Kudu Family Heading For The Top Of The Trail


This sunset view of retreating greater kudu was taken at Lewa Downs, a private nature conservancy on the northern foothills of Mount Kenya near Isiolo. The reserve is 62,000 acres, and was once a colonial cattle ranch. The descendants of the original settler family still own the land, but now their focus is on wildlife conservation, upscale tourism, improving the lot of local communities and helping to protect surviving members of Kenya’s black rhino population.

When we visited years ago we stayed in  the small Lerai tented camp run by the same outfit whose camps we stayed in at Mara River and Elmenteita, i.e. fairly low key by comparison with Kenya’s super luxury safari ‘camps’, and aimed more at visitors with dedicated interests in wildlife, particularly ornithologists and professional wildlife photographers.

We flew up there in a Kenya Airways Twin Otter 20-seater plane. (Kenya’s internal aerial bus service is brilliant). There were only two others aboard and, after running through the safety procedures, the co-pilot leaned out of the cockpit with a bowl of boiled sweets and a cheery ‘pass it back!’ The next moment we were sprinting off the tarmac at Nairobi’s Wilson airport and banking over the nearby national park where small groups of wildebeest were gathered along city perimeter fence. So even before the safari is properly begun there’s a little wildlife spotting to do.


Next we whipped up the Great Rift, the old volcano Longonot in the valley bottom, the smallholdings, tea and coffee farms of Limuru up on the eastern escarpment. And in no time we were over Nyandarua, the Aberdares Range, and looking the dark snow-streaked spires of Mount Kenya in the eye. In fact in the same amount of time it had taken us that morning to get through Nairobi’s traffic jams to the airport we had covered the couple of hundred kilometres to Lewa.

lewa i

Soon we were flying low over the marsh buzzing zebra before putting down on the dirt landing strip whose only permanent structures then were a windsock and a thatched hut. Our transport, an open green safari truck, sped towards us in a cloud of pink dust. Kevin, our guide for the two-day stay, greeted us with a big grin. We found out later that his family were originally from Tanzania, his people the Chagga who live on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and are renowned for their capacity for running up the mountain. Kevin also turned out to be a very passionate ornithologist, especially interested in the European migrants that were just then visiting Lewa. A bit of an irony I thought: a case of the reversed ‘exotic’ when he became, to my mind, rather over absorbed by the presence of a migrant tufted duck. That’s not what we came to see! Here’s some more of what we did see:



A reticulated giraffe, one of the three main giraffe races in Kenya. It is mostly found in the northern districts.  This photo’s for Brian at Equinoxio. (The weird colour flashes are due to poor film processing at the time).

Our guide:



Square Tops #20

23 thoughts on “Kudu Family Heading For The Top Of The Trail

  1. How fabulous, never heard of the Kudu before. Love the antlers on the one leading the way.

    I must ask my friend who goes on regular trips to Kenya and surrounding countries if she has been to Lewa as she likes you prefers to travel with a company that specialise in small groups of ornithologists and professional wildlife photographers. She does also like a bit of luxury every now and again and looking at the Lewa website they seem to have plenty of that also!

    1. Prince William was a guest not so long ago, so yes, it’s quite luxurious these days. The camp we stayed at probably has been overtaken by something grander. I think Lerai was a separate operation i.e. they were tenants of the Craigs.

      1. I think there are probably still very amazing places to stay in Kenya that don’t cost a fortune. The Maasai have an eco-camp that has some connection with the Lewa outfit.

    1. Thank you, Sarah, for that very kind thought re. my powers of recollection. I did write stuff down at the time tho, and actually am now astonished when I read it just how much I had forgotten. Brain has too much stuff in it!

      1. Good thanks, Tish. Rain just clearing to the west, as the weatherfolk might say. All set for another beautiful day 🙂 🙂 Allotment for you?

      1. Thank you. I’m doing well despite the fact that I’m again consorting with cement elephant sculptures for spiritual guidance.

  2. Thank you for the picture Tish. I have learnt something new. 🙂
    And the other pix? Wapicha wazuri sana. They have the the vintage flavour of “the old world”.

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