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Governors Camp Collection News April 2015

 

Kenya has faced some challenging times over the last month and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected. To quote Scott Gration, former US Ambassador in his recent Time Magazine Online Article "Kenya is a country with a bright economic future: it has so much potential, its citizens are smart, well educated and hard working. Kenya has a great location with breath-taking landscapes, gorgeous beaches and perfect weather. This country is blessed with magnificent mountains; beautiful valleys, rivers and lakes; valuable natural resources; precious national treasures. It's a paradise for tourists"


 

Indeed in all the areas that we operate, our guests have continued to enjoy very memorable safari experiences with great wildlife viewing.

 

Sincerely,
Governors Camp Collection

 

 

 
Governors Guide to April in the Masai Mara 

10 April, 2014 


 

Flowers, Ellies and all those Birds, Governors Guide to April in the Masai Mara


 

Many people think of April as rainy season and whilst this is true the rain mostly falls in the evening and overnight leaving mornings and afternoons clear to explore the Masai Mara. Typically thunderstorms build in the late afternoons, bringing dramatic skies and wonderful photo opportunities and cosy nights are spent in camp tucked up in tents with the hypnotic pitter-patter of rain on a canvas roof.

Photo courtesy of Katie McLellan

The combination of sunshine and rain brings on a burst of growth, grasses on the plains grow long and lush, the Marsh reeds begin to flower and there is a profusion of wild flowers amidst the savannah grass. Cycnium Tubolosum or the "Tissue Paper Flower" covers the grass verges and the forest edges nearby Abutilon Mauritanium, a yellow Hibiscus type flower blooms, in the gullies the beautiful blue Ipomoea Cairica bursts into flower we are treated to the magnificent sight of the flowers of the yellow and red Flame Lily (the aptly named Glorosia Superba). 


 

Out on the grasslands and hidden between the grasses the beautiful red Klennia Abysinnica flowers. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

With the arrival of the rains, the resident Marsh Pride male lions spring into action patrolling the boundaries of their territory continuously scent-marking the area as each rainstorm washes the previous scent marks off. Long grass makes their prey more difficult to find and they roam further in search of food. The lionesses and cubs tend to spend most of their time near the Marsh and airstrip feeding mostly off warthog, a staple food source at this time of year. As the males spend more and more time away patrolling the boundaries of their pride lands we often see new males appear at this time of year hovering on the edges in anticipation of a moment of weakness to exploit and challenge the resident males.

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

We see large numbers of elephant throughout the Marsh and Bila Shaka plains. In the forests around camp the Warburgia trees stop fruiting bringing less elephant visitors to camp and the new growth on the grasslands draws the families of elephant out from the forests. Large herds of elephant with up to 30 members of related family units with very young calves feed on the tender young shoots on the plains whilst males in musth wander from one family herd to another mating with females in oestrus. The abundance of soft grass keeps the elephant herds well fed and provides them with a needed change of diet and a wealth of necessary minerals. This in turn gives the precious trees of the riverine forests and the acacia woodlands a much-needed respite.

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

On the ground between the elephant's legs cattle egrets busily feast off the rich pickings of insects disturbed by the elephant's mighty round feet as they trudge along the marsh edges and grassy plains.


 

Topis congregate on the short grass plains, there are heavily pregnant impala and new fawns and eland and waterbuck are resident in the marsh grasslands and plains. Thomson Gazelles also give birth at this time of year and we see lots of female warthogs with 2 or 3 piglets, warthogs also begin to mate at this time of year. As the ground gets wetter so the resident buffalo herd move to higher ground with better drainage and coarser grasses which they love.


