Monday, August 20, 2012
Lion King Dreams
Yesterday’s quick late afternoon safari was only a taste of what was to come, so we woke up before dawn to the inky blackness of the night sky, which was dotted with more stars than we ever thought possible. We gathered for an early breakfast, watched the sunrise, then hit the road around 7:00 a.m. We stopped at the Tsavo East front gate to pick up two armed Kenyan Park Rangers guides and then passed through the elephant containment gates.
To describe the awesome beauty of the park in early morning is difficult, but here it goes:
We drive down a dirt road through a flat landscape punctuated by rocky bumps and dips. On this sandy substrate grow twisted shrubs and trees, most bristling with thorns. Most of them are bare, sun baked branches, and many have been shattered by passing elephants. Those that show signs of life reach their roots far, desperate for even a little taste of water.
In the distance, blue flat-topped mountains rise tantalizingly; we want to explore them to but they never seem to get any closer. As billowing rainclouds sweep across the plains, the mountains disappear in veils of steely grey clouds and mist. Many of us try to capture this scene with our cameras, but even the high-end D-SLR cameras could not do it justice.
While the landscape was stunning, the reason behind a safari is to see animals… and we saw lots. Many of us would have gotten our first taste of Africa through magazines and documentaries, listening to David Attenborough describe the love life of antelope. As prepared as we might have been with obscure facts about elephants, actually seeing these massive creatures from 20 metres away is a different story. Many of our wildlife pictures look like they belong in a National Geographic magazine because we were able to get so close.
We sat in awed silence as herds of Cape buffalo, zebra, antelope, waterbuck and elephants grazed freely across the open savannah. Towering giraffes pranced to and fro, much to the amusement of our resident giraffe lover Caitlind. Pairs of Diks-diks (small dog sized antelope) and flocks of chicken-like ground birds darted amongst the undergrowth, and occasionally a rare Kudu (the source of Lord Baden Powell’s famous horn) would appear in our cameras’ viewfinders. As amazing as these sights were, we weren’t truly satisfied until we saw the star of our childhood Lion King dreams: a pride of eleven lions stalking through the savannah grass. Even our two rangers were beside themselves with excitement. A dozen or so lions moved carefully in the foreground of a massive herd of buffalo, many of them young adults. Our intrusion into their travel route prompted one to cut away from the group and cross the road quite near us. Meanwhile, the rest of the pride skulked away undetected by their potential meals.
Later in the morning we stopped to stretch our legs at the impressive Lugard Falls. Millions of years in the making, this canyon of water-worn granite is filled with a cascading river. Greenish water crashes through crags and channels, cutting a path through the solid rock and leaving behind a fantastic network of crevices, potholes, outcroppings and smoothed hills. A short drive downriver to Crocodile Point showed us some reptiles basking in the sun at the water’s edge far below.
The endless landscape carried on for miles in every direction and we travelled far into Tsavo East to arrive at Aruba Lodge for lunch. The resort-quality buffet was a surprise and including such rarities as fresh salad, desserts, and for our die-hard coffee lovers… more freshly brewed REAL Kenyan coffee.
Our drive back to camp was mostly uneventful and many were nodding off when we were suddenly shaken out of our post-lunch daze by Krysta’s shrieks. Excited by what she had seen, her shrieks were incomprehensible, so the rest of us had to wait for the bus to come to a shuddering halt to see what was so important. Perched on the side of the road about 10 metres away was a magnificent Cheetah. As our camera shutters clicked, this graceful feline stared intently at its surroundings, and groomed its spotted coat. After shooting many photos we exited the park in high spirits.
After arriving back at camp, the majority of us headed for a quick trip into the nearby town of Voi, while the rest of us relaxed and reflected on the day. The town adventurers caught a ride home in some puttering tuk-tuks (a three –wheeled motorcycle with an enclosed cabin serving as a taxi). The remainder of the lazy afternoon was spent resting, playing chess, and catching up on many of the blogs that we have deferred (pole sana!).
As if our day wasn’t already excellent, dinner was an amazing experience. It began around the campfire, lit by its glow of lanterns placed on small tables. A pair of wildly dressed local musicians arrived and began to serenade us with some traditional music played on drums, marimba, harp, violin and a shaker. Despite having to move back inside when it began raining, the delicious food and good music continued and we all basked in the day’s memories. To end the evening we took turns playing along with the musicians and learned some hip-popping dance moves. Jenn finally taught us her hilarious game, Bag of Nouns, and our laughter continued long into the night.
After a long day of exploration and prize-winning photo taking, we headed to bed with dreams of lions and tigers and giraffes, oh my!!!
by Eric Post
at 2:25 PM