Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lioness Teaches her Cubs to Hunt

Guest post by Jason Whitehead.

Shortly after daybreak I got a call from a fellow guide on the radio to say that he had spotted a lioness on the move with her three sub adult cubs not far from where I was enjoying the view of a White Rhino. White Rhinos are incredible animals and I could sit an watch them for days, but they are a fairly common sight on the title="Welgevonden Private Game Reserve">Welgevonden Private Game Reserve situated in the northern province of South Africa. With a quick chat to my guests, we agreed to go and see of we could find her.

Welgevonden has a policy that no vehicles are permitted off road, this is to protect the environment and the many small creatures that you could easily crush by taking your 4x4 through the middle of the bush. I think this is excellent, but sometimes it can be a little frustrating when you know where an animal is but cant get to it. Today however was to be our lucky day, we did manage to find her and her cubs, but they were moving very quickly away from us through the bush which meant that the sighting would not last long. I decided to head out and wait at a road that she was heading towards about 5 minutes drive away. When we got there, there was a small herd of Zebra and Wildebeest grazing on the plain behind us, but right in the path of where I expected the lioness to to come out.

Sure enough a few minutes later, through my binoculars I spotted her in the tree line at the edge of the open plain. She too had spotted the herbivores and by her posture was obviously hungry. So in front of us we had the lioness hidden in the trees and an open area of around 100 meters to the road which we were on and then behind us about another 50 meters to the Zebra and Wildebeest. It was winter and so she did not have that much cover, so with my guests we watched her still within the trees move round to get our Land Rover right in between her and her potential prey. Then crouched very low she very slowly headed straight towards our vehicle, with her cubs hidden directly behind her in single file. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew that she was interested in what was behind us, this could have been rather frightening as it would have looked like she was hunting us! Even so we still had to be careful as a lion in hunting mode should not be taken lightly, and made sure my guest did not offer an easier alternative to a much more powerful and fast running Zebra.

Sure enough after about half an hour they got to our vehicle and then slowly moved around it, it was a fantastic sight to see such wonderful animals so close up. Now that they were behind us she and her cubs only had the tall grass as cover, but were now only 50 meters from their quarry. Then something very interesting happened, she stopped moving and her 3 cubs came around in-front of her and continued to stalk towards their prey whilst she just lay there watching. When the three cubs got to within 40 meters of the completely oblivious herd of Zebra and Wildebeest, one of them broke cover and just got up and ran towards them. With no chance of catching the herd, the cub had totally spoilt a mornings work for the rest of the family. When it had finished half heatedly running after the somewhat alarmed but now safe herbivores, they returned to their mother, who when gave the cub who had transgressed a snarl and then a tremendous slap right across it's face.

Right beside us, we witnessed some incredible animal behavior and a lesson that I think that cub would never forget. It had been an excellent morning in the bush.

About the Author
Jason Whitehead was born and grew up in Zimbabwe. Passionate about wildlife, travel and a keen wildlife and bird photographer, he is a qualified Field Guide (safari guide) and has worked on safari lodges in South Africa. He owns and runs the Safari Holiday Guide and the Best Binoculars & Binocular Reviews websites that now keep him behind a desk most of the time, but is always looking for an excuse to get back into the bush.

Would you like to post a story on this blog. Please feel free to contact me at frantic.naturalist [you know what comes here, skipped for spam]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rain to you, Rain to me

This post is simply a little chat about the weather. I got up at 3h00 this morning, partly due to chronic insomnia and but mainly due to the wonderful sound of thunder in the distance.

What do people say about rain? There are lots of feelings. An easy way to see is to have a look at Twitter:

@Plunker219 says "rain rain go away, now?"
@allyrok05 says "@charwalt im sick and tired of the outside all day at work so i need nice weather. "
@the_coffeegirl says "Really tired of the rain. But I haven't floated away yet."