 

Rain fills up the Musiara Marsh and causes the Mara River to rise. Hippos bask on the edges of the Marsh drawn out from the river with the abundance of water in the Marsh and many hippos are born.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Birds


 

With the rains come a profusion of insect life, frogs and catfish and birding in April is often extraordinarily good. The Musiara Marsh is an important area for many bird species and in April they come out in force. Tens of thousands of European Barn Swallows on their migration to Europe roost in the swamp every evening, and at dusk we witness huge clouds of them diving and swooping over the grasslands hunting grass-hoppers, crickets and small insects. Fish eagles perch in the trees surrounding the Marsh and dive into the waters to catch their prey. Lesser Kestrels fly in large flocks over the plains hunting grasshoppers and mice. European White Storks and Cattle Egrets comb the fringes of the Marsh feeding on grasshoppers and frogs, Ground Hornbills are out on the plains feasting on frogs and grass snakes. Yellow-billed Storks, Saddle Billed Storks Grey Herons and Sacred Ibis' feast in the swamp.


 

The first rains bring on a growth of grass which then matures and produces seed, drawing in the seedeaters to feed and breed. The abundance of nutritious food heralds the mating season as the chances of conception are increased, and we have been privileged to witness Red Collared Widow-birds, Fan Tailed Widow-birds, Pin Tailed Whydah's and Yellow Bishop all transformed from their dull plumage into their magnificent breeding plumage.


 

With the growth of the long grass the Village Weaver birds come out to harvest grass to build their new nests. If the hen doesn't like the new nest she dismantles it

and makes the male rebuild it until she is happy with it and agrees to be his mate. The Widow birds do the same and the females also inspect the male's long breeding plumage tails to identify a good mate.

We often see a solitary European Roller, a migrant from Europe and Asia; they visit this area between October and April before beginning their long migration north. This small bird has a magnificent bright blue head, throat, belly and wings.


 

The ants and termites begin to reproduce. The king and queen mate, then the queen lays the eggs, some of which are reproductives, some soldiers, and some are workers for the colony. The reproductives have wings and when they are ready they fly out of the nest, find a partner and then dig down into the ground to start their own colony. During the rainy season the ground is softer and for this reason the ants fly out during a rainstorm and then dig down into the soft earth. This whole reproductive cycle provides a feast for the birds, and we see lots of Sooty Chats parked on termite mounds waiting for these ants and termite reproductive's to emerge.


 

The butterflies come out and we have had lovely recent sightings of the Narrow green-banded swallow tales and Citrus swallowtails, whilst back in camp fireflies light up the night.


 

 

March Game Report for Masai Mara
 

7 April 2015


 

Weather and grasslands:


 

Over the last month we have had hot and humid days and nights, day time temperatures reached 38C and night time temperatures only marginally dropping. Reports stated that this had been the hottest February in 20 years, often on hot days the wind would pick up in the late mornings lifting into dust storms from the dried out grasslands plains and drive through the woodlands. The grasslands of Bila Shaka, Musiara and all the marsh areas were very dry and short, conditions here were similar to that of the Masai conservation areas, and outlying waterholes were all dry with tributaries into the Talek River are also drying up. The marsh water levels had also mostly dried up except a little water left in mud pools in the centre of the Marsh. The main Mara River was slowing depleting. Grass levels on the west side of Rhino Ridge were better than most other areas and many of the wildebeest and zebra were seen congregating in these areas in the latter weeks of the month. Then in the last week the rain arrived, just when we needed it the most, filling up the Marsh, greening the grasslands and bringing the Mara River levels up again. All these dry days did give way to clear nights and some incredible starry skies.

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Shahin

General game


 

Wildebeest and zebra have been filing back and forth from the conservancy areas in the north east of the reserve, as the dry conditions prevailed the resident wildebeest and zebra were forced to keep moving while searching for what little grass there was. During mid-month many of the male gnus came back first onto the Topi and Bila Shaka Plains, followed closely by the females and calves, they moved again onto Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Later in the month some large herds of zebra and wildebeest were seen coming down to the main river to drink from both sides of the river, most inland water holes had dried out, and the animals were forced to come to the Mara River to drink. The resident crocodiles took full advantage of this situation grabbing animals as they came to drink. On the morning of the 21st a zebra had a lucky escape and managed to free itself when caught by the nose, we can only presume that it kicked out with its front feet an connected well with the crocodile while releasing hold of its quarry. In the latter week at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed there were large numbers of Wildebeest and Zebra that could be seen coming down to drink in the last water pools of the Bila Shaka.

