Thursday, 22 August 2013

DAY FIFTEEN ~ The Good, The Bad And The Utterly Amazing

Conscious of our low fuel, we decided to take our time getting up this morning and take a leisurely drive along the Voi River Circuit, where we found a small herd of Gerenuk, including a very energetic youngster, who leapt and bounded around.


Boing!!!...The little Gerenuk catches some air.

From there we headed along the Pipeline Road for one last look and came across a pride of five Adult Lions lying under bushes around 90yds from the track. We photographed them for a while and sat back to watch them. Vehicles came and went, as every tour guide for miles around tried to guarantee a good tip. Eventually, when we were alone but for one tour van, the Lions wandered over beside us and spent some time with us before crossing the track and heading into the distance. We felt very privileged that they accepted our presence enough to come and spend time with us.

Lioness resting in the shade of a bush.

Everybody needs hugs!

Beautiful Lion Face.

Family Portrait.

The Maneless Male could be a descendent of the infamous "Maneaters of Tsavo"

Grooming the King.

Standing Watch behind the King.

Head-rub greeting.

After the Lions, it was time to head off. Back at the Voi Gate, we stopped to purchase some souvenirs at the shop and the girl in the shop told us that our Landrover is exactly the same colour as the one the Lion researchers use, so that is probably why they accepted us. She said she has been out with the researchers a few times and the Lions often approach them closely.

From Tsavo East, we headed to Voi for some fuel and then drove round to Ngutuni, where we booked in for three nights. After three nights camping in the bush, we were delighted to be able to have a shower and a cold Tusker!

Elephant Yoga by the Ngutuni waterhole.

From our balcony, we watched as more and more Elephants arrived at the waterhole. There were around fifty or more, with huge bulls, sub-adults and several tiny babies. If you want to see pure joy, stick a good waterhole in front of several baby Elephants! What a fantastic sight they were. There were push and pull games, splashing, rolling, piling on top – every Elephant game going. Among the adults, there was some argy-bargy over access to the best drinking water and some of the adolescent males were putting themselves about. One in particular was bullying younger babies until the adults put him in his place.

Baby Elephants playing in the waterhole.

The school bully.

In the distance, a huge herd of Buffalo sat resting. Some of them came in for a drink and that caused some aggro with the Elephants. There were moments when it looked like a pitched-battle between the Elephants and Buffaloes was about to break out over rights to the waterhole but eventually things calmed down.

Well that's the good and the utterly amazing but what about the bad?

Unfortunately, we do have to mention a couple of incidents which left a sour taste with us today.

As we drove along the Pipeline Road this morning, we spotted two tour minivans around 100 metres off track; something that is illegal in Tsavo East, to protect the fragile environment. As we approached, they sped off: we suspect because they thought the green Landrover might be KWS Rangers coming to sort them out. Their tyre tracks showed clearly that they had driven right up to the Lions, to within less than 3 feet! (you can see the tyre tracks next to the Lioness in the first picture above).

This was not the worst incident of today, however. After we had put our cameras down at Ngutuni this afternoon, many of the Elephants had left the waterhole and we were downloading our images when we heard a load “crack crack”. Looking out from the balcony, we saw a young man in jeans and a blue-hooped shirt standing on the terrace, deliberately clapping his hands loudly in a pattern clearly intended to simulate the sound of semi-automatic gunfire. This had exactly the effect the young braggart was trying to impress his mates (or girl) with: it cause a mad panic at the waterhole, as around fifteen Elephants and several Buffalo and Zebra stampeded into the bush in terror. That was around two hours ago and no animal has come within a thousand yards of the waterhole since. Some people are just a complete waste of DNA.

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