One of my friends and travel buddies commented to me earlier this week that it has been seven years this month since we trekked with mountain gorillas, experienced the Serengeti wildebeest migration, witnessed Lake Nakuru’s abundant bird life and tree-dwelling lions, and enjoyed tropical Indian Ocean breezes in Zanzibar. Where has the time gone?
Dollar-for-dollar, the heavy reservoirs of cash laid out for three weeks of adventure in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania arguably delivered more bang for the buck than any other travel expenditure. I knew upon arriving at our first safari park of the trip, Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, that we were in for something simply unforgettable.
Amboseli National Park is a special place. Imagine waking up with views like this? Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain on early, towers over the distant horizon from neighboring Tanzania. I was especially stoked, as a “Kili” summit attempt was on the books as well, for the last week of the trip. Read more about the climb here.
Our visit coincided with the dry season, which kept the mosquitoes at bay but also resulted in hazier skies. Just two hours after sunrise, the haze had already blown in (southwards from Nairobi), obscuring the view of Kilimanjaro. Still, this near-perfect framing of African elements beneath Kili is one of my favorite images from the trip, and would be a calendar contender if not for the haze.
Amboseli is as famous for its elephants as for its Kili views. Here, the peaceful pachyderms graze amidst petrified trees.
Mommy, daddy, and baby.
Extreme close-up. Notice the chin whiskers, eyelashes, and tusk imperfections.
Further afield, this handsome fellow helps himself to some grub, while a feathered stowaway feasts on any insects that land on the host’s leathery skin.
Baboon migration. I wonder what they are running from? (We didn’t see any lions…which isn’t to say that they weren’t there, lurking in the dry brush.)
Although Amboseli – and most of Kenya, for that matter – is considered “semi-arid” – the western half of the park features several swamps as well as Lake Amboseli, an enormous Pleistocene lake that is dry during all but the rainiest of months. We spent a couple of hours driving around the swampy expanse until we spotted this solitary buffalo, sitting alongside the bones of what I presume are his relatives.
Hippos! These magnificent herbivores are responsible for more human deaths than any other wild animal in Africa, although that fact seems hard to believe when all they seem to do is laze about the mud. (I had a slightly different experience with hippos when visiting the Okavango Delta just one year prior.)
On our way back to our lodge for dinner, we passed this pair of frolicking ostriches.
Amboseli Sopa Lodge, featuring an inviting pool, a ridiculous buffet dinner (I mean that in a good way), and a wait staff attentive to our every need. No hostels out here. 🙂
This magnificent tree, a fragrant canopy of lavender, was one of several on the grounds of Amboseli Sopa Lodge.
Sentient guardian of the lodge’s pool complex.
Point of contrast: the approach road to Amboseli National Park as seen from our van (hence the smudge). The road, along with many others that criss-cross the landscape through sub-Saharan Africa, is lined with produce vendors and locals who, though dirt-poor by western standards, are always quick with a smile.
We drove further afield the next morning, and there were long stretches of nothingness.
Pumba sighting! I hope no one is standing down wind….
Morning rush hour.
An unexpected surprise, like a desert mirage. Check out the rear-facing buffalo, who is having none of this.
Several muffler-damaging bumps and at least one pee break later, we reached hyena territory. These dopey (yet somehow cute) scavengers are the coyotes of Africa’s animal kingdom.
If you are standing in such tight proximity to a den of wild hyenas, the general rules of safety deem that you are TOO CLOSE.
A dazzle of zebras, grazing in close quarters as the light wanes.
Last light, last night. I will *never* forget Africa’s sunsets.
Massai warrior and photo opportunist outside our lodge. If you squint you can just make out Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. “Manual” rather than “P” mode may have captured the mountain better, although a slower shutter speed would have over-exposed the warrior’s red cloak.
Our last glimpse of Kilimanjaro from below, its receding glacier melt waters the primary water source for the animals of Amboseli. What does the future hold?
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.