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michael-ibk

A Thousand Hills, A Million Smiles & Gentle Giants - a Rwanda and Kenya Safari

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michael-ibk

Part 3 of the "Mating Birds" series - Ostrich now, something I´ve never seen before, and very funny to watch:

 

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A male eager to please. :)

 

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He puts on the charms, and she was wooed!

 

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They apparently did not appreciate the voyeuristic donkey.

 

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Ostrich parts you never wanted to see. :)

 

 

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michael-ibk

The Hot Springs of Bogoria are a well-known tourist attraction:

 

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They used to be much more spectacular, the fountains could erupt more than five metres into the sky. But the higher water level has changed that, and at times there is nothing more than a soft blubbering on the surface apparently. Still, a fun place to see.

 

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The Flamingos do not appreciate the springs apparently, they kept their distance to this place - but note the pink ribbon on the other shore.

 

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Not really sure how natural this green stuff is - would like to think that it is. But I´ve also read that Bogoria is very vulnerable to siltation and pollution. The lake has only one major river that feeds it, the Waseges river which drains into the lake originates on the northern edges of the Aberdare ranges. In the upper zones on the slopes of the Aberdare range, the river transverse through intensive agricultural lands where coffee is grown with heavy input of agro-chemicals.

 

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The hot springs are really hot - I burnt my toes doing this!

 

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This was the only place in the park where we encountered other people. In this case, it was a whole busload of people. A local visitor group arrived like a whirlwind, stormed out, posed for selfies, and was gone again after 15 minutes, and we had the place to ourselves again. Unfortunately it´s very noticable that the springs are popular - way too much rubbish lying around, and I really was angry about the plastic bottles people had just carelessly dropped. Is it really too much to ask to take your rubbish with you?

 

Apparently it´s also quite popular to boil eggs in the springs - well, at least the Vitelline Masked Weavers do appreciate that:

 

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michael-ibk

What other way to conclude the Bogoria part of the report than with - pinkpinkpink! More Flamingos:

 

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michael-ibk

A short break before I get to the final part of this report, the week we spent in the Aberdares at Sandai farm. A few more pictures from the Baringo area when we had to repair a puncture - again. :)

 

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I felt the people here are ... different. Mostly in Kenya you see a lot of smiles, open and friendly faces. Not here really. When we were driving or walking in the area I always thought that we were looked at quite suspiciously, in a "What are you doing here" way. We also had an incident where a young man who obviously was not quite in his right mind was yelling and throwing stones in our direction. Not as serious as it sounds, he never really tried to hit the car but made it very clear he did not care about our presence at all. OTOH, while Paul was having the flat tyre repaired, I chatted with a few people, and once we were talking they seemed to be lightening up a great deal and were very, very friendly from that point on. Also on my bird walk I had a very nice talk with the local school teacher. Maybe they just take a while to warm up to outsiders - not unlike the people in the smaller alpine valleys here in Tirol where I live. :)

 

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michael-ibk

@@michael-ibk, how sad that Baringo is over-run by domestic animals. Your flamingo shots are spectacular and its good to know that this memorable pink tide can still be seen in Kenya.

 

Thanks, @@Treepol . I guess the drought has not made this easier, Baringo County seems like a very harsh place to make a living, and unfortunately the whole pastoralism thing generally seems to quickly spiral out of control in this area as discussed here (http://safaritalk.net/topic/17072-central-kenya-ranchers-suffer-from-ongoing-insecurity/) .

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optig

@@Michael Ibk I adore your photos of the viteline masked weavers and of course the flamingoes. I can't wait to see the end of your trip report.

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penolva

Looking forward to the next part! Sorry we have missed out the lake now! Great flamingo photos. Pen

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xelas

Pink-pink-pink, and more pink. How gracious are flamingoes in flight!!

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Atravelynn

From near and far, in the water and in the air, those flamingos were fabulous! And the mating ostriches were fascinating. Even on the unknown green substances, the light shone just right. I hope your toes suffered only minimally. The black and whiteness of your Whiskered Tern shot is captivating, along with the hint of red on the feet. You have given us a lake country tapestry!

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Christopher Moran

What other way to conclude the Bogoria part of the report than with - pinkpinkpink! More Flamingos:

 

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Probably the closest thing to a perfect photo of a Flamingo I have seen. Stunning.

