Sunday, August 23, 2009

Africa Part IV: Twigas, Chimps, and a Close Call

We left Mount Kenya and drove to Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy. This place is pretty much right on the equator. We stayed in tent cabins across a little ditch from a watering hole. The first morning we were there, we walked out to the watering hole after breakfast and saw some zebras. We took lots of photos and were very excited to see them. Then, we looked over to the trees in the distance and someone asked, "Are those giraffes?" And they were. Over a dozen of them. We all watched as they ambled over to the watering hole, their journey from the trees taking about 15-20 minutes. This was one of the most amazing parts of our trip. Seeing these tall creatures walking over to end up so close to us with their graceful movements and their very awkward stance to take a drink - it was something!

We also visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The Sanctuary opened in 1993 and is associated with the Jane Goodall Institute. It is a place for orphaned or abused chimpanzees and they currently have around 40 there now.

We saw several lounging in the shade, picking bugs off each other, and generally relaxed.....until this guy came by:

Apparently, he thought we were trying to steal his women. He threw rocks at us and ran by the fence a few times causing a ruckus. His name is Max.

There was a group of teenagers also visiting the chimpanzees to learn about conservation. These students were local and I kept catching several of the girls looking at me. When I was about ready to climb down from the viewing area, I felt someone touching my hair. My hair was pulled back and I was wearing a hat, but I definitely felt someone touching my pony tail. I turned around and a few girls behind me giggled. I could tell that they wanted to touch my hair again and guessed that the reason was that it is so different than their own. I asked them if they liked my hair and they giggled yes. I made some motions that it would be okay if they touched it and they all rushed to feel my pony tail. Then I made some motions that I wanted to feel their hair as well. They let me, with more giggling, and then I climbed down from the viewing area. Later when they saw me by our vehicle, the girls all waved and giggled a bit more.

After the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, we went on a game drive - our first official one of the trip. We all looked out the top of the Land Cruiser trying to spot wildlife. We saw several animals before coming up behind another vehicle. It was stopped and all the passengers were looking at something. What? We couldn't tell. Eventually, our driver decided to drive around them and see if we could see whatever it was on the other side. On either side of the road was an embankment, but we were in heavy off-road vehicles so we'd be fine, right? As we tried to pass, with me standing up and hanging out the top, our Land Cruiser began to tip over! One person fell out of her seat onto the lap of another person and I sat/fell down very quickly. Thankfully, our driver reversed and we didn't roll. Finally, we made it around and saw what animals the people had spotted:

That's right. A lioness nursing her cubs. We would have rolled right in front of the bush they were in. Yeesh. We were all so excited though! These were our first lions of the trip! It was hard to get a picture because the branches of the bush were in the way, but it was amazing to see in person.

We also saw some rhinos, some gazelles fighting, and many other animals. Also, some lovely sunrises and sunsets.


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