Page 1

Safari

A journey through Kenya and Tanzania Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

1


Our exploration crew included fellow travelers Nathan (Canada), Lisa and John (UK), Melissa (Australia), Andrzej and Marta (Poland), Tonya, Shauntea, Josse, Joe, and Matthew (USA.) Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Safari A journey through Kenya and Tanzania Our 2010 safari through East Africa took us on a tour through the Rift Valley and the great savannahs of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania - the Heart of Africa. Exploring during the day and camping at night, we gained an appreciation of East Africa and its wildlife from the ground up.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

3


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Setting out from Nairobi, we made our way north to Nakuru National Park in the Rift Valley. Our first exposure to local wildlife was as spectacular as we had hoped it would be... and more. Giraffes, buffalo, baboons and more presented themselves to our band of travellers. Nakuru is a soda lake, strongly alkaline, swimming is not advised for several reasons including skin irritation. Greater and Lesser Flamingoes dot the water’s edge in the thousands scooping up their meals in the productive shallows. The lake sits in the bottom a the rift surrounded by escarpments and tall hills. On the valley floor, savannah-like plains give way to forest, a landscape that provides home, food and shelter to grazing animals and predators alike.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

5


Nakuru gave us our first look at our distant relatives, the monkeys and baboons in this case. The little Velvet Monkeys are cute, but these little thieves will be off with any food they can find in short order if vehicle doors are left ajar. Baboons are more content to stick to their packs where they spend long periods tirelessly grooming each other.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

7


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


These impala graze their way through the valley floor. Rams - sporting their slender curved horns - try to preside over harems of up to 200 ewes and their young. These groupings last only as long as there is abundant food, once the dry season comes and food becomes more scarce, the groups break up as the animals range farther afield in search of food. Impala are surprisingly small, males standing just under a meter in height and females about 25 cm shorter.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

9


Giraffes roam the grassland and the forest in Nakuru where they find grasses and tree leaves to feed on. An anonymous pundit described the giraffe as a pony designed by a committee. The long neck allows the animals to feed high in the acacia trees where their lips and tongues can maneuver the acacia leaves out from between the thorns that cover the branches to discourage such activity. Long legs provide amore reach and speed to out run predators. These Rothschild giraffes were brought to Nakuru in an effort to conserve the subspecies. The Rothschilds are cousins to the Maasai giraffes that inhabit most of the rest of Kenya and Tanzania. Also known as the Baringo Giraffe or Ugandan Giraffe, they are threatened by interbreeding with other types as their population has so few members. Conservation efforts at Nakuru and in Uganda are helping to increase the population.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

11


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Nakuru is also home to populations of White and Black Rhinos. These grazing animals with their distinctive horns have been poached throughout their natural range but are protected in the park. The two species have been relocated to Nakuru from other areas as part of conservation efforts, protecting them from poachers and over-predation. Rhinos are best seen from a distance, they have particularly poor eyesight and will charge almost anything that gets in their field of vision. Luckily most tourists are equipped with cameras sporting telephoto lenses making a close approach unnecessary. The White Rhinos show here less shy than their cousins, preferring to graze in the open grassland areas. We would have to wait several days, and travel many hundreds of miles, for a glimpse of the Blacks.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

13


Two of the less popular residents of the park are the hyena and the white and black storks. Although hyenas are capable of bringing down many of the grazing mammals in the park, they are more often seen cleaning up carcasses left behind by other predators like lions or leopards. The black and white storks are the ultimate carrion eaters, bare heads and necks help the birds stay clean and free of rotting meat. Unpleasant as they may appear storks and hyenas are part of nature’s cleanup squad, preventing disease and contributing to the general health of other animals. Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

15


African buffalo are at home in or out of the water. Populations of buffalo can be found throughout Kenya and Tanzania wherever grassland and water coincide. These large ungulates are an important part of the ecology, moving nutrients from location to location and churning bottom sediments in the shallow waters where hippos do not frequent.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

17


Our accommodation was basic, tents for two and sleeping pads for a little added comfort. Every night we arrived at a new campground, sometimes with other groups, but more often our group had the facilities to ourselves. We pitched our own tents, helped the cook prepare meals and washed up afterwards. No frills, no problem. Many of these seemingly impromptu campgrounds had showers, flush toilets, and‌ a bar.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


This “long drop� rest facility at our first campsite had a curious and possibly instructive sign on the door.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

