At 1400hrs on Monday, atop an open-roof van, I took off from Nairobi for what would turn out to be an adventurous 4 days in the Masai Mara.
I was in the company of colleagues in the logistics industry and we were headed for a training workshop at Mara Leisure Camp.
As we bid the skyscrapers of Nairobi goodbye and entered the sprawling wheat farms of Narok, the excitement among the team was palpable.
We took a break from the safari to pray Asar (this is the third prayer of the day) in Narok town.
After this spiritual nourishment, we were off again.
Just after Narok town before getting on to the bumpy road to the Mara, our van broke down.
It seemed there was a conspiracy to ward off my excitement but I was not having any of that.
This was a great opportunity for me to take in the beautiful landscapes and have good-natured banter with some Maasai gentlemen and women who were looking after their cattle.
Within no time, the van was repaired by our travel agency and we were back on the road again.
The entourage was in two vans and we were constantly in competition literally for everything – be it riding across the bumpy roads or attempts to reach the feasting lions faster first.
We were in the Mara for serious matters, but that did not prevent me from having some fun on the side.
At the workshop the organizers split us into two groups based on the vans we used.
After the seminar sessions, we went out to play in some exciting team building exercises.
One exciting game saw us attempt to prick our opposing team’s with a toothpick.
At the end of the breathtaking excercise, to my surprise, the trainer said that we were one team attacking each other.
Yet he was the one who had provided the balloons, toothpicks and the instruction to destroy each other!
“Next time do not puncture your colleague’s balloon,” he said.
“Well, next time do not give us toothpicks!” I replied cheekily to much laughter and applause.
Our first outing came after the second day of the workshop when we took a game drive in the wild.
There is no better sight than getting a glimpse of what Kenya has to offer in wild animals in their habitat.
We had very experienced guides who knew just the right spots to sight some of these animals.
They take their work so serious that you’ll think you’re hunting with a hungry lioness with cubs to feed – finding a prey to kill.
I learned that a smart way of knowing there’s an exciting wildlife activity – it could be lions descending on some poor wild beast or a cheetah racing its prey, yes gazelle – is to follow vultures swooping down to land somewhere.
A much simpler way is, well, to follow tour vehicles rushing toward one direction.
Another hilarious moment came during the game drive when we were asking each other names of trees, animals (how to identify, which animal is male or female, number of breast, gestation period and so on) in our local dialects.
Most of us were clueless save for my brother Ibrahim who got all of them right when asked.
The most interesting question was which tree was used to make wooden mallet for castrating animals by the Cushites? Not all trees are used.
Ibrahim as usual, stepped up with the final answer: “Salalmac.” (Correct answer).
The general conclusion was that Ibrahim being in logistics was in the wrong profession – much laughter ensued!
Being ever focused on matters logistics, my day out in the wild had a lesson or two about logistics!
Adapting to Change: The jungle is an ever changing environment, with prey and predators and only the most adaptive survive.
As Charles Darwin once quipped quite memorably, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Training: The bigger animals protect their pride and family. The mothers always nurse their young and teach them to hunt the prey (or escape the predator depending on where they are in the food chain).
Likewise, comprehensive personnel training is essential to all successful logistics models.
Training on the nuances of each retailer is crucial to the long-term health of the logistics relationship.
Parts of a system: Just like the ecosystem, the logistics aspect of businesses has so many intricate layers that at times may threaten to break down, but it is the partners who understand their role in the entire picture that keep the chain moving.
Service Delivery: The tour drivers were adamant that we see almost all the Big Five and more. They never bothered our previous experience with the endangered species.
A good logistic manager will do the same, non-considerate of previous experience with the same customer – every shipment is unique with unique needs and timelines.
We had some great supper in the bush. There is something refreshing about having a meal in the open air with the distant howls and growls of wild animals.
After a very informative workshop that took four days, we hit the road back to Nairobi on Thursday.
Once again, we made a stop at Mai Mahiu for Duhur prayers.
Saeed’s Side Note: (Looking at the photos of the whole trip afterward, someone remarked that we were not conscious of gender! Was it just a coincidence or can we say that ladies are afraid of wild animals in the Mara?)