Many of you knew that Liz and I were running Joys Camp in January and February and many of you have asked how did it go and what did you do. We apologize for taking so long to write this blog and tell you our story.
Stefano & Liz enjoying sundowners at Joy’s Camp
It was fantastic to be back in the bush and to do those things that both Liz and I love so much. Living, breathing, Africa at its most wild. We would be woken up each morning by birds singing and chattering – loud and excited, I guess telling each other how they survived another night.
Chestnut weavers enjoying Joy’s Camp’s swimming pool
We would go to sleep with the roaring of the lions and the coughing of the leopard. For 2 weeks a pair of mating lions based themselves literally at the camp. My mother, Mimma, came to stay with us from Italy and she was convinced that the lions were purposely outside her tent every night to terrify her! It became the camp joke.
Lions at Joy’s Camp
We got stuck into the stores, systems, the back of house in general, we painted, reorganized, built shelves, more stores. Did some landscaping and gardening, rebuilt the swimming pool, trained all the staff from gardeners to chefs, house keepers to dining staff and of course worked intensely with our wonderful guides; bush breakfasts, sundowers … We visited the local community, reinforced relationships with them and it was great to be able to spend time making constructive plans with the warden of Shaba.
Flash lights for night game drives being prepared
We came up with some new and great activities for our area of Shaba and the Nakupart – Gotu conservancy. This is true Africa and we must not forget it, it is true wilderness. Shaba is equal in size to Buffalo Springs and Samburu Reserve put together; with only Joys Camp clients game driving in it. It gives you that true filling of “Old Africa”; no other tourists around, flat toped Tortilis Acacia trees, Sausages trees, kopjes and springs and the massive Ewaso Nyiro river with its “film-set” gorge to walk down.
Stopping on top of one of the kopjes and having your morning coffee or sundowner gin & tonic, – is what in essence for me is the real Africa. It’s not about just racing around desperately trying to tick a list of animal sightings in our new world of instant gratification.
The stunning Ewaso Nyiro River Gorge in Shaba
Night game drives – We introduced night game drives; but differently from our other camps. Unlike the cooler savannahs, in this semi-desert wilderness, there is LOTS of activity way into the night!
The day would start for our guests in the normal C&P style, tea in bed, early gamedrive with a picnic breakfast, and back to camp in the heat of day for lunch. However, in the afternoon, relax, have a massage? Early “theatre dinner” at 6.30pm – and out for a night gamedrive! Guests were out regularly till 10.00pm; a great success – Porcupines, Genet cats, Caracals, African Wild Cats, Honey Badger, Bush Babies, Aardwolf and Striped Hyena as well as our romantic lions and the Joy’s leopard.
Striped hyena spotted during night game drive
Magado Crater and the Bojidera springs – We introduced early morning departure to the Magado Crater 1 hrs 30 min drive away, a biblical and colourful scene – mining for salt in the bottom of the crater lake.
A visit to the Magado Crater located in the Nakuprat Gotu Conservancy
Returning via the hot springs of Bojidera for a swim and breakfast. The little tilapia fish clean the dead skin off your feet, something we hear the Japanese pay a lot of money for.
Bojidera Springs – Liz, Chania and Helen enjoying a drink and a natural feet-peel
New roads, gamedrive circuits and stunning breakfast spots – We surveyed Shaba by air with our little Cessna 182 and decided, with the senior warden’s blessing, to put in some new and exciting routes. The first one was finalized just before we left Shaba and it drives from Joy’s Camp directly across to the Funan Springs.
New game drive tracks in Shaba
The elements have been kind to Shaba in recent years, there is good grazing, and game viewing has increased. The grass lands are recovering from the 2009 drought, poaching is right down thanks to NRT’s efforts and to the creation of the Nakuprat – Gotu conservancy that surrounds Shaba. We had regular wonderful sighting of herds of oryx, grevy and burchell zebra, impala, herds of up to 50 reticulated giraffe, buffalo, elephant, gerenuk, somali ostrich, and desert warthogs. We hear that we have more romantic lions around camp, with a second female in the pride coming into estrous!
