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Reports of an extended drought in Kenya made me hesitant about scheduling our trip. You have to do it well in advance, almost 12 months, and at the time we made reservations parts of Kenya had been in drought for years.
I could never tell, however, whether the areas we would be traveling to had suffered from the drought. I was not familiar enough with our destinations to match them to the online drought reports I was seeing. In the end, I deferred to the advice of our outfitter.
Our leap of faith was rewarded with a wet spring and summer in Kenya and an abundance of game when we arrived. All during our trip, we were reminded of this rain by the tall grasses and the large number of young and pregnant animals. Among the zebra, it seemed like every third animal was heavy with child or being followed by one.
We, of course, were traveling during the dry Fall season. Years of hearing about steaming jungles and hot equatorial regions had me anticipating heat and lots of it. As it turned out, preconceptions were wrong. The climate was much more temperate than I expected. We were not in sweltering jungles but, instead, cooler at high altitude in grasslands.
Our equatorial African weather was what you would expect if you moved the wildlife to Denver for the summer. Cool mornings and evenings with moderate temperatures in the afternoon. I had been told this by a friend before we left but, still, it was a surprise.
Our experience with clear skies, however, changed abruptly on our second day at Rhino Camp. Clouds gathered during our morning game drive and then, just before our scheduled afternoon drive, the skies dropped buckets of rain throughout the savanna.
For the next few days, here and at the Lion Camp, rains would come each evening raising creek levels and making the roads wet and slick with mud. To our Maasai drivers and spotters this presented no problems. Drives went on as usual even when the roads got messy.
On our last day at Rhino Camp, the rain and a heavy wind hit just as we were starting our afternoon drive. We all loaded ourselves quickly into the vehicle and began rolling down the canvas side protectors with their vinyl 'glass' windows. Our guides worked frantically to secure these panels from the outside until the passenger compartment was mostly dry.
Our driver started the engine and began driving up the slick road. Wet cross winds whipped at the vehicle as we made slow progress. Visibility was low and our now spotter was struggling with front side panel. The rains were drenching the front compartment. No complaint from the spotter but the other guests and we elected to suspend the drive and return to camp.
It was a good decision. Even though the skies cleared about 20 minutes later (which meant our sister vehicle was having a successful drive), we were treated to a cool afternoon around a campfire overlooking a busy waterhole.
While we sat and exchanged stories, a small herd of grant's gazelles came and took their refreshment. And awhile later, a dozen or so baboons arrived and ran off the gazelles to have the space to themselves. Then a troop of vervet monkeys started moving between trees next to the waterhole. The one below was returning to a high spot to keep an eye on the baboons.
When it got dark, we could not see what was happening across the stream that separated us from the waterhole. With an overcast sky far removed from city lights, it was very dark except for the flames from the fire and muted lights in the nearby dining tent.
Just because we could not see the waterhole did not mean it was abandoned. Notwithstanding our conversation, we could hear movement and the occasional grunt across the stream. When a staff member arrived with a strong flashlight we were treated to this sight across the stream.
Not bad for an afternoon off. Those in the other vehicle who continued in the rain returned with stories of great sightings but none of us felt deprived. The conversation around the fire and the chance to see rhino from ground level just across the stream made it another great evening.
The next morning we would be up early to catch a bush plane to Porini Lion camp in the Maasai Mara region. The rains that had not interfered with our game viewing had washed out the grass runway next to the camp so our journey the next morning would take us by safari vehicle through the conservancy, across rural Kenya, through a wildlife club and to a private airstrip in Nanyuki. More about that next week.
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All photos and text are copyright Clinton Richardson. The images are from the author's Safari Collection at Trekpic.com. If you like these posts, please tell your friends about the Venture Moola blog at Readjanus.com. Want to plan your own safari? If so, feel free to check out the outfitter we used at Porini.com.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
Travel, business and history with original photos.
Clinton Richardson - author, photographer, business advisor and traveler.
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