‘No pictures and No Photography’ The Samburu Woriors and Milk Mamas Politely say and so is the reason we have no pictures of milk Mamas and singing wells for This Blogpost. Until later I realized, it isn’t about the pictures or Photography i would put alongside this post that matter but the concentration and memories i carried back home were meant to stay with me for the rest of My Life.
My journey to Kenya visiting Namunyak Conservancy started with a German friend of mine that pointed me to a beautiful Luxury camp in Northern Kenya called Sarara Camp doing very special conservation and sustainability initiatives with the Samburu natives in Namunyak Conservancy northern Kenya. She knew I had taste for luxury properties and their services plus their work for conservation, Arguably the core values i run Gorilla walking Safaris In Uganda but she didn’t mention much about the great works done for conservation and sustainability in this piece of heaven in northern Kenya.
At first I didn’t give it much attention as i thought that was one of those luxury lodges in kenya conservancy areas that welcome Luxury travelers until i gave it a second thought to personally visit this beautiful sacred place. That was during my last visit while leading a group to Samburu National reserve a few kilometers away and about 2 hours drive to Sarara camp Namunyak Conservancy. While Planning out most of my Safaris, I love including cultural and Conservation visits because I have from time to time believed that without Conserving and sustaining the places we are so fortunate to visit, There would never be Tourism – The same tourism that I speak and breath day in – day out. I did have the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage In Nairobi Included which we visited and loved but I also wanted to include for the guests something special about conservation Of Elephants and that’s when I had The Reteti Elephant Orphanage sanctuary pop up in my mind.
Getting down to reading about The elephant orphanage in northern Kenya, It was the same Namunyak conservancy that shows up again, further reading gets me to the Sarara Camp and its sister eco luxury Lodges in the Namunyak Conservancy – and then that took most of my other part planning. Had I known before booking up and paying the other accommodations and set the program right, It would have been a great idea staying two or three Nights at either of the ecolodges in Namunyak Conservancy. So I decided to add one day visit from Samburu National Reserve to the Reteti Elephant Orphanage for us to see the great works of Rescue and release of young trapped elephants into the wild as part of our Kenya Tour. Unfortunately, on this visit we could NOT visit any of the eco lodges including the first ever built Sarara Camp in the Conservancy because of the exclusivity that comes with Luxury camps and lodges. Little did I know that there was much more to the Reteti Elephant orphanage. Where little elephants guzzled a lot bottles of milk? Where did the milk come from? Who buys all this milk? Who brings the milk? How possible are elephants released in a place where People live? How do the cows and Goats of the locals survive in this hot dry area with less or No water – No rain area for months until I realized how a great connection it is with The Samburu natives who occupy almost 99% of the Job workforce at the Reteti Elephant orphanage and the Luxury Ecolodges including the Top managers. Who I also got to learn have risen through the ranks to attain such big positions with accumulated training and exposure in the conservancy- Isn’t this an amazing approach to conservation and sustainability? lets look Further.
I promised myself I would return to learn more about the whole connection that Reteti Elephant orphanage has with the Samburu community. And so on return back home to Uganda and while it couldn’t get off my mind, I got in touch with Agrey the reservations manager for a possible visit and staying at one of their camps so I could get to learn more about the conservancy and the incredible work. I must admit learning about The Conservation work here swept me off my feet and one thing for sure I had to return
Myself and my brother hopped on Uganda airlines which operates 3 daily flights between Entebbe and Jomo Kenyatta international airports. This has made some of our Cross boarder safaris easy for guests who are also interested in Gorilla Trekking in Uganda. Another option was The domestic flight Aero link that flies between Masai Mara and Entebbe and to Bwindi however we opted for our Regional airline to land in Nairobi at Jomo Kenyatta international airport.
On our Arrival at JKIA, Our friend and professional guide Felix Migoya was waiting for us with one of our 4×4 safari jeeps with Open roofs and we had the whole jeep to ourselves for the next journey to the north. We made our first stopover and overnight at Samburu National Reserve staying at Elephant bedroom camp, A tented luxury camp on the Ewaso Nyiro river populated with elephants and much more wildlife. On Our departure morning while having breakfast, Obama – Th resident Elephant just walked towards our breakfast table and had it not been the Samburu lodge warriors, we would have been sharing our breakfast with Obama elephant or probably pushed to the ground. Our short game drive in The Samburu game drive that evening was phenomenal as we got to see among many of the Samburu special 5 and a cheetah with its 4 liters relaxed, playing around and mother adamantly trying to hunt. So to me, i thought Samburu national Reserve would be a great combination with namunyak Conservancy on one trip.
