Strathspey Wildlife  
Africa 2006
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Wednesday 1st February 2006

 After a slightly restless night - (listening out for animals !!) we were arriving for breakfast at 7am. By 8 am we were heading out on our first game drive. Chrissie, was in her element. A keen birder, (always good to have one on such a trip)  was quickly getting to grips with her list - helping us to identify
some of the 400+ species inhabiting the park. Amongst the bigger game on our first drive, we saw giraffes in some numbers, buffalo, zebra, impala, a fish-eagle, black-backed jackal, and we encountered an elephant. This elephant was feeding - on palm nuts - which he obtained by gripping the trunk of the palm tree between tusk and trunk - and shaking vigorously - which caused me at least - to wince as the  large nuts fell, bouncing off his head. I think he may have surprised himself too - as, following his second attempt, he shook, then stepped back three or four paces as they fell around him.

   


Before too long it was time to stop for our picnic lunch, prepared earlier by the staff of the Ruaha Camp. One of our guides first of all carried out a check around our proposed lunch site, ensuring that there were no unwelcome guests lurking amongst the undergrowth. Within 20 minutes of our resuming from our lunch-stop we encountered our first lion. He remained elusive however as we tried to manoeuvre our vehicles to obtain a better view. He remained beneath the cover of a dense bush, but gave us some nice shots nevertheless before we decided to leave him in peace. We continued to clock up our list
 of birds - courtesy of Chrissie and one of our guides, Steve, who had a superb knowledge of birds, coupled with an amazing ability to drive - whilst simultaneously spotting the smallest birds in the bush. We only hope he never drives the M25 - we think he may have some difficulty in adapting his skill !!

       


After a satisfying day in the bush, we headed back to camp at 5pm - had a very welcome "Kili" or two, followed by a nice cool shower. At 7pm we walked to the dining banda for our evening meal of vegetable soup and onion bread, followed by beef, rice, mushrooms and potatoes - with lemon & lime mousse for dessert. Our hosts at The Ruaha River Camp were Peter Fox and his wife Sarah. The Fox family have a number of camps in Tanzania. Whilst they dined in the same banda, we were
largely disappointed that they did not take the trouble to join us for dinner for one of our three evenings. Sarah took the opportunity to talk to us, discussing what we were to do, what we had seen etc. whilst the limit of our exchanges with Peter over the three days was "Hello" on our arrival, and "Goodnight" on our last evening. We found this very much in contrast with the friendliness of his staff, whilst he managed to maintain his air of "aloofness" in our company. This was very much in contrast to our meeting later in the trip with his father, Geoff - who could not have made our stay with him at Mufindi more pleasurable and more rewarding - but more of that later.
 

         

After another "Kili" or two, the group had really started to gel. We had a fair old mixture - Mel & his wife Ann, from Dorset, Robin & Heather from Oxford, Nick & Ann from London, Chrissie and her friend Maggie from Exeter - and to complete our domestic travellers, Helene, from Oxon. Our international contingent consisted of Kieran & Elaine from Dublin, Gene & Gail from Canada, and Ron - also from Canada. Ron - a retired tax-inspector - now seemingly funds his trips by  some wide dabbling in stocks and shares (so he tells me anyway!!) A real larger-than-life character, who supplied much of the humour that kept the group amused for long periods of time around the dinner table. He had already christened Helene "The Duchess" by this stage of the trip, and as everybody's natural inhibitions amongst strangers began to evaporate - a real sense of fun had developed amongst the group.

         


Whilst our driver-guides stayed elsewhere overnight, this left Lucy to complete the group. A much-travelled young lady, despite being only 26 years of age, who had worked for Explore for three years. For Lucy, the daily organisation, ensuring everything was in place to make the trip so memorable - mind you - I must say - the group made it unbelievably easy for her !!!  Whilst at Ruaha, Kieran and Elaine became worried about their baby grandson back home in Dublin, who was very poorly in hospital. They had been unable to make contact by mobile since leaving Iringa, and their sense of isolation brought them to the stage of contemplating a return home. Lucy spoke to Peter Fox, who made available the use of a satellite phone, and they were able, with some relief, to temporarily at least, ease their concern. Everybody was ready for an early night - accompanied again by our Masai Warrior, we returned to our banda in readiness for our early-morning foot safari the following morning  - No rest on these safaris !

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