Saturday, October 9, 2010

Kenya Camping Safari

Camping in Kenya offers you utmost flexibility. Since you have all the basics that you need in your adventure camping vehicle, time is at your control.This makes it all so easy and relaxing knowing that you can spend as much time or less depending on where you want to visit.

The superb tropical climate with hot breezy days and cool tranquil nights gives you an interpretable sensation. The sceneries thrilled with undisturbed reserves and the great natural attractions such as lakes, Mountains ranges, snow peaks, wildlife, forests and culturated expanses will leave you dreadly inspired. An interaction with the local people in their ethnicity is a great prove that africa's diversity is unique.

Among the many places worth visit in africa, you will find kenya tour to be more deserving. Imagine camping in the heart of wildlife thrilled savanahs surrounded by beautiful sceneries and clear open skies at night. In some places, you can opt to spend your night under open skies and enjoy the quietness of the cool breezes.

But this depends on how you plan it. The most important thing for any successful camping is advance planning. You need to plan on where to go, when, how long and the number of people you will be sharing the experience with. With these in mind, then it will be easier for you to do your budget and also know what is essential and what is not. Altenatively have a local agent do the arrangements for you.

Then its time to pack your camping gear. If you are booking your camping tour through a Kenya tour operator, then you will be exempted the task of carrying a complete gear since most Kenya tour firms will do this for you. But if this is not the case, then you will need to itemize your gear and all the essentials that you would use while camping. Depending on when and where you like to camp and what you like to do, the list will be ever changing. A tip is to think flexibility. The ease with which you can set/move camp and off course the weight of your stuff, including foods.

You've finally arrived at your camping destination and you're scoping out the area to see which spot looks best for setting up your campsite. While choosing the campsite, please consider pitching your tent on slightly high level ground to keep you safe incase of rains. You will also need to consider fundermental issues such as water source, adequate cooking area, cleaning area (don’t kill vegation with hot soapy water), garbage area and finally, consider a camping area with some shade.

After setting up the campsite it's time to go do what you came here to do, "go play!" Whatever your preoccupation is, enjoy! Do such refreshing things as; seeing the campsite set up, smelling the country air, short walks, go bird watching, take a bike ride, stroll around, eat well, enjoy a drink and if possible get a feel with the local communities. This is a refreshing change from all of the confines of the city.

Then in the evening enjoy the orange African fire while the sounds of wilderness fill the night: Night birds, the laughter of hyenas, the buzz of a mosquito or the occasional roar of lions proclaiming their territory.

Kenya Camping safari , whether with pals or family can be lots of fun. But you need to pay attention to a couple of things for example baboons and vervet monkeys. Baboons can be a menace and some times destructive. So as to cope with baboons and monkeys, always make sure; you close your tent, never leave you campsite unattended and constantly keep all the foodstuffs away from their, because that is what they seek. This way, you will be able to keep them off the temptation.

It's time to leave the camp? A little effort is all that you need to expend in order to ensure that the next camper arriving at the campsite after you will enjoy it just as much. The most basic principle rule for camping is: Leave No Trace. It's all about respect for nature. If campers would just leave their campsites the better than the way they found them (assuming it was clean to begin with), then we will all be doing our share in making sure that other generations will have their share of fun in the wilds of Africa. Its beyond any doubt that africa makes one of the most wonderful and adventurous kenya camping safari vacation for any one who enjoy outdoor adventures camping safaris.

PKP-Kenia safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

How to get the best out of your kenya safari

If you love traveling like me, you will agree that vacation time needs planning ahead, and some research is called for. Depending on where you want to vacation, prior information comes in hardy.

Here are 10 factors that could make your Kenya safari a dream come true or a disaster.

1. Check the best seasons compared to the time you have for vacation time.

Whatever you want to do/see during your kenya safari, first thing you should do

Is to consider when the best times are. While all-year round could be

Good, the rainy seasons can make things very hard. And if it’s the annual kenya safari migration you have in mind, the months of July till early September is what you need.

