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Tsavo West, Amboseli, Meru & Samburu — January, 2015


Tom Kellie

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Tom Kellie

Cosmopsarus regius



During a previous safari visit to Samburu I'd glimpsed Cosmopsarus regius, Golden-breasted Starling, but was unable at that time to satisfactorily


photograph the species. Cosmopsarus regius tends to move along through arid tree growth in a small group, not pausing very long on any one


perch. With such vibrant plumage, they're fairly easy to spot, but their restless habit reduces photo opportunities. After the lions, we felt upbeat,


looking forward to another fine Samburu Sopa lunch before the safari's ultimate game drive. Nonetheless,


when these starlings were spotted, I asked Anthony to stop, resulting in these images.




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Cosmopsarus regius



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Cosmopsarus regius Trio



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Golden-breasted Starlings in an Acacia



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Mid-day Color





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Tom Kellie

Impala at a Waterhole



The Samburu Sopa Lodge waterhole is situated a short distance from and below the dining-room's open-air view. Throughout the day and into the


evening birds and mammals visit what is one of the very few upland area water resources. When we arrived for lunch an impala herd arrived at


the waterhole, first one then the entire group. The male had especially impressive horns. He watched while the herd quenched their thirst, then


wandered off followed by the others. One young impala was seemingly more interested in the looming presence of the lodge, with its


lunchtime clamor, than in availing itself of the waterhole's bounty.




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First to the Waterhole



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Impala at the Waterhole



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Curious...or...Wary?



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After His Thirst Was Quenched



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Such Magnificent Horns!





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Tom Kellie

Two Oryx Visit a Waterhole



Not long after the impala herd departed from the waterhole two Beisa Oryx tentatively approached it. Their initial hesitance resulted in a


start-and-stop pattern, until finally they were satisfied that the availability of water outweighed any potential risk of a predator. They


drank longer than the impala, walking around the waterhole, lowering their muzzles in different places. An adult oryx is a large,


solid animal. Nothing especially delicate about them beyond their preternaturally long horns. Whatever selection pressures


influenced the evolution of the oryx, the result is graceful, mightily pleasing to the eye.




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Walking Towards the Waterhole



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Beisa Oryx at Samburu Sopa Waterhole



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Split Hooves



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As Observed from My Lunch Table



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Two Waterhole Visitors





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Tom Kellie

Around the Swimming Pool



After a couple of hours relaxing in the Samburu Sopa swimming pool, I returned to my room, dressed, prepared the camera gear and walked out


to meet Anthony and XU Ni for the afternoon game drive. As it would be the final game drive of the multi-day safari, I wanted to enjoy every


moment for observation and photography. Walking around the quiet swimming pool, I photographed floating acacia flowers, birds and a


female Rainbow Skink. She was camera-shy, having eluded my lens in the exact same location during two previous visits. On this


occasion a quick push of the shutter button captured a trace of her beauty.




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Acacia Flowers Floating on a Pool Surface



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Eastern Chanting-Goshawk on the Lodge Roof



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Elusive Rainbow Skink



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Poolside Ring-necked Dove





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Tom Kellie

Lodge Decorations



While waiting for the final game drive to begin, I sat in the open-air lobby of the Samburu Sopa Lodge. It was my third visit — I've since visited a fourth


time in late July, 2015 — such that it felt comfortable to be there. The interior furnishings and decorations feature local design. The motifs are organic,


with rounded forms, earth tones and hand craftsmanship. The Simply Africa gift shop offers handicrafts, maps and books. I found a book or two about


wildlife which I hadn't seen before. A bat roosts above the door to the gift shop, going out to hunt in the evening, sleeping suspended from the roof by day.




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Wooden Chairs



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Coppery Patina



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Simply Africa Gift Shop



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Contrasting Textures



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Reverse Funnel



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Overhead Fixture





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Tom Kellie

Watchman at the Gate



At the outer perimeter of the Samburu Sopa Lodge a round gatehouse is beside the gate. With a thatched roof, the gatehouse provides


shelter from the sunlight for the uniformed watchman, who raises and lowers the gate. The watchman is a Kenyan army veteran. He's


placed a bird feather on his hat as a cockade. He salutes departing safari vehicles with ramrod-straight posture, his military bearing


impressive and reassuring. He's a likable gentleman, something of a character, who lends the Samburu Sopa a jovial yet


disciplined air. We enjoyed going out through the gate on each game drive as he was sure to salute.




