Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kenya Trip Report: Porini Amboseli Conservancy and Selenkay Village Visit

This is an excerpt from the just-released November 2011 Kenya Trip Report:
PORINI CAMP SPECIALS for new bookings by May 15, 2012.


November 12, 2011

After breakfast (and an EXCELLENT Bloody Mary, thanks Jay!) we headed out to meet the rest of the agent educational group and started the journey to Amboseli. We drove to Porini Amboseli Camp and flew out via Nairobi’s Wilson.  The drive was about 4 hours and paved for the vast majority in terms of distance…the dirt road isn’t very long, but takes quite a bit of time. Gamewatchers does road transfers in minivans (with A/C or windows that open…we had an issue with our van and the A/C was broken, which made the drive seem a bit longer)! We can use Land Cruisers for an upgrade cost if travelers require it. Porini Amboseli Camp is located outside of Amboseli NP in a private conservancy called, Selenkay.


Porini Amboseli is the first of the Porini Camps and offers 9 tents. Upon arrival, the manager, Tony, greeted us and we enjoyed an alfresco lunch of soup, salads and tasty BBQ pork chops; dessert was fresh fruit. The food at the Porini Camps is consistently very good: Simple, but healthy, fresh and tasty. After lunch we had a bit of time to relax before our afternoon activity and night game drive. The main lounge at PAC has a chess board, lots of magazines, a two-person swing and plenty of room to sit and relax in the shade. The main lounge was just refurbed this year and looks nice and more updated. 


The tents at Porini Amboseli are certainly the most simple of all of the Porini Camps, but they are still comfortable and have the same amenities as the other Porini Camps. When the sun lowered slightly in the sky, we headed out from camp in the Land Cruisers driving through the Conservancy towards the Selenkay village just beyond the reserve. At the boundary of the reserve we were met by a group of Maasai warriors clad in their shukas, spears in hand – this was no dress-up party, not a commercial endeavor in the least. 


As we walked the 20 mins or so into the village, our guide, Jonah, and the team of Maasai warriors stopped us every so often to tell us about medicinal plants, Maasai traditions, showed us how they hold spear-throwing contests, talked about how the termite mounds are formed and other topics of interest in every-day Maasai life. As we got closer to the village, the warriors started singing a welcome song and the ladies of the village met us at the entrance of the manyatta and formed a line so we could all shake hands and greet each other with “Sopa”, even the children from the community are waiting in line and receive a touch on the top of their head and a sopa, too! The chief greeted us and very eloquently spoke about his village before showing us around.


I’d like to make a point here: this is NOT a commercial Maasai village.


Only the Porini Amboseli Camp visits this village due to our relationship with the community and the land being leased for the Selenkay Conservancy, and we have a very special relationship with them. When our travelers visit the village, nothing is bought or sold, no money changes hands, there is no “entrance” fee. All of the crafts and goods being sold in the small store at Porini Amboseli are from the village and 100% of those proceeds go straight back to the ladies who beaded those items. What this allows for is a very authentic, culturally-focused interaction: a learning experience, not a consumer experience.


The Selenkay Village is happy to receive the Porini visitors and teach them about their traditional lifestyle and, in turn, the support from the Conservancy and the Porini Camps helps them maintain the cattle/goats and their traditional way of life. Win, win.  Throughout the tour travelers are encouraged to take as many photos as they like and everyone seems quite relaxed about it – the women and children are smiling, joking and laughing and the men are quite pleased to show off their mancala and jumping skills.


Our “tour” included the chief taking us around to different areas of the manyatta and explaining a variety of traditions and practices: young men playing mancala/oware and starting fire the traditional way, women cleaning and preparing gourds and beading, children playing games. The chief also explained how a house was built and the best construction methods for permanent, semi-permanent and temporary homes. After circling the manyatta and learning about the traditions and lifestyle of the Maasai, the warriors performed a song and dance, the whole time jumping with the small boys (5 years old or so) who aspire to be warriors one day, too. Very cool!


The community then sang us out of the manyatta, escorting us on our way and sending us with well wishes. We all shook hands, said “ashe” which means thank you, and bid our farewells. Jonah and Emmanuel were waiting at the vehicle outside the village to take us to sundowners and on a night drive. We were lucky; the view of Kilimanjaro that evening was stunning – clear and great light. The great thing about being on private land is enjoying sundowners and staying out after dark to search for the nocturnal species. On our way to sundowners, we spotted a few gerenuk.


The rains had fallen outside of the conservancy in the last 48 hours and much of the game had moved to follow the fresh green shoots. Just days later the rains started falling consistently in Selenkay and the game reports were excellent…that’s nature! As we pulled up to the crest of the hill, Kilimanjaro sat there in front of us. A camp fire (with camp chairs surrounded it) was going and drinks and snacks were ready! This was sundowners if I’d ever seen them! It was quite special to sit there and enjoy such a magnificent, uninterrupted view of Kilimanjaro at dusk.


(See more in my full Kenya trip report from 2011)
Contact us for more info about lodging and Porini Camps and Gamewatcher Safaris.
Photos by Lyndsay Harshman/The Kusini Collection, see and "like" more Kenya 2011 Trip Report Photos on Facebook.

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