Phil Frost calls it an excellent adventure.
The director of BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo is again leading a wildlife safari to southwest Kenya in late May. Frost led a similar trip to the African region in November, and demand exceeded the limited space, so he’s organizing a second trip.
“I think the fun thing about this is it’s the ultimate education program,” Frost said. “We have kids who come out to the zoo to learn about animals, but what about taking adults, and in some cases kids, to actually see where they (the animals) are in the wild and learn about that rather than just what we’re doing at the zoo.”
Beyond that, Frost, who’s managed the zoo for almost 16 years, said the expedition is a way for the group is see firsthand some of the animal projects in Africa that the zoo supports.
“We’re an accredited zoo, and one thing that’s required of us is to be involved in conservation projects where the animals in our zoo come from in their native land,” he said. “We can’t just have tigers at our zoo if we’re not doing things to help support the tigers that are in Malaysia, Sumatra, so we do that. So, we’re able in this case to go and see a couple of projects that we are a part of, that we’ve provided support for, that our donors have given us money to send.”
The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage near Nairobi National Park is one such stop.
The facility takes in baby elephants whose parents have been killed by poachers. They raise them for several years before they can be released back into the wild.
“We probably saw 50 or 60 little elephants that day, telling the story of how these elephants would have died if people weren’t out there caring about elephants,” Frost said. “When we left, we had about half a dozen people who adopted elephants. You know they help take care of them (financially), they get photos back, etc.”
Seeing and snapping photos of baby elephants are just one of the up-close encounters those on the trip can expect to experience in Kenya, Frost said.
There are buffalo, impala, zebra, crocodiles, wildebeest, cheetas, monkeys, hyenas, rhinos and lions.
And they surround travelers as game drives are part of the daily schedule.
“There are six people to a vehicle (Land Rover), and everyone has a window seat,” he said. “The top comes off, and you stand up, and it’s just you and air.”
Frost recalled one particular night game drive.
“We’re literally out there with nothing but the vehicle lights, and we found ourselves in the middle of a pride of lions hunting. Had lions on both sides of us. We just came up while they were running through, hunting zebra or whatever. Folks just got pretty excited about that. A lion four or five feet away,” he said. “Those are experiences quite different than you’re going to get at the zoo.”
In addition to the game drives, travelers are immersed into the culture, visiting a Masai village, talking to locals, learning their jumping dances, touring their homes. Other tours include the home of “Out of Africa” author Karen Blixen.
Accomodations are at remote, yet picturesque locations, Frost said.
“There will be these beautiful botanical gardens at lodges out in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “You’re may be 100 miles from the nearest city. You’ll be riding on old dusty dirty roads, and, all of a sudden, you come up to a beautiful gate.”
Behind that gate, fantastic food, comfortable rooms and knowledgeable guides and drivers await, he said.
“People say they don’t know how to describe it, just go.”