My sons wanted to go on another cruise [ho hum] and my wife wanted to go anywhere without a jungle and my mother wanted us all to go together. After much debate we decide to go to Kenya on a photo safari. My mother has been there 3 times before with my father when he was alive and she thought we would all enjoy it so we boarded a plane in Key west to New York where we got a jet to London and then Kenya. 18 hours later we arrived in Nairobi We arrived exausted but excited to be at our destination. We met up with our tour guide and he took us on a day trip to sites in the big city. The next day we started our safari [in swahili means long arduous journey] and our first stop was Thika Falls, that is my wife, mother and sister in law. Notice the coats, it was cool almost everywhere we went. Most of the Kenyan parks are at higher elevations so even though we were within 50 miles of the Equator it was cooler than our Florida tootsies were used to. In the photo are myself, my mother Floradelle, my oldest son Jason, then my wife Carmenza, her sister Vilma and my youngest Andres.We drove for three hours with our only stop being a tourist craft mart where there are many wood carvings.
Kenya is a very large country with many types of landscapes, from tropical jungles to broad savannahs, to deserts to mountains and it is a long way in between each one. We went to several national parks and 4 private preserves. Each day we ate at a different 5 star hotel, resort or golf course. The first day we ate at the Abadares Golf Resort. I ate quick and went for a walk and discovered my first orchid [an Aerangis] growing in brush at the edge of the 4th hole. Checking out the brush I noticed another orchid which I think is Rangeris amanensis. As I came out of the woods I discovered my first wild african animal, a warthog. It is different encountering a beast in the wild than at a zoo, he was ten feet away and I was not sure how I should react. I backed up and started to make my way back to the club when I came upon a troop of baboons. This was a disconcerting moment as they ran up to me making grunting noises in a group and I dedcided to keep backing up to get to the clubhouse.
The tour group does not let you walk around much, I found out why, and in each of the national parks it is illegal to even exit your vehicle. This was one of the last times that I walked around for 10 days.
We started off toward our next destination which is The Ark, a hotel high in the mountains next to a waterhole. The balcony of the rooms has a great view of the surrounding swale where the water collects and as you can see by all the trails, the animals come in often to drink. Soon after, an elephant came lumbering in. Our first big game! Less than 20' from where we were situated was this mammoth being. It came right by us and went over for a drink and a lick at the salt deposits that build up in this particular spot. You can see in the photo the white patches on the ground, it is salt and the elephant is snarfling it up with his prehensil nose.
Moments later a family of Crowned Cranes came in. Notice the brown chicks in the bottom of the photo. Later that night we watched the animals come in until about 3 in the morning. Here is a hyena, a bad photo but so are they. Just before we crashed for the night this genet, a small, night cat came to our balcony. The photo was taken without a flash and just relied on the spotlight that was outside.
The next day we were off to Samburu national park an 8 hour drive, twoo 4 hour legs and an hour for lunch at the Mount Kenya Safari Club. My son had a good time feeding the Maribou Storks and the Sacred Ibis. Do you think Andres liked feeding them?? We also saw an African Spoonbill which sure is a different color than where I come from, ours are pink. This club was owned by William Holden the actor and he liked Africa's beauty. Before we left the Storks gave us a flyby show.
Late in the afternoon we entered the Samburu National Park and saw our first male impala. The scenes that appear as you drive around this immense park are astounding and often seems to be fantasy. Our first predator experience unfolded soon thereafter. We stumbled upon an idylic scene. A leopard was asleep on a log. Hard to imagine that this creature could kill you in a moment and gives new meaning to the phrase,"just another bump on a log". Leopards hunt at night, hence the relaxed situation that we encountered. They do try once in a while to hunt in the day but just don't have the speed that it takes when the prey can see you. Our hotel decided to bring a leopard in to feed for us so they tied a leg to a tree and we waited. The leopard came in and ate the leg quickly
Our first day in Samburu ended with a beautiful sunset. We prepared for our excellent dinner as the light faded away over the Samburu river. Our cabin faced the river and they fed a crocodile later that night so that it would come right up to us. It was about 8' long and quite ugly. It made a lot of noise as it broke the hambone of the handout that it received.
One thing that became clear the next morning at 5 am was that this was not going to be a relaxing vacation for us. The motto was get up and go and so we did. Our hotel was just outside the boundaries of the park and was a compound that was surrounded by electric fence to keep the animals out. We all loaded up the vehicle after sucking down a coffee to get out the cobwebs and were off on another days adventure. We would be back to the hotel in an hour to eat breakfast but they get you out early to see the night and day animals that both are out and about. Our first sighting was a dik-dik, one of the smallest of the antelope. The dik-dik stands about 10" tall. The black spot around the eye is a musk gland which can secrete a liquid. You can see them rubbing their faces against trees to mark their territory with their musk.
