After lunch we went out on our first drive and the four of us were joined by two others. They were single travellers and one was very good company (we kept in the same group for all our safaris in Amboseli) the male was extremely uncommunicative and somewhat surely. After a time of trying to involve him in discussion all five of us gave up and left him to his own devices.
We hadn’t been travelling far when a herd of zebra crossed our path. They happily wandered across the road and seemed to have no anxiety about the Landrover with happy snappers inside it. Strutting its stuff in the shrub land was White Bellied Bustard and close to the road basking in the sun was a Red-headed Agama Lizard. Apparently there are over 30 species of this lizard and although they mainly eat insects they’re also happy to digest berries and seeds and even the eggs of smaller lizards. This one was relatively inactive and didn’t seem to be at all camera shy!
We were soon to learn the difference between two Gazelles that are found both here and in the Masai Mara the Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle. In front of were a number of Gazelles and our guide informed us that we were looking at Grant’s Gazelle. Both have a black stripe running down their side but Grant’s (the ones we were observing at the time) have a white rump that extends above the tail and what appears to be a black "M" on their rump. I was to check and re-check several times on our Safaris that I was spotting the right Gazelle. It’s especially confusing when the two types could often be found alongside each other and the smaller Impala was often not far away! Indeed we saw all three on this first drive.
As we progressed on our way I hurriedly scribbled the name of each animal or bird that we spotted and hoped that I could correlate my photos to the written word. Sometimes I needed to check on the spelling, but unfortunately our guide wasn’t always sure of the spelling. Thankfully most of them I managed to successfully identify although as couple of the birds I still remain unsure about. Anyway back to our first safari....
I spotted a really strange looking bird and was told it was the Secretary Bird. It seems that this bird spends most of the daylight hours walking the scrub land although at night, or just before darkness descends they return to roost in the iconic Acacia Tree. They were a fascinating bird to watch as its features really didn’t seem quite bizarre, our guide explained that it was named as Secretary Bird because it's quill like feathers gave it the appearance of a secretary carrying quills, which were of course originally used as pens. A nice story, but I’m really not so sure.
We saw several birds on this trip including the Crowned Lapwing, Crested Crane, Black-headed Heron, Sacred Ibis, Two-banded Courser, the fantastic Scarlet-chested Sunbird, the Superb Starling (a complete contrast to the drab looking starling from the UK), Grey-headed Kingfisher, Blacksmith Lapwing, Egyptian Geese (don’t they know that we’re in Kenya). All of them we close enough to get great views of and most proved to be very photogenic. I was beginning to feel like a modern hunter, not with guns but with the digital camera. This was real exciting and it was only our first trip on safari.
Of course the Amboseli Elephant featured strongly on our tour and I have never seen so many elephants in their own environment. In truth I’ve never seen an elephant in its natural environment before as I now didn’t class the elephants I’d seen in Thailand and India as foot loose and fancy free.
We spotted a single giraffe in the distance (made close with the zoon lens), a group of Buffalo (one of the big five and the animal responsible for most human deaths in Kenya) and then had to start heading back as the sun set fell over the plains. Just as we thought all the wildlife was disappearing our guide stopped at the side of a group of Velvet Monkeys. What a racket they made as they sat, stared and howled at us.
To say that I’d never been keen on going on a safari I was now by far the most excited of the four of us and I could hardly wait for tomorrow’s excursion......