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


michael-ibk

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Mike I love the photo's of the fighting Zebra on page 10 - awesome mate and well done such a great TR and super photography.

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This was a special safari for three reasons:   It was my tenth (if I can count India and the Pantanal). It was the way I had decided to celebrate my 40th birthday. And my mother ha

The most endearing member of the family was - of course - the BABY!     The little one was very shy at first, but after a while he/she(?) became curious about us and checked us out. Cuteness ens

Our first animal - a Brown Snake-Eagle. I will not post every bird we saw on this trip, promise (at least not here, that´s what the Big Year thread is for), but this was one of our most photogenic rap

screentraveller

Having enjoyed ALL Michael's TRs, I happily accepted his invitation, now that I no longer needed to care for my sister. I started to worry only when I checked Ethiopian Airlines hand luggage rules. What people said about this overcrowded airport frightened me. An elderly woman with a slight handicap travelling on her own would be a target for criminals, I thought. To dispel my fears, Petra Allmedinger met me in Addis Abeba, which was wonderful and more than you can expect from good friends. THANK YOU, Petra.

 

Sandai, the place she runs seemingly without effort is great. How she organizes things is great too, she employs the best drivers and guides.

 

I got the best of this safari: no problems with shooting fotos in perfect light, no problems with carrying heavy camera equipment, I just looked around, watched and enjoyed everything we saw. My aim was not to see anything in particular like this BONGO, I was happy with everything we happened to see.

 

Giraffes: I cannot remember calling them silly because of standing in the landscape like monuments for 20 minutes. But I did not enjoy their "monumentales Gehabe", I admit. It is definitely fascinating when a giraffe's head appears in a tree. When I saw the next giraffe, I noticed something was wrong with her and Paul agreed, she was suffering from a tumor and that was why she was walking strangely. It IS fascinating that in spite of its legendary long neck it has only 7 cervical vertebrae like all other mammals. TO me trees are true monuments of awe inspiring beauty.

 

Rhinos grazing sound like mowing machines. IT is moving to see how they shield their babies from intruders like us.

 

Crowned cranes deserve their regal name, creation's luxury design of creatures. We were lucky to see their artfully choreographed mating dance. We also saw the Monty Python like "silly walk" of the secretary bird. It was fun.

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Anomalure

@@michael-ibk Great trip report!

 

Do you know how the chances are of seeing Mountain Bongo if I dedicated a week to searching for them in the moorland? That would be an incredible animal to see... Also, I have read that people have organized night drives with the rangers near Fishing Lodge to look for melanistic Serval, Panther, Zorilla, and other rare species--do you know if that is still possible?

 

Regarding your squirrels, all the Aberdare animals are Ochre Bush Squirrel. The hares are African Savanna Hare. I love the Suni, Black-fronted Duiker, Mountain Reedbuck, and Giant Forest Hogs!

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Kitsafari

I've finally caught up! and missed so much. As usual I thoroughly enjoyed your descriptions and all the fabulous photos. you had loads of great sightings and it's amazing how you can make lifelong friends on safaris, and make such incredible friends who would go above and beyond what they need to (looking at you Petra). and i just wanna hug all three dogs at Sandai.

 

@@screentraveller you looked so chic and elegant with that lovely red scarf in post #268.

Glad you were able to celebrate with Mike on his grand birthday in one of his favourite places too!

 

@@michael-ibk, you apologised to your belgian mates but you forgot to apologise to the poor rhino whom you panicked with your shout. Poor chap, when all he did was to listen in to you guys gossiping about other rare animals, when he was just standing right in front of you.

 

@@AndMic looking cool in those bright sunglasses. :)

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Epic Mongoose Vs. Hare hunt!

Thanx for great trip report as usual!

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@@michael-ibk

Sorry I have taken so long to catch up!

What a wonderful varied trip. The Gorillas - of course, beautifully photographed in difficult light. Your visit to the Mara, the forest area and then the lattersection with the Aberdares. And how wonderful to be joined by your mother for that last bit of the trip. An exceptional report for an exceptional 40th birthday trip. A real pleasure for us.