Photo courtesy of John Schmidt

Early on in the month a few zebra and wildebeest seen crossing from East to West and back again at the main crossing point and the mortuary crossing point. A few were taken by crocodile. Late one morning towards the end of the month at the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River crocodile were seen fighting, with one biting and holding onto the thick end of the tail of the other, as water levels dropped, pressure on territorial male crocodiles increased. This activity or phenomenon is similar amongst skinks and lizards as well. Similar activity seen with crocodile has been seen on the bend at the Toyota cocktail site on the Mara River.


 

Topi are also seen in good numbers and have moved locations depending on grass levels, males are still lekking and a few females being seen mated. Paradise Plains is a good place to see Topi congregating, Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains are good for scattered numbers of Topi and Cokes Hartebeest.

Photo courtesy of Shahin Mohamed

Elephant in small herds can be seen across Bila Shaka, Paradise and Topi Plains. Two small herds of elephant were seen between Paradise Plains and southern end of Rhino Ridge, they were eating seedlings of Acacia and Balanites which unfortunately the Elephant like to eat, and they will uproot the entire plant. After the first rain on the 29th a few more elephant in small herds were seen in the marsh.

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Mason

The marsh herd of buffalo are in the east side of the Marsh while the Paradise Plains herd can be seen near the southern corner or on Rhino Ridge where grass levels are still a little longer. Hippo in general are also still struggling with pod densities encroaching into one another as water levels drop drastically, some hippo dies in the marsh and in the woodlands although many Hippo were seen grazing earlier in the evening and until later in the morning. Giraffe were also well spread out with the ongoing dry conditions, although giraffe being prominent browsers there are many species of trees and shrubs for them to feed upon within the riverine woodlands of the Mara River and also the acacia woodlands outside of the reserve. Within the reserve there are granite out crops with good stands of Croton dichogamus whose leaves are being eaten both by giraffe and eland. The local Masai also have uses for the Croton using leave and roots, the root of Croton dichogamus flavours goat meat and gives strength while the leaves are crushed and inhaled clearing nasal passages.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Side stripped Jackals are being seen more frequently, there is a female on the western fan of Rhino Ridge that is seen very often, early last month she had two pups that were around three months old and sadly they are not being seen now, another dog and bitch are seen on the eastern fan of Rhino Ridge.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Black Backed Jackals are also being seen frequently, there is a family of five on the western side of Rhino Ridge and these canids are very effective at killing Thompson Gazelles, they have taken two fawns and a female to date. The Black Backed Jackal has good stamina and is very persistent hence its survival over its similar competitors. An Aardwolf has been seen between Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Lately with the rain we've had there has been good termite activity throughout the grassland plains and overcast conditions will keep the Aardwolves out a little longer. Bat Eared Foxes as their name suggests have huge, wide ears are another insectivorous canid are seen throughout the Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge grasslands. Many larger ungulates particularly wildebeest and zebra have been in residence over the grassland plains of Paradise, Bila Shaka, Musiara and Topi Plains and the dung of these animals draw in dung beetles which the Bat Eared Foxes like to eat. Up to 80% of their diet consists of insects and their teeth have been adapted to suit this lifestyle, their teeth are small and also they have up to 8 extra molars and a well-developed digastric muscle, which all help snap and grind the hard casings of the insect species which they eat. This brings their total number of teeth to between 48-50, which is more than any other non-marsupial mammal.


