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IMAGE: ELSA’S KOPJE


kenya | eyewitness


Elsa’s Kopje game drive


I HEARD THE lioness before I saw her. It wasn’t the famous roar of the MGM title credits, though. Rather it was a soft, groaning exhalation, like that of an elderly gentleman levering himself from an armchair. But then this lioness was calling her cubs, not


proclaiming her territory or challenging a rival. From the gully just beyond her, I could see the protruding horns of a freshly downed waterbuck. Field guides claim lions dislike the musky flavor of these antelope, but clearly this individual doesn’t agree. I watched from my open jeep as she wandered away into the scrub, still calling.


‘Breakfast!’ was her message. Vultures, quicker on the uptake, were already circling in the cloudless sky and lining up atop a nearby palm grove. I was delighted. After a week on safari in Kenya,


this was our first lion. And here in Meru National Park, the king of beasts has an extra significance. Tis was where Bill and Joy Adamson had raised the orphaned lioness Elsa, star of the 1966 movie Born Free and inspiration to a generation of safari goers. Perhaps this female even bore some of that illustrious lineage in her genes. Game viewing in this remote region of Kenya is a little more challenging than in the better-


known Masai Mara, further south. Yes, all the Big Five were here, but I hadn’t been simply racing around to tick them off. Meru, the third and final stop on my itinerary, is more a place for immersing in the wilderness; for enjoying the wild seclusion of a pristine African landscape. My safari had started a week earlier, flying


north from Nairobi in a 16-seater. After I’d passed the frosted summit of Mount Kenya to the east, the sun-bleached terrain below had grown ever more arid, its rugged gorges and looming volcanic hills a threshold to the desolate badlands further north. u


summer 2014 | ASTAnetwork | 101


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