Sunday, 8 January 2012

Nairobi National Park, Friday, 6-12-2012

We left home early in the morning at 6:50 to beat the traffic because we had to cross the city centre. However, by the time we got there, long line of cars were already jammed the Mombasa-Malaba Road. There were traffic lights at the roundabouts on this stretch of the road, fortunately, there were polices at the roundabout controlling the traffic, and we spent only 20 minutes before we turned into Langata Road going to Wilson airport. The sidewalk was full of pedestrian going to work. In one roundabout, I saw a man sitting high on his bike crossing the traffic circle, but a small bus coming from behind us on the left hand side hit him. The driver made a scratching sound of brake, and the biker was not hurt too bad and managed to struggle to get up.

Gate to the National Park
We arrived at the gate of the National Park at 7:50, and it took Min 25 minutes to get the pass sorted out. A bird liked black kite was on the ridge of a roof. But its bill was very pale and was nearly white. The open vast land with almost no trees immediately stroke our view as we descended down the ridge. The northern boundary of the park was lined with new housing complex. We passed a small pond called Heyena Reservoir and I saw a small bird like a sandpiper on the mud. Later I found that it was called the blacksmith plover.

Road sign at every intersection
We had not gone very far, and soon we saw our first animal, the Hartebeest. The photo was taken about 2 km from the northern border of the park, and the residential complex was clearly visible in the background. The trails in the park was dirt road, and many of them were in good condition, but some were very bad when the gravel and sand had been washed away and exposed the bedrock. At every intersection, there was a good road sign, and one would not get lost with a map purchased at the park entrance.

Steenbok standing in front of the hartebeest
A tall tree with a flat bottom
Near Songora Ridge, we saw a lonely eland. We identified it by its large dewlap. Behind a low bushes, we spotted the long neck of a giraffe. Max decided to sit on the door to get a better view outside. On a fairly flat plain, we spotted a secretary bird strolling graciously in thin grasses about the same height. We were approaching Leopard Cliff Observation Point, and we saw large herds of impala and hartebeest. Some of the smaller antelopes with its large ears sticking out the same height as its small horns looked like steenbok. They were standing in front of a herd of hartebeest in the photo. A tall tree was standing alone not far from the road, its bottom was flat. It must be the neat pruning work done by the giraffe.

The beautiful scenery at the gorge
A bastion like structure
As we got to the observation point, we were stunted by the beauty of the gorge. It marked the southern boundary of the park. The Mbagathi River was flowing through  the gorge. On the southern flank of the valley and the plain above it were covered by dense wood and grasses exhibiting all hue of green. There was a section of the cliff with exposed jagged bedrock, and a cylindrical bastion like stone structure had been built among some more traditional houses with thatch roof. This building must be new, and it didn't show in the satellite photo of Google map. The cliff on the northern side of the valley was steep and was fully covered by vegetation especially of the cactus family.

A security guide accompanied us on the trail
Mbagathi River
We descended into the valley, and were surrounded by tall acacia trees. We saw a giraffe in a small opening at a distance, and then a lonely male impala in an open field at the foot of a low hill, and another one in the shade of a tree. We were going to the Hippo Hole on the bank of Mbagathi River. There was a large parking lot, and visitors were allowed to walk on the trail protected by a soldier carrying a rifle. I was not sure if he was protecting us from the danger of a poacher or wild beast. Or might be he wanted to protect the environment from any mischivious visitors. He also acted as a guide and explaining things to us on the trail. In front of his post or pavilion, there was a tall acacia tree, and some weaver bird nests were hanging on the branches. I saw a bird flew down to the ground to seek some foods, and flew back up to its nest. I was happy that I captured some photos as it entered its nest. The nest had a big door opened horizontally. We saw a family of warthog quickly crossing the trail and disappeared in the tall grasses. They were many droppings along the trail, and some of them were quite fresh. We were told that they were droppings from giraffe, small like pellet, and some were obviously from buffalo.

A white back vulture taking off
A pair or a chick in the nest
There were many tall acacia trees along the trail, and we saw several white-back vulture perching on the branches. And I captured a photo when it was taking off showing its white back. Some of them show brown breast feather, and some showed pale or white. The Bird of Kenya guide book explained that the whitish colour was due to aging. A vulture was standing near a nest, and another one was inside. I didn't know if they were in pair or the one in the nest was a grown-up chick. We also saw a family of baboon on a tree, and a speckled mousebird hanging in its favorite posture on a acacia bush. We walked for 20 minutes and got to the bank of the river where there was a deeper pool. The river was about  5 m wide, and the water was muddy and moved slowly. The guide said that occasionally there would be crocodile sun bathing on the sandy beach. And on the bank, he showed us a spot beside a tall tree where the grasses were not growing well, it was where the hippo liked to rest. It was almost at the end of the trail, and he asked us to turn back.

