While millions of viewers will be glued to their TV stations watching King Charles III’s coronation today, one person will be following the high-profile event with particular interest, some 10890.43 kilometers away from the Westminster Abbey.
Little known Michael Ngatoluwa has had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the future King, when the Royal couple visited Arusha National Park (ANAPA) on November 9, 2011.
He is indeed, still nostalgic of the day Charles, Prince of Wales, arrived at ANAPA’s Ngongongare’s gate under heavy security detail and he would later drive into the park aboard a fleet of five safari vehicles, under the guidance of Richard Beatty OBE.
This was no ordinary visit by any other Very Important Person (VIP) that the Senior Conservation Ranger and his colleagues at ANAPA had to be taken through a two-week rehearsal on handling the monarch.
“We had learnt of a high profile visit to our area, but little did we know that it was Prince Charles coming,” says Ngatoluwa.
It was Beatty who divulged to them that the future King would pay them a visit, and it was imperative for them to learn a thing or two, on handling him.
“Much as he was coming for a walking safari, we had to revisit all trails and walkways that would match the royal’s status,” he recalls.
Under Richard’s directive, the ranger and his colleagues were told to leave everything intact, including fallen trees.
But of particular interest, was how to refer to the future King.
According to Mr Ngatoluwa, they were warned against referring to Charles as ‘Prince’, but ‘Your Royal Highness’.
Back at Ngongongare gate, the future King hoped onto one of the Safari vehicles for Momela gate, a 20- minute drive where he would start his walking safari.
“It would be his security officers now who would take over this time, and we would be barred from accessing his entourage,” says Mr Ngatoluwa.
Armed with small camera, eager to record the royals throughout the safari, the TANAPA ranger sneaked into the park without the guards’ knowledge.
“All business came to a virtual standstill that even those descending Mt Meru had to be stopped, to allow the future King to enjoy his walking Safari,” he recounts.
Not spared also were vehicles plying between Arusha and Ngarenanyuki which, on normal days pass through the 332 square kilometre Park.
According to the senior conservation ranger, the former Prince of Wales didn’t fancy the idea of seeing local security personnel, prompting his two bodyguards to step in.
“It was Richard who did all the talking, including guiding Charles as I captured the images.”
During the walking Safari, the father to William and Harry, future heirs to the throne visited Tululusia Waterfalls, which are located deep within the Arusha National Park and on the north eastern slopes of Mount Meru and was awestruck by such natural beauty.
From the waterfalls, the future King would meet learners from Mweka College of African Wildlife Management who briefed him on a number of issues appertaining the park.
According to the Senior Conservation Ranger, King Charles III was mesmerised by the confidence and eloquence of the learners when getting briefed. “Charles was a good listener, telling from the kind of questions he posed, he also loved joking around with anyone close to him,” he chuckles.
It is during the one-hour walking Safari that King Charles III and his wife Camilla encountered the iconic Fig tree arch, which is synonymous with the park.
“He wondered how such a huge tree would be standing there, he even had a photo op, next to it,” Mr Ngatoluwa recalls.
Charles and his entourage would later meet Ms Gladness Ng’umbi, a former ecologist at ANAPA who took him through some invasive species that were wreaking havoc in the park.
The monarch expressed his concern over the presence of the non-edible plants but appreciated ANAPA’s effort in dealing with them.
Despite enjoying his one-hour Safari walk, King Charles III and his entourage weren’t so lucky with wild animals as they only spotted Buffaloes, Giraffes and Black-and-white colobuses.
The Senior Conservation Ranger cannot hide his excitement and joy upon seeing someone he once photographed getting crowned today.
“I had butterflies in my stomach before meeting him, I couldn’t imagine that he would be an easy going guy throughout the walk,” says Mr Ngatoluwa, who now owns a Nickon D 3100 camera.
As the 54 year-old jokingly puts it, he now feels part of the royal family.
“I feel attached to the coronation that I would have wished to be there,” he says with a smile.
As King Charles III receives his throne today, ANAPA is mulling over plans of erecting huge banners at its entrances to show that the former Prince of Wales was once a visitor there.
“There’s a need of reviewing our visitors’ book just to check the who’s who that visited the park with a view of promoting it,” reveals TANAPA Assistant Commissioner of Conservation, who commands the Arusha National Park.