On my earlier 1973 solo trip through East Africa, I had travelled further east than Amboseli, ending up on the Indian Ocean coastline, where I was astounded to see a postcard-like fortress guarding the harbour of Mombasa! It turns out that the Portugese began building Fort Jesus in 1593 as part of their trade network along the tenuous routes to their far-Eastern possessions in India, China and Indonesia. By 1598 the fort was ready for habitation but its construction continued until completion in 1631. Not paying much attention to the details of history in this part of the world, I had never realized that this once-British colony had long-before been Portugese territory.
Fort Jesus has had its share of battles, changing hands more than once over the centuries as both the locals and Arab slave-traders battled the Portugese for control of this coral outcrop at the entrance to Mombasa. Its first major test came in 1631 when the locals revolted and massacred the garrison, requiring Portugal to recapture the Fort in 1632. The next assault came in 1661 when the Omani Arabs decimated the city, but were unable to capture the fort. They had better luck the next time, beseiging the fort for over two years (1696-98) before it finally fell to their forces. This basically put an end to Portugese influence in East Africa, although they later ruled large colonies to the south in Angola and Mozambique. Fort Jesus came under British rule in 1895 when this part of Africa became a British Protectorate, and it was converted to a prison by its new owners.
The fort is now a very interesting museum and tourist attraction. I was not to see another example of this architecture until visiting Portugal itself in 2004!
Another one of Africa's 'big 5' game animals, the Cape Buffalo is a very impressive animal in its own right. They move around in good-sized herds, with one bull in charge of everything and a few younger ones hanging around as well, along with the Cows and their offspring. Standing 5-ft tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1800-lb, a bull Cape Buffalo is a force to be reckoned with! This particular specimen gave us an even better appreciation of his bulk when he turned side-on in the 2nd photo. Unlike the males, with their very thick horn 'bosses' that meet on top of their heads, the females have horns which are a bit more delicate in nature (3rd photo). That particular one also has the usual Oxpecker or two on her side helping to keep the insect bother down to a minimum. The final photo shows the rest of the herd following along in the footsteps of the the big bull who is calling the shots for this bunch. Although Cape Buffalo have a short temper and are very strong and dangerous, they are one of the most common animals preyed upon by prides of lions.
At the south side of Nairobi National Park you can visit the elephant orphanage around midday. There were also a lot of schoolchildren around. Just at the moment we arrived the little baby elephants came out of the bushes for their feeding and mudbathing. There was also a baby rhino around.
The baby elephant orphans were rescued in different parks all over the country. When they are old enough they go back to the wild in the Tsavo Park.
Tsavo (East and West) comprise some 21,000 sq. km. and is located in south-east Kenya. The area boasts volcanic hills, four rivers, more than 60 major mammal species and 1000 plant species. The park is home to giraffe, buffalo, antelopes, monkeys, many exotic birds and Kenya's largest herds of elephant. The elephant often look red, covered in the dust and mud of the region’s ruddy soil.
Other wildlife in the Lake Nakuru National Park include: The famous Black and White rhinos. The Black rhinos have been slowly multiplying over the years, and are well protected. Thanks partially to the government of South Africa. Lake Nakuru National Park also boasts an increase in White rhinos. There are plenty of waterbucks, impalas, dik-diks, grants gazelles, lions and leopards. In 1977, the Rothschild giraffe was introduced to the Park. The park also has large sized python snakes that inhabit the dense woodlands, and can often be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.
The lake catchment is bounded by Menengai crater to the north, the Bahati hills to the north east, the lion hill ranges to the east, Eburu crater to the south and the Mau escarpment to the west. Three major rivers, the Njoro, Makalia and Enderit drain into the lake, together with treated water from the town's sewage works and the outflow from several springs along the shore. Lake Nakuru was first gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1960 and upgraded to National Park status in 1968. A northern extension was added to the park in 1974 and the lake was designated as a Ramsar site in 1990.
