Saturday, 29 September 2012

The cost of blogging versus the cost of not...

We started this blog with the intention of encouraging people to take an interest in the wildlife of Kenya and to contribute to an organisation that plays a major part in preserving keystone species and the environments they occupy - Save The Elephants.

Our aim was to provide regular "from the field" updates during our safaris, so that people could follow the ups and downs of our safaris daily from wherever they were in the World.

We linked the blog to our fund-raising page for Save The Elephants, so that readers of the blog could easily offer their support to the preservation of these amazing places and wildlife.

In attempting to provide regular updates "from the field", we have faced significant challenges.  Editing images and writing, proof-reading, formatting and uploading the blog, often by torch-light in the back of a Landrover or in a tent, added around two hours work at the end of each day.  We had to organise and pay for local internet access and try to find signal hot-spots to upload the data. When those hotspots were not available, we had to revert to using a smartphone app and incurring significant "data roaming" charges in the process. 

In a recent conversation, Howard mentioned our fund-raising and someone commented that they didn't feel inclined to contribute when all we are doing is talking about our "holidays".  This seemed to be the concensus of most people present, so we felt it important to put the record straight.

When most people organise a fund-raising effort, they do a sponsored walk, a skydive, a bungee jump, or have their head shaved etc.  They make a personal sacrifice to encourage others to contribute to their cause. It seems our problem in encouraging people to contribute stems from a perception that we are not making any personal sacrifice.

Blogging from the field over the two years of this blog has taken approximately 90 hours work.  The cost of uploading the data has exceeded £1200 (British Pounds).  We think this is a significant personal sacrifice.  So...

Elephants are facing the greatest threat to their continued existence on this planet that they have ever faced.  Poaching levels have reached and in some places exceeded the levels of the 1970s, when 80% of the population were exterminated to provide nothing more than ivory trinkets.  The human population explosion that has led to the World population exceeding three times the planet's carrying capacity has placed massive pressure on Elephant habitats and migration routes, leading to much higher levels of human/elephant conflict.  If we don't act now, act fast, act firmly and act universally to stem this decline, there will be no wild Elephants in less than 25 years time.  How will we explain to our grand-children that we knew this would happen but did nothing to stop it?

This blog is just one of several ways in which we are trying to do "our bit" to prevent extinction of the Elephant (and all the other species that depend on them for habitat maintenance).  The cost to us in both time and money has been significant but the cost to the planet of not doing something is infinitely greater.

Please consider making a donation to Save The Elephants.  If you don't want to donate through our Just Giving page then you can contribute directly by following the link on the Save The Elephants website.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Well, that's us back home in Scotland again.  It was a shorter safari this year and there were many things that happened on this safari which were not in the plan...but that is Africa; things don't always go the way you think they will, so in Africa you make a new plan and that's what we did.

The late arrival of some of the luggage forced us to spend some time at the Ndololo Safari Camp instead of the nearby campsite, so we got to experience the lovely charm of a place we have long intended to visit.

The flash-flood forced us to abandon plans to camp in the Masai Mara and instead we spent a night in Siana Springs lodge and returned to Nairobi, where we visited the Nairobi National Park and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust; both places we have also been meaning to visit for several years.

It has been yet another wonderful adventure and we have come home with plenty of tales to bore our friends with.  We also have many people to thank for their contributions to our adventure:

