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Kenya Safari

After our short sojourn in Tanzania, the last leg of what many think is our Africa holiday(not realizing that all the running around we do is actually hard work) is another verybrief Kenya safari. It is a short drive on a good road (well good for East Africa!) to theborder town of Namanga where we meet our old friend Julius - who tried so hard tomake our Kenya safari complete by finding leopards for us in the Masai Mara! Withwords tripping across each other, we tease him that no sooner had he headed back toNairobi than we found leopards on two separate occasions!!

We are heading to Amboseli which is where many start their East Africa holiday (thoughwe are going in reverse). Amboseli is home to the best observed elephants in the world -indeed much of our current understanding of these intelligent and complex creaturesemerged from these observations by Cynthia Moss and her research team! Sinceelephants are known for their huge impact on the environment, our introduction toAmboseli is to the dry and dusty plains their habitation has largely created. John is quiteunimpressed with the landscape but I am enchanted with the dust devils that dance alongthe parched plains. It seems like we have entered another dimension as mirages mergeland and sky and dangle the images of shimmering oases before us.

The saving grace of Amboseli, and one of the reasons to include it on an East Africaholiday itinerary, is, being at the foot of the snow capped Mount Kilimanjaro, it has aconstant supply of water. Filtered through the volcanic rock, it funnels into twoelongated springs in the centre of the park. Confused by the mirages, it takes us a whileto realize the swamp created by the springs are real! The ribbon of green is in markedcontrast to the dry plains and offers a welcome respite to a whole array of animals andbirds - a good introduction to a Kenya safari (albeit we see it in reverse!)

We are expected for lunch at Tortilis Camp which takes its name from a type of acacialooking a bit like open parachutes that are common in the area. The camp, which isfenced and boasting its own resident baboon chaser - armed, would you believe, with acatapult, is located appropriately enough in tortilis acacia woodland in a concession justoutside the Park. The relief manager, Barbara, offered us a very enthusiastic welcome.Her hospitality even extending to an impromptu invitation to stay, which we gladlyaccepted as we’d had done enough travelling for one day. Perched on the side of a hill,overlooking a popular water hole, Tortilis offers a comfortable start to an East Africaholiday with Nairobi only 140 kms or so away.

Our first game drive was in the concession where there are less onerous rules than in thepark. The gnus (wildebeest) struck us as a different colour, covered as they are with finevolcanic dust - must be extra careful to protect the camera! Looking around these semi -arid plains we figure the predators would need to be very strategic in this very open parkor the game very unobservant. We watched a pride of lions for some time who seemed to

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be hungry though not, as far as we could determine, starving. Thus we dismissed the

possibility that they would dine tonight especially given that all we could see in the

vicinity was a single ostrich - imagine our surprise therefore to be informed at dinner thatno sooner had we left than the lions managed to ambush a hapless gnu! As we keep onsaying it pays to be patient in an Africa holiday!

The location for the traditional Kenya safari sundowner on the first evening was quitespectacular - on the top of observatory hill with 360 degree view of the concession andthe park. We were even treated to a peek at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro - when,despite the timing of our visit being on the cusp of the short rains, the cloudsmomentarily parted! Our guide responded to what he must see as an inevitable questiongiven the location of Amboseli with “I have climbed Mount Kili numerous times with myeyes”. Clever man, as too many underestimate the challenge of scaling its 5,900 meters!Certainly not my idea of a dream Africa holiday!

Our last adventure at Tortilis was a delightful bush breakfast - which no matter howmany you have had are always a delight! This one appeared to be particularly wellplanned - even stretching to the luxury of a “ladies loo” - an imaginative constructionconsisting of a toilet seat suspended over a newly dug hole by camp chair legs andstrategically placed behind a screening bush - every Kenya safari should have one!!