Wild Weekend at Silole Sanctuary


A stocked kitchen at Silole. PHOTO | COURTESY

Late last month, I was invited by friends for an afternoon expedition in the wild. Being a typical urbanite, I was cornered into accepting, but joined them kicking and screaming.

To make the best out of it, I made it an abstract quest to find a few landscape backgrounds to revamp my Instagram. (Yes, maybe my intentions were that shallow and all the perfect make up on my face proved it).

I am not an inveterate traveller; sleep tends to solve all my problems. While enroute, I slid into slumber and I was only awakened when we took a left turn onto a bumpy murram stretch off Magadi Road which continued for about six kilometres into Silole Bird Sanctuary.

As the car rumbled on, I was treated to a glimpse of warthogs and baboons.

By the time we arrived, my phone’s battery was at 47 percent, but a flurry of clicks in my vanity shoot, I barely had 12 percent left not even 20 minutes later.

Needless to say, I was tempted to go back to the car and recharge, but I could not trace where we had parked before we began our trek. The forks on the road offered no ready solution, and there was always the looming risk of getting lost or worse meeting a lion or buffalo along the way.

It was time to remove my blinders, seize the moment and enjoy the experience.

The landscape

After traipsing through the maze of thicket, we arrive at our host, Will Knocker’s cottage.

I settle on the porch and, with no phone to distract me, succumb to the gently arresting eyesome expanse of the savannah.

Will arrived a few minutes later, and offered us some tea at his house before we toured the facility.

The sanctuary sits on 3.5 acres within the southern boundary of Nairobi National Park and is a community project set up to conserve nature. It prides itself as a peri-urban oasis nested between the gorges of the Kiserian and Empakasi Rivers. It is home to 60 species of mammal, birds and a rich diversity of vegetation.

His house is a collector's den. He has curated art pieces from his travels and brief residence in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya and a mountain of books to boot. His portrait rests modestly at the opposite corner of the fireplace. It was done by Louis Tamlyn from England and was an apprentice at Kitengela Glass next door at the time. The style is a reincarnation of Van Gogh's bold and dramatic signature brush strokes of the post impressionism era.

The door to his room is half the size of a normal door (vertically).

The cottage

The cosy two-bedroom cottage can comfortably sleep four people (two double bedrooms). One room has bonus attic space that can comfortably sleep two or three children. There is a fully equipped kitchen that runs on solar power and has a beautiful verandah facing East to catch the sunrise.

The crown jewel for me had to be the stone bathtub that gives an outdoor shower experience indoors. Its exterior is made from rough cut stones and cemented on the inside. Dancing rays of sunlight stream through the translucent roof. The steam gracefully disappears into the trailing stems of the money plant decoratively creeping on the walls. Natural deodorizer for that space I might add.

The architectural style is simple, austere, innocent and barely touched by the imposing influences of modernity. The emphasis according to Will is on handmade, raw, indigenous art and construction. The pillars of the cottage stand tall, made from rocks collected from the environment and sealed with cement. The wooden doors are neatly sanded and the windows with cleverly designed latches imported from India. The mats are handwoven from women Turkana. The mild frays do not in any way diminish the soul, love and passion invested in the strands.

The full moon rose a little after six and saved me from this sadistic gang who had been torturing me for a while with a tales and facts about snakes. The well-lit verandah exposed the full moon in all is glory. We had now morphed into space and celestial body experts immersed in an ethereal experience as we wound down the evening raising our glasses to friendships, new experiences and nature.

Shortly after, we settled for supper in Will’s house around the sturdy mahogany dinner table as the warm fire place thawed the last of my resistance.

In the end, I did get my photos, but more than that, I met a new version of myself that mildly desires the wild though the thought of occasional encounter with snakes still gives me the chills. In hindsight I regret being a wet blanket through the drive. I have always thought of myself as a thalassophile but who knows, maybe a pet camel will totally win me over to the wild side.