Safari | The Wildlife

044 (2) (1024x685)1) the king of the beasts!

The first animal I saw on safari was a Thomson gazelle. I say that so I always remember it; to honour wild life in the environment it’s meant to live in. The second animal I saw was a zebra and seeing it was, like, OMG … there’s a zebra! A real, live, wild zebra. It could bring tears to your eyes the utter awe of such a moment. It really could. And it is awe; nothing really prepares you for that moment.  The third animal I saw was a reptile, a Kenyan rock agama. Each of the 37 animals/birds/reptiles I saw remains etched in my mind. Over our four days in the Mara, we saw:

  • Thomson gazelle
  • zebra
  • rock agama
  • crocodile
  • bushbuck
  • water buffalo
  • giraffe
  • warthog
  • hippopotamus
  • elephant
  • topi
  • impala
  • Grant’s gazelle
  • dikdik
  • eland
  • baboon
  • brown snake eagle
  • wildebeest
  • cheetah
  • lion
  • banded mongoose
  • jackal
  • scrub hare
  • vulture
  • secretary bird
  • grey heron
  • guinea fowl
  • ostrich
  • red-billed hornbird
  • Marabou stork
  • white stork
  • lavender breasted roller (the national bird of Kenya)
  • hartebeest
  • brindled gnu
  • bird with
  • vervet monkey
  • kori bustard

Folks regularly talk of seeing “The Big 5” (lion, elephant, water buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) but, gawd, I was happy to see what I did. Maybe, should I ever be blessed to return to Africa, I’ll try to hunt down a rhino and a leopard.  There is also a “Little 5” fyi. These pictures speak for themselves and I invite you to come explore the wonderful, magnificent animals of Kenya.

028c (2) (1024x685)2) young bushbucks

029 (2) (1024x685)3) we came across three cheetah brothers all resting under this tree … you get a sense of how close we are with G’s arm in the foreground

030 (2) (1024x685)4) they are the world’s fastest animal but they are only able to maintain such speed for tiny, tiny moments of time

031 (2) (1024x685)5) cheetahs and leopards are very similar but you can always tell the difference by the ‘tears’ under the eyes of the cheetah

032 (2) (1024x768)6) he says ‘smile’

033 (2) (1024x768)7)  isn’t he gorgeous! … they are quite feline I thought

035 (2) (1024x685)8) my favourite bird; the guinea fowl. They are very boxy and when you get a group of them running together it’s like the most cute and bizarre thing going

036 (2) (1024x768)9)  the kenya agama – these guys stand out for sure but their very bright colours scream ‘danger’ to all animals around them

038 (2) (1024x767)10) my favourite animal – the jackal – these two young ones were playing together

040 (2) (1024x685)11) here’s another resting in the shade

040a (2) (1024x719)12) he’s sleepy I think … jackals are quite small, sort of the size of a North American fox

041 (2) (1024x768)13) my first lions … very excited!

043 (2) (1024x685)14) there were two females here; three cubs and a male

15)  here’s a short film of them

16) and another one

042 (2) (1024x685)17) the male seemed indifferent

045 (2) (1024x685)18) … and sleepy

047 (2) (1024x768)19) we came across them another day when the mother was nursing the cubs

048 (2) (1024x768)20) here’s the non-nursing female

050 (2) (1024x768)21)  here you can see how close we got into them

051 (2) (1024x644)22) everyone’s resting … lions may be the king of the beasts but they are also the laziest resting up to 18 hours each day

053 (2) (1024x512)23) mom yawns

054 (2) (1024x512)24) baby yawns

055 (2) (1024x768)25) isn’t he adorable?!

Safari aside, I visited the ‘hide’ at our camp regularly. It overlooked a small stream and watering hole. There I saw, in additional to Masai herders and young boys walking on the high ridge, zebra, baboons, impalas, topis, and warthogs. One afternoon an entire troop of baboon moved across the stream and came within several metres of the  hide. I was terrified honestly as baboons have always scared the bejesus out of me.  That same troop crossed in front of a small family of topi – moving in the opposite direction. I was struck by this, by the fact that animals on the Mara regularly hangout together (for protection from lions generally) and shared a small foot path used by villagers. And I wondered if it had been the animals who first laid the footpath later used by humans, or vice-versa, and, for how many thousands, indeed tens of thousands of years, they have co-existed here walking that path. And the thought of that is quite staggering and provides you … perspective. Africa is a genius at that. African perspective humbles you; humanizes you.

