My African Photo Safari - Journal Entry #3 - August 13, 1988

My roommate Ann and I were awakened by Len Sr.'s authoritative knock at the door. Each morning he'd been awakening us in this manner, because this way there was no excuse for not hearing one's alarm clock. After the familiar knock, there was the burning question, "Ann, Kathleen, are you awake?" "Yes, we are now," was our reply.

Precisely 30 minutes later, we dined on fresh fruit, croissants, juice, tea, or coffee. If we aren't ready soon, to go shooting photos for the morning, being left behind was a distinct possibility. I liked to kid Lenny that he was our, "drill sergeant," and we were his recruits. I also liked to try to get him to laugh, the way he got me to. But more about that a little later.

We were out and shooting by 8:00 a.m. Ann, Len Sr., and I were in a van together that morning, with James driving. This was the first rotation with Len Sr. I'd ever had. I was so happy, because I knew for sure, we'd get a wonderful, insightful narrative about animal behaviors and habitats for the day.

Vervet monkeys were spotted first, then a troop of baboons nearby. Two of the monkeys actually jumped onto the van. James attempted to, "Shoo," them away, by waving his hat at them. It didn't work very well, as a few monkeys remained.

Male Vervet monkeys have brightly colored genitalia. Lenny was the first to point this out stating, "Now girls, don't be taking photos of that technicolor penis." Ann looked mortified, and I started laughing so hard, as did Lenny. As James started driving the remaining monkeys jumped off the van.

We were fortunate to see several different species of birds in Amboseli including; a Malachite Kingfisher, Blacksmith Lapwing, two Kori Bustard, one Goliath Heron, a Pied Kingfisher, one African Hoopoe, three Red-billed teals, a White-Necked Cormorant, and a Little Egret.

We drove on and saw a group of spotted hyenas; some walking around, and others sitting in a watering hole. This seemed to be a way they kept cool.

Next we came upon two young elephants playing together. They looked to be four or five years old. First they would chase each other around some green bushes, as if they were playing tag. Then they pressed their heads together and pushed each other to see who was stronger. This playing was helping to develop strength and stamina. They'll use these lessons later in life to establish dominance, when it comes time to breed. They also just enjoyed each other's company by touching trunks.

Soon after the, "calm," one picked up a branch and wielded it at the other to look bigger, and more threatening. In return, the other young elephant fanned out his ears to look bigger, and more threatening.

Young elephant fanning out his ears to look bigger and more intimidating. When huge males (bulls) do this, it is awe inspiring. I think a car should be photos, for scale, when viewing a full grown male, because the elephant will dwarf the car, because they can become that big, if not a victim of poaching for their tusks. (ivory) The males can grow to be twice the size of the females! (Cows). Elephants have a life span of about 60 years. Unfortunately, most are killed before this for their tusks. Record weight for a tusk is about 265 pounds!

When huge males (bulls) fan out their ears, it's awe inspiring. I think a car should be in photos, for scale, when viewing a full grown male, because the elephant will dwarf the car, because they can become that big, if not a victim of poaching for their tusks. (ivory) The males can grow to be twice the size of the females! (Cows). Elephants have a life span of about 60 years. Unfortunately, most are killed before this for their tusks. Record weight for a tusk is about 265 pounds!

This elephant play also included mock threat displays and charges, which perhaps they may have to use with humans someday, to try to chase them away. Many times a huge elephant will charge, but stop just short of the intended target. Other times they will just trample whatever is in their way. You have no way of knowing if the charge will be real, or a mock charge. It is wise to give elephants plenty of room, and respect, while on photo safari.

This play, was also teaching them valuable survival skills for when they get older. The males (bulls), for sure, most likely will have to fight for dominance, with the winner, having the chance to mate and pass on superior genes.

We stayed and watched them for about an hour and a half, until they tired of their play and walked away together. It seemed like only five minutes.

Next, we came upon a large group of zebra. As always, Lenny was right on the case, and quite vocal about it. His next informative statement was, "That zebra has five legs."- (The zebra in question had a noticeable erection.) James was laughing, and I covered my face this time, and started laughing as I said, "Oh no."

After this sighting we drove on, and came upon some hyenas feeding.

Spotted Hyennas were larger than I envisioned. I hate to anthropomorphize but they were very sinister looking. As I was looking through my 300mm telephoto lens, one hyena turned it's head over its shoulder and looked directly behind itself. At me. It was an eerie feeling, as if it were sizing me up for dinner.

