Those were the words going through my head when we stopped at the Elsamere Home in Kenya. If you are old enough to remember (which I am not) Born Free was a popular movie in the 60′s based on the lives of Joy and George Adamson. A couple who raised an orphaned lion cub named Elsa, rehabilitated it and released it back into the wild. The song and score won an academy award and the movie spawned a TV series in the seventies. I remember my mom always singing Born Free around the house. I never knew any more of the words than the words I wrote above, but the story always stuck with me.
Now, here I am in 2012 staying in the cottage that belonged to Joy Adamson and learning more than I needed to know about her life. I never saw the movie and don’t know if they showed the tyrant behind the blond beauty on screen, but Joy Adamson was not well loved in Kenya. She was difficult, mean spirited and it is believed that she was murdered by one of her long suffering staff members. As I read about her story hanging on the walls of the complex, it is said that she once poured hot soup over one of her house staff members because the soup was not hot enough. She wasn’t well liked by the community and apparently her husband George wasn’t much better.
However, nothing can be taken away from the ground breaking work that they did to begin the movement to rehabilitate animals and release them into the wild. They raised Elsa as their own and returned her to the wild to which she apparently lived a happy life raising cubs of her own.
The Elsamere Home is an interesting place to stay on Lake Naivasha. It is secluded, quiet and rustic. This complex is set in the middle of wild Africa and there is a very real danger of being eaten by hippos if you venture outside on your own. Other than the cottages and the main house, there isn’t another building in sight.
As we settled in to our bungalow to relax before dinner, we were told never to leave our lodging without calling the main house first to have an armed guard sent. When the time did come for dinner and our guard waited outside our door and then escorted us to our table. When we asked if Hippos really do come close to the house, he showed us hippo tracks on the lawn. “Oh Yes, they will eat you.” He replied. The tracks came right up to our porch!
I wouldn’t want to have a sleepwalking problem while staying at the Elsamere home.
Joy Adamson may not have been a nice lady and everything that is read is speculation, but one thing is for sure, the Elsamer Conservation Centre is doing amazing work.
What the Adamson’s lacked in people skills, they made up for their love of wildlife. It was their work that pioneered the movement for conservation in Africa and changed the way that people think of animals. Their efforts live on today through the Elsa Conservation trust. Their entire estate was left to this trust and during the last forty years the trust has donated millions of dollars to wild life education and conservation projects. They have helped to create many parks and reserves in Kenya and there is a field study centre right at the Elsamere centre where we stayed.
Joy was also a talented artist and much of her work is showcased the walls of the main house. I can only imagine the abundance of wildlife in the area while they lived their lives in Kenya. There is a museum in the house and artifacts are on display outside including the jeep which George Adamson was shot and killed in while trying to help a tourist who was captured by Somali bandits.
I think that I would have liked to stay longer at the Elsamere. You can hire guides and boats for bird watching here and I think that it is a place the the slow traveler could spend several days exploring. As long as you don’t venture too close to the shores of the lake to be eaten by a hungry hippo.
To find our more about the Elsamere and the conservation trust visit their website.
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