Now this is a WILD animal park

Trip Start Nov 03, 2011
Trip End Nov 11, 2011

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

We were up early again today. I had the best nights sleep I have had in years. I can't believe it. When we got back to the room last night I was thinking I was going to have a terrible time sleeping. It seemed so warm in the room but once we were under the mosquito netting with the fan going full blast I slept like a baby. In fact it was the first time I have slept without earplugs in years. The sound of the rushing water and the ceiling fan drown out any other noises that would keep you awake and soon after getting in bed it was cool enough to crawl under the down comforters.

We were up and ready well before breakfast was being served so we decided to take the extra time we had this morning to explore the grounds. The evidence of the flash flooding remained. The banks of the river were carved well beyond where it currently flowed and muddy reminders sat in puddles. 
As we explored we passed a man in tribal dress. It didn't take us long to see what he was doing. The Monkeys knew breakfast was on its way and they had started to congregate near the open air restaurant. The man loaded his slingshot and the monkeys started to scatter. There is no better and safer deterrent to monkey's than a slingshot. Definitely a necessary evil because just as we came in to sit down to breakfast a breakfast heist was barely averted as a monkey tried to make a break for it into the restaurant.

After breakfast we all met down at the van for our morning game drive on Samburu National Reserve. This morning Nick is not riding with us. Cathy, from another van, has decided to skip the game drive this morning to enjoy the resort and sit by the pool. That van would only have 5 people so Nick will ride with them to even out the vans. We laughed and said he would have to be our mole and tell us if the other van is as good as ours is. As we exit the Shaba reserve we get a view of one of the smaller animals of Kenya. A rainbow Lizard. Kenya is like HDTV, everything is brighter, more vivid, more powerful. The Rainbow lizard doesn't look much different than the lizards I chased as a child in Kentucky only they are technicolor-ed!

It doesn't take very long until we see our first animal of the morning. A gerunuk is craning its long neck into an Acacia tree nibbling its tender leaves. I find myself rooting for it to stand on its hind legs to give us that perfect nature shot. You can feel your heartbeat exhilarating as it stretches its neck farther and farther. Minutes seemed like an eternity but this gerenuk wasn't going to give us what we wanted so drove on.

When we first saw the giraffes one Tall and one smaller I thought that they were mother and child. As they started to "neck", a beautiful dance where they swing their necks intertwining them, we realized that they were both males. This is how they establish dominance. It is hard to believe that what looks to us as an affectionate embrace can actually hurt these graceful creatures.

We see our first Elephant this morning and I am blown away by its size. I have been next to elephants before but never just out in the wild. We see a huge troop of elephants and Nicholas positions us sideways in the road so that we can take pictures from both sides of the van. We are facing a berm so the only way to turn around is to back up. This doesn't seem like a problem until we are surrounded by the elephants. It snuck up on us. We were so enthralled with watching the pachyderms that we didn't realize that there were elephants on every side of us. They had gotten closer and closer. Then suddenly a young bull got a little protective and started to act aggressively warning us that we too close. He was behind us and we couldn't pull forward. Nicholas remained calm but I think we all felt a little fear knowing that if these massive beasts wanted to they could turn over the van. Poor Julie started to panic. As we backed toward the aggressive bull it was as if he sensed that we were trying to get away and he took a few steps back to let us get turned around. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we left the elephants behind.

Nicholas, with info from other drivers, takes us to a large pile of brush. It is in this brush that there are lion cubs. The animal world is brilliant at camouflage and we struggle to make out the shape of the young lions. Still we are so excited about seeing our first lion. Baby lions mean momma lion so we go on the hunt to find her.

There are several vans all lined up. Nicholas tells us that a lioness is in the brush. She is very concealed and we sit for what seems like forever only getting glimpses of her ears every now and again. If someone hadn't told me it was a lion I would have never known it. In fact I would have never known anything was there at all if it weren't for all the tourist staring at the same locations with cameras ready. It is at this moment that Nicholas takes the lead at the best driver EVER. Seeing that the lioness is not going to show herself to the large group of onlookers he takes a path that puts us on the other side of where the lioness is hiding. There are no other vehicles where we are and we wait. It isn't long until an elephant in the distance trumpets and charges. What is it charging at? Our Lioness. We watch breathlessly as she reveals herself to us. She comes right toward us. There is no way to explain the way I feel at this moment. I think that everyone in our van wants to hug Nicholas for giving us this moment. These are the moments that will stay with us forever.

So at this moment we start to talk about how we have the best driver and talk about our mole in the other van. We have to find out from Nick if their group is as great as ours is. By now our silliness has come out and my obsession with Dik-Dik has become a common joke. As our competitive side comes out we laugh and say that our journey is like the Amazing Race and that we have to have a team name. I have been wanting to say it the entire journey, every time I hear someone come over the radio, Simba One. I explain about Kilimanjaro Safari Ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom and the group adopts the name immediately... We are Simba One.

There are few moments of this trip that we are spending looking for the animals. There are animals everywhere and Josh with his binoculars is shouting out, "Impala 11 o-clock...Warthog 3 o-clock" When he isn't sure what the animal is Nicholas will identify it. Josh, Julie's husband is an enthusiastic spotter and acts as a second set of eyes for our experienced driver. We really do have a great group. Cory and I share fun facts from Animal Kingdom and are able to identify some of the animals, ones that we have at Animal Kingdom. We are a van full of geeks wanting to absorb anything that we can learn and we are all having a blast doing it.