2. In addition, what other places of interest would you want to see?

Lonely planet has good suggestions off course, but there are other

Sources like friends, family, online directories and reviews that are great source of updated information.

3. After you know what you want to see/experience, its time now to know what it might cost you. Avoid disappointments by not being aware what you might be expected to part with. Get a rough idea by enquiring from travel agents and park authority sites, Tour Operator Association sites. Be informed!

4. Accommodations vary greatly, both in level and in prices. Some lodges and Camps are high end, while others fall somewhere medium level. And in addition there is the option of camping. Definitely the accommodation type you choose affects what you have to pay in the end. How much do you want to spend or can afford to spend? That’s up to you.

5. You are informed. You know what you want to do/see, and you know when you want to do that dream safari, to see wildlife at close range or vacation on beach. You also have a rough idea how much it might cost you. But you have to choose your tour operator. Again recommendations from those who have first experience are great. If not, check online, contact several tour operators and make a list of several that gives you confidence.

6. This is now the most important part. From the mails or your contact with agents/tour operators, you may have an idea of what kind of a company you are dealing with. But that is far from enough. Check the operator(s) you have settled for. Check for reviews from previous travelers. Get their email address/phones from testimonials and comments pages. Hear their experience with that company.

7. You have settled for one? Good. Now go pin down last details of your itinerary. Have your itinerary finalized to the last bit. Be sure/aware what prices includes and what not and what costs what. Day –to-day program and if possible driving times/distances between parks/towns. You don’t want to be driving at night or spending all your time on road.

8. Ask for discount, especially if booking in advance. Besides, am yet to hear of a law against asking for discount.

9. Book your safari.

Depending on when you want to travel, some seasons demand booking in advance. In kenya safari the peak seasons, usually the months of July, August, September, January/February require that you have booked your kenya safari several months in advance.

10. Then go enjoy your safari. Remember, the best prints you can leave are to leave none.

PKP-Kenia safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

The Kenya you have Never Seen

Ask any tourist about Kenya safari and you will hear endless stories about Rift valley views, Lake Nakuru, Bogoria and Baringo. Others will tell you tirelessly about the famous parks and reserves while others will narrate from dawn to dusk about the recently graded seven wonders of the modern world, the wildebeest migration and masai mara ecosystem. Additionally, you will not miss a hundred more tell you about Lake Victoria, the worlds second largest fresh water lake. The narration will go on and revolve around what one saw or heard about the beaches of the Kenyan coast and the pride mountain, Mt Kenya. And the story ends here.

In the rush for kenya wildlife safari, especially big five craze, there is another side of Kenya safari that you rarely get to see, starting with Western Kenya.

When you hear of port Florence, the name sounds like one of the many ports in the world. This is the current Lake Victoria's major town and the Kenya’s third city- Kisumu one of the major attraction site in western Kenya. Many know about it and scholars have written about it both locally and internationally with the local people having various authentic folk tales, myths and legends about its mother Lake Victoria.

The western Kenya safari attractions includes important towns among them, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Kisii among others. The Kenya’s agricultural back bone is found here. To the north, you enjoy fresh fruits and other farm produces from the fertile farm lands. To the south you view beautiful vast plantations of tea that are endless and the dedicated local people may insist you pick a few. Proceed to Kakamega forest. It is the only rain forest in Kenya and only found on this part of the country. Here you get to see many species of Fauna and Flora that can only be spotted in the Congo forests, which are thousands of miles from here.

This is definitely a living museum of unique and rare species, a treasure trove for nature lovers, bird watchers and an ideal place for holiday makers.

A couple of primate species reside in this forest including black and white colobus monkeys and the debrazza monkeys. The sheer abundance of birds is over whelming and the beautiful chameleons that are often seen in the undergrowth are a great pleasure.

