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february/march 2016 travel news 51
During my stay, I was assigned two wildlife guides to show me the sights: Robert and
Ngasakwe, a young Samburu warrior and a village elder, who were absolutely fabulous.
I wish I’d had a tape recorder running, because they were incredibly informative, their
sharp eyes spotting wildlife and then ever so patiently helping me to see what they
viewed. They identified all kinds of plants and trees and described their uses: medicinal,
spices for cooking, chewing gum, basket-weaving or rope fibres, and tea for cough or
They provided me with adventure after adventure. We spent several hours late one
afternoon with yours truly goggle-eyed at the hippo pool where several huge “river
horses” played as if they knew I was taking photos. We also watched a glorious fish
eagle plane and catch its dinner. We enjoyed sundowners (wine for me, juice for my
guides) on a huge rock outcropping, watching baboons settle for the night a safe
distance away on their rocky mount, the sun sinking in the west.
On the way back to the lodge, we had a close encounter. Robert glided the vehicle to
a stop and motioned for me to look out my window. I turned my head to the left and, in
spite of twilight falling rapidly, found myself staring at a huge bull elephant who stared
right back at me. I had my camera on my lap, but this wasn’t a moment for photos. I
hadn’t thought to jack up the ISO and put the little fast lens on my camera (next time).
In the course of my work at home, I write and photograph horse sports. I have a thing
about not using flash on animals, wild or domesticated, and honestly, that elephant
couldn’t have been more than about five metres away. The track was narrow, bordered
by a thicket of trees. The elephant was just there, among them, staring at me, right into
Be sure to read “The Elephant Whisperer” by Anthony Lawrence. It’s one of the
most entertaining, thought-provoking and informative books about wildlife, especially
elephant, but I digress...
We’re sitting there, having this amazing close encounter with a bull elephant. Ngasakwe
is in the backseat, Robert at the wheel, and I’m mesmerized by the elephant’s face, size,
and stillness. It was one of those moments where time stops. The mood was broken
when the elephant flared his ears and lifted his head. He was, no doubt, sending a clear
signal that this “up close and in person” special moment had ended. Robert shifted into
gear, and we glided away.
I still remember an uncanny feeling of peace or connection – something – and although
very skilled with words, nothing quite captures that moment so I stopped trying. I still
feel it when I clear my mind, slow my breathing, and close my eyes. That’s good enough
for me. And I never regretted keeping my camera quiet. It would have been rude and
upsetting to the elephant. At that point, I had been in Kenya for two weeks and had
viewed many elephants; nor was it the first one I saw at Sabuk. Yet, the close encounter
with that bull left an intensely powerful, unique impression – an experience that I hope
I never forget.
Sabuks Grand Dame
Sabuk Lodge has been welcoming guests for more than 20-years. It offers a home-
like ambience to a couple, family or group of friends even as it provides an amazing
getaway in a most exciting setting. As mentioned, the co-owner is Verity Williams, who
is Kenya-born and, for the past 10-years at least, has managed Sabuk as if it’s a
gracious country home set in beautiful wilderness, which it is.
In the early 1980s, Verity became one of the very first female safari guides in Africa.
She was a really good one, too, by all accounts, and served as a location advisor for
“Out of Africa” when it was being filmed. She’s very knowledgeable about the local
fauna and flora, and what she doesn’t know about wildlife and plants is probably not
worth knowing. She stays busy running the lodge and ranch, but if you catch her when
she has time to talk, she’s a treasure trove of fascinating information. You won’t be
bored, believe me, another case of wishing I had the tape recorder — next time!
Verity’s actively involved with the local Samburu communities, who see her as a force of
nature in human form. You don’t say no to Verity when she wants something to happen.
She’s an excellent mentor. Tourism at Sabuk has enabled Verity and her partner to fund
a medical dispensary and several wells for the local people. She trains and employs
only local people at the lodge and helps the local women with generating income from
their elephant dung paper project (it’s very cool and Verity sells it in Sabuk’s gift shop),
beading and bee-keeping.
Verity with her Elephant Dung Paper project ladies
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