Tuesday, 18 January 2011
It’s 10:30 PM on our last night at the incredible Rhino Watch Lodge, and I’m just now downloading today’s pictures. I’m guessing there may be a thousand, just from my camera today! Why? Because we saw LIONS!!! Up close (if you count about 12 feet away close!) and for a long time. Three times!!! We also saw several things today we hadn’t seen yet – Grevy’s Zebra, Red Saddleback Crane, Hartebeests, owls, chimpanzees, otters, and several more new birds. What a fantastic day!
More about today later – let’s take up where we left off, back at Roberts Camp on Friday, 14 January. You may remember that the gang had so much fun on the boat tour that they asked to do it again, so I was excited since I had missed the first trip. We had tea and the went down the road to catch our boats. Joshua was our guide, and he appears to be Shelley’s new BFF, as he remembered her name and now calls her “Shelley Mama”. The boats we were in were slightly larger than canoes, with a flat bottom and an outboard motor, and seats for five (or more) people. In our boat were Rex, Keith, Chris, me, and Shelley, in that order. We also had Joshua and a driver, so we were pretty loaded down. Joshua is very knowledgeable about birds in the area, and we spent most of the time spotting, identifying, and watching local birds, but the highlight of yesterday’s trip was feeding the fish eagles who live nearby. This is a big show and a fantastic photo opportunity! There are local fisherman in tiny one-man boats made of balsa wood who paddle out with things that look like soccer pads in their hands, and they supply the fish for ‘eagle bait’. They paddle over next to the boats and toss a fish onto the water’s surface. Quick as a wink, down from the treetops soars a huge fish eagle (looks a lot like a bald eagle) to snatch the fish for its next meal. It takes a bit to get the timing of the photo right, and sadly, there were only two fish to use as bait today… Still, it was quite the spectacle!
After luring the eagles, we could turn to other animals here. In the water, we saw hippos, crocodiles, and lots of dragonflies flitting from reed to branch, and in the air and trees we saw dozens of birds of all varieties, mostly very brightly plumed. My favorite was the Beautiful Sunbird, although I loved the Madagascar Bee Eater and the Malachite Kingfisher, too. They are all brilliantly colored – go figure! Our two hour tour was done too soon, but we had one last surprise left. Joshua told us he had some scorpions for us to see, and he did! We got a great show of both a black and a brown scorpion, on the ground and on him!!
We went back to our banda (cottage) at Roberts Camp for breakfast, which was again stellar! David had fixed us papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, cereal, strawberry yogurt, avocado juice, mango juice, and any style egg could be ordered from the kitchen. I am getting SO SPOILED!! After brekky we all packed up our things and loaded the cars, because it was to to get started down the road to our next stop at Rhino Watch Lodge, at the base of Mt. Kenya and almost on the equator. Frank told us it was about a 2.5 or 3 hour drive, so I’m guessing it will take us at least five hours to get there…
John was our driver, and just after the gate closed behind us, he realized we had left our lunches back at camp! So back we went!! And THEN we were off, at about 10:30 or 11:00. By 1:15 we were back at an overlook of the Great Rift Valley, the Subukia Viewpoint, getting hit up again by Kenyans selling curios. This time Rex and I both bought a few trinkets! I bought mine from Grace, who invited me into her shop and who told me she has four children and walks up the big hill from the valley below to the overlook every day to work. At 1:45 we stopped at Thomson Falls for lunch and a little break, which turned out to be pretty funny. To see the falls, or get your photo made with some Kikuyu warriors, or play with some chameleons, or take any pictures of same, it would cost you!! As we belatedly learned…. All was not lost, though, as there was a wonderful washroom (with the big three – seat, running water, and paper!) and lovely grounds. We ate our box lunch down the hill where we were again beseeched to BUY SOMETHING!! We resisted.
Back on the road for a mercifully uneventful rest of the trip. I finished a book and by 5:45 we had been to our lodges and met back at one of the bars at Rhino Lodge for tea. So much for our 3 hour drive… I can’t say enough wonderful things about Rhino Watch! INCREDIBLE!! More about that later, as I am running short of time to get this posted tonight! Dinner, and appetizers, as always when David is cooking, were awesome. Did I mention that David and crew came with us here? We are so happy about that!
Having a fantastic time and so thankful for the cool mountain air,