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Thursday, 17 January 2019 08:37

The location of the Garden of Eden has been disputed over the years. Some have said that it is located at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates in Northern Iraq. Others believe it may have been in Lebanon or in the Persian Gulf. No one knows for sure. Allow me to make a non-scientific guess and suggest another location that might be the biblical paradise. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Situated on 110,000-acres in Sweetwaters, Nanyuki , some 217 kilometers from Nairobi, the Ol Pejeta conservancy is, in my opinion, one of the closest things to paradise one could hope to experience. Located on the lush plains of Mount Kenya, the conservancy is home to an astounding variety of animals and birds.

I arrived at the Conservancy on a balmy Thursday afternoon after what seemed like a rather long three hour drive from Nairobi. Immediately after crossing the main gate, we ran into a herd of curious Common Zebra. They looked up at our van quizzically and only scurried out of the way when we got very close. We drove about 2 kilometers in and arrived at the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp, which was to be our home during our stay at the Conservancy. We were met by the camp manager who welcomed us with happy banter and sparkling wine; always a lovely way to start an adventure. Soon after, I checked in and got a feel of the place. It was lovely. Luxury and adventure are achieved by Serena’s en suite, beautifully furnished tents. The tents surround a watering hole where all types of animals regularly come to drink. I made a mental note to sit on my balcony that evening and look out for any interesting activity at the watering hole.

< Thereafter I went to the conservancy control offices for a short presentation on the work that the conservancy does. I was quite impressed by the scale and efficiency of their operation. The conservancy is a non-profit organization that aims to conserve wildlife and generate income through wildlife tourism. It reinvests any surplus income it makes into conservation and community development. Apart from managing 350 square kilometers of park land and protecting the large number of wild animals in it, the conservancy also has the largest Black Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa, a livestock department that carries out a wildlife-cattle integration system and a number of highly trained armed teams that protect the animals using ground patrols, air patrols and tracker dogs. The conservancy also has an extensive community development program that contributes to the general welfare of the surrounding community.

My next stop was the Ol Pejeta house, former house of wealthy 80’s businessman, Adnan Khasoggi. This is one of the most fascinating places I have visited to date. It is a sprawling country home that still has all of Khasoggi’s original furnishings. The house and it’s perfectly manicured compound is now used as accommodation for visiting tourists with a 12 bed capacity. On a clear day one can see Mount Kenya in its full majesty. As I left the house and made back for camp, I thought how perfect a location it would be for one of those small, private weddings.

It rained heavily for most of the afternoon as I enjoyed a long leisurely lunch. The food was incredible at the camp, only topped by the service. The staff at Serena Sweetwaters were efficient and entertained us with little anecdotes about the animals and their different temperaments. Later that evening, I went on a game drive where I was lucky enough to see some of the more elusive animals, like two young lions and a pair of rhino. I also saw elephant, gazelle, giraffe, Jackals amongst others.

The following morning, after breakfast, I headed out to Scott’s Plains for a mountain bike ride. This was easily the most fun part of the trip. It’s a different, more adventurous way of seeing the animals. I was a bit apprehensive when I ran into three resting buffalos but luckily they didn’t seem to be bothered by us. Soon after I visited the endangered species boma where 4 of the last seven Northern white Rhinos in the world, are housed on 700 acres along with 15 Grevy Zebra who are also an endangered species. I was lucky enough to get out of our vehicle and pet Suni and Najin, and see Sudan and Fatou, the Northern white rhinos. The experience was incredibly moving because these animals are the very last of their kind; a result of senseless poaching for their horns which are worth their weight in gold on the black market.

As I packed my bags later that afternoon, I found myself a bit sad at the prospect of leaving paradise to go back to the traffic and smog of the city. But I gave thanks that places like this still exist for worn-out city dwellers, for adventurers with a sense of wonder and most importantly for Fatou, Suni, Sudan and Najin, for whom this place is their last hope.

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