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First African Safari: It was about time!


Atdahl

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janzin

Interesting that they didn't weigh your carry-on bags--I think I'd warned you that they wouldn't, as in our past experience at Wilson with Safarilink, they didn't. But this time on our trip (which was at the same time as yours, but I'm way behind you with processing photos) with Air Kenya they DID weigh our carry-ons, which of course were overweight. They at first wanted $90 in additional fees! But some fast-talking (and I think a $10 bill) by our driver/escort solved that problem.

 

Anyway great stuff so far, I'm eager to see how you fared in the Mara...and sorry our paths never did cross!

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Atdahl

@monalisa Yes, the Gerenuk sure is a cool antelope, easily my favorite of the trip.  You know, I didn't keep too many of the gory photos so you will likely have opportunities to post more :).

 

@janzin,  Interesting about the bags.  It's nice that your driver looked out for you.  Just another example of the great service in Kenya.  Were your flights full by chance?  None of ours were so maybe that is why they didn't bother to weigh our luggage?

 

@TonyQ and @offshorebirder, thank you.  The best is still yet to come...:)

 

Alan

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Raelond

Absolutely stunning photos!

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Atdahl

Day 3 (Part 1) - Amboseli National Park

 

Today started with a 6:15 AM breakfast.  We were headed to Amboseli National Park for the day so we all loaded up with food to keep the energy level high.  Karen wasn't feeling up to an all day trip so she decided to take a rest day and hang out around the camp.

 

Here is a map from the Porini website that shows the distance between the Selenkay Conservancy and Amboseli National Park to the South:

 

amboseli-selenkay-map-1314861665.jpg

 

At 7 AM the three of us climbed into the Land Rover eager for a day of adventure.  We didn't have to wait long for a sighting because our guides said a Cheetah and cub were seen on the conservancy by another vehicle.  This got me really excited because Cheetah was the #1 animal I wanted to see.  

 

We were quickly able to find the other vehicle and saw that they were looking at something.  It was the mother Cheetah!  She had become separated from her cub and was calling it. Hearing her call out was absolutely amazing:

Cheetah Calling Cub

 

 

Cheetah Still Calling

 

Before coming on this trip, Cheetah was my favorite big cat even though I had never seen one before except on TV of course.  Seeing one in person was way better than I even hoped.  What a beautiful cat! 

 

Cheetah

 

With such great camouflage.  If you didn't know she was there you might miss her.  I don't think these Guineafowl saw her at all:

Where's the Cat?

 

After about 30 minutes or so, mama found her yearling so all was good but they were hanging out in bushes and it was really hard to get any photos.  This is the only one I managed of the two:

Cheetah and Cub

 

Since we still had a drive ahead of us we headed out towards Amboseli but I didn't care if we saw anything else the rest of the day since those Cheetahs had already made my day.

 

As we were driving along we startling something on the right side of the road.  "Bat-eared Foxes!" our guide yelled.  We all turned to see them running away:

Run Away!

 

 

Then one stopped for a second and looked at us giving me a chance for one photo.

 

Bat-eared Fox

 

After retreating further one more fox looked back at us before that all disappeared.

 

Bat-eared Fox

 

What an awesome, but brief, encounter.  I secretly hoped to see a Bat-eared Fox on this trip and now I had.  Karen was going to be sooooo jealous...

 

Not much farther down the road we had another cool sighting.  We saw a bunch of small animals running through the bush.  They made it to an old termite mound that was likely their home and stopped to look at us.  It was a large family of Dwarf Mongoose:

 

Dwarf Mongoose

 

The rest of the drive was through more populated areas and it was interesting to see real villages and real people living out their lives.

 

Right after we reached the border of Amboseli NP the scenery changed dramatically.  It was much more open and you could see water and trees off in the distance.  Unfortunately, Kilimanjaro was covered by clouds so unless things changed we wouldn't be getting that view today.

 

Unlike in the conservancy, you have to drive on the roads in the National Parks.  You also have to check-in and check-out since we didn't go through an official entrance gate.  On the way to the airstrip for check-in we stopped by a Spotted Hyena den and there was one lounging around above ground.

 

Spotted Hyena

 

Next, we encountered a bird I had hoped to see.  The Grey-crowned Crane.  It's so elegant looking.

