We ventured out with our armed guard into the bush around the lodge. He didn’t speak but the way he slowly walked looking every which way created a frisson of fear.
We heard from our guide how animals can out run you, maul you etc and this had everybody expecting leopards to jump from the trees and have them for dinner. I made sure I stood as near to the man with the gun as possible.
We never went very far from the lodge but your imagination takes over. You feel intrepid. The first tracks we saw were elephants’ – with a baby in tow. I put my foot in Mum’s footstep and it was like an oversize dinnerplate. Then fresh leopard prints! Were we stalking him? Or was he stalking us? Colobus monkeys flew overhead from tree to tree (from the Greek word for deformed because they only have 4 fingers and no thumb). We passed the strangled/strangling fig tree with its’ beards growing down silently killing the tree it had taken over.
By this time it was growing dark in the forest and a sense of urgency developed. Our pace quickened a bit. Some more leopard prints and a hyena paw print – they were out there somewhere. We’d seen the animals around the water hole but that was from safety. Here we were the prey. The hyena prints led us to a hole – could belong to a hyena or to a warthog – they live in very similar holes. How does a warthog go in without knowing if there is a hyena in there? Quite simply, he goes in backwards so if anyone is in there he just gets bitten on the bum rather than having his face bitten off!
So no big cats again but a great time…
I love it when a country or an experience really gets to you. I have just come back from Kenya
and I have to say I am in love! I went with no pre-conceptions, no idea what to expect and I was bowled over completely. Vast open landscapes, rolling plains dotted with giraffe, elephants, impala and all sorts of animals that I had only read about in books.
Zebra at Sweetwaters
The country varies so much though – we ventured from bustling Nairobi to the open plains of Sweetwaters to spot elephants in the rain – too wet for the cats. From there to the foot of Mount Kenya
and followed our rifle toting (for protection only!) guide out onto a nature walk to find the shy leopard. She wasn’t to be found but her footprints were there, as were the hyena’s close behind.
Then into the great Rift Valley
and a stay at one of the lakes that nestle at the bottom of this natural chasm. The landscape changed again and the waterfront licked the sides of open grassland and a lone male buffalo glared at us for interrupting him. We passed through forests of bright yellow fever trees, still looking for the elusive leopard who never showed her face. It would help if she wasn’t the same colour as the trees! The stars in the night sky and the frog chorus made it quite an ethereal experience.
- Fever trees at Lake Elementeita
A short flight and our experiences changed from land animals into fish and I braved the waters of the Indian Ocean to snorkel with some beautiful fish – not sure what they all were but they were all lovely and for a novice snorkeller it was incredible!
I left the country after such a short time, but I knew I’d been bitten by it – I will definitely be going back there. After all I still have to find my leopard…