On this, our first full day on Safari, we had plans to visit a Masai Mara village in the afternoon and enjoy a ride around the dusty roads of Amboseli checking out the wild life. It was destined to be a great day...
As we drove out of camp the sun was slowly rising and a lone hyena sauntered out of the semi darkness to slump down only a few metres away from the van. They’re not an attractive animal and our guide told us that the story goes that when God created animals there were some bits left over and, rather than waste then he assembled them together to create this scavenger. Looking at them I can understand how this story came about!
A monkey was sitting nonchalantly on a dead branch of a tree, wild turkeys pecked away at the scrubland in their endless search for food plucked and then we stopped close by a family of hyenas. There were a number of cubs and although they were much more handsome than their parents they didn’t have that endearing quality that it usually associated with children of a species. Still they were fun to watch as they frolicked around, oblivious to their newly acquired audience.
We set off in search of a new sight and within a few rolls of the wheels our driver was again applying the brakes. Sat in the middle of the plains, within camera shot was a beautiful Eagle its plumage glistening in the dawn sun. It looked a fine creature and it’s the closest that I’ve ever been to such a fine looking bird.
Soon were off again and I’m surprised at how devoid the plains seem to be. All the zebras, antelopes and elephants that we’d seen yesterday seem to have vanished from Amboseli and I was singularly unimpressed when our guide told us that there was a lone Hippo in the distance. I couldn’t see a thing and even my vivid imagination wouldn’t let me think that I could see it. We drove a little further and then in the near distance I saw what I had thought to be a rock. I was in fact a Hippo and although this was the first Hippo in the wild I have to confess that it was not overly exciting. Still it was early in the Safari so I was convinced that there would be more.
Our guide, who had been babbling away on his phone, suddenly changed direction and headed off back the way we’d come. The eagle had flown off, the hyenas still at play and in the distance we saw a number of elephants. Initially we thought that’s where we were heading but our guide said that he hoped we be happy with the next "spot". Another van load of tourists passed us going in the other direction and our guide signalled the thumbs up before stopping near a clump of trees. "Lion" he exclaimed in hushed tones and pointed towards the trees. I desperately tried to focus but failed dismally to spot anything. After a time I thought I’d seen a Lion’s mane poking up, but it was too far away to be certain. We must have looked disappointed because our guide stated to edge forward and drove towards the stone like mound.
Behind us a family group of elephants walked across the middle distance. It was a bit like a scene from Jungle Book with Colonel Hathi parading his family and I wouldn’t have been too surprised if they’d burst into song! They continued to plod onwards and so did we. I turned my head forward and now we were so close to the previously spotted lion. Our guide was right. We were more than happy with this "spot". The lion looked disdainfully at us as we all started snapping our lens at him. We didn’t need to hurry or panic – he wasn’t going anywhere – but he did turn his head for a nice profile picture opportunity. Perhaps he was showing his best side. Our attention was firmly fixed on this fine beast when our guide started to drive away from the creature. Our disappointment was soon replaced with excitement as we were now looking at the lion’s "other half". Almost hidden by the vegetation was the lioness. But wait. In front of her was the second female member of the pride. We thanked our guide for finding this group of lions as he explained that we must move back to the main track as it’s not really permitted to go off piste.
We were well chuffed and buzzing with excitement as we settled down behind a group of elephants that were monopolising the dusty track. They didn’t seem to in the least bit affected by our presence and we certainly weren’t in a position to hurry them. Finally as we nosed forward the two adults and three children headed off – not a care in the world. Soon we were in danger of over-dosing on elephants, but the scurrying form of a couple of warthogs provided us with a change of species. They were extremely skittish and didn’t seem to like the disturbance that a van load of tourists brought. Soon they were in the far distance and only now were they risking a look back at us.
A herd of Wildebeests were less concerned about our arrival and they just seemed content to get on with their normal activity. We were a bit surprised to see so many of them at Amboseli as we’d always understood that the grand migration took place in April to May. Our guide explained that the ones that we were looking at didn’t migrate anywhere – they’d happily made Amboseli home throughout the year.
It was now approaching lunch time and as we made our way back to the lodge we passed gazelles and more elephants and a beautiful bird that happily posed on the tree whilst we "fired off numerous frames" onto the camera’s memory card.
After lunch we’d be taking in another safari and visiting a Masai Mara Village (see separate review).