 

Grey-crowned Crane

 

After checking in at the airstrip and making a pit stop, the rest of the morning consisted of us driving around to see what we could see.  Right off the bat we could see that Elephants were everywhere and that birds were everywhere as well.  So, those would be the themes of the day with a few other surprises sprinkled in.

 

Spotted Hyena:

Spotted Hyena

 

Ostriches:

Ostriches

 

Greater Flamingos:

Greater Flamingos

 

A feisty African Spoonbill who didn't like the ducks wading around it.

Just a quick nibble

 

Boy the "crown" on the cranes certainly was impressive.

Grey-crowned Crane

 

Three-banded Plover:

Three-banded Plover

 

Next we came upon a rock out in the water.  With the naked eye it was obviously a big rock with a Cormorant on it.  But, our guide said it was a Hippo.  A small debate ensued and the picture below is really cropped big time.  What do you think?  Hippo or Rock?

 

Rock or Hippo?

 

Lesser Flamingos in Flight:

Lesser Flamingo Flyby

 

Amboseli Waterbirds

 

 

We saw lots of baby Wildebeest:

Newborn Wildebeest

 

Frolicking Wildebeest Part 1

 

Frolicking Wildebeest Part 2

 

Hippos (Definitely NOT rocks):

Hippo Bookends

 

Saddle-billed Stork:

Saddle-billed Stork

 

 

At one point, this Warthog family came towards the road to get from the dusty side to the wet side.

Warthog Family

 

Once they got a drink, they hustled back across the road with wet legs and bellies.

Warthog Youngsters

 

 

While we had seen Elephants at a distance all around us, it wasn't until a few hours into driving around the park that we saw some close up.

 

Elephant Herd

 

Huddled to protect the babies

 

I didn't know it at the time, but our future lunch spot was on the hill behind these Eles

Follow Me

 

 

One of the species that I knew could only be seen in Amboseli NP was the Yellow Baboon.  Luckily, they weren't hard to spot since they had taken over an abandoned lodge.

 

Yellow Baboon

 

Yellow Baboon Baby

 

Another new species we spotted was the Bohor Reedbuck.  This was the only place we saw them the entire trip.

Bohor Reedbuck

 

 

As I mentioned before, herds of Elephants could be seen in all directions.  It was really quite amazing to see them everywhere near and far.  Luckily, more started to come closer to the roads.

 

Elephants

 

Elephant Grazing

 

 

But, Elephants weren't the only big mammals out grazing.

 

Big Hippo

 

We spent so much time driving around that we didn't end up eating lunch until around 3PM and Alan was getting hungry!  But, on the way to our hilltop lunch spot, there was more to see.

 

Malachite Kingfisher:

Malachite Kingfisher

 

African Fish Eagle:

African Fish Eagle

 

 

Finally, when the destination was in sight we had one last delay thanks to this Elephant chomping away right next to the road.

 

Just when lunch was soooo close

 

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AfricIan

Great report & photos @Atdahl, bringing back memories from our 2010 trip (we only got a fleeting glimpse of Kilimanjaro as well).  Keep it coming :D

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I am soooo loving this report. My very first Africa trip was to Kenya and Tanzania with Kenya first. I will admit, I cried the first time I saw a cheetah (Samburu). Ok, ok....so I cried my first day in Samburu (my first real safari- as I sat on the banks of the river in front of my tent saying... "I can't believe I'm here").....Ok, ok. fine....so I cried the first time I saw a gorilla.....yeah- ok-- firsts make me cry I guess :)    But, Amboseli is when my love affair with elephants began. There were elephants galore and their interactions were just amazing. So, I'm kind of reliving my firsts through this TR and LOVING it!!!!!!

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Dave Williams

Top quality images add to the story. Keep it going, I'm really enjoying the ride.

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Atdahl

Day 3 (Part 2) - Amboseli National Park

 

We had a nice lunch at the lookout on top of the hill.  But, it was small and would have been really crowded if we had been there at the normal time I think.  The views from the top were spectacular though.

 

View from Lookout

 

View from Lookout

 

Notice all the small groups of elephants around.

Amboseli Elephant Herds

 

 

While most of Kilimanjaro was still hidden, we could see its base and the storms that were starting to form there:

Kilimanjaro Rain

 

The Amboseli scenery was really diverse.  Depending on where you were you could look one way and see dry desert with dust devils twisting away.  Then you could turn the other way and see fields of green grass, ponds and big trees.  It was something else.  This photo is the best I could do to show this diversity in one shot.