 

A few serval cats have been seen, Paradise Plains, Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge are areas where Serval have been sighted. One caracal was sighted near the north marsh escarpment on the 12th and another female was seen on paradise plains on the 18th.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

European bee-eaters have been heard and seen with some in large flocks. Grey kestrels are also being seen on Rhino Ridge, since the rain began more of them are being seen, in West Africa Grey Kestrels will move north and south of the country depending on weather conditions.


 


 

Larger Cats

 

Lion


 

The Marsh Pride within the Musiara Marsh of 16 lion - Bibi, Charm, Sienna, two sub- adult males' Red and Tatu, six sub-adult lionesses, Sienna's three 15 month old cubs and Charms two 8 month old cubs.


 

The two core lionesses Sienna and Charm have been very active in feeding off buffalo, resident wildebeest and zebra. The two sub males Red and Tatu with one of the sub lionesses were with them each time.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

During mid-month five of the sub-adult lionesses spent much of their time on the northern fan of Rhino Ridge where they were being mated with a nomadic male that had come from the conservation areas in the north east. Bibi the oldest of the marsh pride lion was also with the five sub adults, they were feeding off wildebeest and zebra while on Topi Plains. Bibi's paw has healed very well and she has become very active again and being able to support herself over other competitors. Latterly the sixth sub adult has joined in with her fiver cousins south east of the Bila Shaka.


 

On the 10th of the month the marsh sub-male Tatu was treated by the mobile clinic from the David Sheldrick Wildlife trust and the Kenya Wildlife service's vet for a swollen left jaw fortunately there was no dislocation only his top and bottom canines had been broken. On the 10th Marsh sub adult male Red disappeared for a bit as he was chased away from Rhino Ridge first by the nomadic male and then again by two of the Musketeers Hunter and Sikio. Red returned to the marsh environs on the 21st to join the Marsh Pride.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Hunter, Sikio and Morani have been on and out of the Paradise regions; Morani was mating with the paradise females at the main crossing point. Earlier on in the month Sikio was also mating with one of the Paradise females further down from the main crossing.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

1st breakaway the Madomo pride of nine lion of which the pride has split in two, the more commonly seen of these lion are the two adult females, sub male Pengu and now three cubs. This pride has been feeding off resident buffalo, wildebeest and zebra. This pride is often on the west side of Rhino Ridge and as far as Paradise Plains. Madomo the older lioness in this pride has been for some time now on her own on the east side of Rhino Ridge with her sister and sub lioness who is her daughter. On the 11th and 12th there were two black maned lion Lipstick and Blackie who are from the Talek area, the sub lioness and the sister have both been mated with these two black maned lion.


 

2nd breakaway pride of five lionesses and eleven cubs' altogether are still in the Trans Mara area, Jicho had come over for a short time on the 15th and was back across the river again. Sila, Lippy, Musiara and Kini have been hunting warthog mainly near the Little Governors marsh, on many occasions they have not been very successful.


 


 

Leopard


 

We have had good leopard sightings this month, Siri the female leopard and her one nine month old male cub are still within the granite kopjes and the Serena pump house area of the Mara River. We have had daily sightings of both of them, early mornings with good light are best times when they come out to warm themselves. They have been feeding off wildebeest calves and impala.

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Mason

The male leopard of the mortuary crossing point has also been a frequent visitor for he is well known for stashing his kills on top of one another, this phenomenon is not normally shown up in leopard behaviour, and it was on the 26th that he had four wildebeest kills on top of one another literally at the crossing point.


 

A female and male leopard is also being seen on the lower Talek River and also a female on the bottom end of the Olare Orok River.


 

Romi's son who is 29-30 months old has been seen near the Toyota cocktail site camp on the Mara River south of Governors Private Camp. Romi herself has been seen twice, in the evening of the 19th near the BBC camps site area, on the evening of the 24th were both good times to see her.


 


 

Cheetah


 

The female cheetah Malaika with her four cubs who are now eight months old were last seen near lookout hill in the southern areas of the reserve.


