Finally I got the chance to see the Maneaters of Tsavo, famous for having a taste for human cuisine, in not so many words. I had a few questions I had to get answers to. Did they actually exist or were the man eaters of Tsavo a myth? How are they physically? Are they bigger and stronger than the others I had seen from other regions? How many people did they actually hunt down while the Kenya-Uganda railway was being built, about a century plus decade ago?
Setting off from the City in the Sun early in the morning under the expert hand of our tour guide from Bountiful Safaris, we reached our lodge, tucked in the outskirts of Tsavo West National park just before lunch. The air was heavy and the heat from the sun was no mean feat. I passed off on the evening drive, choosing instead to laze around, building up my energy for the game drive the next day. The clear skies allowed the Kilimanjaro mountain to vividly tower from afar, the beautiful sight capturing my very being; especially the fiery sunset.
Bright and early at the crack of dawn, feeling like an explorer of some sort, I boarded our van with others who were as excited as I was. The drive pleasantly taught me that there was much more to this gem of a place than just the lions. Actually, the man eaters were just the cherry on top. Armed with my predisposed image of the lions in my head, I kept a keen eye out for them. After a relatively long drive enjoying the sights of kudus, elephants and giraffes we saw one male lion. He was relatively small, with no mane at all! This I came to learn was due to the hot and relatively dry region. It is believed that the number of people killed by the two historic lions in 1898 was 35 while others say it was 135. Mane or no mane, the king of the jungle still commanded attention with a demeanor that he alone possesses.
Several other animals call this place home; the African leopard, hippo, crocodile, black rhino, cheetahs and the Somali ostrich as well as a vast variety of birds.
As we drove back to our lodge, our tour guide from Bountiful Safaris engaged us on rock climbing that the Tsavo is also known for. There are two cliffs that are a rock-climbers dream; Tembo Kichwa and Elephant rock. That is a story for another day.
After a hearty breakfast, we set off to explore Chyulu hills and also visit the Mzima springs, home to hippos and crocodiles. These are a series of four springs of crystal clear and clean water that not only support the ecosystem there but also of Mombasa city residents several kilometers away. The viewing chamber was the icing on the cake. This is a circular underwater compartment built on one of the pools at the springs. On a good day, like today, you’ll see the comic tip-toeing of an underwater hippo, or a crocodile in motion underwater, as well as fixate on the graceful swirl of the large fish.
As the sun confidently drew the curtains on that day, I crossed off another item on my list, drifting off into an imaginary world, where the colourful picture of the Lugard falls in my hand, took me.