You would not even imagine how long I have waited for this journey!
It was at the top of my "to do list" when I literally fell in love with a wonderful Charity based in Kenya. I can't remember the very first moment I found out about The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) but I do remember that my love for animals and elephants drove me first to volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai back in 2013. I had such an inspiring experience with Lek Chailert and her elephants rescued from a life of tortures and sufferings that I started to long for more meaningful/quality time. I would definitely recommend ENP if you are looking for a mind-blowing adventure, its commitment with animals (not only elephants) and the local communities is outstanding.
In this regard I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose a sustainable and responsible tourism. Do always read a lot before thinking to ride an elephant, pet a tiger or to go to a show where animals are involved. Most of the times they have gone through horrible trainings and tortures that - I am sure - you wouldn't love seeing or being part of it.
Back to David Sheldrick and more precisely to Christmas. At that time I received one, actually two of the most beautiful presents ever. I was gifted with a certificate of adoption for Lissa and Dupotto. I became then the proud mum of two orphaned elephants victims of poachers. The number raised to three when Tamiyoi arrived to Nairobi Orphanage. At that point I had to go to Kenya and experience the most wonderful journey ever!
I am not sure I will be able to fully describe how I felt when we landed in Nairobi. I couldn't sleep on the plane, I was too excited imagining myself in that huge and old continent where there is so much to experience that you may get lost. Straight away the people, their dignity, the big smiles even when they lack the most basic needs is overwhelming. I won't be able to write about the whole big journey as it was really a lot to live. Lots of miles, mixed feelings, lots of people, lots of animals....a lot of everything!
The David Sheldrick's Nursery was such a sweet, brave and beautiful environment. I could feel the commitment of those great good men becoming the orphans' family: feeding the elephants, playing, even sleeping with them. A life of love and dedication that I felt throughout this beautiful experience with David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. There I could meet my youngest orphan Tamiyoi, so tiny and sleepy in her petite red blanket to protect her during the night time. Her skin - like all babies - was soft and warm in particular behind her cute, big ears. She was very shy yet quite inquisitive with her little trunk. Did you know that if you blow into a trunk of an elephant, (s)he will remember you for very long time? How wonderful is that?! Obviously I did not want to leave, I could have easily slept there with all those gentle tiny giants.
We left the Nursery for Ithumba Stockade and after that Voi both of them based in the huge and fabulous Tsavo East National Park. These two places were so magical and inspiring in particular the first one . We drove for 6 long peaceful hours to reach Ithumba in the middle of the savannah where termite cathedrals stand on vivid red-ochre ground in contrast with a beautiful bright blue sky. My mind started to roam and a piece of my heart rooted into the ground. Ithumba and Voi stockades continue and support the long process of rehabilitation, interaction and re-introduction of young, strong elephants back into the wildlife. Again it's so inspiring to see the keepers' commitment. We had the pleasure to meet Benjamin, a really gentle and kind man, who has worked at DSWT for 18 years. He looked after us from dawn to dusk, answering all our questions, introducing all the elephants, explaining the process of feeding them and laugh with us during their mud baths. What a great time we had together! The amazing thing about DSWT is that they don't only help elephants but rhinos, zebras, hippos, elands, ostriches, giraffes and many more too. It's such a great Charity and Daphne Sheldrick - DSWT Founder - is a beautiful and inspiring Woman as well as a great conservationist who is really making the difference nowadays.
After Voi, Amboseli and Masai Mara National Reserve were so mind-blowing, it made it tough and challenging to leave Kenya. I have never seen so many wild and different animals co-existing in a same environment where life is balanced in a tacit and mutual agreement. I was simply amazed. From the colours to the lights, from those pinkish delicate sunrises to the explosions of yellow, orange, red shades at sunset. Everything had a language of its own and you simply couldn't stop listening to that beauty. I filled my eyes with wonders I will never forget.
...and I will never forget, after an endless journey through Rwanda and Uganda, my very first encounter with the Mountain Gorilla. It was literally love at first sight. I couldn't believe how elegant and gentle they were, socially organised in big families and unfortunately still threatened by deforestation nowadays and poaching or diseases in the past. I have to admit, I am not that proud of humankind sometimes. We could do so much to make the difference it's just a matter of wanting it.
Speaking about making the difference, we could not miss the opportunity to visit a school in Mara. I wanted to see how education was structured in a Continent so different from Europe in terms of resources. I have to say that they do try their best but are in need of funds and help from people. However what they do not lack of is a smile, a wonderful and strong attitude towards life which should teach us a very important lesson. Do we really need so much to be happy?
I left so many pieces of heart in Africa that it wasn't easy to come back to an ordinary life. Such an overwhelming experience whose beautiful memories will stay with me forever. For this, I will always be grateful to the wonderful man who made this possible and real. Thank you.
P.S. ...more pictures to come!