Bonus video

Hi all, here are a few videos that I shot that didn’t get posted.  Some cheetah, wildebeest and some impala.  The very first clip is a 9-minute video summary that I threw together in a couple of hours on the last day.

posted.

Tuskers (part 2)

The African elephant is a sight to see up close. Tall, giant heads, immense bodies and big feet! They are almost majestic as they walk. I could watch them all day. Mike said “it must be great to be an elephant!” Here are a few pictures taken by Dawn, and 2 video clips that I think are a good conclusion to the photo and video entries of the trip diary. The first video shows the elephants almost performing for us (with encouragement from Gerry!) and the second video shows the tremendous size of this bull.


In a few days, I’ll sum up my thoughts on the Wild Eye safari.

Tuskers (part 1)

Now that I am home in Chicago, when I think back to my 10 days in Africa, one of the memories that sticks most in my mind is not a cheetah hunting and killing an oribi, or lions kissing when meeting, or a hyena devouring a gazelle.  It is when the 5 of us (Kennedy, Grant, Steve, Dawn and I) sat for awhile and watched elephants in Amboseli. Grant and Ken seem to have a knack for getting us just in the right spot for elephants. and we were treated to a private show that including “dusting” (spraying dust all over themselves to help remove parasites.)  Then they walked 10 feet in front of us, not paying any attention to us.  A nice way to spend 30 minutes. Here are some pictures (taken by D) and video (shot by me). The video is 2 mins long, so I know it is a bit long for the attention span of a social media view, but I already cut it up from the 9 minutes I took. I tried to remove that shaking camera and any blur.

More and more Big Cats

Coming to the end of the trip reports.  I know cats sleep a lot, as I have a “big cat” at home who spends 15-18 hours per day sleeping. His cousins in Africa are no different.  Many times, we would run across lions that are sleeping and we’d wait for them to wake up. They usually would wake up, stand, stretch and then lay back down and fall asleep. In the Masai Mara, we saw lions most days.  Here are some pictures Dawn and I took of two of those encounters.  The male lion certainly is photogenic. The 2nd to last photo is a lion named Scar.  His name comes from the fact that he has a huge scar on the right side of his face, from a fight with another male lion. Scar walked about 3 miles to meet up with these other lions … the last photo is his kissing greeting with another male lion.

There is a video too, it is 1 min 45 sec long and it is a typical (uneventful) scene with lion and wildebeest I shot in Amboselli (I think). The lion is too small to really do any harm and the wildebeest (and one zebra) move closer as the young lion walks away. They probably spot the adult lions in the distance.  The best description of the wildebeest is this quote from an article I read (accuracy confirmed with our guide Mike) … “For all their stamina, the wildebeest are the most stupid animals of them all.  They have a memory of about one minute. I have seen them escape from a lion hiding behind a bush and then, one minute later, walk back past the same bush and get attacked again.”

Tomorrow, I’ll post about some more cheetah and also a leopard we ran across, and after that, finally, I will finish off with an extravaganza of pictures and video of elephants.

Rhino

Most days, we saw rhino. One day, it was the black rhino but most days, it was the white rhino. The major difference is the shape of their mouths. Black rhinos have a pointed lip while white rhinos have a flat, wide lip. Today, black rhinos remain critically endangered because of rising demand for rhino horn, which has driven poaching to record levels. The horn is trafficked to Asia where it is sold for insane amounts of money. Here are some photos we took, and a 1 minute video. Notice all the birds on the back of the single rhino. Cool, huh? The 2nd photo (with the mountain in the background) is black rhino.

More Big Cats

Back to one of the first days in the Mara Masai, we went for a drive late afternoon and came across a couple of female lions just lounging around. One moved around a bit, drinking water, sitting around then she went to sleep right in front of us. We have tons of pictures of her close-up … a few are below. As she slept, she rolled over on her back, then rolled to the other side and fell off the small hill she was on. My cat does that at home (see picture of my cat, Sanook, below. Notice the resemblance? Same general color but a little more fur.)

Later, we ran across one of the females with all of her cubs, on a late afternoon walk. Again, right in front of us. Pics are below. This was a nice 45-minutes spent watching all of them.

Down by the River

Moving onto some of the “water loving” animals we saw. We saw the hippopotamus almost every day, although seeing him out of water was a rarity (they are usually in the water during the day and walk on land at night). They actually do not swim. Aside from the mosquito, hippos are the most dangerous animal (as in human deaths caused) in Africa. When a hippo yawns, is is a warning sign. Below are some pictures that Dawn and I took. Notice the crocodiles near the hippos.

The Cape Buffalo is one of the “Big 5” and are huge and plentiful. Dirty too. When they are in the water, there is usually a bird on their back. Below are some pics Dawn took of them, plus some video I shot.

Big Cats

One of the areas of focus of this trip by Wild Eye was “cats”, as the trip was called “Big Cats and Tuskers”. So I should get on with the cats, right? This area of Kenya has lions, leopards and cheetah, and we saw all of them.  The most plentiful was the lion, and we saw them many times, sometimes from a hundred yards away and sometimes from a few feet away. Every sighting of them was unique. Most of the time, they were sleeping but not always.  My cat, Sanook, sleeps 18 hours per day so I see it must be just what cats do.  Dawn LOVED every cat sighting.

