At Home in Fisi Camp

Once again, we are confined to camp because of the weather. It has rained almost everyday for around 2 weeks now; the rivers are high and many of the tracks in the Mara impassable. Even our small river that marks the boundary with the park is, at the moment, a raging torrent. I can even hear the rush of the Sand River which is 5km from our camp. So, this week I am going to write about the animals closer to home, in the camp and surrounding area.

But first a bit of sad news reached us this week. Olarishani, one of the male cheetahs from the Talek area that was part of a coalition has died. They were known originally as Tano Bora, the magnificent five, however one of the boys left, then was later killed by the others when he tried to return, so they were then Nne Bora, now this one was killed when trying to cross the Talek river. The river was high and as he crossed, a crocodile hiding in the water snatched him. These photos were taken when there were five of them, having taken down a Topi, and then when there were four on the hunt again. I will try to catch up with the remaining three on my next game drive. Hopefully next week.

Some good news though, we have heard that Roho the young Leopard that lost his mother is doing well and hunting for himself.

So, this morning I rise early, put some bread in the bird tables outside our house then sit on the veranda, wrapped in a shuka, with a hot cup of tea to keep warm, and wait for the birds to come. What at first sounds like a constant background noise, when I really listen, I can make out the individual sounds of at least 10 different birds.

It’s not long before the birds start to arrive, first in are the Bulbul, he is easy to recognize because his feathers tend to stick up a little on the top of his head. Then the weaver, two types arrive this morning, the red headed weaver and the more common yellow one. After this the plain old black bird and a few others that I don’t know the names of. The barbet I easily recognize as he is speckled, slightly bigger than the others and he is also quite aggressive, when he is on the bird table, he chases all others away.

The sparrows are the smallest that come to the table, two of them flew in together, I think it might have been a mother with a young one, although they looked about the same size, one started feeding the other, it was very touching. The sparrows are also quite bold as we get them flying into the dining area when the guests have left for their game drive, they come to the tables and pick at the crumbs. We usually allow them to do this before going in to clean. Not too much bigger is the grenadier with its bright red beak and eyes surrounded by blue rings and a russet coloured head.

Three other birds that arrived and perched in the trees next to the table are the starling and two different species of sunbird, these three are very colourful. The starling has a bright blue back and chest with a bright red eye, the scarlet chested sunbird is completely black apart from a bright scarlet patch on his chest as the name suggests, but the most vividly colourful is the other sunbird with an iridescent blue and purple on the head and chest and a bright yellow underside, absolutely captivating. I nearly forgot the little bee eater; he is also nice and colourful with a green back and yellow front.

Finally, to the table comes a small scruffy looking widowbird, he doesn’t stay but picks a large piece of bread and flies away with it. The funniest looking of the birds this morning was the mousebird, he is very furry with a sort of Mohican hair style, big eyes, and a very long tail. He is a devil because he often flies into our shamba and eats the herbs and other vegetables we have growing there.

Most mornings the Dove, or what I call the pigeon comes in, they walk straight on to the veranda to drink water from the dog’s bowl, interestingly the dogs are not bothered by this. What does bother the dogs though are the Hyena. This morning, while still dark, before I had even put the bread out for the birds the dogs ran, barking and howling, to the edge of the clearing, looking into the bush. I shone my torch and stared into the bush and two luminous eyes stared back at me. It was a Hyena, I could just make out the outline of his body at the edge of the bush. Hyena are not afraid of dogs and my dogs were sensible enough not to get too close to the Hyena. After a few minutes he walked off.

Other animals we sometimes get around the house are Zebra, generally at night, the dogs do chase these when they come to close to the house, and also the occasional elephant. When this happens, the dogs keep their distance and stay very quiet. The elephants, as well as the mousebird, like to go into our shamba and eat the newly grown vegetables, they are particularly fond of cucumber.


Later in the day while walking along the riverbank to see what, if any damage the heavy rains had done, I came across this monitor lizard, immediately he saw me he made for the water and disappeared. It is quite rare to see the monitor lizard around the camp, this one must have been at least three feet long from head to tail.

Another animal that we don’t often see is the chameleon, Ken managed to capture this one as it wrestled with a snake. First, they faced each other off, this was a slow process as the chameleon moves very slowly, one limb at a time. The snake clearly wasn’t afraid of the chameleon because at one point it wrapped itself around him, but I think it should have been because the chameleon took a chunk out of him. Chameleons don’t eat snakes, they eat only insects, but obviously they don’t like snakes, maybe they see them as a threat, which suits the Maasai as they don’t like snakes either.


Elephant Migration

It’s been two weeks since my last blog, unfortunately sometimes I’m not able to go out on a drive for various reasons, this time it was business involving licenses and taxes all of which are also part of life here, as they are everywhere.