 

Dirt Devils

 

 

After lunch, we came upon a herd of elephants having a "spa day".  It started with a nice mud bath...

 

Mud Bath

 

 

 

"Boy this trunk is heavy..."

First the Mud Bath

 

And it finished with a nice dust bath.

Then the Dust Bath

 

Just Another Day at the Elephant Spa

 

This group was so happy with their "spa day" that they marched away with trunks held high.

 

Raise Your Trunks!

 

 

African Buffalo with young one.

African Buffalo with Baby

 

"Do I have something on my face?"

Do I have something on my face?

 

"Is that better?"

African Buffalo

 

"Oh, yeah..right there."

Oh yeah...right there.

 

It was at this point that the rain caught up to us.  It was hard but brief and took place right as we showed up at the airstrip to check out.  They must have known the guides because they just waved at them and checked them off the list so Amos and Daniel avoided having to get out of the truck in the rain.

 

Luckily, the rain stopped about the time we made it to the hyena den that we had visited earlier.  This time lots of hyenas were out and about including some pretty small pups.

 

Spotted Hyena with Older Pup

 

Spotted Hyena

 

Hyena Peeking out

 

Hyena Den

 

Then, we saw some movement and a tiny head peaked up at us.

 

Peekaboo

 

 

And then, a second one.

Tiny Hyena Pups

 

These tiny hyena pups were so young.  They were dark brown with no spots and didn't even fully have all their hair yet.  They were quite cute...

 

Twins

 

In a wrinkly sort of way...

 

Hyena Pup

 

Someday I will have hair too

 

One of the younger adults spent time playing with them.  At the time we thought this might be a creepy Uncle.

 

Nope, that's a female

 

But, we learned that the genitalia of the Spotted Hyena is quite unique.  In fact, the hyena in the picture above is likely a female and the...ahem...penis like thing hanging down is a clitoris.   The Spotted Hyena can have a 7 inch clitoris.  I hope male Hyenas have no problems finding that!  However, it does have to be retracted during mating.  How's that for some interesting trivia?

 

Anyway, we took a few last looks and were on our way.

 

Hey, we're nursing here.

 

As we were zooming along home, Andrea yelled out "Jackal!".  The driver stopped and backed up.  It turned out to be a Golden Jackal and was the only one we saw the whole trip.  Nice spot Andrea!

 

Golden Jackal

 

It was right about this time that two big things happened at once.  First, a beautiful male lion was strolling along about to cross the road. Second, the heavens absolutely opened up.  It rained hard and fast so our guides quickly dropped the sides down on the vehicle to shield us from the rain.   We waited there a few minutes and the cell passed over as quickly as it started.

 

"No more rain" our guides said confidently so they rolled the sides of the vehicle back up.

 

By then, the lion had made its way across the road and was lying down in the brown grass.

 

Hidden Lion

 

 

What happened next reminded me of the old 90's movie "Twister" with Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.  Remember that one?

 

Anyway, another storm cell could be seen coming our way and it was coming fast.  It was large and blocked the views to the right of the vehicle.  Our driver saw it too and decided that we needed to out run it. So, he hit the gas pedal and had us moving along as fast as possible given the conditions.  Slowly, the darkness crept closer though and the wind out in front of the cell suddenly reached us.  It was kicking up dust and debris a little bit too. I had to shield my face to keep the dust at bay. Luckily, we didn't see any cows fly by (Twister reference).  For a good 10 minutes we barely stayed ahead of the rain but eventually the wind subsided and I looked up to see the cell behind us and partly sunny skies ahead of us.  That was fun!

 

Back in the conservancy and away from the sparsely populated land, the wildlife returned.

 

Kirk's Dik Dik

Dik Dik

 

Grant's Gazelle

Grant's Gazelle

 

Big Tusker

Nice Tusks

 

Warning Display

 

Elephant Closeup

 

And, we had another great gerenuk sighting.  They are just so sleek and powerful.  Look at those leg muscles.

 

Gerenuk

 

Gerenuks Looking for Food

 

Every time they would start eating we would whisper "Stand up...stand up...stand up" and when they did we would let out hushed cheers.