19


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

21


Second day out, we made our way to Lake Naivasha. Setting out in long boats, we went in search of hippos and other denizens of this aquatic reserve. The hippopotamus, or sea horse, is considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They look slow and harmless, but looks are very deceiving in this case. Hippos are very aggressive and territorial. Capable of achieving speeds of 30 km/hour over short distances they can easily outrunning a person on land. Able to submerge themselves completely, they can come up under boats - sharing the water with hippos is not advised. Most accidents happen when inexperienced adventurers approach too close by boat or on foot. Experienced guides took us in close enough to the creatures for our telephoto lenses to bring them in. The animals are gregarious, living in pods - or “bloats” of 30 or more. In spite of the possible danger - or possibly because of it - the experience was a thrill... the hippopotamus is one of Africa’s magnificent creatures.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

23


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


White herons stalk the shores in search of fish and other small animals that frequent the boundary between water and land. African Fish Eagles can be found anywhere large bodies of water exist. They are visually similar to the bald eagle of North America but are a distinct species occurring only in Africa. Our guides called these majestic birds down from their perches in lakeside trees. A short whistle and a fish thrown out as reward brought the eagles in for close inspection.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

25


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

27


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


For some, the acacia tree standing against the sky is an iconic symbol of the Maasai plain. For others, it is a resting place and a good vantage point to spot the next meal. Giraffes feed on the leaves, vultures perch out of the way of predators. Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

29


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Morning on the Maasai Mara plain is a time of awakening, shafts of light bath the landscape, animals stir... the savannah comes alive. Roaming the plains in our small buses we could see wildlife in all directions. A family of elephants under the watchful eye of their matriarch crossed in front of us as we took in the morning vista. As the largest animal on land, adults have little to fear from predators, the youngsters stay close to their mothers or an older relative for protection and guidance.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

31


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

33


Elephants are at home on the wide open plains or in the more densely forested hillsides. Their dietary habits allow them to eat a wide variety of plant material. They can be seen ripping up clumps of grass or munching on tree leaves with equal relish. Their trucks are a multi-purpose tool for grasping food, caressing their young and for battle with rivals. While they can be a formidable threat to other animals - humans included - they also exhibit great gentleness in their interaction with their own kind. We observed members of a herd wrapping their trucks with each other, a gesture similar to our human habit of shaking hands in greeting. Young elephants use their trucks to stroke other members of the herd for reassurance when they feel alarmed. Their need for companionship is so great that a baby elephant will die with hours or days of losing contact with its family, not from starvation, but from lack of contact. This is why we always see the little ones in close proximity to their mothers, aunts, and older siblings. Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

35


Left to themselves, most elephants are peaceful and gentle giants. The exception to the rule is the lone bull who can be more irritable. Ears extended, this male is giving us a warning, telling us that we need come no closer. Well versed in the behaviour of all the animals on the savannah our guide slowly moved us away to a safer distance. A wise course of action when facing an animal with the size and weight of our vehicle.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

37


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

39


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Dawn on the Maasai Mara also brought us our first sighting of the local zebras. Their morning activities, including a good scratch at an acacia tree and a bit of playful wrestling grabbed out attention immediately. Zebras roam the plain in small and large herds with sentries posted to keep watch for predators like lions and leopards. A member of the horse family, they exist only in Africa. During the great migrations, the Maasai teams with the striped ponies, often intermingled with their fellow travelers, the wildebeests. The zebras of the Maasai Mara are known as the Burchells Zebra. Living for about 20 years, they form groups of 5 or 6 females - a harem - and one male but it is nearly impossible to determine who belongs to which group from casual observation. Zebras evolved to cope with long grass and are usually seen ahead of the antelope in the grazing procession of the migration. By removing the longer grass, zebras allow shorter, more tender plants to grow, providing food for the smaller grazers.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

41


The less obvious and often overlooked inhabitants of the Maasai Mara include many species of birds. Some are scavengers like the storks we first encountered at Nakuru. Others, like the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, with its distinctive bill and red face and neck, prey on insects, snakes other small creatures.

A flash of purple and blue in the bushes brought our attention to the Lilac Breasted Roller, this diminutive bird has a surprisingly large appetite dining on insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents. They prefer wooded areas to open spaces where opportunities to perch are in short supply.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

43


Arguably the most majestic bird on the savannah is the Crested Crane. This crane is the national bird of Uganda and ranges across the sub-Saharan region of Africa including Kenya. They can often be seen in courtship display, which involves dancing, bowing, and jumping. Like most cranes, they dine on insects, small lizards and seeds depending on what is on offer for their dining pleasure.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

45


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


As the migration intensifies, so do the number of wildebeest, an ungainly creature in the habit of darting about frantically then settling down to grazing, all for no apparent reason. The wildebeest - or gnu - has been described as being an animal made up from spare parts, close inspection of the animals tends to confirm the observation.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