  1. Patrick Muigai at Roving Rovers supplied the "Mystery Machine", which survived a drowning in the flash flood at Siana. 
  2. Tiju Aziz, our good friend in Voi, sorted our internet connectivity problems again for the second year and also gave us a lovely coffee mug each (currently being used as we type!).  If you need any tech help in Voi, then Ashtech Systems is the place to go!
  3. The staff at Ndololo Safari Camp, who went out of their way to make us feel welcome and ensure we had somewhere to sleep when some of the tents took three days to arrive.
  4. Everyone at Ngutuni Safari Lodge.  A wonderful friendly place, with excellent food, beautiful rooms and everything overlooks a busy waterhole.  A fine, relaxing place to sit with a cold Tusker and watch the many visitors to the waterhole.
  5. Whoever the safari guide who told us about the Leopard near Kuldip's Ponds in Tsavo West was, asante sana!  You ended a six-year hunt for us :-)
  6. All the staff at Rhino Valley Bandas in Tsavo West National Park, who made our short stay in this stunning setting in the beautiful Ngulia Hills a delight.
  7. All the staff at the Milimani Backpackers, who are always friendly and welcoming.  This is a delightful place to stay, with simple but clean accommodation, helpful staff and a great atmosphere in the restaurant/bar.  See you next year!
  8. The Masai community around Siana, who helped us when the Mystery Machine succumbed to a flash-flood; especially the families in Julius's village, who looked after the Rav4 that Lockhart and Pam were driving, as it could not get all the way to Siana Springs Lodge.
  9. Ray and Gail Damazo, who stopped to help us out in the flash-floods.  With their driver William, they winched the stricken Land Rover onto drier land so that it could be recovered by the engineers at Siana.  They also gave us a lift through the treacherous conditions to Siana Springs Lodge and checked up on us to make sure we were ok the following day before we left.  Ray and Gail founded the Masai Dental Clinic, which provides important dental care to the Masai communities in the Mara and beyond.
  10. Everyone at Siana Springs Lodge, who went out of their way to make us welcome after our "dooking" in the flash-flood.  We'd especially like to thank Emanuel, who made sure they had accommodation to fit us in and all the lads in the Land Rover Workshop, who toiled through the night to get the Mystery Machine back on the road.
  11. We'd also like to say a huge thank-you to the men and women of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Community Rangers, who put their lives on the line daily to protect the amazing flora and fauna of this incredible country.
The Mystery Machine as the floods subsided.
Two days later we were driving round the Nairobi National Park in the same Landy!

We now have thousands of images to sort through, so watch out for further updates with images from some of this year's safari adventures.

If you have not already, please consider making a donation to our fund-raising for Save The Elephants, through the link on the right to our Just Giving page.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Saving More Elephants

Last night we said our goodbyes to Locks and Pam with a bottle of Glenfiddich and many Tuskers.  Today was the final day in Kenya for the rest of us, so we spent the time relaxing, apart from a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where we met lots of orphaned baby Elephants, ranging from a few weeks old to three years old and a blind Rhino called Maxwell. We had great fun watching them have their bottle-feeds and playing in the muddy water.  We still had some of the dollars left from our planned camping in the Masai Mara, so we decided to donate the money to the Sheldrick Trust by each of us sponsoring one of the babies.

Karen photographing the young orphans

Explaining the Elephants' life cycles and life stories to visiting school children

Bink snapping one of the larger babies getting a bottle-feed

The circumstances of each Elephant's rescue were explained to the visitors

On our way back to the Backpackers, we had time to reflect on the plight of the poor Elephant babies, most of whom have been orphaned due to poaching or other man-made problems.  Then we passed Kibera, the second-largest slum in the whole continent of Africa and were reminded also of the problems faced by many people in Kenya.  It has been a sobering end to the trip but with an uplifting feeling, having seen first-hand the efforts of the workers at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Kibera, home to around a million people

Tomorrow morning we fly home after another great adventure in Kenya.  Some things did not work out as originally planned but we have been able to adapt to the circumstances and find alternative ways to make the most of the trip.

We hope you have enjoyed what blogging we have been able to do on this trip and that you will consider making a donation to our chosen charity Save The Elephants through our Just Giving page.

Look out for the postscript blogging after we have had time to look through some of the many thousands of photographs and contemplate some of the many memories we are taking home with us.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Little History and the Parade of Kings

After all the dramas of previous days, we decided to have a relaxing day on Wednesday. Karen and Bink headed into town in the morning and went for a rummage round the shops. On returning to the Backpackers, they presented Howard with a wooden model Land Rover. In the afternoon we all visited the National Museum of Kenya, which houses some of the most important artefacts of human history, like the early Homonid skulls and the Turkana Boy skeleton. We also visited the Snake Park next door.

