Monday, May 23, 2016

A Chyulu Monday morning...

Misty morning, low clouds, I have to fly to my "neighbor", Richard Bonham, a 3 hours drive or 10 minutes flight away...
Hornbills are up, the Guinea fowls are quite noisy already, even if it is not even 7 am...
Richard and I have a meeting to talk about how to better deliver our conservation programs in the Tsavo Amboseli ecosystem.
Not the best weather to fly in...
Few impalas run away from the path which takes me from home to the workshop. 5 minutes drive among jumping elands and some curious hartebeests and I am in my 206. A hartebeest is not too happy to give way on the runway, I am definitively disturbing his Monday morning breakfast...

Engine checks, short roll and I am in the air, just below the misty clouds. Few raindrops help cleaning my windshield. I am flying few feet off the top of the trees, when I see a tower of giraffes and climb a bit. Acacias are covered in a blanket of white flowers, zebras are marching to the waterhole...
10 minutes of beautiful scenic flying and I land at Richard's "airstrip", a short up-climbing clearing on a gently sloped foothill of the Chyulu.
LLJ: L(orenzo) L(ucrezia) J(acopo), my giraffed Cessna 206
We have a lovely breakfast and we enjoy catching up on a ton of things we are both doing. We share our disappointments about how a lot of people do not get what we do, how they do not understand how hard is for the Maasai to coexist with wildlife and how our efforts are indeed so productive...
We talk about the increased number of giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, lions... We are not self-celebrating, we are simply sharing facts and thoughts. We are both worried about a less positive animal increase: Maasai livestock...
It is so refreshing to hear Richard telling me that he saw Joyce Poole few days ago and that she was amazed by how much wildlife she saw in Amboseli, compared to 20 years ago, when she was based there studying elephants. She and her researchers were getting excited when they were seeing a giraffe there, now they are super common. 20 years of combined antipoaching and community involvement, between Richard and I, are paying off...
We go through some camera traps images, two males lions came from the Maasai Group Ranch I work with, into the one Richard is operating.
We know in both Group Ranches lions number are significantly up. Something to happily celebrate.

Time to go back home, a quick roll downhill the "airstrip", with senses alerted about hartebeests crossing it, and I am flying over the plains. Pass few baobabs, few herds of wildebeest, dazzles of zebras... I fly to Soitpus (the bluish rock, in Maa) to check on Rueppel's griffons nesting... and I land at my home's airstrip. A greased landing makes my already good mood even better...

I tie down the aircraft and drive home. At the salt lick I meet a well known friend. He is walking on the road, I switch the Land Rover off and he stares at me. There is something about leopard's eyes which is hard to describe... and their powerful posture.... We gaze at each other for at least a minute, he then gently walks off the road and disappears in the high grass. I see him three more times, while he keeps walking away, only twice looking back at me, appearing totally undisturbed and peaceful...
My spotty friend...
Time to be in the office... I get back in the Land Rover and just before arriving at the lodge a rock python crosses the road, just after few young elands jumped off to show their agility.

Not a bad way to start the week... this Monday morning reminded me of how lucky I am to call the Chyulu Hills home, the Maasai landlords my friends, and to be dedicating my life to protect this special African paradise...

 Luca Belpietro

Monday, April 25, 2016

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Kili at night by Tunc Tezel
This is no ordinary nursery rhyme but it kind of reminds me of it. I was catching up with a friend sometime back on Skype and one of the things he was telling me about was how he loved the view of the stars from Africa. He was born and bred in the US and is now living and working in Kenya. He challenged me to get outside and look up to the sky. Being that I live at camp and we basically have no ‘street lights’ like we have in the city, the only source of light I had was the torch that I was holding. I was a bit skeptical at first about looking up without having to worry about the wild animals that roam freely within the camp. But the moment I walked outside and saw the sky, I forgot about everything; the torch, the animals. The night sky was so beautiful and full, and I mean damn full of stars. I was wowed. You would think something like this would be normal, but I had never really taken more than a moment before to just look at the stars and appreciate them. He had made my day, and probably changed how I would view the skies for the rest of my life.

