Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Breakfast with Elephants

Mar 4 - Breakfast with Elephants

I awoke to a predawn splendor of orange which arched across the sky as the sun slowly made its way to the horizon.  Framed against the flat topped acacia trees it was a scene out of any African picture book.  I enjoyed my fresh coffee and muesli in front of my tent and listened to the sounds of all the songbirds in the bush.  The lions had been calling again last night so we set off in that direction to see if they had made a kill.  We did not find the lions but we had a gorgeous drive through the green woodlands with lots of grazing zebra and gazelles under the acacia trees...such a peaceful idyllic setting.  We saw several Masai giraffe up close and then encountered a sweet family group of elephants headed by two sister matriarchs.  They had several young babies from 2-4 years old.  We were able to slowly approach them and even to safely step out of the vehicle at a respectful distance so that we could get a little taste of encountering elephants on foot.  
We were about 35 feet away and the mothers kept a watchful eye on us but did not get stressed as they continued to munch on the acacia thorn bushes.  We decided to set up a bush breakfast nearby so we turned the vehicles around and established a position about 300 feet away with a clear view of the families.  Our guides set out a table and folding chairs and we dined on fresh pancakes, egg and bacon sandwiches, fresh fruit, muesli and tea/coffee.  It was such a great setting and even the guides got out their iPads to take pictures of us eating with the elephants as they slowly circled closer to us over the next 30 minutes.  What a treat!  A curious giraffe even came for a look as zebra and wildebeest slowly filed past behind us on their migratory route.  Later we drove to a great double coned outcrop feature that rose off the plains several hundred feet with lots of large boulders.  Think Lion King when Simba is presented to the world!  This is great habitat for leopard and lion so we scouted the ridge line and boulders as we circled the hills.  We found several Masai cattle bomas which were not in use and those who did not go on our walk previously enjoyed viewing the crude shelters of the herders.  We did not spot any cats so we went on to the pains where eventually we encountered 4 cheetah brothers just as they were commencing to hunt...what luck!  We patiently watched as they stalked three gazelles over the course of 45 minutes and eventually one of he gazelles walked towards the bushes they were waiting in.  Like a flash the cheetahs pounced but their timing was off and they missed their chance...clearly it is a lot easier to kill a lost newborn than an adult gazelle.  We were reminded again how fortunate we were to see the kill the day before right in front of our vehicle.  Anyway, we spent the next half hour approaching closer to get some good photos and then let them get in with their hunt as we returned to camp fr lunch.  The father and son guests that we are sharing the camp with showed us photos of the cheetah that had jumped up onto their vehicle to get a better perch.  Not unusual but a real treat and a photographer's dream. This afternoon I have arranged to have a ranger escort us in a guided walk to the lake which should be very cool as you learn so much more when you are walking.  More soon

Walking conditions we perfect as cooling afternoon clouds created a nice breeze as we made our way to the lake.  Our walk was full of great information about the bush...did you know that zebra poop is excellent kindling to start fires due to the dry grass content? That the roots of certain plants will cure malaria, upset stomach, and more?  Leaves of one plant is used as sandpaper to smooth out the handles of Maasai spears?  The walk took us through scattered bush under acacia woodlands and we had clear views down onto the lake where we spotted two giraffe coming down for a drink followed by a line of zebra and wildebeest who gathered just below our perch on the bluff.  It was so calm and peaceful to be on foot in the wild with only the sounds of the songbirds filling the air.  Our walk ended in a grand finale as the guides had brought a vehicle down to the lake and set up chairs and a table with a fully stacked bar.  Anyone for gin and tonics at sunset by the lake?  A perfect end to another day in paradise.

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