Large herds of Reticulated Giraffe
Ewaso Lion project – Joys Camp is now working with Shivani and Jenera of Ewaso Lions; identifying and mapping our population of lions, leopards, and cheetah. Shivani is delighted to have a partner to help identify and track the large carnivores of Shaba, and we are delighted to work with professionals that can give us even more information about our resident big cats. Between us we estimate we have a resident population of over 16 lions, plus healthy cheetahs with cubs and many leopard! Watch this space ..
Introducing Iris & Pelham – We handed Joy’s Camp to a lovely couple that just like us have become passionate about Shaba and its wilderness feel, its rocks and kopjes the changing colours during the day. Iris and Pelham are now in charge and loving it, Iris is Swiss from near Bern and Pelham is from Gloucestershire UK, both trained as guides in South Africa and both have Fgasa training; we have only had great positive feed back and we are looking forward to a long working relationship with them.
Sadly Liz and I had to return to the grind and grime of Nairobi and having to hit the manic traffic to the office every morning. But we enjoyed first dinner out at our favourite Japanese restaurant in the world, the Haru. Yes don’t forget that even with all its bad publicity, Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city with world-class restaurants, and great shopping. Hence why all the journalists that service sub Saharan Africa prefer living in Nairobi!
We are just wallowing in fun – based at Joy’s Camp in beautiful Shaba for the passed two weeks, and we have until the end of February to enjoy it!
Stefano & Liz at Joy’s Camp
We have a change over of managers, so we are here to review how the camp is running and handing over to new managers (sadly for us!). The food has always been excellent here at Joy’s, but we are still enjoying working with the cooks on menus and dishes; putting lots of good stuff in the camp veggie garden – and trying not to put on weight. Liz is pruning the gardens, and Stefano is working with the guides. How could life be better!
Dik Dik on the path
We have 3 families of wild, but relaxed Dik Dik in the camp, that just wander past you on the path (above) and Mr & Mrs Von Der Decken hornbill (below) still pose next to the dinning room at lunch time. Did you know that both Dik Diks and the Von Der Decken hornbill mate for life? Funny fact so close to Valentine’s Day!
Von Der Decken Hornbill making a heartshape with tehir beaks
Last night, clients also saw a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl sitting in the tree next to tent 7 and got some good photos.
We have an excellent guiding team at the moment, most of whom come from the area, and whom we are very pleased with. Highlights have been a huge male leopard stay with a group of guests for 1.5hrs before a final snarl and loping off to hunt in the dusk, many sightings of the striped hyenas with clients now realizing how special that is! A birding group that saw 107 species in a morning, plus the William’s Lark – Shaba being the only place in the world to see him.
Leopard in Shaba (c) Ninian Lowis
Striped Hyena – rare sighting in the daylight
We are looking at night gamedrives, trips to Magado Crater, and have heard of some more lovely springs in Nakuprat – so watch this space!
Sorry to make you all jealous – Best wishes Liz & Stefano
We are starting this year on a busy and optimistic note! With lots of exciting developments at C&P, such as our new office in Tanzania, 2 new family tents at Lewa Safari Camp, a new swimming pool at Tortilis Camp, rebuild of the Private House at Tortilis Camp, a major refurbishment at Elsa’s Kopje, a new tented camp on Loisaba, the possibility of a new beach property to join the C&P Portfolio and much more (watch this space – more details coming soon), we are very excited about the new year…
We also wanted to remind you of Kenya’s beauty and the remarkable diversity this country has to offer. The home of safari, Kenya remains a unique safari destination and we hope that you are as passionate about is as we are!
We know that a safari can be a costly affair, especially for families! To make sure you can afford the best of the best Kenya has to offer, we have decided to extend our popular 3 FOR 2 OFFER for 2014!
It will now be valid in January, February, March, April, May, June, October, November and 1-20th December 2014!
However you have to be an early bird, as the 3 for 2 is valid for a limited number of bednights per property, which means as quotas for the 3 for 2 are filled, some months and properties will be withdrawn from the special – Please confirm with your Africa Specialist or via firstname.lastname@example.org at the time of enquiry if the offer is still valid for your preferred travel period!
