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


Tom Kellie

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@@Tom Kellie

 

Who deserves, he gets! You deserved the miracles of the final game drive, and we deserved to read and watch them. Thank You, Anthony!!

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Beijing to Nairobi Lights Out on EY 889 ~ After my safari partner, Peking University medical student and researcher, XU Ni, 徐铌, rendezvoused at my Beijing campus apartment, we r

Quenching And then there were elephants...by the dozen! We rounded a tight bend to head onward to the lodge when Loxodonta africana in force appeared. They were hustling along, as if urgency co

Madoqua kirkii Pair ~ Just the two of them. Nothing else in sight. Small. Wary. Yet not so anxious. Madoqua kirkii, Kirk's Dikdik in the tall grass beside a Tsavo West track. Nothing fancy, yet

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Tom Kellie

Cheetah Pair



These are the final photographs of the final game drive. Anthony briefly pulled near the two resting cheetah, at 6:56 pm. The near darkness required a high ISO


setting, as I have no flash attachment and in any case wouldn't have wanted to startle the two cats. Their beauty, in terms of eye and coat color, markings


and lithe form, beguiled in the cool evening breezes. What a safari it had been, and what an improbably wonderful conclusion. Once again Anthony's


skills in Samburu had produced an indelible memory. It's such experiences which have brought me back to Kenya over and over. Lovely, lovely Africa...




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Similar Reaction



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Deep Gaze of a Young Male Cheetah



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Full Stretch



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Parting Shot





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Tom Kellie

~ @@Peter Connan, @@phil_b, @@xelas

 

The warm comments from the three of you were waiting for me when I turned on the computer this morning.

In a few hours I leave for two days to lecture at a campus outside of Beijing, thus will be away from the computer and not on the Internet.

Yes, without Canon's sophisticated sensor and image file processing technology, the final leopard and cheetah images wouldn't have been possible.

It would have been a wonder to have observed them at the game drive's close, yet being able to photograph them made it possible to share the full adventure with you and other Safaritalk members and visitors.

Thank you, @@xelas, for mentioning Anthony, without whose keen sense of tracking, superb driving and love of wildlife the final sightings wouldn't have been possible.

When I was on safari in South Africa earlier this month all was ideal, except that I greatly missed Anthony's humor, perceptions and irrepressible spirit.

The trip report is unfinished, as the return journey and brief stay in Nairobi prior to returning to Beijing yielded more photographs.

This concludes the regular full-on game drives. The remaining posts will present the remainder of the January, 2015 visit to Kenya.

The trip report began on 6 April. While writing it I've returned to Africa three times for safaris.

The passing of @@graceland, who was such a strong supporter of the trip report when I began writing, deeply affected me. I've thought of her warmhearted, fun-loving, lighthearted and forgiving heart as I've written this.

I'd wanted to wrap up most of the writing by my birthday, which is next week.

That you've enjoyed it means so much to me. The friendly comments and generous ‘Likes’ of so many Safaritalk members has energized me when my creativity ebbed.

The recently uploaded ‘haiku trip report’ from @@Atravelynn covering her safari with @@wilddog and @@Blue Bird exemplifies the sort of creative approach which I especially admire.

As I told her, the next trip report will follow a different course, with a more specialized style, albeit not haikus.

Many, many thanks!

Tom K.

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Cake and Toque



After such a dramatic conclusion to the safari, we were elated when we sat down to dinner for the last time at the Samburu Sopa Lodge. Never had we


imagined that our safari would encompass such a wide range of experiences, with nary a dull or perilous moment. XU Ni sent messages via his iPad


to friends around the globe while I smiled and peered into night's darkness. The dining room staff, led by Abdi, entered with singing and dancing,


bearing a cake and a chef's toque. They crowned Ni with the toque, presenting the cake to us for our extended stay. Such a delightful final touch!




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Abdi and Friends Dance with a Cake



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Bearing a Chef's Toque



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Making a Joyful Noise



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Thank you Very Much, Abdi



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Cometh the Cake



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Ni Crowned with a Toque





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Farewell Breakfast



When I woke up it was a beautiful, clear-sky morning. Truth be told, nearly every morning at Samburu tends to have cloudless skies. Ni was sleeping


in his adjacent room, so I walked around making a few farewell images to show the setting of the Samburu Sopa. After Ni came out, he joined me for


breakfast in the open air dining room. I tend to eat very light before a long drive or flight, so limited myself to juices, tea and fruit. An impala herd


came to the waterhole while we were eating, as did two rather large warthogs. Mt. Kenya's summit was visible, towards which we'd be driving.