 

Gerenuks Feeding

 

This one is playing the "tree flute".  I wonder if it knows the solo to Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull?

Gerenuk playing the

 

Mmm...this one looks tasty.

 

We even saw a mother with some little ones

Gerenuk with Fawns

 

Phew, that was one full day.  I was totally wiped out by the time we got back to camp around 6:30PM.  It was a great day full of fantastic wildlife sightings but it was also really long and tiring.  We only had two bathroom breaks (I only saw two restrooms in the whole park) and a really late lunch.

 

So, while Karen did miss out on some good stuff she was not that sorry that she missed the full day outing.  Hopefully, we would see most of the new species again for her later in the trip (spoiler alert...we do).

 

PS - That rock earlier in the day...  I still didn't believe it was a Hippo until I got home and zoomed the picture way in.  The guides were right, it was a flat-sided Hippo but it really didn't look that way with the naked eye.

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kittykat23uk

Great trip report so far! :)

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Alexander33

I’ve been looking forward to this report ever since you first mentioned you were going to Kenya, Alan. Let’s just say it’s been worth the wait. Great shots of the elephants and gerenuks in those last posts. Can’t wait for more!

 

By the way, in regard to the weighing of bags at Nairobi Wilson, when we were there in January 2018, they did weigh our checked baggage, but not our carry-ons. 

Edited by Alexander33
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Atravelynn

I vote for hippo in the rock or hippo poll.

Amboseli was really rocking with gerenuks, baby hyenas, scenery and more.

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monalisa

When I looked through my photos from this day I had a good laugh/cringe at the "creepy uncle" too. I didn't know that it could have been a female! Goes to show how much I listen when baby animals are in sight!

 

Gosh that Amboseli day was awesome. It was definitely one of the highlight days for me. The guilt factor certainly was high that Karen missed it! 

So many great things.. I loved the elephants with their trunks in the air, of course the hyena pups, seeing flamingos for the first time! You were very polite not to mention the frustration in the car when I took 20 million photos of flamingos, hahaha!!

 

Oh and that mean spoonbill makes me laugh every time.

 

 

Here are pics of some of the uglies that I think also deserve some love :lol::

 

Lappet faced vulture

lwagOP1h.jpg

 

Marabou storks 

GyQyVsyh.jpg

 

Broken leg flamingo

L48KSRyh.jpg

 

Buck-toothed buffalo

xPLOHYSh.jpg

 

More wildebeest babies!

5GW3VCkh.jpg

 

 

And some others from the day..

 

The Mount Everest we climbed just to have lunch

wotiOe2h.jpg

 

Bird hanging around the lunch area

3GLEQhnh.jpg

 

Taking advantage of the birds not being skittish at the picnic lookout area

xhjsFwAh.jpg

 

Superb starling

wnwG5dsh.jpg

 

Female reedbuck

4lYDyDTh.jpg

 

Pied kingfisher

t3IFhB1h.jpg

 

Annoying oxpeckers

u4oWJjwh.jpg

 

eEwhmJ2h.jpg

 

My one photo of the creepy uncle without "creepy uncle" showing

BhnpPHAh.jpg

 

First flamingo!!

sB5uJK5h.jpg

 

 

The golden jackal roll

wImEnMkh.jpg

 

47A4rjjh.jpg

 

S75JG2hh.jpg

 

7cSWzfxh.jpg

 

Nawww that face

fdSVc33h.jpg

 

WeMweyHh.jpg

 

2gzEBCih.jpg

 

So cute!

I2Y8IXHh.jpg

 

 

Lone wildebeest in the rain

WM79aGUh.jpg

 

Sad lion in the rain photo

G7R1bHbh.jpg

 

hMMsfO2h.jpg

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Kitsafari

@Atdahl such a delight reading your TR, and the huge thrill of being in the Africa  bush for the first time. Brilliant photography!

 

great shots of the golden jackal @monalisa

 

 

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Galago

@Atdahl  Loving the TR and the photos. Some great bird shots and the Gerenuk is just amazing. I really didn't know they played the flute :D

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CheetahFan

Here is some video of the tiny hyena pups that we saw, it's not the best footage but does show how cute they are in action too.

 

 

 

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CheetahFan
19 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Amboseli was really rocking with gerenuks, baby hyenas, scenery and more.

