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Something in the air

There is something you cannot see, smell or touch – you develop another sense that tells you that you are in Africa. Routed in your psyche, the feeling of coming home is profound even to those who have never set foot on African soil.

Perhaps it’s because it’s where we all began, perhaps it’s the earthiness of the place and a longing to return to roots you never knew, but have always been here since hominids first walked the shores of Lake Turkana. So hard to ignore, you rarely meet anybody who comes here just once and this is confirmed by the American lady I sit next to on the plane who tells me it’s her 14th visit in so many years with what looks like the same level of excitement as her first time.

Flight over, a short drive and a long hearty lunch later, I find myself sitting on a hill surveying the open savannah next to a Czech man for sundowners in Amboseli, Kenya. Watching a herd of elephants with their babies in tow as the sun sets behind Kilimanjaro, he tells me he couldn’t get his noise filters to turn off last night. Used only to the sound of cars outside his bedroom window at home, he was kept awake by the nest of birds in a tree above his deck.

“Do you know what they are?” He asks, “yellow and making a really really loud noise”. “I think they are social weavers” I reply, amused by his animated gestures. “Social? I think they are talking major politics up in that tree” he says, cheering up as he sips his gin and tonic (a drink which many safari goers adopt for sundowners even though they never touch it a home). Slightly bleary eyed from his noisy night and early start he tells me he has ticked off most of the big 5, and it’s only his second day. Drinks merrily consumed, we start heading back to camp.

The next morning I ask him if he slept any better. “Still getting use to the noises, but yes thank you”. I think the filters are on. Just as well as he has another 9 nights on safari. Only when he returns to his Prague apartment I know he will miss the lions roaring, singing crickets and chattering weavers to sooth him to sleep as he listens to the traffic. But then something in the air tells me he’ll come home again.