My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience-Title

An experience of a lifetime that nearly cost me my life.

I was living and volunteering in the Great Rift Valley, the cradle of humankind. Though our species originated and evolved here, I was reminded that life is savage. Life is fragile. Life is wild.

One of our duties at Soysambu Conservancy was to fix one of the hides. A hide is a small hut with a thatched roof, covered in dried grasses. It is camouflaged with its surroundings. The wildlife cannot see you, but you can see them. It’s the perfect place to watch wild birds and roaming predators. You can observe creatures in the wild behaving naturally without being noticed.

Not only was the hide in desperate need of repair, but the path leading to it was completely overgrown. It was in the middle of the bush, in the middle of nowhere. This space was rarely frequented by people. The path to the hide was difficult to navigate, even in a sturdy Land Rover. The path had to be cleared before we could even think about fixing the hide.

My Near Death Experience in Kenya
The Buffalo Hide

 

Our small group was comprised of our guide, Chege; our driver, Ishmael; and four volunteers: Nora, CEO and Founder of Animal Experience International; Nora’s Mom, Rena; Marilyn, a retiree and world traveler; and myself. After gathering some supplies and tools in the morning, we drove to the start of the path. I had my sturdy work gloves on. I carried a long, metal tool for hacking away at stubborn weeds. There were tons of rocks and weeds covering the path. Our job was to clear as much of this out of the way as possible.

“Watch out when you’re picking up rocks,” Nora warned. “There might be snakes hiding underneath them.”

Once we moved the rocks from that section (thankfully, no snake sightings!), we continued up the path. Chege wandered up ahead while Ishmael kept the vehicle close by. The sun was scorching, even early in the morning. It didn’t take long to work up a sweat.

The blade that I held was heavy and slightly dull. Even still, I chopped away at the tall grass and thick weeds. I swung the blade and barely made a dent into some of these stalks. Chop, chop, chop. I was starting to make some progress. A clump of weeds, nearly my height, came apart from the ground. I tossed them aside into the thick brush on one side of the path.

All of a sudden, I heard a man’s voice. He was screaming. Blood-curdling screams.

I couldn’t tell what he was yelling. It came out completely jumbled. I’m not even sure if it was in English or Swahili. The words didn’t register with me. My first instinct told me to run. Run fast.

So, I ran. I ran back to the vehicle as fast as I could. In what seemed like a blur, I found my way back to the car. There were two front seats and a door at the back of the vehicle. This door allowed access to the two benches in the back seat. When I reached for the back door handle, I looked ahead for the first time. I looked to where I had come running from. It was the first time I actually saw what I was running from.

An enraged, 800-pound buffalo was stampeding ahead. It was trying to kill us.

I pulled open the back door as quickly as possible and scrambled to get inside. At the same time, I noticed Marilyn climb into the front seat, and Ishmael was in the other seat. He was permanently affixed to the car horn in an attempt to scare away the buffalo. She was not even phased.

As I clambered to get into the back seat, Nora and Rena were also racing to the car. Nora ran around the right side of the car. Rena jumped on the front hood of the car, but there was nothing for her to grab onto. There was nothing to keep her from falling off. Thankfully, Nora grabbed her mom and threw her over to her side of the vehicle. It was just in time. The angered buffalo rammed the front of the car, narrowly missing Rena’s leg.

BAM.

The buffalo paced to one side of the car, while Nora and Rena hid on the other side. Rena started to climb into the car through the right front door, over top of Ishmael. Nora pushed her mom from one side, and I pulled her into the car from the other side. She never made it fully inside the vehicle. Nora was still outside.

Throughout our previous days at Soysambu Conservancy, we saw many buffaloes lazing around at a distance. They remained clustered together, several buffaloes in one place. Often times, they showed a mild curiosity in us. We snapped photos of them from inside the car. They gazed back, slowly moving ahead, but never anything more. They never showed any signs of aggression. However, in this situation, a lone female buffalo had separated from her herd. She was furious and as it turned out, injured. We had disrupted her and she was venting her frustration.

I looked out the window to the side of the car. Straight ahead, she stood. She charged forward, full speed ahead, at our car.

BAM.

The car shook. I was silent.

I noticed that in my frenzy, I hadn’t even closed the back door. I grabbed the handle and slammed it shut.

The buffalo backed up again and once more, charged ahead. BAM. A piece of black plastic from the car flew out into the bush. She walked back around to the front of the car. Rena’s legs still stuck out from the side of the car. Nora dropped to the ground and prepared to roll beneath the car, if the buffalo ventured to her side. The buffalo again rammed the front of the vehicle. Her anger must have died down or she grew tired of us. She wandered back up the path and into the bush.

My heart was pounding. We were safe. My thoughts immediately went to Chege. Where was he? Why hadn’t he emerged?

As it turned out, he was the one who alerted us to the mad buffalo. He walked ahead to check out the territory, in order to keep us safe. He discovered the hiding buffalo. Chege made eye contact with her, from less than two meters away. As the buffalo charged, his only recourse was to fling himself into a cactus and roll to the ground. Then, he yelled so we would run.

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

Chege emerged from the bushes and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. He was a little scraped up. But, we were all alive. We all weren’t seriously injured. It was nothing short of a miracle.

As it turned out, I was the only one who didn’t drop my blade. I didn’t even remember that it was in my hand. I just ran.