You can set camp on the forest edge and enjoy a great meal prepared by the safari cook. But at night the forest is a different world – the air fills with bats, the silence is taken over by croak sounds of frogs, night birds and the unmistakable booming call of the giant forest squirrel, very interesting and appealing.

The forest has many walking trails. Though there is a vehicle circular, the forest is best explored on foot. It is such a fantastic place and you feel the urge to stay longer.

But you have Mount Elgon to visit too. Here lays an impressive craggy extinct volcano whose peaks are ideal for climbing. The many caves found here are collectively known as Elkony but the famous one is called Kitum. At night Elephants collect in this cave to lick natural salt from the walls of the cave. Here you witness ancient cave paintings on the walls. Hiking to the peak is very fulfilling.

These are some of other destinations that you would rarely find on the regular kenya safari, especially if coming back to Kenya for a second or third time.

PKP-Kenia Safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

The Wild Dog

The scientific name "Lycaon pictus" which is derived from the Greek for "wolf" and the Latin for "painted".The African Wild Dog is a medium sized canid found only in Africa.

It is the only species in the genus Lycaon.

It is also called the Painted Hunting Dog, African Hunting Dog, the Cape Hunting Dog, the Spotted Dog, or the Painted Wolf in English, and Mbwa mwitu in Swahili. Adults typically weigh 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds). It stands about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100 cm) and a tail of 12 to 18 inches (30–45 cm).

There is little sexual dimorphism, though judging by skeletal dimensions, males are usually 3-7% has 42 teeth in total. The premolars are relatively large compared with those of other canids, allowing it to consume a large quantity of bone, much like hyenas.The heel of the lower carnassial M1 is crested with a single cusp, which enhances the shearing capacity of teeth and thus the speed at which prey can be consumed.

This feature is called trenchant heel and is shared with two other canids: the Asian Dhole and the South American Bush Dog. The African Wild Dog reproduces at any time of year, although mating peaks between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. Litters can contain 2-19 pups, though 10 is the most usual number.

The time between births is usually 12–14 months. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as those of the Aardvark. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8–11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12–14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves.

Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12–18 months. In packs, there are separate male and female hierarchies that will split up if either of the alphas die. In the female group, the oldest will have alpha status over the others, so a mother will retain her alpha status over her daughters. For the males, in contrast the youngest male or the father of the other males will be dominant.

Dominance is established without blood-shed, as most dogs within a group tend to be related to one another in some way, and even when not this can occur. They have a submission-based hierarchy, instead of a dominance based one. Unrelated African Wild Dogs sometimes join up in packs, but this is usually temporary. Occasionally, instead unrelated cape dogs will attempt hostile takeovers of packs.

The African Wild Dog hunts in packs. Like most members of the dog family, it is a cursorial hunter, meaning that it pursues its prey in a long, open chase. The dogs have a peculiar rather playful ceremony that bonds them for a common purpose and initiates each hunt. They start circulating among the other pack members, vocalizing and touching until they get excited and are ready to hunt.

Its voice is characterized by an unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird. After a successful hunt, hunters regurgitate meat for those that remained at the den during the hunt, such as the dominant female and the pups. They will also feed other pack members, such as the sick, injured, the very old that cannot keep up, or those who stayed back to watch the pups.

The African Wild Dog's main prey varies among populations but always centers around medium-sized ungulates, such as the impala, Thomson's Gazelle, and wildebeest. While the vast majority of its diet is made up of mammal prey, it sometimes hunts large birds, especially Ostriches. Hunting larger prey requires a closely coordinated attack, beginning with a rapid charge to stampede the herd.

One African Wild Dog then grabs the victim's tail, while another attacks the upper lip, and the remainder disembowel the animal while it is immobilised. This behaviour is also used on other large dangerous prey, such as the African Buffalo, giraffe calves, and large antelope even the one-ton Giant Eland.

The dogs often eat their prey while it is still alive. Remarkably, this large-animal hunting tactic appears to be a learned behavior, passed on from generation to generation withinthe species. The home range of packs varies enormously, depending on the size of the pack and the nature of the terrain.