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offshorebirder

I too loved the Mongoose hunting the hare. Great Forest Hog photos and video. Many nice bird photos too.

 

Great TR @@michael-ibk - it's distracting me from working on mine...

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Just checking in after a long break....wow! what an adventure. Love all the birds, the big horn rhino....but the mongoose - hare hunt was amazing!

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Alexander33

@@michael-ibk

 

I think I have finally gotten caught up with your report and, as usual, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

 

You have sung the praises of the Aberdares repeatedly. It is nice to find a place that always tugs at your heart, isn't it? Now that you've been there multiples times, and in different seasons, as I recall, is there a particular time of year that you preferred?

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michael-ibk

Thanks again - getting to the end now, promise! :)

 

On 2/8/2017 at 12:53 AM, penolva said:

So glad we took your advice to stay at Sandai. :) Pen

 

I´m sure you will have a great time there, @@penolva

 

On 2/8/2017 at 6:29 AM, pault said:

Maybe some things reach their peak enjoyment first time around.... not sure. Anyway, some great sightings is sure, and it must have been freezing down there by midnight!

 

@pault I see you are not totally convinced. ;) Well, for this trip it worked out very well and was enjoyable for all of us, and I do I would return indeed, at least if I had someting like a week at Sandai again, but I would admittedly never maked it my main Aberdares base. Yes, pretty cold indeed - that´s why I went to bed at midnight!

 

On 2/9/2017 at 5:04 AM, Hads said:

Mike I love the photo's of the fighting Zebra on page 10 - awesome mate and well done such a great TR and super photography.

 

Thank you, @@Hads - the fighting Zebras were much fun to watch.

 

On 2/10/2017 at 4:10 AM, Anomalure said:

Do you know how the chances are of seeing Mountain Bongo if I dedicated a week to searching for them in the moorland? That would be an incredible animal to see... Also, I have read that people have organized night drives with the rangers near Fishing Lodge to look for melanistic Serval, Panther, Zorilla, and other rare species--do you know if that is still possible?

 

Regarding your squirrels, all the Aberdare animals are Ochre Bush Squirrel. The hares are African Savanna Hare. I love the Suni, Black-fronted Duiker, Mountain Reedbuck, and Giant Forest Hogs!

 

Thanks for the ID help, @@Anomalure . Bongo (and other rarities) answer coming up in one of the next posts.

 

On 2/10/2017 at 9:27 AM, Kitsafari said:

it's amazing how you can make lifelong friends on safaris, and make such incredible friends who would go above and beyond what they need to (looking at you Petra).

 

you apologised to your belgian mates but you forgot to apologise to the poor rhino whom you panicked with your shout. Poor chap, when all he did was to listen in to you guys gossiping about other rare animals, when he was just standing right in front of you.

 

 

Indeed, Safari is not only about animals but all the wonderful people you meet there - and make friends with.

 

My bad, of course I do apologise to poor Black Rhino as well!

 

On 2/11/2017 at 7:52 AM, Antee said:

Epic Mongoose Vs. Hare hunt!

Thanx for great trip report as usual!

 

Thanks, @@Antee !

 

On 2/11/2017 at 12:49 PM, TonyQ said:

@@michael-ibk

Sorry I have taken so long to catch up!

What a wonderful varied trip. The Gorillas - of course, beautifully photographed in difficult light. Your visit to the Mara, the forest area and then the lattersection with the Aberdares. And how wonderful to be joined by your mother for that last bit of the trip. An exceptional report for an exceptional 40th birthday trip. A real pleasure for us.

 

Thank you very much, @@TonyQ , and no problem - it is a lot to read. I always swear to myself when starting these reports that I will be shorter but somehow I never manage, it´s just the way I´m writing, do not think too much about structure. :)

 

On 2/11/2017 at 6:32 PM, offshorebirder said:

I too loved the Mongoose hunting the hare. Great Forest Hog photos and video. Many nice bird photos too.

 

Great TR @@michael-ibk - it's distracting me from working on mine...

 

Thank you, @@offshorebirder , really enjoying yours as well.