I went back inside and we continued to chat, excitedly explaining to him how beautiful it was. I then asked him to describe to me how the night sky looked like from his end and he told me that he couldn’t see any stars; that it was too cloudy wherever he was, and that even if there were any, the city lights outshone them. I was amazed because when he told me to look at the skies, I actually thought it was because it was beautiful from his end as well, but I later realized that he wanted me to experience the beauty of it even though he couldn’t experience it at the time, but he had before, and he knew that I would love it.

Reminds me of a story I read sometime back. I can vaguely remember it but I will try to narrate. There were two patients in the same ward. One of them had a bed close to the window, and the other would always ask him to describe to him what he could see outside the window as he could not view it from his bed. Every day, this patient’s friend described everything beautiful; blue skies, colorful days, and happy people walking by-just beautiful things. Then one day, the friend passed away. The other patient asked the nurse to move his bed next to the window. He was so happy that he could now finally see it all by himself. He sat up to have his first look and to his surprise, there was a large building that was blocking all view. He asked the nurse how then could it have been possible that his friend saw all the beautiful things and described to him all of it every day, and the nurse told him that his friend was blind, that there was no way he could have seen all the things he was telling him.

Sometimes all it takes to make the other person happy is to give them a beautiful view, feed their lives with all things beautiful especially when they can’t view it for themselves. For that, I am grateful to my friend for helping me to discover a whole new world up above my head, and more grateful that I can experience this almost every other day from my porch, and so can you. The world is wild, exotic, extravagant and bright. Instead of making hay, we should be making whoopee, that way we can rightfully appreciate what we were given to enjoy in the first place. Plan your safari today. Dream it. Live it. Be it.

Milky Way over Kilimanjaro by Dale Johnson

Written by Essie Kirai

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trunk in Love

It was early in the morning when we took off from our airstrip and headed to Ithumba where the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) sits. There were four of us on board all eagerly excited to reach our destination. It was a short flight from Campi ya Kanzi, but I could not contain my excitement inside. The anticipation of seeing baby Elephants was rising within me and the only thing that could help me was to take a nap during the flight, haha! Thankfully, I knock out very easily on planes and so what was just a 20 minute flight, felt like 5 and before I knew it shortly after my eyes closed, we were preparing to land.

Campi ya Kanzi guide, Matasha with our trustee Safari car

In order to be able to visit the DSWT through Campi ya Kanzi, one has to adopt an orphaned Elephant. The DWST has had a successful "Orphan's Project" for years that hand-raises abandoned baby Elephants and reintegrates them back into the wild. We met the head keeper, Benjamin, who was very enthusiastic in providing me with answers to all the questions I had about raising the elephants and his time at the DSWT. It was clear that there is immense passion and care that goes into the work they provide. 
 We were very excited to be able to share this with our guest, Chris (whom was long awaiting to meet his adopted Elephant after spending 7 beautiful days at Campi ya Kanzi!) 

Loving their milk!
Chris sitting up front on our way to their afternoon feeding

It was truly something else to see these massive creatures that are only 4-6 years old coming towards you during feeding time. They all have such individual faces, personalities and characteristics that make them so enjoyable to watch as they splash in the water and play in the red soil.

Myself and Vuria, love at first sight!
I was fortunate enough to create a connection with two babies during my visit, Bomani and Vuria, both 4-5 years old. Bomani is very easy-going and curious, he found a lot of fun in playing with my hair as well. I didn't mind the new hair-dos I acquired everytime he was done with me! :) Vuria was more quiet and kind, I instantly fell in love with his demeanor. It's a special and very indescribable feeling when you have the attention of something as majestic as an Elephant, there's a level of trust that I felt from both of them that allowed me to spend time just knelt down in their space and they let me stay there admiring them. Our guest, Chris also felt a connection to an elephant that he then later decided to adopt as well.. So wonderful!

I can't wait to visit again :)

Michael, Myself and Chris making sure all is well and good with the bottles :D
Bomani giving me some shade from the sun :)

Written by Patricia Cruz