Thursday was supposed to start bright and early with a 6am departure to the Nairobi National Park but Howard set his alarm for 5.30pm instead of 5.30am, so we didn't leave until nearly 7am. We were still at the park in time to catch the busy period early in the morning when most of the animals are more active. We headed for the Hyena Dam and found Hippos, Maribou Stork, a lone Buffalo bull and a family of Grey-Crowned Cranes, then we continued towards the Leopard Cliff. Along the way we found two large male Lions strolling across the plain. They flopped onto the grass about 150 yards from the trail and lay down to sleep, disappearing into the long grass. Moving on, we came across a herd of Impala and watched as they crossed the road in front of us. As the passed, we noticed we were not the only ones watching them; beyond the bushes we spotted the intent gaze of a male Lion, weighing up whether to have an Impala snack. In the end he chose not to and the Impala moved off. The lion turned out not to be alone, but to be with another similar aged male. The pair sat around for a while and then moved off into the bush, where they too layed down to sleep.

Impala on the move

Spot the danger!!!

Two Kings

Something in the air...Could he detect a female in heat?

Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we found another two Lions. This time it was a honeymoon couple. Every 10-15 minutes they would mate briefly, before flopping onto the grass to snooze until the next session.

Copulating King

Yeah Baby!!!

Bink photographing Lion porn

The Happy Couple

Once we had taken all the Lion porn we could handle, we headed to the Baboon Picnic area for lunch, where we found Rock Hyrax. After lunch we headed slowly back to the main gate, finding large numbers of Zebra and Masai Giraffe along the way. One of the Zebra had a nasty wound on its flank, which appeared to be a Lion attack.

Cute little Rock Hyrax

Back at the Backpackers, we had time for a shower before dinner. Tomorrow Locks and Pam fly home and the rest of us are planning to visit the Sheldrick Trust Orphanage, then we too will head home on Saturday morning.

If you haven't already, please consider making a donation to our fundraising for Save The Elephants through our Just Giving page.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Out of the Frying Pan

...and into the hotel from Hell.

Repairing the Land Rover had cost us KES 29,000 (about GBP 250) but we decided after our rather unpleasant adventure, we would find a nice hotel for one night in Nairobi, just to relax and wind down. Howard looked online and searched for hotels in the Milimani area. The two that came up first were the Kenya Comfort and the Kivi Milimani. Google reviews had the Kenya Comfort at zero stars and the first review said that it was basic and over-priced but the Kivi Milimani had 3.5 stars and the photo looked good, so he booked us all in there. The girl on the phone quoted a price in Shillings of 2,700 for the doubles and 2,000 for the single but as soon as she realised we were foreigners, she changed the price to USD 130 for the double rooms and USD 90 for Bink's single, bed and breakfast only. We wanted a nice hotel and the Google review and picture made the place seem good; we also wanted to get on the road to Nairobi quickly, so we just accepted.

The drive back to Nairobi went without hitch but we had some trouble finding the hotel. We recognised the name and knew we had seen the name somewhere near the Backpackers but the Google map had the address as “off Valley Road” and the marker pin indicated it was opposite the church on Valley Road but we went round and round in the heavy traffic and could not find it. Every person we asked knew of the place but could not accurately direct us towards it. After over an hour of searching, we finally found it – on Milimani Road, about ¼ mile from the Backpackers!

We climbed the stairs to the reception, which looked lovely and Locks suggested we might book a second night, so we all extended our stay to two days. The first sign that all was not as it seemed came when the lift started, with a shake, a shudder and a loud groan. Reaching our rooms we were gobsmacked to see the state of them. The doors looked like they had been jemmied as often as opened, with various broken locks and only one that worked. A large disclaimer on the back of the door pointed out that the hotel was not responsible if items were stolen from your room. The beds were so worn out and the mattresses so old that they had huge depressions in the middle, then we saw the bathrooms! Hot water was provided by an electric immersion heater that you had to switch on and wait half an hour before running the hot water. Our bathroom looked like the grouting had been done by a blind man with Parkinson's and it was utterly filthy. There was a broken tile on the side of a bath that had filthy brown smears that looked like somebody had recently taken a dump in it; the worn and cracked linoleum was peeling up off the floor. The room was not worth 130 cents let alone 130 dollars!

As we headed downstairs for the dinner we had to pay extra for, we all agreed we would cancel the extra day and try to get into the Backpackers instead. We were shown into a dingy room to be sat at a large function-style table with a table cloth so filthy and stained it can't have been washed for ages. Locks suggested that somebody had been using the table for amateur motorcycle maintenance! The “stuffed chicken and chips” was barely edible, with dried up chicken and chips that had been fried in very old, dirty fat. As we waited for dinner we ordered drinks. Bink's coffee took 45 minutes and two reminders to arrive.

