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Posts Tagged ‘Little Governors’

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.” — Alfred A. Montapert

This is the setting where my friend, Kim, and I, ate our last breakfast in Africa. The setting is Little Governor's Tent Lodge in Kenya. We were up early to take our last game ride through Masai Mara National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our breakfast table this morning looked out on herons feeding in the swamp that surrounded our tent lodging. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 

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 “You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird .. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” Richard P. Feynman

Hippos in the Mara River -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Busy Morning

Our morning game drive with Joseph started off with a lion chase, always exciting. While I’m not exactly blood thirsty, I was rooting for the lion. The gazelle won, however, and lived to run another day. I wasn’t all that disappointed actually.

We saw our first mongoose, and over 50 hippos in the Mara River, just up a bit from where we made daily crossings to and from our tent lodge. Just how close they were to our camp we would learn later that night when several hippos left the swamp and were wandering through the tent area.

Kim snapped a photo of Dave Richards and me at the end of our bird-watching lunch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

We were required to stay in the main lodge area, where we saw one of the guards caring a large rifle. It would be only the second gun, and the last one we saw while in Africa. Our lodge hosts said the animals were allowed to come and go and we were simply warned to stay out of their way.

Lunch, after our morning game drive, was a real treat this day. And not because of the excellent food. On checking in I had learned that the lodge had an expert ornithologist on staff and that he was sometimes available for a guided bird tour.

Sadly he was all booked up during our stay, but he had agreed to have lunch with us this day.

My copy of Dave Richard's book.

He was Dave Richards, author of “A photographic Guide to Birds of East Africa.,” which of course I had bought at the lodge’s small gift shop and studied the night before. As promised, he joined us for lunch.

Dave was a small, gray-haired older man who quickly put us at ease. He had great charisma. At one time he had been a safari guide who specialized in birds. He said he tired of that because too many people just wanted to tick off birds.

As a number ticker on this trip, I later told Kim that long-time birders always seem to distain bird listers, but that’s always after they have their achieved their own lengthy lists. Besides, I said, there’s a difference between tickers who are only interested in seeing new birds, and true birders who also enjoy looking at the same birds over and over, even sparrows. I count myself among the latter.

In fact, at this point in our safari, I was as excited to recognize a bird I had seen earlier as I was to find a new one – well almost.

Ross' turaco -- Wikipedia photo

Meanwhile, our pleasant lunch was frequently interrupted as Dave would spot a special bird in the trees or swamp around us, and he and I would go off to look. Kim, who continued her lunch, snapped a few pictures of the two of us with our binoculars pointed up one tree or another.

Our luncheon bird sightings included white-faced whistling ducks, white-browed robin (which sat on a tree right next to our table), spectacled weaver, an da Ross’s turaco.

I had seen one of Richards’ photos of this latter bird in the gift shop earlier. They are truly a magnificent sight. Ours here at the lodge was way up in a tree and without Dave’s help I’m sure I would never have spotted it.

All in all it was one of the best lunches I’ve ever not eaten.

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 “A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together.” – Chuck Jones

Kim sitting at the table where we ate breakfasts and lunches while at Little Governor's. The roofed area in the background was where we ate our dinners, for which we dressed. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

We arrived at Little Governor’s Lodge in time for lunch. It was served outside beneath the trees in view of the marsh, where we could watch birds and other animals as we ate. This day we saw giraffe and water buffalo on the far side of the marsh and sacred ibis not far from our table.

Kim and I were enchanted with our new camp, and it would become our favorite of all the lodges during our Africa visit. So much so that I would love to go back and spend a whole month there one of these days.

A lion intently watching a wildebeeste which he later chased but failed to catch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

After lunch, we were escorted to the river and then back across to meet up with Joseph, who would be our driver/guide for the Masai Mara. Normally there would be four of us safari goers in his Land Rover but today Kim and I had him to ourselves.

He was quieter than either Bilal or Emanuel, but when he did open up we discovered he had a wealth of knowledge to share about the landscape and wildlife we were seeing. And then I discovered that not only was he a birder, but one who kept a life list as I did. 

Sacred ibis — Photo by Johan Wesseks

  

We were always amazed at his successful efforts in finding lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He said he got his clues from the prey animals.

“Especially look where the topi and the zebra are looking. They act as lookouts for other animals as well,” he said. We did and soon we saw a lion make an unsuccessful attempt to chase down a wildebeest.

“Lions,” Emanuel said, “are successful only about 40 percent of the time. Leopards, on the other hand, have an 80 percent kill rate.”

Along with the four-legged wildlife we saw this day, I also added three new life birds, a grey-headed bush shrike, red-throated tit and a yellow-throated longclaw

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Above Photo: Masai Mara sunset, Wikipedia

How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places … it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make – leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone – we all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the firmament for its roof.” – John Muir

Me playing John Wayne in "Hatari" at the Ambolseli Air Strip. Also pictures is Jackson, a member of the Maasai tribe who was nearing the end of his five-year apprenticeship to be a guide. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

After breakfast, Emanuel drove us the Amboseli Airport, a dirt landing strip with only a sign announcing its purpose, where we were to catch an 8:30 a.m. flight back to Nairobi’s small Wilson Airport.

In reminiscence of John Wayne in “Hatari,” I sat on the fender seat of the Land Rover and drank my coffee while we waited for the small plane to arrive. It was late.

The flight was a replay of the informal flight we had taken to Tanzania on our first full day in Africa, and was repeated again on the connecting flight we took from Nairobi on to the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is the northern end of Serengeti National Park.

Kim on board for the boat ride across the Mara River to get to Little Governor's Lodge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our small plane landed on a dirt strip within sight of zebra and giraffes. The smallest airport I had landed in up to this point had been a dirt strip in Smiley, Idaho, but then there had been a small town across the road.

A wart hog visits our tent at Little Governor's. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Here, at the Amboseli airport, there was nothing but wilderness and wildlife. I loved it.

From the airport it was a just a short distance to Little Governor’s Lodge, another tent camp and one where we would sleep for the next four nights. 

To get to the lodge complex, which was on an island surrounded by the Mara River and a swamp, we,took a boat powered by two staff members and a rope, to get across the river. Once across, we were met by a big-stick armed guard who escorted us the quarter-mile to camp.

Other stick-armed guards took us from the main, open air lodge buildings, to our tent, which in any sense of the word was much more than that. It included a large, tiled open shower and a front porch on which we could sit and watch animals across the swamp.

At closer range were wart hogs that roamed the tent complex. Our favorite of these was a mom with a tiny young one. The pair came right up to our porch. What fun, especially after we were told they were harmless.

Wart hogs were funny animals. We often saw them running full speed through the grass with their tails stuck straight up in the air. Then suddenly they would stop, as if they forgot where they were going.

Such behavior assured that they were often the entrée on a lion’s menu.

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