By Jack & Rikki Swenson
Beginning our recent safari with a visit to Samburu Game Reserve in Kenya, we were celebrating many milestones. This was to be our tenth annual Lindblad Expeditions/Micato Safaris East Africa Photo Safari that we would be leading with many of our favorite driver guides, and also our wonderful Micato Safari Director, Tonnie Kaguathi.
With us were a mix of guests, some of whom had previously been on safari, and others for whom it was their first time exploring this magical continent. Among our guests was one of our favorite traveling companions, Satish Nair, who had previously joined us on many trips including a spectacular Micato Safari in 2009. We were all extremely excited to be in Africa and venturing out on safari together.
After our planes landed in Samburu, we headed towards our camp on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. During this short drive we were amazed to encounter herds of elephants drinking at the river, reticulated giraffe, many antelope, the rare local Grevy’s zebra (which in previous years we had searched hard to find), and lions, too. It was quite a grand welcome and introduction for those who were on their first safari.
We enjoyed a similarly successful afternoon game drive that same day, had a lovely dinner, and retired for the night to the myriad curious sounds of the African bush. The following day was Satish’s birthday, and we lamented that we hadn’t brought a gift or even a card for him. I thought, “That’s okay, I’m sure we’ll have a special sighting of something today, and we’ll tell him that was our gift intended for him.”
Sure enough, only perhaps twenty minutes into our morning game drive as our vehicles were ambling through the lushly wooded riparian zone by the river, we spotted a pride of lions basking in the morning sun just a short distance upriver. Our vehicles soon reached the lions, and we had splendid views of two lionesses and their five cubs of varying ages in the crisp morning light. Soon the dominant male of the area arrived and we watched as they greeted, and then the females and cubs wandered along the river edges. I said to Satish in the adjacent vehicle, “Hey, I got you lions for your birthday!” He flashed a huge smile, and his eyes sparkled with delight.
During the afternoon game drive, I was riding with Satish and his cousin, Sai. After watching groups of oryx, impala, Grant’s gazelles, and many more Grevy’s zebras, we eventually a found a female cheetah with her two nearly grown cubs resting in the shade of a bush. It was nearly sunset and time to be heading back towards camp. En route, our driver, Patrick, took a short detour to an area where there had been a report of a female leopard. As we eased towards the bushes where this young female leopard was resting, she emerged out into the open. She turned and began walking in our direction. Soon she was looking directly at us, and stalking towards us. I crouched down and shot a couple of photos from directly out the side window. Then, in a flash, she darted straight underneath our vehicle. What?! We’ve been on many safaris and have never had a leopard run under our safari vehicle. But, then again, this was Satish’s birthday and he’d come back to Africa in search of more memorable safari experiences.
At the end of the day, there was a cake and singing for Satish. We then told him that we couldn’t decide whether to get him lions, cheetahs, or a leopard for his birthday, so we got him all three. We all laughed with delight, knowing that this was simply the magic of being on safari in Africa.
Satish, the birthday boy, captured a stunning image of three cheetahs on the next morning in Samburu. That photo was later chosen as the winner in the Micato Safaris May photo contest. You can see Satish’s photo and read the story surrounding it here.
Micato Safaris will again host Rikki & Jack Swenson on their 11th Annual Lindblad/Micato Photo Safari in 2016. To learn more, or secure one of the few remaining spaces, contact Melissa Hordych at Micato Safaris on 1-800-Micato-1 or by email at inquiries@Micato.com.