Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 16/07/2012

Out To Lunch




Lion, originally uploaded by http://andrewskelton.net.

We have one more detour to take before we head to the Lodge for some much needed nourishment. Despite the hills we’ve seen en route, and which are visible on the horizon, the park is incredibly flat with the exception of an odd rock outcrop we’re heading towards. Our driver has dared to utter the “C” and “L” words earlier in the trip(Cheetah and Leopard, if you hadn’t guessed, Dear Reader) so as soon as I see the rough hewn hillock my thoughts immediately turn to what a perfect environment it is for these big cats allowing them uninterrupted views of the Reserve. As we drive around the mound, there’s only one word echoing around my head (it’s a pretty lonely place!) – “Cheetah, cheetah, cheetah, cheetah”. I crane my neck to try and see into every nook and cranny but, of course, it’s nearly midday so any self-respecting Cheetah will have already taken cover in the shade of a tree, bush or under a rocky overhang sheltering from the heat of the overhead sun, allowing it time to digest it’s morning meal*.

Crestfallen we head toward the Lodge, how’s steep thatched roof if visible over the tree line. Half way along the track we pass a deep man made hole, used as a spoil heap for the Lodge. There are empty bottles and cans strewn amongst the detritus on the floor of the pit, and as we pass it a large bird heads in towards it. We’ve seen a number of vultures in flight on this trip.. and this isn’t a space station.. sorry, a vulture. When it’s close enougt to ID correctly, it’s one of the few birds I’m actually not fond of (but will of course photograph!) a Marabou Stork. I feel the same way about these birds as most people feel about vultures (which are one of my favourites**) so it’s no disappointment when the bird, whilst still in flight, takes one look at us and decides there are better places to be. His loss of course, as he wouldn’t now be able to feature on my Flickr Stream*** or even on the pages of this blog.

Five minutes later and the minibus pulls up on the brick paved concourse outside the back of the Lodge. We exit the van, in need of a cooling drink and some food, taking our cameras with us. Ascending the steps to the open space below the huge thatched roof we could see from the rocky outcrop, we are greeted with a cooling pineapple based drink by one of the waiters from the Lodge and sit at a table in the cooling shade of the roof to catch our breath. Phew, what a morning.. we certainly hadn’t expected such a cornucopia of wildlife encounters as we have, especially after the lack of animals on the Mara (relatively speaking****)

DEspite being in the middle of nowhere, we are offered a banquit fit for a king; starting with soup, we move on to a salad course before being presented with a main meal of coconut chicken (we were offered an alternative but I can’t recall what it was) and then dessert.. I’m afraid the sugar, at this point, must have gone straight to my head as I can’t recall what it was, only that it was incredibly delicious and I would have it again… if I could remember what it was, that is.

Of course, even though we’re hungry our meal isn’t our primary focus as there’s a water hole thirty feet from the edge of the Lodge’s veranda where we’re having lunch; a water hole frequented by around one hundred Cape Buffalo, enjoying the cooling waters in the heat of the midday sun. The small herd of zebra we saw earlier are also present, nervously watching our movements (not our knife and forks, but when we make it out onto the decking with our camera equipment to snap a few of the animals). I sit down, using the wooden fencing as a makeshift tripod, and this is enough to entice the zebra down to the water (no, not the fencing, but the fact that I’m not so obvious now (animals tend to have the human form imprinted into their psyche as something to avoid at all costs). I’ve had an image in my mind’s eye that I want to take, and with some perseverance, the zebra oblige and I take one of my best photos of the trip (see my blog entry for the 30th June 2012).

All this and I’ve not even finished my meal yet, I have one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. Dark, bitter Kenyan coffee, thick enough to stand your spoon up in, and more energising than taking a bath in Red Bull (or with a Red Bull, for that matter!).

* If you recall from my Masai Mara blog entry, Cheetah only eat fresh meat, they won’t return to a kill and as such have to hunt at either end of the day to keep their energy levels up – resting in between to digest their earlier meal.

** If you’re not enamoured by vultures, go to a local bird of prey centre that use them in flying displays, I think you’ll soon change your might about this intelligent raptors that have bags of personality (and I don’t mean because they’re always cranky!).

*** Did I mentioned Getty Images contacted me with a view to selling my images for me? No? Well they have and they are.

**** Relating to last year’s Safari where there were far more animals, and far more memorable images (including the Leopard).

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