But there are some voices from the opposition:
@chrisevans17 says "Awesome, it's gonna rain. That's different."

and me...
@Namibnat: We had thunder over Windhoek this morning...I really hope it's going to rain. There is a great smell of rain in the air.

Namibia is a dry country.  I grew up in northern Kenya, which is also really dry.  Even in the areas in southern and eastern Africa where there is a little more rain, usually there are long, long dry spells without any rain.

When you go for a long time without any rain, the most enjoyable, exiting rain is the rain that breaks the dry season.  Those first few short but dramatic thunder storms we get...about now.

It's still early days, and October is still considered a dry month, so I shouldn't get my hopes up to much.

When you have so little of something it conjours up memories, and rain is a good one for that.

An early memory of rain for me is from Camaroon.  My parents were there to do Africa orientation for an organization they worked for.  One thing they had to do was a survival night.  Most people had to do it alone, but if they had kids they would take one child along.  I went with my dad.  We went into the jungle as a group and had to hack our way in.  The leaders told each group where to stop and make their camp for the night.  You had a few provisions and had to make a bed.  I can't really remember much of it (I was 8) but I do remember that it rained non stop.  We tried to make a fire...the wood is drenched, the whole place is just constantly wet.

We moved to Kenya and moved to a place called Korr.  It's in the heart of the Kaisuit Desert, a rather small arid region between Marsabet and the bottom of Lake Turkana in Kenya's north.  It didn't rain much at all.  We went through the 1984 drought, which changed our lives forever, people were starving and the Kenyan government was saying that the problem was contained in Ethiopia to stop it from having any negative impact on tourism, Kenya's cash cow.

The people we lived with are the Rendile, and Rendile people love the rain in a way that I couldn't hope to explain.  The memories of the rains that break the long dry season in Kenya are amazing.  Rendile dance in a very similar way to the Masai. With braking rain, the dancing goes on all night. Wonderful. I can remember the rain on the tin roof of our house as I would go to sleep with the distant singing of the Rendiles.

When it would rain there would be lots of dry river beds that can turn into torrents of flowing water. They would come down in flash floods. It was amazing, and could at times be dangerous.

We would also get Velvet Mites coming out after the rain.  I don't know why, but the Rendille kids would run around and draw circles around them.

This Picture shows a Velvet Mite,
similar to the ones we would find as kids
Photo by Paul Garland on Flickr (licence)

Even now, after rain, we find them in the Namib.

Once we had driven to a nearby town.  The roads were basically just two tracks.  While we were there, there had been a downpour and we ended up getting stuck in the mud and sleeping there the night.  When we woke up the next morning there was a pack of wild dogs around the car.  It was such a special family experience.

Last year, on the first of April (ironic) I had a guests at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge and took them to Sossusvlei in the morning.  It rained the whole time.  A massive downpour.  If you go to Sossusvlei today, much of the green on the dunes is from that single day's rain.

In the afternoon, we were watching the weather, and when it looked like it would clear, we jumped in the game drive vehicle and headed out.  As we started, the rain started belting down.  We did about three kilometers before calling it quits.  On our way back it just kept pouring.  The rain meter showed that 19mm had fallen in those few minutes.  The roads had turned to rivers, and I could hardly drive, it was hitting my face so hard.  It was amazing.

Rain in the drier parts of Africa usually comes in thunderstorms and usually comes down hard.  The rain usually breaks the heat of summer, so the short period of being cold is a welcome relief.

At Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, where I worked for many years, when these early rains would come often the staff would simply stop work, get together and sing, just out of happyness.  It always helped prevent any guests from complain that they just left Europe to come to Africa and get away from the rain.  African Desert thunderstorms are amazing wonderful things to experience.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There's not nothing there

When you spend some time viewing wildlife, the natural tenancy is to get blaze about the normal animals quickly. As tour guides we often feel under pressure to 'produce' the wild and wonderful...elephants, lions, leopards and so on. And often guests on their first ever Safari will get bored of Springbok after having only had a couple sightings. Its's human nature.

