Written by: Hema Narayanan
D-day arrived – the adventure was to begin and I boarded my flight to Nairobi. I couldn’t believe my dream was coming true and I was going into the grasslands of the savannah – a rare opportunity to exist among the animals, listen to their sounds, and witness their ways. I was going where the animal’s rule and the lions do roar!
My first safari experience was to Amboseli National Park. Amboseli is only 392km long and is spread across the border of Kenya and Tanzania.
Here is a list of my ten best sightings in incredible Amboseli:
1. Mount Kilimanjaro
“How can such enormous numbers of large game live in this extraordinary desert?” wondered the Scottish explorer, Joseph Thompson, in 1885. Without Kilimanjaro, many lives would cease. I was in a state of euphoria as I stood eye-to-eye with Mt Kilimanjaro from the observatory viewpoint.
2. Bird’s eye view of Amboseli
Before a short climb up to the observatory point in the reserve, a board reads: “Some elders says ‘Noomotio’ means a place with inward hollow curved rocks, which can hold water. Others say it means the place of water pans. Now extinct, Noomotio was formed in the Pleistocene period after Mt Kilimanjaro’s volcanic eruption. It is a gift from the gods and the short climb is worthwhile.” It was truly out of this world.
3. A hippo emerging
An African hippo stepped out of the marshes just as I was looking down from the top of the observatory – a surprising sight indeed!
4. African tuskers
I spotted my first of the Big Five – African elephants – in herds and herds. Some were ferocious and somber, while some were playful and carefree. But no matter how they were acting, their raw power and strength was clear.
5. Wildebeest at their wild best
I have seen wildebeest migrations in TV documentaries, but seeing them in real life was something else, even if I wasn’t watching the migration.
6. A zebra crossing
The stripes on the smooth shiny skin are what make zebras so attractive, and it is said that no two zebras have the same stripes. I could not imagine the thousands of combinations that could arise from such patterns given that these animals are everywhere.
Only in the wild is the male sometimes more beautiful than the female of the species. Sighting both male and female ostriches was a rarity, and catching an ostrich as the sun went down was a moment to savour.
Graceful and glamorous, seeing the tallest living terrestrial animal beside my jeep induced an adrenaline rush. Strewn across the flat plains, they interspersed so beautifully amongst the zebra, wildebeest and elephants.
9. Grey crowned-cranes
It was amazing to see the national birds of Uganda with their beautiful crowns placed gently on the top of their heads.
10. Fighting gazelles
Such a swift animal, the Thompson’s gazelles gave the photographer in me a challenge. They ran so fast that I had trouble trying to frame them. But my patience paid off when I spotted two gazelles locking horns.
There were so many sights that left a mark on me – including the sensational hues and colours of the sun setting over the baranite trees of Amboseli National Park as it was time to say goodbye!