Trip Report: Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo 2016 | Tsavo West

Andrew Beck Andrew 2 Comments

This is the follow on from the first five nights spent in Amboseli before we headed across to Tsavo West for the final 4 nights of our Exclusive Amboseli and Tsavo Photo Safari. You can check out the first 5 nights in Ambosleli in this blog.

Now though, lets focus on our time in Tsavo West.

Tsavo is a place of firsts for many people.

The first time exploring the Shetani Lava flow.

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Shetani means ‘devil’ in Kiswahili and the flows were formed only a few hundred years ago with some local people believing that it was the devil himself emerging from the earth. This vast expanse of folded black lava spreads for 50 sq km across the savannah at the foot of the Chyulu Hills. The last major eruption here is believed to have taken place around 200 years ago.

Their first time seeing Coke’s Hartebeest…

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Their first time seeing Kirk’s Dik-Dik…

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Their first time seeing Lesser Kudu…

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Their first time seeing a Fringe-Eared Oryx

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And their first time seeing a variety of different bird species…

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Golden Breasted Starling

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White-Bellied Go-Away Bird

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Black-Headed Lapwing

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Black-Faced Sandgrouse

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Yellow Throated Spurfowl

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Egyptian Geese

Okay, well maybe it wasnt their first time seeing Egyptian geese.

What I am saying though is that for most people, Tsavo is completely different to any other destination that most people have visited, both from a scenery and landscape but also game viewing point of view.

Most of our time in Tsavo was spent concentrating along a natural drainage line which, after a bit of exploration, proved to be the only available water-source in the region. Fortunately our group of guests were patient and willing to sit and wait for the wildlife to come to us rather than us driving aimlessly around what is a massive area.

Our patience was rewarded with fantastic sightings of Elephant and Buffalo on a daily basis.

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What I love most about this part of the world is that the wildlife here is wild. I loved having to approach the buffalo herd slowly and cautiously so as not to spook them. Each time we approached they responded by lifting their noses high into the wind, sniffing us out as they made the call as to whether or not they would tolerate our presence. We had these sightings all to ourselves apart from the odd vehicle which rolled by, stopping briefly for the obligatory snapshot and then moving on.

Afternoons on the drainage line that we focussed on couldn’t have been any better. We were positioned on the western side of the watercourse and sat patiently as the light got progressively better and better as the afternoon wore on.

All that was missing was the wildlife, but they were never far from the water and put on a good show.

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Our last afternoon around the watercourse was particularly special as it was rounded off with a very special sighting of this beautiful female leopard.

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As an illustration of the diversity of this region, the next image was taken no more than 100 meters from the first image but on the opposite side of the road.

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The same sighting with two completely different scenes, environment and stories.

This was not the only leopard that we saw during our time in Tsavo though, we spent more than an hour (and enjoyed our packed breakfast in the sighting) with another female in the region.

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Whilst the leopards put on a a bit of a show for us, its really lions that Tsavo is best known for.

An unfortunate set of circumstances led to an elephant dying not far away from the watercourse we spent so much time at. A spear wound we assume was inflicted during an excursion into one of the neighbouring communities led to the elephants death which in turn provided a free meal for a pride of lions.

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It was interesting to me after all my  exposure to the theory behind the biological role of the manes to see that the male we saw had a notably smaller and more scruffy mane than  many other males I have seen in other parts of Kenya. Judging by the nose colouration (a method proposed by the work of Craig packer and his students as a non-invasive technique for estimating lion age in populations lacking long-term records ) the male we saw would appear to be an adult male in his prime.

Research suggests that lions in different regions exhibit different mane characteristics, and even back in the early 20th century this trait was linked to variety in ambient temperature. All lions are extremely sensitive to heat: males in colder, higher-altitude habitats tend to have bigger manes than those in hot, humid climates. Male lions in Tsavo therefore tend to have smaller manes than most other lion populations, with some even exhibiting no manes whatsoever.

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Whilst this is my only sighting of a male lion in Tsavo and I’m basing my assumptions on this single encounter, the difference in the size of the mane compared to an adult male in the Masai Mara is noticeable.

Marlon du Toit, Masai Mara, Wild Eye, Photo Safari

Apart from the wildelife and landscapes, one of my favourite parts about visiting Tsavo West  is the morning we spend at the spectacular Mzima Springs.

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The springs are a series of four natural springs which find their source in a natural reservoir under the Chyulu Hills to the north. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Instead, rain water percolates through the rock, and may spend 25 years underground before emerging 50 kilometres away at Mzima. This natural filtration process gives rise to Mzima’s crystal clear streams and pools. Just two kilometres downstream from the springs, the stream is blocked by a solidified lava flow and once again disappears below the surface of the earth.

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In stark contrast to the dry arid conditions that dominate the region, Mzima is a sea of green with an abundant array of life around every corner. Arriving as early in the morning as possible we made the most of the good light… And shadows.

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During the morning spent walking around the springs I encouraged our guests to look for some of the more subtle and less obvious photographic opportunities and to take on a different perspective. Light, shadows, textures, patterns, all of these can potentially provide just as good a photographic opportunity as one of the more charismatic wildlife species…

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In line with the “new perspective” approach to photographing the springs, an underwater viewing tank provided the perfect opportunity to get a feel for what lay beneath the surface of the water whilst simultaneously giving us an appreciation for how clear and fresh this water was.

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How clear is the water?

This clear…

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I don’t know of many other places where the waters are so clear that you can see the entire body of a hippo beneath the water.

I could literally spend an entire day walking around the springs, and may just do so next year!

I quite literally cant get enough of this destination. Every time I visit it reveals an entirely different facet of its diversity. It provides the perfect combination with Amboseli and if you’re looking to explore new regions, see new species (both animals and birds) and break away from the madding crowds, you seriously need to consider joining me in Tsavo.

Here’s what one of our guests had to say about their safari with us:

“I have just spent 10 days with Wild-Eye on a photographic safari to Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks in Kenya. These are two unique game parks which provide wonderful photographic opportunities.

Andrew Beck was our host . He has first class technical knowledge and wonderful photographic awareness, continually suggesting  exposure settings and different ways to compose and shoot wildlife scenes. We spent long periods driving around the game parks in Wild-Eye’s 4×4 Land Cruiser which was very comfortable with large side windows and an open top from which to shoot.

The accommodation was ideal located being in the respective parks giving us quick access to photographic opportunities.  Andrew always put his guests first and being a small group we got individual attention. All our arrangements were taken care of without a hitch.

I will definitely being doing another photographic safari with Wild-Eye, it was a great experience and I return with new ways to photograph wildlife.”

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We strive to change the way our guests see the world and the Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo Photo Safari seems to help us in doing just that!

About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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  1. Pingback: Trip Report: Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo 2016 | Tsavo West - Africa Freak

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