Adrenaline-packed rafting works up your appetite

Thursday, January 7th, 2021 00:00 |
Mark Savage guiding a raft navigate a rapid on Sagana River. Photo/PD/NJERI MAINA

Njeri Maina @njerimainar

Birds chirp outside my room. It is a welcome morning wakeup call that does not make me want to bury my head in the pillow or smash my alarm clock.

I joyfully wake up, listening in and trying to name the birds. I dress hurriedly ready to walk to the eat out area at Savage Wilderness in Sagana.

It is a delightful stroll, with a monitor lizard rushing across my path and puppies playing gaily in the green grass.

The river whooshes past leaving behind the associated calming sound of water and small thundering roars of rapids and mini waterfalls.

My breakfast is sausages, baked beans, toasted bread and coffee. I savour every bite fortifying myself for the day of adventure that lays ahead.

There is nothing quite as exhilarating as riding river waves and rapids, I swear. I could do this every day.

We see hammer cock birds’ nest on the river banks. A kingfisher dives in and plucks a fish from the water and flies off. Soon it is time for lunch.

We lug the rafts ashore, put them in the bus where the driver is waiting for us and head back to camp.

Food for adventurers

As I take my sumptuous meal of rice, meat and cabbage, I get to meet the head chef Rhoda Muasa.

She has been at Savage for over a decade now and loves making meals for hungry adventurers like me.

I meet the camp owner Mark Savage soon after. He readily talks of how he came to Kenya in the early 90s and thought of kayaking.

He would go back to the UK, buy a raft and fly himself back to Kenya ready for his first adventure. He is a recently retired certified pilot who says that the 42- hour multi-stops journey back to Kenya was well worth it.

“A few days later, together with a couple of friends and docked in homemade buoyancy kits, we went rafting on the Athi River.

I would later get a US guide to guide us and started training to be a professional kayaking and rafting guide.

Soon after, I bought some land here in Riandira, Sagana and have slowly grown the camp by buying more land over time. This camp has existed for 30 years now,” Mark enthuses.

Beers, choma and bonfires 

Meal times are a delightful time of great food and great stories. One evening there is a bonfire and grilled meat.

There are grilling spots and barbecue grills in specific places around the eight-acre property. A visiting team of fellow adventurers play music and trade beers over a bonfire.

The grounds are large enough to accommodate multiple groups without crowding or even noise interference between said groups.

I learn about how they are encouraging social bubble tourism, where you can come in with your group of friends, hire the grounds, do your own choma if you want and do a few guided activities.

Rhoda can also cook your meals. I learn about Rhoda’s menu creation and how they source ingredients from the local community. 

On some evenings, the bar is open as I learn how to play pool and how to properly hold a cue stick.

Another lesson is in how to hold a cold soda or beer bottle and take a swig like a true intrepid adventurer.

Real adventurers drink straight from the bottle and not in a glass, common adventuring folklore states.

On some nights I enjoy ugali and tasty beef stew. I learn how to make a mean ndengu stew to eat with rice or chapatis on another day.

I gorge myself on innumerable French toast pieces with crunchy edges and wonder if I could learn to make this too to elevate my breakfast meals at home.

It is a welcome thing to eat so many homemade and wholesome meals. I think I leave just a tiny bit healthier.

I  also meet a few local guides who are trained and examined at the camp before they are certified as guides and professionally start guiding teams on varying activities.

Most importantly I eat. More stories flow at their well-stocked bar where there is a pool table.

Guides play at the table as they playfully compete against each other. Here I see firsthand the meaning of true team spirit and comradery.

I am so thankful for this and their skillfulness when I am shaken off the raft while surfing on the Sagana River a day later.

I am fished out largely full from river water and excitement. I gladly go back to paddling and hitting a few more rapids and waterfalls. Whitewater rafting is one of those sports that you can never truly get enough of.

Much like food, it is important to try out new things and see how well you fare. Maybe I am a newly converted kayaking and rafting junkie.

You should be too. White water rafting and Rhoda’s food are definitely on my to-repeat list.

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