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Rock Hyrax - the teeth are analogous to an Elephant's tusks ... this animal's distant relative. l
A very cooperative mother Leopard and cub.

Trip Report: Kenya January 2018

The Northern Circuit
Trip Report


This trip was quite different from our previous Kenya Photo Safaris as we did not go to the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the usual destination for every photo safari. We did not because we were continuing on, from Kenya, to Tanzania where we'd have all of the species we'd have seen in the Masai Mara.

Instead, doing 'the Northern Circuit,' we concentrated on those species not found in the Mara, including the best Black Rhinocerous photography you'll find in East Africa. We were quite successful -- not only for Rhinos but also with some great birds, Kudu, and Leopards. Here's the Trip Report.

Everyone arrived in Nairobi a day or more earlier, with their luggage, always an auspicious start. Steve and Loreli did a trip into Nairobi National Park, which went better than they expected – they had a family of three Black Rhinos, and Greg returned to Nairobi after three days in Tsavo National Park, where on the last day he did extremely well with elephants whose tusks reached the ground and who were among the 14 still existing giant tuskers in Africa.

Day 1, January 24, 2018. To Samburu

We left Nairobi at 8AM, having done our orientation briefing at dinner the evening prior, stopping en route at a curio shop where spotted Fruit Bats hang from a tree above the parking area. At lunch, at our restaurant on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, we photographed Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, and Mt. Kenya Blue Sykes Monkeys, the latter probably better than we ever had before. The caretaker offers potato peelings to these primates, and the Colobus are so well habituated that sometimes one will climb on his shoulders, while several he can pat on their black-crowned head.

m  m

Crossing the highlands near Mt. Kenya we had a good rain storm, and later, we were told, Isiolo, the last town/city before Samburu, also had rain. This is noteworthy since we are in the middle of the dry season.
We reached the Samburu gate by 5, arriving in camp at 5:25 after brief stops for Gerenuk (Mary guessed the first animal spotted), Somalia Ostrich (we saw none when I was here in October), and scattered antelope. The river, which flooded and caused our evacuation from this camp in October, with waters that reached to within a foot of the elevated tent platforms, was now a sandy riverbed, with a mere trickle going down the center. Quite a difference. That evening, as we sat having a glass of wine before dinner, bats swirled around our porch light, and I wondered whether I should have brought infrared triggers and flashes along. By dinner, less than 30 minutes later, the bats had gone. Apparently the feeding frenzy around the porch light is the first stop in their nightly hunt.

Day 2, January 25, 2018. Samburu

We loaded at 6:30 and were on the road by 6:35, ten minutes before the sun rose and nearly 30 minutes later than we would load in October. Despite the fact that we’re only a few degrees above the equator, where we should have 12 hours of light and 12 of darkness, the actual times of sunrise and sunset are quite different. At 7PM, we still had light, whereas in October we’d have had pitch darkness.
Right outside of camp we found very fresh Leopard tracks, and our vehicles scattered to search for the cat. I headed up an acacia-lined lugga and back down, while Mary’s vehicle covered the river and salt flats. We were unsuccessful in the search.
In October, at the end of a punishing drought where we saw dead Oryx and Grevy’s Zebra, the land was barren, with virtually no grass, anywhere. When we evacuated this camp the rains had begun, and the land rejuvenated, and now new growth covered the ground everywhere. Back into the dry season the grasses are dead once again, but it was heartening to see the land rebound, and once more be covered with vegetation. The contrast is simply incredible – although the game was no more abundant now than it was in October. Fortunately, however, there were no goats or sheep grazing within the park.
Our first subject was a good one, a colony of Dwarf Mongoose at a termite mound. There were two or three nearly mouse-sized babies out, apparently being baby-sat by teen-agers. Eventually the adults of the group wandered off to forage, and the young retreated back into the mound for a nap.
mWe found two male Lions sleeping beneath a bush, which we ignored, and a short time later had a beautiful bull Greater Kudu. Following this spiral-horned antelope as it moved along a ridge, then descended towards us, I was about to do video when it broke into a run, going by our vehicle as I held up a viewfinder-less camera, now on live view! I missed the shot. We called everyone in and followed the Kudu up the Leopard Ridge, and just as we were turning to head to a breakfast spot the bull descended and headed to the river. We intersected its route and got a series of great shots as it trotted towards and passed us.
After breakfast we checked out the Lions again, now moving and following a Lioness. When they settled in the shade we thought the shoot was over and we headed downriver, but so did the cats, and the Lioness performed a wonderful stalk – lightly running forward, then freezing and dropping to her belly, every time a male Impala raised his head. She  got within 100 yards before the goofus males who were following her sauntered into plain view, alerting the Impala that sprinted off.
eOur last subject, around 10:30AM, were the herds of Elephants that were now either drinking from wells, or digging wells into the sand to reach water. One collared matriarch dug with her front legs, and upon completion of the well was displaced by a male. More joined the herd, some sliding down and almost getting stuck in the  sand of the steep river bank. Eventually they wandered off and we headed to camp, under a cloudless sky and baking sun.

