A Samburu Blessing


The Milgis, tucked away between the Ndoto Mountains and the Matthews Range is a place where extreme beauty mixes with the harshest existence. A place where only the strongest live. The river demands respect, driving flash floods over baked earth and watering the many Singing Wells.


Lead by Helen Douglas-Dufresne and her partner Pete Ilsley, we took their camels through the mountain ranges to settle at a point where the Samburu were gathering for a blessing.

Thousands of photographs have been taken of the Samburu but the sad fact is, the Samburu are uncomfortable being on the opposite side of a lens. Many photographers and tourists have not respected them by breaking this unspoken desire not to be photographed. Therefore, I felt honored to be able to take my camera and with guidance of Helen and her Samburu friends, I was permitted to be the only photographer at an authentic blessing.


Fire was made with sticks and elephant dung; elders walked as far as 50 miles; warriors were adorned with feathers; women adorned with beads and ochre.


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Blood drunk from a dying bull re-charged elders, 80 or so, who blessed the married couple with chants of ‘Ngai, Ngai’ (the Samburu God).


If there is one thing you should do before you die, you must take a walk through The Milgis with the Samburu, Helen and Pete.

Together they run The Milgis Trust which covers the Milgis eco system, approximately 8,000sq kms and supporting several nomadic tribes.

Thanks to Helen and the trust, elephants (who were lost for 30 odd years) have begun to return to the area. Now fiercely protected by the Samburu who call Helen ‘Mama’. Helen’s life-long wish, before she dies, is to return the Rhino and have them protected by the nomadic people too.