November 19th, 2018
The dry season is coming to an end and as usual the wildlife is beginning to congregate around what ever pockets of water are left in the park, or down by the rivers which flow through. Although it is extremely hot and dusty, game drives at this time of year are excellent and our big cats are in great shape, picking off the weak and those that are bunched around water. It is an easy time for them and with the stunning November light, it is a great time for photography.
With the death of Ema, our senior female leopard, we have been concerned for her daughter Koko, who was last seen 3 months ago a fair distance from her usual haunts. It was with great excitement we heard that someone in the park had reported seeing a large male and female together. However this was in an area we had considered an unlikely location to find her. Imagine how delighted we were to finally find Koko, looking as sleek and beautiful as ever, bedding down with our notorious rogue ‘Nguruman” who is one of the largest male leopards in the park. They had been together for over a week and fingers crossed, we will have some cubs in the new-year. Clearly having taken advantage of the easy pickings in the dry season she is looking in really good health and has quickly found herself a worthy mate. Photo by Paras Chandaria
Another piece of good news, we now have a new feline on the block who has taken over Ema’s territory, and we are delighted to confirm that she is in fact Ema’s daughter from an earlier litter. It is normal for a daughter to take over a mothers territory so we shouldn’t have been surprised. We are so pleased that she is following in her mother‘s footsteps. It will take some time for her to get used to us, but we look forward to now having her as a part of our lives. Photo by Paras Chandaria
To be honest, welcome as the rains will be, the end of the dry season fills us with a little apprehension as we prepare ourselves, as best we can, to tackle the onslaught of tropical rains. Rain in Kenya is nothing like that which you would normally get in the northern hemisphere. Two inches being dumped within an hour over a small area is not unusual. The difficult conditions it then creates for us are particularly hard to cope with. Rising rivers and muddy roads may be interesting from a visitors point of view, but running a lodge and getting children to school with flooded roads and rivers in full spate is a real challenge.
As Emakoko guests will know the Mbagathi River runs just below the lodge. It has been known to rise by up to 8 meters in 4 hours, totally engulfing the pool area and flooding right under the lodge. Whist no-one has ever been in danger, I often watch with horror as the pool turns from a beautiful crystal blue to a muddy chocolate colour. Our staff of course find this hugely entertaining, especially when the water comes over the bridge. Branches and assorted debris come thundering downriver, smashing into our bridge before disappearing at speed into the distance.
Image by Lamak Sheikh
What is most astonishing is that our resident herbivores, who should be used to it by now, often wait until the river is right up and then leap into the raging waters to cross over for the ‘greener grass’ on the other side, only to find that the grass is no greener than where they were….. and now they are soaking wet! Why they choose to do this is mind boggling. They seem to wait for me to get to the office before they attempt it so that I get a magnificent view. An hour later, after the torrent has subsided, they swim back again to the same green grass they spurned before. Watching the behavior of wildlife in the wild is often quite puzzling!
Our resident “herd” of hyrax also decide that the rains are a great time to exercise themselves. They enjoy taking a dip diving off the bridge, swimming to a nearby tree and clambering up to the top where they dangle like Christmas decorations. They often do this on the thinnest branches, and when the branches snap they plunge into the river. Undaunted they swim back again to the bridge and start again. I cannot decide whether they are simply “adrenaline junkies” or really do not understand the dangers!
For us the climate is either feast or famine. Once the rains stop we can expect a similar very dry spell to the one we have just had. The dry spell is when our seasonal animals return to spend time at the lodge. By far the most exciting are the Hippos and Rhinos who come onto the lodge grounds as the park dries up in search of the green grass by our pool. They are in the grounds almost every night and the night watchmen are now back on ‘pot duty’ to defend my beautiful collection of potted plants and succulents from these marauding gangs. They, the rhinos and hippos, are joined by the buffalos who also enjoy annoying me by dining on my “a La carte” vegetarian menu.
We have gone to a great deal of trouble to create this potted garden at the end of the pool which survives both the drought and the rains, but is unlikely to survive the behaviour of these huge animals. After their vegetarian meal, to help with the washing up, they also love to push the left over plants together with the pots into the swimming pool. This obviously isn’t good for the pool, the pots or the plants. At the moment our defence against this is to wedge the various pot sizes into a formation where no individual pot can be pushed easily. Whilst we appear at the moment to be winning this battle, only time will determine who finally wins the Battle of the Pots!
Such are the trials and tribulations of living in a wildlife paradise.