Saturday, December 31, 2016


After a very bumpy cross country ride in the open-sided land rovers, taking shortcuts through private gated ranches, we arrive in paradise. Borana Conservancy is a 32,000 acre haven for the wildlife Kenya is known for. The population of Kenya grows by a million each year. As its peoples grow their flocks without the grazing to support them the shrinking greenery, and the dwindling rains, put a huge strain on Kenya’s herbivore wildlife and their carnivorous predators. It becomes immediately obvious that this, along with the adjoining 55,000 acres of the Lewa Conservancy, is an absolute oasis. There are animals virtually everywhere.

There is an 8,000-volt fence on the perimeter to keep out unwanted grazers. Driving in to the compound the electric line swings high above the entrance with wires that dangle down to discourage any elephants from wandering in. This place is all about the wildlife.

Elephants are simply gigantic. Their forelegs are hinged like ours, elbow and wrist bending in opposite directions, giving their gait a daintiness that seems improbable in a creature that is 200lbs at birth and can weigh up to 7000. When they choose to challenge you, shaking their heads with ears fanned out, and begin edging toward you something in you goes a bit squidgy. They are given a wider berth by the locals than perhaps any other animal. Close seconds are the grumpy dugaboy, an old male buffalo that has been ostracized by his herd after losing to a challenging male or the famously aggressive black rhino.

Giraffes, no matter how quickly they are running, always look as though they’re moving in slow motion. They are timid creatures. When you approach they sometimes step behind a bush to hide — their heads comically (and entirely) visible — like a small kid who covers his eyes and assumes he has now become invisible. Warthogs never seem to just walk. They’re either standing or running full out, their tails sticking straight up behind them.

A crowd of baboons bounce down the hillside, coming home from the day’s foraging with little ones riding piggy back or tangled into the fur of their mother’s belly. They sit in little clusters in the waning light of day, grooming each others’ fur before climbing into the fever trees for a vicious and screechy fight to establish who gets the best roost for the night.

The white rhinos lumber along the plains, munching at the grass with their square, fat lips. No whiter than the black rhino, their name stems from a bad translation of the Afrikaans “wyd” (wide) used to distinguish them from the black rhino with its pronounced overbite. Their double horns swing just above the ground like a scythe as they shuffle peacefully along. A pair of males, Duncan and Gordon, have wandered over from nearby Lewa and lie alongside each other in the grass.

Waterbuck, impala, grant’s gazelle, hartbeest, oryx, all the herbivores happily graze alongside one another. Usually one massive horned male stands among his harem of twenty or more females. Elsewhere, little gangs of teenage males bide their time ’til it is their turn to challenge for the top spot.

Zebra are everywhere. They’ll let you get very close, no doubt confident in their ability to outrun you. Their spectacular stripes accentuate the huge muscles of their hindquarters.

A pride of lions lazes about in the hot afternoon sun. Cubs who still have their spots tumble on top of their mum, pawing gently at her face. The male doesn’t bat an eyelash except for the occasional yawn. The females get up and start toward us but collapse into a heap again after a few languid strides.

The birds are like little explosions of colour in the shrubs. Superb starlings look like our robins from the breast down but with heads and backs painted iridescent blue. Widowbirds are like long-tailed cousins of our red-winged blackbirds. Little groups of speckled guinea fowl scatter in front of us wherever we go. The dogs have a blast getting the huge kori’s bustard to take flight. Domino plover, tawny eagles, fisheagle, egyptian geese, blacksmith plover, scimitarbills, hornbills, orioles, whydahs and weavers. A birder’s paradise. We watch a cloud of european storks spin down from dizzying heights in ever narrowing circles like a cyclone, wingspans as broad as a vulture’s, their long gangly legs dangling below them as though in preparation for landing. Whiter than white egrets hover in a cloud above herds of cattle, alighting to snatch up the bugs unearthed by the cows’ hooves or to blanket the shores of the watering hole at day’s end.

There is no such thing as going out for a casual stroll in this part of Kenya. One is always somehow tethered, either within arm’s length of your shotgun-wielding guide or by radio to a vehicle trailing right behind you. Everyone has a friend or relation with a horror story about finding themselves on the wrong side of a tusk.

