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
- rock agama
- water buffalo
- Grant’s gazelle
- brown snake eagle
- banded mongoose
- scrub hare
- secretary bird
- grey heron
- guinea fowl
- red-billed hornbird
- Marabou stork
- white stork
- lavender breasted roller (the national bird of Kenya)
- 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.
2) young bushbucks
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
4) they are the world’s fastest animal but they are only able to maintain such speed for tiny, tiny moments of time
5) cheetahs and leopards are very similar but you can always tell the difference by the ‘tears’ under the eyes of the cheetah
6) he says ‘smile’
7) isn’t he gorgeous! … they are quite feline I thought
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
9) the kenya agama – these guys stand out for sure but their very bright colours scream ‘danger’ to all animals around them
10) my favourite animal – the jackal – these two young ones were playing together
11) here’s another resting in the shade
12) he’s sleepy I think … jackals are quite small, sort of the size of a North American fox
13) my first lions … very excited!
14) there were two females here; three cubs and a male
15) here’s a short film of them
16) and another one
17) the male seemed indifferent
18) … and sleepy
19) we came across them another day when the mother was nursing the cubs
20) here’s the non-nursing female
21) here you can see how close we got into them
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
23) mom yawns
24) baby yawns
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.
26) here’s the hide
27) and G and the view of the watering hole from inside it
28) here we spot a zebra
29) who seems to be looking right at us!
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!
31) it was weird to see the topis going one way as the baboons went – indifferently – the other
32) another day we saw these beautiful impalas
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!
34) our outstanding, awesome guide Dickson (aka Senchura) who was able to spot things long before we were able to
35) looking back from the sunset onto the savannah
36) here I am posing after our sundowner as the African sun sets into the west
38) isn’t that gorgeous!
39) post-sunset G and our Columbian powerhouse start dancing
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?
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.
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
43) when that happens you sit and wait for them to cross
44) elephants are very destructive as you can see here … they simply walk through things
45) but we can sit and wait and watch all day
46) a mud wallow – used by elephants to roll around in to get mud on to help protect them from the bugs
47) here the herd heads onward
48) face only a mother could love eh!
49) I love this sort of montage of differing parts of different elephants
50) and we thoroughly enjoyed the baby elephant feeding
51) and here’s a video of that
52) and a close up
53) isn’t the baby cute?!
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)
55) following in mother’s footsteps
56) at the hippo watering hole early one morning … tons of hippos in the water and several vervet monkeys hanging out above them
57) hippos on the move! Hippos on the move!
58) we caught this baby (yes baby!) hippo out on his own
59) he quickly made for the watering hole using the channel they dig out
60) here a warthog and babies ducks into cover upon our arrival
61) the mother? returned to keep an eye on us
62) there are hartebeests (you can tell by the shape of their antlers)
63) and we watched as the baby had a feeding
64) is that not the coolest thing?!
65) baboons in the mist?!
66) OMG baboons everywhere!
67) creepy as all get out … maybe because they are so human like?!
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)
69) gazelle mania!
70) another very scary animal are these: water buffalo
71) you won’t want to mess with these … they look SO mean and are VERY big
72) another day we saw them more out on the plain
73) still looking mean
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
75) ah, giraffes
76) you haven’t lived till you’ve seen a live giraffe out on the plain running … awesome!
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
78) this is a dikdik, one of the smallest antelope out there – this fellow and his mate stood maybe two feet tall
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.
80) there is death out here too though
81) here we came across an elephant that had been injured and died
82) the vultures and Marabou cranes were busy picking at him
83) the rangers had come along and removed the elephant’s head as the poachers would have come taken it for the black market
84) eek, vultures!
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.
86) on our last sundowner, the camp arranged a special set-up for us
87) it is these unique touches that makes Encounter Mara so fabulous
88) moi with the country’s best guide, Senchura
89) as the sun set we watched this lone topi cross the horizon
90) an ostrich looking for a place to bury its head?
91) a brindled gnu (I think!) …. they look similar to wildebeest to me
92) these are nests of a wee bird (I forgot their name) that pitch themselves quite smartly in among the thorns
93) the national bird of Kenya: the lavender breasted roller
94) a red-billed hornbird
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
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!
97) here we gather along the shore of the hippo watering hole
98) the photographer in action
99) on the far shore was this, a 3.5 metre long crocodile … eek!
100) hippos (and crocodiles) are the only animals that hang out in this water … it is filled with hippo poo and pee … yuck!
101) here is a hippo channel, the way they get in and out of the watering hole
102) a vervet monkey
103) and another down from the trees spying on us
104) cute wee groundhogs
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
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
107) another view of the savannah in the daylight … can you name that antelope under the tree?
108) how many animals can you spot in this picture … I see at least five
109) and, I think, my most favourite photograph I shot while in Kenya – this one taken at dawn with the giraffe