Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 17/07/2012

Hide and Seek is impossible in this, Mum!

Cheetah Cub, originally uploaded by

It’s whilst we’re photographing the animals at the waterhole that Eustace points out the tree where we had previously seen the male lion sleeping under; its not that far away really, possibly less than two minutes walk away, and there… sitting under the tree… is the male lion who is possibly less than 30 seconds away! He’s still dozing of course but you can bet your bottom dollar that if you were to make your way outside of the Lodge’s (minimal) confines, he would be wide awake and very close before you could say “help,help, there’s a lion” (please don’t try this at home, Lions are endangered and need to have a controlled diet!).

With lunch over, we make our way back to the minibus and head back out into the bush, refreshed and excited at what else we might see in the late afternoon heat. We’re soon back on the main track and immediately we see a lone male Ostrich walking sedately away from us. He’s an impressive sight, in superb condition, but unfortunately he’s walking the wrong way for any photos, which is a shame as he contrast beautifully with the brick red earth in the reserve (why brick red… our house is a brick house but they’re yellow not red!)

Moving on a little way, we spot a number of African Ground Hornbill hunting for food. They’re an impressive bird, standing around one meter tall a fact which means they tend to walk everywhere despite an equally impressive wingspan. There are five individuals in the group, all adults, and they’re systematically circling each of the low bushes peering inside to see what might be lurking inside for it to eat. Don’t let the fact that the birds are patrolling bushes fool you, Dear Reader, they’re not after low hanging fruit (unless you’re using “workplace jargon”* in which case they are) even though they are omnivores, they’re after any small creature that is taking shelter in the foliage. Luckily (for the creatures), the hornbills are unsuccessful whilst we watch them – strangely it’s a very eerie sight and not one I like even though I like these birds as much as I do.

We pass a different herd of elephants, there are young amongst this group of animals and we watch one very large female with her calf which are slightly separated from the group. To our horror (and I use that word quite carefully here), we see that the young elephant is limping – with all those marvellous David Attenborough documentaries we initially think that the calf has been involved in some sort of scuffle with one of the parks’ predators. However on closer observation it looks like the leg in question is actually deformed, the bone that equates to the femur in animal seems to deformed, causing the leg to be permanently bent. It doesn’t seem to hamper the calf who is keeping up well with its mother, and there’s no question about the attentiveness of the female elephant who is ensuring the little one is okay. I don’t think there would be a problem with predators either as the mother has the longest tusks I’ve ever seen on an elephant which could be used as formidable weapons if needed. Examining the photos when I return back to the UK, I noticed that the same leg on the mother is also misformed, it’s much wider than normal, and this gives me hope that if the mother could grow up into such a magnificent specimen, then there’s hope for the little one… it was incredibly cute.

There are two more spectacles for us to see before we eventually have to leave the Reserve and head back to Mombasa. Having seen one extraordinary gazelle, the Gerenuk with its long neck, we happen upon a number of the smallest gazelles in Africa the Dik-Dik. These are odd looking little animals mostly due to their moveable elongated snouts, the ones we see, well.. we don’t see at first as these tan coloured beasts are hiding amongst the sparse vegetation but their nervous disposition gives them away, followed by their shrill call.

The second sight which I’m really excited about is to see a Secretary Bird hunting; we’ve seen these birds numerous times during our trips to Africa but never so obviously hunting. A grey and black raptor, the most noticeable thing about them is their long… looonnng legs which play an important part in their hunting arsenal when they are out hunting snakes. It’s an odd thing to specialise in… Snakes, especially in Africa with their spitting cobra, black mamba and numerous other venomous serpents but evolution has lent a helping hand in the form of those long legs which it uses to pounce upon its prey. Once it has immobilised a snake in its formidable talons, it can then dispatch it with its sharp beak. We actually manage to see the bird “dance” as it jumped up and down trying to best position itself for a prey item and it’s a wonder to behold, better than any Saturday night reality TV program – but then I’m biased.. it would definitely get more than a Sev-en from me**

* Low Hanging Fruit – means you’re going for the easiest option (the fruit that are lowest are easiest to pick, unless of course you’re referring to ground based fruit.. these jargon phrases really need to be more specific.. or better still eradicated.

** I have never watched a full episode of Strictly Come Dancing, nothing wrong with it… just not my thing.

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