Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maasai Cattle in Nairobi

Kenya is currently suffering from a drought and Kenya's power is hydroelectric. There is power rationing 3 days/week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, there is no power between 6am and 6pm. Different parts of Nairobi have power rationing on different days. 

As a result of the drought, the Maasai grazing grounds are dried up, so the cattle now wander throughout the city in search of grass and food. It's quite a sight to see Maasai herders and cattle on Nairobi city streets and side roads.

Speaking of animals... Irene, Bissy and I today took a safari tour through Nairobi's National Park. Apart from the huge fee difference for foreigners and Kenyans ($40 vs $5) the visit was lovely. We woke at 5 to be sure we could be at the park when it opened at 6 to catch the animal's early morning activities.

Although the animals are most active in the morning the wardens don't arrive till after 8 nor does the bookshop, which is the only place maps are available, open till later.  So we headed off into the park with our driver, who thankfully had been there before.  We saw a few giraffe and zebra in the distance and one, lone wildebeest.  Then we came across a small herd of greater kudu. They were a bit skittish though we tried our best to get some nice shots, then Irene saw it. Far off in the distance, between two bushes, was a golden brown spot, a lion! It took the rest of us another few moments before we could spot him, and we tried to get pictures of him. He slunk off into the bushes so we drove on. 
We became good at spotting giraffes, no pun intended, or is it... and also saw springboks, gazelle, and later on an ostrich.  The ostrich was running a distance from us across a stream.  We drove along in the same direction and crossed the bridge to get closer.  We were especially hopeful as a number of deer were also running - we hoped from a lion.

The poor ostrich chose to walk on the road in front of us for a good 300 meters.  He seemed bothered that we were following him, but unlike he, we had to stay on the road. He finally veered toward the stream and we left him.  As we returned on the same path, he was also returning from the river and perhaps rather annoyed to encounter us again.
We saw two giraffes fighting.  All those pictures in National Geographic where giraffes have their necks entwined in what appears to be a romantic embrace are misleading - that's how they fight. They twist their necks around each other and then bump with the top of their head either the neck or the body.  It's actually adorable to watch.
At one point we thought we saw a herd of wildebeest in the distance, upon closer inspection it was  a forest of slightly scattered very low bushes.  We drove through it and discovered the jackpot of 4 legged grazing animals. Dozens of zebra herds, greater kudus, springboks, gazelles and even some wildebeest. It seems the wildebeest only gather together for their migration as most were wandering off by themselves in random parts of the park. That was also when we saw our warthog.

I saw the grasses bending coming towards us and could just make out a brown coloured shape. I was convinced it was a lion, until his upright tail, snout and tusks appeared. He was trotting along at quite the pace and seemed so businesslike.  Apparently Pumba is short for pumbavo which means stupid in Swahili. Poor Pumba, at least he had a nice singing voice.
Once through that patch of land we discovered Ostrich central, they were all off by themselves and could easily be mistaken for trees in the distance with their necks down eating. Just brown and black bumps on the horizon.

By then we'd been driving for a few hours and were encountering fewer wildlife.  We were about to leave the park when some rangers drove by and said there was a lion spotted nearby. We turned and headed in that direction but saw no sign of the lion. Apparently no one informed him that when you live in a national park, your job is to be observed by tourists...

Just as we arrived to the gate of the park, we saw two baboons in the road ahead of us. Unlike all the other animals we had encountered, they seemed content to remain there. One baboon ran off and returned a moment later with some food, for the baby we hadn't noticed until then cuddled into his mother's fur. They sat and ate and played in the middle of the road, until another vehicle drove past. They then came and ran behind our vehicle watching.  Although Irene was adamant we shouldn't feed them as they can get vicious when angry, I couldn't resist. I threw an orange peel out the window, and the mother dove for it then ran off. We then realised they were only the forefront of an entire (herd? flock?) of baboons. There were mothers with babies, teenagers and adults. There was even the macho one of the group who was much larger than the others and barked at us before moving on.
We then visited a nearby elephant orphanage.  The elephants are so tiny and wrinkled like ancient old men, I managed to reach out and pat the trunk of one, who then grabbed my hand with the edge of his trunk and tried to eat it - cute! Once the elephants were gone, a baby Rhino came out for a bit. He had the most hilarious gallop and a great deal of personality to fit into his small hide. They're trying to raise him as wild as possible to release him into the park someday as Rhinos are nearly extinct here.

Such a beautiful day, we came back and napped a bit at the WYA office and are heading out in a few hours for a dinner with Caroline's family and all the interns to see me off tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!