I started interning for Save The Elephants about six months ago at its Langata office in Nairobi. In all this time I only knew of what happened in the field through reports and accounts that passed through my desk, but about a month ago Vella (STE Education Officer) and WK (STE Accountant and my immediate supervisor) suggested I should visit the research camp in Samburu. The purpose of the trip was the painting of Ngaremara primary school which is a local school that Save The Elephants supports through it community outreach program, but the trip turned into so much more. I am not an outdoors kind of guy; I prefer four walls around me, so I knew that this was going to be an experience.
The journey to Samburu was long but the company made the trip enjoyable. Samburu is a hot and windy place which was a nice change from the very cold weather in Nairobi. We arrived at the camp in the afternoon and I finally got to meet the rest of the STE team, guys that I had only know by name or as voices over the phone. I was put up in a pop tent that was pitched right on the bank of the Ewaso Nyiro. The very next day I had one of the best afternoons of my life. As we were coming back from Isiolo where we had gone to make some preparations for the school painting, Chris took us for a game drive, where I finally got to see an Elephant. The sight was breath taking, a majestic beast. I hadn’t seen one up-close before and with Chris as our guide- it really was up-close, he took us so close you could reach out and touch one. I was so excited yet so totally terrified at the same time for being so close to such a large creature which could toss our car effortlessly if it wanted, but Chris explained how gentle they were and that they wouldn’t harm us. I saw lots of elephants that afternoon, from a bull that tried to attack us (I was later told it was a ‘mock attack’), to a heard grazing together, to a young family which had the cutest baby elephants. It was simply Amazing.
The next day saw students coming to visit our camp from the UK. On top of making a very generous donation to STE they had also procured the paint that was going to be used to paint Ngaremara primary school. We gave them a tour of the camp, from the collars, to the elephant skulls, to the vehicle that was attacked by an elephant. In the afternoon we had talks by Shifra, Vella and Lucy which were both interesting and Informative as I got to learn a lot of new things. Later on everyone went for a mammal census around the reserve. On Sunday we woke up bright and early and headed to Ngaremara primary.
The painting was fun and we managed to paint four classes in and out, although some people (Vella) put more paint on people than on the walls. It was good to see the local community come out and help us out with the painting and I was pleased with the end result. After the painting we had a very good game of football, where Sarah, Gilbert and Daud emerged as possible stars of the game. That night as Jerenimo and I were walking to our tents we were startled by a group of elephants that were grazing inside the camp site. We hadn’t seen them and only learnt of their presence when one exhaled, which made Jerenimo – who was in front of me at the time, duck behind me trembling in fear. I couldn’t help but laugh at him because he was the one telling me how I shouldn’t be afraid. That night I slept surrounded by at least four grazing elephants, but I slept surprisingly well, maybe I was finally becoming one with nature.
On Monday with the help of Gilbert and the rest of the STE staff I managed to get a bit of accounting work done, and finally on Tuesday Vella and I herded back to Nairobi. I am looking forward to my next trip up North.