A few moments later we came across a group of guinea fowl, one of the prettiest food animals I have ever seen. Birds are everywhere here, and many are quite pretty, here is a Lilac-Breasted Roller, a medium sized songbird. The Grey Headed Kingfisher is less than 4" tall and when I said "so it eats fish" Amos the driver said "no it eats bugs". Here is view of another Kingfisher that I am not sure of which one. The weaverbird is a group of songbirds like warblers are to us. They move around in small low flying, flitting packs and nest the same way making quite a colony in a tree. If you have seen the Lion King then you are familiar with this fellow. He is Zazu the king's advisor. Here in Africa he is know as a Hornbill. Our Kenyan guide Amos who is a Kikuyu, a tribe from the Central Highlands, said that it was not to be confused with a "hornybill" which is the African common name for Bill Clinton.
Some species of antelope are not as common as others and the oryx is rarer than others because previously [hunting has been banned in Kenya for thirty years] it was hunted to near extinction for it's interesing antlers. Another rare antelope is the Gerenuk. It can get on it's rear legs and pick at higher branches unlike other antelope.One species that their are plenty of is the impala which here is a dominant male and some of his female harem. Elephants are common in this park and they are always strolling by. It is amazing that they are totally silent as they walk, the earth does not shake, there is no thudding sound of the huge feet as they plod along. This old bull is missing one of his tusks. The babies always move in the middle of the herd and it is not unusual to see a large one step on a baby. LAte in the afternoon they make their way to the river for a drink,, swim and bath.
Black Faced Vervet Monkeys eat leaves and they are always found hunkered down picking away at the leaves and fruits
There are three kinds of Giraffe in Kenya, The Reticulated Giraffe from the Samburu region in the Northwest, the Masai Giraffe in the Southeast and the reticulated Giraffe in the southeast.
There are 2 kinds of Zebra, The Grevy's Zebra which has black lines that do not encompass the belly and the Common Zebra which has stripes encompassing the belly
Cheetah are the daytime hunters and this one was desperately hunting for something, but it never found it.
The vegetation in this area is scrubby and spiny. Almost all the trees have spines of some sort. That is because many animals here eat tree leaves as thatis what there is an abundance of. As you aproach water [stream, river, or small waterhole] the trees change and palms become more common. This palm endemic to Kenya has an interesting way of propagation. It must be ingested and passed through the stomach of an elephant before it will germinate. I love the branching palm trunks, something we don't see in Florida.
The Samburu is also a tribe of nomadic cow herders. Their money are cows, and as such it affects their daily life in a grand manner. First off a Samburu adult male can have up to 5 wives, but only if can afford to pay for them. The theory works that a single man can only attend to a maximum of 50 head of cattle but if he had a wife in a few years there would be help in the manner of children. They help herd after the age of 7 or 8. Before that they go to school to learn english and do simple math. A woman may have 4 to 6 kids before she says enough already, if there are 3 boys they can help with 20 to 40 head of cattle more. The husband can then go find another younger wife, remember the other is tired of making babies and caring for everybody, now she can have help and the new one can produce new laborers [children] to help pay for the next wife.
The Samburu have many dances and this is one that the Samburu women do to greet women from another can unit of the tribe. Now my mother gets down with the locals. In this picture, the girl to the right has a mother-of-pearl bird on her forehead, which is a fertility sign shows that she is looking to be married. This dance had a lot of "booty Shaking" it would be called here, you can see that dance and rhythyms have been adopted from Africa to the "modern west".
The Samburu village is surrounded by brush with a lot of spines and only has one entrance. They do this because they want to protect their most important assets, their cows, which live inside with them to be protected from lions, leopards, and hyenas. At night they pull another tree into the hole thus completing the fence. Inside the compound there are closets made from living trees and houses. Remember that this tribe is nomadic and can leave and abandon the house at the drop of a hat, so house improvements are rare. They live in the structure to the right and the structure to the left is a closet. Closets often contain calfs to be extra safe and you can see that a tug in with a tree branch and the entrance is blocked. There is an entrance to their house from within the closet. Walls in houses and schools are made of a mixture of mud and cow manure. Notice the addition of a few windows in the walls to let in more light for the children. Their houses are very dark and they have an inside fire so they are somewhat smokey, but that cuts the smell from other sources, such as the cows that are in the adjoined closet.
The Samburu men are good at starting fires with sticks, cow dung and wood shavings and some elbow grease. Smoke appears quickly and then fire.