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elefromoz

@@michael-ibk, now you are really showing off with those fantastic Fish Eagle shots, oh I guess the Flamingo above is not too shabby either! The Flamingo en-masse are stunning. Hot -springs bubbling away, I never knew. Such diversity as you move along.

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penolva

@@michael-ibk Sandai Please! :)

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michael-ibk

Sorry, @@penolva , I hope to continue next week. :-)

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offshorebirder

I am just catching up on this report @@michael-ibk - good stuff as usual.

 

I too loved Tumbili Cliffs Lodge on my recent stay there. It is a great place for exploring the lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria areas. It is also well within range for visits to the Tugen Hills.

 

Like you, I also had decidedly mixed emotions about Rondo Retreat in Kakamega Forest. They could really use some competition - being the only lodging option in a wide area for decades really shows.

 

Looking forward to reading about your time in the Aberdares!

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michael-ibk

Sorry for the delay!

 

And welcome back, @@offshorebirder , I hope you had a great trip and I am looking forward to the report!

 

So, where were we? On our way from Baringo to Sandai, the last stop in our 3-week itinerary. It´s a nice drive on quite good roads, particularly in the highlands area which often looks very much like good old Europe.

 

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An African Stonechat on the way, my closest encounter so far with this nice little bird.

 

We had a somewhat disconcerting experience, close to Nakuru a few young men suddenly threw brushwood on the road, set fire to it and so had erected a burning road block. Paul immediately turned and drove back a bit to get a grasp on the situation. After a while (heavily armed) police arrived and the men fled. Apparently this was some demonstration, and things like this happened all over the county this day, we saw a lot of police and army cars in the area. Paul obviously did not want us to worry, and said it was nothing serious, but I don´t really know what all of this was actually about.

 

We arrived at Sandai at around 16:45 where we were welcomed with cake and coffee. The three dogs Charly, Lukas and Roxy were happy to see us again and did not move from our sides. (Of course, they do love all the guests. :-))

 

From this day on we were a party of three - my mother was joining us for the last week. She had read most of my trip reports, and often remarked on them and the beauty of Africa, so we invited her to come along - and were actually quite surprised (in a good way of course) when she said yes!

 

There were a few ups and downs preparing for the travel, after the initial enthusiasm my mother became a bit worried, not so much about being in Kenya but about the flight. It stressed her to be all on her own in Addis and especially in Nairobi on arrival, and we had a lot of "But what will I do if no driver is there?" - "He will be there." - "But what if he has an accident?" - "Then Petra will arrange for somebody else to get you" talks with slight variations on this general theme. Even so, my mother became so worried about the whole thing that she more or less decided to cancel.

 

I asked Petra Allmendinger, Sandai´s owner, to encourage my mother, and she was incredibly, incredibly friendly and helpful on this. Not only did she offer to personally get her at the airport (which was already generous enough), no, she said she would fly to Addis, meet her there and "escort" her back to Nairobi. I really did not know how to thank her for this (still don´t), this was an incredibly nice thing to do, and it never even would have crossed my mind to ask something like that of her. Well, Petra did, and of course this did the trick, my mother was finally ready to go and started looking forward to the trip again.

 

And so, finally, after a long drive from Nairobi, we could finally welcome her and Petra at Sandai. Even though my mother was understandably very tired after the long journey we had a good dinner with some drinks, enjoyed catching up and discussed our safari plans for the next days.

 

 

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michael-ibk

Our daily routine was a bit more relaxed than our usual "Get out at six and back at seven" safari routine, obviously we decided to go a bit more slowly because being out all day without a proper break can be quite exhausting. So on Monday we enjoyed a late breakfast (in Safari terms, around 08:00), headed off at around 09:30 and spent the day at Solio.

 

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Solio is well known as a rhino paradise, and most people associate it with very hefty prices. True if you stay at the lodge inside, but it´s also possible to visit from outside for a daily fee of USD 80,--, and since it´s only 20 minutes away (when the shortcut road is drivable which it is not after rain) Sandai is the perfect base for a Solio outing. Pay EUR 85-- per room, USD 80,-- fee, and EUR 245,-- for car and driver, and so you have a perfect safari activity for about USD 250,-- per person if you are a party of three.

 

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The reserve is about 75 km², all fenced of course, and well guarded - the Rhinos are of course always under threat and need protection. Unfortunately even a well-run operation like Solio cannot save them all, they did have poaching incidents but Rhino density there is still incredibly high and not really seriously affected by this crime - so far at least.

