It’s a hive of activity at the waterhole with everyone showing up on time for the Monday morning staff meeting, writes Wendy Watta. Mr Elephant, the office boss, is closely followed by boisterous baboons who have got to be the office clowns. Soon, all the other animals arrive…
Photos: Brian Siambi
The breakfast table is set under the shade of a giant tortilis tree overlooking the waterhole. Mother nature must have sent out the memo for the Monday morning staff meeting because two elephants walk right up to quench their thirst, and at barely 70 metres away, these gentle giants are absolutely breathtaking! Elephants have always been my favourite wildlife, and I can barely contain my excitement enough to tuck into the fresh fruit platter before me. They are closely followed by a troop of boisterous baboons who have got to be the office clowns- every office always has one of those! Zebras then march up to the waterhole, careful to give the elephants a wide berth. Everyone, even the cheeky baboons, seem to steer clear of the elephants- they are like the office boss that when you see approaching, you quickly switch from your Youtube tab to emails and pretend to be typing away at your keyboard with such vigour.
“This is now becoming too much for my senses to handle!” I whisper to Nomad’s photographer, Brian, who’s taking pictures armed with a daunting telephoto lens, and is equally beside himself with excitement when we spot some Grant’s gazelle and a tower of giraffes walking up to join this meeting. With the birds not to be left behind, the waterhole is a vibrant hive of activity this morning. The rest of breakfast goes by in a daze and I can barely remember what I ate. As far as entertainment goes, this is better than any show I’ve recently watched on TV, and for that, Tawi Lodge will forever stand out.
After breakfast, Brian is to go off on a bush walk with one of the lodge’s guides while I’m set for a 40 minute camel ride through the plains. I make a quick dash back to my cottage to drop off some equipment before we leave. Set in a 6,000 acre community conservancy, mine is one of 13 luxury cottages at this eco-friendly lodge which was opened in 2010. Peacefully browsing a few metres from the private wooden deck of my cottage are three giraffes; these ones must have called in sick for the waterhole meeting yet they are out here feasting and relaxing. There’s always one of those! Inside, the cottage features a comfortable four-poster bed and white victorian bath overlooking the outdoors, a perfect vantage point for spotting more wildlife milling about as you soak off the day’s fatigue.
The eventful game drive is crowned by a sundowner which we find being set up at an open patch of land overlooking Mt Kilimanjaro. At just a little under 6,000m above sea level with its snow-capped peak proudly jutting out onto the sky well above the plains, its presence is prominent, particularly on this clear evening. Grilled chicken drumsticks and onion rings coupled with beers, sodas and cocktails are served as managers Peter and Anita regale us with stories about their time spent living and working in Tanzania before being posted to Tawi. The setting sun leaves vibrant streaks of pink in the sky and the scene is by all accounts absolutely breathtaking to behold. It also passes by quickly as clouds shift to block the view of the mountain, the sun disappears and the campfire ebbs. We hop aboard our Land Cruiser 4×4 and take advantage of the drive back to the lodge to spot nocturnal wildlife.
If you are keen to visit Amboseli National Park, Tawi Lodge sits just 10 minutes from its eastern entrance. By road, a 4×4 to Tawi Conservancy is not mandatory although you should inquire about the state of the roads beforehand- we got stuck in the mud several times during an earlier visit in the rainy May season last year. Transfers can be arranged from the airstrip at Amboseli or the conservancy’s private landing strip should you wish to charter a plane. The boutique lodge also has a heated pool which is open at all times, four lounges perfect for big groups or couples, two bars, a fireplace, restaurant which often has a daily set menu as well as a small library.