So much to do and so few hours in a day. We need to find locations for the eight units of our luxury tented camp, which then will be exchanged with rooms with time to come. Pool and kitchen sites for the lodge need to be identified, the conservancy headquarters sighted, along with staff lines, water supply routes, waterholes for animals and access roads, as well as game drive tracks. The list is long and the bush is thick, making easy walking and access almost impossible.
Our days start early – we awake before sunrise and with the first light we are ready to start our morning exploration. Equipped with sun block, water, camera and binoculars we set off with an elder, called Elijah, who knows the area for a good four decades and a young Taita, called Pius, undoubtedly a survival artist in the bush who knows everything about wildlife.
With Pius leading our file he cuts away some of the vegetation to make an upright walk possible instead of having to climb and crawl forward on our fours. We stick to old game trails and reach one spectacular place after another, some locations so unique that we decide to leave these be, no construction allowed there, these are reserved for wildlife and nature only. The choice is hard as abundant, and the more we see, the more we realise that we finally are on site, the project has started at last and what a stunning place Mbulia is!
Wildlife on the other hand is no longer abundant here. There is plenty of evidence of elephant presence, same as buffalo, a leopard becomes a regular visitor in camp and we find a civet cat latrine, but apart from two Klipspringers, we don’t see any other antelopes. However, snakes are plentiful – after the initial encounter with the red spitting cobra, we have a black mamba in camp, followed by a puff adder. These snakes will move away with our continued presence looking for more peaceful and undisturbed locations, but it will take some time.
We look forward to the day when the other mammals will venture back and make their home in the newly gained conservancy once they realise that they are safe on Mbulia land with us guarding their habitat and safety.
Coming across a regularly used elephant rubbing rock, we find the name for the lodge – Kipalo, meaning in Taita “a marked and special place where one returns to again and again”.