When you are new in an area, you would like to keep seeing new and more exciting things. Time is a problem...with only three or four days in a national park like Etosha, you are hardly going to see everything there and sometimes there can be a bit of pressure to try to do so.

But for me some of my favorite times in the bush have been times when we took our attention away from the 'big five' rush, and watched the things that we normally don't. So often in Etosha you go into an area, meet a guide coming out, and ask him "is there anything there?" The typical answer, "No, there's nothing there."

Well, there is never nothing. Sometimes what is there may just be the trees and some flies, but very rarely is there 'nothing'.

One such experience always stood out to me, almost as a lesson. We were in the west of Etosha. It was rainy season, but was dry at the time. There were very view animals at waterholes. But the guests had all had Safari experiences before, and were happy to slow down and watch a little.

We went into one waterhole, and at first it appeared that there was nothing. We started to watch the birds coming down to drink, and noticed that they would fly up in a whole flock from time to time. We soon started to realize that each time the birds, mostly Red-billed Queleas Quelea quelea and a mix of doves, would sit, terrapins would start moving towards the birds.

It was getting towards the heat of the day, and the birds where starting to get flustered by this continual assault from the terrapins. Eventually we noticed that from time to time the terrapins actually managed to catch a bird, which they would rip up quickly. Amazing.

We carried on watching. Some Jackals joined the action. They literally just jogged around the outside of the waterhole. It really looked like they were not even trying. But in the confusion, as we watched the Jackals also started to manage to catch a few doves.

Then a pair of Red-necked Falcons Falco chicquera joined the action, as did a single Gabar Goshawk Melierax gabar. While we watched each of these birds also managed to catch a couple Red-billed Queleas.

It was an amazing experience, and has stayed with me for years. What was so amazing was that while we watched this whole bunch of excitement going on, a number of cars came by the waterhole and just looked and drove on, probably saying "Just a couple Jackals" or even more likely, "There's nothing there."

Nature works at nature's pace. There is always something going on. It's just a matter of tuning in to the pace of nature, and a matter of choosing what we are going to enjoy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spitting Black Spitting Cobras

Two short stories about Black Spitting Cobras spitting.

  1. Don't drink and catch cobras One of our guides was called to my house when I was away on holiday at the time that I worked at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. Each night our power would be off, and we shared our satellite TV with the Chef next door. His girlfriend had gone into our house to turn on the power to the TV reception, and met a Black Spitting Cobra.

    The ranger had already had a beer in the afternoon, as he had the afternoon off with no guests. As he was the only one around who would catch the snake, he was called. After all, he had only had a couple drinks?? Anyway, the snake was caught, but he got spat on.

    He didn't think much of it, and took the snake out to release it. Later he broke out in an amazing rash. I got back soon afterwards from my leave and we phoned a doctor who was interested in snake bites. He was amazed, even excited at the reaction. It's a rather rare snake, and lives in areas where there are few humans, and it has a rather unsual venom. In the end, it eventually just cleared up. But it taught the ranger a couple lessons!

  2. Careful who you look in the eye One of the nature conservationists on our reserve also had a run in with a Cobra. I was working in Windhoek that year (2003.) One day I saw him in Windhoek. He told me that he had been in hospital because he had been spat in the eye by a Black Spitting Cobra. He had seen a small snake in the grass by his house, and it went under a little ledge. He didn't recognize it, as we don't often see the younger forms of these snakes.

    He got his snake stick and looked under the ledge of the house. There are many small constrictors in the area that are harmless. We don't often see the more venomous snakes. So he didn't expect it. But as he bent down the snake spat him straight in the eye.

    He knew right away that it was bad. He ran the hosepipe on the small lawn they have, and just poured water over his eyes. He was flown out to hospital and had a painful couple days, but recovered fully.