Their preferred habitat is deciduous forests because of large prey herd size, lack of competition from other carnivores, and better sites for denning. No two wild dogs are marked exactly the same, making it easy to identify different individuals. Why such a pattern should develop, and how it serves the hunting dog, has long intrigued scientists.

These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet. African hunting dogs are endangered. They are faced with shrinking room to roam in their African home. They are also quite susceptible to diseases spread by domestic animals.

PKP-Kenya safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

The Jackal

Scientific Name: Common (Canis aureus), side-striped (Canis adustus), black-backed (Canis mesomelas)

It's Swahili Name is Bweha. It weighs about15 to 35 pounds and have a lifespan of10 to 12 years. The jackal, a medium-sized carnivore with doglike features and a bushy tail, is widely distributed in Africa, the Middle East and India.

The three species of jackal in East Africa are the golden or common jackal, the side-striped jackal and the black-backed or silver-backed jackal. The golden jackal is somewhat shorter and stockier, and the black-backed is the most slender and upstanding, with noticeably larger ears.

Mainly, they differ in color and choice of habitat. The sandy-colored golden jackal prefers open, grassy plains, while the side-striped jackal lives along water courses with dense undergrowth. This jackal is drabber in color, has a white tip on the tail and indistinct black and white stripes along the sides of the body.

The black-backed jackal is easily recognized by the mantle of black hair on the back that contrasts with the rust-colored body. The black mantle is streaked with white and from a distance has a silvery appearance. The tail is black-tipped, as is that of the golden jackal. The black-backed jackal is usually the most frequently seen as it is more diurnal than the other two species.

The common jackal lives in open savannas, deserts and arid grasslands. Side-striped jackals are found in moist savannas, marshes, bushlands and mountains. The sliver-backed jackal lives primarily in savannas and woodlands. Jackals can best be described as opportunistic omnivores. They cooperatively hunt small or young antelopes such as dikdiks or Thomson's gazelles or even domestic sheep.

They also eat snakes and other reptiles, insects, ground-dwelling birds, fruits, berries and grass. Jackals live singly or in pairs, and are sometimes found in small packs. They are among the few mammalian species in which the male and female mate for life. Yipping calls are made when the family gathers. Members only respond to their own family's calls and ignore those of other individuals.

Although they have long had a reputation as sneaky, skulking scavengers, research has shown jackals to be agile, lithe hunters with close-knit, cooperative family groups. A pair of jackals will move through their territory at a fast trot, stopping frequently to examine something, sniff the air or listen-ready for any opportunity that might provide a meal.

They have been successful in adapting to changing environments. It takes about 10 days for the infants' eyes to open, and for the first few weeks of life they remain in the thickets or holes where they were born. At about 3 weeks they begin to spend time outside playing with their litter-mates. Litters number up to six but usually average two to four. The pups are suckled and fed regurgitated food until they are about 2 months.

By 3 months they no longer use the den, but start to follow their parents, slowly learning the territory and observing hunting behavior. Sometimes pups stay with their parents and help raise their younger brothers and sisters. At times they bring back food to their younger brothers and sisters. At times they bring back food to their younger siblings or babysit them while the parents hunt for food.

Most pup deaths occur during the first 14 weeks of life, so the presence of helpers increases the survival rate. Leopards, hyenas and eagles are jackals' most feared predators. Eagles are small pups biggest threat. Jackals are very cunning and resourceful. Although usually considered scavengers-they do pick over kills made by large carnivores and frequent rubbish dumps-they also hunt and kill a variety of prey. Jackals are noisy. Family or pack members communicate with each other by a screaming yell and yapping, or a sirenlike howl when a kill is located.

PKP-Kenya safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

The Warthog

Scientific Name: Phacochoerus aethiopicus

Size: 30 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 120 to 250 pounds

Swahili Name: Ngiri

They are found in most of Africa south of the Sahara and are widely distributed in East Africa. They are the only pigs able to live in areas without water for several months of the year. By tolerating a higher-than-normal body temperature, the warthog is perhaps able to conserve moisture inside its body that might otherwise be used for cooling.

