You probably think waking up at 4:30AM is a real struggle, but not for us. In the past, I have been known to ask to be woken up at 5AM to study before an exam, just to end up going back to bed. Because, you know, priorities. But this time, I was up without any tantrums.
The drive from Nairobi to Diani Beach is a long one, but unavoidable if we wanted to go to one of the most stunning beaches in the world. One of the reasons we opt to drive is that flights from Nairobi to Diani are too small and my motorized wheelchair would not fit in the cargo hold of the plane. However, with the arrival of the new Standard Gauge Railway, I hope I can cut down on the tedious journey to the coast.
Back in December (late post, I know!), we decided to take a break from the hectic Nairobi life and headed to Diani for a couple of days. Since we had a long drive ahead of us, Dad suggested to break the long trip, by staying a night at the Satao Camp under the Out of Africa Collection. Of course, when he mentioned that they receive up to 2000 elephants a day, right at the lodge, which has its own watering hole, I was sold!
As expected, it was a mission and a half to get out of the house by 5:20AM. We arrived at the Makindu Sikh Temple by 8:30AM. This temple is a preferred pit stop for all those who drive to Mombasa, as one can access clean washrooms and some fresh, hot food. We then drove on to Voi before reaching the gates of the Tsavo East National Park at 11:15am, where it started drizzling, though luckily we didn’t have to queue very long, as we all had Safari Cards.
If you’re a Kenyan citizen and love your wildlife, make sure to have your Safari Cards as it will make it easier for you to get in and out of the parks without any hassle.
We got to the Satao Camp at 12:45PM, after having spotted some elephants, buffaloes, impalas, and zebras. It was incredibly hot and humid in Tsavo so we were glad that we got some cold freshly squeezed passion juice as we checked in at the relatively simple reception. There was a giant chalkboard next to the reception with the daily and monthly sightings of all the local game. I couldn’t wait to add to the numbers.We then headed to freshen up in our tent. Satao Camp has 20 tents – 16 family tents and four suites. Our tent was not far, and it was wheelchair accessible, with a ramp leading up to the patio. We had got a family tent, so the four of us slept together. It kinda felt like a giant sleepover.
Locally designed, there were a double bed and two separate beds on the opposite side. There was an antique writing desk with a chair too, and lounge chairs on the patio, that overlooked the watering hole. The tent while equipped well, was minimalist with a small closet, a fan to beat the heat, and a huge bathroom with a spacious shower.In true African safari-style, the showering was only possible when the camp staff brought hot water in the evenings. The authentic wooden framework of the bathroom with slate floors and sunken wash basins was incredible. Not only was the room very easily accessible, even the bathroom was spacy and far bigger than my own bathroom at home.
We then headed to lunch. The dining area was wheelchair accessible with a ramp leading up to it, however, the bar and lounge areas lacked a ramp, which the manager noticed during our stay and promised to put one up in the near future. After a buffet-style lunch of delicious Indian-style curries with an assortment of sides and fresh fruit that was cooling in the heat, it was time for an afternoon siesta. Diva believes that a nap a day is all you need to get everything done! And boy, was this nap much needed.
Next, we sauntered over to the lounge, had a quick cup of chai and some divine, homemade carrot cake before heading out to an evening game drive. We got into the lodge’s Land Rover, as the covered car offered us more protection against the rain than the open safari Land Cruiser.As we drove out of the lodge, we saw another car stuck in the mud due to the rain. A common incident in the bush, obviously we stopped to help them out. We spotted the usual game, including hippos and two lone lions. It was quite a sight and one of them was right next to the main road, which made for a phenomenal scene.If you notice keenly, Tsavo male lions don’t have a mane of hair and scientists are still trying to figure out the reason behind this genetic mutation.We also spotted many buffaloes, impalas, and Hirola, also known as Hunter’s Hartebeest. Hirola look like a mix of impalas and hartebeests (at least, to me). In fact, we almost mistook them for hartebeest until the guide pointed out that they are critically endangered hirola, a few of the 500 remaining in the world.
And of course, we spotted elephants, which was the highlight of my evening. Having seen elephants now across east and southern Africa, I noticed that these ellies in Tsavo had large tusks. We even managed to spot Satao II (the largest tusker after Satao was felled by ill-meaning poachers). His tusks were almost touching the ground. He was protected by his troupe of about ten elephant bachelors. Unfortunately, he was poached in March 2017.
We also spotted several matriarchal herds with the younger ones protected in the middle by surrounding older females. We must have seen at least 200 elephants at this point, albeit a little far off in the bush.
We were told that there is far more game during the hot, dry season, especially at the camp, where the animals come by to drink some water. So I would love to go again at that time.
After a splendid sunset, we headed back to the camp. When Diva and I reached the tent to freshen up, we were pleasantly surprised to see some impalas close by, literally outside the tent. They didn’t seem scared of humans, though they scurried away when our guide shined his torch towards them.After quickly freshening up, we headed for dinner. The mud at the bottom of the ramp leading towards the dining area had been fixed by topping off with some sand, which helped my wheelchair to gain some grip. Earlier, I had struggled as the December rains had made the otherwise sandy area muddy.
After a scrumptious dinner of pasta and tiramisu, we were exhausted and went to bed.
Satao Camp doesn’t seem to have a phone network connection in the lodge, they usually have Wi-Fi. Unlucky for us, it was down. Though this may seem frustrating, I think it allowed us to disconnect from our daily hectic routines and finally enjoy what we have before us.
Throughout the night, I could hear various animals from baboons and impalas to birds chirping at dawn. After getting ready, we headed for breakfast – a continental spread of eggs, bread, pancakes and some fresh fruit, alongside juices and tea and coffee. Before we left around 9:30AM to head onto Diani, Diva & Dad decided to check the camp’s viewpoint. On the way out of the park, to my excitement, we spotted some more big tuskers, including Satao II. What a sight it was!We drove on to Diani Beach, passing through Mombasa town. I couldn’t resist sharing these shots Diva captured of the beach.
Photos by Diva Shah