Well another day in Samburu is ending and we head back to the hotel. Uhoh, it's 5 oclock traffic time watch out for that Elephant!!!!
Two days in the Samburu National Park seemed like a week, can you believe all the animals we saw just in 2 days? Plus we went to the Samburu village. What an incredible place. On our way out one of the vehicles had a flat. Each vehicle carried 6 people and there were three vehicles. My party was 6 people so we had a car and driver to ourselves the entire trip. We saw the others only at the hotels and when we ate.
Samburu is in the northwest, fairly close [500 miles] to Somalia and the Sudan, both Muslim countries, and there is a larger muslim population here than in the southern parts of Kenya. In Isiolo we passed a Mosque next the White House.
The scenery changes fast in Kenya, and there are some wide open spaces, arid areas, Mountanous areas, Mount Kenya, Africa's 2nd tallest peak and Kenya's Tallest. There is a lot of roadside business and Acacias, Africa's most common tree [there are twenty or so species]. Here is a flat top acacia, Large spine Acacia Acacia
Town scene passing by. Market scene passing by a Roadside Viilage another roadside village
At the roadside near Thompson falls I found another orchid and this one was in bloom, unfortunately it was 30 ft over my head so the photo stinks. Here is Thompson Falls. My sister-in-law Vilma at the falls The Pfahls at the falls.
Coming into the hills before the Great Rift Valley
We finally arrived at our new destination, Lake Nakuru, a Kenyan national park that is bordered by the city of Nakuru. Here is a white rhino that is close to the edge of the park, note the power line. This is the only park that has an electrified fence totally surrounding it to keep the animals and the town apart. The lake is entirely surrounded by both lesser and greater Flamingos and Pelicans in the shallows along the edge of the lake. A little later we saw a male waterbuck. Here is a shot of how many flamingos there are as well as a waterbuck. It is obvious that the artist Christo that was obssessed with surrounding things [Florida Keys, Western Mountains etc.] with pink had visited this lake. Here is both male and female waterbucks. Here is another view. And another view. One last final view. After a bit a Cape Buffalo came for a drink.
Leaving the lakes edge we encountered our first Masai Giraffe. Moving on we spotted another White Rhino. Driving a bit further we see our first lions a mother with her three cubs. They kept on getting closer. And closer. We are in an open topped van which the lion could jump into if it wished and seeing this wild beast of prey so close is unnerving. Lions depend on camoflauge to hunt. their tan fur blends in quickly in the tall grass of the savannah. It is amazing that something so big just dissappears in just a little grass. Look something got his attention. This photo shows just how close we were to the King Of the Jungle. This is a photo of a young male lion. This is a photo of the queen of the jungle. Here come the Kids. How close can they get?
Later that night the natives were restless, and I danced for hours to the incessant, pulsing native drums
The next day we arrive in the Kenyan National Park, Masa Mara, home of the Masai. The park can be desolate yet inviting. After a short night's rest we were up, up and away in a hot air balloon for a sunrise trip. Predawn and we are geting the balloon filled with hot air. and it begins to rise. The gas jets create the hot air that makes this craft lighter than air. The balloon rises so gently that it is hard to realize that you are flying high. My wife Carmenza and Andres are not sure that they like it yet. My son Jason the Stoic. The sunrise from above. Vilma and the stoic on high. The family after the big ride, did the little one have a good time? The military vehicle is how they found us and how we will return from the balloon ride. After the flight we had breakfast on the savannah.
Here is a common small antelope, the Thompson's Gazelle. Here is a close up of a male Thompson's Gazelle Here are a few female Thompson's Gazelles Another common range animal in Masa Mara is the Topi. A close up view. Another Male Topi. The hartebeast is another antelope of the savannah of Masa Mara. The Masai Giraffe is seen here in abundance. Hey there's Big Bird, except he is not yellow. Meet the male Ostrich who is in full breeding colors. Notice the pink legs, he is ready to strut his stuff for a female. You must be careful around this giant bird as they can deliver a killing kick with their legs.
