Amboseli in Kenya, Africa

My African safari adventure started with Amboseli, famous for its elephants sightings and views of Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro. The weather was cloudy when I got here so I missed out on seeing Mt Kili clearly. Despite that, it was still nothing short of amazing. The pictures here are from Amboseli conservancy (land owned by the local community) and the national park.

I saw plenty of wild elephants (woohoo!). They are distinguished from their Asian brothers primarily by the shape of their ears.

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Lone male tusker.

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Elephant herds are matriarchal in nature. Our guides pointed out that the matriarch is the oldest and is usually the one with the biggest tusks amongst the adults. Losing a matriarch is detrimental to elephants in the herd since they are responsible for day to day decision making. But unfortunately their big tusks are sought after :(

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Our guide guessed the elephant to the left is the matriarch

Plenty of Giraffe, Zebras, Wildebeest sightings. This picture shows all of them in one shot.

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Giraffes – They look so calm and at peace all the time. It’s like they know they are in a beautiful place and all they want is to enjoy it.

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Canter!

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Zebras. Unlike most of the other animals that seem to camouflage well, these stand out. But their powerful legs and sticking together mentality also makes it difficult for predators to hunt them.

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Big 5 – a term constantly thrown around during my trip – is a list of 5 animals that are most difficult to hunt on foot. Cape buffalo is one of them. Their horns are made of keratin, just like our hair.

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Male buffalo. Recognized by its elaborate horns

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Female buffalo

Resident wildebeests who are not part of the famous wildebeest migration. Our guide mentioned how they look like they have been assembled from features of different other animals – stripes of zebra, goat’s beard, buffalo horns.

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A herd of Grant Gazelles. The one in the center is the male with its fancy horns and the rest are his wives – “Harem” herd is what my guide said. Females tend to have smaller bodies and horns. Males use these horns to fight and claim territories.

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The giraffe-necked antelope or Gerunuk have long necks that help them pluck on bushes and acacias.

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Ostriches!

Female Ostrich

Female Ostrich

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Males look remarkable with their black feathers and necks that turn pink during mating season.

 

This poor hyena was limping with an injured leg.

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Amboseli is also home to Maasai tribes, one of the very popular semi nomadic tribes in Africa. The warriors were known to hunt for lions as symbol of their courage and strength. Much of their traditional lifestyle has changed with urbanization, ban on hunting/poaching & tourism.

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Our safari ride

Our safari ride

Enjoying sunset from a lookout - Sundowner

Enjoying sunset from a lookout – Sundowner

I am sure the pictures tell how incredible this place is. Every aspect of my experience was unique including the stay in tented camps, transfer using charter flights to/from the park, sundowners, people including staff & guides and the wealth of wild-life.

What better way to get digitally disconnected :)

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Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, South India

In December 2012, during my visit to India, mom and I hiked inside the Periyar forest in Thekkady, famous for its wild-life especially tigers and elephants.

Periyar forest

Day 1 was a short 2 hour 5 mile hike with a forest-guide.

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The guide mentioned that bears were the most dangerous since they tend to charge at you as part of their defense mechanism; whereas elephants and tigers keep distance. Well (un)fortunately we only spotted bisons, tiger scratch marks and elephant poop. And I am not kidding, that was fun too!

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot 'They are their own enemy'.

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot ‘They are their own worst enemy’.

Spot the worm

Spot the worm

Bison. They like to stare

Bison. They like to stare

Day 2 was a trek+bamboo-rafting group adventure deeper into the forest with some forest guides and a gunman.

I finally got to see the beautiful Periyar lake – a man-made lake with a dam, built during the British colonial rule.

Periyar Lake

The lake submerged all the trees in its path and their stems now stick out when its not too deep.

And yay! We spotted an elephant :)

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Noon pastime. Playing with water and mud.

Deer skull

Deer skull

Elephant jaw bone.

Elephant jaw bone. You can guess the age by counting the number of teeth.

Tigers are the most difficult animal to spot within the forest. There are cameras inside to track them and the estimated number as of now is around 45. Well, we did manage to see their footprints.

Tiger footprint. I was glad I could spot something of this beast.

Tiger footprint.

Finally, I found the spirit of the forest-rangers, naturalists, locals very touching and inspiring. Over the years they have overcome the problem of poaching and now they actively take part in it’s conservation.