Thursday, May 31, 2012

In the companies of elephants, princes and VSO volunteers

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to go on a weekend away with 20 other VSO volunteers. Which would be a great weekend under normal circumstances. But this was a special weekend. This was the ‘Il Ngwesi weekend’. It was an event that other volunteers had spoken about in hushed, almost revential tones. It was ‘magical’ they said. ‘One of the best weekends we’ve had in Kenya’ ‘unmissable’. On and on they went. So when an email was sent around inviting people to sign up I replied within seconds (from under the desk of the workshop I was at).

I should probably explain what this elusive ‘il ngwesi’ thing is all about. Well Il Ngwesi is the name of a Maasai community of people who live near Isiolo in Northern Kenya. These people live in one of the most beautiful conservancies I have ever seen and about 10 years ago they set up their own exclusive (and rather expensive) eco-lodge to allow people to stay right amongst the wildlife and game.

The journey to the Eco-Lodge

Our journey officially began from Nairobi at 8am on Friday morning where we hopped into hired matatus to take us to Nanyuki (for a spot of lunch) and on to the gate of Lewa conservancy. This is where the real journey to the lodge began in my eyes. We spent nearly 3 hours driving through gorgeous scenery on the back of jeeps, spotting elephants, giraffes, rhinos (from quite far away) and many other things besides.

What's over there?

Or there?

Giraffes - my favourites.

The Lodge itself

Tired after a long - though fruitful in terms of animals spotted -game drive we arrived at the lodge. And previous reports had not exaggerated the beauty of the lodge itself. The place consists of 6 different cottages all tucked in to various sides of the hills. All of the cottages opened out on different views of the bush and we woke up both morning to see elephants and giraffes making their way to the watering hole.

Each part of the lodge was beautifully designed, as you can see in the pictures below, in a way that makes them almost look like they are part of the environment around them.
Open cottages. I could see
giraffes without having to get out of bed.

Showering in full view of the wildlife (the poor wildlife)

'A Loo with a View' - the oft forgotten sequel
to the 1985 classic film 'A Room with a View'

Chilling in the infinity pool

 Close encounters with elephants

We woke before sunrise on Saturday morning in order to grab coffee and biscuits before our bush walk. As I got my caffeine fix we watched a herd of elephants observe their own morning routine. 

Elephants down by the watering hole early in the morning

A close-up of the elephants - thanks to Simon Dixon
and his amazing camera for this photograph

Lion print! Sadly I have still yet to see lions in Kenya
And then off we went with our guide to walk through the park in the hope of spotting some animals up close. Well not too close. We had two armed guards with us to make sure that we never in any danger of getting into any trouble with an angry mammy elephant.

Peeping at elephants on our early morning bush walk
Our guide explains to us about the various animals
while the armed guard listens from the back

What was the food like I hear you ask?

Amazing. Absolutely yummy. We were so well fed throughout the weekend. There was even a cheeseboard at lunch one of the days. A cheeseboard! However my favourite meal of all was our outdoor breakfast after our bushwalk on Saturday morning. Under the trees and not far from where we'd earlier been spotting elephants and giraffes we tucked into a breakfast complete with cereals, fruits and most of the constituents of a full Irish - all it was missing was the pudding!

Full fry buffet in the middle of the bush

Omelette, rashers, saugages, fried potatoes, beans, toast.
Breakfast of champions.

Maasai lads enjoying their cuppa...

...Though not half as much as I did

Famous past guests

Before leaving on Sunday morning I took the time to browse through the guest book for some of the famous names that I had heard shad stayed at Il Ngwesi before us. And I was not disappointed.

William Wales - aka Prince William!

Catherine Middleton - the Duchess of Cambridge

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1 comment:

  1. You make me want to hop on a plane and high tail it to Kenya! Looks like an awesome trip, C x