A female lion on the savannah. Lions are very good at sleeping. This sleeping male let us drive our vehicle right up to within 2 feet of his head and never budged. Asleep until you open a door. I know how I feel before coffee. Ok, I'm up now. Haven't I seen you at the New York Library? . Male lions steal their food from the females who do the hunting. I think it is time to back up.. I thought I was awake. Where is that cup of coffee? OOOH I got an itch. Do Not look if you are under 21 or sexual parts make you squeamish. I want My Mommy!! Oh that's the ticket! The male sauntered up to the female and they exchanged pleasantries. The male seems to be getting through and the female is responding Two minutes later she swipes him a big one with her claws and he leaves dejectedly, But not before leaving her a present. You won't see that on Animal Planet! As a parting shot he sprays the area. This pair of lovebirds are checking out the menu
The cheetah is the fastest land animal on the planet and we were lucky enough to meet up with this cheetah family. The mother is the cat to the left and the other three are her babies. They are probably less than a year old. They are watching a group of Thompson Gazelles that are about 250 yards away. After a bit the cubs lose interest, they have short attention spans just like my children, but if you notice the mother is still waiting on edge for that moment to explode. I think that they just became aware that we are watching. Hey look mom is onto something! In a split second, the mother is off, speeding like a bullet. She comes close to her target and wham, cat and gazelle go rolling head over heels. When the dust settles, mom has the gazelle in her mouth and is strangling it. The moment a kill happens on the savannah, the whole world pays attention. Within seconds there are vultures circling in the sky. Jackals appear out of nowhere and excitedly run about. Hyenas start to melt out of the grass and look for weakness in the cheetahs resolve. Even a troop of baboons shows up to see if there is something in it for them. After a few minutes the mother carries the carcass to be sure that it is dead before releasing it from her jaws. They settle down to have dinner. The mother has gotten up to go fend off an encroaching hyena, but the 3 cubs are eating away. Hey mom do you have a napkin? The mother has been fending off one hungry hyena but now here comes two. Hey guys! Make room for me. UhOh Mom! now there are three hyenas. The mother knowing that she is outnumbered steals back to the carcass and her babies in the hope that she may be able to grab a bite. As soon as she moves back the Hyenas jump in and one of them steals the carcass. The cheetah mother for all her work has not gotten a bite to eat, but she has fended for her children and they will survive. She and her brood shrink off in search of another animal to kill. The Hyena went running off towards a small copse of trees. As soon as the hyena got close a large female lion jumped out and swatted the hyena and took the remainder of the carcass for itself.
This was an incredible scene that took 15 minutes total from Cheetah strangling the gazelle, to the lion finishing off the last scraps of the carcass. The gazelle probably weighed 80 pounds and it was gone, just like that. It was intense and hard to tear ones eyes away. Many of the photos are of poor quality but only because of the rapidity of action that occured 15 feet in front of my eyes. Base emotions arose among the spectators of this most basic need for animals to survive. As the "evil" Jackal grabbed the carcass from the "hero" cheetah a man in another vehicle let loose with "what an asshole", and everyone laughed and agreed. Our guide said that viewing a kill, happened for visitors occasionally here, but he said that we had seen a once in a life time spectacle with the addition of the 3 cheetah cubs [more on this], the jackals carrying away the carcass, the lioness jumping the hyena and all of it happening within 15 feet of us. Anyway forgive the quality of the photos, I only put them up because it was a unique event. The cheetah normally only raises one cub a year, occasionally 2 if the mother is a good hunter, but 3 is almost unheard of and this particular female has been observed in previous seasons with 3 as well, so she is a walking population explosion for the cheetah of Masa Mara.
Masa Mara is a National Park but it also the home to the Masai, a nomadic tribe of cattle herders. The house that is behind them is a typical Masai house which is a temporary structure not much different than the Samburu, except that the Masai use more cow manure. Here it is used on the roof, the walls and most all the ground in the compound [inside the brush fence] is cowmanure. As my oldest son remarked, "Boy do they like Poop". The children were lined up for us to photograph. The masai women wear colorful patterns. The women sing us a song. The men do a traditional Dance. The Jumping Dance is a well known Masai dance. This warrior has a lion mane hat which he killed by hand at a manhood ceremony when he was 15. These two men have mud and henna worked into their braided hair . Often the men and boys can be seen in the bush wearing large wooden plugs in their ears. They do this to stretch the hole so it appears very wide open. Check out the guy on the right. Children love to imitate. Anthropologists would have a fit with this little Masai boy. Notice the brown bottle that he carries. The other little boy has many flies around his eyes. Each time the tribe lines up for photos the little boy puts the bottle to his face as if it was a camera and clicks a picture. This fellow is in the Masai space program
The Sausage Tree is used to produce the Masai beer. The Masai raise cattle but as an elder told me "you wouldn't eat a twenty dollar bill would you?, well neither will I". He was explaining away the fact that Masai and Samburu do not often eat meat. In fact the only meat they eat is if they got it in a raid on someone that they thought had stolen from them. The masai use their cattle as a renewable resource, so they eat milk and blood mixed together. They bleed their cattle with a spine at the neck and mix the fresh blood with milk. The masai and Samburu do not eat many vegetables either as they are nomadic and can't wait around for crops to ripen. They will eat fruits if they find them as well as some wild herbs. I was glad that we didn't stay around for dinner.