lPM. We loaded at 4:15 on what was a very hot afternoon. Two of our three vehicles headed downriver, looking for ostrich and zebra. We found neither, but downriver there was more water than we’d seen, and we had a large herd of Elephants drinking from the pools rather than digging for wells. When leaving the river the herd walked by us, with two or three pausing to gather a trunk full of dusk for an impressive dust bath. Peter, one of our guides, posted a cellphone photo he made on Whatsapp, calling the shot the smoking elephant. Mary’s vehicle had a large bull elephant that was quite calm, and they ended up doing eyeball shots at less than 15 feet, a rarity with bulls.

We continued inland, stopping for a Pale Chanting Goshawk, a Secretarybird nest, Desert Warthogs, and Grant’s Gazelles. I headed to the hills where I had a Striped Hyena den in October. No hyena was there, but there was a well-used, fresh-looking burrow at the same site, so I suspect the hyena is still there. We found fresh leopard tracks, which were going in the opposite direction we were heading, so we did a U-turn and retraced our steps, but we never saw the cat. One of our vehicles had a Lion, making that 4 lions for the day (one repeat – total of 3 separate lions).
We arrived back at camp at 6:55, with some light, but too dim for any photography.

Day 3, January 26, 2018. Samburu

Three times during the night we were awakened by the roar of Lions. Although the sound carries, especially in the still night air, it sounded as if the Lions were just across the river. We suspect it was the two males we’d seen yesterday, but the chorus sounded as if there were more than two.
The night was warm and we expected a blazing hot morning, but the temperature was warm but not unpleasant. I was with Steve and Lorelei and we had a great morning, including Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Greater Kudu, and a variety of birds. White-throated Bee-eaters were especially cooperative, and I did some slow motion video as one flew into a roadside branch. Greg’s vehicle found a den of Striped Hyenas, rather far off but with a half-grown cub, in the general area where I had this Hyena in October. Closer to that den Mary’s vehicle also had a Striped Hyena, that retreated up into the hillside.
The  morning game drive lasted until 11:45, late for the temperatures here, but indicative of a very productive morning of shooting.

PM. A spectacular afternoon, and probably one of the best, if not THE best, Leopard encounter we ever had.
We left at 4:30 to beat the heat, and the drive was productive. I spotted a Rosy Patched Bush-Shrike beside the track, that cooperated by hopping up to a branch at eye-level. Soon after, and quite surprising, we had a male Yellow-necked Spurfowl on a small bush. Normally these chicken-like birds are scurrying on the ground, and only during the breeding season will they take a prominent spot to crow, and usually in the morning. This one, outside the breeding season and mid-afternoon, was performing as we’d expect months earlier.

