Thursday, July 24, 2008
It's been a few days since I've had a chance to write. [My journal says this occurs at day four, right above a crossed out day three...so it's hard to say exactly when in the trip I actually wrote this.] We get up very early, around 6:00-6:30 AM for breakfast by 6:45...and if we are lucky the group is on a game drive by 7:15. I've written some bullet points each night for the past few days so that I can backtrack and give more details. Today is the first day we've had some down time; two hours before lunch to do laundry or write or shower or generally get something done.
Both planes carrying Cornell students arrived in Nairobi at 6:30 AM local time. We had to walk to the concourse because our planes were too large to pull up to the airport. Buying visas and getting through immigration took about an hour, but gave the majority of the group time to get acquainted. We met Irby and Dustin just outside of baggage claim, bought Kenyan Schillings, and headed straight into the flat endless plains where we saw a pack of lions fighting over a wildebeest, just like on TV. Actually, we were delayed a few hours because Ben's bags hadn't followed his re-routed flight schedule. So we sat in the parking lot chatting and I bought a Coke, which interestingly enough was made with real sugar and no corn syrup. It's better that way.
The drive out of Nairobi was intense. As is, "Wow, all of a sudden I'm in-a-really-tense mood". People were everywhere. On either side of the road, behind us, running in front of the car, jumping on the backs of vehicles in front of us kind of everywhere. One area of the city we drove through appeared to be built completely out of corrugated tin. There are no road signals (or signs for that matter). Irby is expertly maneuvering his manual safari van on the left side of the road while I sit in the back white-knuckling the seat cushion. I wasn't actually able to take any pictures at this point [I only sort of regret this now]. Once we cleared Nairobi the atmosphere calmed dramatically. We drive for several hours before stopping for lunch. At the restaurant we spot our first wildlife, black and white monkeys who entertain themselves (and us) by stealing customers food and then escaping into the trees. Apparently the "Do Not Feed The Monkeys" sign didn't have the desired effect. After lunch we begin the final leg of the trip. The road becomes only a dirt path rather quickly, but we have another hour of driving before reaching camp. On the way in we spot plains zebra, vervet monkeys, reticulated giraffe (see below), elephants (look down), and olive baboons (look further down). The wild life is powerful enough to wake everyone in our van from the 40 hour mostly sleepless journey. We arrive at camp, take a quick tour, eat dinner, and then B-line for our tents (picture below) to sleep. Total time from Newark, Delaware to Mpala, Kenya...39 hours.
[The last note in my journal at this point is "Elephants in Camp" but that story will have to wait]
On the drive in we only saw the top side of elephants over the trees, so that is all I will show here (for now).
Olive Baboons slept in the trees near camp on an almost nightly basis. This picture was taken around sunset.
Even at this point the best word I can come up with for how a giraffe runs is 'doofy'.
Considering our location, our tents could really only be described as nothing less than luxurious.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Here are some highlights:
Seeing a leapord on a kill....TWICE
Seeing the rarest of the rare mammals, an Aardvark.
Being harrassed and false charged by an angry female elephant.
Walking around in a downpour to watch the coordinated termite mating flight.
Finding a new genus of scorpion in Kenya.
Picking maggots off of a dead giraffe!
Finding an elephant dung beetle.
Spotting a lion stalking at night.
Watching bush babies jump around in the trees in camp.
Making smores at 11:30 AM on the equator while everyone else did work.
Buying Samburu weapons from the camp staff.
Nearly breaking my hand trying to help catch a lizard.
Finding driver ants and making them hiss.
Finding insects I couldn't even identify to order.
Being woken up in the middle of the night by animal calls.
Being REALLY SCARED in the middle of the night because of the animal calls.
Seeing almost 50 species of large charismatic mammals.
Having my own bird list...and completeing it.
Crossing the equator, twice.
Giving a presentation on Hyraxes on 'Happy Hyrax Rock'
I guess the list could go on and on. Pictures will start in the next few days. GOTTA CATCH A PLANE!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
British Airways was training security personal. Training them to take everything out of my overstuffed bookbag. That's been the only bad part of the trip, everything else has been decently smooth. My plan to meet up with the two other students flying through London were messed up because I had to go through immigration in London to check and recheck my bags so this has been stressful and keeping me from sleeping in the really nice 'quite room'. A very nice woman at KLM check-in desk checked my bag at 9 am local time...even though I wasn't supposed to be allowed to check in until 3 PM local time. I just hope my bag makes it!!!
Top 5 reasons why British Airways rules:
5) The food. The food was awesome. They served me a hot dinner complete with chicken, mashed potatoes, and carrots. On top of that was a really good bread roll with butter, a very fresh salad, a decent piece of cheese cake, AND a candy bar. Wow. After all that it was tea time. Tea time...was awesome. A few hours later I was eating the breakfast croissant they served with strawberry jam. Then it was Tea time again! Did I mention the tea was served in little actual tea cups? I stole those for the trip. Love the british....that takes me to number 4. I started this trip at 138.8 pounds, I don't think I've lost that yet.
4) The British accents. Enough said.
3) Really nice seats with all sorts of headrest options. Nice pillow and blanket. Air Conditioning...which I will miss terribly. And free headphones....on to reason number 2.
2) Personal touch screen TV in seat. Not just that, it had a decent music selection, 70 movies to choose from (I watched There Will Be Blood....I give it a 7/10) and an Indiana Jones style trip tracker with a countdown to arrival. It also told me all kinds of cool stats (I was at 35050 ft going 568 mph)! Best of all, a little movie detailing how immigration would work in the terminal I was to arrive in.
1) The person I was seated next to. A hardcore creationist who couldn't understand why I would ever want to go to Kenya. We chatted for 15 minutes, then she popped two Valium and slipped into a little medical coma for the rest of the trip. Does this count for British Airways? Why not?
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
I thought about solfugids today after stumbling across this youtube video. Youtube is an unbelievably good source for unique glimpses of the natural world via amateur video. The soldiers were probably trying to fight these animals, but something else happened. As far as I know this is the only video of solfugids mating and their method is scarily unique, even among arachnids.
**Caution** Video contains adult language/commentary.
See the video here:
Tarantula! This is one of the South American giants. African species are generally not as colorful.
Wolf spider with eggsac.
Deer, taken with my telephoto lens. This lens has incredible zoom capabilities (better than the binoculars I borrowed from Cornell!).
Sunday, May 18, 2008
P. imperator is not found in Kenya, but five of its close relatives are. That's okay, I already have a picture with this species.
Scorpions of Kenya
(Few scorpions are dangerous, red denotes species to be careful around)
Parabuthus granimanus granimanus
Uroplectes fischeri fischeri
Iomachus politus politus
Pandinus pallidusPandinus viatoris