This is Elephant Country
I had been invited by Gamewatchers to film the Amboseli Porini Camp in the Selenkay Conservancy and I was looking forward to finally visiting the Maasai Mara. I knew little about the camp, except that it would be a tented safari camp and that it was listed with Responsible Travel in the UK. I knew it would therefore benefit the local community, the tours would be very individual experiences and the impact on the environment would be reduced as compared to other operators, but as always it’s hard to imagine what it would be like until you arrive.
When I finally did arrive I was greeted enthusiastically by the local Maasai, who performed a traditional dance for us. I soon found out that the Maasai actually own and operate the Conservancy, thus profits are shared and the access is restricted to Gamewatchers participants, which makes for a truly exclusive and tranquil experience. The Maasai Mara is well known and crowding can be a problem but not within the conservancy. Our guides were all locals that had grown up in the area and held a wealth of information besides being really proud of their land and truly enthusiastic about sharing their insights and love for the animals and the country.
We went out onto a wildlife safari in an open 4WD early the next morning and Kilimanjaro towered in the background while Giraffes, ostriches, eagles and plenty of other wildlife paraded in front of us. I had a hard time not to be continuously filming as every shot was almost iconic and I really wanted to appreciate the scenery through my own eyes as well. But the most amazing part was that we were completely on our own, there wasn’t another vehicle in sight.
Once we arrived at the wetlands the amount of wildlife was truly stunning, since we were in the dry season all the animals flocked to the water, but the most impressive were the elephants, they wandered across the road right in front of us and there were three generations elephants in the group. I felt truly privileged to be in their presence and the sight of snow-capped Kilimanjaro in the background made for a shot that would remain in my memory for life. We also managed to get close to a lioness with its cups as well as a family of hyenas.
But not only were we able to observe the wildlife but also life in the local community, we were invited into a Maasai village and could even wander into the Maasai Huts, talk to members of the community and observe their customs and culture. I most enjoyed the spear-throwing and the fire-lighting presentation, though the dark huts and flies really take some getting used to, but it’s all part of the experience of what it’s like to live there.
Back at the camp I was amazed to find a hot shower already prepared, and we soon settled in for a delicious hot meal and a cold beer, before retiring to a comfortable bed in a perma-tent.
This will be one of my most memorable experiences in Africa and I highly recommend Gamewatchers, not only because you will have a great experience but because you will be helping the local community, who could not be any friendlier or more welcoming.
For more info go to www.porini.com