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Mt. Kenya on the Far Horizon



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Walkway Outside the Room



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Room View



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Porch with Swimming Pool in the Upper Right



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Room Exterior



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Ridges and Mt. Kenya



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Outside of the Room



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Farewell Breakfast



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Open-Air Breakfast Room



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Impala Seen at Breakfast



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Arriving Impala Herd



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Warthogs at the Waterhole





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Departure Through Isiolo



After bidding the staff farewell at the Samburu Sopa Lodge, we drove out through the Reserve, standing up to watch the scenery and occasional wildlife pass by.


It wasn't bittersweet, as the joy of the dramatic conclusion on the previous evening glowed within us. I suspected that I would return, which I did six months later.


We passed a camel herd on the way to Isiolo. Every trip to Samburu has included views of strings of light-colored camels. At the fuel stop in Isiolo, I noticed a


shop named ‘Maggie Creations’, which reminded me of Maggie, Anthony's wife, who arranged the logistics of the safari.




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Samburu Oryx Airstrip



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XU Ni Standing During the Final Drive Out



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Colorful Buildings Outside of the Reserve Entrance



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Passing a Camel Herd



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Drama Autospares and Maggie Creations in Isiolo



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Decorated Service Station Wall in Isiolo





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Tom Kellie

Lovely cheetahs :)

Happy early birthday, Tom!

 

~ @@Marks

 

Thank you!

Tom K.

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Tom Kellie

Mt. Kenya Highway Photos



As has been the custom when returning southward from a stay in Samburu, we stopped on the highway at an optimal location in order to take


photographs of Mt. Kenya in the distance. The cloudless skies were ideal for photography. As traffic sped past, we tried various camera


settings to capture the striking sight of the great peak without clouds, snow patches visible despite the warm Summer temperatures. I


told Ni that we were fortunate to view the mountain in such favorable conditions, adding to the overall positive experience of the safari.




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Highway and Mt. Kenya



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In the Distance



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Wide Angle View



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Anthony Gitau and Mt. Kenya



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A Sunny Morning with Mt. Kenya





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Tom Kellie

Highway Scenes Near Mt. Kenya



The drive around Mt. Kenya in Laikipia and on into Nyeri was exceptionally pleasant due to lovely warm temperatures under clear skies. The safari was


concluding yet we felt happy from having seen so much in superb settings and conditions. Above the fields of grain dozens of birds flew back and forth


feeding on insects. We passed a long British Army convoy with headlights on, as well as a white and green minaret with a loudspeaker. The rail line


which stretches northward was visible albeit with rust-colored rails. Motorcycle taxis waited for passengers, the jovial drivers laughing together.




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Hillside Above Fields



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Grain Beside the Highway



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Small Wheat Farm



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Wheat Growing Near Hills



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Feeding on Insects Over Wheat Fields



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Purple Wildflowers and Distant Smoke



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Wire Perch



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Different Stages, Different Colors



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Fencepost



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British Army Convoy



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Minaret and Mama Anorld Gen. Shop



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Awaiting Passengers



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Rail Line with Distant Range





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Nanyuki Equatorial Crossing



When we approached the Nanyuki Equator sign Anthony asked if we'd like to briefly stop for photos. It was decided to do so, despite the presence of


hawkers and touts. I've passed this particular sign a number of times — sometimes stopping, other times not. The ebullient mood we felt made the


photo stop fun, with equatorial sunshine overhead. It required patience and finesse to take these portraits without others in the frame, importuning


us to buy this or that knickknack as a souvenir of transiting the Equator. Does this occur elsewhere? I hesitate to surmise minus evidence.




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Hitching a Ride on the Equator?



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Nanyuki Equatorial Crossing





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Mt. Kenya



Throughout the drive around Mt. Kenya in both Laikipia and Nyeri Counties, I kept the left-side window open to facilitate on-the-go photography. The EOS 1D X had


the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar T* 135mm f/2 ZE manual focus telephoto lens mounted on it. The reason for that lens was its superb optics which yield luminous images


with a 3-dimensional look. Mt. Kenya has different faces as shown in this series taken over more than one hour. Although it was a manual focus lens, that was no


significant impediment. I found myself more aware of the scenery with the camera in my hands. Such a lovely memory of a gorgeous mountain on a beautiful day!




