This week’s guest contributor Jennylea Richert, an actress also known as Jennifer Andrews, has made nine safaris to East Africa. Here she recounts the safari moment that meant the most to her.
Samburu is on the Uaso Niro river in northern Kenya. (As I remember Joy Adamson raised Elsa on the river, a wee bit further down the stream than the Samburu Lodge.) And I believe “Samburu” is also the name of a local tribe.
The climate of this semi-desert is so warm and balmy that the public areas of the lodge are all open-sided – no walls. While eating, one sits in the dining area, trying to defend the sugar bowls from the monkeys. We were two married tour leaders, Joe and I, and five high-school age students.
We had been told upon arrival at Samburu Lodge not to go near the river for it is full of crocodiles Gracious, my memory has just slid back to Nairobi, 1968, to my being awakened at the crack of dawn by the Muslim call to prayer. Joe and I have just flown in from Karachi (the night before), and we are staying at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. To my “What’s that?” he replies, “Call to prayer.” I ask, “What prayer? Whose prayer? Where prayer?” (Growing up in Oklahoma, during the Depression, gave a very limited outlook. I never even heard the word “Muslim.”)
Out of nine safaris to East Africa, the moment I’m about to relate is the one I will never forget. It reduces me to tears of joy whenever I tell it or even think of it. (Yes, even as I write this at 6:00 a.m.)
We seven were on an early morning game drive from the lodge. We had crossed a wee bridge over the river and were circling back toward the river when the driver turned off the motor, told us to roll up the windows and, “Do not move and do not speak.”
He pointed to the far shore of the Uaso, where we could see a large herd of elephants (tightly pulled together in a group) going down into the far side of the water. Very slowly the herd moved through the water, coming up our side, about twenty yards from our safari van. As they came by, we could see the water mark up to the shoulders of the adults – but they separated. In the center of the group was a tiny, baby elephant with the water mark up to its eyeballs! (Since I couldn’t speak, all I could do was let flow the joys of discovery of the moment.) TEARS! (Sobbing not allowed!)
The river was full of crocodiles, remember? So this is the elephant “parade” that protects the toto, baby elephant. Mother Nature does know what she’s doing, doesn’t she?
Right now I have dug up my favorite quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain.
Next post: A native South African recounts rites of passage for young white South African guys of Liberal bent in the era of apartheid.