African Safari Family Legacy
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The Legacy Of The Elephant Whisperer
Cliff McKenzie

The Great African Legacy Safari can be summed up by walking up to an elephant with absolute fearlessness and ultimate respect and whispering in its gigantic ear: “I love you.”

Such a story is the fodder of legends, and something a grandmother or grandfather would gladly pass to awe-struck young ones gathered around the family fireplace on a cold snowy evening when the tales of the African Safari Legacy are begged to be retold for the nth time..

But the magic and awe of Africa’s big game, and legendary figures in its chemistry such as Nigel Kingsley Heath—a former big game hunter guide who now dedicates himself to the ecological balance and harmony between humans and the wilderness—never cease to engage the imagination or intrigue about Africa’s multitudinous mysteries.

Indeed, Nigel is a legend and legacy in his own right. He does walk up to elephants and whisper in their ears.

Nigel is famous in the lore of ecological safaris because of his ability to walk his clients calmly and confidently up to a wild elephant. The proximity is so close between man and beast that some say Nigel could literally reach out and touch the world’s largest mammal. What he whispers, and weather he truly does or not, only Nigel knows for sure.

Elephants aren't the only African creatures who fall victim to Nigel's whispers.

Two women listen to his whispers, one is Jo, his wife. The other, Lucy, his six-month-old daughter.

Jo is a vital part of Nigel's life, and a critical mass to the ecological balance in Northern Tanzania. She is the manager of one of the great luxury tented camps, Kirurumu Tented Lodge at Lake Manyara, Tanzania.

Jo, Nigel’s wife and mother of their new daughter Lucy, manages one of the leading edge ecologically balanced safari camps in the country—Kirurumu Tented Lodge at Lake Manyara.Kirurumu Tented Lodge is part of a network of properties under the watchful and committed care of the Hoopoe Safaris. Hoopoe was awarded the 2004 Conde Nast Traveler award for best eco tourism company in the world. Nigel serves as Hoopes Camping and Logistics Manager. His wife, Jo, runs the base operation of Kirurumu Tented Camp while Nigel insures the safari traveler is smitten by the legacy of Africa beyond any imaginable expectations.

I asked Jo to fill out the African Legacy Questionnaire prior to my arrival in Tanzania. One of the reasons I request this is that I get an insight into the people I will be writing about that I might not have gotten when I was there.

It isn’t easy to write down answers to any question, let alone to spell out the reasons why what you do and love is worthy of creating a legacy in every human being in the world. But then, one must not forget that Jo is brave. She married an elephant whisperer!

I read a lot about Kirurumu Tented Lodge after my safari company—Auram Safaris—urged and promoted that Kirurumu be one of the highlights of the Legacy Safari I was planning with my wife, Lori, of more than four decades, two children and four grandchildren.

I was a bit jealous that Lucy, Jo’s and Nigel’s daughter of six months at the time of this writing, would be able to pass down to her children and grandchildren the legacy of her father’s ability to be whisper in the ears of wild elephants. At best, I could take pictures of the event.

Yet the legacy Jo and Nigel are carving into bedrock for their daughter Lucy and her children’s children’s children is one that anyone who travels to Africa can participate in if they take the time to veer off the standard safari course and visit Kirurumu Tented Camp.

As I understand all the information, the camp has a score of luxury tents, on raised platforms with wooden verandahs and en suite bathrooms provisioned by hot and cold running water for refreshing showers. Solar heating takes raw energy from the sun and channels it without harm to the ecology. These twenty tented lodges form a balance between nature and visitors, making them part of the community of Africa.

The most exciting part of the lodge, in my far-distant opinion, is that it exists outside the park. As I understand it from interviewing numerous people who have returned from safari, once inside the park a person is restricted to the lodge area. Walking about, horseback riding, mountain biking on beautiful trails isn’t advised or allowed. But at Kirurumu, being part of the wild is the key to the experience. One cannot simply "view a Legacy." One has to be an active participant.

Here are some of the activities promoted at Kirurumu:

• Ethno-botanical walks with knowledgeable and informative local Maasai, of any duration from one hour to one day. Visit homes and bomas of the local Iraqw and Mbulu tribes, the river gorge and learn firsthand about local flora and fauna.
• Horse riding - 1 hour up to 4 days (including fly camps)
• Mountain biking (half day trips)
• Trekking: One to three days (with support vehicle or trekking just with the Maasai and donkeys) including unusual treks to Mt. Losimingori, the Crater Highlands & Mount Makarot, Lake Eyasi, Empakai Crater and Losimingori.
There is much more at Kirurumu than all of the immersion into the true African interactive experience. There is a thing called love.

In the interview with Jo about the Legacy Safari and how Kirurumu adds to such a trek, it is evident that much love and consideration for the land, the people, the history and the future of Kirurumu exudes from each word Jo wrote.

As the manager of a safari camp dedicated to eco balance, and the mother of a lovely new daughter, an additional dimension of responsibility is layered into her role as matriarch of Kirurumu Tented Camp.

That is the rich generational responsibility that comes with parenthood. As a parent, one starts to see through the eyes of the child, and as the child matures into an adult and has children, one then starts to look at the world through the eyes of a grandchild.

There is a much different version of the world when one views it through such generational lenses.

Kirurumu is pregnant with the example of ecological balance for the future generations both of the local tribes and the many visitors who travel to it from all four corners of the earth.

From the concern for each stone and piece of wood used to build the lodge, to the dedication to assist in the education of children in the local tribes, Kirurumu reminds all that the Legacy Safari can only exist if those who manage Africa manage it as a Legacy.

That is embodied in the idea that to protect the land of Africa, one must become its mother and father, and guard it with the vigilance of a parent from unwanted intrusion and pollution of its purity.

As you read Jo’s answers, I think you’ll find that she is whispering into the ears of all current and future generations to “love what you do, and do what you love.”

Besides Nigel and Lucy, hers is a love affair with Africa. As you read her interview, read between the lines. Read the love for Africa, and understand that when you visit Kirurumu, you will receive that same love as a gift to enrich your African Safari Legacy.

I’ll report more after my actual visit. Now, please use the link below to read Jo's answers to the Legacy of Kirurumu.

Note: Jo had mentioned in her comments about the return of the dik dik, a gentle, wide-eyed deer like creature that my wife says must be the great grandparent to Walt Disney’s Bambi. I thought about it. If love is a salt block, won’t all the animals come to taste its life-giving fruits? By rebuilding Kirurumu into an eco-friendly location, the dik dik have returned. The legacy traveler needs to look at the dik dik as a messenger: How Can The Innocence of Africa Be Sustained And Maintained? Such innocence is most notable in the dik dik’s eyes, and its frail figure. So, I drew a dik dik. As you will note, its eyes are compelling, telling windows to the soul of Africa. I’m glad Kirurumu has dik diks. When I look into their eyes, I’ll see the future reflected—the future that can happen if everyone commits to protecting the past.

Go To Legacy Answers By Jo: