But, Africa isn’t just about birds. I also went for the mammals. We
recorded nearly 80 species. I had wondered whether I would be impressed
by the mammals that I had known for so long from books and
documentaries. Well, seeing them for myself, up close, was not at all
disappointing. Elephants are really big and impressive. Giraffes are
unreal. All the antelopes, of which we saw 18 species, were great. Etc, etc.
My mammal highlights were:
Giraffe White & Black Rhinoceroses Hippopotamus
Sitatunga Hirola, Gerenuk, Eland, Topi Spotted Hyena
Lion and Leopard Besia Oryx African Elephant
Grevy’s Zebra Black-backed & Golden Jackals African Buffalo
Eastern Tree Hyrax Wildebeest and Hartebeest Kirk’s Dikdik
De Brazza’s Monkey Syke’s Monkey Black-and-white Colobus
Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew Dwarf Mongoose Yellow-winged Bat
As well as Mount Kenya, I was very impressed by Mount Kilimanjaro and
Mount Elgon, the former being one of the best highlights in a trip full
of them. The Rift Valley was also splendid - higher, deeper and cooler
than I expected.
We did three canoe trips, two on Lake Victoria and one on Lake Bisina.
We saw some great animals on each of them, saw some interesting habitat
and learned the need to keep bailing.
There were other animals of note, two worthy of mention are the
marvellous chameleons and the beautiful butterflies.
Four of the fascinating experiences were the border crossings into
Uganda and Tanzania to and from Kenya. They were a study of humanity
with the touts, money changers, beggars, vendors and souvenir sellers.
The crossing into Tanzania at Lunga Lunga was the only place we took the
car through (at the others, we swapped vehicles), which took a long
three hours. But, we saw a Bat Hawk while we were waiting, so I wasn’t
Lake flies on Lake Victoria were a diversion, but we only saw them in
smallish numbers, not the billions when the numbers irregularly build
up. And we only saw Tsetse flies in two of the Tanzanian parks, and, for
us, they weren’t a problem. The (poor) standard of the roads was a
constant amazement, but they did not affect our trip to any great degree.
There were really none. We had to survive without alcohol at Kakamega
(gasp!!) and a couple of the accommodation places were poor (but they
were the only “lodges” in town). We had no complaints.
My absolute highlights were the safaris, particularly Lake Nakuru (which
was the first one we did and was very impressive with lots of animals
and a million flamingos) and Ngorongoro Crater (which was the best).
Buffalo Springs got an honourable mention because the animals we saw
were very different, with the Somali influence in the avifauna and the
However, the truly amazing statistic was the bird total – the group
recorded 913 species (based on Sinclair’s taxonomy) with 895 seen. We
all saw most of the birds. For example, my total was 897 with 880 seen
and Ro saw 846. All of this was attributable to Nigel’s good planning,
but more directly to Brian’s guiding. He was fantastic. His knowledge of
the birds, their calls and habits and the habitats and species to be
expected in them was first class. And, it seemed that his main objective
was to show us every possible species in every habitat, an objective
that we supported and enjoyed to the maximum.
I haven’t touched on any aspects of the East African people. We
experienced some of their culture, saw the varying conditions in which
many of them lived, met and spent time with a few of them. It might seem
that we spent all of our time birding and searching out animals. Yes,
that was the primary aim of the trip, but I found plenty of opportunity
to see and consider lots of aspects of the countries we visited.
Previously, I had planned to move onto South Africa for my next visit to
the dark continent. But, now I find myself planning to go back to East
Africa first to see the north of Kenya, cover the rest of Uganda (and in
particular see the gorillas and chimpanzees) and see the rest of
Tanzania – and to do it with our guide extraordinaire, Brian Finch.
Then, we will move onto the rest of this big continent.
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