MOMENTS BETWEEN THE MOMENTS
“Safari” means journey in Swahili but, a little like the concept of exploration, it also implies a wide range of activities. The one I like best is the kind of internal journey of discovery into a place of great spiritual meaning. ol Donyo Lodge is one of those places.
Last month as we sat in the new sunken hide within touching distance of one of the largest big tusker elephants in the world, a male called One Ton, I had time to meditate on the meaning of journeys like this. I closed my eyes and slowed my breathing to the same slow rhythm of this giant, hidden from him but so close I could hear his breath. I watched his toe-nails glisten with the dew, so close I could reach out and stroke them. Looking one way, I could see Kilimanjaro in the sky, as if painted and left there unannounced. In the opposite direction the camp is laid out half-way down the ridge.
The camp at ol Donyo has been totally refurbished, painted, floors polished, a new kitchen turning out unbelievable meals, and everyone refreshed to match the refurbishment.
We saw a family of cheetahs and the often-seen black serval was around. A second giant of the regular line up, this one called Spirit, broke my concentration and he ghosted in quietly and rumbled a reassurance that he wasn’t going to take on One Ton, not today.
Later some guests, early pioneers travelling would go for a horse ride whilst we wandered into the mist forest for a walk and into the deep lava tube caves. Driving to the forest James stopped and said: “Watch this!” and put the gears in neutral on a downhill. We expected to roll forward. Instead we rolled (or rather, got pulled backwards) uphill. “Magnetic pull here is weird around the old volcano!” We spoke about the Maasai spirits and their belief in the Engai, that I wrote about in our film Tribe versus Pride, a largely benevolent god yet with the sense of humour to drag vehicles back uphill magically.
Back to the hide and the elephant One Ton: As I sat with this incredible tusker and synchronized our breathing, or tried to (his lungs are a little larger than mine), I realised that a safari journey to places like ol Donyo may be about enjoying the wine cellar, or Patrick the Chef’s food, walking to distant hills tracking lions on foot and watching the cheetah cubs run and play. But it is mostly about those moments between these moments, alone, in that hide, safe, yet close to something that is alive, totally magical and magnificent. You can slip into the cracks here, that place where you suddenly, as I did, feel totally at home.
ol Donyo is visitor ready. Protocols are being talked about as being world-class, the wildlife surprisingly good but it is these moments, that await you to enrich your journey. This is the second of our camps (with Mara Nyika) in its full colours ready for 2021.