Quiet Hour In The Maasai Mara

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Almost sunset and a good time for mamas to play with the children…

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Or for lads to roll and loll…

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Or a cheetah to snooze in the grass beside a mulului tree…

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And then for humans to watch day’s end over the Mara plains…

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Lens-Artists: Serene  This week Patti invites us all to stop and ponder on peaceful scenes. As ever,  these views are from the old Africa album.

In Matching Stripes?

Grevy's zebra

Day’s end and a gathering of Grevy’s zebra, the largest and most northerly race of zebra-kind. It was a chance encounter. For two hours Kevin, our Chagga guide had been driving us along the dirt tracks of the Lewa Downs reserve. It was new territory to us; our first trip to northern Kenya from our then home-town of Nairobi. The landscapes were breath-taking, sweeping rangelands, pale grasses, beetling gorges, the distant gauzy backdrop of the Matthews Range.

Earlier we had stopped to follow a Greater Kudu family on foot. They were moving in single file up a steep bush trail. We lingered under a thorn tree and in the late day light, watched as they melted one by one into dappled cover. Then it was back to the truck and more trail bashing, the only sign of wildlife, massive piles of elephant dung on the track, and some torn up thorn trees where the herd had passed.

We scanned the bush country all round for a glimpse of them, but they were gone, or at least we could not see them, which is not the same thing. Elephants are invisibility specialists. No matter. As I said, the country was magnificent, the light like liquid amber, and the air filled with the soothing scent of acacia blossom. Lemony with tones of jasmine. As ever, out in the bush, all felt like a dream.

And by now, too, the sun had dropped behind the mountains, the light fading fast. We headed back to camp, and it was then, as we rounded a bend on the trail, we met the zebra. There was only just enough light left to take their photo, but they obligingly stood perfectly still.

And just in case you’re wondering what the difference is between Grevy’s and the plains zebras, here’s another sundowner scene, this time from the Maasai Mara far to the south:

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These are Common or Burchell’s Zebra, smaller than the Grevy’s. Their all-over, widely spaced stripes are thicker; ears pointed to Grevy’s endearingly round. Their social habits are different too, the plains’ zebra living in family groups with much grooming between members while their cousins appear to move in less structured gatherings.

But what about the stripes, you may ask: is every zebra’s livery unique?

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It is hard to be sure from the Grevy’s portrait, though I’m thinking it’s highly likely. But when it comes to the plains’ cousins, I have told the tale before of how once in Zambia, on a New Year’s Day game drive, a rather tipsy guide waxed lyrical about the very particular patterns on each zebra’s ‘butticles’, and how it was by such means that zebra offspring recognised their respective mamas. I don’t know about the last bit, but these two photos from Nairobi National Park certainly prove a point, final blurry butticle shot aside: the stripes truly do not match.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Matching Things

‘Large As Life’ ~ More ‘Vintage’ Africa Scenes

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Maasai Mara

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For this week’s Black & White Photo Challenge, Cee asks for things on the large side, which at once had me thinking of big animals; big skies; big landscapes: Africa. And this further prompted the thought of trying a sepia-vintage look with photos from the Farrells’ aging Africa album. To my eye the results look rather like plates from some 1930s book club imprint of travellers’ tales.

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Lewa Downs, Northern Kenya: white rhino

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Lewa Downs: Grevy’s zebra with Mount Kenya backdrop

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Kilimanjaro from Mombasa Highway sepia

Kilimanjaro revealed one morning on the Mombasa Highway at Kibwezi

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Maasai Mara Marsh Pride

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Olololo Plateau and Thomson’s Gazelle

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Desert Date tree Maasai Mara

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Athi Plains giraffes sepia

Athi Plains Giraffe

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Large subjects

On The Reef ~ Tiwi Beach

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In bygone days of Nairobi living we often made the long-haul drive down the old Mombasa Highway to the south Kenya coast. After 300 miles and six and more hours of judder and roar in the Land Rover, humping in out of potholes, getting covered in dust and smothered by truck fumes, being broiled in the queue for the Likoni Ferry, which once boarded you could never feel quite sure of making touch down, to arrive at last on Tiwi Beach felt like stepping into heaven. There were rarely many people there, not even in the Christmas high season, just a couple of beach cottage enclaves, the  local farmers calling round with fruit and vegetables for sale, the Digo fishermen bringing parrot fish and lobsters, and the unbroken soundscape of ocean pounding on reef, fluting notes of the water bottle bird, soft ting-ting of a bicycle bell when the vegetable seller came calling, the breeze in the coconut palms.

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Madagascar Flame Tree and beach cottage

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Life in Colour: greener shades of blue

Tree Square #11

Trees For Everything On Zanzibar

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While I’m in East Africa arboreal mode, I remembered Zanzibar could not be beaten for its array of fabulous trees – from giant mangos and jackfruits to its plantations of spice-bearing nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves trees. On the family farms there are papaya, orange, banana and coconut groves, not only sources of family food, but also crops for market. And the leaves of the coconut palms can be turned into all kinds of useful recyclable household essentials – roof thatch, baskets, screens and sleeping mats.

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The Coconut Harvester

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Island guide, Hari, doing a deal at the farmhouse door.

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Roadside spice farm stall:

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Jackfruit tree:

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Maruhubi boat builders’ beach with an ocean going dhow under construction:

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And then there are the baobabs. This one coming up is a little unusual – apart from being in leaf which only happens now and then, it’s providing the structural wherewithal for a Stone Town pizza joint:

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Tree Square #10