Safari in Swahili means (long) journey, expedition to discover the unknown. The green hills described by Hemingway in Green hills of Africa are the destination of our journey. The documentary, a form of art that is inevitably related to the contingency of the Here and Now will be our ideal travel journal and images will be the means by which we'll share our discoveries and emotions.
We are 5 hours away from the closest town; it's here that Manuela Bonomi and Luca Belpietro host us in one of the most extraordinary places in Kenya, Campi Ya Kanzi, which they run in collaboration with the local Kuku Group Ranch Maasai community, who own the 280,000 acres of land that lie at the feet of the Chyulu Hills and the Tsavo National Park.
Step 1: Game walking
The camp of Hidden Treasures (this is what Ya Kanzi means in Swahili), lies on a piece of land of prodigious beauty, framed by the imposing profile of the Kilimangiaro. The safari before sunrise with some game walking. Two Maasai, with their faces and necks painted in red and holding a wooden stick, typical of their millenary dedication to sheep-farming, will guide us in our journey.
Their ancestral knowledge of every path and every rock transpires in every step we take in this march towards the beauties of this corner of Africa. We start filming, trying to capture all our surprise, enthusiasm and will to know and understand a different culture. The Maasai have the fundamental task to protect this territory, favouring eco sustainable tourism, as well as to preserve their culture and lifestyle for the next generations.
Thanks to Manuela Bonomi and Luca Belpietro's cooperation, a large number of Kuku Group Ranch Maasai have enriched their knowledge with competencies for developing the safari camp and promoting eco sustainable tourism; this way they have learned to become naturalist guides and wildlife guards, as well as to build lodges and set up tents. Together, they have created a safari camp that has been awarded with many ecocompatibility prizes, has opened new paths and found new sources of water. Because of their role in preserving biodiversity, the Maasai, once devoted to lion group hunting, which they call olamayio, to defend their grazing animals and food reserves, now play an important role in protecting great predators in serious danger of extinction.
Step 2: The big five
We catch sight of animals at a large pool of water, taking advantage of a cool moment, before the African sun gets too hot. Behind our video camera lenses, the emotions are indescribable. Rhinos, elephants and buffaloes quench their thirst in their natural habitat only a few steps away from us. The steady camera captures the slow-paced scene around the pool, together with the tangible alertness, constant feature in African life.
When the hot sun rises on the horizon, clouds of vapours and odours arise from the thirsty land. On a journey back to Ya Kanzi, our Maasai guides keep showing us hidden traces along the way, explaining habits of the animals and the properties of shrubs and bushes. On our way back, we plan the next day's game driving according to the customs at Ya Kanzi, where activities and itineraries are not prearranged, but try to make the guests' requirements meet with the specific features of the territory and the movements of the animals. We are guided in a jeep through the thick woodlands of the Chyulu hills, where we are told we can spot lions and leopards, as well as zebras, cranes, antelopes and impalas.
Step 3: Tembo House
Back at Ya Kanzi, a nice light lunch, based on Italian and international recipes, prepared in a perfectly eco-friendly kitchen, is waiting for us in the wonderful setting of the Tembo House terrace, the camp's common space. The terrace looks upon heights, pastures, woodlands and sweet hills, allowing us to film a panoramic view on the immense wild landscapes below. There are never more than 14 guests at the camp, in order to ensure a fully eco sustainable safari experience, which brings to mind the first safaris during the early 20th century. Tembo House offers a friendly and intimate atmosphere.
Luca and Manuela tell us about their goals and the results that have been achieved in the management and protection of the area. To support the ecosystem and Maasai culture preservation project, the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, was founded to preserve biodiversity, and promote education and health services; the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust is also managed in cooperation with the Kuku ranch community. Our cameras are on to capture nuggets of this wonderful, responsible and satisfying experience.
By Sara Argentesi