Did You Know...?
'Askari' is the Swahili word for guard. Who are the guardians of Sanctuary Kusini? This is an insight into the daily life of the askaris as they patrol the camp for wildlife throughout the night. Meet the Serengeti which does not sleep.
Nestled in the south of the Serengeti, among the mighty Kopjes, Kusini is as wild as can be. This African safari lodge is built on an inselberg which overlooks the entire Serengeti south. Needless to say, Kusini is in the heart of the Tanzanian wilderness and it never ceases to amaze. The camp is not fenced so inhabitants of the wildlife freely roams within and reminds us that we are their guests. In the daytime, sightings are plentiful and it is mostly the antelopes that put on a show for us: Klipspringers, impalas etc. Also we should not forget the incredible birdlife which thoroughly enjoy the shades of the big trees in the camp and of course, the cutest thieves of the Serengeti: the vervet monkeys! But at night, who roams around Kusini Camp? Who comes to visit in the intimacy of darkness? What were all the sounds we heard last night? So many mysteries of the African night, only the Askaris could reveal what really goes once the sun has set.
Askaris are our night guards. They start their day as the sun sets and finish their day as the sun rises. The guardians of Kusini are up all night, patrolling the lodge and making sure they know who is visiting. Once the night unfolds and it is too dark to walk on your own, they will escort you to enjoy your evening at the main area. In permanent radio contact (with both guests and managers), the askaris are here to answer any emergencies and special requests. They also start the fire in our boilers before the guests even wake up to make sure that we welcome the day with a comfortable hot shower.
Most of the askaris are of Maasai origin. Their role is vital to the lodge and it is through a careful symbiosis of both pride and humility that they carry out their task. Having grown up in rural parts of Tanzania, they all have an extensive knowledge and experience of the African wilderness. Wrapped in their traditional "Shukas", the askaris are here to keep us all safe and comfortable in our Serengeti home.
When asked about how they feel about their position most answers comes to the pride of meeting new people and making sure they are safe. When asked about fear of wildlife or potential danger, the askaris show no more than respect and humility: wild animals are part of the daily life here in the bush; if they are respected and understood then no danger can rise. I encourage you to have a chat with the askaris next time you are in camp on one of our Tanzania safaris. You have to experience the soft humble smiles of these men while they stand proud on their rock, overlooking the Serengeti, trying to anticipate the future movements in the obscurity of the starry night.
It is amazing and beautiful that we can still live in total harmony with nature. From buffaloes to lions to leopards, we all enjoy the luxury of Kusini camp when on Tanzania safaris. We are all sharing the same dream of a safe haven in the wilderness. Those we fear are also just looking for the comfort of this extraordinary spot which is Kusini. Perhaps we should not fear the inhabitants of the night, and actually love them and respect them for showing us that we are part of the big picture and that we are part of this beautiful nature too. The askaris have met many of the protagonists of the obscurity and they have nothing but immense respect for them. The evening singers are your hosts here in the Serengeti. The mighty roar of Simba may be no more than a welcoming chant…
By Isbjorn Viot, Camp Manager, Sanctuary Kusini