Rough buffalo horn looked like bottle brush
We followed the trail along the river bank, and the guide showed us the wild water melon which had a perfect spherical shape of about 4 inches in diameter. He pointed to us a crocodile sun bathing on the grass on the opposite bank of the river, a few turtles, and a pair of giraffe on the other side of the river bank. At the pavilion, he explained to us the many animal skulls being display. Two of them were buffalo, but the horns were not smooth, it had many dull soft spines like a bottle brush. He was selling some soft drinks, and we bought some as a gesture to thank him to show us around. But he said that he had no changes when Min handed him a KES 1,000 notes. After a while, he saw that it was  not likely that we would buy anymore drinks, and he didn't feel good of taking our money without changes. He said that he would ask his colleague for changes and got it. During this time, I noticed a small swallow perching on top of a notice board. I got closer to take some photos. It didn't mind and put on several postures for me. There was a toilet, and it was clean and had clean water, but no tissue papers and bucket for flushing.

Parading ostriches
A grassy plain with many animals 
We continued driving east along the river, and entered an area with many animals feeding and resting at the green gentle slope of a wide ridge. We saw a group of ostriches parading at the distance with their necks bent down feeding on the ground. An eagle was perching on a branch in the shade of a acacia tree, and a white back vulture was standing high on top of a tall acacia tree watching its nest. Three zebras were busy feeding and their tails were constantly flipping the annoying flies. A bull giraffe which were feeding on a low acacia not far away, and allowed us to take many photos of its funny face as it regurgitating. I wondered if the food must be pumped back up high to its mouth from the stomach, or it simply lower its head to take advantages of the gravity force. We were counting the number of giraffes in a group, and Alex saw 10 of them. A herd of impala was resting under the shade of a tree. We also saw some elands among the animals.

Vast plain like in Serengeti 
We saw nothing as we drove toward the southern tip of the park, and we then turned and took another trail going north-west. We were on a higher ground and continually climbing up a ridge. The scene in front of us was a vast plain, the Serengeti. Before sun set, a lion or other predator could be sitting on one of  the rock choosing its menu of the day. Along the road, we saw more bushes of the bulbous acacia with long and sharp thorns. It was a little resemblance to the photo Min had taken in a trip to Longonot Volcano.

A large warthog darted across the road
Spotting the animals
As we reach the plateau on the top of the ridge, we started to see many animals grassing in the vast plain. We were now less than a km from the northern border of the park, and was surround by the two major national highway A104 and A109, the rail way to Mombasa, and dense industrial complex. In addition to hartebeest and eland which we had seen before, we saw Thompson's gazelle, and another gazelle without the black stripe on its belly which might be the grand gazelle. Ostriches were crossing the road, and we could see them very closely. A large warthog darted out of the road. I only managed to take photos of part of its body before it quickly disappeared in the tall grasses. We saw another large bird which we thought was a different species of the secretary bird, but it was the Kori bustard. At this point, Alex decided to join Max and sat on the door to spot any animals in the plain. Min was very good in this, even though she was driving, but she spotted most of the animals in the far distant plain.

A congregation of vultures
A male ostrich taken care of its young
We passed a small pond in a distant and Min saw a large number of vultures congregate near the pond like waiting for their next feast. We took a turn and drove closer. They were not afraid of us and kept doing their stretching and cleaning. A lonely hartebeest was standing behind a pile of dirt. It gave me a feeling that it was not healthy, and the vultures probably knew that, and were waiting for their meal time to come. Not far away, we saw a large warthog in the tall grass. Its long tasks were clearly visible. Ostriches were the commonly seen animal in the park, and we saw a male taken care of 5 grown up chicks. A female ostrich was keeping an eye at a distant. We saw more giraffe feeding on the low acacia bush, and not long after that, we saw a herd of buffalo crossing the road. They were nervous, and would stop and stare at us before continue their crossing. Once they crossed, they would march up in a file toward the deeper grasses. It was 2:30 pm and we decided that we had seen enough and it was time to go home.

A large congregation of animals near Karen Dam
On the returned trail, we saw another large congregation of animals near the Karen Dam. There were many zebras, and the largest herd of hartebeests and impala that we had seen. We also saw the only palm tree in the park near a pond. As we were close to the gate, a sedan passed us and then it stopped on a road side near Nagolomon Dam. We passed it, and I could get a quick glance of a crocodile on the sand of the reservoir.

Here was the photos of animals we had seen in the park.

It looked like a black kite but had a white bill

A blacksmith plover

A secretary bird

An unknown bird

The weaver entered its nest
An unknown weaver

A white-back vulture

A speckled mousebird

A swallow

An eagle

A male ostrich

A female ostrich

A Kori bustard

A hartebeest

An impala

A steenbok? in front of the larger hartebeest

A baboon

A giraffe

A zebra
An eland

Thompson's gazelle

A grand gazelle?

A warthog


A crocodile

A turtle
More photos can be seen by searching "lku99999, photo" in Google.

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