 

On 2/11/2017 at 7:08 PM, xyz99 said:

Just checking in after a long break....wow! what an adventure. Love all the birds, the big horn rhino....but the mongoose - hare hunt was amazing!

 

Thanks, @@xyz99 , that was definitely one of the most unexpected things to see on this trip.

 

On 2/13/2017 at 3:23 PM, Alexander33 said:

You have sung the praises of the Aberdares repeatedly. It is nice to find a place that always tugs at your heart, isn't it? Now that you've been there multiples times, and in different seasons, as I recall, is there a particular time of year that you preferred?

 

It´s a very good question, @@Alexander33 , but unfortunately I don´t have a very good answer. The Aberdares looked pretty much the same to me in June, September and December, can´t say there is much difference in vegetation or animals. Since the park is fully fenced animals do not migrate in and out. And weather-wise it´s always a matter of luck, June and December were often cloudy and sometimes raining, September was much sunnier as I remember. As long as it does not rain heavily I do not really care, so I could not say I do have a "favourite" time. But of course in general the rainy season would be a much riskier time to visit, can easily be spoilt then.Interestingly enough, the roads in the Aberdares are also managable when it´s very wet. Solio, OTOH, is often closed when it´s raining too much.

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michael-ibk

So, we were leaving the Ark after a nice breakfast. Paul picked us up, which is a bit unusual (almost all guests go down with the bus to the Country Club), and I had to tell staff members a couple of times that our lugggage was not to be brought to the bus.

 

We spent a leisurely short game drive in the Salient, keeping North to the Ark for a while, and then drove down and exited via Ark gate around noon.

 

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African Black Duck, quite shy and secretive, they enjoy small creeks - plenty of those in the Aberdares.

 

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Two Cinnamon-Chested Bee-Eaters were warming up in the morning sun.

 

We spent quite some time trying to get some Turaco shots. As mentioned before quite a common bird in the park but mostly up high in the canopy.

 

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I love their colours, such beautiful birds.

 

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One in flight - they are fast:

 

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This was on a lonely road not much in use this days - it used to connect the Salient with the Wandare area farther North but the road is now a dead end, no longer usable.

 

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While we were trying for the Turacos an Elephant appeared out of nowhere and approached:

 

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Seeing an Elephant here in the forest always is special, it´s such a different habitat, and their ability to turn invisivble with just one step into the green is fascinating.

 

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michael-ibk

We saw the usual suspects (Buffalos, Bushbuck, Warthogs, Waterbuck) in good numbers, also some Hyenas and Giant Forest Hogs and of course lots of birds. I did not take too many photos, mainly enjoyed the atmosphere of the forest - I knew this was Good Bye to the Salient again (for the time being).

 

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Green, green, green as far one can see.

 

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Actually a picnic place up there - almost never usable because the Buffalos like it a lot.

 

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Why seeing animals in the Aberdares is a challenge sometimes. :)

 

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Up and down, up and down.

 

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Clearings like this are the best places to find animals - always something there.

 

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The last time we enjoyed some sunshine this day - it would get very cloudy later.

 

We were lucky to enjoy some reasonably close sightings of Colobus monkeys. They are quite common, but often not too close to the road - and seeing them should not be taken for granted, one can drive around for hours without success.

 

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michael-ibk

My mother returned to Sandai (one of the drivers picked her up at the main road) while we were moving on to a different part of the park, via Wandare Gate - this entrance is at a much higher elevation than Ark or Treetops gate.

 

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The Aberdares don´t get too many visitors anyway but virtually nobody ever goes here, except for people who want to hike Le Satima (which we did last year). For whatever reason animals are much scarcer here than in the South, and higher up the road is not in the best state. Cold, bumpy, uncomfortable - my mother was therefore happy to give this a pass.

 

So why did we go here? It was a somewhat desperate - and futile - attempt for Bongo. These antelopes are probably the most sought after mammals in the park, but they are very, very rare - and shy. Their numbers are going up again I was told, taking the lions out helped apparently, but sightings are still a miracle if they happen. Just to make clear how rare - Petra, who´s been living around the Aberdares for many years now and goes there very regularly has only had one fleeting sighting all her life. That rare.