Breakfast the following morning was basically awful. Most of the food was inedible, the croissants were rock hard and days old and the coffee was cold. We have run out of bad superlatives to describe this place! Before breakfast Howard and Karen ran along to speak to the Backpackers and they managed to fit us in for the rest of the week.

The staff of Kivi Milimani were all nice people but completely clueless about their jobs. Bink described the place as Fawlty Towers with a full staff of Manuels. We would definitely NOT recommend the Kivi Milimani Hotel to anyone.

Nairobi National Park

We have been visiting Kenya since 2006 but to our shame we have never visited Nairobi National Park before, so our extended stay in Nairobi offers an opportunity to right the wrong. We had a lovely day driving round the most amazing city park in the World, spotting Lion and White Rhinoceros and getting our first ever photos of the gorgeous little Purple Grenadier. We were both relieved to give Bink a good game drive after her horrendous introduction to Kenya.

The King of Beasts

White Rhinoceros against the backdrop of the Nairobi skyline
Female Purple Grenadier (thanks Steve!)

We hope you find this blog interesting.  If you haven't already, please consider making a donation to our chosen charity, Save The Elephants through the Just Giving link on the right.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Howard Headbutts a River

... with a Land Rover.

We picked up Bink from the airport this morning and headed out towards the Mara.  From Nairobi to Narok the road was nice and easy, with not much traffic, being a Sunday.  Filling up, we asked the guy to check the oil and he pointed out that the vehicle did not have a cap on the oil filler.  They didn't have a spare but he looked at the soundproofing on the bonnet and suggested that virtually no oil had leaked out, so we should be ok.  We told him we'd already been driving the vehicle all around the Tsavos and he shrugged.

We had a short stop at the Rift Valley viewpoint and headed on, eagerly anticipating what the Mara would bring.

From Narok, the first 5 miles or so was reasonably good tarmac, then the bumpy, rutted mess of a road started.  It;s a bone-shaking drive and that leaves you wondering if you'll have any teeth left by the Mara!  About half-way along this road, the rain started and got heavier and heavier, with thunder and lightning.  At the bottom of every road was a stream of water gushing across that we had to ford.

About half a mile past the turning for Siana Springs Tented Camp, we came across another flow of water.  We looked for the fastest flowing area, which usually indicates the shallowest and edged the Landrover forward.  The water did not seem too deep, so we edged a little further and all of a sudden the bonnet plunged forward and the engine died.  The water then began to rise rapidly and we quickly abandoned the vehicle, wading through waist-deep water with the aid of a passing Masai Elder, who summoned help.  At one point half of the Vehicle was under water but ten minutes later it had subsided to the point where we could see what had happened.

This was not just another low-lying bit of road where flood water flowed across!  We had actually nose-dived into a stream!  The area of relatively still water we had avoided as likely being too deep, was actually the bridge, which held the water back with its side-walls but the whole lot had been under water and the fast-flowing area we had aimed for was the stream turned to a raging river butting against the bridge.

The couple who run the Masai Dental Clinic at Siana stopped and their driver used his winch to pull the Land Rover out and we popped the bonnet.  The water had flowed in through the open oil filler and flooded the engine, washing all the oil out all over the engine bay.  They gave us a lift back to the Siana Springs, who found us rooms for the night.  Their drivers then recovered the Land Rover and have spent the night working on it, to try and get the engine running again.

Not the best first day in Kenya for poor Bink!

We have decided that we will head back to Nairobi and find a hotel, spending the last few days in Nairobi National Park instead.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

At Last!!!

Here we are in Nairobi at the Milimani Backpackers and we can finally get a decent connection to Safaricom...So at long last, we can give you the blog as it should have been...

Day One...The Journey

We left Aberdeen in the afternoon and headed for the airport. Check-in did not go as smoothly as planned, as the cheap scales we had weighed our luggage on did not read the same as the check-in desk scales, so we were forced to unpack in the middle of the airport and jam several items into our camera bags.

Waiting in the departure lounge, we chuckled as the girl on the desk decided to step on the baggage scales and it flashed up “overweight”.

