February has whistled by and what a jam-packed month it has been! It started with a dramatic rise in temperature and in the first week we were absolutely sweltering. Afternoon siestas were an absolute must and our horse riders were mounting up before the sun had risen to escape the heat!
The 7th sticks in our minds not only as the day that the storms broke but also as the tragic day that we lost one of our most renown resident bull elephants – Torn Ear. He arrived at the waterhole after a long absence and was obviously in great pain with a huge swelling on his side. Big Life Foundation sprung into action and the vet was brought in but sadly the poison arrowheads had punctured his abdominal cavity and peritonitis had set in. It was a deeply moving experience for some of our guests to be able to be part of this process, many of them leaving ol Donyo with a new passion to spread the conservation message. That afternoon the storms set in and we had the most fantastic lightening displays and crashing rolls of thunder – we’d like to think that the Chyulu Hills were grieving for their old friend just as we were.
It is not uncommon to get a little bit of rain in February, and these are often called the “Grass Rains” as they bring about a short flush of green grass. These are caused by the remnants of cyclones from Madagascar travelling up across East Africa. This year has been different in that the cyclone was much more intense and longer lasting, and so we had a good 10 days of heavy storms. The result is fabulous! Everything is a deep verdant green and most spectacularly all the Acacia tortilis is in flower, so the forest below the lodge is covered with the beautiful white blossom.
The lions in the area have been very busy and many of our guests have had fantastic sightings. Nemasi, a collared lioness whose home range includes the ol Donyo Sambu and El Mau areas, has been particularly obliging of late. With the help of the local Lion Guardian Lenga, we have been able to see a lot of her, the young male Melio and her cubs. Kasiyo, the big black-maned male lion who resides on the other side of the lodge towards ol Donyo Wuas and Crater, and his girls Nosi Noni, her sister and their cubs have also been very active. A giraffe kill near Stable Hill meant that we had some brilliant viewings. For the first time also we were able to approach the pride in the late afternoon and they were very relaxed with the vehicle and human presence. What a success!
Jeremiah Kasaine, our fantastic guide, is now the first at ol Donyo to achieve his Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association Silver Award. We are incredibly proud of him and his achievement is spurring the other guides to study even harder for theirs!
The end of January heralded the Year of the Horse in the Lunar Chinese Calendar, and for the stables at ol Donyo this February has been one of their busiest yet. The horses have enjoyed the flush of green grass and are looking in peak condition and the rains have also served to settle the dust so the riding conditions are perfect. The joy of riding in the bush is that one is able to go completely off-road and many animals, especially giraffe, allow you to get much closer than in a vehicle. It is also such a quiet and unobtrusive way of moving around the bush – just the odd clink off a metal shoe on a rock and the gentle whicker of a horse rather than any sort of engine!