By: Katerina Silis
Sadly, our visit to Kenya and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy comes to an end today. We woke up at 5:30 like we do every morning, nibbled on our digestive biscuits with coffee/tea, and set off on our last morning game drive as we watched the sun rise.
We spotted buffalo and elands along the dirt road in the midst of other wildlife. Though we had seen cats including lions, jackals, and leopards on our trip, we had not seen cheetahs up to this point. However, on this drive we spotted two cheetahs, one obscured by the grass with penetrating red eyes. Then, we ventured to a peaceful pond where we attempted to observe hippos. When they did not appear, we instead watched spoon billed birds and moved on to take a group photo in front of the scenic view of Mount Kenya to be published in the Lewa yearly report.
Afterwards, we returned to camp to indulge in a scrumptious breakfast prepared by the head of hospitality, Frida. Then, with full stomachs, we took time during our final day to visit an archeological site home to axeheads comparable to arrowheads in North America used in Pre-historic times.
The sharpened stones were fashioned in this "factory" by blacksmiths, making them the first people to use tools. Stanley, our guide who had worked with Lewa for twenty years and Nissa taught us about the different minerals in the area. He explained that obsidian had been used as a currency, and talked about the mineral makeup of different stones. Quartz was found in many of the stones on the site while basalt was primarily used to make the axe heads.
Also, we found the skull of a common zebra in the high grass with the artifacts. We learned that many of the axe heads had been damaged by visitors but were still left out in the open at the mercy of the elements to stay in their most natural form. Basalt axe heads were primarily used to skin animals.
On the drive back, we talked about radio communication with code names for different animals to minimize competition between vehicles and create surprise with different animal sightings. We also talked about "temporin", which is an oily substance secreted by elephants when they are stressed. Then, we tailed an elephant family with two young babies as we prepared to leave Lewa.
Once we arrived at camp, we packed, ate lunch, and left for the airport. We soon boarded the small jumper plane we privately chartered to take us to Nairobi. You had to hunch over to not hit your head on the way in and there were just enough seats for each of us to sit on the plane. We then took off on a bumpy flight with jolts and turbulence that kept us on our toes.
We arrived in Nairobi and passed gated communities while driving to the market where we would master the art of bargaining while buying souvenirs.
From there we took a short trip to an elephant orphanage where we had pledged to support and adopt abandoned elephants to be released in the wild.
Many of these elephants are not accepted by their wild counterparts upon reintegration into nature.
The elephant babies were angelic and sweet. The diet of the baby elephants consisted of special formula milk (not cow's milk) with a secret formula. After our visit, we returned to the mall for our last dinner in Kenya of Italian food and smoothies.
It has been such a pleasure visiting Kenya in what I hope will be one of many trips. The incredible hospitality and kindness offered by our hosts during our stay made us feel at home while in Kenya.
The Lewa wildlife conservancy has taken steps to ensure the protection and care of wildlife coupled with community partnerships that make it a model of effective conservation. I hope that upon our return, the SSSAS community will continue to offer its support of conservation efforts including those in Lewa.
On behalf of the group, I would like to thank Kate Spencer for her infinite knowledge, quips, and spunk, without whom this trip would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Nissa and Moses, our wonderful guides and drivers who made this trip unforgettable. Finally, I must thank Mr. Cotter and Ms. Leins for putting up with our hijinks for eight days.