CAA Saskatchewan Summer 2018 - Page 26

A curious black-and-white colobus monkey near Mount Kenya most scenic way to get from point A to B in the 580,000-square-kilometre country. Domestic flights throughout Kenya are quick, readily available and surprisingly affordable. During my two-hour ride, I glimpse Kilimanjaro, the continent’s tallest mountain, and herds of giraffe clumsily trotting below. Disembarking from the Cessna onto the tiny Laikipia airstrip, it hits me: I’m in Africa! The air feels different. And the landscape looks… massive. Rolling hills spread out for what seems like an eternity; blue sky stretches as far as I can see. I learn that feeling of vastness is a common one, owing to Laikipia’s location, smack-dab on the equator at an elevation of 1,890 metres. After a short drive to the hotel— during which I resign myself to the fact that I’ll be covered in red African dust for the next several days—it’s time to explore. With its manicured lawns, leather club chairs and walls lined with twisting antlers, my plush accommoda- tions at the Fairmont Mount Kenya feel plucked from the pages of Out of Africa. The hotel was originally founded in 1959 as the Mount Kenya Safari Club, a private members’ club catering to British and American expats. One can imagine posh ladies and linen-clad gents sipping tea on the lawn of the inner courtyard. Seeking something a little less refined, I wander down to the on-site wildlife sanctuary, which houses rescued animals from nearby game reserves, most orphaned due to poaching. It’s one of many examples 26 Summer 2018 CAA SASKATCHeWAN of Kenya’s ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation. Caretaker James Muraya walks me through the animal orphanage where frenetic ostriches, grey-crowned cranes and a giant 154-year-old tortoise roam freely. Larger animals live in enclosures, including a pair of cheetahs, Kenya’s most endangered cat. “They’re the smallest of the big cats and they almost never attack humans, so they have become easy prey for poachers,” Muraya explains. After much reassur- ance, he coaxes me into the enclosure to meet Annette, a female cheetah. I cautiously run my hand over her silky dotted coat—she purrs like a docile house cat. After a few strokes, my shiny watch becomes an irresistible target and the cat goes for a playful nibble. I’m instantly reminded that in spite of her purring, Annette is still a wild animal and it’s time to move along. The nexT morning , I awake to the sounds of Kenya—crested francolins, chatty birds who’ve rightly earned the Luxe safari accommodations and amenities at the Fairmont Air TrAvel is The fAsTesT and nickname “East Africa’s alarm clock.” The terrace of my room faces Mount Kenya’s lush slopes and is the perfect spot for sipping a cup of Kenyan coffee, one of the country’s biggest exports. I see the mountain up close on a morning horseback ride. During the guided jaunt, I trot past zebras, hyenas and warthogs. Guests can book this safari for the surprisingly cheap price of $25 USD per hour. Halfway through the journey, our guide delivers us to a scenic ridge where a breakfast spread awaits. I dine on a full-service feast, complete with white table linens, hot coffee and fresh eggs—all while watch- ing Cape buffalo in the distance. While a horseback safari provides a preview of Africa’s iconic animals, a game drive is a must when in Kenya. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a protected 360-square-kilometre habitat, teeming with lions, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, buffalos, hyenas and countless bird species. Game drives typically last a few hours and depart in the morning, afternoon and early evening. While all of the country’s private conservancies and public reserves offer remarkable sightings of African wildlife, Ol Pejeta stands apart. It’s home to the world’s last two northern white rhinos, a species now officially declared extinct in the wild. A third northern white, the last remaining male, died earlier this year. To keep the pair safe from poachers, who butcher the animals for their horns, armed guards accompany them around