Explore the world with a child-like curiosity, they say. But when a group of children started to take on the beauty of wildlife in Africa with their cameras and recklessly inquisitive eyes, we were certain that their perspectives and interpretations didn’t have anything to do with age.
The group, along with the Toehold Skipper Phillip Ross, started their journey into the Great Rift Valley early in the morning on the first day of the Camp. After a delicious breakfast at Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi, the drive through the city in itself proved to be a memorable journey, with the roads belonging to the stunning landscape.
Luck was in their favour and the group got to see hyrax, the gigantic rat, on their way. The day seemed a little gloomy in the beginning but the skies opened up as the clouds scattered, as they descended into the gorgeous vale.
After reaching Lake Nakuru by noon and checking in to the Sopa Lodge, the kids were ecstatic because the lodge is located on a hill, with breathtaking views of the lake down below. Forest-facing restaurants and lake-facing rooms added to more delight in the air because it wasn’t any less attractive than an illustration from a fairy tale.
During lunch, Tour Skipper Phillip Ross discussed a few details of photography and the group played a game. When they left to speak to the heart of the land of wilderness, the group spotted hyenas courting just a few feet after crossing the property’s gate.
In the African wilderness that afternoon, there was no dearth of surprises. They saw exquisite creatures of the wild at almost every turn. They spent one fun-packed hour, making a number of pictures of a pride of lions that included a few females and cubs, followed by cape buffaloes, giraffes and gazelles. The kids were in for a treat when a martial eagle had set its firm gaze on a baby gazelle, and was trying to swoop down and hunt it.
When light played a fragile game on a cheetah and its four cubs like it was snow fluttering on pines, the kids didn’t miss the opportunity to make some stunning images. The cheetahs then went to a water body nearby, started fooling around with one another and continued doing so even after coming out of it and relaxing on a mound. The group of kids had a gala time making adorable pictures of the cheetah and its cubs.
When the evening was about to soften out, yielding to a quiet night, the group started heading back towards the lodge. And just as they got closer, the night’s quietude, apart from the sweet chatter of the kids, was pleasantly disturbed by a lion’s roar somewhere.
After freshening up at the lodge with luxurious amenities, the kids met for a scrumptious dinner followed by a session of photography by Skipper Phillip. Carrying warm cups of soup in the palms of their hands, the kids started to relax outside, played another game and had fun before calling it a night.
The next day was about looking for a leopard and finding one in Nakuru, followed by spotting the tall and elegant Rothschild’s giraffe.
White rhinos pleased the kids when they set out into the wild again in the evening, after a lip-smacking lunch. Three beautiful individuals seemed like contemplating life’s big questions out in the open, in the vastness of African wilderness.
When they started to walk close to the safari vehicle, the air was dense with the mystery of their boldness, which made the kids pick up their cameras and click pictures as if in a trance. An intense sighting experience such as this was followed by more royalty: two male lions appeared into the vision range of the group, and no one missed to savour every moment to the fullest.
At the crack of dawn the next day, the group left Nakuru to reach Lake Naivasha Country Club for a boat safari. Flamingos, with their nuanced hues and pelicans, with their probing beaks were carefully captured into beings in pixels. The kids also had a great time photographing the African fish eagle fishing.
The air in the grasslands continued to swell with young love and curiosity as the kids continued to photograph colobus monkeys and hippos. It was then time to leave the winds intoxicated and drive to the Mecca of wildlife destinations, Masai Mara. The group checked in to the Serena Lodge, which offered them a spectacular view of the grasslands speckled with giraffes and rhinos. The lodge also allowed them an intensely beautiful view of the Mara river on the other side and the kids were blown away by its very location and the world-class amenities it offered.
A late but delicious lunch later, the group set out on their first drive into the Mara. Rising from the grasslands were the tall, elegant forms of Masai giraffes, which filled everyone with a joy so pure and ancient. The kids witnessed the striped-wonders that zebras are, beautiful in their binary colours. They also saw a number of wildebeests, elephants, hyenas and jackals. Birds were also found in abundance.
One of the priceless moments in the Mara was a sight that would make anyone ponder the rules of life. A pride of lions feeding on a hippo next to a water hole was something that would stir a conflict within creatures with a thinking mind. And the kids remained glued to their seats, filling their senses with this rare sight in golden light. The drivers of the safari vehicles were equally excited as the kids and that made the special moments more memorable.
While the lions were feasting on their dead prey, a few hyenas tried to scavenge off the kill. So the kids witnessed even more actions as the lions started to growl and charge at the hyenas.
A cheetah and her four cubs made sure that the group’s tryst with beauty in the wild continued. The mother cheetah got off the mound they were all relaxing on, and started gazing into the flimsy nothings on the other side. The kids watched this using their binoculars, and celebrated those moments of bliss in the African savannah.
It was time for more action! A gazelle was nibbling some grass and the mother cheetah started moving towards it. Since the drivers were experts and knew the behaviour of the animals in the wild, they slowly drove for three-fourth of a kilometre ahead from where they were, hoping for some more action. When they drove down road and stopped at only 50 meters from where the gazelle was grazing, the cheetah came into view while the cubs were still on the mound.
It looked like the mother wanted her cubs to pay attention and learn hunting, so she cautiously disappeared into the grass. There was more tension in the grassland because the group of kids, along with the drivers and the Skipper, was there, watching the scene as it was being spooled out of the wheel of time. After 15 minutes of waiting with bated breath and all the nail-biting, from only 20 feet away from the gazelle, the cheetah started chasing its prey right before the group, and succeeded in grabbing it!
The cheetah then calmly carried the dead in the mouth and placed it on the ground, and beckoned her cubs, who, taking the cue, left the mound and commenced feasting on the kill.
In the evening, the group went back to where the cheetahs were found earlier in the day, and saw a leopard instead, sitting on a tree like a boss. In the gorgeous evening light, the kids were also able to make some exquisite silhouettes of giraffes, and more images of ostriches and lionesses as well.
The group then drove towards the Tanzanian border and saw a majestic male lion, who looked extraordinarily handsome at that time of the evening and in all that incomprehensible vastness. After a day filled with some breathtaking action, they left for the lodge.
A bat-eared fox welcomed the kids with a hunger for more beauty and action in the wilderness. A while later, a lion was found basking in the glory of the morning sun, and the group spent the entire morning watching him. After they returned for lunch at the lodge and couldn’t wait any longer to see more cats, they set out on the evening safari. But, instead of an overdose of cat-glory, the group saw elephants.
On this safari, the kids had a great time birding as well. The pin-tailed wydah, with its celestial charm, seized the hearts of the young ones instantly, while the secretary bird and the ground hornbill also pleased the group with their vivacious colours.
A few more elephants were spotted towards the evening; a herd of the mighty walking against a magical background, all soaking in the evening light, offering more opportunities for creative photography.
After spending the last night in the Mara, having had a highly productive Camp, the group left early the following morning. Before setting on to the path for the airport, the kids were extremely fortunate to see a pride of lions, walking head-on towards their vehicle on the road. The drive through the park itself proved to be scenic and a few kids made photographs trying to capture the eerie stillness that seems to lie at the epicentre of motion.
Yet another story such as this happened on the last morning of the Camp, like there couldn’t have been a better way for the kids to bid a farewell to the ancient land that Africa is.
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