Chyulu Hills 2015 (part one)

I split this into two parts because it was becoming so cumbersome and hard to work with.  And, probably, most people won’t want to slog through so much.  I thought it would be shorter actually, since the wildlife was much sparser. However, all those elepants at such a close range from the hide… how can I resist?!?!

We drove from Amboseli to Chyulu Hills.  I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Big Life but it is an organization that has taken on the poaching problem with boots on the ground.  One of the men involved in the inception of  Big Life is Sir Richard Bonham.  To me he is a real life hero.  Part of traveling with AWF is the opportunity to meet individuals who are working with AWF on various projects.  At Amboseli we met with a woman named Fiesta Warinwa.  When we left Amboseli for Chyulu Hills she came along and took us to one of Big Life’s ranger stations and to Big Life headquarters where we met with Sir Richard.  I personally found this very exciting!

So just one more photo of creatures of the swamps.. female reedbuck and baby.

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These are a few photos of the rangers.  We also stopped at Big Life headquarters and met with Sir Richard and saw their computer program that tracks the rangers since the areas they patrol is quite vast.  Every year that they have been in operation, the number of poached elephants has dramatically dropped.  I might not be remembering this correctly but I think they said that none were poached in Amboseli this past year.  AWF has developed a partnership with Big Life and they are expanding the number of rangers and stations to cover larger areas.  They put their lives on the line while doing their job.  They have tracked and captured poachers, who usually are well equipped with high powered weapons.  It really is a war out there.

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Chyulu Hills is a vast and seemingly barren landscape at this time of year.  The wildlife is not ‘teeming’ like in Amboseli.  The only elephants we saw were herds of bulls, who mainly use the area as a corridor between Tsavo and Amboseli.  They travel to visit the breeding herds, looking for females in estrus.

After the drive from Amboseli, we arrived at Chyulu Hills.   It’s so vastly different from Amboseli.  Here’s one of the last scenes in Amboseli…DPP_8932_thumb

And  here’s Chyulu Hills..   It does have a rainy season but this isn’t it!

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The lodge, called Ol Donyo is considered a luxury camp.  And indeed it is.  Far more luxurious than I am accustomed to.  However, money generated by visitors is dispersed among the local communities so even though it is expensive, the money isn’t all going to the owners.  This is true for each of the places we stayed in the conservancies next to the national parks and reserves.  I have never used the pools available at camps because it just seemed silly to come to Africa to spend time in a pool.  I’d rather be watching wildlife!  But it was so hot on this trip and the little pools (called plunge pools) were placed at the edge of each structure, so in this case I could do both.

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A herd of eland at one of the water holes.  Too bad they are so skittish.  It’s really hard to get very close.

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Even after all our traveling, Mt Kilimanjaro is still visible and giraffe always seem to make great additions to this iconic african vision.

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There is a hide at Ol Donyo that has water holes nearby.  One can spend hours watching the animals arrive for a drink, most notably elephant bulls.  Because of the arid climate here there aren’t really any breeding herds of elephants.  These bulls reside here and use it as a corridor to travel to Tsavo and Amboseli to meet up with the herds, looking for females in estrus.  They often get very close to the hide to check out who’s inside.  They know you are there, but they pretty much don’t care.  They get so close at times that you can’t take a photo because they are too close to focus!

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It was extremely hot so the elephants and others spent most of their time either drinking or just standing around in the shade during the middle hours of the day.

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Unless you love elephants, you’ll probably find most of this entry pretty boring!

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Lots of interesting interactions between these bulls when there was more than a couple there.

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Often while the bigger older bulls were doing a bit of shoving to ‘own’ the water hole, this smaller younger bull would just sneak his trunk in beneath the big guys and get his drink.  And, I suppose, because he is much younger, he isn’t perceived as a player in the dominance game.

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A few other visitors to the water holes…

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The oryx is definitely a desert animal.  They pretty much get all the fluid they need from the vegetation they eat and a unique body system that I don’t really know.   They do drink if water is available but they can go a long time without drinking.

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love a row of elephant butts…

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A slow cautious approach is the polite way to get yourself a spot at the water hole.

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Every time I see an elephant urinate I am shocked at how much water can actually come out!

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This is a female Von der Decken’s hornbill.  This is a new one for me.

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More water hole visitors.. this is a different mama with only two piglets.

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There are many other things to do at Ol Donyo.  Some of us went out for a ride the first morning, before it got too hot.  They do have a horseback safari which means you are out on the horses, staying in tents, for several days.  Sounds like fun!

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The ride ended with this bush breakfast.  Pretty cool to come over the horizon and find breakfast waiting for us.  The rest of the group were either bike riding or on a game drive.

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This is what cycling was like although this ride was the second day.

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End of part one..

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2 thoughts on “Chyulu Hills 2015 (part one)

  1. What a great blog to come home from work too. I have some stand out images that I will point out, like I have done on most of your trips.
    8936 the giraffe with Kili in the back ground. I love it. One can see the snow so clearly on the mountain and it looks ever so close.
    9317 the elephant tusks, most probably my favourite shot.
    9046, slightly comical with the ellie crossing his back legs.
    9330 great warthog family shot, an animal that is not always easy to photograph as they can be quite skittish.
    9454 Of course who doesn’t love an elephant peeing especially the angle you have shot. I can’t agree more, where does all that water come from?
    Your accommodation looked very nice and I’m with you when it comes to swimming pools when on safari but a private pool, I might just find the time.
    You mentioned at the beginning of your entry, the wildlife was sparse, that most probably explains why they have horse back riding and bike riding. Did you see any wildlife while you were on horse back?

    Great blog Nancy. Don’t worry about any of your other viewers, make them as long as you like, I love them.
    I am still wishing I had been there with you.

  2. We saw plenty of wildlife but obviously no predators. There were oryx and giraffe who survive quite well in arid country. And we saw zebra and wildebeest. What was nice about being on horseback is that those animals were much more comfortable since what they were also smelling was another safe animal. I really loved this place… I guess because it was so different.

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