Males weigh 20 to 50 pounds more than females, but both are distinguished by disproportionately large heads and the warts-thick protective-pads that appear on both sides of the head. The face is fairly flat and the snout elongated. Eyes set high on the head enables the warthog to keep a lookout for predators even when it lowers its head to feed on short grass.

The warthog's large tusks are unusual: The two upper ones emerge from the sides of the snout to form a semicircle; the lower tusks at the base of the uppers are worn to a sharp cutting edge. Two large pairs of warts occur below the eyes, and between the eyes and the tusks, and a very small pair is found near the jaw (usually just in males).

Sparse bristles cover the warthog's body, although longer bristles form a mane from the top of the head down the spine to the middle of the back. The warthog characteristically carries its tail upright when it runs, the tuft waving like a tiny flag. As the young run in single file, the tail position may serve as a signal to keep them all together.

Warthogs trot with a springy gait but they are known to run surprisingly fast. Warthogs live in family groups of a female and her young. Sometimes another female will join the group. Males normally live by themselves, only joining the groups to mate. Warthogs engage in ritual fights in which they charge straight on, clashing heads when they meet.

Fights between males can be violent and bloody. When water is available, warthogs drink regularly and enjoy wallowing in muddy places. As part of their grooming they also take sand baths, rub against trees and termite mounds and let tick birds pick insects off their bodies. Warthogs sleep and rest in holes, which at times they line with grass, perhaps to make them warmer.

Although they can excavate, warthogs normally do not dig holes but use those dug by other animals, preferably aardvarks. When water is available, warthogs drink regularly and enjoy wallowing in muddy places. As part of their grooming they also take sand baths, rub against trees and termite mounds and let tick birds pick insects off their bodies.

Before giving birth to a new litter, the female chases away the litter she has been raising and secludes herself. Female warthogs only have four teats, so litter sizes usually are confined to four young. Each piglet has its "own" teat and suckles exclusively from it. Even if one piglet dies, the others do not suckle from the available teat. Lions and leopards are the warthog's chief enemies.

Warthogs protect themselves from predators by fleeing or sliding backwards into a hole, thus being in a position to use their formidable tusks in an attack. When alarmed, the warthog grunts or snorts, lowers its mane, flattens its ears and bolts for underground cover. The warthog has poor vision (though better than most other African wild pigs), but its senses of smell and hearing are good.

PKP-kenia safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

The savannahs of Kenya

The savannahs of Kenya are home a wide range of wildlife. One of the most frequently seen wildlife is the spotted hyena, yet little is known about them.

In the traditional African society, the Hyena has been branded 'the coward one'.

This has been due to the way of feeding of the hyena. Known as a scavenger, the hyena is actually a great hunter and scavenging only makes 5%- 10% of their meals.

They rarely leave any evidence especially because they devour everything. For example they can make a kill in the night and the only sign will be light blood stains.

In the recent years the complexity of the hyenas has been revealed. Lots of time has been dedicated to studying them. This article is about hyenas and their survival tactics in the savannahs of Kenya. They range throughout sub-Saharan Africa in savannah, arid areas, and open woodlands. So far they aren't present at the coast.

There exist three species of hyenas in Africa. Two species are found in Kenya.

The most common being the spotted hyena, crocuta crocuta.
They live in groups called clans and the clan is under the leadership of the oldest female, the alpha female. Interestingly, the females are dominant over the males and are heavier than them. The females genitalia are very masculinized which contributes to their being aggressive. Such sex dimorphism is not common with other wildlife. This is due to the presence of higher level of testosterone in the female's body than that of the males.

