My Thrilling African Safari

My
Thrilling
African
Safari
Fr
Varghese
Paul,
SJ
My joy at seeing a mighty lion at a touching di
stance was great during an undreamed of African
safari in Kenya. The hair-raising experience happ
ened by chance. Kenya was not in my original
travel schedule to Africa. I was going to attend an
International Meeting at Harare in Zimbabwe on
“the Impact and Challenges of Globalization in
Africa.” It was organi
zed by the International
Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) and I was inv
ited to attend the meeting in my capacity as a
Council Member of UCIP.
I had told my travel agent to include Eritrea in Ea
st Africa in my travel programme as I wanted to
meet my sister, Celine Paul working as a Missionary
nurse in that country.
My agent booked my air
tickets in Kenyan Airways which did not have conn
ecting a flight on the same
day from Nairobi to
my destination. So I asked for and got a break in th
e journey at Nairobi to
meet my two old friends
Fr Eric Condillac, SJ who was the Principal of St
Xavier’s Loyola, Ahmedabad and Fr M Devadoss,
SJ with whom I studied in the
Gregorian University at Rome.
I not only got to meet a number of my friends and
acquaintances at Nairobi
but, thanks to my host,
Fr Eric, I also got an unexpected chance to make a
short safari trip to Nakuru National Games Park
and Lake Nakuru.
The day after I landed at Nairobi
, on India’s Independence Day morn
ing I found myself in a private
tourist car on the way to Nakuru National Park.
At 7 AM my driver a
nd guide Mr Kennedy Mbugua
p
ulled the car to the road side to
have a packed breakfast and also
to have a breath taking view of
the Rift Valley which runs through several count
ries. The morning sun lighted up the Rift Valley
and at 8000 ft deep below it was a unique sight to
see and marvel at. My
only travel company was
the driver’s teen-aged daughter, E
dna Wairmu who served us the hot
tea and packed sandwiches and
cookies.
Thanks to the excellent A 104 Uhuru highway past
Longonot and Naivasha, we entered the Nakuru
N
ational Park at 9 AM after two
hours and a half driving at 110 m
ph. We headed straight for lake
N
akura inside the park. The Lake is famous for
flamingos. The shores around the lake were covered
with thousands and lakhs of flamingos which from
a distance appear like pi
nk icing over the lake.
Edna and I could go very close to the Flamingos.
There were also pelican
s and storks in their
hundreds on the lake shore. Numerous birds were
also flying in formation making waves and music
in the sky. The sight reminded me of the I
ndependence Day fly past in New Delhi.
After watching the flamingos and pelicans for more
than an hour, for the next 3 hours we drove
through the dusty roads of the park
watching all sorts of wild animal
s at close quarters. There were
gazelles in large numbers. They moved in two type
s of groups. In one type of group there were one
male with horns and with it some 50 females that
moved around the park. In the second group there
were only horned male gazelles. The male gazelles fight among themselves. When one of them
gained strength and experience in
fighting, it will challenge and def
eat the male gazelle leading the
female gazelles and take over the group.
Among the other numerous groups of wild animals were zebras, forest buffalos, waterbucks and
monkeys. We also saw a number of giraffes, impa
las, white and black rh
inos, baboons and warthogs
and ostriches. Two white rhinos were gracing the side
of the dusty road in front of us so we stopped
for about 10 minutes for them to cross the road.
At one o’clock the three of us sat at a far end of
the game park for our packed but sumptuous lunch
with a variety of foods, cold drinks, fruits and cak
e. A friend of Fr Eric, Ms Margerie had packed
our lunch. After a good helping with the lunch, the dr
iver remarked that the host knows how to pack
lunch for the guests.
He judged me and his daughter Edna as poor eaters
. Perhaps he did not k
now that I had already
feasted with the sight of the vari
ety of innumerable animals. Still, there was a great disappointment.
We had not seen a lion yet in the game park.
My guide told me that the lions do not roam around
in the park like other animals. If they remain
hidden in the thick forest of Akesia trees (euphorbi
a – candelabra) on the west
side or in the shade
of an isolated tree in the thick grass,
it would be difficu
lt to spot a lion.
Still my driver and guide Mr Mgubua was determined
to show me a lion in the park where he said at
least there is a population
of some 50 lions. After driving for
more than an hour after our lunch
b
reak I saw four legs of an animal in the air as
it turned on its back some
100 meters away under the
shade of a bushy tree. “Please stop, I think, I saw
a lion,” I said. Mr Mbugua
stopped the car, stood
up on the door of the car and he said that there s
eemed to be two lions sleeping under the tree. I also
tried to see the animal through a binocular but th
e thick growth of grass prevented a clear view.
Then, the driver said to me that he would take the
risk of driving fast through the grass to get nearer
to the lion to have a closer view. And he drove
over the grass and stopped the car very close to a
sleeping lion and I had a good view of
the lion. It simply ignored our presence. Only when we were
moving away the lion got up for a little while and we
nt to sleep again. There was an isolated impala
gracing on the grass some 200 meters away. Was the st
ealthy animal lying in
wait for its prey? Who
knows?
We drove around the dusty roads of the game park
till 3.30 pm feasting our eyes on a great variety
of birds and wild animals. The Nakuru Game Pa
rk is known also for hippopotamus and leopards,
but we missed them.
Though I have seen practica
lly all the wild animals
in the zoos in India, Europe or USA, it was a
unique experience to see them at close quarter
s in their natural surr
ounding, undisturbed by the
p
resence of human beings in their vicinity.
It was also a rare sight for me to see different
types of animals and birds grazing close to each other
in perfect peace and harmony. Will men ever forget th
eir differences of being high and low, rich and
p
oor to eat from the some table?