Archive for August, 2018



I have been to Africa before, but never in Kenya. The Great Migration and River (Mara) Crossing is top of mind, but we were eager to see those long pink legs in Kenya. Lake Nakuru was first on the list. Never mind that the flamingos have moved to Lake Bogoria where pink flamingos found a more abundant feeding ground. Algae forming in the lake bed attracts these flamingos with thin, long, pink legs and just as thin, long necks. Still, the few who remained in the area of Lake Nakuru managed to present quite a spectacle amidst cape buffaloes frolicking by the fringe of this soda lake. An iconic image of both Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria is a swathe of these birds feeding as a flock thus carpeting and turning the lake pink or taking flight thus turning the sky pink. To say such scenery is breathtaking would be an understatement. But the numbers have dwindled and the lake in Nakuru is hardly pink.

Still, not all is lost in Lake Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley some 150 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. It is the first rhino sanctuary in Kenya, home to both white and the more elusive black rhino with hooked snouts. The threatened Black rhinos number 25 here, the biggest concentration in Kenya. It also abounds in game animals like leopards and prides of lions who’ve decided not to make an appearance during our visit. 😔 But we were rewarded with sightings of zebras, giraffes, waterbucks, impalas, gazelles, elands, baboons and many species of birds we couldn’t even name. Birdwatchers will have a heyday here.

By the time we’ve reached Lake Bogoria, it was late afternoon. The “kill” we’ve been praying for happened here. Nothing as grand as a “wait, chase and kill” of hunter beasts seen in NatGeo videos but rather, an unexpected predator bird patiently waiting by the edge of the lake. The whole drama unfolded before our eyes. A Marabou stork threateningly flapping its wings, scaring them pink flamingos to take flight. Flying as a tight flock can be disastrous as these birds may accidentally break their wings as they collide into one another especially in a sudden flight. And a pink flamingo with a broken wing is this stork’s easy next meal. How tragic. The marabou stork lost its charm with our group as we witnessed this lone stork feast on this lovely bird, still moving and flapping its better wing while its predator pulled out what looked like its intestines. Ouch!

(Trivia: Pink Flamingos have pink eggs (inside) and pink milk. Would their intestines be pink too? Must be their diet of brine shrimps, Blue green algae and crustaceans.)

📸 by Master Photographer & good friend Ernie Albano

📸 Ernie Albano

We can only watch with mixed emotions as the “kill” provided excitement and the slow death made us cringe with disgust as the stork delighted on its meal. We tried as best as we could to soak in the whole African credo that such is the “nature of Nature” — an acceptance of the circle of life. Survival of the fittest may sound harsh, even cruel, but Nature is a universal law of life here without question. We share this same acceptance but seeing Marabou storks the next few days on this trip reminded us of the sad plight of one pink flamingo with a broken wing that lay dying in front of the entire flock, seemingly indifferent to the whole drama. Sad. But such is Nature.

https://youtu.be/Jb-bgXIbxA8


It doesn’t look much – may even be overrated – but it lays claim on history as the Safari lodge where “Elizabeth came as a Princess and left as a Queen.”That’s right. Queen Elizabeth was billeted here in 1952 when her father, King George VI died in his sleep. Her bodyguard at the time wrote on the Visitors Logbook these now-famous lines:

For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen — God bless her.

She acceded to the throne and remains Queen of England to this day. Mom to Prince Charles. Grandma to Prince William. That’s a long time to be Queen. And she sure looks like she’d live to a hundred.

Treetops Lodge is located right within Aberdare National Park in Kenya. A waterhole and salt lick renders the lodge an almost sure pit stop in the elephant migration pathway towards Mount Kenya. This magnificent wildlife can be viewed from the deck, windows or even from the ground, day and night! During dark nights, the hotel lights up a thousand watt “artificial moon” for the animals stopping by the waterhole. But we didn’t have to wait long till a herd of cape buffaloes, elephants, and some antelopes we couldn’t name, dropped in. From nearly 5pm to 9pm, we never grew tired watching them as they passed, stopped, drank, frolicked in the mud. A buzzer in the room can be activated to alert guests that the animals have arrived. Initially, we were happy to see so many cape buffaloes and waterbucks…. until whole families of elephants came. We jumped out of our beds to view elephants seemingly marching down in a line like following their leader who made a thunderous noise exactly as he passed our window!

