Saturday, July 5, 2014


One of my initial concerns about traveling to Africa was about our accommodations. Where does one stay on a safari? I had images of Hemingway's un-air conditioned and mosquito-exposed huts and tents in my mind:
Hemingway with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, on safari in 1953-1954.  (Photo from here)
I needn't have worried. Actually, our first lodge on Mount Kenya was a good indication of things to come. It only got better. After our long morning drive to the Shaba Game Reserve, we ended up at another spectacular lodge.
"Karibu" means "Welcome" in Swahili. (Photo by JKM)
The typical protocol when we arrived at a lodge was to be met by a team of porters who unloaded our luggage and delivered it to our rooms. A lodge employee was usually standing in the lobby with a basket of cool, damp, rolled up washcloths anointed with a touch of eucalyptus or lavender oil, and these were offered to us with tongs. Often there was also a person with a tray of cold juice making the rounds. Yeah, I could get used to that.

The buildings in each of the lodges we stayed in were always unique and tried to be organic with the environment. 
The Sarova Shaba dining area and lobby, seen from behind. (Photo by EDT)
It is a little strange to travel along dirt roads for hours, passing by poor villages and herds of cattle, and then arrive at accommodations like these in the middle of a game reserve. Part of me feels guilty because of the disconnect between how the people live and how we were living, but I also recognize that Kenya's economy is very dependent on tourism. (According to Wikipedia, the service sector, which is dominated by tourism, is 63% of the country's GDP.)

Most of the nice lodges in Kenya are owned and operated by Indians.   There has been some criticism of the lodge system on African game reserves for the reasons I mentioned above and because so much of the big money is being made by foreigners, but the developers of these high-end tourism sites have offered a lot more to Kenya and Tanzania than just the income that comes to those working in the industry and the taxes paid on their businesses. For example, Gurcharan Singh Vohra, the founder of the Sarova chain of which this lodge is one, funded several conservation projects, including the planting of trees in the Masai Mara Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park. He also was instrumental in preserving the Nairobi National Park, and he worked to raise the awareness and prevention of elephant poaching.
(Photo by EDT)

The rooms of the lodges we stayed in were well-appointed and spacious, and the staff took good care of us. At the Sarova Shaba, the staff drew the mosquito net curtain around our bed for us in the evening, but it was really not very necessary, at least in mid-May when we were there. I came home without a single mosquito bite.
In front of the rooms is the Ewaso Nyiro river (literally translated as "the river of brown or muddy water"), an important watering place for animals. An electric fence separates the lodge from the river.

This part of Kenya is a completely different ecosystem than what we saw at the Mount Kenya Game Reserve; it is at a lower elevation and is much hotter and dryer.

However, in spite of the electric fence, there were still some critters that managed to pay us a visit.
Bob also chased a large Nile monitor lizard, hoping to get a good picture and perhaps try to catch it, but luckily it was able to evade him.

The events in the book Born Free by Joy Adamson occurred in the Shaba Game Reserve that surrounds this lodge. I remember seeing the movie when I was a child, and I'm guessing most Americans my age and older can remember Andy Williams singing the title song.

The book itself came out in 1960 (the same year as To Kill a Mockingbird) and quickly became a New York Times Bestseller. It is the story of Joy and George Adamson's experience raising three lion cubs in Kenya in 1956 after George (the senior game warden in Northern Kenya) had to kill their man-eating mother. After some months, the two larger cubs were given to the Rotterdam Zoo, but Joy had grown very attached to the smallest cub, whom she had named Elsa, and kept her as a pet until she was grown.

It eventually became apparent that Elsa could not be kept as a pet indefinitely, and George and Joy worked to reintroduce her to the wild, something that had not ever been done before.

While the book was very popular, spending thirteen weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and almost a year total on the list, the 1966 movie based on the book was even more successful, garnering two Academy Awards (Best Musical Score by John Barry and Best Song--"Born Free" by John Barry) and four Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Actress--Virginia McKenna, Best Original Song, and Best Original Score). If you don't want to wade through the book, the movie is available for free viewing if you have Amazon Prime.

 Coming next: Our first official safari drive in the Buffalo Spring Reserve.


  1. I guess a mosquito net kinda looks like tent.

  2. This is the first time I noticed the elevation - 2,400 feet.Substantially lower than Nairobi, which made it quite a bit hotter. But it was much higher than sea level which we experienced in Ghana. The contrast in heat and humidity was so distinctive. Elevation would be the obvious answer for heat. The ocean would help explain the humidity.

  3. Beautiful accommodations!

    I remember how much Mom liked Born Free when it came out, and how she sang the Andy Williams song.

  4. I'm guessing that when Bob dreams of Heaven, it probably looks something like this, with you by his side. I know he would trade in his job to be a naturalist or a ranger if money was no object. (Maybe it's as close as he will get if you have your say(?) No doubt, he will be "chewing the bones" for months. It's great that both of you could be there to experience it.

  5. Interesting to see the creatures that evaded the fence, for that monkey would be one that I would think would have to touch it to get over (perhaps he used a tree?). And love the photos of your lodge and of your netted bed, for even though they are luxurious, they are certainly different.