023 (2) (1024x685)26) here’s the hide

024 (2) (1024x685)27) and G and the view of the watering hole from inside it

024a (2) (1024x685)28) here we spot a zebra

028a (2) (1024x685)29) who seems to be looking right at us!

025 (2) (1024x685)30) and then a troop of baboon wandered past including this guy who I was terrified was going to wander right on inside … baboons scare me!

026 (2) (1024x685)31) it was weird to see the topis going one way as the baboons went – indifferently – the other

028 (2) (1024x685)32) another day we saw these beautiful impalas

028b (2) (1024x685)33) and a warthog

Our guide was the simply awesome Dickson (aka Senchura) who was a local youth trained at the Koyaki Guiding School, set up right within the Naboisho Conservancy (and which we visited [that in a later post]). Senchura was a magnificent ambassador of his people, of Kenya and of the Conservancy. We were honoured to travel with him and he taught us so much. Thank you Senchura!

114 (2) (1024x685)34) our outstanding, awesome guide Dickson (aka Senchura) who was able to spot things long before we were able to

056a (2) (1024x685)35) looking back from the sunset onto the savannah

057 (2) (1024x685)36) here I am posing after our sundowner as the African sun sets into the west

056 (2) (1024x685)38)  isn’t that gorgeous!

058 (2) (685x1024)39) post-sunset G and our Columbian powerhouse start dancing

060 (2) (1024x685)40) on the drive back to camp post-sundown we use infrared lamps to spot the animals …. here we came across … what?  What do you see here?

060 (1024x685)41) a male lion (I’ve removed the infrared here so you can see him sleeping

We saw elephants galore on our safaris. They seems everywhere, including these photos taken one morning as we headed out for the morning drive.

063b (2) (1024x685)42) one morning heading out from camp, barely 1 minute from the tents we encounter a herd of elephants eating their way across the road

063 (2) (1024x685)43) when that happens you sit and wait for them to cross

063c (2) (1024x685)44) elephants are very destructive as you can see here … they simply walk through things

063a (2) (1024x685)45) but we can sit and wait and watch all day

064 (2) (1024x685)46) a mud wallow – used by elephants to roll around in to get mud on to help protect them from the bugs

066 (2) (1024x478)47) here the herd heads onward

067 (2) (685x1024)48) face only a mother could love eh!

067a (2) (685x1024)49)  I love this sort of montage of differing parts of different elephants

067b (2) (1024x685)50) and we thoroughly enjoyed the baby elephant feeding

51)  and here’s a video of that

073 (2) (1024x768)52) and a close up

067d (2) (1024x685)53) isn’t the baby cute?!

068 (2) (1024x685)54)  clearly, the young male on the left was VERY happy to see us (you may have to double-click and enlarge this photo to get what I mean)

072 (2) (1024x768)55) following in mother’s footsteps

074 (2) (685x1024)56) at the hippo watering hole early one morning … tons of hippos in the water and several vervet monkeys hanging out above them

075 (2) (1024x685)57) hippos on the move! Hippos on the move!

076 (2) (1024x685)58) we caught this baby (yes baby!) hippo out on his own

077 (2) (1024x685)59) he quickly made for the watering hole using the channel they dig out

078 (2) (1024x609)60) here a warthog and babies ducks into cover upon our arrival

081 (2) (1024x768)61) the mother? returned to keep an eye on us

083a (2) (1024x685)62) there are hartebeests (you can tell by the shape of their antlers)

084 (2) (1024x768)63) and we watched as the baby had a feeding

083b (2) (1024x685)64) is that not the coolest thing?!

085 (2) (1024x768)65) baboons in the mist?!

086 (2) (1024x449)66) OMG baboons everywhere!

087 (2) (1024x685)67) creepy as all get out … maybe because they are so human like?!

086a (2) (1024x685)68) the largest antelope in Africa, the eland (you can just see on his left shoulder a wee bird that is along for a ride)

088 (2) (1024x685)69) gazelle mania!

091 (2) (1024x685)70) another very scary animal are these: water buffalo

090 (2) (1024x685)71) you won’t want to mess with these … they look SO mean and are VERY big

093 (2) (1024x685)72) another day we saw them more out on the plain

094 (2) (1024x768)73) still looking mean

095 (2) (1024x602)74) love, love, love these sorts of moments in Kenya with so many animals all hanging out together … what do you see here? there are three types

096a (2) (768x1024)75) ah, giraffes

098 (2) (1024x739)76) you haven’t lived till you’ve seen a live giraffe out on the plain running … awesome!