A distinguishing feature with the hyenas is the 'haunch-back' and short hind legs. They hold their head low when they walk. Usually the head has a rounded skull and long ears. They have extremely strong jaws and a complex acidic digestion system. This is one of the factors that give them a step ahead for survival. They are capable of ingesting bones, horns, hooves and the tough animal skins.

Only the hair is not digested and this usually comes out in the form of bolus or locally referred to 'hyena hair ball'. All this bone matter that they eat is what makes the hyena feces chalk-white.

They hunt in packs in a way that could be termed as ruthless as they do not have a killing bite. They lack in hunting technique and most cases they run down their victim to exhaustion. Usually they attack their prey and tear chunks before their victim dies.

It is interesting to know that lions steal lots of their kills. It is true that hyenas do the final cleaning by chewing the bones and the skins left by others. In some cases the hyenas have succeeded to steal from the lions but in most of occurrences the reverse is more common.

The reproduction and life cycle is not seasonal. The females do not however mate with their members of the clan. They can take any other wandering male for mating and discard him. Four months is the gestation period and usually give birth to up to four cubs. These are usually black in color with some others having small taint of black. A weird thing that happens with the cubs is competition over who nurses first.

This in most cases result in fighting for dominance. The looser usually starves to death and this is only with the female cubs. Hyenas, unlike other wildlife take very long to wean their cubs. It may take between 14-18 months. The female can lactate up to 12 months with milk that is very high in protein percentage.( 14%). The cubs start following the mother to the point of kill when they reach 1 year.

They do not bring back food to the den. They eat to their fill on the spot.
The female cubs stay in the clan of their birth but males are kicked out when they reach around 2 years. Apart from playing with the cubs the male has no role in upbringing of the cubs.

One clan can have between 20-100 members, all on the matriarchal system. All the members are related. Each clan digs its own den which comprises of deep and long tunnels to accommodate the clan. They mark their territory through anal sac secretions. This is a paste that they use to define their boundary and is deposited at the edge of their territory. That is their home-territory that they protect and intruders are not welcome. They have a greeting system of sniffing each others genitalia and also as a way of identification or recognition within members of the same clan.

To the untrained eye, it is difficult to differentiate between males and females. This is because of the physical resemblance of the female's genitalia to that of the male. But in any case they are female organs. The females are not hermaphrodite as some have claimed at first sight.

Hyenas have 'toilets' whereby all the members go to deposit their dung. This adds to the boundary markings of their territory.

They communicate in a number of ways: When about to attack the tail is held high, when it is held forward over the back, it is a sign of excitement. And when frightened they hold the tail tucked between the legs. When there is presence of food, this is the time you hear the famous 'hyena laughter' especially in the night. This laughter is a call to other clan members and can be heard up to 3 kilometers away.

It is important to note that though hyenas portray cowardly behavior, they can be extremely dangerous. They should be left alone, least intimidated and their respect awarded to them.

PKP-Kenya Safari desk

Natural Track Safaris

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Africa is changing at a rapid pace and human encroachment into wildlife reserves has continued to erase the traditional routes and wildlife migratory corridors. Coupled with development and massive changes of the way of life, the image of wildlife roaming free in the jungles of Africa is slowly getting expunged. Fortunately, Kenya in tropical Africa still holds on to its charisma of an open limitless land. It is one of the places in Africa that still prides in wildlife diversity and concentration.

One of these amazing places is Maasai Mara national reserve. With its ideal location; - south west of Kenya, 290 kilometers from Nairobi, Mara’s profusion of wildlife and remoteness implants memories in-buyable with money.

The wildebeest migration is a recent phenomenon with 60’s and 70’s marking the biggest boom with about 250,000 individuals. The number has since then risen gradually to the current population of over three million individuals. Add to it an estimated 1.5 million zebras, thousands of gazelles and hundreds of impalas and the result is one of the most magnificent scenes in the world. This massive display of ungulates attracts hundreds of big cats as the population provides abundant prey while the giant crocodiles lie in wait, patiently, as the herds come to cross the river or to drink.