We head out for an afternoon walk but find our planned route blocked by a hill full of the very belligerent buffalo. Plan B finds us coming up alongside a thundering herd of elephant. A group of more than forty cows and calves moves across the bush, parallel to the track, at an astonishing clip. Every few seconds, the cow at the rear turns to look back and shake her ears as though fending off some unseen threat. We can’t spot anything behind them but they continue to charge along, little dumbos struggling to keep up. Without any sign of a predator, JJ suspects that they’ve been spooked by bees. Whatever it is it has them speeding alongside us for what seems like ages. JJ says he’s never seen anything like it.

There is nothing familiar about this place. The animals, the trees, the birds, the bugs. I feel like my vocabulary has doubled — with a few Samburu and Swahili words but mostly with the names of a wealth of creatures I never even knew existed. What these conservancies are doing to preserve this amazing variety of life is simply wonderful. I just hope Kenya can rise to the challenge of figuring out a way to use this precious resource to enrich all of its people.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Day

Our Christmas day outing is very mellow. We walk to a distant outcropping and do some climbing with ropes and harnesses. Those who aren’t climbing scramble up the rock to the very top and are rewarded with a gobsmacking view. My sense of pride withers a bit when I find elephant droppings at the top. The pale blue sky is dotted with clouds that creep along, casting vast expanses into shade. The wind whistles, swallows skim the treetops, the red landscape rolls out around us. The hush is only broken by the occasional sound of a donkey braying or a goat bleating in the nearby village.

Back at camp, our gift exchange is followed by a feast that I would have been proud to serve. I’m lying around in my tent afterward and hear something brewing outside. A song starts to build in the distance and I head over to have a look. The Samburu men, about 15 of them, are standing shoulder to shoulder and singing. They take a step with the left leg and then bring both feet down together to pound the ground as percussion as they sing a call and answer song. It’s more rhythm than music and when I ask what the words mean, Rana tells me they’re more sounds than actual lyrics.

As they sing, they shuffle around in a tight group facing the same way. Then they pair off, holding hands and move around in a circle. They eventually stop, facing the centre and three or four men wrap their arms around each other and move toward the centre, jumping as high as they can while thrusting out their heads. They move on to jumping duels, taking turns leaping skyward in the middle of the circle. They are smiling and giggling, very obviously having a laugh. They stand in two long lines facing each other, grasping the hand of the man opposite, they shimmy down to a low crouch to the beat of the music. They are very good about getting the kids to join in.

Kerry says that she never knows when the men are going to break into song, that the spirit just seems to move them and they spontaneously launch into it. I love the way she talks about, and to, the Samburu — with profound respect. You never get the impression that she is ordering them around. When the guides are undertaking something, be it unloading the camels or setting up camp there is banter, as though in constant discussion, about the best way to do things. It’s all very peaceful murmuring. The Swahili they speak with Kerry is sing-song while the Samburu they speak to one another seems more about getting the message across and an economy of noise and movement. There doesn’t seem to be much of a hierarchy among the Samburu beyond the respect shown to the elders and the way they communicate with Kerry seems to indicate a similar and honest mutual respect.

I have noticed that while some of the guides are covered in beads — bracelets, necklaces, anklets, calf decorations, earrings — others wear only the remnants — ear lobes stretched five times their normal size without the bone or wood that once filled the hole. Why is that? I ask Kerry. The men are most adorned as young warriors, she tells me, but as they move up through the ranks of junior elders and then elders, they gradually shed the adornment until they wear nothing at all. It is helpful because, aside from the jewelry and the occasional white hair, the Samburu seem somewhat ageless to me. We are shocked to find that the playful Tatián, who I would have pegged as a teen is, in fact, 31. We whiteys, on the other hand, seem to have them assuming that we are all middle-aged, including our teenagers.

Kerry has bought two goats for the men for their Christmas feast. They’ve already had one this morning and she asks if we’d like to go see the second goat killed. Then she asks if we’d like to drink some blood. Yes. And most definitely no.

We stroll over to where the men sleep and they pull the goat out of the bushes and lie it gently down on its side. One man holds the back legs, another holds the front and a third holds the muzzle and essentially suffocates the beast. It is over quite quickly. When the kicking stops, they cut a slit from chin to breastbone and peel back the hide to create a pocket between the skin and the flesh. Only then do they cut the goat’s throat, letting the bubbling blood fill the pocket that is just big enough to accommodate the volume. The men take turns dipping their heads down into the pouch and drink deeply. Only Rufus, Kerry’s son and Rafe, the second youngest of our group are brave enough to have a go.