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Incongruous Presence



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Mt. Kenya Over a Burning Field



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Farm with a View



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Mt. Kenya in Sunshine



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Mountain Vista



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Mountain Views for All



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Looming



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Seen Through Trees



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Mt. Kenya in Nyeri County



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Bucolic Scene with Mt. Kenya



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As Seen from the Highway





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Tom Kellie

Agricultural Scenes in Nyeri



After multiple drives through Kenya on various safaris, it's been clear how richly fertile much of central Kenya is. The farmland in Nyeri is highly productive,


with excellent soil, ample sunshine and adequate water. Rural life comprises cattle, sheep and goat herding, and field crops. Small tree plantations, burnt


charcoal and roadside stands are features of Kenyan life, as seen from the highway passing through Nyeri County. The land varies from hilly to flat,


with small communities throughout. The lush plant life was pleasing to see, testament to fertility and favorable growing conditions.




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Fenced Rail Line



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Eucalyptus Plantation



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Grazing by the Railroad Tracks



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Field Workers



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Red Canna and Goats



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Bananas in a Corn Field



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Cattle and Hay



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Ibis and Egrets Along an Irrigation Ditch



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Papayas Beside an Irrigation Ditch



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Sacks of Charcoal





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Karatina Tea Plantation



During previous safaris Anthony had stopped along the winding highway near Karatina in Nyeri County for photography of the tea plantations. The


scenic tea agriculture is in a hilly area with tall trees. He stopped this time, allowing us to watch tea pickers at work amongst the verdant tea bushes.


They carry large woven baskets into which they place the hand-picked fresh tea leaves. The labor-intensive process takes place in a beautiful area,


yet one wonders if walking up and down steep hillsides carrying a heavy load of fresh tea leaves might likely be exhausting, especially when


done day after day, week after week. I admired their stamina and apparent good cheer.




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Karatina Tea Plantation



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Trees and Tea Plantation



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Kenyan Tea



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Forested Hillside with Tea



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Tea Pickers



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Tea Growing on a Hillside



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Banana Beside a Tea Plantation



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Karatina Agriculture



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Harvesting Fresh Tea Leaves



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Working Among Tea Plants



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Trees Growing Beside Tea Plants





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Rice in Mwea



After stopping to photograph the Karatina tea plantations we continued on to Mwea, where we passed the large rice fields. Although I'd passed through


there before, on this occasion the fields seemed to be in especially fine condition. The large size of each field was impressive. The entire process of


drying rice, sacking it up, and selling it from rice stores was visible. Cattle grazed on the field perimeters where bananas grew. From the overall look


of the community, it appeared that rice farming was relatively lucrative. The rice drying on sheets on roads was large-grained, with an attractive


pale color. Rice stores side-by-side advertised the same product — which one to choose?




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Huawei in Kenya



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Rice in Mwea



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Rice with Cattle



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Bananas Bordering a Rice Field



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Kenyan Rice



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Rice Paddies, Kenya-Style



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Piles of Rice Husks with Cattle



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Drying and Sacking Rice



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Nice Rice Millers



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God's Will Rice Store



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Mwea Rice Stores



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Rice Drying on Pavement



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Mwea Street Goods



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Rice Sacks





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Farewell to Anthony



At last the long safari drew to a close. We stopped at Ruaraka Academy to pick up Anthony's son, Adrian, who is a kindergarten student there. He was initially


shy, but soon became involved with how the safari van was driven. Ruaraka Academy impressed me with its well-behaved students and tidy grounds. Parked


in the Sirona Hotel, Anthony's wife, Maggie, joined us for a final conversation. We all agreed that it had been a superb safari in all respects. XU Ni told Anthony


and Maggie how Kenya had favorably impressed him. As happens each time when a safari concludes, there was a wistful quality,


already missing the days observing wildlife. After all, no Anthony, no safari...




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Ruaraka Academy



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Adrian and Anthony Gitau



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Anthony, Maggie and Ni





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Im really impressed with all the extra stuff in the last few posts that you have taken the time to observe and photograph and show us here. It shows a real interest in Kenyan life and not just the wildlife. Throughout your whole report i have been impressed with the detail you go into regarding trees and flowers, something I havn't came across much before.

Thank you for a great report. You have a lot of reports to do if you aim to catch up though!

Phil.