Many have described it as the world’s biggest spectacle, while others have come back time and again, to witness this panoramic faction of wild animals’ itinerant freely through unspoiled savage wilderness. While the drama culminates, the air fills with clicks of cameras flicking tirelessly to capture this unique world re-known spectacle.

However, as the phenomena may seem to astound and amuse scores of visitors and conservationists, tally the Maasai community out of the glee. To them, the phenomenon is a big calamity as the wildebeests transmit diseases to their herds and poison the waters with their fetal sacs and also compete with their vast boran cattle herds for pasture and water.

This world famous migration is a circle of life which in simple terms means ‘there isn’t a start or an end’ but just where the herds are sited at a particular time subject to availability of pasture. The plains of Ngorongoro conservation Area in Serengeti are a favored spot as grass abounds and the wildebeest find a safe place to grace. It is also here that over five hundred thousand new calves are born and many are taken by the nearby waiting jackals or hyenas. Casually speaking, the gnus (wildebeest) go to Mara for ‘honeymoon’ and then proceed to Serengeti for breeding. The new born’ have little time to strengthen their legs since soon after they are born, the pilgrim" continues.

By April, the rains are over in Serengeti and the plains have dried up, thus these natural lawn mowers have to instinctually abandon the exhausted grasslands of southern Serengeti. They therefore gather and commence the extensive stride northwards and westwards to the already tall grass of the western corridor near the shores of Lake Victoria.

The pioneers of this pilgrimage are the majestic herds of zebras. They prefer the long shoot of the coarse grass thus leaving behind shorter grass favored by the wildebeests. In late June to July the mass start pouring into the Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve where fresh tender and mineral rich grass is already waiting. Here they meet the resident Mara populations which add up to a hundred and fifty thousand individuals. Also commonly referred to as the Loita plains herds, they spend most of the season northeast of Mara. When it gets dry, they pour into the interior of the Mara in search of greener pastures.

The migrating herds spend roughly three to three and half months in the Mara crossing through Sand River (a tributary of the Mara River) along the boundary of Kenya and Tanzania. They trek westwards and cross the Mara River and sometimes the Talek River. Usually, around this time, heavy rains on the Mau escarpments (Origin of the Mara River) fill the Mara River to the brim.

This is a good time to watch the trunk-looking Crocodiles, while they spectacularly anticipate and grasp the ‘imminent feast’. Finally, the gnus venture into the river! This gregarious coordinated behavior of the herds, usually teamed with zebras, creates an unimaginable scene – Just what the cameras have been waiting for!

They wander along the river looking for a convenient crossing point. This is a moment filled with tension for both the gnus and the audience. They survey for a less steep spot oblivious of the perceptible jeopardy. Finally, one takes courage and plunges into the river and magically the rest falls onto the footsteps and in one organized line cross the river.

In addition to the crocodiles’ merciless attacks, accidents also occur. The river's current can be too strong for some especially the young ones or simply, getting stuck between the rocks in the river and breaking limbs – a direct ticket to the jaws of the giant crocodiles. Finally, the crossing is done and the trek to their unknown (or known) destiny continues

In the month of October, they are already heading to Serengeti where the rains have treated the southern grasslands to lush, green carpet of rich grass. Once again, they are heading to the southern plains, where a new generation will be born to start the cycle of life all over again.

