I have been lucky in my life to travel far and wide….India, Nepal, safari on elephant back, Tibet on a pilgrimage, deepest China writing for a magazine, Peru, the amazing Amazon, the Galápagos Islands, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, white water rafting, hot air ballooning and many other exciting, intrepid and extraordinary adventures. So it was a huge privilege to be invited as the first guest at Saruni Rhino Camp in Samburu, Northern Kenya. I can truthfully say that the rhino tracking experience was the most exciting and adrenaline-coursing experience I have ever had.
The small camp is exquisite. Hidden perfectly in the palms using natural materials, it blends in unobtrusively with nature. The staff, mostly dressed in colourful Samburu traditional costume, were enchanting, warm and welcoming. The accommodation was comfortable and cosy with views over the “lugga” (dry river bed) and within easy viewing distance of the small water hole visited by elephants both nights we were there.
The evening meals served by strategically-hung hurricane lamps on the dry river bed were delightful and I don’t think I have ever slept so well in the bush as here. The drives to the rhino sanctuary – though bone rattling – were expertly driven and we saw many animals to and from the sanctuary gates, as well as colourful locals. Our guides and trackers, under the expert tuition of Pietro Luraschi (of Asilia) were truly wonderful; knowledgeable and caring. Once the tracker had located the whereabouts of the rhino who have had chips inserted into their horns, the journey on foot through quite difficult terrain was spell-binding. We were very well schooled in bush discipline; hand signals and talking kept to a minimum, with total trust in the boys and with Pietro still taking the helm. On the first day, we had excellent sightings though fairly distant. But there is something about being on foot in the domain of these huge, powerful, prehistoric beasts that lends an added thrill to the walk itself.
On the second morning came the adventure of a lifetime. We had been told there were four, maybe five rhinos in our vicinity, therefore progress was extra careful and we hung carefully onto every sign and direction given to us by the trackers. Though rhinos have very poor eyesight, they make up for it with excellent hearing and smell, and the guides constantly made certain by dropping very fine powder to make sure we were downwind of them. Suddenly, we were motioned to move super quick behind a large fallen tree intertwined with huge thorny bushes. The next thing we saw was this thundering rhino hurtling full speed towards us, literally yards away, huffing and puffing like a steam train. Pietro and the boys started yelling and throwing stones and at the last moment, the rhino veered off to the left away from us. When we all got our breath back and my sister Anna had recovered from uncontrollable giggles, we were assured he was actually trying to get at another rhino below us, but we were in his way….oh boy, it was indescribably, heart-poundingly wonderful. For me, it reiterated once again how small and puny we humans are in the land of the animals….but it was an unforgettable adventure. Pietro and the boys were wonderful and it was an honour to have had the experience of being so close to these extraordinary threatened beasts. If you are of an intrepid adventurous nature, I cannot recommend Saruni Rhino more. It is an exclusive experience and never to be forgotten….
P.S. While you are there, don’t miss The Singing Wells….another extraordinary and humbling experience. Hundreds of cattle, camels, goats and donkeys being watered at this string of underground-connected water wells accompanied by rhythmic chanting, perfectly tuned in with the bells hanging round the animals’ necks….truly special.