A lovely article written by Kevin Rushby for the Guardian tells us why, in an era of bigger and blander airports, the real glamour of travel is found in smaller airports, like Wilson, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Learning all there is to know about Kenya’s amazing aviation history from Dino Bisletti, chief executive of AirKenya, Kevin states that “If there is anywhere in the world that welcomes the glamorous spirit of aviation, it is Kenya. Think Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (OK, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa) in a biplane waggling their wings over remote airstrips where the grass is kept down by herds of wildebeest and zebra.”
Aviation in Kenya is indeed very unique and comes with many unexpected surprises: a flat tyre because of a hungry hyena, a five-foot monitor lizard as a stowaway jumping out once the plane is airborne, getting stung by a scorpion while unloading the plane and being met by a pride of lions when throwing open the pilot door upon landing on a bush airstrip…
A typical scene in the Masai Mara
Wilson started life as Nairobi Aerodrome in the late 1920s as the main airstrip on the outskirts of the rapidly increasing capital of British East Africa.
Funnily enough and unknown to many, the story of Kenya’s aviation industry did not start in Nairobi, but in Rumuruti, where the rancher John Carberry had imported the country’s first aeroplane nicknamed Miss Kenya. The plane was piloted by Captain Thomas Campbell Black, a handsome twenty-something British pilot, who had a brief love affair with millionaire farmer Florence Kerr Wilson.
Seeing the great potential in flying around the high-rollers of white society who began setting themselves up with the latest airborne toys (many of them disastrously: Finch Hatton was one of several fatalities), Carberry registered “Kenya Aircraft Company Ltd” and bought a second plane, which he christened Miss Africa.
It was aboard Miss Africa that Campbell and Florence Wilson met on a four-day journey from London to Nanyuki. Soon after Campbell resigned from Carberry’s to start “Wilson Airways” with Florence who had injected GBP 50,000 into the new start-up, an enormous amount at the time!
The start of commercial aviation in East Africa in the early 30s quickly transformed Nairobi Aerodrome into the regional airport hub and Wilson Airways was flying passengers in to connect with services to London and Cape Town. Campbell was the chief pilot and the managing director of the growing company, but unfortunately the romance between him and Florence was crumbling. Campbell fell in love with another Nairobi socialite known as Beryl Markham, who he introduced to aviation and who later became one of Kenya’s most famous aviatrix.
Eventually Campbell left Kenya in 1933 and later died in a tragic plane crash while preparing for “The Schlesinger Race” in 1936. In the meantime Wilson Airways had grown to 17 aircraft, the first air ambulance and an aviation training school and was flying famous personalities, including the British Royal family.
Mrs Florence Kerr Wilson – Rogers Photo Archive / Keystone Media
Unfortunately for Florence, the outbreak of war in 1939 ended the success story of Wilson Airways. Her entire fleet was confiscated by the British government and, after a decade of dazzling growth, Wilson Airways came to an end.
The airport, however, continued to prosper and in 1962 was renamed as a tribute to her pioneering spirit. Florence Wilson was present when the plaque was unveiled. She died in late September of 1968 in Karen.
Nowadays Wilson Airport is one of the busiest airports in terms of aircraft movement in East and Central Africa. Cheli & Peacock’s offices are conveniently located within the airport, taking up 3 floors of Lengai House, including our purchasing department which supplies the Cheli & Peacock camps (Elsa’s Kopje, Elephant Pepper Camp, Joy’s Camp, Kitich Camp, Lewa Safari Camp and Tortilis Camp) with all the goods they need! So handy to have all these planes go out to the bush on a daily basis…
Creating a safari needs specialist consultation with local knowledge, it is not the same as booking a stay in a city hotel. If you include in your enquiry your location we can recommend a reputable upmarket tour operator close to you.
It is useful to let us know how many in your group, approximate date of travel, length of stay, and any other information about the safari you hope to make.
Stay in touch
1: Read Liz and Stefano Cheli's personal blog, full of hints, tips and tales from a lifetime spent in the African bush: Take me to the blog