Coffee break on the east ridge overlooking Lake Turkana
The Nyiru Range
Silenced by earmuffs, we lifted-off effortlessly floating up and over the 9000ft range of Mt. Nyiru in northern Kenya. The impenetrable forest of moss and orchid shroud Pencil cedars, olives, and aloes gave way as we dropped down over the cliff, hovering momentarily to breathe in the eroded cliffs of these ancient rocks. The helicopter changed angle and we surged forward, northward, accelerating through the valleys and watching the landscape dry. Herds of goats picked their way through the seemingly barren rock and the odd group of camels fed on the
Acacia tortillis that had managed to establish themselves in the drought ridden soil. Inhospitable lava flows and boulder-ridden hillsides stretched out beneath us as we raced up the Great Rift-valley to the shores of Lake Turkana. As we flew the abrupt shoreline, fishermen waved and crocodiles dove into the water.
We were on our way to Ileret where Richard Leakey and Stony Brook University had set up a research station, the Turkana Basin Research Institute. Hot, windy and in a not-particularly-beautiful scrub it was hard to imagine that this land hid many of the secrets of human ancestry as well as the fossils of many of the predecessors of today’s vertebrate animals. A massive crocodile skull lay on the cement floor outside the door of a lab where a few individuals sat, eyes glued to microscopes while their hands manipulated little bits of fossilized bones and high-tech cleaning brushes. Behind it, catalogued boxes stood on shelves housing the finished secrets of their work.
Dinosaur bones (Dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years-ago).
Natural rock slide at Desert Rose
This wasn’t an ordinary safari. Starting in Meru National Park to get a taste of game, we ending in Serengeti National Park to really feast our eyes. The major diversion to Lake Turkana was as much about having fun as experiencing this historically significant part of East Africa. The helicopters allowed us to stopover for a scrumptious lunch at Desert rose, named after the beautiful succulent (Adenium obesum), but not before we’d thoroughly cleaned the natural rock-slide of debris with our bums.
Sand dunes near the Soguta Valley
Grevy'z zebra (Meru National Park)
Beautiful tusker... one of the last.
Topi (Serengeti National Park)
Hyena (Serengeti National Park)
The safari defining wildlife-moment came when we camped in an exclusive luxury mobile camp in the very north of Serengeti National Park, in a small corner known as the Lamai wedge. Having seen nearly every other animal that we wanted the pressure was on us guides to try to find a famed wildebeest crossing. Conditions looked good. The wildebeest migration had arrived and some billowing storm clouds on the north side of the Mara-river beckoned the herds across. The wildebeest began cascading down the bank and I eased the vehicle down-wind and down-stream of the wildebeest. The quickening sound of thousands upon thousands of calves and their mothers, gnu-ing as they dove into the waters and emerged on the other side silenced the normally chattering kids in my vehicle. An annoyed hippo emerged, scaring the wildebeest and they drifted downstream, now coming up on both sides of the vehicle at about 300 per minute. I estimate the average crossing rate to be 200 per minute, and when we left 2.5hrs later I estimated that over 30,000 had crossed the river.