Mary’s vehicle had a flock of Vultures bathing in a small pool at the river, and tonight at dinner Peter, one of our guides, told us that Kenya’s vulture population has declined by 75%, and in all of Africa by about 95%. The value of a vulture, in terms of clean-up, is valued at over a million dollars, yet they are being killed by poison – cows killed by Lions are laced with poison that then kills any lion, leopard, hyena, jackal, or vulture that scavenges at the kill. Edwin, one of our other guides, said a poisoned cow carcass near Aitong resulted in a complete lack of predators for a 60 km radius. Everything was killed.
lWhile we were searching for the cause of some birds’ alarm calls we were told of a Leopard and cub on the Buffalo Springs side of the river. We raced there, finding about four other vehicles positioned near a fallen log where the Leopards were feeding, and barely visible. While we were attempting to get into position the female left the kill and walked down to the lugga below, where she laid in the open. We repositioned ourselves for a good view, and a few minutes later the cub raced out from the kill, running across the lugga and hiding in the brush. Luckily, a few minutes later the cub reappeared, walked down the lugga, and joined her mother. The shooting was superb.
After at least a half hour the Leopardess returned to the kill, but instead of feeding there she turned around and started back to the lugga, where the cub remained. To our total shock the Leopardess was carrying a  three-foot long Nile Crocodile! At the bottom of the lugga she dropped it, and the cub picked up the croc and straddling it, carried the kill up into bushes.
We returned to the main track and positioned ourselves to try to see the cub. While doing so, the Leopardess climbed into a tree nearby and laid down. My vehicle was in a good position, but having shot plenty, and to give access to one of our vehicles that did not, we headed for home. After we left the cub, to my surprise, climbed up onto the tree limb to join the mom – the highlight of the day for that last vehicle’s occupants.
The leopard encounter was the best or most unique one we’ve had in Samburu in 30 years!

Day 4, January 27, 2018. Samburu – Buffalo Springs

gEncouraged by yesterday’s success, and as we had planned to do a game drive here, we drove fairly directly to the Buffalo Springs side of the river. My vehicle followed the course of the now almost completely dry riverbed, passing, on the opposite bank, one of the lodges where, years ago, leopards were baited for viewing, with the bait placed on our side of the river. Back then, the bait area was located in a large grove of towering acacia trees and palms, perfect leopard habitat. This morning, as we drove into this the contrast was depressing. The forest is virtually gone, and now most of the trees are nothing more than vertical, broken tree trunks, skeleton fingers sticking up into a cloudless sky. As we drove through the area I recognized many of the old fallen logs where we so often had leopards, and I was hopeful that one of the tree trunks would have a cat perched and watching for game. It still occurs, but the chances are now greatly reduced.
Mary’s vehicle took an upper route that passed by a rocky area we called the hyrax rocks, and she reported seeing a fair amount of Gerenuk, Impala, and Grant’s Gazelles. My route was game-free. When I was here in October the area was at the end of a serious drought, where virtually all the grassy groundcover was gone. Samburu herdsmen had brought in their cows and goats and sheep and had stripped the area bare. We saw dead Grevy’s Zebras and Beisa Oryx, and Impalas so thin their hip bones and ribs were visible. By the time we left Samburu the rains had arrived, and the grasses returned, although all are now dried with the onset of the dry season. The damage seems done, however, with a very, very reduced population of game.
We searched the lugga area where we had the Leopard and cub yesterday but the cats had vanished. The three foot long Crocodile probably was the cub’s dinner and last night I suspect the Leopard went hunting again. A huge troop of Olive Baboon followed the Isiolo River course, heading in the direction of the cats, which guaranteed that they’d be hidden from view. Baboons will kill leopards if they get the chance, and the Leopards seek cover when baboons are spotted. Karen shot a nice series of the Baboons with babies riding jockey-style, or hanging on to their mother’s butt, or hanging suspended beneath her belly, and one mother dragged her baby along by its tail.
kBy 11 we were headed home, and not too far from camp Peter spotted a Lioness hunting. We arrived in time to see the warthog casually trotting passed us, followed a few minutes later by a searching and very thin Lioness. She appeared to have been nursing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her cubs hadn’t survived. At camp a poster requesting photos of lions for a study drew our attention. The posted informed us that there are now less than 2,000 lions left in Kenya, and they may be extinct in Kenya within two decades. From human over-population, habitat loss, and reprisals for livestock predation.
PM. We left at 4:30 after a confusing scramble to find someone’s missing beanbag, but with the heat it didn’t matter. We started with a herd of Oryx, with one male circling a female in an attempt to mate, but she eventually ran off and merged with the herd. My vehicle continued towards the mountain where we’ve had Klipspringer, and en route had a family of Somalia Ostrich that were not particularly cooperative. lMy guide today was a bit reluctant to cross a very sandy fjord, which I agreed with, and so we circled around in a long detour before arriving at the Striped Hyena den that Zachary had discovered yesterday. A pup, as small as a black-colored Spotted Hyena baby, was outside the den, but had the entire pattern of the adult, who lay outside the den, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. We started shooting from a considerable distance but eventually moved closer, and the pair were oblivious to our presence. After fifteen minutes or so the adult wandered off, presumably for the evening foraging, and the pup retreated back to the den.
We departed, planning on joining the others who were on the Lioness from this morning who was now hunting. Sadly, Grant’s Gazelles spotted her and the hunt was ruined. Everyone continued on for a Sundowner hosted by our camp, which was a wonderful way to end three rather slow but extremely unique – and GREAT – experiences here.
Day 5, January 28, 2018. Samburu to Lewa Downs