The elephants on the reserve are nearly red with the mud that they use for sunscreen and bug repellent. We get to see them in action applying the mud when we come upon a group playing in the mud pits. It isn't long until two bulls decide that they are in competition and start to lock trunks and horns. As the two start to back toward the van Nicholas says it might be a good time to leave. We assure him that as the one with experience we rely on him to make the decisions and that if he thinks we are in danger he need not even ask, just go. Having been raised with horses I realize that any male animal that is stirred up by a female in heat isn't rational and could turn their frustration on us. I remember one time that a stud horse, after being kicked and rejected by a female turned and bit my father in the back for no other reason than he was frustrated. These bull elephants could do a lot more damage than that!

Our last stop for the day is at the river where Elephants are cooling off in the water. I decide that this is the perfect spot for our little stowaway to get his photo with the wildlife. Sue is immediately curious about our puppet. I explain that in one of the attractions where we work there is a piece of animation called Figure Animation #2 or abbreviated FA 2. We paint and repair the skins on the dinosaurs and we take Fatwo with us on trips and he gets a picture or two made of him to go back to work with us. Sue insists that I scare Julie with it. I keep insisting that no, I don't want to make Julie scream therefore scaring the animals that we are trying to view. Too late Sue is already getting Julies attention just in time for he to jump at the sight of Fatwo. Kudos to Julie for not letting out an earth shattering squeal.

On the way back to the lodge we stop to take some shots of Ostrich and the random dik-dik. We have a few hours until we head out on our afternoon drive. There isn't a lot of time so we do some packing, charge our batteries, and have some lunch. We take some time to check out the crocs on the other side of the river and the bats hanging from the ceiling of the outdoor lounge and before you know it, it is time for our afternoon game drive.

Nick has rejoined us so we are grilling him about the other group. He is jealous of our lion shots and admits that we are a lot more fun.

The afternoon drive is more about the landscape than the animals. Nicholas tells us that Survivor Africa was filmed here in 2001 and because of all of the commotion the animals have left and still have not returned. That show has ruined the Shaba reserve for 10 years! It is evident just by spending the morning in Samburu reserve and seeing more animals than we could ever imagine to seeing Shaba reserve and only seeing the random single gazelle or dik-dik. I have seen the intros to Survivor Kenya and I have to laugh. The hype about the harshness, remoteness and situation that the Survivors are in is just that hype. The luxurious Sarova Shaba lodge is only minutes away with a fresh spring running through it. The contestants were probably sneaking off for spa treatments between challenges. "uh yeah.... I was out hunting...." "But you smell like eucalyptus" "uh.... I had to climb a eucalyptus tree to escape the charging rhino..."

Just one more reason for me to despise reality TV. Because of the traveling that Cory and I do we are often being told we should do the Amazing Race or Survivor. Any time that we go somewhere someone is always saying "The amazing race was just there. You should watch." After so many comments I decided to watch the Amazing Race. One episode and I was so ticked off I still haven't gotten over it. The contestants were in Egypt. Cory and I had just returned from there. The contestants were everything the sterotype ugly American is. I fight that sterotype by trying to research the culture of my destination. We do our best to assimilate while we are there and here was a show that promotes the worst in people and exposes the rest of the world to that horrible sterotype.

We were surprised that we were allowed to get out of the van but we all tumbled out and started taking pictures. I wanted a picture of our three drivers, Nicholas, Julius and Joseph. They were all so great I wanted to remember them. Then we decided we needed a picture of Simba One. When the other two drivers saw that we had named our group Joseph spoke up and said well if you are Simba One then we are Cheetah One. Julius was standing there and Joseph pointed to him and said "He is Punda two" Punda is donkey in Swahili. Of course we all laughed. It seems that our silliness is infectious and the entire group is having a good time.

All the joking has triggered something in Sue. She is a little devious and I like it. She has the brilliant idea to take a picture of a picture in our animal guide book of a leopard and then tell the other group that we got pictures of a leopard. Unfortunately the only guide book we have is Nicholas bird book and our Animal Kingdom guide book. Animal Kingdom doesn't have Leopards only Cheetah.... We decide that a Cheetah will do. It is amazing how real the picture looks. We start hatching a plan.

As we get out of the van I loudly say to Nick-Nick "Hey did you see the shot I got of the Leopard?" Nick says "no let me see" He takes a few moments to "ooooo and ahhhhhhh" and when no one bites he says to a couple of the Punda group "Hey take a look at the picture Laura got of the Leopard." (We figured at this point in the trip they wouldn't know the difference between a leopard and a cheetah). At first they bit saying "You got a picture of a Leopard?" "When did you get that?" That is when Julius their driver, without even looking, said " You took a picture of a book!" Boy he is good. We thought that Nicholas had told him but upon further investigation we found out he hadn't. That Julius is smart.

The night ends as they all do, dinner at the lodge restaurant. It is at dinner that I realize that I don't have my camera bag. I have one of the cameras because I had it around my neck but the other camera and all of the batteries are in the bag. I am trying to remember if I took it off of the van... Hmmmm Karma is quick. Our little prank is already biting me back. I was so excited about the prank that I wasn't being careful about my stuff. Cory and I headed out after dinner and peeked through the window of the van. I could see it under the seat where I was sitting. Thank goodness. I could get a good nights sleep now.

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