The flight to Amsterdam was a tight squeeze, as Howard's camera bag, with it's additional consignment of clothing, was now too fat to fit in the overhead locker, so he had to sit with it jammed between his legs for the whole flight; thankfully it was only a short flight.

After a five-hour lay-over in Amsterdam, we boarded the Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi. The long journey was made even longer because the in-flight entertainment system would not work and the people in the seats in front seemed to think they owned the aircraft.

The one fantastic highlight of the flight was a spectacular thunderstorm over Juba, in Southern Sudan, which lit up the night sky and looked breathtaking from 37,000 feet.

We arrived in Nairobi to find that Locks and Pam's luggage had never left Amsterdam. This left them with no tent, so we decided to spend the first night in Ndololo Safari Camp, which is right next to the campsite we normally use, whilst we waited for the missing luggage to arrive. Locks filled in the necessary forms and asked them to deliver the luggage to Ndololo.

The journey down the main Nairobi-Mombasa highway to Voi was straightforward for us but along the way there were numerous reminders that this can be a dangerous road. We saw several accidents, including one that certainly resulted in fatalities.

Because of the long delay, chasing lost luggage, we did not arrive at Tsavo East until 4pm, so we took a short game drive along the Voi River and headed for Ndololo. Along the way we saw Zebra, Giraffe, Elephants, Grant's Gazelle, Impala and numerous bird species. Locks asked us if we were just exceedingly lucky or if this was normal. We replied that this was actually a quiet game drive for Tsavo East! Thankfully they had room to put us up and we enjoyed a very pleasant evening with friendly staff in beautiful surroundings. During the night we listened to lions roaring, first about 2km away and moving closer to about 500m away. Magical Kenya!

Elephant and Impala

Later we would wish the Giraffe had stomped on the Baboons!

Day Two... Water for Elephants

Today we began with a visit to Kanderi Swamp, where we found many elephants browsing and searching the dry ditches for water. There were also lots of Zebra and Coke's Hartebeest there too. We also got a brief sighting of a gang of Banded Mongoose. We then took a drive up to Lugard's Falls, via the Pipeline Road and Mudanda Rock. It was a pleasant trip with lots of Elephants looking for water along the Pipeline Road and a large herd of Elipsen waterbuck at the pumping station, along with several Impala.

On the road across to Mudanda Rock from the Pipeline Road, we found several male Somali Ostrich. On reaching Mudanda Rock, we found that the waterhole at the base of the rock was completely dry, for the second year running. We also noticed how much the vegetation had dwindled due to the continuing drought.

As we neared Lugard's Falls, we were treated to the sight of one of the prettiest antelopes, the Lesser Kudu and on our way back to camp, we found a Lioness sleeping under a bush.

We discovered today that Kenya Airways had not delivered Locks and Pam's bags to Ndololo Safari Camp, as agreed but had instead tried to deliver them to Finch Hatton's in Tsavo West, before returning them to Nairobi! Several irate phone calls, many of which were cut off half way through due to patchy coverage eventually led to a promise that the bags would be delivered to the G4S office in Voi by 8am. This meant that we needed to spend another night in the Safari Camp instead of the campsite. With pleasant surroundings, good food, cold Tusker and lovely staff, this was no hardship but it did add significantly to the cost of this part of the trip.
Elephants splashing around in the water along the Pipeline Road

The Lovely Lesser Kudu

Lugard's Falls

Karen taking photos at Lugard's Falls

Lion having a cat-nap

Day 3 … Attack of the Baboons, My Precious

Today we began with a short drive around Kanderi Swamp, where we found the strange-looking Gerenuk, a family of Ground Hornbills, Coke's Hartebeest and the most magnificent Kori Bustard. Afterwards, Howard and Locks headed into Voi to pick up the missing baggage, whilst Karen and Pam took a game drive along the Voi River circuit. We met up again at the public campsite for lunch.

One problem with the public campsite is that too many ignorant visitors, sometimes encouraged by poor guides have thrown food to or left food for the resident Yellow Baboon troop. These aggressive opportunists now associate humans with easy pickings and we have seen people attacked there before. Sometimes the only way to keep them away is to throw stones at them. As we were raking in the back of our vehicle for lunch and Locks & Pam were doing the same in their vehicle, Howard spotted a large male Baboon preparing to attack Locks. Grabbing a small stone, Howard yelled at the baboon but it was too far into it's plan to back off, so he threw the stone but missed, The Baboon then turned on Howard and was inches away from contact when Locks charged it from the side, wielding a panga and distracted it enough to make it hesitate, before kicking a heap of dust into its face. The Baboon then realised he was outnumbered and beat a hasty retreat.