Situations like this are really rare. Much more often one encounters the small benign snakes, and even when you encounter cobras, things usually don't go wrong. It's usually hard to even get a decent look as these snakes do their best just to disappear. In all cases of being spat at, the victim was handling the snake.

Many people fear snakes a lot, but if you learn to appreciate them, respect them, then they soon become fascinating.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Managment - and Cobras

During my time at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (it was called Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge at the time) I saw a number of changes in management. It was always an eventful time. Staff take time to adjust to the new management style, the new manager takes time to adjust to the lodge, to the staff and so on. It's just normal. It's like that in any normal organization.

A few years back one management change was a little more eventful than the others. There were lots of members of management around at the time. I was mainly guiding and not involved much with management (except for managing the guiding department.)

My typical day at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge as a guide involved a very early start, a long break in the middle of the day, and then working until the guests went to dinner.

During this particular management changeover I was off for my lunch break. I lived some three kilometers from the lodge at the staff village. I got a phone call from the manager to be. There was a Black Spitting Cobra Naja nigricollis woodi at the lodge. They couldn't find the snake stick. Could I come and help.

I found the snake stick without to much trouble. The snake had gone past all the people having lunch outside, up the wall, onto the roof. The roof was a depression (you can see the exact area where the snake was in this picture from Expert Africa's Website.

I had to climb up the side wall and was assisted by one of the managers from Windhoek up on the roof. I think I was the only one, aside from one of the assistant managers, who had caught cobras before. So I did all the actual catching of the snake. It got itself really wound up tight in a corner, having gone through a hole out of the roof, and down a narrow area where wires ran down the side of the building.

It was hard to pull it out. It kept it's head inside of it's coils, so that I could only pull out it's body. That's not ideal, because when you pull the body away it's head can strike at you. Eventually we got it out okay. It had a little spit at me, but very little got on me. I passed the snake into the container below, where the assistant manager controlled it and put the lid on. We drove it out and let it go.

Cobras were rather rare for us, and this day was really something else, with the cobra really putting on a show for all our visitors for the changeover, and a dramatic start to our new manager's time at the lodge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How not to catch a Black Spitting Cobra

I am going to do a series of posts about a wonderful snake called the Black Spitting Cobra Naja nigricollis woodi. It's a snake we got to know on NamibRand Nature Reserve and it sort of seemed to get itself in trouble.

Black Spitting Cobras are a fairly rare variety of Cobra. They are a sub-species of a larger group. I am not sure how the taxonomy of the whole group will break down eventually. I think there may be some changes. For us, however, it was our main Spitting Cobra.

I have grown up with snakes and snake related issues. We had numerous snake related medical trips when I was young, and after I learned to drive, and my parents put me on the medical trips, I had some serious snake victims to deal with by myself. So I am certainly not ignorant of the dangers of snakes. I have seen some serious damage done by Puff Adders Bitis arietans. I'm sure you've seen the pics. I'm not going to go into detail.

But through it all you start to learn about snakes. Through familiarity comes a sense of admiration. I am a bit of a softy, preferring to handle small snakes with no venom. I have never had to handle something as vicious as a Black Mamba Dendroaspis polylepis or as big as an African Rock Python Python sebae. But these spitting cobras came in without us looking for them (at least, not at such close quarters.) So I had to learn, and that is what these posts are all about.

At Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge (now Sossusvlei Desert Lodge) we did start to occasionally get Black Spitting Cobras through the area. What would we do...simple...we would catch and release them. How nice. So simple!

In the early years we managed to get the couple that run the Living Deserts snake park in Swakopmund to come out and do a reptile educational for us at the lodge. They were such nice, easy going people and really went out of their way to cater to us. They brought a few snakes along, including a Snouted Cobra Naja annulifera, I think (It's some time back now.)

