NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.

Report 6. Thursday, October 24, 2013. Shimba Hills to Voi, Tsavo West, and Ngulia Lodge


We're up early, have breakfast, cart our luggage up the zigzag ramp (well, the porters carried the big bags), watch Peter store our things in the back, and off we take in the van. Or we take off. Or we off take. Somebody stop me.

Sorry, had a little brain freeze there. The morning is mostly driving, riding, napping.


We make our way to Tsavo West, as you can see in this map, by the red GPS puspins recorded automatically where I shot some pictures. {HUH? Hope you can figure that sentence out.} Lucy, I got some 'splainin' to do, I guess. From the small village of Kwale, we headed left, after several miles on that road, visible below, we turned "off the roads" and headed north for the pushpin near the words "Momba[rest obscured by ball of pushpin] Road". We then turned left on Mombasa Road and followed it to the last pushpin - Ngulia Lodge, in Tsavo West NP.


Lots of red dirt around Shimba Hills.


Before we know it, and after a nice nap, it's lunchtime. Peter secured six boxed lunches from Shimba Hills before we left, and we break them out. A little rain makes us glad we have the top securely fastened shut over our heads.


It's remarkable, driving the Kenya roads. We see everybody sharing. Cattle, goats, herders, trucks, big trucks, BIG TRUCKS, donkeys, schoolkids. Pretty much a full gamut.


The way they move these cattle is fascinating. A rope was tied around one and only one of each cow's legs. It was then tied to one and only one other cow's legs. And that's how they traveled. I would think they'd get all tangled up, and one would want to go fast and the other one slow, one would stop to go to the cow bathroom (you know, anywhere), and the other one just had to adapt. If it were that guy who used to draw cartoons of animals doing funny human things (who WAS that guy, can't remember. It was called The Far Side), the two cows tied together would be zinging the rope around as a jump rope, and one or two of the other cows would be jumping.


The variety of uniforms for the school kids was fascinating to me. It didn't bother these donkeys that much.

We are obviously traveling through muslim country, as we see two richly decorated middle-eastern-like properties. Remarkable. Amid lots of seemingly poor property around it. {But these are usually schools attached to the mosques. Most of the church or muslim outreaches here supply schools for the kids.}



I like this curious and handsome Lesser Masked Weaver, who seems curious about us. {I think we saw these near a gas station at which we stopped. And visited the bathroom if we could stand the condition.}


Here we come to the entrance to Tsavo West NP. I like the rhino-decorated entry gates.


We come around a left-hand corner, and What Ho! Cried Daniel, we see an adult leopard, walking to our left, into some scrub. Wow, an adult leopard, and a complete surprise. Sharon took this photo and her camera produces slightly different colors than mine, especially in unusual lighting situations. Also, I "tuned" up Sharon's photo because it was so dark.



After we recover our wits, almost immediately, we notice a sort of shelter of a circle of small trees, and inside is what looks like a freshly taken wildebeest. A teenage-looking sized leopard, no doubt the offspring of the adult that exited stage left, is with the wildebeest and has started feeding. We get great photos of this. I have heard on public TV nature shows that big cats will start at the back end of killed prey because the skin is thinner there, and it's easier to start. That is the case here. {So now here is where you two different stories of what we saw. Lynda spotted this leopard, shouting "STOP THE VAN!! That is the young leopard you see at the kill. Most of us didn't know it was not an adult until Steven said, "that looks like a juvenile." So we started looking for the mother, because Steven said the young one couldn't have killed this large animal, in fact, the mother probably killed it for him to begin learning to eat full-size game. Then we spotted the mother (the first picture here) who was wary of us and stayed partly hidden before walking away (the picture I took). The young one wasn't experienced enought to be cautious so stayed close to the road and we got these good pictures. He also didn't seem to know quite how to tear into this animal because we never did see him get anything like a bite.} [OK guys, I like Sharon's story].


We see our first Vulturine Guineafowl. Kind of not a big deal, after the cool-as-a-cucumber leopards.

We have traveled long and hard today, and as it's getting dark, we come upon the rather unusual sight of a safari van turned on its side in the middle of the road. I manage to get my camera out in time to shoot backwards, as another safari van behind us has to skirt around with one wheel in the ditch, just as we did. {Sure glad that isn't us!}


We arrive shortly at the huge Ngulia Lodge. Porters meet us to take our luggage to the check-in area, and wait for us as we go through that procedure. We are shown to our room, and the mosquito nets tied up for the day are interesting. I have an urge to pull on them, like a bell rope. It is rather dark even with the lights on, but the room is warm and comfortable feeling.


Suddenly I hear a person running down the hallway outside, knocking on every door and yelling, "Leopa'd, Leopa'd, Leopa'd," real fast, leaving out the 'r' each time. We collect our cameras and binoculars and head out to the area everybody else is heading towards. There is a sort of tower of logs fastened together, maybe 150-200 yards away, and the lodge has hung fresh meat on the top. A leopard is playing his part, as he has just come to feed. This is a little showy and artificial-feeling to me, given what we saw a few hours ago.


Now during this time of watching the leopard feed, there is a watering hole to our left, and all kinds of activity is going on there. We see elephants (I had to use Photoshop enhancements to bring any light at all to this nearly black photo) and a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl.


Then it's time to have dinner at the dining area where we watched the leopard with our fellow travelers. and that's followed by unpacking and rest and recovery from the events of the day. I love knowing we will be here two nights, and will have a relaxing morning, not worried about packing up and leaving right off the bat.



Life Birds Today: 5
Life Birds, Trip: 58

Trip birds today: european honey buzzard, white-backed vulture, crested francolin, yellow-necked francolin, vulturine guineafowl, green sandpiper, laughing dove, african orange-bellied parrot, white-bellied go-away-bird, common cuckoo, verreaux's eagle-owl, european bee-eater, northern red-billed hornbill, african grey hornbill, nubian woodpecker, northern brownbul, eurasian golden oriole, magpie starling, lesser masked weaver, black-necked weaver, chestnut weaver.

Trip Birds Today: 19
Trip Birds, Total: 170

Birds of the Day: WHITE-CRESTED HELMET-SHRIKE (left photo, at nest), EASTERN PARADISE WHYDAH (right photo)



The totally confident porcupine is seen by looking straight down at the ground, hanging over the side railings of the dining area. Cool little porkypine.

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