictures. Elephants, I learnt, do not like to be disturbed by vehicle engine noises. Rodgers was warned to be careful as he took photos, straining half outside the car’s windows.

The terrain was mostly flat, with heavy dust during hot seasons, but small cars cannot navigate muddy roads during the rains. From a distance, we saw antelopes grazing together with zebras and dik-diks.

The animals were not even afraid of the car. ‘Chunga hiyo mzee kobe!” I shouted to the driver who had not seen a tortoise crossing the road as we approached the Uzima Springs.

We were soon greeted enthusiastically by a group of game wardens and tourists just leaving the seasonal springs.The fun-filled day come to an end and we started heading back to the lodge. As we drove, the sky was slowly filled with a rare view of a yellow sunset. I rolled into a corner of my seat and slept…. .

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