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The Last Frontier Of African Wilderness

Copyright (c) 2007-2023

In this place, 870 km˛ of pristine landscapes and habitats are set on the backdrop of the majestic Mt.Kenya. Complete wilderness. Rich jungle, swamps and the rolling savannah are disrupted only by wildlife, hills, rocks and 15 rivers destined to pour their waters into the giant River Tana. That, my reader, is Meru National Park... the last frontier of undisturbed wilderness.

Meru National Park is located 80km east of Meru or 350 km from Kenya's capital city, Nairobi. This Park forms part of a group of protected areas along the River Tana which include the adjoining Bisanadi Game Reserve to the east and the Mwingi National Reserve to the south. Meru National Park is best known as the area where George and Joy Adamson released their most famous lioness, Elsa, back into the wild. Joy Adamson adopted the lioness after George shot its mother in self-defense. It is also the setting for George and Joy Adamson's book and Oscar-winning 1966 film "Born Free", about an orphaned lioness cub they raised and named Elsa.

The park is enfolded by three huge rivers. River Ura to the southwest, River Tana to the south and River Rojoweru to the east. There are strict controls with regard to the numbers of visitors at Meru National Park hence the absence of land rovers, land cruisers and minibuses as one takes a safari around the park. The strict controls are solely for the purpose of ensuring as little disturbance to the ecosystem as possible. This is the place to be if you are tired and bored of mass tourism. A place for the discerning traveller. The various mountain-fed rivers support swamps and river forests with assorted trees like figs, tamarinds and the archaic looking doum palms.

The game drive will exhilarate your senses. Meru's intimate scenery is enchanting. The emotions one senses once in this untouched vastness are emotions that can be drawn by very few places. One feels an unusual sense of freedom once one sees the rolling savannah. Perhaps that's what the philosophers meant when they said that every man is born free. My thoughts were interrupted by the thundering roar of a lion. It is difficult to spot the cat in the lush grassland but a large crowd of vultures circling around a spot gave away its potential location. So our guide who is adept at spotting game drove towards the area and... Alas! There they were! I tell you nothing can prepare you for the lion. Not even those wildlife documentaries. The beast is simply majestic. The small pride of Lions was tearing into the side of an unfortunate Zebra. There were some little cubs that looked really cuddly but the female lion was very alert and you can guess what would happen to anyone who would even dare cuddle them. We could also spot some Hyena laughing in the distance waiting to scavenge the remnants of the meal. According to our guide there had been quite a battle between some hyenas and a few lions some days back. The result? Six hyenas mauled to death. My guess is that it must have been a territorial battle. Our humourous guide also told us that a person in the wild who walks while swinging his arms may attract a hyena that will want to grab and eat the swinging 'meat.' Next up we saw the elegant reticulated giraffe gliding in the distance. Its long neck craned back and forth as it made its way into the distance. Of the big cats the most difficult to spot is the leopard. This aggressive and elusive solitary cat is indeed scarce to spot despite their numbers being high in the park. Soon after, a group of Elephants announced their presence with loud trumpeting. I spotted a bull elephant empty its bowels and drop a large mound of waste the size of a mans head. Their giant ears flapping sluggishly, we watched them trudge towards a watering hole. Our unwelcome attentions startled a group of gazelles that were grazing in the grass and they scampered away. Something else that startled me was how the game blended in effortlessly with the environment. Their skin camouflaged them and spotting them was difficult to the untrained eye. But thanks to our guide we were able to see lots of animals. Other animals present in the Meru park game-filled plains are the Big five, rare antelopes like Kudu and Oryx, Bushbuck, Impala, Jackal, Dik-dik, Hartebeest, wild dog, aardwolf, Mongoose, Reedbuck, Caracal, Vervet Monkey, Baboon, Hippo, Ostrich, Eland, Steinbok, Porcupine, bushbaby, Bush Pig, Waterbuck, Otter, Pangolin, Squirrel, Warthog, Shrew, Duiker, Hyrax, Gerenuk, Oribi, Civet.

