You cannot appreciate the land without appreciating the people of that land. Each and every one of people we met, from the youngest to the elderly, had a great respect for the land and its inhabitants. When we were out in the bush surrounded by the beauty of the land, we listened with our hearts and senses to every single word it said and most often, it spoke to us through its people.
I cannot say enough about the hospitality of the people of Africa. The Samburu tribe opened their village to us. The villagers, our guides and drivers were very proud to share their knowledge of the country and I found the depth of their knowledge astounding. They imparted their wisdom and kindness every day despite the challenges that surrounded them. Many of our guides had been with the tour company we used, Micato, for many years. They were valued, respected and appreciated by the company and by their colleagues.
Many spoke at least four or five languages not including their native tribal languages. In fact, even young children we met in the villages spoke at least two or three languages. They knew their tribal language, the national language which is Swahili, and, in most cases, English. It was humbling to be among them. I tried to learn Swahili and managed to learn enough to have brief exchanges with the people I interacted with during my stay. I do speak French and some Spanish and often would converse in one of those languages with our drivers since French was one of the languages most of them spoke.
At one small airport where we were meeting our plane for transfer to another location, we met a class of young students who had been brought to the airport by their teacher to watch the plane take off. I was thoroughly impressed that on several occasions our pilot and co-pilot were women.
The places we stayed in were absolutely amazing. Each location and campsite was better than the last. One thing that was consistent was that the energy to the campsites was usually provided used generators and/or solar panels.
Generally, the power shut down around 10:00 at night and did not come back on until sunrise. Now, we are in the middle of the bush so when the lights go out – the lights are really out! We had flashlights in the tent in the event we needed to move around or even read a book in bed but when that was off, the only other light we had was that provided by the moon and the stars. Now that sounds great but for someone like me who is (ok – I won’t say afraid) uncomfortable in total darkness, the first few nights were are challenge. Plus, you start to wonder just what is creeping around outside your tent while the lights are out. However, it only took a night or two and the I was used to it and slept soundly.
I cannot speak of the people of Africa without paying tribute to Nathan Masambu, our Kenyan guide. Nathan was a very quiet, dignified and gentle man. He truly saw each guest as his friend and went over and above board to make sure that the safari was truly our safari. He shared stories of his other safaris and the adventures he had experienced with other guests. One day Nathan was not with us. The guide who replaced him told us he had been mugged that evening. You see, these positions are highly coveted in Nigeria and often the guides become targets because criminals assume that they are carrying cash from tips. Nathan was not seriously injured and after a day he rejoined us for the remainder of the tour with that glorious smile, a warm “Jambo” (which means “hello” in Swahili) and welcome embrace to complete the final days of the tour.
We had promised Nathan a copy of some of the photos we took on the tour. My husband created a lovely photographic book of his favorite books and we sent it to Micato to forward to Nathan as our way of saying thank you for making our tour so special. A few weeks went by and my heart was broken when the owner of Micato called to thank me for the book but informed us that Nathan had died. He contracted an illness from which he could not recover shortly after we left. So this tribute to him is not so much to mourn his death but to celebrate his presence in our lives for even that brief time. He was a truly special man and he will be forever linked with our memories of our journey through Kenya and Tanzania.