Boxing day we are again woken at 6:30. One of the men walks along the line of tents and pours warm water in the basin outside, calling out a gentle good morning. The trees that line the river are alive with birdsong. We watch the men break camp as we have breakfast. They move toward the tents in twos and threes and have it all broken down with practiced efficiency. A camel is led over to each tent and made to kneel by banging the ground near their front leg with a big stick. The first thing to go are our sleeping mattresses which double as cushions for the camel’s back, then a metal frame is cinched around their waist and last our tents and bags are tied on to the frame.

We walk up another limestone mountain, taking in the spectacular view. Again amazed to find that, as we scale, we are following in elephant footsteps. It seems this hike is a favourite with our leathery friends. We make it to the top with some pushing and pulling and watch Kerry's husband, James, slip over the edge of the cliff in what, to me, seems a hastily planned rappel.

We pass around the binoculars and struggle to translate directions from Samburu to Swahili to English before everyone manages to locate the herd of elephants Kesheeneh has spotted meandering toward a distant watering hole. In the end the herd makes it very easy for us all, standing at the water’s edge, their massive black shapes silhouetted against the pool turned silver by the setting sun.

Alice spends the walk down the mountain getting the guileless Tatián to mimic a series of totally impractical English vocabulary, much to the amusement of the other guides. She is feeling optimistic about her efforts until one of our group tells her that Tatián’s English hasn’t improved by a word since they were with him three years ago.

The next morning we all gather on a big rock. As the Samburu come to join us, they shout at each other and back to the camp kitchen “garou pitcha, garou pitcha”. I am thinking it means something like farewell and then realize that they’re saying “group picture”. We squeeze in together on the rock, goofing around one last time and then say a very fond and sad farewell to our kind and gentle hosts.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Kerry asks us if we’d like to go to a ceremony. What kind of ceremony? I ask. A circumcision. Like a bris? Will there be bagels?, I joke, but nobody gets it. No, nothing like a bris. Gabriel, one of the Samburu guides, piles a bunch of us in one jeep, a second group go in another and we start driving. I’m sitting behind him but I pull up as close as I can to ask him the million questions that have my brain buzzing. How old is the boy being circumcised? Between 13 and 17. Samburu warriors, which is what one becomes after the circumcision ceremony, have three weapons, the club, a beautiful foot-and-a-half long branch with a rounded knot on the end, a spear and a machete. They are all used for self-protection out in the bush. The club, called a roongoo, is used first — thrown at the charging animal, then the spear and, if it comes down to it, the machete for hand to hand combat. He goes on to say that kids here only start school at seven or eight. The walk to school may be quite long and they only go when they have learned enough tricks from their dad as to how to survive an animal attack.

Is it scary for the boy? I ask him. For two weeks before the ceremony, boys and men from neighbouring villages come to visit and sing him songs of bravery to bolster his courage, he tells us, by way of an answer. Two people of confidence are chosen by the boy or his family to attend to him during the ceremony. One holds his back and another holds his right leg during the circumcision, which is only attended by men. From that day on the two will serve as godparents of a sort for the boy. I was chosen to hold the back of one of his relatives, he says, and that is why we have been allowed to attend today. If the boy blinks or winces, or demonstrates even the slightest indication that he is in pain, the ceremony ends, the guests all leave in disgust, he brings eternal shame to his family and suffers a humiliation that will follow him for the rest of his days, Gabriel tells us. Have you ever heard of it happening? I ask. Never, he responds. Is there a set age for a girl’s circumcision? I ask, thinking there is only answer that will satisfy me. No, he says, if a boy is being circumcised, for reasons of practicality, his sisters’ will be done on the same day. But they are allowed to cry and go on as much as they want, Gabriel reassures us. I hold my tongue about the world of difference between the removal of a skin flap and the excision of an organ.

After the ceremony, the boy and other recently circumcised boys will be given a couple of days to heal and then they head off together to spend a month surviving in the bush. They used to have to kill a lion to become a warrior, Gabriel says, but in recent years with the growing population of people we realized that we would soon run out of wildlife. When the boy returns intact, the village sacrifices a calf is in his honour. The now-warrior cuts a piece of flesh from the beast and offers it up to his mother as a token of gratitude for raising him and that is the last meal he will eat from his mother’s kitchen. He is allowed to return for drink — tea, water or milk — but from that moment on he is on his own.

