Kenya: The Cycle of Life

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit the heart of Africa and experience wildlife first-hand. Finally, we were able to plan a weeklong safari trip in Kenya at the time of the Great Migration in Maasai Mara. We also opted to spend a few days in the Amboseli / Kilimanjaro region famous for its elephants.

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After a short flight with great Kilimanjaro views on this propeller plane, we arrived at the airstrip in Amboseli, ready to safari!
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Maasai people are one of the tribes of Kenya, who have been living in this region for several centuries.
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They have been embracing tourism as an alternative to the traditional livestock-dependent lifestyle, which is threatened by human-wildlife conflict.
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We had a chance to visit a nearby Maasai village and join a traditional dance/jump.
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We stayed at small eco-friendly camps, each one consisting of several of these tents. All staff were from local Maasai villages, making our experience so much better! Because the camps are not fenced, all kinds of animals would wander around, especially at night. On our first night, an elephant ate the tree right next to our tent. Listening to that was thrilling!
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Kudu is among the many types of antelope found in Africa.
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Zebra, a common yet beautiful animal of Africa.
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Cute baby zebra!
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The one on the very right is pregnant.
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We came across a large pride of lions right before sunset. Father and daughters were resting, while mother and cubs were playing.

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Gerenuk is a cross between an impala and a giraffe 🙂 By standing on its hind feet, it can eat the leaves higher up on trees, which are not accessible to other antelopes.
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A quintessential element of African landscape: acacia trees. The hanging nests are of buffalo weavers, our guide told us.
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Snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, clearing up in the back. Giraffes posing in the front.
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Amboseli is renowned for its friendly elephants.
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We were able to get very close to and watch many elephant families, witnessing first-hand how interesting their social lives are
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These gentle giants follow military order, forming a straight line while moving from one place to another, strictly following the leader.
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They protect the little ones by keeping them in the middle.

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Hyenas guarding their cubs in the den.
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A pregnant one is peacefully coexisting with a wildebeest, its natural prey.
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Hyenas love to scavenge wildebeest carcasses. They can even eat the bones, using their extremely strong jaws. Vultures and marabou storks wait their turn…
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Baboons! They are very social, intelligent, and sometimes quite aggressive. In our last camp, we would hear them howl all night.
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The little ones ride on their mother’s back for a couple months.
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There were so many types of birds in Amboseli. This is a grey-headed kingfisher.
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A flock of flamingos producing a very pretty scenery for us.
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Saddle-billed stork, a tall and colorful bird.
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My favorite: secretary bird. She resembles the stereotypical old-school secretary type, with a big hairdo, red makeup on her face, beautiful gray/black dress, long elegant legs, and walking as if she has high heels!
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A little canary going after our lunch leftovers.
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Superb starling with its superb colors.
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Ostriches (male in the front, female in the back).
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Saker falcon: I’m always surprised by how huge these bird nests can be.
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Blue-breasted bee-eater
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Lilac-breasted roller
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Southern ground hornbill: such a strange-looking bird.
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Dik-dik: Possibly the cutest animal in the savannah. And romantic as well — they mate for life…
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After another short flight, we arrived at our second camp. Our crazy fun guides Bill and Stanley…
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Breakfast in the wild, with fresh eggs, beans, Maasai honey, and fruit. Plus, it’s organic! 😛
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Mongoose: always on the run, from one hole to another.
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Topi, or as our guide put it, the antelope with business-casual attire (brown jacket, blue jeans, yellow socks) 🙂
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Vervet monkey: These guys would steal candy from tents, so we had to put several obstacles in front of the zipper. 😮 They would also run back and forth on top of our tent at night.
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Cheetah is my favorite animal. But the jackal deserves some kind of award for being the craziest, bravest, most clever animal out there. Despite its small size, we watched this black-backed jackal stop a whole family of cheetahs from having a peaceful meal. S/he bothered them until they had to give up the rest of the impala. And the craziest thing is: even after they gave up and left the food, the jackals continued to chase them! I still love you cheetahs, but that was kinda embarrassing… 😐

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Stunning colors and a rainbow emerged after rain, right before sunset. There are three cheetahs in this picture — talk about camouflage!
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Surprisingly, this cape buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
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We stumbled upon a group of 5 large lions eating a giraffe, which was quite a scene, but what happened next was even more thrilling!
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The lions suddenly stopped from devouring the giraffe, and left the scene without thinking twice. A roar was heard from the distance…
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When we turned, we saw a huge male lion making his way through the grasslands, amid scary looks from all other animals!
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He made sure to leave his scent all around the area, then settled on his throne (!), enjoying his new territory.
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Warthog, also known as Pumba from Lion King.
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Entering the Mara National Reserve to see the Great Migration, which takes place from June to October, where 1.5 million animals migrate from Serengeti (Tanzania) to Maasai Mara (Kenya), crossing the Mara River.
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The river is dominated by schools of hippos and giant Nile crocodiles, which constantly switch between bathing in the river and bathing in the sun.
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Their target is the wildebeest, the weak and unintelligent antelopes that have constant desire to graze on the other side of the river.
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Thousands of wildebeest line up as they graze, and at some point decide to cross the river. After the leader stepped into the water, all the others got scared and rushed back to safety.
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As we watched the single wildebeest try to swim across, it started struggling at halfway. The crocodile can be seen biting the wildebeest from its back, and trying to pull it in, right in front of the bystander hippo.
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The wildebeest turned out to be stronger than expected, and made it to the other side. However, due to its big wounds, it is more likely to be hunted by predators.
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Heading to our third and last camp…
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A vulture, browsing for leftovers…
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Yellow-billed stork
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Eland is the largest type of antelope.
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Hartebeest, the better-looking cousin of wildebeest. 🙂
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Leopards are usually quite shy, but this one liked the shade of our car. Amazing fur!
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After watching him climb the tree, we noticed that an impala was stashed at the top, from which lunch was served later.
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Helmeted guineafowl, a turkey-like creature very common everywhere we went
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It was a treat to watch the sun rise and set every single day 😉
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The entire Serengeti-Mara ecosystem has around 30-40 black rhinos, so it is very hard to spot them hiding in the bushes. After two drives of rhino search, we were able to spot one, but s/he quickly disappeared into the bushes. In Nairobi, we went to the David Sheldrick Orphanage, which has a single black rhino who was abandoned by his mother due to his blindness. We also got to meet the elephants that were rescued from (usually man-made) situations, and adopted a 3.5 year-old female. She’s almost ready to be reintroduced into the wild! They do a fantastic job at this place, also featured on NatGeo: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/magazine/ngm-orphaned-elephants

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