 

OTOH, people do get lucky from time to time, you never know. I was told two Bongos had visited the Ark waterhole in November, in plain sight, during the day. The guy we chatted with when the Black Rhino turned up had also been lucky - in the Salient North of the Ark, at Rhino Retreat. A place a bit like the Fishing Lodge but not open to the public. And yes, @@Anomalure , the ranger we walked with did tell us they see Bongo from time to time up in the Moorlands, at the fringes of the forest. But these antelopes are extremely wary, and in the Aberdares an animal that does not want to be seen IS not seen, too many ways to hide, and of course an approaching car is loud.

 

About night drives in the Aberdares - I´m not sure if that is officially allowed, but the rangers told me I should drive around at about 20:00, so I guess it would be ok. We did not because of my mother otherwise I surely would have tried. The road leading to the Fishing Lodge is said to be very active at night, and the road to the Karuru Falls is Black Panther territory - that´s what the rangers said. I´m sure driving around at night would not be that much of a problem, the rangers actually recommended it to me. But I would ask first to make sure. So I think Fishing Lodge would be a good base for (melanistic) Leopard, also Serval (which is not too rare), Wild Dog, and also Zorilla. Actually the keeper at Fishing Lodge told me he sees them quite often right there. I asked about Golden Cat (which is sometimes claimed to occur) but the Rangers - and not even the Warden - had ever heard of it.

 

But for Bongo, other options are better. Their main stronghold is the Honi valley, basically the Northern part of the Salient, and also the Wandare section. There is a (very basic) treehouse at a saltlick there. The Game Warden told me it´s not operational right now, they need to repair it, but they expect this to be done in a few months. (Remains to be seen, says the sceptic in me.) It´s about a two hours walk from the Ranger´s station North-West of the Ark, you cannot go there by car. The Bongos mostly come at night, sometimes also in the afternoon. The Warden told me two or three nights should guarantee a sighting. But as mentioned, the treehouse is not possible right now.

 

So Petra suggested we should try Wandare. We knew it was a very long shot (and it was not to be), but without trying there´s no chance at all. That area is untouched, rarely visited by people, and there´s a road linking the Moorlands with the road up to Lesatima (also not drivable these days unfortunately) passing the Honi sector. Also this road is not open right now, and we could not get to Honi completely but were a few 100 metres away. The forest there is really stunning, ancient, with wonderful old overgrown trees, and who knows, maybe Bongos watched us. But we did not find them, and very few other animals. Well, it was also raining in the afternoon, and very, very cold, so everything probably tried to cuddle away somewhere in the undergrowth.

 

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Bongo, Bongo, come out come out - please!

 

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The wonderful cloud forest in Wandare sector - channeling Lord of the Rings.

 

We waited almost an hour at a part of the road with a good view over a clearing below - but nothing except a Duiker showed up.

 

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michael-ibk

No Bongo (next time!) - but a few special birds at least:

 

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White-Headed Wood-Hoopoe

 

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Golden-Winged Sunbird

 

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Red-Fronted Parrot

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michael-ibk

For our very last day we let my mother decide what she would like to do. And she wished to go to Solio again which was of course fine with us. So, after a relaxed breakfast we enjoyed our final safari.

 

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Lots of Zebras today - funny, on Sunday we had seen almost none.

 

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This Eland calf was all on its own - the lions had probably killed its mother in the night.

 

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Tommie family

 

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I was very happy to find a herd of Beisa Oryx - and interestingly enough not in the dry areas but the lush riverine part.

 

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A shy Vervet trying to hide from us.

 

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This Impala stag was trying to get lucky but his lady would have none of it.

 

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Something was not right with this Giraffe - notice the big lump?

 

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Probably a tumor?

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michael-ibk

It was very important for me to have my mother see Lions (actually more so than for her). I just felt one cannot go to Africa and return without having seen the "King of Animals", so I had told Isaiah, our guide for this last day, that this was a top priority. (Paul had left the day before because he attended a family wedding.)

 

And indeed, Isaiah with his sharp eyes soon found someting in the forest:

 

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And not just lions - much better, tree-climbing lions!