Our next day took us to my most awaited Namunyak Conservancy north of Samburu National reserve. Ofcourse we had to use another way to but Agrey sent us the proper directions to this hidden gem. Off the asphalt road onto the bumpy roads we went, 7 Kilometers off the main road was the last point of telephone network we could get and on arriving at the local airstrip after 9kilometers, We found Sarara camp’s vehicle with Jackson and Sonia waiting for us. Apparently, Jackson and Sonia were allocated to us as our driver and local Samburu guides for the rest of our stay at the Sarara Tree houses. Even when Jackson couldn’t speak or understand English well, He was an encyclopedia of the Samburu natives, Culture, Wildlife and a so great and careful driver. Sonia on the other hand was full of knowledge and most times she would double check with Jackson about some information she loved to pass on to us. Sonia and Jackson were a great team that made our stay at the Sarara Treehouses and namunyak Conservancy an amazing experience.
Our stay was at one of the eco lodges, the beautiful and well-crafted Sarara Treehouses, Well lifted off the ground safari tents in a green forested canopy with Samburu culture themed bathrooms outside, all overlooking the beautiful Mathews Ranges. We were welcomed by Kerry, The relief manager Kerry who was sitting in for Phillip the Camp’s Samburu native whose risen through the ranks to a great position. Most of the managers of these camps are experience oriented and trained, they have arrived as cleaners, gardners, waitresses and have been given the chance to lead the teams at the ecolodges something they have done just so perfect – Employment created within the Samburu Natives as a conservation and sustainability initiative.
Kerry, in her well-articulated soft spoken british English and a bird euthusiast who we found in the middle of creating Bird “attracters” at the main sarara Treehouses area had a polite and so welcoming smile as we embarked off our jeep. Kerry took us through the Sarara Treehouses and telling the beauty of the Sarara Treehouses and in a few minutes in our conversation, We had already an idea of the Ecolodges and the Namunyak Conservancy. It was just the beginning. Upon arrival, The main area which is 90% build with local materials from within the conservancy is a beautiful heaven to stay, The raised Luxurious and very simple lounge area, Dinning with African grass thatched roof and the small exclusive swimming Pool overlooking the Forest Canopy had the “I would stay forever” kind of atmosphere. While our thoughts were still in aww of the beautiful place Sarara treehouses and never had a thought to leave the lodge that evening for anything, Kerry had already suggested a few relaxed activities and as she was on point, it was the magical sundowner that evening and yes, she was right, We needed that wine sip to a beautiful place but also. She was able to craft out a few activities the following day which she passed on to Sonia and Jackson our guides for us to partake.
There were many activities that we would partake to understand the concept of Sarara and Namunyak Conservancy and how it is 90% run by Samburu Natives. That evening our Guide Felix had to pack his vehicle and let the camp moran and sonia takeover the driving and guiding. That evening led us for a magical sundowner for a wine sip on one of the rock kopjes overlooking the Mathews Ranges, That was phenominal start for our wonderful stay in this hidden but beautiful conservancy.
One thing for sure, among the many activities there are two of them that swept my feet off the ground: The Singing Wells and The Milk to Market Mamas. What caught my attention is the NO picture and photography during the visit, How special this is?. We realised it was a great idea not to allow photography as this gave us the opportunity to concetrate NOT behind our cameras but with our bare eyes and minds, Experiences that have stayed with us forever.
Read More about Sarara Camp & Namunyak Conservancy in Northern kenya
The Singing Wells Of Sarara - Namunyak
The Singing Wells: Well, it looks like some kind of music originating from somewhere between the trees or valleys or riverbeds that we crossed with our 4×4 safari vehicle while Jackson was in control of the wheels. We didn’t approach with a vehicle at the singing well as gthis was the better way to approach and hear the rythms better but we returned with the vehicle.
Our next day morning was a day planned for the singing wells, unaware and curious what it meant as I asked Sonia our guide, She was smart enough not to mention to me at that moment as she wanted to tell us when we approached. Carrying along our stainless steel sarara branded water bottles, in shorts and good walking shoes escorted with a ranger guide, we maneuvered through the park crossing dry river beds, we combined this with a walking safari through the conservancy toward the “singing wells”
As we approached the supposed “singing wells” it starting to clock our minds a little idea what singing well were but we didn’t know what songs and where the sound came from. It is from this point that sonia decided to start explaining to us what the singing wells was about.
During the drought season which had just started in the north of Kenya, there is always no or little rains in these areas and so the Samburu natives have no water for their prestigious cows, goats, sheep and camels. And so, they will get to the dry riverbeds and digout the sand further down the river beds until they find the little pounce of waters, Sometimes the waters are nearer and sometimes the holes dug are far deep and could go as far as 8m deep underground. How do they siphon the water out of such a big well? Manually with buckets and naked/Adam dressed Samburu warrior’s raising and picking bucket after the other, a series of ascending order. Meanwhile as a motivation to themselves, They sing along traditional Samburu songs with much vigour and these sounds are echoed with the well walls in base sound.
Approaching from a distance has nothing in sight other than the cows, goats and camels drinking and looks like the “Wells singing for the Cows; goats and sheep drinking water in troughs”. What is more surprising is that, The cows, goats and sheep stand in a distance on standby and will only move to drink water from the trough only when the “songs” start and will stop drinking when the “songs” stop.
