Did you know there are about 300 Kenyan children receiving education due to the generosity of the global Christian Science (not to be confused with Scientology!) community? And in July, some of those supporters came to Kenya to visit the school and see for themselves the beautiful school they had a hand in creating. But they couldn’t come all the way to the land of safari without also seeing some animals. Enter OTA – this is the story of the Sunrise of Africa School VIP visit.
Thirteen people made the journey out to Kenya to visit the Sunrise of Africa School. Three were the grandchildren of the school’s founder. Three only stayed a short while and didn’t join our safari as they had a couple of other schools to visit. And then we added three Sunrise staff to the safari so we were back to thirteen when we set out early one chilly July morning for the Samburu National Reserve. The group had been staying at the Hilton Garden Inn near Nairobi’s international airport. It was opened in March 2018, and this being July of the same year, the hotel was still sparkly and shiny. It would be a welcome sight after three days of dusty safari!
Francis, me, our baby Gabriel, Michelle and her daughter Amy squeezed into the van which was a supply vehicle first and foremost and thus was packed tight with all our camping equipment. The rest were in the Land Cruiser with Julius and Sammy, the school’s Director, had three more in his vehicle.
We headed out of Nairobi before the traffic could build up and had our first stop at Sagana. The curio shops slyly keep their toilets clean so tour vehicles will be more inclined to stop for a bathroom break. They also slyly keep their toilets at the back of the shop so you have to walk past all their lovely trinkets on your way in and out. Not having had much chance to buy souvenirs during the trip so far, the bathroom break became a bit longer.
Next stop was at the home of a friend of the school. Her house is just before Nanyuki, and she had laid out a massive spread. Too big for morning tea, too early for lunch, it didn’t matter what we called it, it was delicious!
But now the time was getting away from us as we were due at the lodge in Samburu for lunch. So we motored on, pausing in Nanyuki to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables for the campers. Now I should explain our trip a bit more. The guests had been given the option of staying in a lodge/tented camp or bush camp, in order to cater for varying budgets. Six of the international guests chose the tented camp option while Michelle and her children and the Sunrise staff opted to camp. So, that’s why we had a van full of camping equipment but we were rushing to get to the lodge for lunch.
After lunch, they went out on their first game drive (the dash from the gate to the accommodation didn’t count). They saw a massive tower of giraffes and elephants galore. The next day they went out for morning and evening game drives, relaxing in their respective camps during the heat of the day. More elephants, more giraffes, gazelles, gerenuks, impala, and hyena were the highlights. Unfortunately no lions were forthcoming during those three days.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, our 11-month-old was having a whale of a time chasing monkeys, playing in the dirt, and falling in love with 7-year-old Amy. He kept us all on our toes though, especially when the group was off on game drive and we were left to cook. Luckily there were a couple of extra guys around cleaning the campsite and generally helping out, so they took on much of the babysitting. There’s so much for a toddler to explore around a campsite: a charcoal cooking fire, buckets of water, a bucket of vegetable peelings, logs with all sorts of lovely critters crawling under the bark, the list goes on! But I’ve come to see that in Kenya children are adored and doted upon, by clucky women and aloof men alike. So I was comfortable with Gabriel exploring freely, knowing there were several other pairs of eyes always on him along with mine.
On the last day we drove out through Buffalo Springs Reserve. The Samburu eco-system is made up of three separate reserves. Samburu and Buffalo Springs are separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River and it’s very easy to cross between the two so long as the bridge hasn’t been washed away. Shaba is across the highway. So we headed south through Buffalo Springs to join the highway near Isiolo. It’s always nice to replace some highway driving with more time in the parks.
We stopped for lunch at Dormans in Nanyuki where we had smoothies and milkshakes and salads and other treats that the guests had been missing after a week at the school eating Kenyan cuisine. We also made the obligatory photo stop at the Equator. From Nanyuki we didn’t stop again until we got back to the Hilton Garden Inn. Our timing wasn’t perfect and we caught a bit of Nairobi’s rush hour traffic.
A visit to Kenya is not complete without a visit to the Giraffe Centre and Elephant Orphanage so that’s what we did the following day. Then a final lunch together at the home of the school’s founder before the guests headed home. They really saw all sides of Kenya: both interacting with the people while they were at the school and then interacting with the wildlife on their safari.