kWe began loading the vehicles for our departure to Lewa Downs around 6:15AM, and were on the road by 6:40. We headed to the Striped Hyena den, following Zachary’s lead. At one point Peter and I thought we were on the wrong road (they did drive up the wrong route), and we back-tracked, only to get a radio call that the den was ahead of us on our original route. When we arrived the adult was circling the den and we stopped further up the hill, and were lucky when the adult Hyena circled us reasonably closely before continuing off. Steve, Lorelei, and I stayed in the area as I expected her to return but she did not. In the interim we photographed Golden-breasted Starlings and, higher up, a flock of Vulturine Guineafowl.
Edwin’s vehicle had incredible luck with Sunbirds, getting five different species that were investigating a Pearl-spotted Owlet. Mary’s vehicle had a good warthog and reflection at the river, and we all met at 8:45 for a field breakfast before heading on to Lewa Downs.
The private conservancy is huge, rolling grasslands that provide a view of Mt. Kenya from the higher hills. We saw little game coming in, but supposedly there are five lion prides here, and plenty of black rhinos. Most distressing, however, was learning that Lewa Downs has a TWO VEHICLE LIMIT around the larger game. Since we have three vehicles, we thought this would be a major problem that our outfitter, Origins, should  have informed us of prior to coming. This afternoon Mary and I will split, as we always do to lead, but depending on what happens Mary, me, and Carolyn may take one vehicle so that the other two won’t be screwed by this restriction. If need be, we’ll either go last into a viewing, or pass on it entirely and just scout for new subjects for the group. This is, however, a real negative that I hope I’m over-reacting to prior to our afternoon, first game drive here.

NOTE: As it turned out it was NEVER a problem. We scattered as we usually do, and came together when we had a sighting everyone needed to see. The two vehicle limit never came into play ... my over-reaction was for nothing!



PM. My over-reacting was just that. Our afternoon game drive was really rewarding and diverse, and everyone had a great time. We started with a rather mundane scene of Hartebeest, with Elephants in the background. But while we filmed them, a rare Side-striped Jackal ran passed, in front of the other animals. Later, from about a half mile away, Mary spotted a Lioness (naked eye!) and a road led in that direction where we photographed a fairly shy pride.
Afterwards, Carolyn spotted a hen Ostrich on a nest, her head telescoping above the grasses, and soon after a Taita Gray-backed Shirke that was very cooperative, as was a European Roller. A Black-backed Jackal that ran down the road in front of us eventually veered off to the side, and was quite cooperative, leading us to the huge marsh where we photographed a female Black Rhino, with a nearly full-grown calf beside her. The  Rhino had one of the longest horns I’d seen, and oddly it was the second horn that was thicker and longer than the front horn, which was long and thin, but not as long or impressive.
In view at one time were Buffalo, Elephant, and Rhino –three of the Big Five, and we had four in the afternoon, and all five with the Leopard we had in Samburu. Although vast stretches of this 68,000 acres Conservancy seems empty, there is a lot of game. I was riding with Carolyn and Ray, and both Carolyn and I commented on the difference with the Masai Mara where the looming encroachment of Maasai herdsmen is always present. In the Mara, these days, in the evening you see lights everywhere from the innumerable lodges, but here, from a high hill, I could see three or four lone spots of lights – otherwise the area looked primeval. If I were doing a movie featuring old Africa, I would film it here – the Masai Mara, with all its countless roads, would be impossible to recreate a sense of the past.
At dinner tonight in addition to highlights we talked about deadly animals, and Zachary told us about Ostriches running down and killing kids who stole eggs, and of a golfer at a resort that was trashed by an Ostrich that appeared on the fairways. I am thoroughly impressed with Lewa Downs.