 

I should mention for anyone thinking of going to Amboseli that while a great park, the gerenuks can only be found in the Selenkay conservancy.

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Atravelynn
5 minutes ago, CheetahFan said:

 

I should mention for anyone thinking of going to Amboseli that while a great park, the gerenuks can only be found in the Selenkay conservancy.

Another reason to add Selenkay to the list. 

If the lion looked sad, the rolling jackal looked ecstatic.  Maybe the lion was just seriously contemplating what the abundance the rain would bring.

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Galago

@CheetahFan lovely video and you were so lucky to see such tiny ones as they tend to be kept in the den most of the time. Love hyenas, intelligent, sociable and such survivors!

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monalisa

@Galago I love hyenas too. They have such a bad rep, but I think they are so sweet and so cute. 

Although when we get to the Porini Mara portion of the trip I think your love for them may get tested somewhat! :lol:

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Atdahl

Thanks for the kind words everyone. If you haven't figured it out yet we had an outstanding time together on this trip :).

 

@monalisa, great pictures of the "uglies".  I don't think any of them are truly ugly no matter what some of the people we met on the trip thought ;).  Thanks for including all of them.  I am not sure what I was doing for part of that time since I missed the rolling Jackal and wet lion.  I think as soon as the rain came, the camera went somewhere dry and warm.  You were braver than I if I remember correctly.

 

@CheetahFan, great video of those tiny puppies and "creepy Uncle".

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Atdahl

Kenya Day 4 - Porini Amboseli

 

Today was our last full day at Porini Amboseli and Karen was raring to go after her rest day yesterday.  That was a good thing because we ended up having 4 activities today.

 

First off was a morning game drive from 6:30AM to 9AM.  Right off the bat, we crossed off one of the animals that Karen missed yesterday: Bat-eared Foxes.

 

Bat-eared Fox

 

Then, we got some quality giraffe time in:

Giraffe and Youngster

 

DSC_2569_edited-1-L.jpg

 

DSC_2623_edited-1-L.jpg

 

Next up, were some Dwarf Mongoose.  Karen was quickly crossing off her missed animals.

 

Dwarf Mongoose

 

I didn't end up taking too many scenery pictures of the Selenkay Conservancy because to be honest it is not that picturesque.  That's probably because there was just so much bush and not a lot of heavily treed or open areas.  The airstrip was the most open section we saw so getting a good scenery shot was tough.  But, here's some anyway.

 

Selenkay Conservancy

 

Selenkay Tree

 

 

And some more Dwarf Mongoose.  This is the same group as earlier but in better light.

 

Dwarf Mongoose Family

 

 

Until this drive, the Lesser Kudu were playing hard to get photo wise, but this big male stood proudly out in the open for us:

Male Lesser Kudu

 

We arrived back in camp and chowed down on a nice breakfast with eggs to order, bacon, crepes, sausage, cereal and more.  The food was really good at this camp and they catered to some dietary restrictions wonderfully.

 

Since Karen hung out at the camp all day yesterday, she learned a lot about how all the logistics worked.  For example, she learned that most of the Porini camps served the same type of meat on the same day (chicken, fish, beef, etc). I guess they purchase food in bulk and distribute it to the camps at the same time.  That's kind of interesting.

 

She also watched another group leave on their bush walk the day before and told us that they were accompanied by 2 guards with big machine guns. So, we expected the same for our after breakfast bush walk today. But, when we met up at the dining tent for the walk, instead of two guards with big machine guns we were escorted by two young Masai with short sticks.

 

I guess they figured that Tim and I were intimidating enough so guns weren't needed. We actually didn't have an issue with this because if something happened and an animal was shot just because we wanted to walk around a bit we all would have been devastated.

 

Anyway, the plan was to walk out to the watering hole but there were elephants around so we had to adjust our plans to a shorter walk.  There really wasn't much to see on the walk and it got pretty hot in the sun as well.  So, it was good that the walk was only a little over an hour.  It did feel good to stretch my long legs though after a full day of sitting yesterday.

 

During the mid-day break, I wandered around the camp some more to see what critters might be out.  Right outside the dining tent was a hub of activity likely because there is a small bird bath in the ground there.  I had pictures of most of the birds already but there were a couple of new species.