 

Solio is a very pretty place, a nice riverine forest and swampy areas running through the middle, and a lot of drier bushland and extensive open plains. Lots of herbivores, the density of Impala and Waterbuck especially is very high. Last time we also saw a lot of Zebras - almost none this time.

 

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Relaxing Waterbucks.

 

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Also some impressive Buffalo herds, we would see a really big one numbering 100s in the evening (did not bother for photos because of the very poor light then).

 

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This Giraffe caused a bit of a scandal in the evening. My mother was enthusiastic about all she would be seeing this day, loved it (who could one not?) but remarked on dinner that "Giraffes go on her nerves", that she does not care about their "arrogant posturing." An icy silence followed, shocked faces everywhere in the room, and a few incredulous "But Giraffes are so beautiful"s followed, but my mother was unimpressed. "They are just standing around looking silly."

 

A very stern and authoritative "You CANNOT NOT like Giraffes" was needed from me to make her see the terrible mistake she had made. Luckily, a few days later, she would make her peace with the beauty of Giraffes when they would be walking around more, not just standing there like statues. :)

Edited by michael-ibk

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michael-ibk

Let´s get to Solio´s stars - it´s Rhino time. :)

 

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White Rhinos are everywhere on the plains, and also found near the river. I did not count but we surely saw more than 50 this day.

 

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Some really impressive horns - let´s just hope they stay where they belong until this animal´s natural end.

 

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Yellow Wagtails were always following in the giants´ footsteps, hunting the insects they had stirred up.

 

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A size comparison with Impalas

 

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Lots of little ones around.

 

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Paul said White Rhino calves are always running in front of their mothers, Black Rhino calves behind them, that´s how you can tell them apart from afar.

 

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michael-ibk

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How many Rollers does one need to see on safari until one tires of their beauty? I haven´t found out yet.

 

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White-Browed Coucal. We saw them really a lot this time, made me wonder if we just had not noticed them before or if they are particularly common in the rainy season.

 

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My mother especially loved the Crowned Cranes, regal birds as she would say, and they are easy to see in Solio.

 

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This was a very unexpected sighting. These animals were pretty distant, and a first I thought they would be Otters. But they are in fact Nutrias or "Coypus" as they are called in Kenya. An invasive species and often considered a pest, they destroy aquatic vegetation and marshes and displace native animals.

 

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Solio swamps

 

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Yellow-Billed Stork and Yellow-Billed Teal

 

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Hildebrandt´s Francolin

 

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Amur Falcon

 

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White-Crested Helmet Shrike - I just love the immensely cool look of this bird.

 

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A happy @@screentraveller in Africa :)

 

Of course Petra had prepared a delicious lunch for us, and Paul knows the perfect spot for a break in Solio:

 

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Pasta, Tusker, Cake while watching Rhinos - life is good.

 

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michael-ibk

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Just a few Rhinos more? Take a closer look - these are Black Rhinos.

 

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We were very surprised about seeing these three, they had kind of mingled with some Whites and Buffalos, and watched us for a few minutes until they fled. While Black Rhinos are numerous in Solio, they are much, much shier than their cousins and difficult to approach - last time we had only had very distant sightings of them here.

 

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Maybe they felt safe because of the company of grumpy buffs?

 

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Note their hook-shaped lips, as browsers completely different from the square mowing machine instruments of a White Rhino.

 

 

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michael-ibk

A few more Rhinos to conclude this beautiful day we spent at Solio - and btw Solio was all ours, not one other car all day.

 

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Family interactions are always lovely to see.

 

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The horn, such a dangerous weapon, but used in a most gentle way here.

 

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We have all seen this special trick with Elephants but five-legged Rhino was a new one for me.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk

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penolva

Let´s get to Solio´s stars - it´s Rhino time. :)

 

gallery_19319_1629_12354271.jpg

 

White Rhinos are everywhere on the plains, and also found near the river. I did not count but we surely saw more than 50 this day.

 

gallery_19319_1629_1353013.jpg

 

Some really impressive horns - let´s just hope they stay where they belong until this animal´s natural end.

 

gallery_19319_1629_9216248.jpg

 

Yellow Wagtails were always following in the giants´ footsteps, hunting the insects they had stirred up.

 

gallery_19319_1629_4393233.jpg

 

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A size comparison with Impalas

 

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Lots of little ones around.

 

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Paul said White Rhino calves are always running in front of their mothers, Black Rhino calves behind them, that´s how you can tell them apart from afar.