Day 6, January 29, 2018. Lewa Downs

We prepared to leave at our usual time but a hold up with drinks being delivered to the vehicle put us  back 5 minutes or  so. Although past sunrise, hills blocked the morning sun for the herd of Giraffe that walked along the horizon, silhouetted against the golden sky.
We continued on, stopping for a White Rhino that walked towards us from a distant field, stopping just in front of us before veering off to drink at a muddy waterhole. Oxpeckers scuttled along its face and horns, and the rhino was Greg’s highlight. Shortly afterwards we heard Vervet Monkeys barking alarm calls, and we checked the acacia forest but found nothing. Just off the public road that runs through the Conservancy we had Grevy’s Zebras dust bathing, rolling in the same location as several passed.
Mary’s vehicle spotted a Cheetah, that vanished as they approached but suddenly popped up in the grasses not too far from their vehicle. Later, I had it too, and saw that it was a female that we believe was close to giving birth. Mary spotted a Hartebeest about to give birth, with the calf’s nose and forelegs sticking out, but the mother was shy and moved off the road.
We all assembled on a hill for breakfast – one of the best field breakfastes we’ve ever had in Kenya, overlooking the valley and with Mt. Kenya visible along the southern skyline. African Buffalo with oxpeckers, and the Cheetahs were other highlights of the morning.
PM. We left at 4:30 and my vehicle headed into rolling country of steep canyons and high hills. Descending into one valley Edwin, our guide, told me that this area was opened to the Elephants relatively recently, and the Elephants are certainly destroying the trees. One area really puzzled us, with several trees knocked down and the area around it grassless and disturbed, as if earth-moving equipment had been here. The trees appeared to have been pushed, and were knocked down at random, which looked like the work of Elephants. This was somewhat of a mystery, but if it was the work of Elephants it was destructive.
Edwin pointed out a new Longclaw for me – the Pangani Longclaw, that resembles a Yellow-throated Longclaw but with a restricted yellow throat. We continued through relatively gameless country until we reached the marshes, where scores of Grevy’s Zebras and a several dozen Common Zebras paraded passed. En route we stopped for a large family of Ostrich that were attended to by a small group of Carmine Bee-eaters, a very rare migrant from southern Africa. The bee-eaters were following the Ostriches, that kicked up insects that the other birds captured. We also had a mother White Rhino and calf near to the road, and Mary and Steve got some nice shots when they dropped lower, getting the rhinos against the skyline.

