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As our 8:00 p.m. dinner is winding down on our first day at the Amboseli camp the staff announces that lion have been spotted approaching the nearby watering hole. An impromptu night drive is arranged and we gather cameras and hop into our vehicles to observe four lions (two pictured above) as they make their way to a nearby waterhole. A few elephants are already there and none are too eager to relinquish their spot.
Our vehicles are equipped with large red lights which are shined into the grass to reveal the lions. And while it is fun to be out in the night air, the cats seem bothered by the lights and so I am ready to head back after a short drive.
The next morning we are up early for breakfast and a full day game drive. The ultimate destination is Amboseli National Park, a 90 minute drive on dirt roads through the Selenkay Conservancy. Along the way we stop and head off road to follow lion tracks seen on the road. Remarkably, our driver sees these prints while driving 30 miles an hour.
The lions elude us but we do catch a glimpse of the odd fellow above. He is a called a gerenuke. The long neck enables him to feed on trees and bushes at levels above where his gazelle cousins graze and below the tops that are so popular with giraffes.
As we drive on toward Amboseli the terrain changes from bushy and tree filled, too more open but with frequent brush and trees and then, at parks edge, to a wide open grass plain with occasional acacia trees in the distance. The grasses are high, maybe 3 feet or more, and they are everywhere. There has been lots of rain this year.
We have been driving for quite awhile, so our driver pulls us into a parking lot for a small airstrip within the park. We are the only ones there. A table is set out with refreshments and as we talk our eyes are drawn to a female ostrich. A male ostrich in the distance is heading her way. After they meet, short dance follows that seems not to impress the female.
The disappointed male heads off until he spots another male heading his way. We watch with anticipation.
When the two males meet they quickly begin interacting. A fight ensues that seems as much dance as fight but with plenty of contact. After about five minutes, the challenger prevails and heads off to try his luck with the reluctant female. We pack up to head further into the park.
We proceed from the airstrip in our vehicle over more grassland to an area of marshes. The wildlife gets more and more abundant as we get close. Zebra, wildebeest, impala, elephant, secretary birds and more fill the marsh and its edges.
Along the far horizon, are families of elephants marching toward the marsh in single file. Between the horizon and the marsh are many more families making their way to the marsh.
The marsh itself is filled with life. Zebra, wildebeest, gazelles, warthogs, birds, elephants and rhinos are all either in the marsh or at its edges.
Elephants are everywhere. On the hill heading to the marsh, at the edges of the marsh, in the marsh and even partially submerged in the marsh. This must be what heaven looks like to an elephant.
I do not think I am doing the experience justice. Hopefully the pictures help.
The temperatures are mild, the skies are open, and there are only a few safari vehicles on the road. In front of us is the marsh full of animals co-mingled by species and busy grazing or walking. We sit and just watch as family after family of elephants make their way down to and into the marsh and as zebra, hippo, wildebeest and gazelles graze. There are hippo too, in the marsh and grazing on its grasses.
Eventually tummies begin to rumble, ours not theirs, and we make our way up to a picnic site on top of a nearby hill. From there we can see miles of grassland and the large marsh that fuels the parade of life we are witnessing.
We are not alone. School buses unload groups of uniformed school children on holiday and other tourists fill the hilltop with us. It has been a full morning.
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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Travel, business and history with original photos.
Clinton Richardson - author, photographer, business advisor and traveler.
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