We got really lucky in Amboseli National Park. Known for elephants (of which there were plenty), there were also lots of CATS.
Cheetahs and lions, in particular.
It is SO much fun just to sit and watch the cats interact. And we did a lot of it. We were fortunate enough to see some large cubs playing with a dead bird, as well as small cheetah cubs following mom’s every instruction, while also sneaking up and tussling with one another.
It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been to Africa what it’s like to see the animals in their natural environment, acting, essentially, like you aren’t there. It’s one of my favorite experiences, pretty much ever. I can’t really ever see it getting old. It often makes me wish I had decided to do field research on mammals of some sort–though I realize that when you try to make play into work, it isn’t always as fun as you think!
In addition to cats, I really enjoyed watching the bird-life, particularly the crested or crowned cranes. They are simply stunning and just a bit odd looking. And of course the lilac breasted-roller. I like to call this a gateway bird, as for me, it was the first bird the perked my interest in watching birds. For the first time, we saw a pygmy kingfisher, though those little birds are often too quick to get a good shot of unless you are ready and waiting! They are bright and darling.
SO many elephants, including really tiny babies. We watched babies playing with one another–including one little one causing trouble, and then running quickly behind his mother to avoid any payback! We also enjoyed watching two elephants have a stand-off for nearly 45 minutes. While you see elephants more frequently than the cats, watching them doesn’t get boring either!
Our home base in Amboseli was Tortilis Camp, which is set just a 10-15 minute drive from Amboseli and about a 30 min drive from the airstrip. Tortilis is small, but not tiny–it’s in between one of the massive lodges and the much more intimate tented camps. The tents are permanent, but still canvas. Nicely sized, plenty of hot water, with a great porch. The lodge area is quite large, with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the view of the water hole. In addition, while it was too chilly for us, Tortilis does have a nice pool (with a bar!) that would be inviting during the summer months for sure.
Our guide at Tortilis, LeParis (like the city, he says), was extremely knowledgeable about all things African wildlife. No matter how many times we go on safari, there is always something new to learn. He was also excellent at spotting things way off in the distance, positioned the vehicle so we had the best view, and was just very accommodating. While we didn’t pay extra for exclusive use of the vehicle/guide, that was a big perk of not being there during high season–we had Paris, and the vehicle, to ourselves.
Certainly our first few days in Kenya were memorable–more on Amboseli and Tortilis in Part 2, coming soon!