While they were there, we discussed the best way to go about the educational experience. They decided that they could spend all day with the guides, but they also suggested spending some time with any staff who may encounter snakes. Almost everyone showed up for the sessions they gave for the general staff. It was fantastic. They showed us how to catch snakes in a safe way. The main technique for those who hadn't handled snakes before, involved turning large containers upside down and and using long things like brooms to encourage the snake to go under the container. Then to slide something under it, trapping the snake in the container.

Great theories sometimes work. They do. Perhaps most of the time. But now, what if the ground isn't so flat? The snake gets out while you try to push the flat thing under the container. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out that their can be some challenges. But those of us who had now acquired this knowledge were not thinking about that.

The opportunity didn't take long to arrive. One of the guides was sitting at his desk reading the one day, when he saw a snake come into the room with him. He tried to see where it would go, but soon it went behind a fridge in the kitchen area of the guides house. It was a small area, and wisely he decided to move out and call for some help.

Now the trouble wasn't that nobody wanted to catch the snake. The trouble, after the educational, with a snake that get's handled regularly, and on flat ground, was that everyone thought they were an expert and we had a couple dozen people show up (including me, of course) to catch the snake.

I'll start by saying that nobody got hurt. The snake may have got hurt, certainly disturbed by it all. But it lived to do, well whatever snakes do, another day. Most people in Africa would simply just kill it.

So, the snake was behind the fridge. Brave though everyone was, this small space that it had got itelf in was a problem. Nobody wanted to be in that little space with it.

So, someone switched off the fridge, and using the cable, we pulled the fridge to the door. We managed to pull it around, so that we could see that the snake was now wound up in the inside of the workings of the fridge. And nobody was going to stick their hands in there to get it out.

We had no tools other than broom sticks and the like. So eventually we yanked the whole fridge out. It fell on it's side and the stressed Cobra started to run around. It was a mad bustle of various 'want to be' experts running around trying to catch the snake.

The snake remained really calm in the beginning, but eventually, after going under the big container for the fifth or so time, it had had enough, and started to spit at us.

It seemed, however, to give up on the aggression just as quick, and almost seemed to decide to go in the container for us, just to get it over with. So we caught it, took it far away, and released it again. When we turned over the container, it just slid away. We all know what it was thinking...
"you amateurs"

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hippo, Bite and Run

Another guest post from my sister. If you have a story from your encounters with wildlife in Africa, and would like to see it on this blog, please let me know.

Hippo Story:

One year for mid-term break, my parents took me and my best friend Elora to stay in some lovely cottages by Lake Baringo for a little holiday. One particularly dry hot afternoon Elora and I sat on the cool stoop doing a jigsaw puzzle. We were pleasantly surprised when two hippo's came out to graze about 20 meters in front of us. We were surprised because in the day time the hippos tend to stay in the water and also because the cottage staff usually supervised the wildlife coming onto the premises and it was now quite a distance from the lake (that seemed to have receded over the years).

Growing up in Africa, I was well aware that hippos were very dangerous animals however the grazing seemed harmless enough. I called my mom to come have a look. Just as she arrived on the stoop, suddenly the one hippo opened his great massive jaws and attempted to take a bite of the other hippo!

There was a bit of fight that ensued dramatically and it was enough to make me and Elora run into the cottage door, still watching these giant animals fighting! Then suddenly one of the hippos decided he'd had enough and started to charge-in OUR DIRECTION!!!

We didn't know what to do. We slammed the door shut and ran to the back end of the cottage and prayed that he didn't try to enter the cottage!!! When you see the actual size of an African Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibious), you are very easily convinced that it could storm right through any cottage with great ease!

We were lucky that actually the hippo ran towards our cottage and then turned and ran down the side between our cottage and the next cottage! Soon the staff were on the scene and no one was hurt but it certainly was adrenaline pumping action!

