Talk To The Animals

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Nov 09, 2009

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Flag of Kenya  ,
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    It's Tuesday morning at the Mountain Lodge at the base of Mt Kenya.  A fine mist lingers in the air after an evening rain shower and the resultant humidity feels good.  We return from breakfast to find two elephants at the watering hole right in front of our place.  Talk about exciting!

    We left the Mountain Lodge just after 8 AM and traveled 190 km. (118 mi.) north across the equator to Serena Samburu Lodge just outside the Samburu National Reserve.  The trip took 5 hours and our elevation changed from over 2,195 m. (7,200 ft.) to just under 853 m. (2,800 ft.).  These lodges are excellent facilities, similar to the Jasper Park Lodge, but with the African motif and design of course, and the food is outstanding in terms of selection, quality, and flavor.  We're in Africa and we're putting on weight for crying out loud!

    Climate change is a real concern in Kenya and is having major consequences for the lifestyle of the Kenyan people and also the living conditions and historical patterns of its big game animals.  Normally, Kenya experiences a wet season from March to June but there has been no rain over the past two years.  As a result, the rivers and reservoirs have either dried up or are critically low.  As we mentioned previously, electricity is being rationed in Nairobi for the first time since 1997.  One of the two main rivers in the Samburu National Reserve that the animals use for drinking has dried up.  The Mara River is also much lower than normal meaning that the zebras and wildebeest are going to be much more successful in their crossing of that river and that more crocodiles are going to die on the river bank.

    Our driver/guide is a young Kenyan man named Ahmed.  He is very knowledgeable and humorous and will be with us throughout the entire trip in Kenya and Tanzania.  This is the first time they have allowed the same driver throughout as previously they had to change both drivers and vehicles at the Tanzanian border.  Apparently there were a lot of complaints about the Tanzanian guides and the tour operator has therefore resorted to using the more experienced and knowledgeable Kenyan guides.

    Our tour vehicle has been upgraded to a new Toyota Land Cruiser, not common for Kenyan safaris which use the pop-up mini-vans but common for Tanzanian safaris where the terrain is much more rigorous.

    It's Wednesday, August 26 (Day 2 here at the Samburu Lodge) and we got up early to leave on a 6:30 AM game drive.  We are welcomed initially by colonies of baboons frolicking at the park entrance to the Samburu National Reserve, an arid plateau with a combination of riverine bush and semi-desert terrain.  We see a number of zebras, impalas and giraffes, and are rewarded with seeing a pride of lions and a fresh kill of an African buffalo.  They have ripped the tail off of it and the evidence is all over their faces.  We wait to see if they return for more but it seems they have had enough for the time being and most have retired to rest under an Acacia tree.  One lone lion keeps wandering and is eyeing a young buffalo but 5 other adult buffaloes notice and keep the young one in the middle of their group.  This will be no match for the lion this time.

        We returned for another game drive this afternoon at 3:30 PM to see what, if anything more, had been devoured of the buffalo kill and what new adventures would occur.  We were surprised to see that no more of the buffalo carcass was eaten.  We did see several herds of giraffes and elephants, another lion, a leopard, a cheetah and a Somali ostrich.  Hardly anyone gets to see both a leopard and a cheetah, but we were lucky enough to have such an experienced guide and a new off road vehicle to get into remote areas to see them (the mini-vans would not have been able to get to where we saw the cheetah).

    There is the Big Five and then Samburu has its own Big Five which are only found in the National Reserve and we saw them all -- the reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, the Somalia ostrich, the oryx and gerenuk (both species are of the antelope family).  It is really amazing to us to see all of this wildlife at the same time knowing that you are not in a zoo but in their environment and habitat.  We are really surprised at how close our guide is able to get us to some of these animals.  You can practically talk to them.

    Safari is an Arabic verb which means "to journey" and it has been only 3 days and we have found it to be an incredibly awe-inspiring journey.  We hope that if an opportunity arises for you to go on one that you would certainly consider it.  It is absolutely breathtaking.

    Tomorrow we are off to Lake Nakuru which is home to countless flamingoes.  This will also be the start of our tenting experience which will continue for about a week.
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