After the Masai visit we went back to, what else, animal hunting!! Here is a gnu. Here is a new view of Gnu two. Oh that makes me feel like reading Dr Sueuss. Here is a new gnu calf. Here is a zebras ass, it is only half as valuable as a horses ass, but it is prettier.
The Impala males as most of the antelope in Africa are quite often involved in dominancy fights. These two impala are butting heads to see which will stand down. What's at stake? Usually a male has a harem of 10 or more females and if pushed out by a badder male, must try to move in on another males herd. Behind them is a herd of Thompson's Gazelles
Our last night in Masa Mara is also our last night with our driver Amos we miss him! This photo is of my mom, Amos on the left and our overall tour guide Jackson on the right. A great couple of guys
We are on our way to the airport to get back to Nairobi and got in a quick picture of Amos and the family. He was telling Vilma that he wanted to have her as his second wife. We assembled the entire group for a farewell photo. Well we are at an airport, where is the security? Where is the tarmac? Where is the airport? Where is the airport bar? Oh No!!!! That is the terminal and Duty Free store. Is there a restroom? It is the little building on the left. OK I am more at ease now that I see that this airport has all the modern equipment. Here comes the plane We go through intense airport security. Remember Al Qaida was here first, two years before 9/11.
Back in Nairobi we head out to our last meal with this tour group. The Carnivore is a famous restaraunt that serves game meat. What a menu. We chowed down on impala, zebra, crocodile, gazelle and ostrich.
Today we met up with our new tour guide, Charles. We are on our way to a tent camp in west Tsavo. It will be hotter than it has been as we will be coming down in elevation. FOr us Florida people that wasa good thing as we were tired of being chilly. On the way we saw Baobab trees. They are huge and are commonly called the upside down tree as it looks as if their roots are in the air. They never have very many leaves, and they produce an edible fruit that has nuances of citrus. After a long hot drive we arrived at The entrance to West Tsavo National Park. Tsavo was forest years ago but the elephants which had the highest concentration in Africa, ate all the vegetation and when that ran out started knocking down the trees. Now Tsavo is a scrubby desert with few large trees. What large trees there are, are the baobab whiich are so large that not even a group of elephants could topple them. This park is immediately different than the others in that animals are much more skiitish here and it is difficult t get in close as we had in other perks. This is because there is still poaching going on here and the animals are much more wary.
This bird, the Go Away Bird has one of the odder shapes of the African birds. After an hours drive we approached Mzima Springs. Our guide let us go off with the local park ranger to see Mzima Springs which is famous for it's crystal clear water and it's Hippos
We arrived at our tent camp where we will stay for three days. It is different to be walking around instead of in a car. We got up early the next morning to see Mt Kilamanjaro out for our enjoyment. This view is from Kenya and the snow covered peak is the actual mountain the other is a foothill in the way. Most pictures of this mountain are taken from the Tanzanian side and from there it has the more well know volcano shape. WE continued along to the abandoned farm of the Grigon, a white farmer who built a house high up on a small butte so that he could see all his property below. He was a target of the Mau-Mau a revolutionary group from the fifties and sixties that wished to free Kenya from white rule. The house had many secret hiding places where the Grigon could hide from the Mau-Mau. We continued on to Lake Jipa which defines the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It was so tranquil and can you believe the sky and clouds? Here is a shot of the vehicle we had, notice the pop up top that allows you to view the animals withoput leaving the vehicle. The tsavo parks are said to have red elephants, but it is due to the dust that they throw on there bodies to keep cool, otherwise they are teh same as the other elephants that we have seen.
Do you have the feeling we are being watched? What's that in the brush. Oh no wonder she was looking mean, she has a baby.
This baobab was a large tree during World War One and at that time Tanzania was German and Kenya was British. A german woman stole into Kenya and moved into this tree from were she sniped and killed many English before they figured out where she was and killed her. We continued on to an elephant graveyard here is my son Jason holding up part of an elephants leg. Notice the felled tree behind him. The rest of the herd visits regularly and trash trees in the area and many surmise that they are mourning the dead. This is the elephants skull, it died close to 10 years ago and the herd still visits. Continuing on our walk we came across the most dangerous animal in Africa The hippo . It has killed mnay more people than lions or snakes combined and they have the most eerie call, sort of like a giant mutant santa yelling HO HO HO! We came across a skeleton of a cape buffalo. AS we left Tsavo to return to Nairobi for our flight to london, this elephant decided to run up and try to attack the van. It was time to leave.
We went out to a large farm and saw this housing for the migrant farmers.
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