 

The young male cheetah is being seen frequently on Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains and lately in the double crossing areas; he is becoming much more habituated and has been actively hunting Thompson Gazelle fawns and females. He is a small sized male cheetah with a relatively small head for a male, on the 21st the young male cheetah was seen that morning on the west side of Rhino Ridge, he had killed a Thompson Gazelle fawn, he was also looking very thin despite being relatively active, there are many Spotted Hyena in this region and this will also put pressure on cheetah while hunting, also there seems an influx of louse flies on the larger cats of the family (Hippoboscidae), these flies are strong blood suckers and in large infestations will often cause stress to animals, this young male cheetah has a large infestation.


Photo courtesy of Madelein Mason

A female cheetah was being seen occasionally in the southern grasslands of Paradise Plains, she was seen again on the 30th near the bottom end of the Bila Shaka. The cheetahs here in the reserve don't often stay for long and perhaps due to the increased presence of Spotted Hyena.

Elephant trapped in muddy well is rescued


 

Posted by Jeremy Goss in Animal Encounters, March 16, 2015


 

Animals need water, we all do. Elephants in particular are thirsty beings, and adults can drink up to 190 litres in a day. In southern Kenya, near the Chyulu Hills National Park, this eternal quest for water recently landed a young bull elephant in serious trouble.


 

Humans living near the edge of the national park earn a meagre income from small- scale farming and livestock keeping, and have dug shallow wells to access underground water. Under cover of darkness, elephants move into this human domain, drinking from the wells and raiding crops.


 

One morning, dawn revealed an unlucky elephant that hadn't retreated with the night. He had fallen into a well while drinking and the slippery banks prevented his escape. By late morning, a huge crowd had formed, some taunting the elephant with sticks and stones. The mob was angry, relishing the opportunity to exact some form of revenge on a species that haunts their lives.

The elephant was trapped by the steep walls of the well and was breathing by keeping his trunk above the water.

Readers must understand, although much of the world sees elephants as a living treasure, to rural African communities they can be nothing more than a giant and dangerous pest. A few elephants can ruin a family's entire crop overnight. Because of this, farmers often detest elephants, and so might you if you were losing a big chunk of your monthly paycheck to them.


 

People continued to stream in, and eventually mob mentality drove the intentions of some crowd members in a sinister direction, killing the elephant. At this point Kenya Wildlife Service rangers stepped in. 


 

Despite the human drama unfolding, the elephant remained stuck in the well, increasingly stressed. Exhausted, the animal seemed resigned to whatever fate waited, and was doing nothing more than keeping its trunk above water to breathe. 


Rangers eventually cleared the crowd, but the elephant remained stuck.

It had no idea that help was on its way; a Chinese construction company had been approached to provide an excavator to rescue the elephant. Crowds blocked the main road but the machine slowly ground its way to the stricken animal.

The excavator makes it to the well, and a plan is hatched.

The excavator wasted no time, quickly digging out the one side of the well as the elephant retreated as far as it could into the opposite corner. The elephant, confused and stressed, had no idea that this was now a way out. So the excavator moved around the well, and gently pushed the elephant along by 'snapping' the excavator bucket.

The excavator quickly and careful dug an escape route for the elephant.

Slowly, the elephant climbed the embankment, until, still shaky from the ordeal, it stepped onto dry land. It was a wonderful moment, but sparked the start of the next task - herding him away from people and back toward the national park.


 

Three vehicles and a helicopter all worked together to herd the animal towards the bush and, after a few wrong turns and tense moments, the last we saw of the elephant was a tail disappearing into the trees. A happy ending for the elephant, after a long ordeal for everyone involved! 


 

 

Images of a Masai Mara mum and her new offspring.


 

Every new mum is desperate to show off her little ones - and this lioness is no different, even if that means having to put up with becoming a climbing frame for an afternoon.


