Having just come back from a safari in Kenya, I can now say that if at the beginning I was apprehensive on how the days would go, driving around in the dust and heat of the savanna, I can now say that I have become a great safari enthusiastic. Can’t wait to repeat it in other parts of Africa. Watching the animals in their natural habitat, doing what they are meant to do since they were born, living in harmony makes it beautiful! I have also learned a lot about these wild animals, as I had great guides with me with vast knowledge about them.
The African Lion can weigh up to 190 Kg and is carnivore. These lions live in groups called prides. You can differentiate the males from females by their fringe of hair around the head. The males normally look after the territory and the female’s hunt, normally in a group with other females. They hunt for gazelles, zebras and wildebeest. Once the hunt is completed they can stay several days feeding on the same animal. We watched a group of females feeding on a buffalo and it was brutal!
Zebras are unique animals as each one of them has different stripes, they are like fingerprints. This fact makes it hard for the predators to identify them and also protects against insects. They are herbivores and can live up to 25 years. They have very good eye sight and are normally seen in big groups.
I had never seen these animals before I went on the safari. They are funny creatures, our guide in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, told us that, they are the creation of God because they look like they have been made of different animals with the horns and short back legs like hyenas. They are herbivores and can live up to 20 years, reaching up to 250 kg. Both females and males have horns. They can be seen feeding constantly on grass.
4. WATER BUFFALO
It is hard to believe they are dangerous when you look at them as they eat grass with the Oxpecker on top of them. This symbiotic relationship is good for both as the Oxpecker feeds on the parasites from the buffalo skin. They can weigh up to 1,200 Kg and live for 25 years. Both males and females have horns but females are much smaller in size. As the name say, they spend a lot of time in the water. The shape of their feet prevents them from sinking in the mud of the swamps. Although the domesticated water buffalo exist in a number of regions the wild water buffalo is endangered and lives only in protected areas.
African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth and can live up to 70 years. They can weigh up to 2,500 to 7,000 Kg and be as tall as 4 meters. I must confess they are one of my favorites because of the way they stay together as family. One of the scenes I will not forget was this little baby elephant less than one month, stumbling and trying to walk always close to the mother. Elephants have a 22 month pregnancy period and that reflects on how protective they are of their babies.
They are constantly eating and can feed up to 150 Kg of food in one day. They eat mainly roots, grasses and fruit. They use the trunk to get the food and also for smelling, breathing, drinking and to grab basically everything. I loved to watch them in the swamp getting water with the trunk and spraying their bodies with it to relieve from the heat. Both male and female have tusks. Tusks are used to dig food, water and battle with each other. Unfortunately the material from the tusks, ivory, attracts poachers and it’s still a big problem nowadays.
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal. It can go from 0 to 96km/h in 3 seconds when hunting for example. They can live up to 12 years and weigh 65kg. An interesting fact is that they only need water once every three to four days. Cheetahs are not easily seen but fortunately we found a female with a cub in one of the game drives. This is common as the female spend one to two years with the cubs and the males are normally spotted living alone.
In a week of safari we only spotted one leopard as they are rarely seen. It was sleeping peacefully in a tree, as explained by our guide it was a female. They are very solitaire unless they are mating or with the cubs. At first sight I could not see it; this is because of their spotted coats that blends with the leaves. Sometimes they even drag their kills to the trees.
Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals. For the first time in my life, I saw a giraffe running and they can be very fast reaching up to 56km/h. They are adorable and I learnt so much about them that I believe they are truly fascinating. They can live up to 25 years and reach 6 meters tall.
Because of their height they can easily look out for predators and reach for leaves and branches that most animals can’t but they have to be careful. When they want to drink they need to spread their legs and bend down in order to keep blood flowing to their heads otherwise they can die. Another interesting fact is that they give birth standing so the little ones just have a free fall welcome to the world.
We encountered dozens of hippopotamus all submerged in the river. They can spend most of the day doing that to cool themselves from the heat. They are good swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes. They will come out at sunset to graze. The babies weigh already up to 45 kg at birth and can suckle underwater, how awesome is that!
The gazelles are delicate and graceful. Their unique color pattern and ringed horns make them beautiful. The ones I saw during the safari were the Thomson’s gazelle and the Grand gazelle. With a lifespan of 12 years they can weigh up to 75 kg gathering in large groups. When they are running from predators they reach up to 64 km/h.
Warthogs are from the same family as domestic pigs and can live up to 15 years. They eat mainly grass, plants and sometimes roots. I did not know that they had four tusks, two small ones and two larger ones. But you can only see that after a few times of spotting them. They will go into the water and use mud to cool down from the heat.
These gracious animals gather around in big groups while eating all sorts of herbs and grass. They can bark to alert others of a predator and they can do some impressive jumps up to 10 meters when running from them.
Both the black and white rhinoceroses can be seen on a safari in Kenya but they are rarely spotted as I only saw the white Rhino in Lake Nakuru, although, if you are really lucky you may see both. They can weigh up to 1,400 Kg and differentiate from each other not in color but in their lip shape. So, the black rhino has a pointed upper lip and the white has a squared lip. The prominent horn that they present make them a target for poachers and unfortunately the black rhino is on the verge of extinction.
I saw an enormous number of baboons; they are just everywhere and in big groups. Most of the time they are grooming on each other to remove insects and dead skin. They also spend a lot of time eating fruits, grasses, seeds, roots and sometimes they eat some meat such as birds and antelopes. On one of the game drives I saw a baboon catching a small baby gazelle and eating it, it was a shocking incident but I guess that’s nature. They can live up to 30 years.
15. SPOTTED HYENA
The spotted hyenas are the largest of three hyena species and they are famous for their vocal sounds, I can say they really sound as they are laughing and don’t look that scary. They have good hearing, eyesight and can run fast for long distances. They also well known to be scavengers and feed on the leftovers of other predators but they can kill birds and others small animals like snakes to feed.
The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird. They live in groups to help defend themselves from predators. Instead of flying they use their wings for courtship and make use of their long legs to run very fast in case of threat. Their only two toes give them great speed, in some seconds it can achieve up to 70 km/h and maintain a speed of 50 km/h.