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At the Lodge Gate



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Watchman's Salute





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Tom Kellie

A Final Grevy's Zebra Herd



Our final game drive occurred on a warm late afternoon. The first sighting was a small herd of Grevy's Zebra. They were moving westward,


grazing as they went. As they were all adults, they exhibited no skittishness when we stopped to observe there passage. One couldn't help


but be impressed by the superb musculature and coat condition of the zebras. They seemed well-fed, vigorous and confident. None of the


anxious prancing or efforts to hide that we'd seen elsewhere. In the camera viewfinder they're exceptionally clear focus targets,


their stripes showing up in sharp contrast. For me, Grevy's Zebra are one of Samburu's finest species!




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Triumvirate



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Tinged in Raisin-Brown



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Grevy's Zebra in Samburu



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Fingerprint-Patterned



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Picasso's Horses



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Grevy's Zebra Herd



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One Never Tires of Watching Them





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Tom Kellie

Golden-breasted Starling Redux



What I wouldn't have expected during the final game drive was another encounter with Cosmopsarus regius, Golden-breasted Starling. Yet it happened.


In our mildly jolting drive over the rocky track leading from the Samburu Sopa towards the lower elevation Ewaso Nyiro River, we'd begun going down


the steepest slope, which is also where the most rocks are. I saw a flash of saffron yellow in a passing long-tailed bird. It was Cosmopsarus regius


again! Several were flying to small bare-branched trees before rapidly moving on. This one bird perched sufficiently long for a few quick


snapshots. Such a beautiful species that having no more than a glimpse is nonetheless a great pleasure.




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Looking Around



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Cosmopsarus regius on a Branch



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Golden-breasted Starling in the Afternoon





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Hard to believe you are drawing to a close.

The zebras are striking.

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Tom Kellie

Buffalo Springs Landscape & Birds



Anthony drove to the bridge linking Samburu and Buffalo Springs. It was late in the afternoon, thus the colors were intensified as we crossed the nearly


dry Ewaso Nyiro River. A herd of cattle was on the Buffalo Springs side of the bridge. Here and there a few birds — starlings, a raptor, vultures and a


dove. Not much sign of life. The temperature, ambient light and the serene setting were such that we enjoyed the drive without any major sighting. A


male ostrich was partially concealed in vegetation beneath a multi-branched palm tree. It felt free to be in such an uncluttered landscape.




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Looking Back to the Samburu Entrance



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Eastward View of the Ewaso Nyiro River



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Late Afternoon Light on the River



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Entering Buffalo Springs



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Buffalo Springs Herding



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Bridge Construction Sign



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Buffalo Springs Landscape



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Starling on a Branch



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Lunar Landscape with Trees



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Far-off Mountains



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Superb Starling Quartet



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Six Birds in a Dead Tree



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Male Ostrich Beneath a Palm Tree



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Blooms and Nests Together





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Tom Kellie

Elephants and Water



As the Sun was setting Anthony headed back towards the bridge, as it seemed that our final game drive was at its close. Looking into the


Ewaso Nyiro River channel, we saw elephants seeking water. They directly drank from the remaining rivulets and also from shallow pits


in the river sand. The babies remained with their mothers, drinking on their own. Several of the images show water being tossed from


trunks, often making helical shadows as it flew through the air. The late afternoon light, shadows and vivid blue skies resulted in


portraits which brought out the elephants' majestic bulk and warm familial ties.




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2 + 1 = 3



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Giving a Toss



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New Arrivals



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Casual Cool



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Samburu Elephants



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Trunks Are for Drinking



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Help Yourself



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Happiness is a Cool Drink



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Wading and Drinking



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Helical Reflection



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In the Swing of Things



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Caught in the Act



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Mud and Water





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Tom Kellie

Mother and Child



The elephant mother and baby, who'd arrived after others were already drinking water in the Ewaso Nyiro riverbed, walked to a small pool of water


away from others. Together they drank for several minutes. The mother walked up a bank with her baby lagging behind. After it caught up with


her, they returned to the river for more water, the baby conspicuously leaning into its mother in a gesture of dependency and closeness.


Their ties of affection were self-evidently close, one watching the other, never separated for very long. The innate bond


between mother and child is seldom more explicit than between elephants.




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Sundowner



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Two Extended Trunks



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Water Surface in Sapphire



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Synchronized Quaffing



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Nimble Trunks



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As It Should Be



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Making Its Way in the World



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Determination



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Reuniting



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Contented Pair



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There's No One Like Mom





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Tom Kellie

Farewell to the Ewaso Nyiro River



These three photographs of the Ewaso Nyiro River were taken in Buffalo Springs National Reserve looking toward Samburu National Reserve. They were


intended as a visual benediction on the safari, as a final farewell to Samburu as the final game drive came to a close and we prepared to drive across the


bridge and back to the Samburu Sopa for a final meal. There was a poignant feeling when taking these images, as Anthony had asked if we were ready


to head back. It had been a week and a half of tremendous sightings, beautiful scenery and more photographs than


ever before. Yet, like everything, the safari's end had finally arrived...or so we three supposed.