This morning we had a later start as I wanted to say goodbye to our guests. The stars were fading in the sky with the advancing early morning light, all except for Venus which was still shining bright in the east. As we enter the park, I am surprised to see wildebeest so close to the camp as they haven’t been around for a while due to the number of cows. Although it is a dry morning, just a little misty, for the past couple of weeks we have had rain most days, generally in the afternoon or evening and it has been very heavy at times. This means there have been less cows in the park at night as the grass has become fresh and green everywhere. As we enter the park, there is also the smell of dead cows, those that didn’t make it. This is also a dangerous time for the cattle as they are already weak from the drought, the cold and heavy rain now are too much for the weakest of them.

As the sunrises, and the sky takes on a lovely red hue, we drive on past a large herd of Tommis’ and two separate herds of female and young Impala where the male is trying, not always successfully, to keep them all together. The going is pretty tough again and we must pick our route carefully. This morning Alison said it was best to stick to the main roads where possible as the smaller tracks are bogged down with all the recent rain, some smaller tracks are impassable, it wouldn’t do to get stuck off the main route as it would be unlikely to see another vehicle that could help.

The Sopa pride were believed to be in an area that was currently inaccessible so we drove in the direction of the blackrock females and their cubs, it would take a while because we had to stick to the main roads. The two rivers we had to cross via a bridge were very full, with areas of swampy ground where they had overflowed. As we approached the second bridge two hippos were fighting although they had stopped by the time we reached them, and they seemed peaceful enough when we arrived. 

Hippo’s are huge animals and I’m sure they could do a lot of damage to each other in a serious fight. We watched as they crossed the river, walked across the road in front of us and disappeared on the other side. Just across the bridge we saw several Jackals. A vulture landed close to them, one Jackal took exception to this, even though there was no kill around to fight over, the Jackal definitely wasn’t happy with the vulture being there.

Next, we came across two elephants, just eating as they walked past, we stopped to look at these because one of them had huge tusks, well huge for the Maasai elephants anyway, the other one if you look closely has one tusk broken at the tip.

Finally, we reached the blackrock area. Now off the main road the tracks became challenging to drive on, but we managed to get up close to the females and their cubs.

By the time we reached them, they had already eaten their breakfast and their bellies were full, just the ribs of the wildebeest kill were left. Lion cubs are always very playful and curious, this group of cubs were also very chatty and kept up a constant high-pitched chattering between them. Two of the cubs were still eating bits of meat left on the carcass, one of them thought it would be fun to get inside.

There were three females around, two of the females were suckling the cubs. In a pride all the lionesses are related, and they share the task of raising cubs, so a cub can suckle from other lionesses, as well as their mother. It is so obvious when you watch the interactions between the females and their cubs just how tender and protective they are towards them and how much love they have for them.

The third female wasn’t yet a mother but did look as though she may become one quite soon. She was laying by herself under a small bush, one of the cubs had left the group and wanted to play with her, but she was having none of it. Even after being discouraged by her growls the cub still kept attempting to climb on her back, despite being thrown off a couple of times. In the end she just got up and went to find a quieter bush to lay under, leaving the young cub looking a bit bewildered. 

. The female that wanted to be on her own, was the same female that was chased from a kill I posted on my last blog. The other two females chased her off so that their cubs could eat. I think she maybe a bit grumpy.

When we got to our usual breakfast stop it had already been taken, so we found another place to eat. After finishing breakfast, we only drove a little way when Alison spotted large lion footprints in a patch of fresh mud. This meant the male lions that are with the blackrock females were around somewhere, we cruised the area for about half an hour but never found them.

After this we drove over to part of the sand river that was still accessible, just to see what was there. I have put up photos of the sand river in previous posts, it is aptly named as most of the time there is more sand than water, however after heavy rains it becomes full and fast flowing, I could hear the rush of the water before we even reached it. We arrived just in time to see two buffalo running across the river, or maybe it was the car engine that had spooked them and made them run.

The sand river in most parts, forms the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Not far away I could see a large herd of elephants on the far side of the river, as we got closer, we could also see a few elephants on this side of the river, the herd had obviously just crossed over and it was a huge herd of, I would say, around a hundred elephants containing family members of all ages and sizes. Like during the wildebeest migration you can never capture the whole spectacle in one photo.

We waited to see if the remainder would cross, and we weren’t disappointed. There was a small group of elephants waiting for them on the other side at the water’s edge, one elephant had a baby with her that was so small I wondered how it had ever got across. I know elephants can swim when they are a couple of months old, but this baby didn’t even look as old as that. Once the last few stragglers were over, one of the elephants kept watch to make sure they were all safely across before following on to join the rest of the herd.


Just a few metres away also on the far side of the riverbank was a dead zebra, on closer inspection there was also a lion lying just a few feet from it. The lion must have grabbed the zebra as it came down to the river for a drink, and she was now getting her breath back before eating it.


Before returning to camp, we went back to have a last look for the males, instead of finding the males we were looking for, we found two sub adult males from the Sopa pride. They are getting quite big now to still be in the pride, but because there are no Alpha lions attached to the Sopa pride, they have been allowed to stay, for now anyway.