6 Oct, 2015
Here we were on our bellies lying flat in the dirt almost nose-to-nose with some of Africa’s most efficient killers. And we were probably much safer than taking a walk down Cape Town’s Long Street. Our guide had carefully observed the pack’s mood which was one of lazy engorgement. Having indulged at a kill just hours before, this group of Painted Dogs could hardly move for the weight of their bloated bellies let alone raise an eyelid in our direction. It did feel like a counter intuitive move to alight from the vehicle and leopard crawl up to these formidable hunters but it was a heart-pumping highlight. Our bravery was rewarded with the opportunity to observe some sleepy yelps and big yawns and take some photographs from a rare angle.
Situated just 280 km’s from Nairobi, Laikipia Wilderness Camp is an experience that feels galaxies away from city life. As a concession rather than a National Park, the only rules are self-imposed responsible behaviour by guides and guests. It is this freedom that delivers adventure and an immersion into the bush like no other safari. Long walks, sundowners perched upon a boulder, a swim in the river, lunch at a waterhole crammed with splashing elephants, tea and biscuits under an iconic acacia and a candlelight dinner taken on top of a rocky outcrop. Every day was seemingly unplanned in order to spontaneously dovetail with the most exciting animal movements yet was masterfully crafted to overload our senses and our memory cards with unique exploits and privileged sights.
The camp itself is a splendid blend of simplicity coupled with just the correct double shot of luxe. There is an appropriate and authentic sense of impermanence as if the structures were erected just a few months ago. This coupled with the muted impact on the surrounds secures the feeling of a safari in the real spirit of the word. Low key, stylish and indigenous design fills the tents while the semi-outdoor en-suite bathrooms are generous and perfectly appointed. Showering outdoors under the stars is another unbeatable treat and waking at dawn to coffee on the veranda with an elephant browsing just metres away is bordering on the surreal.
Yet there was more. The courageousness of the city girls was to be tested once again. A night in the bush under nature’s constellations of chandeliers was the proposition. No tents just cosy bed rolls not dissimilar to Harrison Ford’s bunk of choice, the Australian swag. After a crazy sunset we arrived at our quarters for the night. A patch of tree-lined true wilderness perched above a cliff descending into a lazy river. Great chunks of lamb shank were being finished to perfection over the fire which along with a couple of dogs, our trusty guides and lots of red wine (for the guests only) were to be our protection for the night.
This night spent under the stars listening to the whoops, cackles, hoots and roars of Africa’s nocturnal creatures will be woven forever in the synapses of my happiest memories.
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