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Under the African Sky Part 2

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Another wonderful place I will never forget was the Swala Camp in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. Swala makes up part of the sanctuary of retreats – a luxury collection of camps, lodges and explorer ships in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, etc. The philosophy around Swala’s “luxury, naturally” is to design their properties with the aim of allowing guests to have a real experience and more natural kind of luxury in places with a commitment to the conservation of nature, and allowing animals the freedom to roam around the tents.

IMG_4868SML That was the fulfillment of my wish: to see animals running around our tent. The managers – wonderful Liz and Garth, who were so kind as to make every wish of ours come true (it was right around Christmas) – told us that in the dry season, the elephants (there are thousands in Tarangire Park) come to drink the water from their pool. Since it was now the short rainy season, they stayed in the park. But numerous families of impalas – and some of the wicked black-faced monkeys – made their home around our tent.

Every afternoon, right at “tea time,” one special monkey would come around our tent to see if she could get inside and grab something out of my beauty box. One day I was having a shower in the “sky shower” outside our tent when she jumped up and grabbed my soap. She was so funny and beautiful that we became friends.

Christmas day the chefs prepared the most incredible dinner. All of us guests sat at one long table, having fun drinking champagne and amarula, and tasting that wonderful food. The manager / owners of Swala are the most gracious hosts. Before dinner every night at sunset we had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres around the fire, looking at the animals who peacefully wandered around the camp. It was all so wonderful!

Baobab-TreeSML Our loyal driver, Crispin, who had been with us for 8 days by that time, ever since our arrival in Serengeti, was there, too, telling us the fascinating stories about these thousands of humongous elephants we saw in Tarangire Park, and the beauty of the park, the special kind of acacia trees, and the favorite animal of Tanzania – the giraffe. Crispin saw the huge baobab tree where the poachers hid in a whole, to hide from the rangers. I couldn’t believe that anyone could go through such a little hole like that, but apparently they did.

What a sad story – to know that there are people who are able to destroy the most precious asset of their own country, the animals, just so they can get paid by the crazy Chinese who want the tusks of the elephants and the horns of the rhinoceros! How could anyone do that to the “gold” of their own country?

We have to do everything possible to stop that before these animals are extinguished! How selfish of the foreigners who try to bribe the natives there.

Our Swala hosts, Liz and Garth, were working hard to secure the safety of the animals and the preservation of their habitat. They also created a school for the Masaai children because they believe, just like our President Obama, that education can change the world.

Thank you Liz and Garth for making our stay so unforgettable.

Here are my favorite photos from our time at Swala and Tarangire Park.

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This entry was posted on February 9, 2013, in Adventures.

Under the African Sky Part 1

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I just came back from being in Africa over the holidays and I would like to thank all the wonderful people whom I’ve met in Tanzania and Kenya for their friendship and hospitality. This article is epsecially about my stay at the Ngerende Island Lodge in the heart of Maasai Mara in Kenya.

This was our fourth safari and each time, I love it more and more. I love the animals so much that I couldn’t even feel the stings of the deadly flies and mosquitoes. I was transported into another world by watching every move of the wild animals and loving every minute of it. “Under the African Sky” because the sky is so beautiful and it changes every minute, just like the mood of the people.

But the people there who live among the animals are much more beautiful, more understanding, more generous with their love and more forgiving. And they touch your soul, just like the animals. You are not afraid; you only experience the beauty of life. And that encompasses the good and the bad, but you are happy to be able to release your emotions and to experience with every minute the richness of life.

That is what I consider living and experiencing life fully, with no barriers, no fear, no stops. Just being guided by your most beautiful desires, of feeling complete and living the life you were meant to live at the moment.
We adopted three baby elephants at Nairobi’s wildlife nursery: Lemoyian, who is nowMasaiMenSML 6 months old, Narok, who is 2 years old, and Mutara, the oldest, at 3 years old. They all have had a difficult time after their births. Narok’s and Mutara’s mothers were killed by poachers, and Lemoyian’s mother couldn’t save him from falling into a well, so after waiting a long while, she had to leave him there.

One can learn very much from the behavior of the people and the animals who live in the African bush. One day we were stranded in the mud in our Land Cruiser. The driver was scared because he thought that we’d be upset. On the contrary! We laughed so much and felt so much for the driver, whose assistant was a Maasai who almost lost his sandals in the mud as he tried to push the car out. We had genuine feelings for each other, just like the people who live there.

In these moments, you forget all of the mundane insanity, greed and jealousy of the world outside, and you just enjoy every minute of this time spent “Under the African Sky.”

A-Irina-w-rhinoSMLI was eaten up so mercilessly by the flies, but I knew that I had friends and people who loved me and who would help me in a moment of need just like I would do for them. I loved it that they embraced me like one of their own. I had an incredible timewith the Maasai. The ones who were literate were amazing people to be with and talk with about their culture and beliefs. At Ngerende, they have founded a school for the Maasai children. I intend to keep helping them with it so the children can have an education.

That was my incredible experience in Africa last month. I can’t forget the hot baths Everlynn drew for me after a day of safari, the fun we had with the charming bartender, Daniel, mixing some exotic drinks – my favorite of which was amarula with vodka; and the great chef, James, who would cook anything we wanted, and always with a smile; the wonderful manager, Lynn, who was on top of everything; and of course, our best friends: David, who created our special lunch at the Maasai Mara National Preserve; Ben, our guide and driver, and his assistant, Charles the Maasai. In their hands we knew that we were safe.

I still hear the concerts in the morning and in the evening as they were played by the pretty birds, and the hippos under our terrace, the gorgeous cheetahs, the amazing lions and cubs.

Thinking about all of this beauty in life I have to stop and say how grateful I am to be able to experience all of these emotions and how these feelings can change one’s life forever, bringing the good out in every one of us.

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