Only after the Baboon was gone, did Howard realise he had lost his wedding ring in the scuffle. We searched and searched the area for over half an hour but could not find it. After lunch, as we were preparing to leave, Pam suggested we move the Land Rover back and search the area where it was parked. After several minutes searching, we were just ready to give up, when Howard spotted something in the dirt. With a cry of “I got it!” he grabbed the ring, held it up in front of his face and making his best Gollum impression said “My Precious!”.

That afternoon, Locks & Pam headed over to the pipeline road and we did a loop of Ndara Plains, where the highlight was seeing several curious baby Dwarf Mongoose popping their heads out of the ventilation holes of a large termite mound. Cute does not begin to describe the scene! Meanwhile Locks and Pam were having an altogether more intense experience, as an Elephant took great exception to their presence on the pipeline road. They backed off but she just kept coming towards them, eventually forcing Pam to take a sharp lesson in reversing, as she charged them for 500 metres back along the road.

The Baboons have got far too used to thinking of Humans as a source of food

Southern Ground Hornbill hunting in Kanderi Swamp

Day 4 … Elephants, Elephants, Elephants

During the night we were surrounded by elephants, browsing on the foliage of the campsite trees. Occasionally they would rumble but mostly the only clues to their presence were the sounds of branches snapping and being chewed up and a massive shadow blocking the moonlight from the reaching the tent. Just before dawn, the generator at the lodge kicked in and startled a nearby Elephant, who let out a massive roar. As daylight began to appear, we emerged from the tent to see another herd of Elephants arriving at the campsite. The lead female spotted us and faced us with ears wide and head high. We got the message and returned to our tent! After the elephants passed through, the Baboon troop attacked en-masse, with several of them on the vehicles, swinging from the door handles to try to open them and others in the trees above, shaking the branches and throwing half-eaten figs down. Karen clapped her hands loudly and they all scarpered.

After breakfast we had a drive around Kanderi Swamp, spotting a herd of Oryx on our way from there to the pipeline road. We then headed into Voi to see Tiju, who kindly helped us sort out the connection problem with a new sim card.

From Voi, we headed the short distance to Ngutuni Lodge, which we had visited for the first time last year. On the drive through this private reserve we were delayed for several minutes by an anxious female elephant, who was not comfortable with vehicles. We arrived at the lodge to be greeted with facecloths and fruit juice. After a shower and change of clothes, we headed to the terrace to watch the wildlife at the waterhole and sip a cold Tusker.

What we have noticed on this trip, which appears to be a result of older Elephants being poached for ivory, is that many of the family groups are being led by females that are much younger than a matriarch should be. We think this may be the cause of the increased anxiety we are noticing in herds that would previously have had an experienced matriarch to reassure them.

Fringe-Eared Oryx
Zebra trio at Ngutuni

A family of Elephants at the Ngutuni Waterhole

Elephant and a dazzle of Zebra at the Ngutuni waterhole

Day 5 … The Big Herd and on to Rhino Valley

We rose early this morning, planning to have an early game drive but there was so much action at the waterhole that we decided just to relax and watch the show and what a show it was. We had several Elephant families, warthogs, Zebras, a Jackal and a massive herd of several hundred buffalo. There was plenty of argy-bargy as Buffalo fought for the best spots, Elephants chased Buffalo, Buffalo chased Elephants and everyone chased the poor Warthogs.

We left Ngutuni around 11am and headed for the Tsavo River gate to Tsavo West National Park. We first tried the Tsavo River track, thinking it would be the most likely place to see game, being near to the water. However, part of the track had collapsed and the road was impassable to the Rav4 Locks & Pam were driving; it would have been a tough call for the Land Rover too, so we turned back and sought an alternative route. We arrived at Rhino Valley Bandas to be greeted with damp facecloths and fruit juice, just the thing after a long, hot, dusty drive. After dinner we sat on the balcony, watching the Elephants at the waterhole and listening to the chorus of frogs.

