On the run in Simba coun­try

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

n’s nce e affe can­ter­ing across our path. I pow­ered on, try­ing to keep a steady pace and ig­nore the fact that I now had my back to one of Africa’s big five. Thank­fully, it had no in­ter­est in me and it wasn’t long be­fore I crossed the fin­ish line.

Af­ter a rub­down and a wel­come beer, I was keen to see all the hard work that Tusk had been do­ing in the re­gion – where the £5.5mil­lion raised from the marathon since the in­au­gu­ral run in 1990 goes to com­mu­nity and con­ser­va­tion projects.

Lewa is known for its thriv­ing pop­u­la­tion of more than 80 rhi­nos. Over the next two days I took sev­eral game drives from Lewa Sa­fari Camp, en­coun­ter­ing dozens of them. De­spite their bulk, they’re gen­er­ally pas­sive crea­tures and were quite happy to let us come close and watch them nuz­zling the ground. I also wit­nessed a herd of 20 ele­phants march­ing across the sa­van­nah in a per­fect line. A few tiny ba­bies were lol­lop­ing un­der their mother’s feet, barely able to hold their trunks up prop­erly yet. Grebes gath­ered at a spring, part of a sus­tain­able wa­ter net­work for the peo­ple and an­i­mals of Lewa, made pos­si­ble from marathon funds. Colobus mon­keys swung from tree to tree, hip­pos splashed and wal­lowed in the shal­lows of the rivers and rare Grévy’s ze­bras trot­ted grace­fully across the plains. A Above, ea­gles and buz­zards soared. E Ev­ery­thing was green af­ter weeks o of wel­come rain and the air was fra­gran fra­grant with the aroma of wild flow­ers. It wa was the Africa of my dreams, and aft af­ter just a cou­ple of days I’d seen three of the big five. But wha what I re­ally wanted, above al all, was to see lions. Ever s since I was a young boy I I’ve had a fasci fas­ci­na­tion with the big cats cats. The first time I cam came to Kenya was as a very lucky 12-year-old in 1994. I It was the per­fect age for a first sa­fari; I was old enoug enough, ad­ven­tur­ous enough and pa­tient enough to en­joy it pro prop­erly and when we got to see a fam­ily of lion cubs play-figh play-fight­ing I was trans­fixed. When I grew up I dis­cov­ered that Lev means lion in the Slavic lan­guages; ever since, I’ve felt the need to fight their cor­ner. The plight of ele­phants and the ivory trade gets in­creas­ing global air time – rightly so – but lions are of­ten for­got­ten. A cen­tury ago, 200,000 of them roamed Africa’s plains; now there are just 25,000 left in the wild. That’s fewer lions than there are rhi­nos.

I didn’t find what I was look­ing for at Lewa Sa­fari Camp, so hoped that I’d have more luck in Ol Len­tille con­ser­vancy, a com­mu­nity-owned re­serve north-west of Lewa. Here I met a Maa­sai tribesman named Boni, who would be my guide and racon­teur for my stay. Tra­di­tion­ally Maa­sai have killed lions as a rite of pas­sage, and in re­cent times have been re­spon­si­ble for much slaugh­ter as hu­man-wildlife con­flict es­ca­lates due to ris­ing birth rates and over­pop­u­la­tion in tribal vil­lages. “When a lion eats a cow from a Maa­sai herd,” said Boni, as we walked through the bush, “it’s un­der­stand­able that the tribe wants re­venge, but of­ten it’s taken to the ex­treme. Live­stock car­casses get poi­soned and en­tire prides are wiped out.

“We need to ed­u­cate peo­ple to re­alise that the wildlife is our busi­ness. If we go around killing them, then no

Le­vi­son’s trip ended in a close en­counter with two lionesses and a cub, above. Right: the Sa­fari­com marathon

Mak­ing friends with t te the Maa­sai aasa

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