47


Usually seen in the company of zebras, the wildebeest comprise the majority of the migrating animals. Numbering in the millions, they can be see across the Maasai plain from dawn till dusk. Their close association with zebras comes from the ability of the wildebeest to react quickly to alarm calls from other animals like baboons, and the superior eyesight of the zebra spotting predators at a greater distance. The two species do not compete for the same food, so there is no interspecies rivalry.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

49


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

51


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Maasai Giraffe or Kilimanjaro Giraffe is the tallest land animal alive. Inhabiting most of Kenya and Tanzania, this species sports jagged spots and can reach heights of over 6 meters. Generally a peaceful animal, a well placed kick from a giraffe can crush a lion’s skull. Like their cousins at Nakuru, the Maasai giraffes graze on grasses and tall trees as their tastes dictate. Giraffes can be seen in silhouette standing on ridges in the distance, looking like guardians of the realm.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

53


Following the larger grazers, the more diminutive antelope move in to take advantage of the new shoots of grasses and other plants uncovered by the zebras and wildebeests. Several species of antelope can be seen across the plain and in the boundary woodlands. The Thompson’s Gazelle are small creatures about two thirds of a meter tall. They can be distinguished by their facial markings and the black stripe on their sides.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


The hartebeest is a one of the larger members of the antelope family, standing 1.5 meters tall. They look big, until you see them standing beside a zebra, then their real size becomes apparent. Like other antelopes, the hartebeest grazes on plants left growing in the wake of the zebra and wildebeest migration. Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

55


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Lions have become used to vehicles on the plain and are fairly tolerant of tourists and their cameras. Stepping outside of a vehicle would be a mistake, they don’t mind the trucks, but they feel entirely differently about people on foot. Whether this behaviour stems from previous encounters or us being a tempting meal is unclear, needless to say we did not test any of the theories. The cubs in this group are not all her own offspring. While other females are out hunting, one or two will stay behind to baby sit, protecting the cubs from being killed by males from other prides or lone males who want to take over. The lionesses tolerate the activities of the cubs as they snuggle, climb and play at hunting. Her watchful eyes note every movement around her and the cubs without showing alarm.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

57


Under the watchful eye of their nanny, the cubs set out on patrol, testing their prowess at stalking and pouncing, all in a days work for a top predator to be. When the cubs range too far afield, their nanny calls them back with a low roar or, failing that, she will walk over to pick them up by the scruff of the neck.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

59


Lionesses protect their young against predation until they are old enough to venture out on their own. Adolescent males are driven off to live a more nomadic lifestyle until they mature and can form their own prides. During this time, males may form small nonbreeding groups with other males and immature females from other prides.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

61


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


While taking a break from viewing life out on the savannah, we noticed two cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal. These big cats are capable of reaching speeds of 120 km/hr, ten kilometers per hour faster than highway speeds at home in Canada. Cheetahs are generally solitary by nature but young adults, often siblings, may stay in pairs until they fully mature. Where the lions stalks, the cheetah slinks with a fluid motion that is poetry and dance combined.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

63


The Mara river presents a major obstacle to the migrating herds of wildebeest, zebras and their companions. The best crossings are usually also the narrowest and fastest flowing spots on the river. Steep banks restrict crossing to a few places where shallower slopes allow easier access. Hippos frequent the waters of the Mara throughout the year, witnessing the great migration as it passes first one direction and then the other.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

65


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Hippos may live in and along the Mara in relative safety, the crocodiles have a different intention for migrating river crossers. Wildebeest are usually the first to take the plunge often straight into the jaws of the crocs. There is some debate about the actions of zebras during the chaotic crossings. The striped equines have been observed herding wildebeest into the river to attract the reptiles making it easier for themselves to cross in relative safety. Hundreds of wildebeest and zebras die at each crossing but many thousands survive to continue their trek across the Maasai Mara.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

67


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

69


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Getting caught up in the grandeur of the Maasai landscape, we nearly missed spotting a black-backed jackal, the little thief of the savannah. Jackals do hunt and they are adept at catching small prey like birds and lizards, but they are just as happy stealing from other predators like eagles and turtles. The little canines are reclusive and, being small enough to hide in the tall grass, often go unseen.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

71


Leaving the Maasai Mara and Kenya behind we made our way to Tanzania. Our first night there found us camped on the shore of Lake Victoria. With camp set up in time to have dinner and get a few beers from the pub, we sat back to watch an African sunset. Morning brought donkey-belly-grey skies with enough breeze to drive the dhows small sailing boats - out onto the lake. Dhows are the vessel of choice for local fishers, with the number of people we saw in some boats it makes one wonder where they put the fish.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