Visitors from the Sarara camp, Sarara Treehouses and the exclusive use Reteti House are allowed to visit and witness the singing wells but No single photography is welcomed by the Samburu Warriors. It is a myth and tradition that, when a picture of them is taken and kept, is a bad omen, It anchors apart of their soul in a moment and forever more, and should anything befall them, It is always attributed to the Copy image of them taken and kept away from them for satanic purposes of the photographer and so such persons are not welcomed in their society. So, To keep peace with a peaceful Samburu Worriers while visiting, keep photography and any picture taking away from them and you will be so welcome.
The Milk To Market Mama’s
The Market to Milk Mama’s: In a bid to support the Samburu women and natives in Namunyak Conservancy, The Reteti elephant orphanage is a source of revenue to the women and the milk brought to the collecting center that looks like an African market as seen in a distance.
Apparently when a Samburu woman is getting married, The worriors will gift the women cows, goats or camels to woo them into marriage and as a way appreciation? What would have the women done with cows and goats or camels? Its for milk and meat to feed their families. Inn a way to create an income generating and inflow to the samburu mothers, All the milk being fed at the Reteti Elephant orphanage is bought from the samburu mothers, Taken for further processing at the centre, preserved, further processed with nutrient addition and given to the Little baby elephants at the orphanage. The Samburu mothers note for every liter or amount of milk collected and at each of every month, A payout is given to each family for milk received every month. These monies come from the Entrance fees by visitors to the elephant orphanage and a given percentage from the Ecolodges of Sarara camp, Sarara Treehouses and reteti house as a community and sustainability fee.
Our morning started with a drive to the Reteti milk market where we found the Reteti Elephant orphanage crew and milk collectors with many clean milk cans waiting for the Women to bring up the milk. It looked like a not so busy market while we saw one at a time women appear from between the trees to the collecting vehicle with Cans. With small little clean cans they arrived and after 30 minutes it was already a busy area surrounded by beautifully dressed women in samburu attire. The Reteti Orphanage crew will taste from the covers the quality of the milk so bad milk isnt mixed with with good milk in the same can. It is interesting seeing how these guys tatste each milk brought with a small sip before approval or rejection. There are three lines of cans, One for camel milk, Cow Milk and another for goat milk.
One thing I noticed that got me goose bumps is the age of the women that came-over to the market. Big Part is the young age between 10 and 16 years already put into adulthood. It is said and is culture that girls get married to older men of the community with many cows, fit to be their grandfathers at an early age and can be as far as the 15th Wife. You would literally watch very young girls with round designed earrings and designed hairstyles – a sign that she is off the hook and belongs to a man of the community. – Well I kept joking with my brother In identifying a married and non Married by saying “No, That is a No go Area”
As the tradition for NO photography is allowed among the Samburu Warriors at the singing wells, This applies to the milk mamas at the Reteti milk market. So there wasn’t any single photography taken at the milk mamas market but a great deal of nice memories taken back home. I must admit i wouldn’t have remembered every single day of my stay at namunyak conservancy had i taken my camera or phone with me to the singing well and milk Mamas – I would be referring to my camera for updates – I can guarantee that I have these special experience encounters off my brains.
The singing wells and the Milk – Market Mamas initiatives by the sarara ecolodges in namunyak Conservancy are a true taste and definition of a success story of conservation and sustainability, Where embedding tourism into conservation has directly benefited the Samburu community with an expansion of the Sarara Foundation into health care and education.
A Short Video of Reteti Orphan Elephants
Well Crafted Intineraries That Might Interest You
Would this be the kind of travel you would like to take on, We have crafted a few amazing Conservation itineraries to combine Uganda or Kenya top Highlights with Namunyak Conservancy while staying at either Sarara Camp, Sarara tree houses or Reteti House ecolodges
10 Days Uganda Mountain Gorillas & Namunyak Conservancy kenya
Travel In style for conservation and sustainability of the Communities we visit. This Luxury trip includes trekking mountain Gorillas twice in Bwindi Impenetrable national Park Uganda and staying at a Namunyak Conservancy in Northern Kenya. This is a great Combination for Wildlife and primates while staying at some of the Top Notch Luxury lodges in Uganda and Kenya
9 Days Samburu Wildlife Reserve and Namunyak Conservancy
Spend 9 days and 8 nights watching one of the best wildlife encounters and conservation initiatives within the Samburu Land northern Kenya. This trips presents encounters with the Samburu special 5 and a stay at namunyak Conservancy eco lodges with a successful story on conservation
Stay at special places in Masai Mara and Namunyak Conservancies where wildlife and human live in Harmony. Stay away from the crowds and indulge in luxury at Private Asilia in Masai Mara and Sarara Camp at namunyak Conservancy. The combination gives you the luxury fee of travel while helps in conservation and sustainability of the Masai and Samburu natives in Kenya