Serena Amboseli Safari Lodge, Kenya
People I talked to about going on a photo safari said it was the trip of a lifetime. They were right.
Monday, September 16
We arrived yesterday from Nairobi, with a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro much of the way. Only a little of the snows remain, a sad indicator, according to our guide, Peter, of climate change. Nonetheless, the mountain is an impressive mass rising up out of the savanna. The lodge is a sprawling series of stucco buildings located in Amboseli National Park, in Masai country. One sees the Masai, in their long red robes, tending to their cattle (sign of wealth). They are nomads, living
in villages, driving their livestock to wherever they can find water and good pasturage.
At four, we left on our first game drive. We had spotted some giraffe, wildebeest, and gazelles, and even a few elephants on entering the park. This time, we were treated to herds of elephants, bathing in the mud and tearing up grass, munching their way across the savanna.
Elephants of all ages, with enormous, flapping ears, long, arched tusks, wrinkled gray bodies. The young were tucked in among their elders. One little guy had had too much, and knelt, then keeled over on his side. He lay for awhile, until his buddy came over and shoved at him with his trunk, until he grudgingly got up.
We also saw many birds. For some reason, blue seems to be a
common color among them. But not the flamingos , which were a pink mass against the blue of the lake, feeding or flying in glorious, black-
tipped winged formation.
A small warthog family passed by, cute-ugly. Peter says they are so
stupid that, when being chased by a predator, they may forget why
they’re running and stop to graze. “So, how do they survive?”
someone asked. “They are very productive”, said Peter.
We also observed rush hour, when all the grazing animals make their
way back to their forest homes. The Thompson gazelle, a sweet little
thing with a brown strip along its side, tends to act like a squirrel,
sprinting across just in front of our Land Cruiser. The zebra are more
circumspect. The elephants do what they want to, knowing they have
absolute right of way.
Tuesday, September 17
We had three outings today. The first was at daybreak, to see
Kilimanjaro without clouds. We also got a look at various birds, Cape
Buffaloes, and a few of those most deadly of African animals, the
hippopotamus. When I told Peter about the hippo killing a Chinese
tourist recently, he said he was not surprised. All the Chinese want to
do is drive around at top speed, taking as many photos as possible,
and showing little interest in knowing about the animals.
Our second was to the Masai village, where we were greeted by two
of the chiefs sons and the “doctor”, i.e. medicine man, all of whom
speak English, having attended boarding school. They told us about
Masai life, showed us their mud huts, their school, the various plants
they use to cure ailments and their crafts. They are intent on hanging
onto their way of life, which is brave of them, in light of the pressures
of drought, government restrictions, and the lure of modern life.
They have, with outside help, replaced their school under a tree with a two-
room version, and are looking to build a third and hire another teacher, so they can educate their children themselves.
The last outing yielded elephants, zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, more
gazelles, and a lone giraffe. Then the radio chattered that lions had
been spotted. We raced there (bumpety bump, clouds of dust). It was
a 20- vehicle sighting – a pride of lions lounging in the grass, then
getting up and sauntering toward the tall grass.
Wednesday, the 18th
Another early morning drive. This time, the lion pride, waiting for prey
to show up, consisted of four adult females and six young, on whom
the baby spots were still visible. One female chased a warthog for a
bit, then stopped. The others caught up, and they stood, lay down,
sniffed the air, eyed a buffalo that Peter said was too big, because the
cubs don’t know how to hunt properly. They tend to lose focus and
start playing. As it was, they were climbing all over their mother, until
she gave one of them a gentle swat with her paw. Peter says, that
since lions aren’t all that fast, they surround their prey, then one
attacks, and the others join in. Then they have to go find the male,
who has been lounging somewhere waiting for dinner to be
The afternoon drive provided more elephant families, making their way
across the savanna, as well as more birds and the other grazing
animals to which we are becoming accustomed. Then the radio
crackled that someone had spotted three cheetahs. We followed the
clouds of dust raised by other vehicles rushing to the site.
Three heads poked up out of a ditch. The evening rush hour had
come to a standstill. Zebra, wildebeest, gazelles, and even three
curious gifaffes all stood staring toward the cheetahs. Occasionally,
one would lift himself partway out. Peter said they were contemplating
which of the gazelles they might attack, but the Thompsons were too
far away and would probably escape. After a long while, the migration
continued, until no one was left. Finally, three long, elegant bodies
emerged and sauntered off in search of better hunting.