Our gazes hold. Stealthily walking on the gleaming dewy grass, he occasionally pauses and menacingly shakes his ebony head. The enormous curved horns perched on his head are crusted in dirt, as his eyes further scour the surroundings before drawing closer. With keen anticipation, I watch the buffalo bull stop at a watering hole, quench his thirst, stir the clear waters into a muddy mess then leisurely disappear into nearby foliage.
From the deck of a tent tucked discretely in acacia bushes where I watch this amazing sighting unfold, colourful weaverbirds chirp melodiously to welcome a new day. The watering hole along the banks of Ewaso Nyiro River overlooks the mess tent at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp and attracts a constant supply of thirsty wild animals. The enchantment of the encounter with the buffalo sets the tone of what to expect as I venture into a morning game drive.
The 90,000-acre expanse of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia county teems with wildlife and incredibly diverse landscapes. Vast open plains lie between the undulating Aberdare Ranges and the mighty caps of Africa’s second highest peak, Mt Kenya, that tower on the horizon. Immediately we cross Ewaso Nyiro River, the scenic topography of the conservancy transitions from riverine vegetation, open grassland savannahs and whistling acacias to short ever green bushes.
The land, still cold and dewy, is alive with creatures that seek to embrace the bliss of sunrise. Herds of zebra graze nonchalantly, impalas and gazelles stir at the sound of the engine, and warthogs run in a wild frenzy. Our first stop is Sweetwaters Chimpanzees Sanctuary. We meet Edward, an 18-year-old dominant male chimp, in one of the two groups of chimpanzees found at the sanctuary peacefully basking under the sun.
Edward is one among four chimps namely Julia, Romeo and Jane that are fondly referred to as the four musketeers. The 35 chimpanzees found at the sanctuary are either orphaned or rescued from illegal trade across the world. Dense vegetation and long trees draped in tendrils at the sanctuary attempt to mimic ‘chimps’ natural habitat. I gather from Patrick Erondo, a caregiver, the primates are found in Montane Forests in Rwanda and Burundi, among other countries. This is the only place in Kenya where this species can be seen.
Further along the vast terrain, a colossal creature stands coyly within green bushes. “It’s a black rhino,” says Duma, a guide. Many more similar creatures appear along the way. Ol Pejeta Conservancy hosts the largest population of black rhinos in Kenya, approximately 117 in total. Watching Baraka, a blind black rhino, behind an enclosure is the closest I get to the endangered mammals.
Amber sunny skies give way to dark heavy clouds. Rain is in the forecast, and so we hurriedly return to the camp. Soon after, fresh earthy smells waft as heavy rains pound the dusty grounds. Seated still inside a tent, I immerse myself in the moment as the marvels of nature slowly unfold.