Saturday, July 20, 2013

National Geographic meets Animal Planet

Playing Tourist: It felt like we were working in that weekends were a break from our usual work schedule. Elaine and I wanted to experience as much as possible so we left the project on both weekends.

First weekend: trip to the Mara Reserve.
 Chilling for breakfast by our trusty vehicle. 
We got a thumbs up when we arrived back, not because we tracked animals, but because we made it back. I have a new appreciation for the Toyota Land Cruiser. it felt like a never ending Indian Jones ride.

 Look, us and an elephant! 
Proof that we were actually with the wildlife.

10 month old cheetah cub and his mom, Maleeka
We were introduced to them with the question, "Do you want to see a cheetah jump on cars?" "Sure!"

ROAN antelope!  First sighting in 19 years!
This was a highlight of our trip. Not necessarily seeing the endangered Roan antelope, but seeing Joseph get so excited! He usually drives fast, but we have never seen him floor the jeep like this time. He then called all his friends and his teach. Al we heard was”ROAN antelope …. FIRST TIME … I SWEAR” repeated at least a dozen times. It was on facebook within minutes. Maybe it was because a dik-dik crossed our road early in the morning which was a sign of good luck!

 Wildebeest Skull
Elaine found this when going for a wee in the bush. You just never know what you are going to find. FYI, I became known as the girl fascinated by skulls. No surprise. I nearly jumped out of the vehicle when I saw my first skull.

Pumbaa (aka warthog in Swahili)
These little guys were elusive! We always caught the family on the run in the shrubbery. So hard to catch a good photo.

“Welcome to the Great Migration!”
We were all surprised that it started early. This was the first weekend. Thousands of zebra come first, followed by the wildebeest.

Our second (and last) weekend.
Local village visit:
A local woman on the house she built
Women build the houses with branches and cow dung. The Masai are nomadic due to their cattle herding, though the culture is changing. Our trip was informative, though a bit too touristy for my liking.

We chilled a night at Encounter Mara, an amazingly beautiful luxury camp that we got a huge discount on for being part of the volunteer project.  This is a whole different type of safari-ing. We ate dinner out in the plains. We had 5 lights in our tent AND a flush toilet! And a view right out into the open savanna. A well appreciated break.

We went on a walking safari. It was interesting to be on the actual ground. We learned a lot about medicinal plants and poo.

 Giraffe poo.

Local “Colgate” (aka Kenya greenheart plant)

Animals at the salt lick.
It was a like a playground. We chilled and watched. Africa!

Back to work:
Game counts
We learned to identify lots of animals and counted animals such as Thompson giselles, Topis, Grant giselles, impalas, heartabeest, wildebeest, ostriches, zebras, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, lions, warthogs, monkeys, cows, goats twice a week in 6 different transects. These are used to help indicate endangered species, understand migration trends and track animals.

We decided our worst African nightmare is not getting eaten by a lion, but counting Tommy’s hiding in the bushes. I counted over 100!

How many impalas? 
FYI, impalas have the “M” butts like McDonalds, Grant giselles have white above their tail and tommy’s have white tails. You can tell so much from butt shots!

I loved watching all the animals move… giraffes, giselles, warthogs, elephants. Lion King is one of my fave Disney movie of all times. There were quite a few references to it. I had a dream job of dancing as a Giselle in the Lion King musical. Now this I can get used to!

Elaine and I had an awesome time!

Our time on the Mara Naboisho Project with African Impact was amazing! It really was a unique experience. I’m glad we got to volunteer and get a different perspective than just a passing tourist. AI, especially Lincoln, did a wonderful job of getting us involved with the community and wildlife conservation. I definitely recommend this project to anyone who has an interest in learning about wildlife, the community and wants to be in a remote setting. I learned as much as I could in the two weeks. It was just the right amount of time.

My month in Africa was incredible. I came with little expectations and an open mind. In the end, I was floored and humbled by everything I was exposed too. One common theme was meeting so many people that are passionate about what they do. It made me thankful for having a job that I love, but also it was great to leave the stresses of daily life and gain a new perspective. One thing that was expected - this trip was unlike any of my past travels I have blogged about here. Definitely a month to remember.

1 comment:

sharock said...

i mean i've seen these photos already, but somehow the written word makes it more enlightening. :)