Sweetwaters Camp - Nanyuki Kenya
To get to Sweetwaters Tented Camp you have to cross the equator. This involved a three hour bus ride to the camp. We all piled into three busses for the ride. An impressive task expertly managed by Jacqui and Karen, our fearsome leaders. The gave us a briefing on what to expect at our equator stop, including preparatory remarks regarding the market located there. Negotiate, bargain, and beware.
Also, when a bus breaks down you double up on the people and the luggage. It is all good!
|Mount Kenya at dawn|
Sweetwaters is a tented camp that is located within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. We were scheduled for three nights. Our days would be occupied with buffet style meals, and game drives.
The Conservancy encompasses over 90,000 acres between the Aberdare foothills and Mount Kenya. In the colonial period it served as a large cattle ranching area. More recently it has become a sanctuary for the Black Rhino, Northern White Rhino, and a Chimpanzee Sanctuary for rescued and orphaned Chimps.
It is tented camp that sits on the edge of a watering hole. Birds, zebra and a variety of antelope visit by day.
At night the elephants would wander out from the trees and go to the water.
One morning I was treated to the view of a Black Rhino at the watering hole with Mount Kenya in the distance. A waiter told me that this Rhino often comes to drink in the morning, but it is unusual as Black Rhino do not often venture out of the trees. The watering hole is too exposed for them.
Our home for the stay were tents. Zippers to close it up. Screening for the windows. At night you could hear the elephants stripping leaves from the trees behind the tent.
The main lodge houses guest services, the dining room and bar. Buffet style meals are where you get to know your fellow travelers as well as the staff who work at the camp. Very few live at the camp with their families. Most will work for a month or so before taking several weeks off to travel back home to see their families. While us travelers are having the time of our lives, those people who make it possible are working very hard and making sacrifices. Yet, to a person they are unfailing pleasant and will do anything to make your visit enjoyable.
Our favorite was Ann, who upon meeting her, immediately named me "Jimmie". The name I have tried to shake since childhood! Ann was not having it. My Bride was "Stephanie". Ann showed who she was on the day the Steff was fighting a cold, and decided to skip breakfast and spend the day in camp. Ann went to the tent to check on her, and then brought her tea and toast. Ann was a delight, and reason enough to return to Sweetwaters.
The Conservancy is home to several specific sanctuaries that you can visit. One is the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Jane Goodall worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service to create it in 1993.
The Chimpanzee is not native to Kenya and the sanctuary is the only place in Kenya where you can see them in the wild.
Most of the 39 residents here were rescued from inhumane attractions, poachers for the pet industry, or orphaned through the bush meat industry. The animals here can live in a more natural environment and receive excellent care and support. However, they are unable to be re-habilitated and return to the wild. They simply would not survive.
Poco is one of the residents here. He spent most of his life in a small cage at a roadside attraction. Poco mostly walks upright, unlike most Chimps. This is because the cage where he was kept was too small to allow him to lie down. He spent years in the cage before being rescued.
|Cyrus and the cage where Poco lived|
Cyrus, our guide for the visit said that while most of the Chimps here don't like the majority of humans they encounter, they do develop strong bonds with their caretakers here. Meet the Chimpanzees of Sweetwaters here.
Another sanctuary we visited was for the endangered Northern White Rhino. The last two remaining members of the species live here. Both are female. The last surviving male, Sudan, died here in March. With the survival of the species in jeopardy, the Conservancy is at the forefront of artificially assisted reproduction.
The group enjoyed a "Sundowner" at the sanctuary after a daylong game drive. What is a Sundowner? It is African for Happy Hour!
We enjoyed a night time game drive while at Sweetwaters. We went in search of lion. Our driver located three and it was an unusual encounter. We witnessed a younger male attempting to challenge an older male, over the affections of a female. While dramatic to watch, and to listen to, it ended with the older male driving off the younger one. We followed the younger one as he walked, alone, down a lonely road in the dark. Our driver said that the two males are brothers, who get along much better once the older one has mated.
|Baby Thompsons Gazelle|
Game Drives are your opportunity to see a vast variety of wildlife in their habitat. You will often hear references to Africa's "Big Five". These are Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, and Leopard.
Not every Park or Preserve will have all five, and it would be unusual for you to see all five in one game drive. While it is tempting to focus on these five animals, should you do so you would miss out on so many others.
The drives are conducted out of "Jeeps", which are usually Land Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers designed to hold about 8 people. The sides are open and there is very little separating you from the animals that you are watching. The good thing is that these animals are used to seeing the vehicles. They are not food, nor are they competition so you are ignored. As long as you stay in the vehicle! This set up allows you to get close on virtually any animal you see. Really close!
|Sweetwaters Road Signs|
|African Wild Dog|
|Eland, Largest African antelope|
The Conservancy is fenced. This is done primarily to reduce the conflicts that arise between the animals the farmers living at the edges of the reserve. Doing so, has protected livestock and crops as well as the wild animals who sometimes destroy them. These neighbors feel less need to kill the animals to protect their land. Such killings have been reduced because of the fences, and these animals are preserved.
|Cattle raised on the Conservancy|