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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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Deep Gaze of a Young Male Cheetah


Full Stretch


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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Tom Kellie

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!


Abdi and Friends Dance with a Cake


Bearing a Chef's Toque


Making a Joyful Noise


Thank you Very Much, Abdi


Cometh the Cake


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.


Mt. Kenya on the Far Horizon


Walkway Outside the Room


Room View


Porch with Swimming Pool in the Upper Right


Room Exterior


Ridges and Mt. Kenya


Outside of the Room


Farewell Breakfast


Open-Air Breakfast Room


Impala Seen at Breakfast


Arriving Impala Herd


Warthogs at the Waterhole

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Tom Kellie

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.


Samburu Oryx Airstrip


XU Ni Standing During the Final Drive Out


Colorful Buildings Outside of the Reserve Entrance


Passing a Camel Herd


Drama Autospares and Maggie Creations in Isiolo


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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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.


Highway and Mt. Kenya


In the Distance


Wide Angle View


Anthony Gitau and Mt. Kenya


A Sunny Morning with Mt. Kenya

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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.


Hillside Above Fields


Grain Beside the Highway


Small Wheat Farm


Wheat Growing Near Hills


Feeding on Insects Over Wheat Fields


Purple Wildflowers and Distant Smoke


Wire Perch


Different Stages, Different Colors




British Army Convoy


Minaret and Mama Anorld Gen. Shop


Awaiting Passengers


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.


Hitching a Ride on the Equator?


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!


Incongruous Presence


Mt. Kenya Over a Burning Field


Farm with a View


Mt. Kenya in Sunshine


Mountain Vista


Mountain Views for All




Seen Through Trees


Mt. Kenya in Nyeri County


Bucolic Scene with Mt. Kenya


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.


Fenced Rail Line


Eucalyptus Plantation


Grazing by the Railroad Tracks


Field Workers


Red Canna and Goats


Bananas in a Corn Field


Cattle and Hay


Ibis and Egrets Along an Irrigation Ditch


Papayas Beside an Irrigation Ditch


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.


Karatina Tea Plantation


Trees and Tea Plantation


Kenyan Tea


Forested Hillside with Tea


Tea Pickers


Tea Growing on a Hillside


Banana Beside a Tea Plantation


Karatina Agriculture


Harvesting Fresh Tea Leaves


Working Among Tea Plants


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?


Huawei in Kenya


Rice in Mwea


Rice with Cattle


Bananas Bordering a Rice Field


Kenyan Rice


Rice Paddies, Kenya-Style


Piles of Rice Husks with Cattle


Drying and Sacking Rice


Nice Rice Millers


God's Will Rice Store


Mwea Rice Stores


Rice Drying on Pavement


Mwea Street Goods


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...


Ruaraka Academy


Adrian and Anthony Gitau


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!


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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.


Museum Entrance


Museum Society Shop Sign


XU Ni With Rhino


Dinner at Vogue Café

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Tom Kellie

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

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Tom Kellie

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.


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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Tom Kellie

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.


The Sky Is Alive


In a Yellow Tone


In a Red Tone


Crossed Vines


A Touch of Blue


Elegant Ferns


Venerable Cycad


Overhead Tangle


Watchful Mousebird


Drooping Tail


Peace Path


Serinus striolatus on a Flowering Plant


Cardinal's Vestments


In a Cycad's Heart


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.


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.


Smile. You've Been to Kenya.

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