We last left off on the way from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti. Having seen four of the Big Five, we wondered whether it would be more of the same and worried whether we would be safari-ed out sooner than expected. We took a long 6-hour drive on a circuitous route along bad roads, apparently to avoid the direct but treacherous way that would take either three hours or three days depending on bandits and bad weather. At the Isebania-Sirari border, we had our passports stamped in a tiny, cramped office full of musty old papers on the Kenyan side and moved over to a far newer, air-conditioned counter on the Tanzanian side. While it took a while before the border officials realised that Singapore is part of the Commonwealth and required no visa for entry, we realised that the Tanzanian side seemed a lot more developed that its seemingly more well-off neighbour. This was reinforced by the change from the dusty little van to a proper four-wheel drive when the Maasai Wanderings people took over.
The ride to the camp took us down beautifully smooth tarmac roads, a far cry from the Masai Mara roads, and soon turned into flat dirt roads as we approached the Serengeti. Before long, we arrived at the main gate and took a breather to have our park permits checked. It was here also that we discovered that the Serengeti also provided flush toilets instead of leaving its visitors to the whims of nature.
In the hour’s drive to Nasikia Luxury Mobile Camp, we marvelled at the vast plains that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see in most directions, only stopped by foothills in the distance. And on the shoulder of one of these foothills was our camp. Unlike the other places we stayed at thus far, this was true camping. There wasn’t any concrete in sight. Each tent functioned as a guest room, with the large central tent being the lounge and eating area. As it was quite cold at night, there was a campfire to sit at while waiting for dinner. Here was where we enjoyed a icy bottle of Kilimanjaro beer while watching the flames dance.
The guest tents were discreetly spaced, far enough so that you don’t hear absolutely everything your neighbour is doing yet close enough for safety. We were told not to leave the tent at night, let alone walk around unaccompanied. If truly necessary, we should shine torches out of the tent to warn any animals outside and to shout for a guide to escort us. I think the main fear earlier on at night when the camp is still fairly busy is that people trip over tent pegs and low bushes in the dark. But later on at night there truly is worry about animals coming in. When we walked to our tent at night, we shone our torch out to the trees and saw several pairs of eyes glinting back. Our guide advised us not to do that as it disturbs the animals and told us that the eyes belonged to some kind of deer. There was evidence of other animals passing through the camp. Outside the kitchen tent, I noticed a mushroom growing tall out of a rather large pile of turd. The chef said that elephant dung is the most nutritious fertiliser. That notwithstanding, I was glad that (i) we didn’t have an elephant push down our tents at night and (ii) we didn’t have mushrooms at any of our meals there.
If you thought camping is hardship, think again. This is luxury camping for you, with a very comfortable four-poster bed and bathrobes all ready. The thing that reminded us that this was camping was the floor. The ground was sloping and I occasionally slid down. The metal foot of the bed was essential to stop me from sliding off!
There was an ensuite toilet to this tent too. This amazing toilet had a sink with running water, a flush toilet and a hot water shower.
I’m sure you’re wondering how a camp in the wilderness could manage running water. The tap, toilet and shower each had its own tank. While the in-room brochure advised us to be careful with our water consumption as it’s hard to truck water all the way out here, the sweet staff told us to use all we need and make ourselves at home. It was lovely how they balanced hospitality and conservationism. But I’m sure you’re wondering more about the hot water for the shower. The catch here is that showers need to be ordered 10 minutes in advance and in batches. They’d fill up the tank with hot water and then it’s up to you to use it and hope that they deliver the next batch in time. Of course, the practical solution is to either shower quickly in five minutes (a difficult task with a trickle and having to shampoo long hair), or to have your partner on standby to organise the order of the second (or third) batch of water. It was a novel experience in the sloping shower area and the occasional shower head blockage. I learned to take my shower straight after returning from the day’s drive before the weather cooled down too much. Having a hot shower in cold weather is difficult enough in an urban setting, and contending with a trickle of rapidly cooling water and shivering damply while waiting for the next batch of hot water to flow down through a twig-blocked shower head is not quite a luxury experience.
There was the one kitchen tent that turned out surprisingly good dinners! Everything worked on either gas or electricity from solar panels. They even managed to turn out a birthday cake for DC with icing on it.
We enjoyed the sunset, and thereafter a yummy dinner after some delay. Camp staff informed us that it was due to a technical difficulty. The next day, our guide Muba told us that the “technical difficulty” was really lions near the camp and all staff were on board to chase them away. Gulp.
I’m glad to report that we slept safe and sound all three nights there. Only on one night did I hear animal rustling sounds, and it was simply harumphs and the contented chomping of grass. Zzz zzz zebras.