Living in tents and watching wild animals drink water
a few feet away is an exciting prospect. A vacation
in Africa enabled us to do just that, observe exotic
fauna at close quarters. We landed in Nairobi and were
escorted to our hotel rooms. Having time to spare, we
decided to visit the highly-recommended restaurant ‘Carnivore’,
which seemed to be popular among the locals as well.
meaty affair at the equator: Seated at cosy
tables in dim-lit ambience, we could see lumps of meat
being roasted on fire. Exotic sauces were served as
accompaniments to the main course of meat of different
species, which turned out to be an experiment for our
tastebuds. Carnivore is bound to appeal to meat lovers
and those open to trying out different cuisines. After
an enjoyable evening, we drove down to Sweetwaters Tent
We stopped at the equator for a short while and witnessed
an interesting display as to how the flow of water changes
its course below and above the equator; after which
we received a certificate stating that we had crossed
the same. After clicking pictures, we headed out to
rooms: Sweetwaters Tent Camp was situated amidst
lush green surroundings. The tents which were our rooms
faced a large pool of water where animals came to quench
their thirst. As we explored the place, we spotted different
species of animals and birds. The sacred ibis was one
of them. They had white wings with black legs, head
and neck. The crowned crane was spotted a few feet away
with a dark grey body and a thick set of feathers
on their crown.
acquainted with the chimps: Chimpanzees are
usually found in the western part of the African continent.
We were escorted to a viewing spot where the chimps
would come in for their afternoon snack. They arrived
in large numbers. What delighted us was that a couple
of them were carrying their little ones. Separated by
a barbed wire, they looked at us curiously. While they
feasted on their snack, the guide explained about their
lifestyle and dietary patterns. We then set out to explore
the wilderness in our jeeps.
Jumbo trail: Our path crossed that
of an elephant family. We halted our vehicles to observe
a mother and little one feasting on leaves. All of a
sudden, the mother turned towards us. She seemed wary
and fearful, which prompted our guide to switch off
the engine and sit still. The elephants gave us a glance
over and crossed to the other side. We were told that
“no noise and no movement” was the best way to reassure
an animal of its safety. This was the first of the big
five — the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and wild buffalo
— to be spotted by us.
Soaking in solitude: Venturing further
into the jungle, we stumbled upon another of the big
five. This was the wild buffalo, which usually moved
in large groups. We were quite surprised to see this
one standing alone. The guide narrated to us as to how
these loners are considered outcasts due to their inability
to keep pace with the herd as they grow old. We learnt
that the twilight years were lonely ones for the wild
buffalo as it were for humans now with an increase in
nuclear families. With a sinking feeling, we left the
beast to its own and drove further.
crossing with baboons and deers: A little
ahead, we spotted some healthy zebras gorging themselves
on grass, undisturbed by the group of riotous baboons
that kept them company.
Going ahead, we were surprised and intrigued to know
that there were several varieties in the deer and antelope
family. Each of them was unique in appearance and habits.
It was interesting to be introduced to them in their
natural habitat. We spotted male impalas first. These
were medium-sized antelopes, which were reddish
brown in colour with white underbellies and lyre-shaped
horns. The female impala had no horns.
As we drove down, we came across the male waterbuck.
These were huge handsome antelopes. They had large,
rounded ears and white patches above the eyes, around
the nose and mouth and on the throat. Only the males
have horns, which are prominently ringed and as long
as 40 inches. We were told that contrary to their name;
they were not aquatic by nature but would resort to
waterbodies only while taking refuge from predators.
The trip was becoming interesting by the minute as we
got to learn about new specie.
The next in line was the male grant gazelle. These
are noticeably larger and easily distinguished by the
broad white patch on the rump that extends upward onto
the back. They have a black stripe which runs along
the thigh and possess lyre-shaped horns. After clicking
a few pictures, we drove to our last stop for the day.
horns with the rhino: We ended our day by locking
horns with the rhino. We were told that there were two
types, the black and the white rhino. To our surprise
we did not find any difference in the colour as the
name indicated. The black rhinos possess a hooked lip
while the white were square-lipped.
We visited the black rhino, which was called Barack
much to our amusement. He seemed rather restless, pacing
about furiously in his den. After taking a good look
at him, we headed out to meet the white rhino; Marx
was only four years old. He was fast asleep. Accompanied
by two guards, we dared to cross the barbed fence to
take a closer look at him and stroke his rough scaly
skin. He was oblivious to what was happening around
him even while we clicked pictures standing by his side.
It was an unbelievable experience as we never thought
in our wildest dreams that we would get a chance to
pose with such a magnificent creature.
After an exciting evening we drove back to our tented
rooms for the night. In a short span of time, we had
learnt a lot about the African jungles. Sweetwaters
Tented Camp is a must-visit for the opportunity to get
a close view of chimpanzees and rhinos, without which
a visit to Kenya would be incomplete.
How to get there
By road: Vehicles from Nairobi can
take around two-three hours to reach the camp.
When to go
The best time of the year to visit Kenya is from July-September
since wildlife migration from Tanzania gives ample opportunity
to spot them in plenty. It is best to avoid the rainy
season which falls during the months of April-May and
Cost of the tour
A two-day trip to Sweetwaters Tented Camp alone would
cost around US$450 per person.
- Always be accompanied by a good guide.
- Adhere to your guide’s instructions and never get
out of your vehicle.
- Game drives can get tiring. Make sure you carry
plenty of water with you.
- Carry a SLR camera to capture wildlife from a distance.
- Do not make noises or talk loudly as to disturb
or provoke an animal.