Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Running with Lions

The sun was just peaking over the earth as I woke for an early morning run. It was a cool morning and Mt Kenya was still hidden behind the clouds. The rain from the previous day still wet the ground, keeping the dust down. It was the perfect temperature to go for a run I thought as I laced up my shoes.

"Okay, Wandeto, I'm ready", I called to my driver so we could set off to the main gate. Living inside a nature conservancy has its perks: impalas waking you in the morning, water bucks greeting you for your afternoon tea, and lions roaring you to sleep. However, the downsides are that you cannot walk, run or bike alone. In fact, you must have an armed guard with you in case of a dangerous wildlife encounter, which is statistically high in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy seeing that its landscape is dotted with lions, elephants, African buffalo and many species of antelope.

Spanning over 90,000 acres in central Kenya [an area known as Laikipia], Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to many important and critically endangered species. This park is the largest Rhino sanctuary in East Africa and is the holder of 4 out of the 8 last remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world. This park is also home to the endangered Grevy Zebra and many chimpanzees that were rescued from Burundi, the DRC, and Sudan due to the bushmeat trade and deforestation thanks to many peoples desire for hard African wood. 

On this morning the forest was still except for the faint sounds of animals waking in the distance. Birds chirped and the grass waved in the gentle breeze. Morning was coming and all that live here silently knew what the new day would bring. As we drove down the bumpy road I peered out of the car window. How lucky am I to be staying in such a magical place, I thought as I watched the landscape go by.

After 5 minutes of bumping our way down the road, Wandeto slammed on the breaks. "Whoa, that's a big one," he exclaimed. I instantly looked over to the left side of the road and saw one of the most powerful mammals that exist on this planet: the lioness. Our car came to a screeching halt as the lioness sauntered down the road. Her beauty and sheer might was a force not to be reckoned with. She moved with grace and her strong muscles, bulging with every step, reminded us how powerless we really are. 

Within a minute she had passed our car and was off, most likely in search of breakfast. Wandeto, sparing no time, popped the car back into drive and carried forward. "No big deal, right, Wandetto!? Just our normal drive to go for a run," I said laughing in awe. Running with lions, yep, it's no big deal.

Interested in Ol Pejeta Conservancy? There are plenty of options for the curious traveler, animal enthusiast, conservationist, or pure adventurer. From high end accommodations at the beautiful, and historical, Ol Pejeta House (30,000KSH/night per person, full board) to camping (5,500KSH per site), the Conservancy is a place for all to come, enjoy and learn.

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