Me (on the left)  and my brother David, who came to Djuma for a visit.

My name is Jake McDaniel. You may remember me from a few months ago when I was an intern in the Maasai Mara. During that time I assisted in the production of the daily internet TV shows and action broadcasts; for the social media department I produced a video and a blog. I had a wonderful time and wanted to join the team for more memorable experiences. I was very lucky to be accepted back in December. This time I was sent to safariLIVE’s other site: Djuma.

Having lived here for sometime now, I’ve experienced the major differences between the Maasai Mara and Djuma in terms of my work, the living situation and the geographical surroundings. Many of these differences have made Djuma a wholly unique experience from the Mara and I’d like to share my thoughts on them, illuminating how different the two sites are from each other.

When I first arrived in Djuma, valiantly fighting off the effects of jetleg, I was struck by the heat. In the Mara the days were often cool, mixed in with the sunshine, but in Djuma, the air feels muggy and almost oppressive. I confess, I’m perhaps a bit more lazy during the heat of the day in Djuma because of this, napping or showering to stave off the humidity and breathing a sigh of relief when night falls. It was certainly quite a shock coming from a New York during winter and formed a contrast that affects my daily habits.

The physical environment too is quite different. As I rode in the car to the Djuma Research Camp, I marveled at the narrow roads and miles of forest terrain, noting that this landscape felt instantly more intimate than the Mara’s sprawling plains. There I could stare off for miles, the land seeming to go on forever. Here the forest sticks close to you and cuts your view off. In this way it feels tighter, and although Mara is beautiful, I think I like this sort of environment more at Djuma, despite the heat.

Why? I feel as if I have more of a connection to Djuma and its sense of character than in the Mara, especially in terms of wildlife. When I got here, I was warned the chances of running into animals is far higher than in the Mara. This was, of course, completely correct. In Djuma I feel as if I’m in a real-life Jurassic Park, with tons of varied creatures just outside my doorstep.

Some notable encounters have included: different types of birds ramming themselves into my window, startling me awake in the early hours of the morning. A massive frog greeting me in the shower, hanging out on the washing machine and refusing to budge while seeming to hold some sort of contempt for my ‘intrusion’ of the bathroom. Two centipedes shooting through camp like speeding bullets during dinner, swooped up by the presenters and tossed outside. Multiple impala wandering outside my room, helping themselves to the foliage and watching me with a sense of curiosity. And of course, there is my favorite: Gregory the tortoise, a friendly animal who wanders into camp every morning and helps herself (yes, herself) to fruit around the camp. Sometimes other tortoises follow her, but they turn away at the camp’s gates and bid a hasty retreat, lacking her bravery.

A rugged view of the outskirts of the Djuma Research Camp.

A view of zebra at a watering hole amidst bad weather in the Kruger. 

This sense of intimacy has led me to have a greater connection to Djuma, helped immensely by the smaller size of the camp itself. In the Mara I lived in a wide open tent at the fringes of the camp. I had a single roommate, but it seemed like my own little place. In Djuma I live in small room next to the the rest of the staff. The kitchen, dining facilities, and the bathrooms are right outside. Although this may seem a bit much, akin to stuffing a bunch of people into a tight prison cell, I enjoy this far more as it gives me a greater connection to the people around me.

I emerge from my room and see staff members milling around, either in the early hours of the morning or late in the day. I often hear Fergus, one of the cameramen, playing guitar next door. I hear chatter outside my room at night and I always have meals with the entire crew. I have developed a greater sense of camaraderie with everyone, something, I think, that was sometimes missing in the Mara due to the larger size of the camp. Here, I have participated in the numerous fun activities, such as a weekly movie night, playing charades, going for drives, or just hanging out and listening to stories.

Djuma and the Mara are two worlds, separated by miles of land, but together they form two parts of a greater whole and I’ve loved every second I’ve spent at both. I’ll always have amazing memories of dragging myself up at 4 AM, stumbling through the dark paths of the camps into their respective FC’s, listening to the sound of bugs and birds around me. The experiences may be different, but what I loved about safariLIVE in the Mara remains true in Djuma as well.