After an hour of driving through the bush, along rutted tracks and dipping in and out of dry riverbeds, we pull up outside a little village. We park beneath an eight foot high length of barbed wire strung between some trees to stop any marauding elephants. We’ve seen the damage they can do on our walks — skeletons of trees, dessiccated trunks, limbs ripped to shreds. The perimeter of the village is fortified with thorn bushes five feet high and a couple of feet across to discourage leopards or hyenas or lions from making a feast of the village’s cows or goats. Gabriel explains that if an animal manages to get through the thorns, the dogs will raise the alarm and the men will be up in a flash to defend the compound.

As we get out of the car we are greeted by a dozen women singing a call and answer song. The call is done by a young woman with a sweet, high voice and the rest answer. They are all dressed in bright colours, some with necks adorned with intricate beading. They come out and each of the women in our group is taken by the hand and escorted back through a narrow opening in the hedge. They launch into another song for us while Gabriel explains that the first was a song of welcome. The smallest kids stand glued to their mum’s legs or strapped across their back in folds of colourful fabric. One of the women wears a t-shirt with the letters Stop F.G.M printed boldly across the front. Could she be quietly making a statement or is she simply wearing a a free t-shirt?

They sing and sway, thrusting their head forward on the beat. They get us to clap. They giggle as they struggle to remember the lyrics of songs sung only on circumcision day. They pull us into a dance where we stand in a circle and hold each other by the elbow. At some point in the song, a point which was very clear to them and less clear to us, they cross the circle to bash knees with a woman on the other side. Kerry and her husband James later explain that it has something to do with claiming one’s cow’s superiority over another’s. The hut we stand before, the first hut on the right as you enter the village always belongs to the first wife, Gabriel tells us. Subsequent wives will be housed in the next huts. The mother of the boy who was circumcised this morning dips in and out of the hut and joins in the singing. Her husband is perched on a stool in the shade of a nearby tree with one of his older sons. He looks tired but proud.

We walk around the village which is perhaps six little huts within the thorn hedge. There are three corrals of similar thorn inside the perimeter. One for the goats, one for their kids and one for the cows who have been taken off to graze where the rains have come.

We go back to the house of the circumcised boy and are invited inside. It is dark, Gabriel warns us, but your eyes will get used to it. The round, red soil hut, maybe ten feet across was built by the wife, whose duties also include getting the water every day, collecting the firewood and doing all the cooking. The structure is branches surfaced in mud on the inside and out. I can’t even imagine how much water the poor woman must have had to collect to make it. We step inside and it is as black as night. There is a little alcove to our left as we squeeze through a very narrow passage into the main room. On the floor, in front of us, is the mother sitting, tending the fire. To our right, behind her, is a platform made of branches covered with cowhide and another similar one across the hut. When our eyes adjust we see that there are people lying down on the one behind her and we are encouraged to go take a seat on the one opposite. The group of us entirely fill the her small home. The people on the bed opposite are the boy who has been circumcised and three of his recently circumcised peers. Gabriel asks them their ages and they are all 16 or 17. There is a bit of grimacing as they shift, with legs well apart, on the bed. They smile good-naturedly and answer Gabriel’s questions. The smoke from the fire wafts through the space. There are pint-sized openings in two of the walls and through them pour shafts of light spinning in smoke. It is quite hot and the air is quite still and it’s hard to breathe. The mother holds a gourd in one hand, withdraws a burning a stick from the fire and pokes it into the gourd which she then quickly caps. She is heating the milk, Gabriel explains, to make it last longer. The gourd is going to go out into the bush with the boys when they leave her.

Gabriel asks us if we have any more questions. I ask her if the mother is sad the day her son goes off. He declines to ask, answering for her, no. I would have liked to ask the mother.

We hand over the little solar lamp we’ve brought to thank the mother for letting us invade her space and her important day. She thanks me very graciously and all I can think is of all the other things I should have brought her.

We step back outside and say our goodbyes and thank yous. Just outside the compound is a week-old camel lying in a thorn pen. When our Samburu friends open up the pen, it pokes its head out and cries out in fear. Seconds later, answering her calf’s call, the mother comes charging at us through the bush. The baby has a little drink and one of the village girls brings out a plastic container to milk the mother as she nurses.