I’m writing this while seated by a large window watching them elephants. There’s a big one I see now. The alpha male dominates the scene. I am not sure he’s the same elephant I spotted just before sunset. I can skip dinner just watching these animals. I even spotted one peeing! I would have wanted to snap shots from the open balcony overlooking the watering hole, but it has grown too cold for comfort. Also, I feel I’ve taken way too many shots and it’s time to just sit by the window and watch. And listen. So happy for this experience! 😊

Postscript: It’s 12mn now and we have an early wake up call tomorrow. Still looking out the window from our hotel room viewing a couple of elephants and something just passed under our window that I couldn’t make out. The buzzer is quiet. But I’m still fully awake, waiting if I’d get lucky to spot a hyena or a leopard. Another look at the electric fence separating our hotel from the animals around the waterhole gives comfort. 🙄

Some Trivia that’s fun to know:

Cape buffaloes and elephants have exceptional memories. It is said an elephant never forgets while a Cape buffalo never forgives.

Buffaloes have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They are also known to kill lions and their cubs as “preventative punishment”.

Elephant females can have babies till 50 years old.

Elephant trunks can pick up very tiny objects like single rice grains.

The African elephant has bigger ears than its Asian cousin. Both male and female African elephants grow tusks; only Asian male elephants grow tusks. It is said that African elephants have ears that bear the same shape as Africa. Asian elephant ears resemble the shape of India.

Touchdown, Nairobi


My excitement started long before I boarded that Qatar flight bound for Nairobi, Kenya. I have long wanted to experience this after that first African Safari in South Africa in 2012. At the time, I was tentative, hesitant, dripping with excitement, adrenaline pumping, nearly out of my wits. After all, it’s not everyday you see wildebeests, giraffes, elephants, zebras, kudus and cape buffaloes having a “party” out in the open Savannah, hear a roaring lion, sit still while a rhino crosses your path, or wait till the pair of cheetahs grow tired of the shade under a lone tree in a vast field. It’s wild. And then and there, I knew I’d never ever want to see any of these beautiful animals in a zoo or caged, whipped like in a circus.

Our tour escort sent a video a week before our departure. The video was captioned “spotted near the border” where we are headed for. Read: “happening now”. Just enough to whet our appetites for the long-coveted Great Migration or Maasai Mara. We pocketed those “dreams” as we struggled during our long flights via Doha, Qatar. The Doha airport looks so much better than the last time I was here in 2008. And it’s a very busy airport too.

As we tried to dismiss the same thrilling thoughts of animal sightings, we touched down this one bright afternoon in Kenya’s capital, just south of the equator. Almost anti-climactic as there isn’t much to do upon arrival. We felt wasted, post-flight, and needed to recover our energy. Not even a quick city tour of the capital’s historical landmarks perked us up. We did spot some really huge birds though up in the trees lining the roads leading to our hotel. Birdwatchers would have a heyday here. It would also have been lovely to visit the Karen Blixen House and Museum but there isn’t much time. Besides, we’re told much of the furnishings in the house were really production sets from “Out of Africa” — a movie based in Ms. Blixen’s book of the same title. I’m really quite happy with the movie and the house at the foot of Ngong Hills would have been interesting. But that visit can wait for another day. Instead, we headed straight for Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. I wasn’t confident to venture out of the hotel after freshening up. A few of us braved walking towards the market and narrated their encounter with a couple of “aggressive” locals who kept asking them where they came from. They promptly returned to the hotel after that episode. As for me, I stayed in the room and decided to rest till dinner. I just knew I’d doze off as soon as my back touched the comfortable bed, with my head snuggled between the soft pillows. And so, it was a quick soak in the tub before the dinner inside the hotel. The adventures can wait. My apologies for a very uneventful day. These long trips really suck my energy. Tomorrow we head for Aberdares where we booked at Treetops. Should be quite a relaxing day in a very historic place. Karibu, Nairobi! Goodnight 💤 💤 💤