 

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Wow! Brilliant rhinos and wonderful scenery. So glad your Mum was able to go with you. A great experience for her. Petra sounds so kind can't wait to meet her and the dogs!! Pen

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michael-ibk

Our next two days we went to the Aberdares, and overnighted at the Fishing Lodge, a self-catering KWS bandas.

 

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I have said it before, and will say it again: I lovelovelove the Aberdares, it´s one of my favourites places anywhere. Not really a classic safari destination, but it is a place of such beauty and tranquility that has a soothing effect, and I will always return here. And animal-wise it should really not be underestimated, there are always great things to find, incredible diversity, and always a few surprises on the road.

 

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Like finding this Slender Mongoose with something unidentifieable in its jaws.

 

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Going into "Hmm, I´m smelling lunch" mode.

 

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And suddenly hunting a Hare which had been completely invisible to us so far.

 

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A race for life and death. Incredible that the Mongoose would attack this much bigger prey.

 

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But not this day - the Hare got away!

 

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But was still running running running long after the Mongoose had given up.

 

 

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michael-ibk

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A classic Aberdares view - Buffalos are extremely common in the Salient, the most game-rich low-elevation area.

 

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Often bruised and battered.

 

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A juvenile Gymnogene, just starting to moult into the more familiar adult look - our only sighting this trip.

 

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The Aberdares are certainly one of the best places anywhere to see Bushbuck - they are very common everywhere in the park.

 

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Beautiful antelopes, one of my favourites.

 

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Waterbuck also occur in good numbers.

 

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Lots of birds in the park, though not always easy to "get" in the thick vegetation - a Variable Sunbird here.

 

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Yellow-Billed Duck

 

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Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill - unfortunately quite shy this time, we saw them a couple of times but were never able to get close.

 

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A Red-Throated Wryneck, note the long tongue used to extract their insect prey.

 

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A Hartlaub´s Touraco, certainly the most beautiful bird to be found here. Common but not easy, they tend to stay up high in the canopy.

 

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One of the many wonderful old trees in the park.

 

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The bamboo area higher up.

 

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Always a good place to see Syke´s Monkeys.

 

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My mother did not much care for my efforts to take photos of Francolins - they were disregarded as "stupid chicken". :)

 

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michael-ibk

But I´m getting ahead of myself - I had mentioned the surprise factor of the Aberdares, and they certainly gave us a very big one down in the Salient.

 

We met a few guys just coming down from the Fishing Lodge and chatted a bit. How´s the lodge, I asked. C-c-c-cold, they answered. :) We were talking about our Aberdares experiences, and I was immensely impressed that they had seen Bongo, the holy grail of the park. So we discussed Bongo, Wild Dogs, Melanistic Serval, Golden Cat, Black Panther, Suni and other stuff Aberdarcionadas dream about, when somebody apparently wanted to join our discussion. The other guys were looking the other way and did not see it - a Black Rhino standing on the road and curiously watching us. I was so surprised that I yelled "Rhino", which was of course not the best move:

 

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It ran. So why the big surprise?

 

Black Rhinos are super-rare these days in the Aberdares, nobody ever sees them. This was a huge deal, when I told the rangers they were extremely excited and all wanted to see pictures. And once the park´s Game Warden heard of this, he sought me out, met me at the Ark a few days later and asked for pictures (which I of course sent to him when I got home).

 

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Poor Rhino almost slipped here, and I´m glad it did not fall - would hate to be responsible for an injury just because I could not control myself!

 

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My dear Belgian friends, if you are reading this, I am very sorry about startling the Rhino - just was too surprised about it.

 

 

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michael-ibk

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Trees with Old Men´s Beards as we call these lychen in German - the entrance portal to the moorlands of the Aberdares.

 

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Alpine Chats are everywhere around here.

 

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We had lunch at Chania Falls, one of the three well-known waterfalls in the park. We had worried about the weather since it had been very gloomy the day before and the forecast had been pretty dire - being wet and cold was not a tempting prospect. But we were lucky, it did never really rain (a few drops now and then), and every once in a while the sun would even come out.

 

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The moorlands - such a unique place.

 

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The Aberdare Cisticola - almost endemic to this area.

 

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A Bushbuck family has become almost tame here - this young lad joined us for lunch. Very surprised about this, I knew they can become very confiding around lodges but what made them decide to trust people out here? Normally Bushbuck are very shy in the Aberdares, they rarely allow close approach.

 

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Well, not this one.

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