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Elephants in the Ewaso Nyiro Riverbed



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Samburu Approaching Sunset



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Farewell to the Ewaso Nyiro





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Earthian

@@Tom Kellie

Now that is what is called a TR. Comprehensive, informative, engaging and with great pictures.

By the way, you gave it the correct description. It was indeed a "superb" starling quartet.

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie

Now that is what is called a TR. Comprehensive, informative, engaging and with great pictures.

By the way, you gave it the correct description. It was indeed a "superb" starling quartet.

 

~ @@Earthian

 

When I looked back at the trip report and saw your kind comment I was moved.

I'm so pleased that you've enjoyed looking through the images.

The next trip report will be different, written in another style.

For now I'll concentrate on sightings in Sabi Sands, South Africa during the coming safari.

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

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SafariChick

@@Tom Kellie I love the elephant mother and baby photo series. You can really sense the bond between them and also they give a sense of the place and surroundings. Lovely.

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Atravelynn

Lovely and touching final encounter between mother and baby elephant, and in such good light.

 

You wrapped this up just in time to set off on your South Africa trip. Between your in-depth virtual safari report and the real thing, you are forever safari-ing.

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elefromoz

@@Tom Kellie, thanks, lovely Gerenuk and Oryx, two antelopes I would like to get a better look at one day, fleeting sightings in the past with very skittish animals.I will possibly never get to these parks but feel I've travelled them with you.Hope SA meets your expectations. I'll be there in March so looking forward to your impressions.

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TonyQ

@@Tom Kellie

Thank you for a fabulous report.That is a really beautiful set of elephant photos at the end - perfect light on mother and baby - a wonderful sight.

Yours is a very distinctive voice. The pleasure you take in the small things that are so easily overlooked is a feature that will stay with me, and I think influence me on my next safari.

Thank you for all of the time and effort you have taken with this - I have really enjoyed following it, and seeingsome of the northern species. I was particularly keen to see Meru national park (as we will be visiting it) but all of it has been very engaging.

 

I look forward to your next trip report!

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xelas

@@Tom Kellie

 

Waited a while hoping that it is not the end of this trip report. To repeat the words of others would be superfluous; enough to say that I have followed it almost religiously, opening it every day, reading every word and enjoying every photo.

 

While I will never be able to repeat (the quality of writing, the knowledge, the portraits of the nature) your trip report, I am hoping one day I can repeat your trip!

 

Thank You, and please do post more!

 

Alex

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  • 2 weeks later...
Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie I love the elephant mother and baby photo series. You can really sense the bond between them and also they give a sense of the place and surroundings. Lovely.

 

~ @@SafariChick

 

Thank you for your encouraging comment.

I'm drawn to elephant mother-child interaction.

Their expressive actions move me, touching the shared qualities within mammals.

I'm so glad that you liked it.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie Please do consider writing a review of the properties in which you stayed for the new Lodge and Camp review subforum. Thanks, Matt.

 

~ @@Game Warden

 

I've placed it near the top of my “Safaritalk To-Do List’.

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Lovely and touching final encounter between mother and baby elephant, and in such good light.

 

You wrapped this up just in time to set off on your South Africa trip. Between your in-depth virtual safari report and the real thing, you are forever safari-ing.

 

~ @@Atravelynn

 

Encouraging words from the lady daring to spend Halloween with Churchill's polar bears!

One safari leads to another, a concatenation of beads on life's string.

I'm so glad that you liked the elephant mother and baby, seen in late afternoon's golden glow.

Today I've booked the next safari, which will see me at Beijing Capital International Airport in the afternoon of Sunday, 17 January, 2016.

More adventure...more game drives...more photographs...more fun!

I scarcely dare add...more plunge pools!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

@@Tom Kellie, thanks, lovely Gerenuk and Oryx, two antelopes I would like to get a better look at one day, fleeting sightings in the past with very skittish animals.I will possibly never get to these parks but feel I've travelled them with you.Hope SA meets your expectations. I'll be there in March so looking forward to your impressions.

 

~ @@elefromoz

 

Thank you so much! Both gerenuk and oryx are highlights of any safari, particularly in Samburu.

South Africa exceeded all expectations in terms of frequency and quality of wildlife sightings.

The next trip report will cover the recently concluded Sabi Sands safari.

I'm very glad to know that you'll be visiting South Africa in March, 2016.

Today I booked a longer Sabi Sands stay for late January, 2016.

What was delightful once may well be delightful twice!

Tom K.

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