A blood-curdling scream rips me from my sleep; the scream lasts an agonisingly long time. It goes on and on and on. I sit up, blink in the dark; it’s the middle of the night, I’m in a tent, in a campground, in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. I rub my eyes, wave my hand in front of my face, but cannot see a thing; it’s pitch black. The scream slowly drops in pitch as the minutes pass, eventually becoming a throaty gurgle before cutting off altogether.
There’s silence in the tent. I close my eyes and return to sleep .
‘Did you hear that scream?’ I ask Ami in the morning.
‘What scream?’ We’re taking coffee on the porch of our tent. A herd of elephants are mucking about in the dam below.
‘That really long, really loud, really terrible scream. You didn’t hear it?’ Ami is a notoriously heavy sleeper.’
‘I must have dreamt it then,’ I say, suddenly doubting myself.
We finish breakfast and get ready for the day. On the way out of camp we pass, less than two hundred metres from our tent, a pride of lions feasting on a freshly slaughtered cape buffalo.
Searching for oryx in Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Today we are on the lookout for oryx: a large antelope with long, straight horns and gothic makeup on its face.
Still can’t place the oryx? Ever seen an Qatar Airways plane? It features an oryx on its logo. 🙂
The search for oryx was going to take us all day. We were going to travel from one side of Ol Pejeta Conservancy to the other; but there would be plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting along the way.
Within minutes of leaving the campground we have seen Plains Zebra, elephants, jackal, Jackson’s Hartebeast, giraffe, eland, and baboons. Then, in the distance, we spot one of the big five: rhino!
Ol Pejeta Conservancy has the largest population of Black Rhinoceros in East Africa; it’s estimated that there about 100 of the shy, reclusive animals living in the park.
Northern White Rhinoceros
The conservancy is also home to the only wild Northern White Rhinos in the world. These wild rhinos – two males, two females – were brought here from a zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009 in the hope that they would breed.
One of the males has since died. The remaining three rhinos are kept safe by a 24 hour security force. No babies as yet.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is also home to a population of the world’s rarest zebra: Grevy’s Zebra.
Grevy’s Zebra are only found in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, and can be distinguished from regular Plains Zebras by their large ears and the narrowness of their stripes. It’s estimated that there are only 2,500 Grevy’s Zebras left in the wild.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 90,000 hectare not-for-profit conservation park situated on Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau. It lies directly on the equator (but Kenya doesn’t make a big fuss about the equator, unlike at Mitad del Mundo in Quito, Ecuador) and is situated in the foothills of Mount Kenya.
The day was slipping away. It was already mid-afternoon. We needed to turn around and head back to camp. We had looked, and looked, and looked, but there was no sign of the oryx .
Then, in the distance, hiding amongst the prickly shrub: an oryx, standing tall and proud, just like they do on Qatar Airway planes. 🙂
Practical information and how to reach Ol Pejeta Conservancy:
Ol Pejeta Conservancy contains several lodges and private campgrounds. It is also home to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Drive time between Nairobi and Ol Pejeta Conservancy is 4 – 5 hours. Read more on Ol Pejeta Conservancy here.