099a (2) (1024x768)77) acacia – the food of elephants and giraffe; they are so thorny but the animals don’t mind: the giraffes with their tongues can pick around the thorns; the elephants with their teeth just chow through them

100 (2) (1024x685)78) this is a dikdik, one of the smallest antelope out there – this fellow and his mate stood maybe two feet tall

101 (2) (1024x768)79) zebras

Sadly there is death on the savannah too, of course. This is no zoo and the animals are on constant guard for predators. The main predators are the cats and they tend to hunt during the night (despite whatever films you’ve seen of lions tracking down prey during daylight). Lions are generally lazy buggers and lounge around 18 hours a day.

102 (2) (1024x685)80) there is death out here too though

103 (2) (685x1024)81) here we came across an elephant that had been injured and died

105a (2) (1024x768)82) the vultures and Marabou cranes were busy picking at him

105 (2) (685x1024)83)  the rangers had come along and removed the elephant’s head as the poachers would have come taken it for the black market

105b (2) (1024x768)84) eek, vultures!

106 (2) (1024x685)85)  and more vultures out on the plain with a morsel

An essential part of any safari is the sundowner, a tradition that goes back into the 1800s and which is essentially a drink taken after completing the work for the day. Our sundowners were taken out on the savannah, usually with an acacia tree in the foreground behind which the sun would descend. My drink of choice was a Kenya Tusker beer; G rather settled on a gin & tonic or a glass of wine.

107 (2) (1024x682)86) on our last sundowner, the camp arranged a special set-up for us

108 (2) (1024x685)87) it is these unique touches that makes Encounter Mara so fabulous

109 (2) (885x1024)88)  moi with the country’s best guide, Senchura

110 (2) (1024x685)89)  as the sun set we watched this lone topi cross the horizon

115 (2) (1024x685)90) an ostrich looking for a place to bury its head?

116 (2) (1024x685)91) a brindled gnu (I think!) …. they look similar to wildebeest to me

117 (2) (1024x685)92) these are nests of a wee bird (I forgot their name) that pitch themselves quite smartly in among the thorns

118 (2) (1024x685)93) the national bird of Kenya: the lavender breasted roller

119 (2) (1024x685)94) a red-billed hornbird

119b (2) (1024x685)95) the famous secretary bird, called this because the plumes look like a pen stuck behind the ear and the black legs look like stockings (or so we were told). Interestingly too, these birds are very tall and stand near a metre high

119c (2) (1024x856)96) a white crane

We only exited our landrover three times over our stay in camp. Leaving the landrover puts you on African soil in a ‘real’ way and connects you with the land and its wildlife. But it can be dangerous and Senchura was very conscious about when and where we left the vehicle and surveyed the surroundings before letting us get out. One day we left to walk the edge of the hippo watering hole; another day – in ‘leopard country’ we wandered across the plain to an acacia tree (which was then promptly climbed); and on our next to last day, we exited to spend some time chatting with three local herders and wandered along with them and their cattle (which was awesome!). The animals see the landrover as nothing more than a big box; to them it is nothing and non-threatening. However, once you exit the landrover and move away from it, animals see you as game and fair prey. Sobering thought that!

121 (2) (1024x685)97) here we gather along the shore of the hippo watering hole

121a (2) (1024x768)98) the photographer in action

122 (2) (1024x685)99)  on the far shore was this, a 3.5 metre long crocodile … eek!

123 (2) (1024x685)100) hippos (and crocodiles) are the only animals that hang out in this water … it is filled with hippo poo and pee … yuck!

124 (2) (685x1024)101) here is a hippo channel, the way they get in and out of the watering hole

128 (2) (1024x685)102) a vervet monkey

126 (2) (1024x685)103) and another down from the trees spying on us

127 (2) (1024x685)104) cute wee groundhogs

130 (2) (1024x685)105) this was out in ‘leopard country’ … we were hiking from the landrover way over to the tree you see off in the centre of the picture

129 (2) (1024x685)106) wildebeest seem the more forlorn of the African animals … if you double-click this picture to make it larger you will see them stretched out along the horizon as far as your eye can see

163 (2) (1024x685)107)  another view of the savannah in the daylight … can you name that antelope under the tree?

162 (2) (1024x457)108) how many animals can you spot in this picture … I see at least five

061 (2) (685x1024)109) and,  I think, my most favourite photograph I shot while in Kenya – this one taken at dawn with the giraffe

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