During the following days we explored the black lava flow and other areas and constantly watched wild game. When we picnicked near the Tsavo River, herds of elephants gathered to drink, so many that we couldn't count them.
At day's end we reached Campi ya Kanzi luxury tents (ultra-sturdy canvas held up by tree trunks) and stone villas that had been built among the trees. I enjoyed the privacy of my spacious tent and the time before dusk watching birds and wild animals drinking at the small pond not far from my tent's door.
One evening, just as I prepared to leave for dinner in the main building, I heard whispering outside.
"Miss Pat. Quiet! Open door zipper slow."
There, about 25 feet away, stood a massive Cape buffalo staring straight at me. What a magnificent beast! His presence was a thrill.
"Wait inside. I come back after he leave," the Maasai guard said.
At dinner the camp's owner, Luca Belpietro, told us he founded the camp in 1998 as a joint venture with 7,000 Maasai on their 400 square miles of tribal reserve. Luca and his family created the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust to protect the tribe's nomadic lifestyle — roaming the land with their herds of cattle, sheep and goats in search of fresh grasslands and living in temporary villages — and the region's wildlife.
This close link between Campi ya Kanzi and the Maasai has achieved international awards for eco-tourism. Many camp guests, including authors Isabel Allende and John Grisham and the actor Edward Norton, have been so moved by their experience that they have contributed to the conservation trust. In fact, Norton has taken a leadership role in serving as its president.
In "Green Hills of Africa," Hemingway described the intense primal undercurrent the Kenyan safari had reawakened in him. The animals and the land returned feelings of innocence and childlike joy to me.
WHEN YOU GO
Air France, Swiss Air, British Airways and other airlines fly from Europe to Nairobi, and charter flights connect the camps. Campi ya Kanzi is an hour's flight from Nairobi.
Reservations and flights are easiest with an experienced full-service adventure travel company such as Geographic Expeditions: 800-777-8183, www.geoex.com.
Luxury camps usually sleep fewer than 16 guests. The tented and villa suites are spacious, elegantly furnished in safari style and have en-suite bathrooms. Rates include lodging, meals, snacks, beverages and wines. Campi ya Kanzi serves outstanding salads and Italian dishes. Experienced Maasai guides lead morning and afternoon walks or drives, and Maasai warriors guard tents at night: www.maasai.com.
Camps in different areas offer drives in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Other camps I visited were Rekero (www.rekero.com) and Leleshwa (www.leleshwacamps.com).
Patricia Woeber is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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