Riverine forests and swamps lay placid in the landscape and the archaic looking doum palms add a mysterious ambience to the swamps. I feared that an animal could be lurking behind the doum palm waiting to pounce. Meru Natioanl Park is also a bird watchers paradise. The lonely wilderness offers an uninterrupted view of its bird population. The park has a bird list of over 300 species. They include the Peter's finfoot which is found largely at the Ura River, Kingfishers, Weavers, the Pel's Fishing Owl, Eurasian Bee-eaters and Rollers (These are best watched between the months of October and March during the northern migration), starlings and the elusive African Finfoot. . It may be challenging to spot the birds due to the lush vegetation. Huge inselbergs of basement rocks like Leopard rock and Mughwango can be viewed too.

Back at the camp, just before sunset, the endless African sky staged quite a sunset. Picturesque! Dusk was a breathtaking melange of colours from crimson to reddish brown to golden brown in the azure African sky. As I looked into the distance I never wanted to return to the concrete jungle that is my hometown. I wanted to live like that forever.

Elsa Kopje lodge was another highlight of my vacation. It is an intimate lavish lodge that revolutionises the meaning of personalised service. Over indulgence is allowed without feeling bashful because after all it's a vacation and vacations don't come often. The 9 guest cottages are built into the rocky natural surroundings and designed to fit/blend into the landscape. Each cottage has an open-plan outside bath where the splendid expanse of the park can be viewed. And my, my, the night sky view is overwhelming. The sky appears endless and dotted with shimmering stars. I got that freedom feeling again. The ample stylish rooms have large double-beds. Paved paths illuminated by lamps at night, lead from each cottage to the cosy open bar, lounge and dining room where gourmet meals are served. After a safari in the wilderness, relaxation by the natural swimming pool which has a spectacular view is recommended. You may swim or simply sit back and sip wine, Champagne or a drink of your choice. The pool lies on the edge of the cliff, and is frequented by iguanas and rock hyrax, a small fuzzy creature. It's no wonder that travelers who lodge at Elsa Kopje keep returning for more tranquility. At the well stocked bar ask for Tusker beer. If you take alcohol, you can't claim to have been to Kenya if you didn't take Tusker which is available at the bar. Elsa is built on the original site of George and Joy Adamson's first camp in Meru National Park. It is Located on the Mughwango Hill in Meru National Park.

The other lodge is the Leopards Rock lodge. The unfenced lodge is open to wildlife and overlooks a river that nests various birds, Crocodiles and Hippos. Other wild animals and predators frequently come inside the lodge to quench their thirst at the river. The lodge has 15 opulent cottages with a private veranda for each. It's tastefully furnished with teak furniture and Persian carpets and rugs. It also boasts of a Jacuzzi, exquisite cuisine, conference facilities and a lovely swimming pool with an island bar overlooking Crocodiles. One may also savour a sundowner on a huge rock dubbed the magical rock with the view of Mt Kenya and Nyambene Hills in the distance.

Fancy some camping? There's the Offbeat Meru Camp. Offbeat Meru Camp is a luxury semi-permanent camp located just outside the park in Bisanadi National Reserve and positioned above the beautiful Bisanadi River. This camp is made up of six spacious tents, three twins and three doubles. Ensuite bucket showers, wash basin and flush loos are provided. The roomy tents are equipped with huge beds, solar lighting and fine linen. There is a large sitting room tent endowed with snug settees, a bar, library and writing tables. A dining tent capable of sitting up to 16 and a swimming pool are provided. Activities in this camp include day and night game drives, walking safaris, bush breakfasts, sundowners and camel safaris. The bush breakfasts are a must if you visit this camp.

The trip was extremely satisfying when I learnt that most of the Rhino and elephant population had been repatriated into the park from other Kenyan game reserves. Wildlife in the park had been decimated by poachers in the late 1980's. All the white rhino had been poached and their tusks worth thousands of pounds hacked off and sold. The restocking exercise resulted in the largest-ever elephant translocation in East and Central Africa. Each animal family group was captured and moved at one time to ensure that their social bonds were not disturbed. Security has been significantly beefed up including the building of one of the biggest ranger camps with 129 housing units at the park's Murera gate, to avoid a repeat of poaching witnessed in the 1980's. It is satisfying to see glory return to the Meru National park.

About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
Gerald Wanga is editor of First African Safaris. You can find more information about Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya safaris, as well as hotels and lodge bookings, on his website: To find another African safari elsewhere on the continent, do visit for details.

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