The Elephant and Amboseli National Park
The flight between Meru and Amboseli was quite spectacular. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and by the time we had reached 8,000 feet we could see both Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro out of the same window. Two majestically snow capped free standing mountains rising high above the African savannah. As we approached Amboseli one could see they had not received any rain for a while. ‘Dust devils’ (miniature dust tornados towering high into the sky) scattered the sparse landscape and as we landed we were engulfed in the white fine volcanic dust that the area is well known for. A quick game drive produced some elephant bathing in a mud hole before we settled into our new home for the next three days; Tortilis Camp.
Our first evening game drive could not have been better. It started with a scraggy old male lion (not doing much, as usual!), some giraffe, plenty of wildebeest, dazzles of zebra and finally a breeding herd of elephant grazing out in the late evening sun. The stereotypical preconception of Amboseli is a herd of elephant together on open grassland in beautiful golden light with the backdrop of Kilimanjaro. Well, this is basically what we had! There are times you can go to Amboseli and not even see the mountain because of low cloud. With the weather we had in Meru Peter, Helga and I were worried this might be the case so to have this fantastic sight was a real treat. Kili was out and out in full force! Our cameras clicked constantly for over an hour and although a photograph could not portray exactly what was in front of us, we just could not help ourselves!
Funnily enough we did not see Kilimanjaro again until our last evening but we did see masses of elephant. Guiding Nick Brandt through Amboseli over the years has allowed me the fortune to get to know, on first name terms, many of the elephant in the ecosystem. Each time I return it is always a great pleasure to identify certain animals. This time Qumquat had given birth and we actually saw her with her three day old calf. It was so small that one could hardly see it through the two foot long grass! Craig put on an exceptional performance for us as he brushed right by the vehicle, his head towering above us and rumbling as he passed. We also saw Luther with his lovely set of ivory and possibly Tolstoy, but way off in the distance. The standard elephant were in and around the swamps and we daily watched as they moved from the peripheral treeline into the water and back again. A routine that has been practiced for years and years.
Outside of the elephant, we saw plenty of buffalo (interestingly important as there numbers depleted considerably after the drought 3 years ago), Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, ostrich, reedbuck, did dik, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and of the carnivores, more lion (again not doing very much!), spotted hyena and bat-eared foxes. The weather pretty much held for us although we there were huge storms around creating very dramatic skies in the evenings so, of course, we had to stop for a ‘sundowner’ (involving either a G&T, South African red wine or a cold White Cap beer!) just to take it all in.
It was sad farewell to peter and Helga the next day as the safari came to an end. What a time we had though and I look forward to seeing them again with their friends, Markus and Monika, in 2013.