It is always great to admire Africa's tallest mountain, the 5290-m (19,000-ft) Mount Kilimanjaro as it rises 15,500 feet above the surrounding plains. Even though it is a few miles over the border in Tanzania, you can still get some great views from Amboseli Game Park, whether by telephoto or normal viewing (2nd photo). I had actually spent some time at the foot of the mountain in 1973, when I stayed in Moshe, Tanzania with 'volunteer' friends during my roundtrip 2000-mile hitchhiking/bus adventure from Zambia into Tanzania and Kenya. However, I had seen enough snow growing up in Canada, so was not in the mood to climb to the top for a closer look. Still, I have to admit that it is a majestic sight looming up behind the savannah of Amboseli!
Recent images from the Earth Observer cicling high above show a dramatic decline of the extent of the ice cap between 1993 and 2000. The trend is continuing today, with the ice and snow cover at the top of Kilimanjaro down by 82% over the course of the last 100 years.
The Mara (as the old hands like to call it) is the most popular wildlife park in Kenya.
The western border of the park is the spectacular Esoit Olooloo (Siria) Escarpment and it's at the edge of the park that the concentrations of wildlife are the highest.
Lions are found in large prides everywhere and it's not unusual to see them hunting. Elephants, buffaloes, zebras, various antelopes and hippos also exist in large numbers.
Inside the reserve the Masai people are allowed to graze and hunt animals.
At 392 sq km, Amboseli has huge herds of elephants, and to see a herd of them making their way sedately across the grassy plains, with Tanzania's Mt Kilimanjaro in the background, may be a real African cliche but it's an experience that certainly leaves a lasting impression. Sadly, the last of the black rhinos were moved to West Tsavo National Park after sustained poaching.
Microlight flights are a popular way to take in the majesty of this spectacular southern region of Kenya. Most visitors approach Amboseli through Namanga, the main border post between Kenya and Tanzania. There are also daily flights from Nairobi and there are many many touts in the capital who would just love to sign you up for a safari here.
The northern part of Tsavo West is the most developed and has spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape carpeted in long grass and dense bush. Although the tall vegetation makes game spotting trickier than in some of the other parks.
Lake Nakuru is a very shallow strongly alkaline lake 62 km2 in extent. It is set in a picturesque landscape of surrounding woodland and grassland next to Nakuru town. This lake offers one of the world's most spectacular wildlife sights that of brilliant pink flamingos as far as the eye can see. When conditions are right, between one and two million lesser and greater flamingos feed around the shores of the shallow soda lake, together with tens of thousands of other birds.
Masai Mara is one of the world’s famous reserves.
This 320-sq-km reserve is located in the south west of Kenya near the Tanzanian border, joined to the Serengeti National Park and only 70 km away from Lake Victoria.
This is just so wonderful, it borders Tanzania and thus is the continuation of the Serengeti National Park. It in fact is not just a Game Reserve but also a National Reserve used by the Masaai to herd their cattle on. So the authenticity of the area is fantastic, preserving Africa as Africa should be.
There are some wonderful lodges here, the food is outstanding and the scenery is beyond any words I am able to find.
The wildlife is magnificent, elegant Thomsons Gazelles, impalas, dik-diks and topis, not to mention the pacheyderms, crocs and lions.
Safaris are run from the lodges early morning and eve for the best viewing.
Each evening after supper and drinks you make your way back to your rondavels or huts, sometimes escorted by a guard to ensure safe delivery to your room, safe from the wild animals that is and there you stay for the night, slipping under cool covers and mosquito nets, drifting off to glorious sleep whilst listening to the monkeys, lion, insects and sounds of the African bush.........this surely must be Heaven on Earth!
In the Langata Giraffe Centre you can see a few Rothschild giraffes. After you climb the circular wooden structure you can look the giraffes in the eye. You can also feed them. There is food provided for this purpose.
In the wooden structure you can also have a look at a small exhibition about the giraffes.
Admission to the Giraffe Centre is 1$.
The centre is open from 9.30 am till 5.30 pm.
There is a curioshop and you can buy drinks.
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