73


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Moving on from Lake Victoria, we made our way to the Serengeti Reserve, the southern extension of the savannah that includes the Maasai Mara to the north. Balloon rides over the Serengeti plains give visitors a birds eye view of the landscape and its many inhabitants. The change in perspective doesn’t come cheap, at 700,000 Tanzanian Shillings ($500) per person, we were content to look at the wildlife from the confines of our bus.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

75


With most of the migratory animals having made their way to the north in search of new pastures, we contented ourselves with exploring the different habitats that the Serengeti offers. Where there is any amount of water, there are hippos. One individual seemed to be trying out his stealth techniques. The image of baboons sitting in a tree seemed to be quintessentially African, right out of an explorer’s tale.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

77


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

79


Martial eagles aren’t a common sight in the northern part of their range so we considered ourselves to be lucky in spotting one enjoying the spoils of a successful hunt. This species is one of the largest of the eagles with a wing span in excess of 2.6 meters. These powerful predators have a wide ranging diet which includes birds, reptiles and mammals, particularly small baboons and monkeys. As an apex predator, healthy Martial eagles have no predators.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

81


Part of our exploration led us to a sight that prompted one of our companions to wonder if this was where they filmed the Lion King. Someone reminded her that the Lion King was an animated movie. But on second thought, these outcroppings could have inspired the landscape in that story. With the movie in mind the image of a baboon sitting atop the rocks gave the place a surreal feeling.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

83


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

85


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Travelling east we came to Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania's Crater Highlands. The conservation area includes the Olduvai Gorge where it all started for the family of man some 3 million years ago. The volcanic crater was formed about 2 million years ago when the 5,000 meter volcano collapsed. The rim of the crater sits at approximately 2,700 meters elevation the crater floor lies 600 meters below. Camping over night on the rim - it was cold - we were surrounded by buffalo that grazed between our tents. Waking to realize that we had survived the night, we broke camp and boarded Land Rovers to descend to the crater floor in search of wildlife and vistas.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

87


Jacob’s Rays lit the crater floor as the sun crested the rim. With the dawn, the crater came to life, large and small animals made their entrance and our viewing began. Lions can be seen surveying their domain, sometimes looking for the next kill and sometimes just relaxing. The lion population in Ngorongoro Crater is not as healthy as their relatives in other parts of the region owing to a lack of genetic diversity. Too few lions leave the crater and too few migrate in to bring new blood. This is not a new condition, wildlife agencies are monitoring but making changes would be difficult and possibly disastrous for the lions.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

89


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


African or “Cape� buffalo patrol the crater grazing on the tough plants that grow here. The buffalo are one of the Big Five group which includes lions, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants. We were limited to four of the five, failing to find the elusive leopard.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

91


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

93


Missing out on seeing the Black rhinos at Nakuru, we were pleased to see them in the crater. Mother and calf kept a wary eye on our vehicle until they determined that we were not a threat, then they wandered off on rhino business.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

95


Wild boar can be seen throughout east Africa including Ngorongoro. Not being particularly bright, they will run from predators and then stop as if forgetting what they were doing, often with disastrous results. Wildebeest and zebra herds cover the crater floor. While they are endemic to the crater, they do make their way to the rim during the rainy season to avoid the flooding.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

97


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


As we made our way out of the crater, we passed through dense rainforest. Looking back into the crater brought home the juxtaposition of the two different environments. We had the good fortune to spot one of the Coke’s Hartebeest indigenous to the Ngorongoro region.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

99


Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Lake Manyara - Tanzania

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

101


The David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage on the outskirts of Nairobi cares for rescued baby elephants. Keepers spend virtually 24 hours a day with their charges. The young elephants bond to their care givers so strongly that the humans and elephants

sleep in the same place. The best time to arrive is before feeding time when the young elephants come out to gulp down large quantities of milk substitute and to play in the mud. Like most young

mammals, they rough-house with their adopted siblings, playing and wrestling like children everywhere.

Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania


Caregivers keep the youngsters covered in dirt and mud to protect their delicate skin from sun and abrasion‌ they seem to enjoy it.

Many thanks to the great adventure people at G-adventures and special thanks to Wilson, our primary guide, Silliman, our driver and load master, and to our cook Nick.

Images and text copyright John Nicklin - 2012 - All rights reserved

103


Copyright 2012 - John Nicklin Safari - A journey through Kenya and Tanzania

Safari  

A journey through Kenya and Tanzania in search of the Big Five Species