We drive back in the waning day, this time up on the roof. The wildlife is out. Dikdiks, gazelles impala, zebra, hares run for cover at our approach. The rock formations pepper the horizon, the red soil is aglow in the setting sun.

We fall asleep to the sound of frogs chirping and a leopard prowling along the opposite bank.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


The flight to Nairobi is painless. The gorgeous flight attendants flit around in their bright red skirtsuits. Two back-to-back red eye flights have left us a bit dizzy and dopey but not unable to appreciate our incredible good fortune. We step off the plane on to the tarmac and into the cool morning light. We collect our luggage and are escorted through customs and outside to the other terminal. Dozens of flagpoles, most of which are flying bedraggled flags or bare, frame a median decorated with lifesize sculptures of the local wildlife. A choir sways in the shade of the terminal singing christmas carols and songs in swahili for the new arrivals. We zip through the domestic terminal where we go through not one but two security machines — the first of which neglects to notice the full water bottles in our backpacks. We are warmly greeted by Noah and then the rest of the Jonas team in the terminal.

Out on the tarmac our little plane awaits. Just enough space for the two families and in a few minutes we’re up over Nairobi. The land around the airport is grassland but soon gives way to the shantytown on the outskirts of the city. Every cluster of houses — a tight grouping of rusty tin roofs from above is bordered by colourful piles of garbage. Mist whips across the wings as we climb. The city, with its very sparse skyline, fades into the distance as we sail over bigger houses and greener neighbourhoods. The streets give way to fields and compounds of houses and shacks with yards hemmed in by shrubs and little corrals for goats. The clouds billow around us, looking substantial enough to step out on to and they unsettle the little plane. We see Mount Kenya piercing through the cloud cover in the distance to our right and below, expanses of tan scrub interrupted by the occasional road or landing strip.

We come down after what seems like minutes on to a landing strip in the middle of nowhere. Three jeeps and the other two families await. We meet our travel companions along with Kerry, our guide, and jump into the jeeps. Some of the kids climb up on the roofs, we pull over briefly to watch the plane take off overhead and then head into the bush.

Kerry drives, snaking along tracks and weaving in and out of dry stream beds. We pull in to camp where we are greeted by a crowd of men dressed in layer upon layer of colourful fabric. Some have stretched earlobes, some wear elaborately beaded jewelry and headdresses. All are smiling from ear to ear. We are greeted with a cool washcloth and a glass of water or juice. We walk around and take it all in. The camp has been set up very thoughtfully, with communal spaces and a long line of tents leading off into the bush. Behind the tents are a line of showers and latrines. The outhouses are a rectangle of canvas with a velcro door and inside a foldable wooden open-sided box topped with a seat over a freshly-dug pit. The dirt that came out of the hole sits beside the box and you shovel in a heapful when you’re done. Each of us has a canvas tent big enough for a mattress on the ground with just enough space for our bags. Outside the front is a washbasin with towel, a little table with mirror, drinking water and a chair. The bed is draped in colourful fabric, with a bathrobe, towel and headlamp. Not a lot of details overlooked in this place.

In the distance are two rock formations that jut above the flat terrain. They are this afternoon’s destination. The ground all around is rutted dusty dirt or sand with clumps of bone dry grass and the occasional shrub or small tree. Nothing is very tall and the land is quite flat except for a few distant outcrops of rocks. The flora consists of plants that look like a solitary spike of aloe popping out of the earth in clusters, acacia bushes and the occasional spiky tree.They haven’t had rain this year and it shows. The only animals who flourish here are the ones that don’t drink. Ever. Grant’s gazelle, impala, eland, dikdiks and gerenuk — variations on a theme which vary in size, colouring and horns but who all jump like champions and dash off at an impressive clip at our approach.

We scramble up a little hill of rocks and find dry puddles of baboon droppings. From the top we watch a hyena scramble away, we see a few giraffes’ heads comically pop up above the tree tops. Tatian, one of the guides, amuses himself and us by mimicking baboon noises and popping out from behind bushes to scare the daylights out of us. The sun is punishing. We are above 5000 feet and our December lily white skin is suffering.

We head back to camp, stopping at the local soccer pitch — a field of dust with four upright stumps buried in the soil for goalposts. Our guides and some of our team kick the ball around in the blazing sun. Some tiny local kids come out to watch — it’s hard to tell from where with nary a building in sight. They stand huddled close together a few yards off and are rewarded with a handful of candies to share.

