Saturday, 8 December 2018, Selenkay Reserve, Kenya
Even though the Selenkay conservancy is very close to the Amboseli park, the fauna is completely different. There must be more rain, or better soil, because bushes, trees, and meadows are in abundance… which attracts different animals from what we saw yesterday. Add Impala, Kudu, Dik Dik, Gerenuk, Eland, and Masai Giraffes to the list. There are also some of the same animals as yesterday: elephants, gazelles, wildebeests, jackals, and warthogs. And we saw 3 male lions on the night game drive: literally 20′ away from the truck.
In the 2 hour game drive this morning, I don’t think we drove more than 30 seconds before seeing another animal or herd of animals. To put that in perspective, when we drive the last 3 km to our cottage in the woods by a lake in Canada, we’d be happy to see maybe 6 deer and a small group of wild turkeys. In the same distance in Selenkay, I bet there were hundreds of animals. The biodiversity is amazing.
The Porini camps have exceeded our expectations. They are a low impact eco tourism operation. We stay in large tents, which are lit with solar power. Before the rainy season, the entire camp is removed and the area is allowed to return to nature. It’s set up again for the next season. Porini does not own the land in the conservancy, but instead have leased it from the local Maasai. There is a very close relationship between Porini and the Maasai, and about 80% of the employees here are from Maasai tribes across the country. As part of the deal, the local tribes invite all guests over to a village once for a tour, which I’ll talk about in the next post.
You'd peak around corners too if your neck was 9' long
Impalas: Our guide told us the black M on their rump signifies they are McDonalds for Lions
It's all fun and games until someone puts their eye out
Our guide Daniel on the left, and driver/guide Julius on the right
The lion was probably 100 metres away, and it quickly disappeared back into the bush to go back to sleep. I thought things would be more elusive than this. We would see it again much closer later that day.
The Park is almost 300 square miles. Picture a huge, flat, grass covered plain with a few flat topped acacia trees, and next to Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain acts like a huge rain funnel, condensing moisture from the warm air as it rises and cools. Lake Amboseli and the surrounding swamps are permanently fed from the mountain streams. There have been more rains recently, so the lake has expanded and everything is green. Pretty well everything living in the park eats grass: elephants, hippos, wildebeests, thompson’s and grant’s gazelles, cape buffaloes, zebras, ostriches, and warthogs. Then there are the animals that eat the animals that eat the grass: lions, hyenas, and jackals. The Baboons belong to both groups because they eat anything.
Because it’s so flat, and the grass is so short, you can see the animals and they can see predators from a long distance away. They all contentedly munched their grass, secure in the knowledge that chances are that some other animal was slower/ older/ sicker. We travelled in a toyota landcruiser that had been converted into an open sided softtop. I guess the animals are used to vehicles because they really didn’t get bothered by our approach. As a result, we saw everything in abundance, and up close. I haven’t had a day like that since we ventured by boat on the Kinabatangan river in Borneo.
Elephants live in family groups led by the oldest female, or matriarch. Our driver, Julius, could see one group coming towards us, and parked the vehicle where he thought they might pass. The matriarch stopped, and you could almost hear her think: “ok, humans are in my path. But I really want to go that way. But the humans are there. Maybe I should go this other way. But I don’t really want to go that way because it’s not a straight line to where I want to go…. ” It took about a minute and a few steps in the other direction, before she decided to it was ok to continue towards us. When she restarted her journey, she was near the lake and must have startled a nearby flamingo, because it took off. That caused about 1000 other flamingos to take off, which caused the elephant to stop again and wonder why the flamingos were alarmed. But the sky didn’t fall, and the whole family walked by us no more than a few metres away from where we were sitting in the truck. They did not seem concerned in the least.
We revisited the lions when we were on our way out of the park at the end of the day. They were awake, and we stopped within about 20′ of them. They looked at us with dis-interest, which in hindsight was a good thing. The lioness wandered off. The male seemed to go through this wakeup routine where my camera caught a range of facial expressions.
We are staying at the Porini Amboseli tented camp in the private ~13,000 acre Selenkay reserve , which is about a 1.5 hour drive out of the park. I had read that these eco-tourist areas were important to the national park animals because it keeps the normal migration routes open and undeveloped. Essentially it makes the park bigger. But that will be the next post.
Elephants line astern
Yes, we were this close
I'm happy to meet you. Why don't you come over for a chat?
We hired a car and driver for two days: Martin Maina – Nairobi Specialists. He was certainly one of the best guides we’ve had, and we would highly recommend him to take you around Nairobi.
The first day, we did the usual tourist things: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Nursery, the Giraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya, & Karen Blixen house.
The elephant nursery rescues abandoned and orphaned baby elephants from around Kenya, raises them for a few years, and then slowly reintroduces them into the wild. Since inception, over 200 elephants have been saved – quite a success story.
The Giraffe Centre is nextdoor to Giraffe Manor, and allows you to get up close and personal with the Rothschild Giraffes.
The second day we drove around Kibera, one of the slums, and then a middle class neighbourhood called Langata. Then we went a short distance out of the city and saw tea and coffee plantations. We ended the day with a meal at a Kenyan restaurant called K’Osewe Ronalo, where you eat everything with your hands.
There are two major no-no’s in Kenya:
Smoking in public; and
Using plastic bags.
Ronalo’s had a small kiosk for smokers. It’s a cross between the Tardis and the Cone of Silence… but people can retire there for a quick cigarette legally.
It’s been an interesting few days… but the first safari starts tomorrow and that is way more exciting!
Bike shop in Kibera
no public smoking - you have to go into the tardis!
This is just a quick post to check out how to upload photos and posts on our wordpress site.
We arrived in Nairobi at 10PM local time on monday December 3 after an uneventful 21 hour trip from Calgary via KLM. We’re staying at the Sarova Stanley, a colonial remnant from 1902 that has a very similar feel to the original Fairmont hotels in Canada.
Today is overcast with occasional showers. Knowing that we’ll hit the jetlag wall sometime, we planned an easy day and are just going to the Maasai Market, a snake exhibit, and the National Museum.
We had an excellent buffet breakfast in the Thorntree Cafe this morning. It included passion fruit, and some of the best pineapple we’ve ever had. But the highlight was a drink they made by grinding sugar cane, fresh ginger and lemon: amazing.
The museum was ok, but I think it could have been much better with all the cool things that have happened in Kenya: from the discoveries of early man millions of years ago, to the amazing wildlife, to the rise of nationalism and independence from England. The snake farm was not that interesting, although we did see some snakes that LIVE up TREES. No more tree climbing for me in Kenya.
The Maasai market was annoying, and we should have given it a miss: it was about 200 vendors all selling the same tourist stuff at ridiculous prices.
Here’s the overall plan for the rest of the trip:
We’ re in Nairobi for 3 days, and have organized a driver to take us around for two of them. Then we join a safari and go to Amboseli, Masa Mara and Samburu parks.
In the middle of December, we fly to Kilamanjaro airport in Tanazania and meet up with Mark & Kirsten, and Heather. We all go on safari to the Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Eyasi, Lake Manyara, Lake Ndutu & the Ngorongoro crater. Then off to Zanzibar and Mafia Islands for diving / kite boarding and beach sitting. Heather leaves just after New Year’s and the rest of us go on one final safari in Ruaha and Selous game reserves in southern Tanzania. For Sarah and I, it will be 6 weeks of travel, and we’re really looking forward to it. Click here for a map of where we’re going
Beading at the Masai market
Tough negotiating over a $5 purchase
'antique' masks at the Masai market
Scarves at the Masai Market
Crushed sugar cane, ginger, and lemon: liquid life!