With festivities in full swing out in the bush, Samantha du Toit discovers what the generosity of friends is really about.
Shompole Wilderness Camp- photo by Shompole Conservancy
The sun’s first rays shone through the tent window signalling a new day of friendship. The birds had already been up and calling for an hour or so. I had heard the faint grunt of a lion in the distance. Throughout the night baboon alarm calls woke us up intermittently. Hyaenas had been whooping near their den on the plains behind camp. A typical night of the sounds of the wild, with one exception. Seyia bounced into the tent with the news that she had heard the bells of Santa’s sleigh.He had obviously landed close by and filled up her stocking, and her brother’s too.
It was indeed Christmas day. With glee the children opened their stockings on the bed, gasping with delight. How clever Santa was to have found them in their tents, and in the middle of the bush. How did he know they loved marshmallows?
The day proceeded with more presents from family. The camp table heaved with morning brunch. Later, frolicking in the river was followed by roasted marshmallows and grilled goat around a huge campfire. In the depths of the darkness, the lions roared closer to camp. Plans were hatched to go out for an early morning game drive to try to catch a glimpse of them. Exhausted children were hauled into the car at first light and we set off. All we found were fresh tracks. Returning to camp, we were told that two large lions had wandered into camp just after we had left. They sniffed around at the store and walked out again.
A few days later the children and I headed up to visit the family who farm the land next to the airstrip. We wanted to to say hello and arrange for a playdate in the coming month. The family have children of a similar age. They have developed a good friendship and they all enjoy spending time together. They tend the farm and play endlessly amongst the watermelons. We were greeted by a pile of watermelons being sorted by size and weight. A buyer who was taking them to Nairobi for sale. The family had been waiting to sell for months to sell this crop for much-needed income in the months ahead.
Elephant at camp – photo courtesy Shompole Wilderness
Every night the parents took turns sleeping out on a small platform in the middle of the field, to keep off marauding animals especially elephants. The father, Baba Gloria as the children call him, came to greet us. Immediately he insisted we cut one fruit open and all eat a juicy slice. The other he placed in our car for us to take home. What friendship!
Standing around with sweet pink juice dripping down our hands, he told about some recent bad luck. A few days earlier, a herd of elephants had raided the farm and destroyed two thirds of the watermelons. He tried chasing them off with his motorbike and faithful dog, but the damage had been done. The pile next to us was all that was left.
Standing in the shade at the entrance to the farm, the unfairness of the situation hit me. As my children dreamt of Santa coming to give them gifts, Baba Gloria lost most of his hard-earned crop. Still, he did not think twice about giving us what little he had left. I discovered right there what friendship and generosity is really all about.
Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness , a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.