Safari Travel Stories – 3

By Edie Preugschat – North Vancouver

Our trip was from August 31rst to September 13, 2014, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   In Kenya we visited the Nairobi National Park, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/Animal Orphanage, the Giraffe Centre, the Karen Blixen Museum, Sweetwaters, the Chimpanzee Conservation Project, Lake Nakuru National Park, and the Masai Mara.  The timing of the trip was planned to take in the annual migration of zebras and wildebeest so we were indeed in the middle of the great migration and, in addition, were able to witness a crossing of the Mara River complete with a crocodile attack.  It was incredible to be in the middle of thousands of migrating animals.  In Tanzania we visited the Serengeti,  Ngorongoro Crater,  Oldupai Gorge, and a Maasai village.   The picture I’ve attached was taken in Tanzania after a tour of the Maasai village.  It was interesting to be able to enter their dwellings and fun to dance with the women. I knew early on into the trip that I was going to be awestruck by the numbers of animals so I made a list.  I want to share the list because it is so incredible.  Below is a list of all the wild animals      ( mammals, reptiles and birds) I noted but, because I wasn’t as regimented in the task as I could have been, it’s not in any particular order.   I certainly didn’t get nearly all the birds because there were so many of them and I didn’t ask about all of them.   Everything is in plural except where I’ve noted only one was seen.

Here goes:

African hares  – Cape buffalo (plural)  – African wild cat – Suni antelope (really small)  – Warthogs – Olive baboons  – Elephants (in the wild and at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)- Rothschild giraffes (at the Giraffe Centre)  – white-eyed slaty flycatcher  – Black rhinos  – Masai giraffes  – Yellow-billed oxpeckers  – Red billed oxpeckers  – Zebras  – Ostriches  – Elands  – Hartebeests  – Impalas  – Vultures – Bushbucks  – Wildebeests/gnus  – Black storks  – Chimpanzees (at the Olpajeta Conservancy)  – Defassa waterbucks  – Jackals  – Hunting dogs  – Thomson’s gazelles  – Grant’s gazelles  – Fish eagles  – Kingfishers – Marabout storks  – Grey-crowned cranes  – Cheetahs  – Crested bustards  – Kori bustards  – Sacred ibises – Hadada ibises  – Helmeted guinea fowl (plural)  – Black-faced vervet monkeys  – Plovers  – African spoonbills  – Greater flamingos  – Lesser flamingos  – Ducks (I didn’t note what kinds)   – Egyptian geese  – White rhinos  – Pied crows  – Ruppell’s long-tailed starlings  Superb starlings  – Ground hornbills – Marsh mongoose  – Hippos  – Topis  – Lions  – Black bellied bustards  – Nubian or lappet-faced vultures  – Ruppell’s vultures  – Hyenas – Nile crocodiles  – Dwarf mongoose  – Banded mongoose  – Secretary birds – Agama lizards  – Hammerkop birds  – Bateleur eagle – Tree hyraxes  – Francolin birds  – Black-headed herons  – Kingfishers ( pied and pigmy)  –   Long crested eagles  – Rufus tailed weavers  – Lilac breasted rollers  – White rumpshelmet shrikes  – Yellow billed storks  – Bulbuls  – Serrated hinged terrapins – African grey hornbills  – Dik diks  – Meyer’s parrots  – Red-billed hornbills  – Magpie shrikes  – White bellied bustards  – White and brown coucals  – Leopards  – Blacksmith plovers  – Rock hyraxes – Augur buzzards –  Larks (smallest bird in the Ngorongoro Crater)  – Golden jackals  – Anteater chats – Grey herons  – Black kites  – Black headed herons  – Blue monkeys  – Common waterbucks  – Silver backed jackals  – Cattle egrets  – Black winged stilts  – Spar winged geese – African jacanas (called the Jesus bird because it seems to walk on water)  – Collared pranticoles – White backed vultures  – Saddle billed storks.

And, last but not least, we saw one ground squirrel dashing across the road on our drive back from Tanzania to the Nairobi airport.   We also heard frogs at the Nairobi Tented Camp, inside Nairobi National Park, but didn’t see them.We got to see what is often called ‘the big five’ – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo – and this is what people who go to Africa usually hope to see.  It was sad to learn that the description comes from trophy hunting and to learn of the decimation caused by trophy hunting and the lure of ivory.    We learned that it’s not common to see leopards, however, we saw several.  And we learned that seeing hunting dogs is a sighting even rarer than leopards.  We saw lions mating and learned that it’s over rather quickly.  We learned that the different rhinos were named by colour, even though they’re both grey, because there was a language misunderstanding way back when.  It turns out that early Dutch visitors noted that the mouths of one type of rhino were ‘weid’ which means wide  and English speaking people heard ‘white’.   Then they differentiated the other type of rhino with a hooked mouth by calling it black.  The white rhinos have a wide mouth and eat mostly grass.

The black rhinos have a hooked mouth and eat other things in addition to grass. And we also learned that the correct spelling of Oldupai Gorge is with a ‘p’ and not a ‘v’.  It was misspelled for years.   The gorge was named because of the sisal in the area and word for sisal in Swahili is oldupai.  We went down and to the spot where Zinjanthropus was found.

We had different drivers for Kenya and Tanzania but both were wonderful and I learned a few words of Swahili.  It turns out I would have known a few more words had I seen the movie “The Lion King”.  I was the only person on the tour who hadn’t seen that movie and also the only person who hadn’t read or seen “Out of Africa”.

The flora was amazing as well.  The fruit and vegetables prepared for us were mouthwatering,  and so fresh.  The coffee and tea was out of this world.  We learned that the typical acacia tree one sees silhouetted in pictures of Africa has actually been pruned by giraffes.  There are no giraffes in the Ngorongoro Crater, because they can’t do the climb with their long legs, so the same trees there look different.  We learned that there is a symbiotic relationship between the cocktail ants and the whistling acacia tree.  It was demonstrated by one of our drivers, Augustine, and he was bitten doing the demo for us.   Although both my husband and I were prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitoes and had our malaria shots, that didn’t happen and the mosquitoes there really weren’t bad except for when we drove through some very moist land.

I have always been an animal person and love watching animals on TV.  Before going to Africa my husband picked up some literature about the countries we were going to visit and the animals we might see.  I also did some reading and noted that school supplies might be appreciated.  I approached Thierry asking if it would be possible to get some school supplies to a local school.   I didn’t want to take any time away from the rest of the group in order to do this and Thierry made this happen for me.  He did the research and he was so helpful.  Thierry let me know that some clothes would be appreciated and that it would be beneficial to stimulate the local economy by buying some supplies there.   As a result, both of us brought some supplies and clothes to leave behind; then, after the safari,  he took care of purchasing additional supplies there with monies and then delivering everything to St Lazarus School which is in the Kibera Slum.  He shared with me the drawings given to him by kids at that school.

The sight of the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, even from a distance, was disturbing.   It was huge.  We are so lucky to live here on the North Shore.  I’ve come back feeling very privileged for having had this experience and for having learned a bit about the people and animals of Africa.  The country is beautiful and the plight of animals and many of the people is heartbreaking.

As you can tell, the trip with Thierry was educational and jam packed with different experiences and emotions.  It left one heck of an impression and, one year later, much of it is still vivid in my memory.   I’d recommend that everyone, if they have the opportunity,  visit Africa.  I’m hoping to go back and possibly do a Kilimanjaro climb.

Maasai Village Sept 2014