Monday, 30 January 2017

Victoria Falls

Our next stop was Zimbabwe by way of Zambia.  We crossed the border on a bridge that had been built some 100 years previously.  This is the spot from which people bungee jump.

What a difference!  It  was very green and lush in comparison to the dryness of the camps we visited in Kenya.  It was clear that there had been a lot of rain and we were told that the rain had been unusually long-lived of late. In fact some parts of the country had been flooding.  This, of course, is good news for the falls as their force is dependant on the amount of rain.

We spent our first evening taking a boat cruise on the Zambezi river, the feeder to the falls.  It was fun, we saw many beautiful birds and also saw hippos stretching and yawning and getting ready to go ashore in the night to feed.

We also had a dramatic sunset as a strong rain storm made its way across the sky as we were returning.  This did not bode well for the following day as the rain looked like it was there to stay.

The next day was indeed a rainy one but we made our way to the falls nevertheless. These are so impressive.

The water falls over 100 metres over a rift with precipitous cliffs that are verdant with rain forest growth.  There is a rainforest throughout the park and we saw some monkeys as we entered.

We wore raincoats, but to no avail.  The spray was so thick it obscured the falls from view!  Also, there was an updraft which caused the spray to insinuate itself under the jacket so that by the end of our viewing experience we were soaked right down to our skin!

We stopped at a statue of Livingston who is revered for both his exploratory and missionary work.  It was he who named the falls after the Queen, although the natives had a different name for them originally.

We found a restaurant which looked our over the whirlpool downstream from the falls.  Crazy people do a bungee type swing from the cliff edge and while we were there we watched one man jump on a bungee, then swing out from the rock face and dangle below above the water waiting to be pulled back up.  Then...there was a power failure.   The poor man dangled for a full hour before the power was restored.  This is another reason to avoid bungee jumping as far as I am concerned.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Three days on the Savannah

Our experience at the Noboisho camp was indescribable.  From lions to hawks and cheetahs to leopards our stay was magical.  The camp was luxury  standards with incredible staff and great gudes.  The staff was Masai, coming from the nearby villages and had extensive knowledge about their culture, history, and the flora and fau
na of the area.  We saw all of the animals we wanted well as a live kill by a lioness (fascinating) and a cheetah and her cubs eating their recent kill.

 The leopard however had elluded us and we dispaired at seeing this very well camaflaged and skittish creature.

On our last daylight gamedrive, our guide stopped to show us a bird and noted the baying of jackals in the distance.  He sped off in that direction, explaining that they often bay to inddicate a cat in the area.  We came upon a dry river bed, on the other side of which we could hear the jackals.  All at once a herd of elephants started trumpetting and stomping the ground...a sight to behold and thunderous noise to hear, and then over the ridge came the leopard!  She had been chased from her meal by a hyena  and had run amidst the elephants who had objected.  We were delighted when she came towards us and gave us a full view of her!

Our list was now complete, we had seen and photgraphed the big five animals, so called because they were the ones once hunted for their skins and trophy value and were most difficult to hunt on foot.  Safaris today still try to see the big five but photography is the goal...the big five are-
The lion

The Cape buffalo

The leopard

The Rhino.

We saw four of the five at this camp, although we had seen all but the leopard at the camps prior to arriving at Noboisho.

Jan 25 Encounter Mara

Oh! What a morning.  Read on if you want to read about the kill we saw...
We were up at 0530 to see a most spectacular starry sky.  The southern cross was up and low in te north we could see the big dipper.  The milky way was there in all its glory!  We were awakened with a cup of Masai tea...heavily milked chai flavored tea...and we watched the sun start to lighten the sky.  At 0630 we were back in the jeep with our guide, searching for what we might find.  Within a few minutes Lemkoko spotted a male and female lion.

We drove quickly to their location to see them.  I could not understand why, after a few minutes of viewing these relatively quiet cats our guide did not leave the site for other viewings.  He explained that, though the cats seemed at ease, the female was signalling that 'something was up'.  This she does by keeping her ears erect,  upon the backs of which are black spots.  These are seen from behind by other lions and are a signal to them.  Hence...we waited.  

The female moved slowly forward, the male in the rear.  They did not move together, he in fact seemed most uninterested.  She, by contrast was alert to all animals around her, scanning from one grazing herd to another.  She seemed to give up from time to time and lay down, but the ears were ever-erect.  

We followed her until she disappeared into a small ravine and we circled around to see from its opposite crest.  No sooner did we arrive but Paul saw her leap over the crest and land atop an Impalla!  She was in full view and we watched while she finished the job, not with tearing of flesh as I had expected; but by suffocating her prey.  This took her considerable effort and a full 20 minutes of continuing and constant force. 

 Then she dragged her prey away to a shady and hidden spot.  She then laid down to rest from the effort, saving the meat for later when she was more rested.  The male was no where to be seen, but if he were to come upon her and her kill, he would have fed first.  One could certainly see and appreciate her incredible strength and her profound intellegence having patiently stalked and killed her next meal.  This took a full hour and a half to unfold!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Encounter Mara

After the trip our boat ride we were off again by road to the Masai Mara, a part of the Serengeti which lies in Kenya.