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Tom Kellie

Nairobi National Museum



The one recurring feature of all 9 safaris in Kenya has been visiting the grounds of the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi. I seldom enter the museum


itself, preferring to wander through the grounds, camera in hand, photographing trees, flowers, insects, reptiles and the many birds there. After checking


into the Sirona Hotel for our one night stay before flying back to Beijing, XU Ni and I walked to the National Museum, being vigilant when crossing the


perilous highway. We had dinner on the outdoor terrace of Vogue Café, where the potato-leek soup and pasta arrabbiata restored my energy.


I love visiting the National Museum Society Shop where I inevitably buy a few books to bring home.




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Museum Entrance



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Museum Society Shop Sign



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XU Ni With Rhino



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Dinner at Vogue Café





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Im really impressed with all the extra stuff in the last few posts that you have taken the time to observe and photograph and show us here. It shows a real interest in Kenyan life and not just the wildlife. Throughout your whole report i have been impressed with the detail you go into regarding trees and flowers, something I havn't came across much before.

Thank you for a great report. You have a lot of reports to do if you aim to catch up though!

Phil.

 

~ @@phil_b

 

The trip report is finally winding down. It began on 6 April and will likely be completed today, which happens to be my birthday.

I'm delighted that you've enjoyed the non-game drive photos! The process of my safaris has comprised everything from airport arrival to airport departure. Omitting the life of Kenya as I pass by it would be the very sort of excessively selective observation which my students are urged to avoid as much as possible.

My birthday present to myself will be a day without any sense of needing to post more photos and commentary as it will be completed.

Thank you so much for your very kind comment!

Tom K.

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Safaridude

Sad to see that this epic TR is coming to a close. Happy Birthday.

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Junonia hierta



Despite low energy from the long drive to Nairobi from Samburu, Ni agreed to stroll through the wooded grounds of the National Museum of Kenya with me.


Our primary objective was to photograph summer season plants, as well as any birds we might spot. Walking through the Succulent Garden, where a large


xerophyte collection grows, this Junonia hierta, Yellow Pansy, was spotted. As the lens was manual focus, I was grateful that the butterfly remained in


one place sufficiently long for this image to be taken. One of the nicest features of a safari in January is observing colorful butterfly species.




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Junonia hierta










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Sad to see that this epic TR is coming to a close. Happy Birthday.

 

~ @@Safaridude

 

Thank you so much.

I may never do this again, but feel glad to finally bring it to a close.

Tom K.

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National Museum of Kenya Grounds Vignettes



As these would be the ultimate nature images of the safari, the late afternoon stroll around the grounds of the National Museum of Kenya was


doubly precious. Every leaf with sunlight illuminating its chlorophyll, every mousebird feeding in bushes, every brightly blooming flower, every


Sykes Monkey in a tree, every thorny cycad — they all were treasures as I didn't know when or if I'd ever see their like again. As it later


happened, I'd revisit the gardens in May and July of 2015, but at the time that remained unclear. Neither drama nor novelty is needed


to dress up the beauty of the gardens of the National Museum, which remain the heart of my Kenya safaris.




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The Sky Is Alive



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In a Yellow Tone



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In a Red Tone



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Crossed Vines



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A Touch of Blue



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Elegant Ferns



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Venerable Cycad



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Overhead Tangle



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Watchful Mousebird



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Drooping Tail



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Peace Path



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Serinus striolatus on a Flowering Plant



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Cardinal's Vestments



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In a Cycad's Heart



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Reminder of Home





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Sirona Hotel Room on Departure Morning



As occurs every safari, I woke early on the morning of the final day, thoughts of the long journey between Nairobi and Beijing in my mind.


Birds outside the window were singing, announcing to the world their presence in their territory. One of the most charming aspects of


Nairobi is the relatively high urban density of avian species. A box of red grape juice remained, serving as my light breakfast. While


letting time pass, I recalled the highlights of the safari, looking through the thousands of photos, wondering if any were compelling.


When the time came to leave the Sirona for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, I felt richly blessed by the safari which was ending.




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My Sirona Hotel Room on the Departure Morning





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Departure — Safari's End



The traffic between the Sirona Hotel and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was light, aside from a slight detour due to highway repairs. We passed


through the various security and passport checks, received our boarding passes and underwent immigration clearance. After immigration there's a


large wall poster saying “Smile. You've Been to Kenya.” It sums up the feeling that I had at the close of the journey, which was entirely satisfactory


in all aspects. There were no highlights, as it's more than enough to be a guest enjoying time outdoors in Kenya's natural beauty with Kenya's


warmhearted citizens. We flew back to Beijing holding memories of the completed safari as shown by the photos in this completed trip report.




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Smile. You've Been to Kenya.





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