PKP-Kenia safari desk

Natural Track Safaris


Kenya wildlife safaris: African rhinos

In Africa today, the fight for growth of the rhino population is an everyday activity. After being declared an endangered species, Kenya has put up big efforts financially to see to it that their habitats have been safe guarded.
The rhino belongs to the family Rhinoceroteridae. They are 5 species placed in 4 genera. Three of these species are found in south-central Asia and the other two live in Africa – south of the Sahara.
They inhabit savannahs, shrubby regions and dense forests. The African species live in more open areas than do the Asian species. Their habitat has to generally have access to water as they usually drink everyday.
Their horns are dermal growths originally composed of compressed keratin. Usually they have 1-2 horns. Their horns, their beauty have been their dilemma for ages. Powdered Rhino horn has been used extensively in traditional medicine in Asia and to make ornamental dagger handles in the Yemen. The demand is so great that traders are prepared to pay poachers vast sums to kill rhinos for their horns causing a wholesale slaughter in Kenya.
To stop these abuse, governments and conservation bodies such as Save the Rhino teamed up to halt the cruelty. Thanks to them, the overall decline of the rhino has been halted, and populations in Africa are beginning to stabilize.
Rhinos are known to have poor eyesight but strong hearing and smell. Both hind and forefeet have 3 digits with a small hoof while the tough and wrinkled skin has very few scattered hairs and the tail ends with stiff bristles.
The history of the rhino can be traced back to 45 million years ago. The Baluchitherium, an ancestor of the Indian rhino, was the largest land mammal that ever lived. It was 18 feet high and 36 feet long. It lived over 20 million years ago.

Female rhinos give birth every 2 years to a single calf, which is active soon after birth.
The calf remains with the mother until the next offspring is born. Sexual maturity is reached at 7-10 years for bulls and 4-6 years for cows. They have a life span of up to 50 years and a gestation period of 420-570 days.

It is important to note that the African rhinos are more aggressive than Asian species.
They use their horns to attack and toss their enemies and this can be predominantly dangerous and can kill attackers instantly.
African white rhinos have a preference of feeding low to the open grounds whereas the black rhino usually browse on leaves and have a tendency to stay hidden. They have been noted to be more active in the evening, through the night and in early morning, spending their days resting in heavy cover.

Rhinos sleep in both standing and laying positions and love to wallow in muddy pools and sandy riverbeds. They penetrate dense thickets by shear force, often leaving behind trails that other animals later use.
They run with a cumbersome motion, reaching top speed at a canter but can however, attain speeds of up to 45 km per hour for short distances. Unlike the white rhino-calf, the black rhino calf normally runs behind its mother.
Basically the black rhino is more solitary and territorial except for the mother-child unit. Groups of adult cows or bachelor bulls are sometimes formed, however, and during the mating season pairs of rhinos may stay together for up to 4 months.
Rhinos mark their territories with urine and by dropping their dung in well-defined piles that can reach up to 1 m in height. They often furrow the areas around these piles with their horns and make the piles even more conspicuous.
The black rhino has a wide vocal range and can possibly communicate like an elephant, through frequencies below the range of human hearing. Breathing is an important part of communication.

The current available statistics show an estimated 20,000 black rhino in Kenya in the 1970s. By 1982 the population was reduced to fewer than 400. Since then, their number has increased and now stands at over 450. The number in fenced areas has risen at an average rate of four percent each year when the conditions are good.
Since 1984 the Kenyan government has pursued an active program devoted to the
recovery of Kenya’s black rhino, with efforts centering on the development of specially protected or fenced sanctuaries on government and private land, such as Lewa.

Rhino populations under custodianship both on private land (Solio Ranch) and in some State-run areas (such as Nairobi and L. Nakuru National Park) have provided set up for new populations (including reintroducing animals into an electrified-fence sanctuary inside the KWS-run Tsavo West and Meru National Parks). The private sector thus plays an important part in the conservation of rhino in Kenya and currently supplies many of the animals being used to restock state parks.

Kenya is currently the stronghold of the Eastern African subspecies Diceros bicornis michaeli, a home to about 88 % of the population in 1995. Like South Africa and Namibia, Kenya is doing translocation to set up new populations while aiming to ensure that donor populations remain productive.
The public plight of the black rhino has attracted support from many different areas. Today, scientists are formulating a method of «fingerprinting» rhino horn based on the nutrient content of each specific rhino conservation area. This will enable them to pinpoint the area a rhino came from, its family group, and even its preferred diet. It is also an important step toward eradicating poaching, as scientists will be able to determine where a rhino was when it was killed.

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