Tuesday, 27 September 2011

An Apology and more...

First the apology: we had intended to blog at least daily when possible and even arranged to buy a Safaricom Dongle and airtime on our arrival in Voi. Tiju Aziz was kind enough to come down to her shop on a Sunday to make sure we had the dongle for day one. Unfortunately Safaricom neglected to say that the dongle requires a SIM card to actually work and that a SIM card was not included with the dongle. We only discovered this in the evening at Ndololo Public Campsite in Tsavo East, so we had to wait until we came back out before we could get a SIM card.

By way of an apology, the clip below was taken today.

Now that we are back online, we should update you on the safari so far:

Day One:

We left our homes just after 3am and headed for Aberdeen Airport for the KLM flight to Amsterdam. We had 12 hours to waste in Schipol Airport before our Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi, so we ate pizza, wandered around, ate pasta, wandered around and then finally found a special area for people with long stop-overs. This was a treat to be sure! Comfy seats, free wireless broadband and television. We tried to sleep but couldn't, so we each took turns on a bizarre water-massage thingy. It looked like some kind of cryogenic chamber as it closed around you but the massage it gave was both relaxing and invigorating and we all agreed it was five euros well spent.

Eventually the time arrived for our flight to Nairobi, which was somewhat delayed by a strike in Greece and the no-fly zone over Libya. By the time we had cleared Nairobi Customs, it was after 8am. We picked up the Landrover hired from Roving Rovers and headed south towards Voi. Only once we were on the road did we realise we had been given one with a single roof hatch, big enough for two people, despite requesting one with two roof hatches because there are four of us on this trip.

We reached Voi around 2pm and picked up supplies, booked our rooms for Tuesday night in the Silent Resort and headed round to Ashtech Systems to meet Tiju and collect the dongle. Unfortunately we couldn't phone her, as our phones had been blocked from overseas usage – despite having had “global roaming” set up on the account for six years – Big thumbs down for Orange!

With all the hassle of the long journey and things not going according to plan, we were looking forward to getting into Tsavo East National Park and starting our safari proper. After a brief run around the Voi River Circuit, we headed for the Ndololo Public Campsite, to be greeted by a family of elephants. Dave commented that this was a very appropriate way to start the safari, as our blog is intended to raise money for Save The Elephants. In our short run round before pitching camp we saw several bird species, including Superb Starling and Yellow-Necked Spurfowl and a few we will have to identify from books when we return; we also saw Grant's Gazelle, Burchell's Zebra and plenty of elephant. Not a bad start to the safari!

One of the welcoming committee at Ndololo Public Campsite

Howard provided the entertainment for the evening by making such a hash of starting the fire that the camp watchman came over and started it for us, much to the amusement of Karen, Jason and Dave.

Day Two:

We started Day Two with more elephants, then some Coke's Hartebeest and Waterbuck on a trip round the Kanderi Swamp. The swamp, which used to be a watery haven for many creatures has been parched almost dry by the dreadful drought that has hit East Africa over the last three years. We still managed to see many different birds, including Red-Billed Hornbills, a Secretary Bird, a Glossy Starling and one below, which we have not identified (perhaps some of our Kenyan bird-watching friends can tell us before we look it up at home?).

Must look this up when we get home!

Whilst we were hanging around Kanderi Swamp, one of the local tour groups arrived but quickly left, they then reversed back at speed and the guide told us he had a report of lions on the radio so we could follow him to them. Big thumbs up to you Sir, whoever you are! Asante sana!

One of four lions we were taken to by a kind local tour guide

After photographing the lions, we headed for Aruba Dam, hoping to find lots of wildlife at the waterhole there but to our shock, it too was dried up! We still saw plenty of wildlife along the way, including the strange looking but surprisingly graceful Gerenuk, Dik Dik, Elephants and Masai Giraffe, as well as a large herd of Buffalo. However, the highlight of the day had to be the pair of Bee-Eaters we watched. They would sit watching intently from their perch, then swoop like lightning and return with an insect prey. The male also caught several large moths, which he presented to his mate

We spent ages watching these two as they swooped like lightning on their insect prey

We ended the day photographing the comical antics of the resident Yellow Baboon troop in the campsite. This time it was Dave who gave a fireside comedy turn, as he dropped four sausages into the fire, one after the other, from the sharpened stick he was holding over the fire to cook them. He eventually gave up and used a frying pan.

Day Three:

Today we headed to Mudanda Rock, where we had previously seen lots of activity at the huge waterhole the rock creates at its base. However the waterhole was completely dry! On the way we  photographed elephants, beautifully lit by early morning light. We also stopped to photograph the carcass of a recently deceased Giraffe. Jason provided the entertainment this time, by shooting several identical images of the Giraffe with his camera on motor-drive, to which Dave responded “it's nae moving that fast!”. We also photographed zebra, Somali Ostrich and a family of Black-Faced Sand Grouse. From Mudanda Rock, we headed for Luggard's Falls, where we were delighted to find one of our favourite antelope, the Lesser Kudu.

A Beautiful Female Lesser Kudu at Luggard's Falls

We spent the late afternoon along the Pipeline Road, where we found many Elephants, Storks, Tawny Eagles and a huge flock of Red-Billed Quelea. As Karen, Jason and Howard regailed Dave with tales of the Taita Falcon they had witnessed hunting Quelea at Kanderi Swamp on a previous safari, two Taita Falcons appeared! They first chased off the Tawny Eagles, then dove repeatedly into the flock of Quelea, occasionally catching one.

The Taita Falcon looks his Quelea prey in the eye

We ended the afternoon on a bit of a low, though, as we spotted a badly injured Elephant bull, with what appeared to be a broken leg. We returned to the Voi Gate and informed the KWS Rangers, then headed into Voi to pick up supplies and check into an hotel for a rest and a much-needed shower.

This poor bull Elephant was clearly struggling to walk with what appeared to be a broken leg

We hope you have enjoyed this post and will consider donating to our chosen charity Save The Elephants through our Just Giving link. 

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