We left at around 0715am this morning without Jane, regrettably, as she was feeling rather poorly. We collected some great images on the way down, and in fact disturbed a Gymnogene or Banded Harrier in the process of pulling some tree mice from their nest. He unfortunately dropped them as he flew out of the tree, possibly surprised by the vehicle noise. They were a mustard brown colour with a broad dark brown stripe down the centre of their backs. I hoped he would collect them after we had passed by. A male Variable sunbird sat briefly in the morning light, and I collected his likeness with great glee!
The air was wonderfully clear, and we collected some creditable images of the crater through the spreading branches of the Acacia abyssinica trees. The cloud on the southern rim resting lightly like a ruff on the dark green of the cloud forest, in contrast to the clear blue sky above it. A herd of zebra, diminutive in the distance descended in an orderly line down a grassy slope, another cameo that remains in my mind. Buffalo bulls, dour and solid grazed the slopes in scattered groups, whilst the larger breeding herds preferred the level plains. A river stood out as a dark line punctuated with tall crowns of fig trees across the plain, and we headed towards it. Water is the currency of life, and therefore attracts wildlife. We crossed the shallow flow, where a small flock of helemeted guineafowl scratched and preened on the short grassy bank.
Grant’s gazelle lay and ruminated in the grass, the horns of the rams proud above the calf-high grass, in a ‘V’ shape. A pair of mating lions had been found the day before and we located them by spotting two other vehicles motionless not far away. The cats did not stir, being so used to vehicles and camera clicking humans. The female was completely stretched out, with the male a legs’ length away from her, similarly comatose. Mating does sap ones’ strength and energy, particularly lions’ style!
Gustav pointed to a group of vehicles in the distance, and we stopped and ‘glassed’ the area in the marsh. I was looking for rhino, but apart from a huge mixed herd of zebra, buffalo, wildebeest and gazelles with an elephant standing out above this mix, I could not see anything that should attract such attention. Just then Gustav pointed to a large fig tree. There was a lioness, just visible on our side of the branches about 30 feet up, in a patch of sunlight. She was staring at something intently. I followed her gaze and saw a sow warthog and two yearling piglets trotting towards the river.
The lioness turned and descended. HUGE excitement in the car.
The lioness trotted towards the river, watching as she did so. Gustav backed the car up past two other vehicles behind us, and I followed the big cat telling everybody where she was and what was going on.
She crossed the river, and was now on the same side as the pigs, but had disappeared from view.
(YOU WILL HAVE TO READ MY NEXT BUSH INSCRIPTION TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED)
A buffalo cow with a grotesque disease of her ears was found. The poor thing looked really sad, and it seemed kinder to have a vet come in and sort it out by excision. We saw Northern Gray Crowned cranes and marveled at their colours and grace, and we managed to photograph a group flying across our front, albeit from a distance.
A group of spotted hyenas were finishing off some scraps near the lake Magadi, and behind them were flocks of Greater and Lesser flamingos….such a contrast in appeal…..but a great image to have. A lone Golden jackal was dodging ugly stares on the periphery of this group, waiting to glean some food bits.
There were four male lions lying up near the hippo pool, and three were on a grassy slope in front of a large herd of buffalo. Two of these were in full view of an adoring score of vehicles, and we inched our way in a queue for a window of opportunity to see and photograph the scene. Not ideal, but Barbara collected some fun images. I managed a few as well, as this was a pretty unusual sighting. They had killed a buffalo the day before and had full tummies. A group if hyenas (out of frame left) were finishing off the carcase.
We drove through the Lerai Forest in search of leopard and anything else there. I photographed a black morph of Slender mongoose in June this year there. The tall yellow Fever trees are badly scarred by elephant tusks, and we found a small breeding herd in there feeding carefully on the young trees which were full of long thorns. Superb starlings glowed in the sunlight as the iridescence on their feathers caught the sunlight. We stopped briefly for a visit to the public toilet, and then carried on to see a very, very distant rhino lying down on the plains. Its large bulk and points on its head being the only recognisable features of its’ identification.
A picnic lunch at the lake with everybody else, plus starlings and rufous tailed weavers, and we gently started home.
It had been a priceless morning! That afternoon we did a short 2 hour walk up through the forest, on to the top of the hill above camp, and back a different route. A national parks scout had lead us up there, with a local guide too. We gratefully descended to camp, and after a hot shower and a cocktail around the fire were ready for our last dinner together, for this trip.
We left the next morning for various destinations. Jane and Barbara to Kigali to trek for Mountain gorillas, Linda and Carline for Texas and home. Me, well, I was destined for Nairobi and a days catching up on e-mails, news of home and a little comfort at Emakoko Camp. A gem of a camp outside Nairobi.