The proud mother was spotted playing with her six young cubs in the Masai Mara, in Kenya, by French photographers Laurent Renaud and Dominique Haution.

Placid: ThThe lioness might be a honed killer, but she is gentle as anything with her young brood
Young: It i

It is thought the lion cubs were only about six weeks old when they were photographed


 

But while most lionesses keep their cubs out of the limelight, this one seemed keen to make sure the photographers captured their best side.


'It was a beautiful and touching moment,' Ms Haution revealed.


'The whole family were extraordinarily cute. Mum was definitely showing off her new cubs.


'Normally, lionesses will hide their children away from predators. But she was so proud, carrying them out into the open in her mouth for us to see.


'You could see how happy she was when the cubs were climbing all over her.


'It just shows that even the biggest beasts can show love.'


Indeed, the photos captured the youngsters clambering across the predator - who doesn't bat an eyelid.


It is hard to believe that they grow up into be king of the jungle when they look as cute as they do in these photos,' said photographer
Dominique Haution 

''They were playing just like kittens the way they were playing with each other.

The last 3 of the world's rarest rhinos are unable to breed


 

Written by Tisha Wardlow for the The Dodo


 

Plan A was to make conditions as perfect as possible to breed the last remaining northern white rhinos. Ol Pejeta did everything they could to make that a possibility. The public can even adopt a northern white rhino to help pay for their care, as well as care of the other rhinos at Ol Pejeta.

Tony Karumba

Plan B was to cross-breed the northern whites with the southern whites to at least perpetuate this precious gene pool. Somehow they would still live on; their genes remaining part of rhino populations to come.


 

But for the last living male, named Sudan, and the two remaining females, Najin and daughter Fatu, this will not be an option. All three are getting on in age. Najin (25) has weak knees and cannot endure the breeding attempts. In a cruel twist of fate, Fatu (14) is infertile, and Sudan (38) has weak sperm.

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet. Ed Barthrop / Ol Pejeta Conservancy

So now what? There's no superman, no magical 11th hour miracle, no known options left to us. This is extinction. Watch, appreciate and admire them while they breathe.


 

Human greed and ego have slaughtered this species to the point of irreversible catastrophe. We are witnessing the last of the northern white rhinos. It is inevitable. But the big question is: will we learn from it? Will we allow it to happen again? The Sumatrans, the Javans - they are dangerously close to the same fate. Black, white and greater one-horned rhinos aren't much further behind them.


We must not let the northern whites die in vain. It is our duty to learn from them, and to prevent the future decimation of rhinos and other species on our planet. The future of rhinos is not doomed, it is in the balance, waiting for us to determine the outcome. Vigilance, commitment and determination can preserve the rhinos, and in the end, our own fates as well.


 


 


 

A trek to see the Sabyinyo Gorilla Family


 

8 April 2015


 

Last month we were lucky enough to experience gorilla trekking with family, as many of our guests do. Finlay's parents from Scotland and Aunt and Uncle from South Africa had flown to spend a couple of nights here and experience the mountain gorillas.


 

They have heard so many accounts of this wonderful adventure form us and were extremely excited when they arrived. Unknown to us Finlay's Aunt had applied to volunteer with the Diane Fossey Foundation thirty years ago and due to other work commitments hadn't been able to realize her dream. As you can imagine this, 30 year in the making trip meant that they couldn't wait to set off.


 

Well prepared with gaiters, gloves and raincoats provided by the lodge, we made our way down to the park entrance. Finlay's dad was in his element taking photos of the fabulous dancers that perform for tourists each morning. It was dry and the sky wasn't too cloudy so he was able to get some lovely photos as we waited to be assigned to our gorilla family.


 

Once we were allocated to Sabyinyo we were given a briefing by our guide who explained the history of this family and told our group roughly where we would be trekking and the rules on what to do and not to do in the forest and around the gorillas.


