May 2016 Kenya Trip Report
The name ‘Harvest in the Savannah’ suggested a bounty of animal encounters, but little did the participants of the Tour know that with ostriches, gazelles, gerenuks, bustards, giraffes and more, the show would start even before the Tour had properly commenced!
When at the very entrance of Amboseli National Park, the group saw a herd of elephants cheering them up beyond reason, a great beginning was written even before anyone had even anticipated it.
The marsh land in Amboseli is the perfect dwelling place for marsh birds and elephants. The revered mountain Kilimanjaro was cloaked in clouds when the participants saw the yellow baboon and a pair of crowned cranes on the first day.
At the property itself, some vervet monkeys showed up.
On the evening safari, the group saw the popular massive bull elephant called Tim. A grey-headed kingfisher perched on a tree branch offered some wonderful photo opportunity.
As the safari progressed deeper into Amboseli National Park, another elephant with one tusk appeared, and the group made some evocative pictures of the mighty mammal in the soft evening light. A serval cat was sighted and photographed later.
The evening had already proved to be productive in terms of both sighting animals and making images. But it just got better when two male lions were spotted near the property. The first day of the ‘Harvest in Savannah’ Photo Tour ended justifying its name well.
Day two of the Tour also began with the sighting of more elephants and the endemic species, eastern white-bearded wildebeest in the vast grasslands of Amboseli. Fitting into some creatively made frames of the Tour participants later were kori bustard, hyenas, crowned lapwing, and the land-dwelling birds – yellow-throated sandgrouse.
A herd of elephants were found to be having a great time at a water body, and an adorable, playful little calf made the onlookers extremely happy. A common waterbuck was found basking in the beautiful morning light and participants made images of it to their heart’s content. Another bull elephant made the morning safari more exciting.
At noon, Skipper Sachin Rai took the participants to a Maasai village to meet some lovely Maasai people. Their rituals, dance, and customs were explained briefly to the group and they even had a first-hand experience of the tribe’s way of life far from the civilisation of the outside world. The participants also had a great time shopping artistic commodities made by the Maasai artists.
In the evening, a few gazelles and secretary bird were sighted. Somewhere in the high grass, two young elephant calves were found fighting, and watching action in the wild and making images was an exhilarating experience for the beholders.
A yellow-throated longclaw, with the dabs of gorgeous bright yellow on its body, gave the participants a good photo opportunity.
And like a curtain slowly rising high for a grand show, the clouds cleared and Kilimanjaro loomed into view, a breathtaking spectacle that wrote the perfect ending for the rewarding second day of the Tour.
The next day, the group left Amboseli, and started heading towards Nakuru. By noon, the group already saw gerenuks. On the evening safari, the group made some exotic images of the impala standing against the lovely green backdrop of the wild in Nakuru. In the late evening, when not many vehicles were around, the participants had a great time making images of a lioness walking boldly and gracefully around the vehicle.
On the early morning safari the next day, a few zebras painted the world black and white, one of them bearing the sweet, light weight of an oxpecker on them.
Somewhere where the woods were thick and branches were a tangled mess, a leopard was perched, and the group didn’t miss it although it was hard to spot the spotted beauty amidst the green-brown chaos.
At the property was a bird-feed station where the group was able to photograph about 10 species of birds in the noon, including speckled mousebird, great blue-eared starling, baglafecht weaver, red-cheeked cordon-bleu, olive thrush, grey-capped warbler and yellow-bellied waxbill.
On the evening safari, participants saw and photographed olive baboon, zebra and white rhino. Adding to the beauty of wildlife at Nakuru was a warthog in the enchanting evening light and a pride of lions on a tree.
The group departed for Masai Mara the next morning. They stopped over at Lake Naivasha for a boat ride, where they could watch the elegant flight of the African fishing eagle and even photograph it in action, catching fish. A colobus monkey made a spectacular appearance – its austere black and white in stark contrast with the green background.
When they were done with lunch, the group drove through the Mara to reach the property, and the plan paid off – they saw a pride of lions that included some adorable cubs.
Resting well for the following day in the wild, the group geared up for the safari the next morning. They heard of a buffalo kill and arrived at the place to find a huge male lion. His poised bearing at the time was captured in several photographs by the bystanders.
Cape buffaloes, dung beetles, a cheetah, and another lion ensued in enriching the participants’ experience in the vast grasslands of the Mara. A few hyenas on a kill added to more action in the wild.
Day seven of the Photo Tour began with the sighting of a hyena in the divine light of the morning. A pride of lionesses and sub-adults were found and admired until, to add to the reverie, a Tour participant spotted a male lion, which was soon seen to be accompanied by another.
The two males started trotting towards the pride of lionesses, and the latter scattered all over the grasslands because the former didn’t belong to their pride. When they all outran the male lions, after a while, a lioness started calling for her cubs which slowly joined her, coming from different directions.
White-bellied bustard and larks were also photographed that day. A lioness was found perched on a tree and the condition of the light gave the opportunity for some stunning silhouetted images of her climbing down the tree and leaping onto the ground.
That noon, the Skipper took the group on a walk around the river in the park, and they got to see hippos revelling in their ennui. On the way, they found a vibrant chameleon crossing their way. The day marked the end of the Tour for those who hadn’t signed up for the extension.
And for those who had, day eight began with the sighting of a charming leopard close to the road on which treaded the safari vehicle. They also got a very close view of a handsome male lion. Birding also continued when the crown cranes and hornbills were spotted and photographed. A cheetah and her kitten together offered a pleasant sight; they seemed to be wary of the hyenas that were strolling close by. Later, a leopard on a tree was also gleefully beheld and captured in photos.
A pride of lions was later spotted feeding on a hippo kill, just before another pride was seen feeding on a buffalo kill in the company of endearing small cubs.
That noon, as the group was lunching under a tree, they saw a few starlings prancing around. Later in the day, a big male was seized into evocative pictures by the participants, who also captured a leopard walking towards their vehicle in style later.
The haunting rule of life in the wild, where the predators and the prey write stories of life and death on their own terms, seemed like a testimony to the possibility of a world beyond the right and the wrong on the last day of the Tour. When a pride of lions were feasting on a hippo kill, a few hyenas joined the party. Even as the hyenas and lions were feeding on the kill together, even as some good photos were made, the sighting became a poignant climax for the ‘Harvest in the Savannah’ Photo Tour, which ended the next day as the group departed for their respective homes.