Kenya (6) – Amboseli

We had a fairly early start this morning as we had a long drive ahead to our next destination, Amboseli National Park, located on the border with Tanzania, and famed for its view onto Mount Kilimanjaro.  Despite the fact that Peter was worried about us reaching Amboseli in time for lunch, he was determined that we should have one last attempt to find some lions before leaving.  Accordingly, we took the drive through to the park gate at a leisurely pace, and once we approached the exit, took a few detours to maximize our chances.
Suddenly, there was some noise from the radio, and Peter shouted to us to hold on tight, and then put his foot to the ground.  We raced along the roads, thrown from side to side on every bend, rounded one final corner and spotted the giveaway sign of something interesting – another couple vehicles stopped together.  Yes, it was a pair of lions, and not only that, but further back in the bush, barely visible through the trees, they had a fresh kill.  One lion was resting in the shade of the tree, whilst another was having a bite to eat.

Of course, after savouring the fact that we’d finally found our lions, we couldn’t stay too long as we needed to get back on the road.  Most of the drive was back the way we’d come, along the main Nairobi-Mombasa highway.  I quickly appreciated how lucky I was to have slept most of the way down, because the constant ‘truck overtaking truck with another truck bearing down upon you in the opposite lane and then the van in front slamming its brakes on, or suddenly cutting in front of you to join in the overtaking fun’ was rather nervewracking.  To be fair, it was not quite as spectacular as the driving we experienced in India, but it came a close second.  Eventually I distracted myself by burying my nose in the Sunday newspaper, and used the opportunity to find out a bit more about Kenyan society.

After 6 hours of so of driving we arrived at Amboseli.  We were held up at the gate to the park for a while whilst Peter organized our entry.  Mum and I waited in the van and were quickly surrounded by people determined to sell us beadwork and odd trinkets.  They were very persistent, and we got rather fed up as they wouldn’t leave us alone, no matter how many times we said we weren’t going to buy anything.

The park itself is totally different from Tsavo East – a very open and much drier landscape.  There are a number of lakes, and swampy areas which are fed by the run off from snow melt from Kilimanjaro.  The advantage is that it’s much easier to spot the wildlife, but the scenery is rather less appealing, especially when Kilimanjaro is hidden by clouds.

The park is home to some wildebeest herds – the first we’ve seen since we’ve been here, and there are also quite a few zebra.  Because of the swamps, there are a lot of water birds here, including many types of heron.  After spending 5 days looking at red elephants in Tsavo, it was actually a bit of a surprise to see grey ones here!

The elephants here are far more relaxed around people than in Tsavo, and will happily stand very close to the road.  We’d hardly been driving for any time on this afternoon’s safari before we came across a small herd, waiting for us at a crossroads.  They obviously weren’t in a hurry, because the smallest decided to lie down for a nap.

After spending some time with the elephants, we decided that it was time again to concentrate our efforts on the lions.  It hardly took anytime at all before Peter spotted one, and we raced in closer.  Unlike Tsavo where we hardly saw any other traffic, there was a constant stream of vehicles stopping, looking and continuing in the time we spent with the lions.  We’d found a pride of 8, and we stayed for about an hour and a half, watching the lions slowly wake up and become more active as the light faded.  Whilst we were waiting, we were watching the wildebeest in the area, one of whom was slowly wandering towards the water and the waiting lions.  After a while, one of the lions, we assume the boss lioness, left the rest behind and started stalking the wildebeest.  It was amazing to watch her, but as the light faded it became harder and harder to see her.  Eventually we had to leave because of the camp regulations stipulating that you have to be in camp after sunset.

Driving back to camp, we saw a huge herd of zebra streaming past us, all making their way down to the waterhole, and of course, the waiting lions.

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