 

Having paid for some porters we began our trek through the fields. With two keen photographers on the trek we made steady progress stopping to get pictures of the scenic landscape and village life that surrounds you as you go. Finlay's family delighted in talking to all the little children who were walking beside us practicing their English. Much to everyone's amusement his dad continued his animated and lengthy conversation along the whole trek with his obliging porter...who did not speak English!


 

We climbed over the boundary wall in to the park and had a well deserved rest on a tree stump whilst we caught our breath and had some water and a muffin from our snack pack. The porters are so fantastic at setting a good pace whilst giving you plenty of rest stops and appreciating that many tourists that come here are not used to the high altitude.


 

When we reached the gorillas, after about two hours of hiking, anticipation was high and we were all excited to be meeting the Sabyinyo family. Following our guide we walked towards the area where the gorillas were. Before we saw anything we were

stopped in our tracks by an uproar in the bushes. A fight. Branches were swaying, bamboo was cracking, gorillas were screaming and the undeniable sound of the Silverbacks beating their chest echoed around us as we stood, breaths held, not wanting to move a muscle. Our guide instructed us to stay where we were and stay still...not that he had to ask anyone twice! The whole fight lasted no more than five minutes and whilst the trackers went ahead to check it was safe to progress we all beamed at each other in excitement, unable to comprehend what we had just heard. We reached the family shortly after and you would never have know they had just been fighting. They were quite and calm and it was obvious peace had been restored.

It is so wonderful to watch someone see a wild mountain gorilla for the first time. The amazement and joy on their face is incredible. Our whole group couldn't believe their eyes when, from nowhere, a silverback came striding out the bushes behind us and walked straight across our path. Because we were in an area of dense bamboo, we had to jostle ourselves in to position to witness what happened next. Gorillas regularly climb trees and the females and children make their nests in them. But the silverbacks stay on the ground, too heavy to be supported in the trees. But...this silverback climbed high in to a tree in front of us and stayed there for a long time, even the guides said they had not witnessed this very often before. The tree was bending over from his weight so we rushed to get out from underneath it just in case!

We moved further through the forest, which was thick with mud underfoot and started to make our way down a very slippery slope to see the other family members. At one point the mud was so thick that Finlay's mum had here shoe and gaiter sucked down in to the forest floor and came out for her next step wearing only her sock! Thankfully the top of her gaiter was sticking out of the mud and we were able to have a tug of war to retrieve it! We are quite sure the gorillas must have been laughing at us as they seem to move so elegantly through the terrain no matter what it is like underfoot.

We spent most of our hour on this hillside watching Big Ben eating his lunch. He is a famous character among gorillas as he has the distinct feature of being bald. The only known bald gorilla in the world. Where some animals are tormented if they have physical differences to their species, Big Ben is very much a peaceful and integrated member of the family. It is quite something to watch how delicate gorillas are when they eat. When eating a thistle, like he was, they strip the thorny outer layer as you might tear fibers from a celery stick. Once it is free from thorns they eat it and drink up the huge quantity of water that comes from this plant. As mountain gorillas never physically drink, thistles are an excellent source of water for them. A gorilla behind us was also eating although he was making a 'sandwich'. They collect a bunch of plants and fold them neatly until it becomes a little compact parcel. They then bite in to it as if it were a sandwich! 


The experience was incredible for everyone and to able to share their first trek to see the gorillas was really special. When our hour was up we left the hillside and found an easier way out down to an opening in the forest. We cheered as we all emerged from the dense bush with all of our shoes still on and Finlay's dad still in deep discussion with his porter.


 

The thing with gorilla treks, is that they don't really finish when you get back to the vehicle. We all talked for the next two days about what we had experienced and the special memory lasts a lifetime. For those of you who follow our Facebook page, you may remember the lengthy text message I posted about a guest's experience. The guest was Finlay's mum and I think that message conveys exactly how our guests feel at the end of the day.


 

Wendy Hunter - Manager Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge