The magnificent elephants of Amboseli
Leaving the volcanic hills of the Chyulus behind us we drove to Amboseli National Park at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Having not been to Amboseli for 3 months I was not sure what to expect. The 3 year drought had certainly affected the plains game population however I had heard the predators were thriving. Especially the lion whose numbers have actually grown by 50%, not many places can boast that, and within 5 minutes of going through the gate we saw a lone male traversing the savannah in search of shade in the heat of the day. The swamps are full of water and the grass is lush and green. What a transformation!
We arrived a little late at Tortilis Camp having been held up by a herd of 40 elephant on the road and were met by Sue who settled Jackie and Mica into their tents. Tortilis Camp gets its name from the Acacia trees that line the lodge surroundings. It is the stereotypical tree that we all know from Africa with a flat topped canopy famous in many a post card with the sun setting behind. The cool grounds are covered with these beautiful trees that act as a respite from the heat and our afternoon was spent relaxing and regrouping.
The next day we awoke to the last cries of a hyena in the distance and a fantastic dawn chorus of doves that echoed through the camp. It was a beautiful cool morning as the sun rose over the horizon and we headed out with a packed breakfast. It was not long before the action started. We heard the trumpeting ahead of us but nothing could get us ready for what we were about to see. Elephant everywhere, literally. I have seen big herds of elephant before but this was something else. At first I counted 100, then 150, then 200, they just kept emerging out of the salt bush. On a final count I reckoned on 250. ‘How can you count them all’ Jackie asked in amazement. ‘Well, you count the legs and divide by 4!’ I responded. An old safari joke passed down the generations always guaranteeing a laugh! We sat and watched as a wall of elephant of all sizes passed between us and Kilimanjaro on their way to their daily drink at the swamp. The noise at times was deafening, screeches and shrieks followed by bellowing and trumpeting as huge males in ‘musth’ looked for a female in oestrus. Squaring up to each other then chasing possible victims they caused havoc and dispersed the herds in clouds of volcanic dust. Our elephants finally arrived at the swamp and without any hesitation began playing in the waters and rolling around in the mud. We were quite jealous as a cool dip would have gone down well – the heat was getting to us so we decided to return to camp for a break after a most exciting and entertaining morning.
Our evening drive was never going to compare with the beginning of the day but we did see 2 big old male lion. For 2 hours we sat and watched them sleep under a bush. It is what lion do best, sleeping at least 20 hours per day, but our patience paid off as just as the sun was setting they both got up and lay out in the open giving us some great photo opportunities. One more day in Amboseli and who knows what it holds for us.