Day 7, January 30, 2018. Lewa Downs

lWe left at 6:15 to try catching early light on new subjects.
We were barely out of camp when we had a Black Rhino, still deep in shadow in the predawn light, with a string of Zebras on the horizon. My vehicle passed on both, hoping to find the wild dog that was reported, but Mary stayed with the Rhino and got shots as the light intensified.
I found nothing on the high plains, although we were at a high elevation to see the sun rise above the far eastern mountains. We headed up a beautiful acacia valley with steep cliffs, named Hunkin’s Valley for, supposedly, a man who camped here and was taken by a lion. Bush and Rock Hyrax sunned themselves on the cliffs, and I spotted a Batelur Eagle on a nest – quite open, had the bird stood.
Following a lugga we heard Helmeted Guineafowl complaining, and found an African Hawk-Eagle had grabbed a half-grown chick. The Eagle flew to a mound where it was surrounded by cackling guineafowl. When it took flight, carrying the kill to a tree, I shot slow motion video while Mary did stills.
Later, near the marsh, another Black Rhino, this one with a young calf, was fairly close to the road and facing the camera. Two of our vehicles got nice shots but our vehicle got into position too late – one of the shooters wanted a side shot, and that several second delay was enough time for the baby to rejoin the mother and for the two to turn away, walking back into the grasslands. Fortunately two of our three vehicles got the shot – one of the best encounters for the trip.
Lewa Downs hosted a Field Breakfast for us this morning, which took place at 9AM, a convenient time that was after peak wildlife action and angular light. Chairs, htables, and cooked eggs were a treat!
Afterwards we headed back to the acacia forest to look for the Leopards, unsuccessfully, and then on to the marshes where we photographed Elephant and Common Waterbuck. On the way back we had a pair of Eland and Mary’s vehicle went up the valley for more Hyrax. We arrived back at camp at 11:30.
PM. We left at 4:15, under partly cloudy skies and storm clouds gathered over Mt. Kenya. At a lugga we found a Lioness, and soon after one of Lewa Downs’ park wardens who was walking across the grasslands. The Lioness expressed some interest, which elicited worries and wonder on the part of some who worried that the Lioness might hunt the warden. She did not, and the man safely walked by, an easy 200 yard from the lion.
Later, close to where this morning we had a huge assemblage of animals, including Rhino and Elephant, another man was walking. Through my binocs I could see that he was constantly looking left and right, watching for game, but with the rolling hills a Buffalo or Rhino or Elephant could have surprised him but luckily as we watched, at least, he travelled through safely.
We had a bull Elephant accompanying a cow with two calves of about the same age, which we suspect one was adopted by the mother. The bull provided some great shots.
At the marsh the Grevy’s Zebras passed by on the same route they did yesterday, and we had some good shooting. Also at the marsh we had one African Buffalo whose horn shape was almost identical to an Asiatic Water Buffalo. This animal stood almost motionless as it watched us for minutes, and until we suggested it was a Disney fake it didn’t move.
We had a report of a Lion, which we did not find,but at the end of the day an enormous troop of baboons entered the same forest and, as we were leaving to drive home, the baboons must have spotted the cat. They climbed trees and gave alarm calls, signifying they spotted the cat that we could not.

lDay 8, January 31, 2018. Lewa Downs and Sweetwaters

We loaded at 6:15, had a cooked breakfast, and were on the road by 6:50. We headed to the swamp area where we had the same mother Black Rhino and calf that we’ve seen several times. At the same spot where we had our field cooked breakfast we had the Rhinos, which were headed towards the main road and the swamp. After getting shots at the forest (breakfast area), my vehicle headed back to the road to intersect the rhinos as they crossed. Steve, Lorelei, and Carolyn hadn’t made their move when the Rhino and calf actually approached their vehicle, posing together, quite close to one another for some great shots. Remarkably, it wasn’t the highlight for some! The rhinos did eventually come to the road and we got similar shots, although not quite as close together.
Meanwhile, Mary’s vehicle went looking for the Leopard and cub, but once again the cats eluded us. We met at the main gate at 9 for the drive to Sweetwater, stopping en route at Nanuki for various supplies. We arrived at our last destination at noon.
PM. Sweetwater. We had to close our roof hatches shortly after starting our game drive as storm clouds building over Mt. Kenya dumped a steady, light rain upon us as well. We headed to the rhino corral where Barak, a blind Black Rhino, is housed. The rhino is now quite tame and all of us fed it handfuls of hay, and petted its surprisingly soft and subtle muzzle and face. About five years ago we were here, when Barak had had his horn sawed off, but not, except for a slightly squarish tip, the horn has regrown to 15 inches or so.
After the rhino visit the rain stopped and we continued on the game drive. Several of us walked along the Usaso Nyero River to a hippo pool, for a very lame view of two hippos. Continuing, we searched for lions that had totally consumed a buffalo, and finished the day at a marsh where we also photographed an African Fish Eagle, Snipe, and Maribu Stork.