We left all of the tools behind. It was important that we left the scene as quickly as possible. We were all pretty freaked out. Once we were back in a safe place, we got out of the car to assess the damage. We could clearly see the places where the buffalo had rammed the vehicle. There were large dents from her horns in the side and front of the car. Front lights were broken, and the front radiator was punctured. Thankfully, that was the only damage done. Against an angry buffalo, a human wouldn’t stand a chance.

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

It took a while for my nerves to calm down. I’m certain that I had nightmares about it. But, I’m so thankful that it didn’t turn out any differently. I walked away with a story to tell about my near death experience in Kenya.

When you’re on a safari in Africa, there’s a reason why you’re not supposed to leave your vehicle. We took the necessary precautions, though in hindsight, volunteering in this way wasn’t a good idea. No one on the conservancy was armed with weapons or prepared to deal with a raging animal.

Thank you so much to our guides who kept us safe at Soysambu Conservancy. Buffaloes might look like giant, horned cows, but they are vicious and deadly predators.

My Near Death Experience in Kenya

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17 Responses

  1. Marissa
    | Reply

    Wow I cannot even imagine how scary that must have been. Glad everyone was okay in the end, and a good lesson learned for those going on safari!

  2. Kerri
    | Reply

    Wow, I couldn’t believe it when I actually saw the photos of the car. I was truly expecting it to be much worse. But, how lucky were you. I guess it all great when the animals are at a distance, but that experience would have been incredibly frightening. Thank goodness you were able to run fast enough to keep ahead of it (and get a good warning) otherwise it could have been a very different story. #weekendwanderlust

  3. Linda Aksomitis
    | Reply

    Lauren, what a scary experience–I’m so glad it turned out all right. While I’ve never been in Africa, your story is great as a reminder even for travelers in North America. I was once in Yellowstone in the fall watching a herd of bison, and people had to be physically held back to keep them away from the rutting animals. Sometimes we forget that animals in the wild are wild.
    Linda Aksomitis recently posted…What Two U.S. Rivers Meet at the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower in Illinois?My Profile

  4. Stephanie Mayo
    | Reply

    So happy you made it out safely. But like you said it left you with an incredible story and that’s why we travel! This is also a reminder that when we venture out into the wilds, we are guests and must respect and be aware of those who live in those wilds!
    Stephanie Mayo recently posted…5 Ways to Celebrate Earth DayMy Profile

  5. sarah
    | Reply

    What a scary but incredible experience. How many people can say they’ve been attacked by a raging buffalo in Africa?! Glad nobody was hurt though.
    sarah recently posted…7 Fun Ways to Help the Environment and Live GreenMy Profile

  6. Brianna Simmons
    | Reply

    Oh my goodness, what a scary experience! I can’t even imagine what you were feeling, I’m glad everyone ended up safe.

  7. Rosemary
    | Reply

    A helpful reminder that we humans are feeble and do not own the world! Breathtaking read. thank you

  8. Christina
    | Reply

    What an intense experience. I always have to remind myself whenever we are in search for animals in their habitat that anything can happen as these are wild animals. Glad everyone was safe!

  9. Mags
    | Reply

    Wow, what a scary experience. So lucky no one was hurt. Now that it’s over with though, you have a pretty cool story to tell at parties.

  10. Jenna
    | Reply

    Oh wow–such a terrifying experience! So glad you are all ok. I can definitely see how that would cause some nightmares. Minus this incident, the volunteer trip sounds pretty amazing overall, though! Love the photos you were able to capture!
    Jenna recently posted…Staying Fresh: Washing Clothes While TravelingMy Profile

  11. Karilyn
    | Reply

    Whoa! You had my heart pumping! We were just on safari in South Africa and had a couple close encounters but nothing as intense as this. I would have been so scared, especially if I was the one who didn’t make it all the way into the car! Glad you are safe!
    Karilyn recently posted…Finding Adventure in DinosaurlandMy Profile

  12. Fiona
    | Reply

    Goodness I would have been terrified. So glad you all escaped. I guess it is something to put down to experience and tell your grandkids one day…

  13. Kristin Henning
    | Reply

    Wow, that’s a crazy incident. No matter how experienced the guides, no matter how common the tourist groups, there is always potential for surprises in the wild. Your guide and all of you were alert…and lucky!

  14. Oh my word, that must have been so scary. Just look at the damage to that Jeep, and I’m guessing all of you were glad it wasn’t a person. Thank goodness Chege alerted all of you and that instinct kicked in when you heard him scream.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…In Search of Barbarian Days: A Surfing LifeMy Profile

  15. Christopher Rudder
    | Reply

    Wow what an incredible story. It sounds like a scene from a movie. Shit. Never under estimate the power of these animals, especially in the true wild. Amazing story.

  16. I’ve been planning a volunteer trip around the African continent and I’ve been doing a lot of research regarding the pros and cons of volunteering there. Thank you for sharing this experience, Lauren. It’s an example of how we are still very much at the mercy of the primitive workings of our surroundings. I hope you feel much better now! Good luck to your future travels! And stay safe!
    Trisha Velarmino – P.S. I’m On My Way recently posted…What a time to be alive in SiargaoMy Profile

  17. Renne Simpson
    | Reply

    Found this post while I was on Pinterest. It caught my eye and I’m so glad I clicked! Your story had my heart racing. I hope if I’m ever in a situation like that, I react as quickly as you did.
    Renne Simpson recently posted…Wild vs. Captivity: Stop Visiting Animal Attractions (With Video)My Profile

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