We stayed in a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. But that isn’t really the start of our adventure. It really started in Mombasa and getting picked up by our guide/driver Sammy. He will be with us for the next 6 days from Mombasa to Tsavo to Amboseli National Park and then onto Nairobi. Sammy is friendly, easy to talk to and knowledgeable about not just mammals but about all the birds that we are seeing. This was especially important to Kati who loves to photograph all the birds in Africa. It took us a couple of hours to get to our lodge in Tsavo East and the time went by quickly.
We stayed at Satao Camp and were lucky enough to get the tent closest and facing a very popular water hole. Like watching “Animal TV”, over the next couple of days and nights we saw herds of elephants, antelope, giraffes, hippos and warthogs walk out of the bush and come to this waterhole. This was the start of our adventure, and we were happy to be back in Africa.
Tsavo is the place where there were two man-eating lions roamed and ate over 100 people in 1898 as depicted in the movie The Ghost and the Darkness starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. Tsavo East is the largest game park in Kenya, and it was a choice we had to make: Tsavo East or Tsavo West. We chose Tsavo East mainly because of Satao Camp, and we are happy we did. Over the next 4 days we saw lions after a kill, the red elephants of Tsavo, hippos, giraffes, and a leopard in a tree with its kill. The landscape was surreal. Dusty and dry, Tsavo needed the rains. But they never came while we were there. We also found The Real Africa, like the one described by Isak Dinesen’s book Out of Africa.
Set out in the middle of the bush, our camp and the water hole were perfectly situated for the game drives and to see a multitude of animals coming and going from miles away to drink. We could experience the joy of the elephants coming over a ridge and seeing the water hole. They started to trot and wave their ears. They were happy and we were happy watching. We even had a genet in the dining room that came one night looking for food. With the fire roaring, we ate delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had game drives most mornings and evenings. We had a whole day game drive on one of the days and it proved spectacular as we saw 5 lions on a hunt, and then they came and sat down. We were so close as they relaxed, slept and kept vigil. This was an incredible experience and we really felt that we found The Real Africa.
This was why we came back to Africa. It did not have the multitude of animals like Masai Mara, but it had the look and feel of a real African adventure. Don’t get me wrong, if there was one place, I would recommend seeing the Big 5 it would be the Masai Mara or to experience the Great Migration. But we were looking for something different. Something that I had not experienced since I lived in Africa. Something that was totally unexpected. And Tsavo delivered.
An Incredible Adventure
This was the fourth time Kati and I have been to Kenya. We have also explored Uganda and Egypt, and I have lived for over 4 years in Zimbabwe and almost a year in South Africa. We have also traveled to Cape Verde, Botswana, and Morocco, so we are not strangers to the African continent. But this time we wanted something different. We wanted an “Out of Africa” adventure filled with animals, tented camps and great scenery. And we got just that.
With our tent, beautifully decorated with old Africa furnishings and overlooking the water hole, we were able to view animals from a couple of kilometers away traveling through the dusty bush. The obvious joy that elephants experience when finally viewing the water hold was incredible. They would start to trot, flapping their ears almost with smiles on their faces. Big Tuskers, mothers with their young, and single bulls all came and went. We never tired of it.
In the evenings, Impala filled the camp while jackals were on the prowl. Hippos left the water hole and went to graze all night returning in the morning and elephants took over. Zebra, water buck and giraffe all visited. And there was a genet who would come into the dining room looking for something to eat before heading back into the bush.
From our tent and around the camp we also saw owls, eagles and oryx.
This all happened before we even left for a game drive. This was a nightly occurrence as we lie in bed watching the animals come and go in front of us. It was amazing.
There were many camps to choose from in Tsavo, but we chose Satao Camp. It gave us that great adventure and “Out of Africa” feeling, and the cost was good. We found the Real Africa and will return here in the future.
We had two private game drives a day set up. Both in the morning and evening. Sammy our guide suggested we take one day and go further into the park and spend the day. Satao Camp prepared a lunch box for us and we set out on our journey. Tsavo was incredibly dry and dusty. The red earth filled with air as we looked for the iconic African animals. Sammy was outstanding and knowledgeable about all the animals, the park, birds and where to go for the best views. One of the best aspects of Tsavo is that it is uncrowded, and we were virtually alone most of the time we were there.
The final day, as we were almost out of the park, looking for a cheetah, we heard that there was a leopard in a tree with its kill. Sammy asked if we wanted to go back. Of course we did! A leopard in a tree? That was on my want list for a long time. Having seen 4 leopards previously, they were all on the ground I really wanted to see a leopard with a kill up in a tree.
We raced to where it was and by the time we got there, the leopard left the tree. But as we got discouraged, Sammy said he spotted it in another tree. It had climbed up to keep an eye on his kill, and there he was. Sammy spotted it and we were overjoyed as we snapped photos. Sammy was a great guide filled with knowledge and willing to share. We loved spending our time with him and were sad when we left him in Nairobi.
Our Final Word
After four incredible days, we had to say goodbye to Tsavo. It was filled with iconic African wildlife including leopards, lions, elephants, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, impala, zebra, oryx, owls, eagles and a whole lot more. We continued our adventure to Amboseli National Park which is famous for its large herds of elephants and spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. We will cover that part of the adventure in another post.
We wanted to find the Real Africa and we did. We wanted that true Out of Africa experience, and we got it in Tsavo. We ate delicious food under the African moon, watched animals at the water hole, had incredible game drives with Sammy our guide every day and still had time to read, write and relax. This adventure checked off all the boxes for us and we look forward to returning someday.
If you are looking for a true, authentic African adventure that is not overrun by tourists then look to Tsavo and Satao Camp. We just might see you there.
Dennis would like that.