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Posts Tagged ‘elephants’

 “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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” Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  ~Mark Twain<!–, The Innocents Abroad, or, The New Pilgrims Progress, "Conclusion," 1869; CTO–>

A tree grew through it. A parting look at the Tarangire Treetops Lodge's main building.

African Safari: Photo Op

It was with regret that Kim and I left the Treetops Lodge the next morning. We both would have loved to have spent more time in this place where childhood fantasies were a reality. All too soon, it seemed, a guard was outside below waiting for us to descend from our trap-door entrance so he could walk us to the main lodge for breakfast.

Elephants and giraffe's shadowed us for our final wildlife drive with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Later, looking at the lodge’s website, I realized we couldn’t have afforded it. One night’s stay at the lodge, which has only 20 tree-house suites, cost over $600. It had been one of the luxuries that we had included in our African Adventure Company package. I’m glad we hadn’t known the cost it added to our trip or Kim and I might have forgone staying here.

As it was, our tree-house night will forever be part of our Africa memories. And so would Bilal.

Cheetahs, like this mom with three youngsters, were frequently seen on our wildlife drives with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

The macho, dark-skinned man had looked out for us for a whole week. He treated us with respect and professionalism in all his actions, and we came to respect and care for him.

Today, we would have one last wildlife drive with him, before he deposited us in Arusha, where we would have lunch at the Flame Tree Restaurant, a dropping-off place for various safari companies, and where we would be met and driven across the border into Kenya.

Giraffe, elephants, zebras and other wildlife shadowed us for the usual bouncy journey. While they, like the superb starlings and cattle egret, had become familiar sights to us this past week, their antics were still awesome to watch.

Kim and I say our good-byes to Bilal in Arusha, where he handed us off to a Ranger Safaris' driver who would take us to the Kenya border, where we would continue our safari. Just for the record, we tipped him well.

We arrived in Arusha early, and Bilal drove us around the busy downtown area, where I kept seeing images of Elsa Martinelli being chased by baby elephants in the 1962 John Wayne film “Hatari.” The town was quite a bit bigger these days, with lots of hustle and bustle and color. But my imagination had grown bigger over the years, too. And so I could still see the town as it might have once been.

Both views were exotic and strange and wonderful, and expanded the mind.

Arusha Market -- Wikitravel photo

Then all too soon it was time to say good-bye to Bilal. Kim and I both hoped he had enjoyed his time with us as much as we had with him. He posed with us while another guide took our picture.

It’s one of my favorite photos of the entire safari.

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“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

Sharing the road -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Maggie and I are on the road today, traveling from Ogden, Utah, back to Lake Walcott State Park. I’ll try to write a post later today about our first night-time safari drive. 

In the meantime I thought you might enjoy these photos of  a couple of our drives with Bilal in Tanzania. Then if I don’t get back to blogging again as promised, I won’t feel so guilty.

I must say I liked sharing the road with these travelers much better than 18-wheelers.

Zebra crossing -- Photo by Pat Bean

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It was peaceful watching this mom and young charges splashing in the water until ... -- Photo by Pat Bean

 ” We live in a world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ” – Irving Wallace

"Hey guy's! There's a hammerkop over there with the zebra." -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Holding Our Breaths

Our afternoon game drive with Bilal took place in Tarangire National Park, which is known for its elephants. The park , except during its rainy season, is mostly hot and dry. We missed the rainy season, and our August visit during Africa’s winter was made before the heat and dryness claimed the land.

The elephants, as almost all of the park’s wildlife did, made their way daily to the park’s only water source, the Tarangire River for which the park is named. Bilal knew exactly where to go and where to park for spectacular views of wildlife visiting the river.

One of the places was in the shade of a tree right next to a bank. On the far side of the river, we watched zebra and waterbuck peacefully drinking together. While we were watching a couple of giraffe joined them. It was fun to watch how they splayed their legs apart so as to be able to get low enough to drink.

Kim got this photo of a really big elephant that didn't scare us a bit. Perhaps because it was shot with her zoom lens. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

As I watched in awe, my eye was drawn to a bird at the feet of the zebras. It was a hammerkop, a strange looking bird with an elongated head. It was yet another lifer, which I excitedly pointed out to Kim and Bilal, both of whom failed to see birds when larger, more exotic, wildlife was in view.

On our side of the river were three elephants, a mom and two young ones. They were splashing in the water near were Bilal had parked the Land Rover. They looked like they were having so much fun that even I forgot to look at birds for awhile.

As we watched, the three began to climb out of the river beside our vehicle. As the young ones made their way up the bank, the mom got in front of our vehicle and engaged us in a stare off. She was close enough that she could have easily touched the hood of the vehicle with her trunk.

We could hear her snuffling as she glared intently into each of our eyes.

We can't say we weren't warned. -- Photo by kim Perrin

Kim and I, who were both standing up in the vehicle, stopped breathing we were so still. Bilal had his hand on the keys in the ignition but he didn’t move a muscle either. While this wasn’t the largest elephant we had seen, we all knew how fierce the protective mom could turn in an instant if she thought we were a danger to the young ones she had in tow.

After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only about two or three minutes she turned and led her charges off. All three of us took a big breath.

Bilal said he had been afraid if he started the vehicle to get us away, it would have caused her to charge.

Kim and I had wanted to have an adventure when we came to Africa, and this day certainly provided one. But we were both irked that neither of us had taken a photo of the face off. I would remember that later during another close-up wildlife encounter

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A real "Survivor" moment in Kenya. This young male lion actually scratched its back on the tire of the Land Rover just beneath my feet. -- Photo by Pat Bean

  “I don’t want to be thought of as a survivor because you have to continue getting involved in difficult situations to show off that particular gift, and I’m not interested in doing that anymore.” — Carrie Fisher

Travels With Maggie

I’m hooked on the TV series, “Survivor.” I’m not proud of the addiction. It means I can no longer boast that I’ve never watched a soap opera. “Survivor,” with all its melodrama, plotting and backstabbing, is certainly that.

It’s a rare contestant who doesn’t lie, cheat, gossip maliciously and betray. That’s the way to play the game. Being a good guy or gal usually means you get voted out early because the competition knows you’ll most likely be the one to win the million-dollar prize.

I’m a peace-loving person who wants everybody on the planet to get along and respect each other. More than once I’ve gotten up on a soapbox to spread this message. Yet Survivor nights find me watching a group of rowdy, inconsiderate, half-naked – sometimes even naked although CBS censors the privates — buffoons make war against each other.

Why am I hooked? It’s a question I’ve asked myself. When I do, this old-broad traveler actually comes up with answers. .

No adrenalin moment here, but an elephant coming out of a river at Tarangire National Park in Tanzania looked for awhile like it was going to charge our vehicle. While I didn't pee my pants, I was too afraid to move to take a picture during that "Survivor" moment. -- Photo by Pat Bean.

First there’s the exotic settings, like Australia and Africa, that appeal to my wanderlusted soul. Then there’s the idea of surviving the new and the strange, which on a more sedate scale, my dog, Maggie, and I do every time we head down the road to places we’ve never been or seen before.

“Survivor” is arm-chair travel at its adrenalin best. I find myself living vicariously through the actions of the players, standing in their shoes – or standing shoeless beside them – asking myself what I would do if I were them.

Sitting in front of my motor home’s small TV, or watching the show on my computer when I have no digital or cable connections, I fantasize winning each immunity challenge while still being the good gal who doesn’t lie, cheat or betray. Of course I always win. Such fantasy keeps my brain stimulated – and that’s a good thing. Or so I tell myself.

According to the ratings I have a lot of company. So why do you watch “Survivor?”

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