Archive for March, 2009
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Only a few years ago, traveling in Africa and interacting with wildlife was much different from what it is now. Only three years ago, going through the same parks we are visiting right now, Vova (our brilliant partner-in-crime for this African expedition, with whom we will be reunited soon in Ethiopia) hugged rhinos and sneaked to the top of Mt. Kenya for the adventure and to avoid paying for the mandatory guide. Now, Morani, the world-famous tame rhino, has died of old age, and climbers are no longer obligated to take a guide if they claim to know where they are going. To survive, some parks, like Ol Pejeta here, try to attract tourists by selling them a glimpse into today’s Africa which is all about conservation of the wild and integration of it with farming. In fact, it’s also the Africa of the past, only now it’s trendier to promote separation from human intervention, rehabilitation, and release back into the wild, than to have something with fangs or horns as a pet.
Today’s Africa (like the rest of the world) is all about technology. Many animals here have radio transmitters, some even permanently drilled in, like the ones in rhino horns. One activity option is to join a researcher in tracking lions or elephants. Rangers have it much easier these days: the moment Dumbo decides to step out of line (literally), a scout gets an SMS on his cellphone, telling him to hurry up and retrieve the rascal.
Friday, March 13th, 2009
It hailed on the way from Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara. Tiny but vicious hailstones bombarded the pavement, bounced of it, and lived, if only for a few seconds, to make their mark – can one really forget hail on the Equator?
Later, the sky cleared in a most heavenly way, with sunrays piercing fluffy but angry-looking clouds. It looked like maybe the messiah read the address wrong, and will be beamed down any moment now, only to be charged ninety dollars for a two-hour game drive, be forced to purchase “original tribal handcrafts”, and abandon the mission to redeem humanity.
The animal migration through the Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti must be a magnificent sight (I hope to see it one day) but when the zebra and wildebeest are not crossing the border by the millions, it’s just another national park sporting a seemingly endless grassy savannah with its lazy lions and hopeful tourists peering out of pop-top minivans. Game drive cars here are nothing like in Southern Africa – they are closed and low clearance. On the bright side, nobody cared when I sat on the roof of our car for a better angle of a hyena den where half a dozen young pups played till the sun went down.
Thursday, March 12th, 2009
juvenile baboon having a laugh, riding on mother’s back
Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
fish eagle and a marabou stork fighting over a young flamingo carcass feast
Monday, March 9th, 2009
I wanted to find a colobus monkey. It’s one of these so-ridiculous-it’s-absolutely-gorgeous animals that are a must-see in Africa. Although Lake Nakuru NP (brochure) promised them to us, they were nowhere to be seen, but it really didn’t matter as we had our hands full with flamingos, pelicans, a black rhino allowing us to walk up right to it (and in the open, too, though usually they hide in the bushes and are hard to see), and a pink newborn baby baboon accompanying his mom on a day at the beauty salon, where she had her flees and ticks removed and eaten by a certified (hopefully) furdresser.
Oh, and yeah we’ve spotted a colobus eventually as well.
Thursday, March 5th, 2009
this baby giraffe still had a piece of his umbilical cord hanging down from his belly button!
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
“You want to go to hell?” said the old man and smiled widely. It was his punch line, and I bet it worked well with the tourists. “No thanks, we’d like to do it ourselves,” I answered matching his smile. “There many paths and turns… I can show you the way,” continued the man and began mumbling something about Tomb Raider. I swear, sometimes I feel that to them I am a three year-old with a nail and a sledgehammer who stumps her foot at any wise offers to help, with the words (and I need some baby voice here please): “No! I want to do it myself!” “No, thank you,” I answered again, but the man still followed us down Hell Canyon of Hell’s Gate National Park and gave up only on the fifth “nothankyou” when he saw Shurik was beginning to get annoyed.