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Posts Tagged ‘Amboseli National Park’

“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.” – Paulo Coelho

The dining area and lobby at Porini Tent Camp -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: A Full Day

Continuing our full day in Amboseli National Park, we ate a box lunch that had been packed for us in view of a high overlook of the Enkongu Narok Swamp, one of the larger ones in the park fed by Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow melt.

Normally we should have been able to see the mountain, which Hemingway’s book, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” put in literary history. But this day, as it was all the other days we were in viewing distance, it was hidden by clouds.

Water buffalo resting in the tall grass with cattle egrets for company. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

The landscape and wildlife in its shadow, however, was gloriously visible after we had climbed to the top of the overlook. Elephants, hippos, water buffalo, all in significant numbers, all took advantage of the wetland landscape.

Then on our way back to Porini, we watched as a fish eagle, which looks an awful lot like our bald eagle, swooped down and caught a fish. Even the non-birders among us were awed.

Photo by Kim Perrin

Back at camp, we just barely had time for a hot shower before we took off to visit a local Maasai village. This was a less of a showplace than the one we visited in Tanzania, and I suspected it was more of the real thing. Both Kim and I were horrified at all the flies on the young children.

I was the kind of mother who went around with a wash cloth swiping at my kids’ faces, a tradition that continues to this day with my grandkids — to their consternation. I longed this day to have just such a wash cloth in my hand.

Women of the Maasai Village near the Porini Camp. I loved the bright colors they wore. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It might not have been the proper respect to show a different culture, but that’s how I felt. Both Kim and I kept our feelings to ourselves, however, as the children lined up to allow us to pat them on the head as their way of showing respect to their elders.

We were both quite thankful someone in our group had hand sanitizer to share after we had left the village.

It was a quiet group that sat and watched the sun go down later that evening, but the wildlife drive back to camp cheered us all up. Among our sightings was a caracal, which was a rare fine. Our spotter was Jackson, who sat on a seat strapped to the fender of our Land Rover with a spotlight in hand.

Sundowner sunset -- Photo by Pat Bean

Back at camp, however, things seemed not to be quite normal. Grim faces peered at us almost everywhere we looked. We were told that an expected supply truck had broken down on the rough drive to camp and had not yet arrived.

Our Maasai guard, on escorting us back to our tent, asked Kim if she had a flashlight. She thought he wanted it to help guide us to the tent, which he did, but then he disappeared into the night with it, never seen by us again.

Things didn’t really cheer up around the camp until the next morning when the truck finally arrived – and then there seemed to be smiles once again all around. And our breakfast,which had already been served, suddenly became more abundant with fresh fruit.

Our Porini stay was interesting, and we loved our sundowners and wildlife drives with Emanuel and Jackson, but we both agreed it was our least favorite of all the lodges – and not just because it wasn’t luxurious.

We would stay in another tent camp before we left Africa, and that one would be our favorite of all the places we stayed, including our one exotic night spent in a tree-house.

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 “We all have our time machines. Some take us back. They’re called memories. Some take us forward. They’re called dreams.” – Jeremy Irons

Elephants on the move in Amboseli -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Amboselli

The next morning we were up early for breakfast, served family style in open air tent, and eagerly ready for a day in Amboseli National Park, which was about an hour away from our Porini camp. Our driver was Emanuel, whom I was delighted to discover was more interested in birds than Bilal. I never once had to ask him to stop when one was in sight.

Emanuel, our driver/guide for Amboseli. He was a real birder. Yea! -- Photo by Pat Bean

In fact, even before we left the camp he had pointed out a blue-naped mousebird that I had missed seeing. I knew then it was going to be a great day, like every other day I’d so far spent in Africa.

We were accompanied in the Land Rover by a husband and wife couple, whom I barely remember except that they were pleasant. Kim remembered, when I asked, that he had a lot of expensive cameras and was heavily into photography.

The other person who also accompanied us was Jackson, who was nearing the end of a five-year internship to become a guide. Jackson was a Maasai, and would be one of the very first of his tribe to become a guide.

From a distance hippos looked like big gray rocks, especially since sometimes only their backs were visible in the sunken swamps that dotted the Amboseli landscape. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

While it was an hour’s drive to the park from our Porini camp site, there was plenty to see along the way, including two, then three, cheetahs stalking a gerenuk, which escaped all of them once the pursuit race began.

Our first sighting in the park was a large herd of female elephants migrating across the landscape with a lot of young ones in tow. Following behind was one huge male with a huge desire to sire yet another one.

Amboseli is a Maasai word for salty dust, and refers to the volcanic ash from past Mount Kilmanjaro eruptions. Snow melt flowing down into the landscape here from the mountain makes it an excellent habitat for wildlife, and rarely were we out of sight of the four-legged and winged creatures that call Amboseli home.

Saddle-billed stork catching a fish -- Wikipedia photo

Looking across the savannah, we often saw what at first glance were big gray rocks. In reality they were hippos lazing in the swamp areas of the park. 

Among our more fun bird-watching experiences was watching a saddle-backed stork fight with a snake. The stork won.

We also saw an African jacana walking on lily pads, a jewel colored malachite kingfisher and a squacco heron, which looked an awfully lot like our American bittern.

 Lots of memories were made this day.

Bird Log of new lifers: Lizard buzzard, red-billed hornbill, August 28, 2007,  during the drive to Porini; crested francolin, blue-naped mousebird, crested bustard, black-faced sandgrouse, Fischer’s starling, plain-backed pipit, Fischer’s sparrow -lark, grassland pipit, saddle-billed stork, long-toed plover, common greenshank, malachite kingfisher, African jacana, squacco heron, eastern pale chanting goshawk, pied kingfisher. August 29, 2011, Amboseli National Park. We also saw a sandwich tern, which is a common bird along the Texas Gulf Coast.

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