 

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This was much fun to watch, in the next half hour four to five lions were coming and going, some of them not really mastering this climbing thing.

 

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One down, and the next got up.

 

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"What are they all doing up there?"

 

 

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michael-ibk

Some more arboreal lions:

 

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It took us a while to realize there were more Big Cats in a second tree, they were effectively hidden in there.

 

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This one was quite clumsy, she almost fell back down and clearly was not comfortable at all on the tree, she took a long time to decide how to lie down.

 

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"Please, get me down, I don´t like this at all."

 

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This lioness obviously had more practise.

 

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"Easy as pie, dude." B)

 

After they all had found their positions and were starting to nap again we left them. Really cool lion sighting (have never seen them do this), and I was very happy my mother got to see them.

 

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michael-ibk

Solio is all about Rhinos, and we had many, many nice sightings today. So here´s an overload of horned photos. (And please note my remarkable non-pubertal restraint of not phrasing this slightly differently. ;))

 

In a circle of Cattle Egrets:

 

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This was probably the youngest calf we saw, only a few weeks old, and well protected:

 

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Another baby:

 

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Not all of them were friendly, one grumpy bull attacked us on the plains, and Isaiah had to get away fast.

 

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Our only Black Rhino of the day.

 

This family was probably the sighting I enjoyed the most. The light was very nice, and they approached extremely closely.

 

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Such a powerful animal. I often think they look like they do not really belong in our time, I tend to think of Dinosaurs when I seem them. Of course, with the way things are going, it could well be they will not be in our time much longe. :(

 

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But the number of youngsters around in Solio is reason for hope. Even though this one does not look very dignified, I´m afraid it just did not keep enough distance to Mum when she ... you know. :)

 

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michael-ibk

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One last batch of birds in this report:

 

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Cattle Egret

 

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Augur Buzzard

 

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Crowned Crane

 

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Pallid Harrier

 

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Yellow-Necked Spurfowl

 

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White-Browed Coucal

 

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Black-Bellied Bustard

 

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Finally a Hoopoe! Hello, old friend, you really took your time. My favourite bird, and not one single sighting in three weeks, and there it was, in the very last hour of safari. :)

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michael-ibk

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It was already 17:30, and we started to drive out of the park. But once again, the Safari God smiled on us, and generously granted my mother one more wish. After our tree-climbers we had seen some more members of the lion pride, but none of the big males. Finally, here they were:

 

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Two big boys. Unfortunately they were lying low in the high grass (which rarely makes for good photos) but we were delighted to have them as our farewell present.

 

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Even when two other cars arrived they did hardly bother to look up.

 

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But after a while we saw a patrol of rangers close by - on foot. Of course the lions did notice as well, and they promptly retreated.

 

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And that´s it then - last game drive, last sighting! Next morning we drove back to Nairobi, and the morning after we were in cold winterly Europe again - brrrrrrrr.

 

But you know I can´t be away from Africa too long - back in three weeks from today. :)

 

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And to cap this off, here´s the mammal species list for the trip:

 

1.) Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) / Bergorilla

 

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2.) Guereza Colobus (Colobus Guereza) / Mantelaffe

 

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3.) Olive Baboon (Papio Anubis) / Anubis-Pavian

 

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4.) Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) / Südliche Grünmeerkatze

 

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5.) Blue or Diademed Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) / Diademmeerkatze

 

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6.) Syke´s or White-Throated or Samango Monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis) / Weißkehlmeerkatze

 

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7.) Red-Tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) / Kongo-Weißnase

 

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8.) Northern/Garnett´s/Small-Eared Greater Galago (Otolemur garnettii)

 

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9.) Epauletted Fruit Bat (Epomophorus), exact species unkown / Epauletten-Flughund

 

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10.) Yellow-Winged Bat (Lavia frons) / Gelbflügelfledermaus

 

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11.) African Savanna Hare (Lepus microtis) / Mosambikhase

 

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12.) Ochre Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus ochraceus) / Ockerfarbiges Buschhörnchen

 

gallery_19319_1629_2267079.jpg

 

