Tsavo West – wonder

This is the last post from a wonderful  ten-day trip with Andrew Beck and Sammy from Wild Eye. I thought Masai Mara and Serengeti were fantastic places for a wildlife photographer to visit, but Amboseli and Tsavo West have added another dimension to fantastic.

“We eat light, drink it in through our skins. With a little more exposure to light, you feel part of things physically. I like feeling the power of light and space physically because then you can order it materially. Seeing is a very sensuous act–there’s a sweet deliciousness to feeling yourself see something.”
~ James Turrell

The Oryx are different in this part of the world. The Fringe-eared Oryx is listed as near threatened on the IUCN red list of threatened species.  Oryx is a genus consisting of four large antelope species. Three of them are native to arid parts of Africa, and the fourth to the Arabian Peninsula. The next image is of a Fringe-eared Oryx. It is fawn coloured and it does not have the same degree of  black on its legs as a Gemsbok. Fringe-eared Oryx are found only in south-eastern Kenya and north-eastern Tanzania.  The Tana river in Kenya divides the ranges of the Fringe-eared and Beisa Oryx, with the Fringe-eared being below the Tana river in Kenya. 


The Fringe-eared Oryx has the same markings on its face as a Gemsbok, with black and white markings and a black stripe which runs from its ear through its eye down to its chin. It also has fawn colouring on its lower legs and hocks whereas the Gemsbok has  black and white lower legs and black hocks. I often wonder why these animals have different markings and I wonder whether the environment dictates whether they should reflect or absorb light and heat – just thinking. 


A handsome male Lesser Kudu. The Lesser Kudu is native to Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, but it is extinct in Djibouti. the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) rates the Lesser Kudu as “Near Threatened”. Horns are present only on males. The spiral horns are 50–70 cm long, and have two to two-and-a-half twists, the same number of twists as the greater Kudu.

“The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of Nature, was the first spiritual experience.”
~ Henryk Skolimowski

I have converted this image to black and white and emphasised the  colour sliders to bring out the Kudu. In colour, this Kudu is remarkably well camouflaged.


A Purple Roller is also called the Rufous-crowned Roller, is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa to as far south as Namibia and the South Africa. Compared with other rollers, its colours are rather dull and its voice harsh and grating. It prefers the dry thorn veld and can spend long periods perched at the top of thorn trees, watching for prey on the ground such as insects, spiders, scorpions and small lizards.


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
~ Albert Einstein

It is only when a Purple Roller takes flight do you really get to see its mauves and purples. There are two genera and 11 species of roller. Thankfully the conservation status of this species is of least concern but that does not mean that you see them often. This is only the fourth time I have seen a Purple Roller. Rollers get their name from the aerial acrobatics some of these birds perform during courtship or territorial flights. We did not see them performing this time but their rolling displays are spectacular, I have only seen Lilac-breasted Rollers doing these rolling displays!!. 


At the top of the valley looking down from a high tree, this Martial Eagle was intently watching all the goings on in the valley below. You could not see its eye colour but the Martial adult has a deep orange coloured eye. This was a juvenile as the adults have a dark brown head, shoulders and neck colouring. The breast and belly feathers are white with dark brown spots.Even this independent juvenile with take prey which ranges from dik-diks to Guineafowl and even monitor lizards. This is the largest bird of prey in Africa, with a wingspan of up to 260 cm and a maximum weight of 6.2 kilogrammes


“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
~ Anaïs Nin

Further down the valley we saw what at first I thought this was a Tawny Eagle, but the shape of its head and the deep gape makes me think this was a Steppe Eagle. It was probably an almost fully fledged adult but its colouring is not yet the  overall, dark chocolate-brown of the mature adult.


Down in the valley, a landscape view showing you the rugged terrain in this part of Tsavo West.


A pair of Egyptian Geese down in the valley close to the elephant carcass. We saw  pairs  close to the scattered waterholes but there were not nearly as many as we usually see in town. 


I could not believe these Egyptian Geese mated and washed in this foul-smelling, stagnant water. This male did not seem to be fussed.


Early on our last morning we found two lionesses down near the elephant carcass. The male and two females had been feeding on the carcass for a few days and it was starting to get “ripe”.

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
~ Betty Smith


A Baobab tree with buffalo weaver nests hanging from its branches with Tsavo’s volcanic mountains as a backdrop.


This large bull elephant was wandering down to our favourite series of dams to drink and get more closely acquainted with the females.


Paddling with the big guys, enough to give you goose bumps!


Early morning game drive down in the Tsavo valley. The light was beaming in shafts through the trees creating spots of warm radiance. Andrew kept encouraging us to look and look some more and we would see. This image is of paper-thin bark and spiders webs illuminated by the early morning light.

“Learn to see, and then you’ll know that there is no end to the new worlds of our vision.”
~ Carlos Castaneda


Back lighting a spider’s web in an acacia bush.


Another first, a Black-headed Lapwing which has a familiar wispy black crest on the back of its head like a northern Lapwing. It has very clear black and white markings on its face, its bill is reddish pink and its eye is yellow with a black iris.It likes dry plains with bare or with short grass, and dry woodland. It feeds mainly on insects.


One very relaxed female leopard wandering across the sand road in front of us. You can see from the long morning shadows that it was still early. If you can’t get front lighting then get rim-lighting creating a silhouette.

“But how can you have a sense of wonder if you’re prepared for everything?”
~ Margaret Atwood


This young female leopard stopped on the ridge to have a good look around. This is obviously her territory but she shares it with lions so it seemed infinitely reasonable to have a good look around before wandering on. There were plenty of trees for her to climb if she needed a quick escape.


Looking in the opposite direct to the leopard was this noisy Crested Francolin who was busy telling everyone where we were or perhaps where the leopard was whilst pecking grass seeds from the sand.


“The finest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.”
~ Albert Einstein

This young leopard decided to climb an acacia to get into a better lookout position. She must have seen something off to our left because she stared intently at it for about five minutes before relaxing on the fork of the tree. We could not see what caught her attention but it could have been a dik-dik and there were many in this area.


She kept an eye on us to make sure that we did not move.


She lay down and moulded herself on the bough of the tree, looking alert but relaxed knowing that no lion would be able to follow her up that tree.


In our last afternoon we watched this  lone bull elephant walking through this warm saturated colour palette.


“No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye.”
~ Elizabeth Bowen

Success at sunset, a Hammerkop with supper.


A Black Crake silhouetted against the reflection of the fading evening light.


A winter sunset in Tsavo West from down in the valley.


“Dreams, memories, the sacred–they are all alike in that they are beyond our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch. How strange man is! His touch defiles and yet he contains the source of miracles.”
~ Yukio Mishima

Another big thank you to Andrew Beck and Jimmy from Wild Eye for a wonderful trip to Amboseli and Tsavo West. This is a diverse and spellbinding part of the world and for a wildlife photographer you can’t wait to get up and get out in the bush each morning. The trip was punctuated by unusual sightings and many firsts for both mammals and birds.

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

Have fun,


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