The road to get to our next stop was incredibly bumpy with a dirt surface and snaked through the countryside which gradually changed to grass lands.   There was a drought in this part of Kenya which has not seen rain in 5 months.  We arrived after bumping along for 2 hours at the transfer point, a village alongside the road. There we were met by out next guide, Lemkoko who was to take over while we stayed at Encounter Mara.

Lemkoko as all guides in this camp, in Maasai and explained to us that we were about to be taken to a camp within The Mara Naboisho Consevancy owned and managed by the Maasi people.

Where the road getting to the village had been bumpy, it was smooth in comparison with the one we followed to take us to our camp.  When we arrived we discovered that the camp consists of a number of tents, big and beautiful with tents for common areas, a sitting room and a dining tent.  It was to be a 'glamping' experience for sure!  (That is glamorous camping).

Our first order of business was to go on an evening game drive and to experience a 'sundowner' which is a stop to enjoy a drink and watch the sun set.  Along the way we saw many of the same animals we had already seen in the days previous, but we did come across lions.

The first lion we found was actually on the camp grounds.  A female with three cubs.  She had cleverly brought them inside the electric fence surrounding the camp to protect them from predators, including males in her pride who would kill the Cubs as they had been sired by a previous, and since departed, male.

We also came across some males who were in the nomadic part of their lives.  From 2-4 years of age, these lions would move about Feely and perhaps form a coalition.  At 4 years of age they would look for a pride, and join it, challenging any male and themselves for mating privileges.

We rounded off the day with a 'sundowner' downer...watching the sunset while enjoying a cool beverage.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Hippos and dusty roads

We said goodbye to Lake Nakuru early in the morning...facing a five hour drive over hot and dusty roads.  Our guide, Elijah suggested that we break up the trip with a stop at a lake along the way where we could sight hippos. 

Where Lake Nakuru was a salty Lake,  our stop was at a fresh water lake where hippos reside.  We boarded a boat and we were taken out on a beautiful, and very large lake.  We saw many birds roosting in trees which had died due to an increase in water height.  It was very surreal looking.  We also saw hippos partially submerged in the water, asleep awaiting night when they become active.  Our captain explained that these huge, and apparently docile, animals are the most dangerous in Africa, claiming many lives every year.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A long drive a flat tire...and...lions

We started early with another long drive ahead of us from Ol Pejeta to Lake Nakuru...about five hours away.

We saw a dry and dusty countryside due to drought conditions which are affecting most of the country.  On our way we stopped again as we crossed the equator to see the coriolis experiment in practice.  With the aid of a simple pitcher of water we saw that north of the equator water turns clockwise as it drains and counter clockwise in the southern hemisphere.  Although we had seen this before when we were in Equador,  it was a welcome break from the hot and dusty road.

Our next stop was a lookout with a view of the rift Valley.   This is a 9,600 km Valley which runs from north to south through Africa.  It is HUGE.  Even from our vantage point we could only see a small part of its width.  I, for one, had not known about this massive and very fertile valley.   We learned that Lake Nakuru, a national park and our destination lies on this rift.

Our next stop was the park itself- some 46,000 acres devoted to protecting a unique ecosystem with a large and salt water Lake.   It supports many different species- including the flamingo.  We rested for a couple of hours and then we were off for another game drive through this fascinating park with our guide Elijah.

With his help we saw many different types of birds as well as baboons and some rhinos. 

We have been searching for a Leopard to round out our list of animal to see...but to no avail.  We did see Rothschild Giraffes off in the distance.  The scenery was just spectacular so the drive was lovely notwithstanding our lack of luck finding a Leopard.

On our way back to our lodge we were surprised to find a pride of lions lying under a tree.  We were so there were cubs and four or five females and a large male.  They were difficult to photograph or see as they were lying in tall grass.  As the light started to fade we saw the females stretch and start to ready themselves for a hunt.  Then the male started to stir.  All at once the females got up and started to leave their resting place- clearly stalking something as they left their cubs behind in the care of the male.  As it was getting dark we had to leave so Elijah started up the truck. 

Two feet later he stopped the truck to get out and investigate a strange noise...this was risky as the Lions were close by...and...hunting.  He discovered a flat tire.  He told us that he would have to change  the tire but asked that we keep an eye out for the Lions.   This was really when the fun began because no sooner had he started but the male appeared on the road behind us and started walking our way!  I don't think I have seen anyone move so quickly  as did Elijah!  He was rightly concerned as the male had cubs close by and his priority would be protecting them.  This made it very dangerous indeed!

Two things happened the lion layed down and two when he got up he went back into the forest.
We were joined shortly by park Rangers who happened upon us while on patrol and Elijah was able to finish the tire change and we got on our way. 

The final excitement was as we drove away a herd of giraffes crossed the road in front of us forcing us to stop.  They are such magnificent creatures and were so close!
Another exciting day!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Day two at Sweetwaters

After a night filled with the sounds of lions roaring in the distance we were out early (0630) to catch the animals at their most active.  We saw a spctacular sunrise over Mount Kenya which was cloud free.

The pictures tell the is all about the animals!  We search for something in particular and end up seeing something unexpected.  Today we discovered that this Conservancy is the home of the last three remaining Northern White Rhinos, the species having been hunted to near extinction.  As the only remaining male is reaching the end of his life span it looks as though the species cannot be saved.  So sad...and even today these three are kept behind fences and guarded in military style to prevent further poaching! The picture first below is one of the females...the rest are self explanatory...