Mt. Kenya Safari Club
- Cups Earl Grey tea: 4
Eclairs: 1 (chocolate)
Hot showers: 2 (A new world record!)
Our day starts with a bush walk and wilderness breakfast. This is one of the few times in our travels that we are allowed to walk through a game preserve, perhaps due to the mild tempraments of the local game and lack of carnivores. Warthogs are not known for their maulings. After a pleasant walk and a gorgeous sunrise over Mt. Kenya, we stop for a formal meal. Omelettes served on white linen under acacia trees -- how terribly English.
The Sweetwaters property was a private plantation, sold to a local hotel group on several conditions. It is now a private game preserve with a small lodge, Jane Goodall's chimpanzee project, and a rhino preserve on the premises. Jane Goodall's project was moved here from Burundi due to the war in Rwanda, and may have suffered from the transition. For a project named for such an illustrious figure, the operation is surprisingly small and modestly funded. Chimpanzees turn out to be rather unpleasant characters, fond of throwing anything they can get their hands on. Feeding them involves a fair amount of ducking. I really am not sure I want to be closely related to them. Elephants seem much nicer. While I've learned that giraffe can be a bit voyeuristic, that's a minor fault in an otherwise marvelous species. We don't seem to have the best family connections.
The rhino preserve is a legacy of the previous owners. They adopted a young rhino who had been orphaned. Mostly blind and aging, their pet was in no shape to be released into the wild when they sold their home. The new owners therefore created a preserve for "Moroni, the friendly rhino". He has his own enclosure, with many guards and a nice assortment of plants. Every few months they rotate the other animals in the enclosure to ensure him varied social interactions. We are able to walk up to Moroni, patting his concrete-like hide and avoiding his substantial horn. There is no optimal angle for approaching even a friendly rhino, due to the dual threat of horns and urination. Apparently rhinos can urinate directly backward with great force, achieving distances of almost ten feet. An intriguing bit of trivia for future cocktail parties. We are in a bit of an odd mood after our bizarre morning, and find ourselves postulating on the network potential of a sitcom featuring Moroni, the friendly rhino. He has everything: a set of quirky but harmless animal friends who rotate through once a season, a tragic past, a quirky and humorous trait (ref. projectile urination), and of course a great catch-phrase. "I don't mean to horn in, but..." Or, for the teenage crowd, you could try "I'm always horny!". (It seemed funny at the time.)
We move to a different hotel nearby for the next night, as Sweetwaters is unexpectedly fully booked. This is a marvelous choice, as the Mt. Kenya Safari Club is justifiably famous. It was founded by William Holden and friends as a gentleman's club-cum-conservation center. Indian curries at the buffet, a golf course teeing off on the equator, high tea served in a panelled lounge overlooking tea plantations, a stable for riding, a tennis court, a pool...it's all quite elegant. Several people in our group opt for an afternoon in the spa, getting massages and enjoying the sauna. The lack of a long game drive is compensated by scones and tea and a hotel room that actually looks like a hotel room. It is a nice break, I suppose, but I find myself longing for dust and tents and the now-familiar sound of zebras in the distance.