Kenya: Hakuna Matata and Me

From mango-stealing monkeys and wildlife safaris to the welcoming Maasai and Samburu people, Kenya left an impression that I’ll never forget.

Hippos in Kenya. Flickr/DEMOSH
Hippos in Kenya. Flickr/DEMOSH

Finally, right before sundown, it lifted up its head and had two immense yawns, so big that its open mouth had virtually no angle to it. It then lumbered slowly, sturdily up onto the rocks on the bank, had one bite of grass, and then apparently decided it enjoyed the Jacuzzi too much to leave. Back it went and back I went to prepare for my dinner after what had to have been one of the most rewarding experiences I had while on my trip.

At the lodges, in the evenings before dinner, safari guests can meet for a slide presentation and lesson about the local customs or wildlife, while enjoying cocktails and appetizers. Dinner is served in the al fresco, but covered dining area with warm golden lighting and perhaps a bush baby or two peeking from the rafters overhead.

If desired, the lodges will prepare ‘bush dinners,’ beautiful, magical events in secluded areas under an incredibly thick canopy of stars. Most retire early to their tents to rest up for the early wakeup calls, which, by the way, are the nicest you’ll ever have. A gentle voice outside the tent with a ‘good morning?’ then, upon unzipping your tent, there will be a tray waiting with a thermos of tea, coffee or cocoa and some warm cookies to tide you over until the post-game tour breakfast.

The meals at the game park lodges are surprisingly excellent – considering the remoteness of the lodges. Chefs prepare lavish breakfast and lunch buffets, while dinners are ordered from the menus. I was especially impressed with the quality of the fruit and salads – fresh and delicious, and with the extensive selection.

The fruit was even more succulent and varied at the beach resort – in fact, just as I was about to dig into the juicy mango on my plate one morning, a monkey leapt onto my table, grabbed the mango and sprang away in one fell swoop – the employees were frantic but we tourists just laughed. After all, we DID come to Kenya to see animals, didn’t we?

I left Kenya with tears in my eyes for the warm, embracing Kenyans – Maasai, Samburu, and all of the others I had met. Hakuna matata to the mango-stealing monkey, and hakuna matata to me. The schoolchildren with whom I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the Maasai nature guide who showed me dung beetles and a cape buffalo skull, my chambermaid who chatted with me about our children, the waitstaff who made my birthday dinner into a party, and of course, ‘my’ backyard hippo – ‘Asante sana’ to all of you – thank you.

If You Go:

Adventures in Africa (Africa Adventure Consultants).
The company specializes in these countries: Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Their core values include the commitment to the preservation of a fragile ecosystem, the protection of exotic wildlife and the well-being and advancement of people in Africa.

Author bio: Irene Middleman Thomas is a Colorado-based writer for a variety of local, national and international publications and websites. She will never forget Joseph and the mango-stealing monkey.