In Which Obama Comes to Visit
“The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized." --Stephen Hawking
Rain is threatening. There will be no lunching al fresco today at the tables by the river and the birds in the trees. Guests are gathering on the pavilion and the staff has zipped down the clear plastic sheets to protect us from the weather.
I'm standing before the lunch menu board, selecting what I'd like for lunch, when a staff person says, "You just missed Obama!"
"No way!" I respond. But there is excitement in his voice and I quickly consider the possibility that the former president of the United States actually paid a visit to Elephant Bedroom Camp.
Kenya is the homeland of Obama's father, so there's that. But, why come all this way and stay such a short time? Did they actually fly The Beast, that 8-plus-ton of bulletproof Cadillac to Kenya and how did it handle the soft sand roads of Samburu National Reserve.
No, he wouldn't have that as he's no longer president. Something, though. He'd have something as he's entitled to Secret Service protection for the rest of his life and they wouldn't have him riding around in an open air Toyota Land Cruiser. Would they?
While all this is causing a turmoil in my head, I hear the staff member say, "Yes, he was here! Obama! The elephant."
Ah, Africa. I should have known the camp would have an elephant and named it Obama. After all, Little Governor's Camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve is visited by an elephant they named Blossom that eats the bouquet of roses on the reception desk and wanders through camp bending tent poles. And one of the females calved there a coouple years ago and she and the aunties surrounded the newborn right beside an occupied guest tent and stayed there all night, effectively imprisoning the guests in their tent u til the elephants moved on.
I look around for Obama, but all I see are two Beisa oryx dining on greens near the river. They have just recently started coming into camp, I'm told, and are still a little shy.
The long lenses are out and Shannon has the sense to put a rain jacket on. Not on her, you understand, but on her camera. There ARE priorities.
Some wildlife photographers, however, know that the shot could be gone in an instant, and go for it.
The rain begins in earnest and we duck under cover as torrents of water run off the tent. This is the common gathering area. It's where we have meals in inclement weather, find charging outlets for all our devices, gather before game drives, and/or just hang out. During our afternoon breaks, Marg sets up on a long table to work on her own photos, copy mine onto external drives, and give assistance to others when asked. Her computer lab, I call it.
This is the first time all the guests have gathered in one spot and I am aware of Covid protocols more than ever. We seat ourselves at the right table and listened to the rain.
Suddenly, there's a commotion at one corner of the tent and there's Obama himself, ears pinned back as he walks through the brush, rain dripping from his trunk.
He pauses for a snack as he approaches the main tent where we are gathered.
I grab my ever-present camera and rush to the "window" in one corner of the tent.
Then I realize I don't have to take photos through wet plastic and go outside to the walkway around the platform.
Marg has beaten me there, but as soon as I realize that Obama is taking a circuitous route around the pavilion, I rush to the other side of the tent.
And there he is. Rain is running off his ears, cascading down his trunk to drip onto the ground.
Lunch will be delayed because it comes from the cook tent behind Obama and up the ramp where he is standing.
He carefully takes a right-hand turn without knocking anything over and wanders along the front of the pavilion.
And disappears along the riverbank.
It isn't surprising to see elephants here in the greater Samburu reserve area. There are an estimated 9000 of them munching on acacia branches and knocking down trees.
Mmmmm. Acacia. Don't they look......prickly?
Look at the size of those thorns!
The photo above is iconic of Samburu, with a herd crossing the river.
On another day, a herd of elephants ambles along on the other side of the river and eventually crosses it downstream from us.
The rain lets up and we go out for our late game drive. At first we search for an elusive leopard in the hills of arid grassland and on the way back discover a side benefit of the rain. It wasn't enough to give this land the moisture it needs, but it created a pool o water on a tall mound of red rock.
Our guide told us this was a very unusual thing for zebra to do as they preferred being in open land where they could run to escape predators.
Note the vulturine guineafowl below the zebra. Apparently they'd been up for a drink, too.
I got only one look at this blue-necked mousebird and it wouldn't pose for me.