A massive herd of several hundred Buffalo barge the Elephants out of the waterhole

A stroppy Elephant chases the poor Warthogs away from the waterhole

Buffalo and Elephant squaring up at the waterhole

Junior has fun chasing the poor downtrodden Warthogs...again

A clash of tusk on horn as the Buffalo and Elephant clash

Day 6... Spots Before Our Eyes

We awoke around 6.30am and went out onto the balcony to check the trailcam but nothing had come past in the night. However, we were entertained by the antics of the half-dozen Unstriped Ground Squirrels capering about for ages around our banda.

Just after 8am, we headed out for a trip to Mzima Springs. Along the way we decided to take a quick look at Kuldip's Ponds and found a Saddle-Billed Stork. We passed a minivan tour and flagged them down to tell them where to find the Stork and their driver/guide replied by telling us where he had just seen a Leopard with a kill. It pays to share! After six years of trying to see a Leopard in the wild, we finally managed to see not one, but two!

We spent over an hour photographing a beautiful female Leopard in a tree with her Impala kill, then headed on to Mzima Springs. Howard went to sign us all in with the Rangers and told one of the tour guides, who was waiting for his punters to come back from their Ranger-guided tour of Mzima Springs, where to find the Leopard.

After about an hour at Mzima Springs, we had photographed Hippos, Crocodiles, a Cormorant, several species of Kingfisher and a wagtail and started to head back. Along the way, one of the other tour guides that had also been waiting, told us of a report he had received about two Leopards near to where we had previously seen one. We headed over and sure enough, we got there just in time to see a Leopard slinking into a thick bush to wait, as a few alert Impala spotted the danger and began to bark.

We got back to the Rhino Valley Bandas around 2.30pm and decided just to skip a second drive and opted instead for a shower and a relaxing afternoon at the bar, watching family after family of Elephants arrive at the waterhole, whilst “shooting the breeze”. A particular treat was the tiny baby Elephant, not more than a few days old, that appeared with it's family just before dark. We also enjoyed the craziness of a slightly older baby acting up and teasing the adults. It was very nice that several of the staff recognised us from last year and seemed happy to see us back. All in all it was a very successful day and a very pleasant evening. Tomorrow we head to Nairobi, where we will spend the night in the Backpackers' before picking up another friend at the airport and heading to Masai Mara on Sunday.
Unstriped Ground Squirrel on the balcony of our banda

Saddle-Billed Stork at Kuldip's Ponds

Our gorgeous spotted friend with her Impala kill

Close-up of our beautiful Leopard

Friday, 7 September 2012

Finally Five

After six years of visiting Kenya, we finally completed our big five sightings.  This morning we found a beautiful female Leopard up a tree with her Impala kill.  The picture here was taken on a phone but once we have downloaded today's images we will have some absolute beauties to share with you, provided Safaricom stops timing out whenever we try to log on.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


OK, so Tiju helped us out with a new sim and we got the Safaricom dongle up and running for long enough on a painfully slow cinnection to send her a brief thank you...but we haven't been able to log on since, due to the poor connections Safaricom now has.  We are currently in Rhino Valley Bandas, where last year we had a solid 3G connection but this year there is an intermittent 2G  connection that cuts out before the dongle has time to log on.  We are hoping there will at least be a working connection in Nairobi on Saturday, then we can upload a mega-blog.  We have so many stories to share including Howard losing his wedding ring in a fight with a baboon!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Short update

Apologies for the lack of updates and for this short update but we are still unable to connect to Safaricom with the dongle. We suspect our sim has been disabled because it has not been used for 11 months.  We finally got Locks & Pam's baggage this morning from Voi.  We have seen lots of wildlife, as usual and will give a graphically rich update once we solve the Safaricom problem, hopefully tomorrow.  This update is from a phone app but as orange charges nearly £7 a mb we will leave images until we get the dongle working.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A long journey

We are having connectivity problems so this Will be a short update.

After a long uncomfortable flight, with no in-flight entertainment, we arrived to find Lockhart and Pam's luggage was not on the plane, leaving them without tent etc.  This left us unable to camp, so we booked a night at the lovely Ndololo Safari Camp in Tsavo East. Here are a few pics from the short game drive last night on our way to the camp.