East Africa Day 4 – Aberdares to Samburu

Finally I could have a lie in and didn’t get up until 07:40. I’d been bitten by an insect overnight though – hopefully not by a mosquito, though even if I had been I’d hope the anti-malaria tablets would work okay.

After breakfast we wandered up the hill behind the villa, looking for a tree hyrax that had been heard over night, but couldn’t find it. We did come across a tin hut at the top though where there was a large water tank – presumably a place for staff to stay. By 09:10 we were back on the road and heading to the Samburu National Park.

Mount Kenya

On our way there we crossed the equator back into the Northern hemisphere but we didn’t stop, apparently we’d do that in a couple of days time. We did however stop to take photographs of Mount Kenya as the skies had cleared considerably during the course of the morning. There was then a further stop at a shop so people could make purchases or use the facilities.

African Curios Shop

At the entrance to the Buffalo Springs reserve there are large zebra coloured gates, and whilst waiting there for the driver to pay for the entry it didn’t take long for people selling their wares to quickly descend on us and try to sell goods through the window.

Samburu

The road to the Ashnil Samburu tented camp was incredibly bumpy and at the speed the driver was going at the tyres were kicking up a lot of dust and stones. This made it easy to understand why the windscreen was chipped. On being welcomed to the camp we were given grape juice; as we drank it Black-faced vervet monkeys started to approach us. It was great fun to see some monkeys and I even managed to get some photos of one carrying a baby monkey whilst waiting for our room keys.

Female Adult Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and baby

Each of the sleeping areas are like large tents with a wooden frame, with material covers for each wall. It does help to have the wind blast through the tent as standing outside in the sun gets very warm very quickly. The entire camp is surrounded by an electric fence which is used to deter animals from coming into the camp and apparently it’s powered by solar panels. However, monkeys can still get in and out by crossing over the trees, burrowing under, or being brave enough to jump over. Despite this they are kept away from any food in the dining area by one of the naturalists wielding a catapult.

Ashnil Samburu tent

It seems wrong for them to fire things at the monkeys to keep them away, but I can understand why they do it – it stops the monkeys from becoming lazy and not looking for food. If they were to become dependent on the food from tourists they could easily become pests and to lose the skills to find food for themselves – which would hurt their population and upset another delicate ecosystem.

Driving across the Samburu National Park

After dropping off suitcases it was lunch time. This was a set menu where I had lamb kebabs with rice, and an apple mousse-like dessert. Throughout this time various species of bird including kingfishers and starlings kept flying up to us. After eating I went over to the monkeys to get a few photographs of them before the afternoon game drive.

Savannah (African) Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

The afternoon game drive started at 16:00, with tea and coffee served before it started. Almost immediately we saw an elephant feeding. As the drive went on we saw various species of birds and eventually a whole herd of elephants. The tracks that are driven down are very bumpy and kick up a lot of dust, yet the others in the vehicle still had the windows open despite being able to stand and look through the roof (which they were doing).

Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)

For the first part of the drive we followed the dried up river and saw gazelle and impala grazing near it. On the other side we saw giraffes, two types of zebra, ostrich (both male and female) and yet more impala like animals, including an Oryx.

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

It was a great game drive, but it would have been nice to have stopped for some of the birds as well and not just the big mammals. We arrived back at camp as the sun was setting and had time to dust down our equipment and shower before dinner. The showers were cold again and by cold I do mean the temperature of a cold water tap in England, whereas the cold option for the shower felt like it had been chilled.

Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi)

The evening meal was another set meal; from the options available I went for a vegetable soup for starter, a steak for mains, and a very small portion of a crumble for dessert. I think the crumble was actually more like a cheesecake. After the food one of the ones dressed in the traditional clothes of the Samburu tribe then played a flute that only had two holes for notes. It was then an early night ready for an early game drive the next day.

One of the amazing things about the savannah is how it comes to life at night. You could hear bull frogs croaking and others croaking back a response. There were various other animals you could hear too, and you could see the insects crowding around the lights. As the tent could get quite warm we opted to keep the curtains open and the mosquito net in place.

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