Amboseli – the Oloitokitok drive

At the southern part of the park is the Oliotokitok road which extends from the Oltukai acacia forest passed the OloKenya swamp down to the Olkelunyiet gate in the south-east corner of the park.

“The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say ‘Africa’. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”
Ryszard Kapuściński

Down at the southern most point of the OloKenya swamp there are three hippo pools. Sure enough in one of the pools there was a hippo and it was keeping an eye on a Fish Eagle on the bank preparing its recently caught barbel meal.

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 Grey Crowned Cranes were frequently seen on the periphery of the swamp. This pair was flying in to feed on the bounty around the swamp.

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware”

~Martin Buber

I was jesting with Simon Beevers and Andrew Beck that the Mount Kilimanjaro was a figment of their imagination. For the first three days of our time in Amboseli the mountain was shrouded in thick cloud cover. At last on the fourth morning, they were redeemed as the sun prevailed and pushed the clouds away for a short while. Mount Kilimanjaro looked like a pudding with icing on top. It was quite incongruent to see dusty dry grasslands in the foreground and a snow-capped mountain in the background.

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Along the Oliotokitok road driving towards the Olkelunyiet gate there was grassland on the left hand side and acacia woodlands on the right. I liked the unlikely combination of a huge Martial Eagle sitting in a large acacia tree in front of this massive snow-capped mountain in the middle of hot dusty Africa. Just another example of the amazing contrasts which can be found in Africa.

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It was  reasonably early so the sun was still relatively low resulting in rim lighting around some of the animals on the left hand side of the road. This was a lone male Olive baboon wandering through the low grass.

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He stopped to sit and look at us and show us how boring he thought we were!! He got our attention with those canines.

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A little further along the road on at the top of one of the tall acacia trees was an African Hawk Eagle. It had a wonderful vantage point from which too look for prey and competitors. African Hawk Eagles are particularly aggressive raptors.

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The Impala favoured the transition zone along the acacia woodland. This calf enjoyed its mother’s offering.

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“There is language going on out there, the language of the wild. Roars, snorts, trumpets, squeals, whoops, and chirps all have meaning derived over eons of expression… We have yet to become fluent in the language – music of the wild.”
~ Boyd Norton

On the way back from getting some paperwork sorted out at the gate we found two lionesses emerging from the elephant grass. They looked to be on a mission with intent in their eyes. I am always impressed by the power exuded from their  forelegs and shoulders.

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Although it looks flat there are many gullies and drainage lines which enable the lions to get close to the quarry without being seen.

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“People don’t take trips.

Trips take people.”

~John Steinbeck

This lioness spotted some zebra in the distance on the other side of the swamp. There is a look a lion gets when it locks onto its intended quarry.

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It took about twenty minutes for this lioness to get into position by using the cover of a drainage line. The wind must have been in her favour as she got close without the zebra being aware that the  death squad was closing in.

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Something must have happened, perhaps the wind changed direction but in an instant the hunt was thwarted because the zebra picked up her position. You could see the lioness’s irritation by the overt flick of the tail, she was probably growling too. Not long after being compromised she shrunk down into the grass again so the zebras could not see her. They decided to move on and another group started wandering past but they must have seen their predecessors and gave the lioness a wide berth.

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Further along the road we found wildebeests dusting themselves. They seem to really enjoy rubbing their backs and flanks in the dust.

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Also along the Oliotokitok road we found a female Cheetah and her adolescent cub wandering along the acacia tree line. Her slightly arched back indicated that she was uncomfortable about something and was getting out of the way.

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,  we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Having crossed the road onto the woodland side she seemed to settle down into a much more relaxed gait. Although relaxed she was continually looking a round.

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Looking south west toward Mount Kilimanjaro, this female Cheetah has seen some Thompson’s Gazelle grazing in the open grassland in the middle distance.

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“We live in a wonderful world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventure we can have if we only seek them with our eyes open.”

~Jawaharial Nehru

This Cheetah mother and her cub were very wary in the woodland surroundings because their surroundings possibly concealed aggressive, competitive predators, such as lions, hyaenas and leopards.

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Cheetahs have the speed but they also have to be wary of other predators seeking up behind them.

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I took this landscape image to show how big the land  and sky is around here.

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This Cheetah mother was ever vigilant. Interestingly, she and her adolescent cub never walked together, probably so they never got caught together by predators.

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This Cheetah cub must have been the last remaining survivor of the litter. The others were probably lost to predators or hunger. This youngster was very wary, understandably.

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The acacia woodland showed a very different face of Amboseli. Despite the human population around the park, the dead wood inside the park did not seem to have been touched.

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A White-headed Buffalo Weaver looked to be cutting stems of grass for its nest.

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“Long before the stars died the birds began to sing – cool rippling doves, loud cheery starlings, the long lilting trills of warblers and thrushes.”
~ Mike Bond

Lilac-breasted Rollers love eating insects. This one seemed to have got an insect lodged in its throat and was trying to regurgitate it – without much success.

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I hope this post showed yet another side to the amazing diversity of habitat and wildlife that you are likely to find in your travels through Amboseli.

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and I remember more than I have seen”

~Benjamin Disraeli

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun,

Mike

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