Our second lodging was in Amboseli National Park, which is close to the border of Tanzania and an extension of the Serengeti. It is sandy and salty – a completely different environment – with swampy areas and Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, looming over us.
Our flight from Wilson airport was less than 40 minutes and we were the third stop. A lot of up and down …but a good view of the landscape. We landed in a clearing designated only by a wind sock. The driver from our camp was waiting for us, a table set up next to his vehicle with water, tea, and cookies. This standard service never failed to impress me.
Satao Elerai Camp
The Satao Elerai Camp camp was lovely, beautifully landscaped, with a large open-air bar, dining hall, and a pool. We stayed in individual, charming huts that had indoor plumbing with hot water, including showers and bath tubs. With adobe-like walls, these huts were warmer than the tents in Nairobi. The hot water bottle was still welcome and we never ventured into the pool. No surprise!
This area is home to many animals: African bush elephant, Cape buffalo, impala, lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, Masai giraffe, Grant’s zebra, and wildebeest or gnus. We saw all of them, plus many birds. (I wrote more about them in my previous post African Safari: The Animals.) Noticeably, the herds of free-ranging elephants here were a different color. In Nairobi, the elephants roll in red mud to protect themselves from the sun. In Amboseli, they dust themselves with the gray sandy soil for the same reason and a different effect. We went on several game drives and climbed up Noomotio Observation Hill, the highest point in the park that overlooks a small lake.
The best feature at this camp was the man-made watering hole that served herds of animals both night and day. We could see it from the patio outside the dining area and bar or I could sit on my back porch and watch the parade of beasts slowly marching to get water. They went in groups, each waiting their turn. It was magical.
Maasai boma visit
We had our first visit to a Maasai village or boma. When I met our guide, the chief’s son, my first question was “Why we were advised to dress in dull colors and you get to wear such colorful outfits?” He immediately took off his red blanket (shuka cloth) and tied it around me!!
The Maasai live, as they have for all of time, in mud huts with no windows or doors. They are pastoral, with their huts forming a circle around their livestock kept in the middle. Only a loose fence of branches keeps the predators out and spears are their only means of defense. Remember, this is lion country!
They received us with sincere kindness, blessed us, sang for us, showed us all around. We brought sunglasses as gifts for the children…a big hit.
Admittedly, some of their customs regarding gender equality were unsettling. Regardless, these visits were impressive, really gave me a different perspective on our modern ways. They deserve a separate article.
We also went on a walking tour in the bush with one Maasai guide to direct us and two Maasai men serving as lookouts. They were armed with their spears, one walking in front and the other at the back of our group. Luckily, we saw no threatening animals. We did learn about the various trees, plants, ant, and termite mounds. We identified a few paw prints and animal droppings, some of which, like the elephant poop, they use to build their huts.
After one game drive, we went on a Bush Sundowner before dinner. We met with other guests under a large tree in the middle of the park where our camp staff set up tables & chairs, served us food and drink, and kept us warm with blankets as the sun set behind Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was an extra charge and worth it.
Interesting to this feminist is the fact that the Satao Elerai camp had no female employees. None. In a conversation with a very nice bartender, I asked him “Why?” He said that men are able do any job at the camp but women are not. I told him that, in the USA, we found that women can do any job that men can — become doctors or lawyers, run large companies, fight fires, serve on the police force or fight in wars. I told him that we found women could do everything….except become president! He said the government told them have to change and get gender balance. We both laughed. Maybe someday there will be an African safari camp run exclusively by women.
Ashnil Mara Camp in the Maasai Mara