 

Green Wood Hoopoes:

Green Wood Hoopoe

 

Little Sparrowhawk:

Little Sparrowhawk

 

 

At 4:15 PM we mounted up in the old trusty Land Rover and went out for our afternoon game drive.  It was still pretty hot at this point but hopefully the animals would be out.

 

One thing that was out (sort of) was Kilimanjaro:

Kilimanjaro

 

But, besides a few so-so bird shots that's all I have from the afternoon.  Part of that is because our guides found some lion tracks and we all decided to follow them.  We wound around and through bushes as they looked down and tracked them.  Then they said that the tracks doubled back.  Their theory was that the lions made a kill and then left it to get some water and went back to it.  If we were lucky, they would still be there.

 

So, we kept weaving in and out and over bushes until we came to a fresh skeleton.  So, the guides were right, but the lions were all done and had left.   It was still a very interesting experience but there are no pictures to share.

 

On the way back, we encountered a feisty elephant that didn't like us being around it.  It flared its ears and gave us some other warning signs before doing a mock charge.  Our guides seemed to know it was a mock charge since they didn't panic but we didn't stick around very long since the elephant was obviously a bit irritated.

 

Later, just as it was getting dark, we became surrounded by giraffes.  They were everywhere and Karen decided to start counting them.  It was at that exact moment that a Scrub Hare runs through our headlights and I exclaim "Hare...hare....hare" tracking it with my finger the whole time as it hopped on by.  Yet, somehow Karen missed it because she was busy counting giraffes and paid no attention to me.  That's the way it is at home too by the way...

 

One thing that we were not used to is the late dinners.  For people that usually eat around 6PM it's tough to wait until 8 or 8:30PM but that is dinner time at this camp.  It was especially tough to wait tonight because we knew we had an after dinner night drive planned and we were hoping to get to bed at a reasonable hour afterwards.  Luckily, the food was consistently worth the wait.

 

We left at 9:45 PM for an hour night drive.

 

Right off the bat we had our very first chameleon in a tree outside the camp.  It was playing hard to get though.  If anyone knows the species, please let me know:

 

First Wild Chameleon

 

 

Then we didn't get much farther before this Verreaux's Eagle Owl was blocking the road:

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

 

Next we had a brief encounter with some frisky lions.  This was the closest we had been to lions and having it at night made it extra cool.

 

Lions at Night

 

 

So, this picture is incredibly grainy but I am including it because it's of an African Wild Cat and we were sooooo excited to see it.

 

African Wildcat

 

Then, we had another Scrub Hare encounter which was good for Karen since we were still teasing her about the whole giraffe counting thing from earlier.

 

Scrub Hare

 

Last, but not least, we had our first Black-backed Jackal as well as a few more later in the drive:

Black-backed Jackal

 

All the pictures are unsatisfactorily grainy but with flash not allowed, this was the best I could do.  We did see a White-tailed Mongoose and the tail of a Genet but I couldn't get pictures of either.  We didn't even get a good enough view of the Genet to officially count it. Oh well, there will be more night drives.

 

At about 11 PM we hit the sack.  Even though we were so tired it was tough to fall asleep quickly with all the exciting memories from the day running through our brains.

 

Since we were moving on to another camp tomorrow, I wanted to share our thoughts on Porini Amboseli.  All of the staff was great.  Edwin was the manager while we were there and he was super friendly and accommodating.  The chef went out of his way to accommodate special dietary requirements which was very nice.  Plus, they had cold beer and filtered water.  What more could you want?

 

We only had a few very tiny tiny gripes. It would have been nice to have a comfortable chair to sit on inside the tent since the Vervet Monkeys tended to soil the chairs outside the tent.  Since the weather was hot we certainly didn't need hot water bottles in our bed.  They also liked to gather all the guests around the camp fire before dinner.  We found this hot and smokey and we had to insist that we move to the dining tent instead before they let us do that.

 

But, the good FAR outweighed these small gripes.  The elephants, gerenuk, Amboseli NP, the amazing bird life and the chance of seeing Kilimanjaro are all great reasons to stay here not to mention all the other wildlife you are likely to see.  It was definitely a great fit for us and a great camp to start our safari.

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wilddog

Lovely report @Atdahl et al.

 

Thanks . Looking forward to the next camp.

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Really enjoying this trip report!

 

Looking forward to more!

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