After the night in Arusha I re-traced my steps to the Kilimanjaro airport to hop on the Grumeti Air flight for the last leg of the trip. The same cheerful yet somewhat window obsessed driver(think up-down, up-down)collected me at the Duluti lake lodge (never did see a lake) and drove deliberately(but with no particular haste) to the airport. I wanted to provide a tip for his services, but it appeared he knew of no place to change money. However, upon arrival at the airport I spied a lonely ATM near the arrivals exit. I skirted inside the glass enclosure and produced my most reliable global ATM card. This card has produced cash for me in the most remote and circumspect locations around the world – often where the global mega-bank card fails- yet is issued from a very small, local bank in Vermont! Voila I was flush with shillings able to tip the driver, and head in for the Grumeti Air flight.
My bag met the kilo limit and I took a seat in the designated waiting area (think 8 high school cafeteria seats). It was in that moment that I began to meet the people who would be part of a life changing 5 days. Of course, none of us knew that at the time.
Everyone on the small plane was here for the run(some were already at Singita)- except this bewildered chap who slipped quickly away when a gaggle formed. Further to my earlier post wherein I noted my global observations re plane engines and electric poles, we were down to a one engine plane and no electrical wires when we landed on the strip of gravel in the Singita reserve on Friday morning.
Coming in on final one could see just off the ‘runway’ some elephant and zebras.The runway and greeting area is essentially a small outpost amongst the Singita’s 350,000 acre reserve. It consisted of a small hanger (think 3 car garage) and a meet and greet open air veranda(think 20 by 30 feet). I must say the bathroom was spot on though (replete with a wonderful lemon-grass type handwash and handtowels). I think this was for the ‘non-runners’ who visit here….
We were met by our (put your favorite complimentary adjective here) hosts from the Singita Grumeti group. And this is where I had the first of many, ‘not how I pictured it in my mind’s eye’ moments! Remember how I mentioned in the Tsetse fly posts about the matronly Ms.Cunliffe? Well, it just so happens I could not have been further off the mark. Ms. Cunliffe aka Katherine aka Kath looked as though she had just walked off a movie set to greet us. I can promise you a baggie Columbia safari-sport shirt has never occupied her wardrobe and how in the world she had such a worn-yet fresh hat perched on just-tussed-enough hair is beyond me. A smile and welcome that was as warm and real as the fresh air and pristine ground we were standing on. I have searched 3,416 photos and could not find a bad one of Katherine(or was there that one…)
Just as generous and welcoming as Katherine was Mishi. Now, Mishi is one of the several expert guides at Singita. She has that tri-fecta of bright eyes, an honest laugh and a smile you want to greet you every day. I knew she would be good fun and darn cool to boot.
Quietly surveying and organizing the goings-on was Joe. And let me be clear right now, Joe was the first of so many men that supported and believed in what we were doing that I personally will forever be in his debt. And true to this description, you will probably see him in more photos than anyone else- look in the background – seamlessly massaging the untold working parts behind the scenes – hot water bottles, game drives, battery supplies, beverages, night guards… you name it.
Our first stop was to the Conservation Education center. It is an off the grid school-education center that runs year round in week long sessions of 12 students each. The goal is to bring practical and relevant solutions to the current and long-term conservation and evironmental efforts in the area. Frida and Laurian greeted us and we sat in on a class and listened to the girls speak of how conservation and education has and will continue to be part of their lives.
For this you really need to see this video, just to hear and see and get a real feel for the moment. I am bummed the blog cant handle the full upload so please check out the professional video link below! https://followthezebras.com/wp-content/uploads/img_1058.trim_.mov
It was really, really starting to dawn on me how incredible the Singita Grumeti strategy was… and this was in my first 40 minutes on the reserve. And because it is the end of a blog check out the stunning videos of the Singita Grumeti education efforts.https://www.singitagrumetifund.org/videos/