We started heading back to the lodge, as it was dusk, and the light was failing. Lenny's, "recruits," were allotted 30 minutes, to shower and be ready for supper. Ann had her shower first that night. She was a great roommate. She was kind, easy to get along with, and highly disciplined. in that she wrote in her journal every night before, "Lights Out." This encouraged me to the same. I'm glad I did, because at the time you think, "I'll never forget everything that happened," but you do. You tend to lose the finer details, nuances, and conversations, if you don't record them in some way. Without writing in my journal, I couldn't share my experiences here with you, now. Thank you again, Ann.

Ann and I arrived to the dining room first that night, which was quite a feat. Two women, given half an hour to shower, wash and dry their hair, get dressed, and walk a ways to the dining room.

We had soup, potatoes, vegetables, steak, and fruit for dessert. We also engaged in stimulating conversation about the, "Five-Legged," zebras indigenous to east Africa. "Kathleen, I saw you shoot an entire roll of film on that particular zebra," said Lenny. I replied, "I didn't even take one shot." I was laughing again over this. Len Jr. asked, "Then why are you red?" - (from embarrassment) "It must be the reflection of this red tablecloth onto my face," I replied. I don't think anyone believed me, as we were all laughing now.

After supper, we headed for the lounge, and pulled up chairs to form a tight circle that included everyone in our little group. We looked up at the clear night sky, and Lenny said the stars look different in the southern hemisphere. Knowing nothing about astronomy I gazed up and enjoyed the beautiful Kenyan night sky. The stars seem brighter there.

During the next two days in Amboseli, we saw many more elephants, and zebras.

Elephant family. Check out the fanned out ears, and waterline from cooling down in a waterlogged marshy area. Did you know elephants are either right or left tusked, just as people are right or left handed?

At the end of the fifth night of our photo safari in Amboseli, Lenny started talking about Ngorongoro Crater, in Tanzania, which is one of the largest craters in the world. To be more precise, it is actually a caldera, measuring about nine miles across, and is approximately 2,000 - 2,500 feet deep, and covers roughly 100 square miles. The, "Crater," is an especially wonderful place to take African Wildlife photographs, because of the very highly concentrated populations of all the wildlife species you associate with Africa, and then some.

Being Lenny Sr. had been in Ngorongoro Crater several times before, he had a few stories to tell. This was my favorite;
"Three Men in a Tent"

Back in the 1960's three men went on a hunting safari together to try and bag the biggest animals as their trophies to hang upon their walls. One night they decided to camp in the Crater. It was a warm evening so the men left the door flap of their tent open, along with all the window flaps, in hopes of catching cooling breezes. The three men went into the tent after they retired for the evening, and unfortunately one of the men snored loudly as he slept, keeping the other two men awake for a while. Eventually all three men were asleep. In the morning, only two men came out of the tent! What had happened was . . . After all the men were asleep, a lion silently came into the tent, killed the snoring man, and dragged/carried him out while they were all sleeping. The speculation was, because the snoring sound of a human, sounds like a, "Death-Rattle," of a dying animal, (and therefore the easiest to catch, and kill), the lion chose the snoring man. What was left of the man was found less than 1/4 mile from their tent.

Lenny went on to say, while you're in the Crater, you can hear the lions roaring all through the night, nearby, and sometimes, even through camp, to make their presence known. He also informed us that we couldn't have a campfire at night, because it was the dry season. I said, "Then the only thing between the lions and us is about 1/8 inch of tent." I held up my thumb and index finger about 1/8 inch apart. Lenny pushed my fingers together and said, "More like 1/32 inch." "What's going to keep the lions away from us?" I asked, in a very concerned state of mind. This turned out to be a rhetorical question, as nervous laughter from the others in the group was the only answer I received. On that cheery note, we all said good night.

Ann and I walked back to our room at the Amboseli Lodge, and talked about the day's events and, "The Three Men in the Tent," story. We both wrote in our journals. This was the last night of our routine we started at Amboseli; upon our arrival, a few days before. Each day before we left for our game drive in the morning, we'd make sure our mosquito netting was tucked in under the mattress to seal out any malaria carrying mosquitos. Every day we also sprayed the netting with insect repellant. This made for an easy entry into bed, after dinner. As with every night we'd discuss what we might see the next day, and the trip we'd be taking to Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, the next day.

Publicado por kathleenlryan kathleenlryan, 01 de diciembre de 2019

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