Blog owner's note: There has been a lot said about the danger of African hippos and perhaps this story illustrates the point quiet well. Hippos can be aggressive, and they are dangerous and ill tempered creatures. But the reason for their high kill rate of humans is often more related to the situation, where human activity moves right up to the banks of the river. Hippos spend most of their time in water, but not all. Where grazing starts to compete with gardens, hippos and humans are often in constant conflict. In Africa, often water is scarce, and the rivers are a life blood for growing populations. Something always had to give. No stats are talking about the number of hippos that are killed each year by humans.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I don't know anything about Cameroon. The last time that I was there I was eight years old and it was in 1980. The memory is faint, but the adventures stay with me to this day!

We were in Cameroon so that my parents could do an 'Africa Orientation Course.' My parents had grown up in Africa, but still, the experiences we had in Cameroon they had never had before and, to a large extent, would never have again.

We spent part of the time in Town. I don't remember which town. I don't really remember the time there either, except that my brother ran with a glass jar, fell and cut his arm really bad.

And there were the chickens. That was strange. I think it may have been near the end. All the people on this course were told that they had to kill and prepare a chicken. Some of them had never seen an animal being killed before, let alone do it themselves. There was a lot of screaming and chickens running around with their heads off. For some reason, at that age, I don't remember anything about being grossed out. We were laughing at how all the timid people in the group were reacting. Of course, it was probably a useful exercise, as most of the people in that group would be living in rural Africa (many of them still do, including my parents.) In Rural Africa you know where your meat comes from.

The other half of the time in Cameroon was spend in the rainforest. Now why my parents had to go to a rainforest to learn to live in the desert, I am not clear??? But it was fun for us.

We went and lived in these little huts in the villages. In that area the villages are basically on roads that cut through the jungle. The villages were just a row of houses either side, with the jungle behind them. Who knew how deep the jungle was, where the next roads were. It was real Tarzan like jungle.

While there we learned that the people would eat Gabon vipers (these huge fat snakes.) They would cut them up almost like slices of bread. Actually they ate everything. Everything. They made palm wine, and sometimes people where killed because they would go climb the palms to get more palm wine while a little drunk.

A very cool thing for us as kids where the talking drums. The would communicate with drumming from one village to the next.

The highlight was the survival night. Each person had to go into the jungle by themselves for one night (not totally alone, just spread out, so you were a little distance from your neighbor. I don't remember how far it was.

Of course, I didn't go alone. My mom went one night with my brother, and I went another night with my dad. I may have been scared, but I don't remember that. It was so exciting. We had to cut our way into the jungle. If I remember right, it rained the whole night. But in those jungles the rain is hot. There is a constant high humidity. I don't think that our bed worked out to well, from what I could remember.

The whole memory of that time is a little faint in my head. But it was so exciting. I was reading a blog about a guy who had been working on birds in the area, and couldn't help think back to that time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Behold, my sister has provided me with the first guest post for African Bush Stories. Enjoy:

When I was 8 years old I went away to boarding school, and I lived in an old wooden dormitory with 23 other girls. It really was one of the oldest buildings on the school campus.

One night, we all went to bed as usual in our rooms on bunkbeds. I was in room with three other girls and I was on the top bunk. Suddenly I was woken up by screaming as the girls on the bottom bunks jumped out of bed, tearing their clothes off. Suddenly I saw them, the thousands of moving invading pinching ants! Now I was off the bed and out the door as quick as I could, by then our dorm parents were on the scene and out with the bug sprays. The next day we further investigated that the ants had come up through the floor boards and decide to invade a couple of beds.

We called them pinching ants but I have since learned that the local Swahili name is Siafu or more widely they are known as Army or Driver (Dorylus nigricans) ants and boy do they have a mean pinch! The school staff then took to putting piles of ash all around the dorm to prevent this happening again. Two years after this episode the building was torn down and a new cement brick one put up.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Some Game Drive Memories

As a child our visits to national parks and other wildlife areas where always a highlight. Perhaps, in my case, so much so that it became a career for me.