Here is one of our early sightings in the trip. It was on the first morning, at 6:45am. While the other safari groups have breakfast in the lodge at 6:30am then head out at 7:30am when everyone has showered and look beautiful in their safari clothes, Wild Eye (our group) has a quick coffee and bread at 6:00am, and heads out at 6:10am, just before the sunrise. The cost is needing to wake up in the dark, but the rewards are that you have many more animal sightings. The best time is 6:00am – 8:00am.

This is a pride of male and female lions and their cubs, just hanging out. The last picture is a male lion named SCA .. or maybe SCAR, the South African accent of the guides in the group made me unsure. 🙂  We saw him again later in the trip, so I’ll write more about him later.

This was our first full day using the camera generously loaned to us by Sam Van Loon … and thanks so much to Grant from Wild Eye for taking the time, on the very first day, to show us how to use the camera and get the best photos. I’ll never use auto-focus again.

The Spotted Hyena

We have seen a few packs of hyena on the trip. Certainly not as majestic as a giraffe or an elephant, but an interesting animal. Dawn likes them. They usually hunt in packs, but not always. They are not incredibly fast but they can run for a very long time and when their prey, usually a gazelle, is exhausted from running away, they catch them and the result is not pretty.

We ran across one this morning and he is in the first two pictures. I think we woke him up. Sorry.
The other pictures are of others we saw earlier in the week.  Very early in the trip, we saw one that had just run down a gazelle. The video and pictures of him devouring the gazelle are below. Don’t watch if you do not to see a graphic scene.

I promise, my next post will be something cute and cuddly. 🙂

Birds

BIRDS … I know they don’t seem as exciting as a cheetah kill, or a hyena kill, but Dawn is developing her photography skills, and birds are quite hard to photograph without them being blurry, blending into the background, etc. Your shutter speed and F-stop are critical, as is exposure. Here is some of her work from Saturday and Sunday.

Zebras vs. Lions

Zebras … underrated in my opinion. They aren’t in the “big 5” but they are interesting to watch. My cousin requested zebra posts from Africa. So the rhinos and hippos will have to wait. The first 3 photos are interesting. In the first 2 photos, many zebras are all looking to the east. Why? Look at the 3rd photo, that is what is sizing them up! Lions! (well, the male is, the female is mostly sleeping) There was about 50 yards between them, plenty of time and space for the zebras to escape. So they put their chests out and won the battle as far as I”m concerned. Then they walked away without (hardly) looking back. Score: Zebras 1 Lazy Lions 0.

The Cheetah vs the Oribi

Late morning, we’re driving through a wide open space and we see a cheetah (probably about 100-120 lbs) standing and staring, we stop and he’s looking at a few impala (like deer) way off in the distance. They see him and take off. Wise choice. So we see him walk further, always looking around. About 500 yards away is an oribi (also like a deer, probably about 35 lbs) that is munching grass. The oribi is distracted with eating and the cheetah moves towards the oribi slowly (about a step every 10 seconds). The cheetah can run down the oribi easily (70 mph vs. 20 mph) but the cheetah can only keep this speed for 200-300 yards until she would have to stop from exhaustion then rest for 30 minutes. Our cheetah gets about 40 yards away and goes from stopped to full speed. The oribi realizes this way too late and only gets about 20 years before the cheetah catches her. The cheetah gets her claws into the oribi and brings her down in a cloud of dust. Then she clamps her jaws around the neck of the oribi to suffocate her so she’ll stop struggling. The whole thing is over within a minute and the cheetah carries her victim to a higher ground so she can keep an eye out for scavengers like hyena and vultures. The cheetah spends about 10 minutes panting from exhaustion, then starts a bit on her lunch, eating the upper leg quarters first. She’ll rest for another hour, then eat what she can. Scavengers will get the rest later.

Here are the pics D took during this process. We had great views for the staking then the aftermath (we drove over to it). The actual kill was a bit far to make out exactly whlat happened by the pictures. They are in sequence. The first photo is one of an oribi (taken from the internet).

The video of the cheetah staring to eat the Oribi is the final slide.

 

Planning to go to Kenya for a safari

In late January, we booked a 10-day “Big Cats and Tuskers” safari with Wild Eye (company based in South Africa). We booked them at the last minute, because we had time and they had a couple of spaces left.  Using them was the recommendation of our friend Eric.  We would probably not have pulled the trigger on something like this without a glowing recommendation from a trusted source.

Here is the agenda:

Description
Few African animals inspire like the big cats & large elephants.This safari is specifically designed to showcase these animals within some of the most iconic wildlife destinations in Kenya as we travel to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha.

Itinerary Outline:

  • Day 1: Morning flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 2: Full day Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 3: Full day Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 4: Morning Game drive and road Transfer from Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru National Park, overnight Sarova Lion Hill Lodge Nakuru
  • Day 5: Full day Lake Nakuru National Park, overnight Sarova Lion Hill Lodge Nakuru
  • Day 6:Morning Game drive and road transfer to Lake Naivasha, Overnight Naivasha Sopa Lodge – Afternoon Boat Cruise
  • Day 7: Morning boat Cruise on lake Naivasaha followed by road transfer to Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 8: Full day Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 9: Full day Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 10: Morning Game drive and afternoon flight back to Nairobi.