13.) Coypu/Nutria (Myocaster coypus) / Nutria

 

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14.) Black-Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) / Schabrackenschakal

 

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15.) Bat-Eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis) / Löffelhund

 

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16.) Slender Mongoose (Herpestes sanguinea) / Schlankmanguste

 

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17.) Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo) / Zebramanguste

 

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18.) White-Tailed Mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) / Weißschwanzmanguste

 

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19.) Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) / Tüpfelhyäne

 

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20.) Blotched Genet (Genetta tigrina) / Großfleck-Ginsterkatze

 

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21.) Leopard (Panthera pardus) / Leopard

 

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22.) Lion (Panthera leo) / Löwe

 

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23.) Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) / Gepard

 

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24.) Bush Hyrax aka Yellow-Spotted Rock Hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei)

 

 

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25.) African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

 

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26.) Grant´s Zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) / Grant-Zebra

 

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27.) Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) / Spitzmaulnashorn

 

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28.) White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) / Breitmaulnashorn

 

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29.) Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) / Flusspferd

 

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30.) Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) / Riesenwaldschwein

 

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31.) Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) / Warzenschwein

 

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michael-ibk

32.) Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) / Netzgiraffe

 

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33.) Masai Giraffe (Giraffe tippelskirchi) / Massai-Giraffe

 

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34.) African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) / Kaffernbüffel

 

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35.) Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) / Buschbock

 

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36.) Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) / Großer Kudu

 

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37.) Eland (Taurotragus oryx) / Elenantilope

 

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38.) Common aka Bush Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia) / Kronenducker

 

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39.) Black-Fronted Duiker (Cephalophus nigrifrons) / Schwarzstirnducker

 

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40.) Suni (Neotragus moschatus) / Moschusböckchen

 

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41.) Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) / Oribi

 

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42.) Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) / Bergriedbock

 

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43.) Bohor Reedbuck (Redunca redunca) / Gemeiner Riedbock

 

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44.) Defassa Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa) / Defassa-Wasserbock

 

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45.) Grant´s Gazelle (Gazella granti) / Grant-Gazelle

 

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46.) Thomson´s Gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) / Thomson-Gazelle

 

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47.) Impala (Aepyceros melampus) / Impala

 

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48.) Topi (Damaliscus lunatus) / Topi

 

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49.) Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) / Kuhantilope

 

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50.) Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) / Weißbartgnu

 

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51.) Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus) / Pferdeantilope

 

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52.) Beisa Oryx (Oryx beisa) / Beisa-Spießantilope

 

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And some cold-blooded critters:

 

Black-Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja Nigricollis)

 

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Nose-Horned Viper (Bitis nasicornis)

 

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Ituri Forest Chameleon (Chamaeleo ituriensis)

 

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Von Höhnel´s Chameleon (Chamaeleo hoehnelii)

 

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Mwanza Rock Agama (Agama mwanzae)

 

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Water Monitor (Varanus niloticus)

 

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Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

 

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Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis)

 

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We took photos of more than 300 birds on this trip, and obviously saw a lot more but I don´t know how many - clicker not ticker here. Almost all the photographed birds can be found here in my "Big Year" thread, in scientific order:

 

http://safaritalk.net/topic/16006-michaels-year/?p=214139

 

 

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michael-ibk

Thanks everybody, for commenting, liking or reading along. Gorillas were of course the highlight for us, but Rwanda in general was a very pleasant surprise. Akagera definitely deserves more visitors, a gem of a park with so much potential. And Kenya again proved to us how incredibly diverse this beautiful country is. From the game-rich plains of the Mara, the Congo-like forests in Kakamega, the pink splendour of Lake Bogoria, and of course my beloved Aberdares - seeing so many different landscapes and habitats was just fantastic, and I also enjoyed the "road trip" character of our itinerary, which gave us a more-rounded picture of what the country is really about.

 

And thank you, Mum - you´ve been great company, and here´s a public invitation to join up for more trips in the future. :)

 

THE END

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Thank you for a wonderful report, it was a joy to follow your adventures. Loved all the photos: birds, mammals, big and small critters, beautiful sceneries and I will definitely use this as a guide for a next trip to Africa.

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