I have visited many, many great African Wildlife areas, including the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, Samburu, Buffalo (which is basically the same place as Samburu, just other side of the river,) Meru, Marsabit to mention some in Kenya. In South Africa I visited Kruger when I was a small child, but haven't been back yet. I certainly plan to go some time, and need to for birding. I worked at Addo as a student. Since then I have been to virtually all the parks in Namibia and a few in Botswana, as well as many other wildlife areas.

Marsabit was always interesting. I don't know what it's like now. The park is on the Marsabit Mountain and surrounds the craters on the mountain. We usually went there because my parents were visiting Marsabit for business.

My memory of Marsabit that sticks out was the thickness. It was wild. You drive through these forests and the trees are lined up on both sides of you. You don't see much (I would actually love to go see the birds, but I can't remember the birds when I was there as a child.)

The forest is all closed on both sides. Then, every once in a while, something bashes out of the bush, dashes over the road, and back into the bush on the other side. No time for pics or fancy id's. You just marvel at the wildness. It's this amazing sense of 'What's going to happen next.'

The most amazing thing are the elephants. As think as that bush is, there are numerous elephants (or were, I don't know how much the areas poaching has now decimated the populations.) The whole area around Marsabit is desert, and so when it's dry, they are all up on these mountains.

So you can picture it. You creep along these insanely bad roads, thick jungle on each side, little dickers and things popping out and dashing off, and then, just meters from you, a huge elephant pops out, swings it's head at you because it also didn't know you were there, and then with a couple steps it's off. And leaves you with the combination of adrenaline and admiration. Made a big impression on me as a kid.

Then there was Tsavo. Tsavo is split, east and west, and the eastern side was often closed due to poaching and bandit problems in the 80's. So I only know the west.

As a kid we once did a drive while staying outside of the park. At the time I was seventeen or something and growing up in the bush, I had been driving for a long time. My sister had got tired of the game drives and so my dad and sister had stayed at one of the lodges. I was driving and we went down to this river valley. We started to see elephants as we drove down towards the river on the one side. As we drove out the other side, we could now see that we were in the midst of thousands of elephants.

My mom suddenly didn't trust my driving any more (I was still unlicensed) and got out of the midst of the elephants as fast as she could. Her fears were perhaps not unfounded. I believe now, after reading books like those by Ian Douglas Hamilton, that these elephants were gathering in these big groups because of the effects of poaching in Kenya in those days. That time saw massive poaching in Kenya and Tsavo was one of the worst hit.

We got up to a view of the area and did manage to count a little. There were really thousands of elephants all together. Many of my friends in the wildlife field don't believe it, but it was true...just a product of the times in Kenya.

From elephants to lions. I already knew in high school that I was going to become a tour guide and did some trips organized through our school. One of these was a overland tour with Gametrackers. We went to several places, including the Masai Mara. Now, I didn't always like the Mara back then, with the lack of control. But on this occasion I saw it from a tourists side. We had over thirty lion sightings in that time. Simply because our guide was always getting info from his thousand and one other buddies.

We were all living in Africa and we struggled to convince our guide that we would like to just drive around and look at whatever we saw. He was a bit over determined to show us lions. But it was still amazing. Often a visit to a National Park, one lion sighting a day is good going. Private reserves are a little different, but that's why you pay for what you get.

Probably my favorite Nairobi National Park. I spent a lot of time there, especially just before I finished High School. When my parents had to be in Nairobi, I would take the Land Rover and head off by myself while they sat in meetings or conferences. No particular memories stick out, but it was so cool that you could get out of Nairobi, this mad city, and this beautiful game park right there!

If you want to read Ian Douglas Hamilton's book, you'll find it on Amazon:
BATTLE FOR THE ELEPHANTS. I started an interest in Africa Elephants with his books and even managed to read a lot of his doctorate at some stage. From his work, there were many other great books on elephants.