Day 9, February 1, 2018. Sweetwaters

With the slopes of Mt. Kenya blocking the eastern horizon we didn’t load until 6:30, heading out into relatively gameless plaines. Jackman’s Hartebeest were new to me, with straighter horns and a uniform body color distinguishing this species from Coke’s. We were hoping to find the Lion pride that had killed the buffalo, and although we saw fresh tracks, and the kill itself had been fed upon and moved, the cats eluded us.
A trio of White Rhinos engaged in a semi-serious fight. A female with a nearly full grown male calf was fighting with a mature (or almost) bull. The distance was too great and some brush intervened and the fight at times involved one of the adults horning the other in the belly and lifting it so that the hind legs were off the ground. No injuries resulted.
We headed down for some Reticulated Giraffes, that here sport white legs like the Rothschild subspecies, and while we were involved with that the three Rhinos continued their spat, moving closer to one of the roads. We spent over a half hour with them as the two males now sparred, with the female no longer showing any interest. We faced the sun, so the kicked up dust made for a  more dramatic image than we’d have obtained otherwise. Afterwards we headed for a field breakfast that certainly rivaled Lewa Downs (at least in the quantity, although Lewa’s was still the best). From there we went to the Chimp Sanctuary where two groups of chimpanzees rescued from various atrocious conditions now live in a fenced in area. At night the chimps are lured back to a house (as they call it) where they spend the night, and where various chimps may be separated if new additions are brought in. One of the chimps stands completely upright like a human, caused by a its first 9 years living in a narrow cage where standing upright was the only option. Four of the newer chimps were rescued while being smuggled out in a wooden crate just large enough for the chimp to fit inside. They were destined for the Middle East pet trade, so I suspect they were still small. Egyptians were doing the  smuggling, claiming that they were shipping dogs, but when a chimp’s finger appeared through one of the air holes they were caught.
Hot and sunny, the chimps stayed in the shade with only a few visiting the edge of the heavily fortified electric fence for a peanut treat.  Perhaps most interesting was the tourist safety cage where tourists must flee to if a chimp escapes from the enclosure. It happens, and tourists are directed to stay in the center of the 15 foot square box so that they’ll be out of reach of the sticks the chimps poke through the bars. Chimps will climb to the top of the cage and stab down, too, which must be pretty terrifying for some.
We returned by 11:30, and as we drove in Edwin, one of our guides, commented on the very poor luck we were having here. Normally the game is much better, but for us, this has been a disappointment.
PM. Our last game drive. We left at 4:15 under clear skies, although over Mt. Kenya storm clouds covered most of the slope and all of the peaks. We headed to a new area in the more ‘primitive’ section and on the wide-open plains we spotted two Lionesses. They were walking across the open field towards the scattered acacia forest, and the cats were quite distant. After Karen got some record shots we moved on, hoping to find something more promising.
We hadn’t traveled far when we received a radio call that the cats had turned and were now headed to the road. We raced back, and all three of our vehicles were lined up as the two Lionesses walked towards us, only veering around my vehicle  at the last moment, coming almost directly into Greg’s view. We must stay on track here and so we sped as quickly as we could to another cross-road, where we had the cats cross in front of us once more. The cats moved into another stand of scattered acacia trees where they were spotted by Impala, who announced their presence to us via their alarm snorts, but we didn’t see them again.
We were told later that there are three Lionesses, all with cubs, and we assume that the third was baby-sitting the cubs. The two we saw were definitely nursing.
Earlier in the game drive we had African Spoonbills foraging close to the road and another Maribu Stork with a catfish. This one the Stork successfully swallowed. We ended the day with shots of Mt. Kenya, now poking above the clouds, and an acacia tree framed by God-beams. We arrived back in camp around 6:45, with a very pleasant ending to this leg of the trip and the end of the safari.

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