The next day of our honeymoon safari exploration in Kenya, our plane landed in the Masai Mara. Just a few minutes from the airstrip the Land Rover pulled off the road.
Well stop here for a short bit, said William Partois Santian, our Masai guide for the next few days. We walked to the edge of a bluff overlooking the swift-flowing Mara River and there at the rivers bend was a pod of some sixty hippos, heads on each others backs, the rest of their bodies underwater to keep their sensitive skin from burning.
The one-hour ride to Saruni camp gives new meaning to the expression off the beaten track. We saw not one vehicle and passed one lone rider on a bicycle. But we did see mixed herds of eland and zebra, and there were Thompsons gazelle, wildebeest and impala in every direction. For the first time on this trip we saw topi and hartebeest, two other antelopes of these plains, which contain the largest concentration of wild animals in the world.
Just as we thought the road to our site couldnt get less traveled, we began a climb up the hills that form the north boundary of the Mara. We moved from the open plains into a forest of native trees and bushes. In a clearing we spotted our place built on the hillside, six cottages owned and managed by Ricardo Orizio and Pia-Sophie Wool.
Each cottage looks out into a valley where two green hills meet and then onto the yellow plains in the distance. It is all quiet; it is all wonderful. We were in paradise. We were not alone in this assessment. Looking through the guest book, we found notes from and Irish couple on their Kenya honeymoon who wrote, We couldnt think of a better place in the world to spend our first week of marriage.
Saruni is aptly named. It means a person or place of comfort. There are no sounds other than birds and the soft voices of the well-trained staff that looks after every care of the twelve guests. Do you want coffee or tea in your cottage? Breakfast in bed? What time do you want dinner? What would you like to do?
Do? We thought. Not much. Just be. Just experience a tranquility that can hardly be found anywhere any longer. Soak in the beauty of the cottage, where the dark wooden floors shine and one side is screen and canvas that glows saffron in the ambient light. There is a desk by the luminous wall and a small table for coffee or tea on the deck.
Learning About Kenya on a Safari Honeymoon
After lunch we sat outside reading a books borrowed from Sarunis excellent Africana library, then napped under the down cover in our king-size bed, possibly the most comfortable bed in Africa. (At night a hot water bottle is placed in the bed for extra warmth. At 6,000 feet altitude, it is appreciated.)
We later rode to the top of the hill for a sundowner, returned for dinner, and then sat by the fire for conversation with William, a certified naturalist who also takes his meals with guests. We asked how much he really enjoyed the soups, pork and desserts and Italian wines, so different from the typical Masai diet of cows milk and blood. It took some getting used to, he told us.
Without doubt, he enjoys teaching about plants, shrubs and the wildlife, as we discovered the next morning on our walk. He pointed to the leopard tracks, had us taste orange berries, told us about the uses of roots and bark. After three hours, we were ready for the spa. One of us had a facial, the other a massage. Cecilia Siamanta Ntuala, a Masai, combines her European training with traditional herbs.
On our evening game drive we saw more than a dozen browsing giraffe, came head-to-head with an elephant and returned in the dark. Now we saw an owl, dik diks (tiny antelopes), hares, a bush baby, a mongoose and the rare African wild cat, no bigger than a domestic tom.
Saruni has won top prizes for preserving the natural environment. It employs and trains only local people; Pia, a pediatrican, organizes local clinics; and Saruni is part of the effort to work out a more equitable arrangement with the Masai so that the land will be maintained in its wild state while at the same time providing maximum benefit to those whose land it is.