Back at the camp we find the camels all hobbled — a rope running from one front leg across the back of the neck to the other front leg.

We all bundle up in our down jackets and have cocktails — sundowners — around the fire and watch first Venus, then a dazzling display of stars emerge from the darkening sky. We sit down for a feast. It is amazing what they can produce in the makeshift kitchen tent. We head to bed and find hot water bottles in our bed for the surprisingly cool night. We lie awake listening to the wind and the hyenas call — first from one side of the tent then the other. Close enough to discourage any midnight trips to the outhouse.

We are woken at 6:30 for our 8 o’clock departure. The kids start the walk with a little camel ride. Kerry and Rana, one of the Samburu guides point out gazelle middens, baboon spider nests, leopard and hyena droppings, and the tracks of a dozen animals — from dikdiks to baboons to giraffes. Everywhere are mounds of dried ]elephant droppings. Kerry explains that the lack of rain here while other areas have had their share means the animals are in short supply.

The landscape goes on and on, as far as the eye can see. We are heading for a river a few hours’ walk away. The sun beats down with little to no shade, crisping all the skin that didn’t get fried in yesterday afternoon’s outing. The kids, with their hot pink cheeks, are taking today’s warnings about covering up a little more seriously.

We walk single file and then clump up. The closer to the front or to the guide, the better your chances of seeing wildlife or hearing the explanations of what we’re seeing. Kerry leads the charge with a shotgun slung nonchalantly over her shoulder in case we get charged. Every growing thing looks to be at death’s doorstep and is peppered with spikes which seem to reach out and grab at your legs or clothes, leaving fabric torn and skin in bloody tatters. The prickly tree is dubbed the fish hook tree as it cleverly plucks hats of people’s heads or plunges itself deep into our flesh.

We see common zebra, lots of gazelle, eland and dikdik and the occasional foursome of giraffe. Rana point out baboon spider nests in the ground, perfectly symmetrical holes that look practically woven. Someone dangles a piece of grass into the hole, trying to bait the spider into defending its lair. It finally latches on, the guide pulls it out in one fell swoop and deposits the massive hairy crawler on someone’s hat. A little smaller than the palm of my hand, it is covered in pale brown fur. It isn’t aggressive but it is huge and those of us too proud to chicken out give its soft down a stroke before depositing it back in the hole. They bite, Rana tells us, but it doesn’t hurt that much. Pass.

Kesheeneh finds a tortoise and flips it over for us to have a look. It pees in self-defense, undoubtedly trying (and succeeding) to make itself less appetizing to us. In the process it loses precious moisture that will not be replenished until the next rains. Rana counts the stripes on the two-foot long creature’s breast plate and divides the total in two before telling us it’s about 16.

I’m learning that you can tell a lot about an animal by its scat. Leopard and hyena may have the same diet but a hyena’s stomach is able to dissolve the hair and bone fragments that a leopard’s will just pass. The hyena’s is white and chalky while a leopard’s just looks like a big cat poo. Aardvark bury their droppings underneath other animals’ middens, their pellets sparkle with the metallic looking heads of termites.

We arrive at our new camp, this one strung out along a winding river. Kerry looks crestfallen when we arrive. The river is so low. Each of the tents faces the meandering river and the smaller people head down to play and wade in the shallows. Everything around us is dry and dusty but the river is alive with birds. Herons and hawks, weavers and starlings are fishing in the eddies or dipping overhead. The trees are full of nests — elaborate, cleverly designed constructions like the social weaver’s nest which looks like a a woven ball. It only has one door until the eggs hatch and then the parents open a second as an escape hatch. The duplex of the bird world. They are called social weavers because they nest in large colonies, making the tree they’ve chosen look a little like a christmas tree dripping with ornaments.

Jamie, Kerry’s husband, joins us for Christmas eve. A fish hook tree is strung with tinsel and ornaments. I can’t quite accept that tomorrow’s the big day in this oh-so-unchristmassy setting.

After another terrific meal, we watch monkeys screeching and gamboling on the opposite shore. We hear a leopard grumbling as the sun sets, as it paces along the opposite bank. Hyenas call throughout the night and the guides hear a lion roar but we sleep through it.