On Christmas eve the clouds dispersed late in the evening and all four camps bathed in a midnight clear. It was utterly silent. Nights here are for the nocturnals, they are taking stock, kings of the dark. As the stars faded, gazelle and wildebeest stotted and circled, their cloven feet advantageous on the sticky pudding plains they call home. Alone in the middle was a cheetah aware the crepuscular hours were not her hours.
A lone Eland with its camp gait walks through the whistling thorn and the first safari-goers out watch this mince by. James, Patrick and Charles, Peter, Joshpat and Simon, Bernard, Mika and Johnson and Saruni, Jimmy and George are all out there, each camp’s three wise men (obvs.) as keen and in good health as they’ve always been. Each pauses, their Toyota’s gilded by the first blush of the false dawn: it is truly wonderful. Life in the Conservancies is like this and after a year of graft they pause to reflect on how these model wildlife areas are the future for animals.
It is not hard to appreciate this, easy to love. Actually it has been sixteen years since the first one was introduced,
Baba Greg being at the heart of its introduction, keen to move away from the hell of overcrowding, when senseless things happen: the first no hell game drive was in 2006 – Acacia, a favourite leopard daughter was found on day one, there’s no man better placed to chart this success than Baba.
In Southern Africa reveille is termed ‘the time of the horns’, when the herd boy can first make out the curve of his father’s cattle. Replace domestic animals for black rhino horn and you have how dawn is described in Laikipia. The first ray of sunlight then backlights a cheetah family as they perform their early feline Pilates five minutes from Bush Camp in Olare Conservancy.
Across in Naboisho the searing early light bisects a huge lion pride as they parade across the high plains showground and in North it paints the almost sculpted faces of Nelangu and her miscreant of a boy.
Minutes earlier there was nothing … now look as these gifts spirit into viewfinders and other precision optics … the ghosts of Christmas presents.