In the bush again – at last! Six long months we have not been back to Tsavo. Finally, with a signed lease agreement for no less than 35 years between the Mbulia Group Ranch committee and New African Territories, a purchased luxury camp, trucks, cars, supplies and an excellent crew we head down the Mombasa Road, turning off the main road just before Ndi, about 300 km south of Nairobi.
It is the onset of an inevitably long-lasting undertaking and adventure. We are securing 11,400 acres for wildlife – an area that is a vital dry season dispersal area for about 700 elephants – by creating a conservancy and building an exclusive eco-lodge. It has taken four long years of negotiations between Amara Conservation, New African Territories and the Mbulia Group Ranch members to get the final signature on the lease agreement.
It is a win-win situation for the Mbulia Group Ranch members and an exciting and difficult mission for us – sometimes even a bit overwhelming.
We reach the site that we have chosen as our base camp during the hottest time of the day after an almost 9 hour journey. Instead of being able to have a rest in the shade we need to get on with off-loading the truck, slashing the belly- high grass and setting up at least a basic shelter before nightfall.
In no time our legs are cut by the high sharp star grass, sweat is streaming down our faces and backs. The sun is relentless and rapidly turns the white faces amongst us red to pink. The only creatures seemingly enjoying this exercise are the sweat bees all eagerly going for our perspiration.
Priority is the kitchen to be set up before nightfall with all supplies secured and to become operational. Bare minimum of tents for the night are pitched and a few hurricane lights lit, the rest will be done the following day.
Slowly the shades of colour around us change and the sun begins to set, giving us all a welcomed break from the intense heat. Our first dinner is enjoyed under a crystal clear star lit sky and we are soon surrounded by calmness. Dinner tastes better than ever and come 8.30 pm everyone in camp is falling asleep to the typical noises of the African night easily heard through the canvas wall.
The next day we set up the mess tent, for which the ground needs a lot of levelling done first. Eventually the tent goes up and provides us with the so exquisite shade. My daughter, eight years old and having been home schooled by me for most of her life, has her first school session in camp with her teacher, Nathalie. Boxes are sorted and unpacked, a bucket shower erected and the truck emptied out. We are functional, ready to initiate work for our ambitious and complex venture. When we encounter a red spitting cobra at dusk just by the mess tent, we know we have arrived in Tsavo, we are finally back home.
Nana Grosse Woodley…..