Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Walk on the Wild Side

A safari – the Swahili word for trip or journey – in the vast continent of Africa provides the best opportunity to view fascinating wildlife in its natural habitat, and is regarded by many as one of the most exhilarating experiences on earth. one prime destination for safaris is Kenya, known for its savannahs, forests and grasslands that are lush and bursting with life, set against an amazing vista of wide open spaces. the expanse of wilderness is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna, including birds and the majestic “Big Five of Africa” – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant and Cape buffalo. PASSIONS takes you on a picture-perfect adventure to discover the captivating beauty of Kenya’s wildlife.

The largest of the great cats of Africa, the lion has always been held in high esteem by man as the ‘King of Beasts’. In a lion’s pride, females do the hunting and take care of the cubs, while males patrol the surrounding territory, keeping watch.

One of the highlights of the Kenyan Safari is The Great Migration that starts in July and continues on to October; a truly spectacular sight as the plains teem with game crossing the beautiful terrain. The stunning scenery serves as a backdrop to grazing zebra, statuesque giraffes, thundering wildebeest and lightning-fast cheetah.

Leopards are closely related to lions, tigers and jaguars. They are known to be comfortable in trees, also exhibiting their strength when hauling their kill into the branches to keep the prize safe from scavengers. Camouflaged by their spotted coats, they also use the trees as a vantage point for hunting.

The two species of rhinoceros – the black and the white – are both extremely rare, and the purported medicinal and ornamental value of their horns has resulted in the animals being hunted to the brink of extinction. Sighting a rhino is not very common, even in Africa, but when they are seen, they are usually grazing or napping.

There are six species of giraffes in the world, three of which are found in Kenya. Pictured here is one of them – the Maasai Giraffe, also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, found in central and southern Kenya and Tanzania. This species sports dark chocolate coloured leaf-shaped spots with jagged edges.

With their black and white stripes, zebras are the most visually striking of animals, making them a favourite subject for photographers. They live in a variety of habitats including savannahs, and their diet consists almost entirely of grasses as they are able to survive on diets of lower nutritional quality.

Because they display behavioural traits like compassion and are both intelligent and very social creatures, elephants have always fascinated humans. However, they have been victims of poaching with almost two-thirds of the elephants in Kenya brutally killed for their ivory tusks, leading them to now be an endangered species.

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is home to a wide variety of intriguing animals and the white-bearded gnu wildebeest is no exception. With curving horns and heavy front-end bodies they can weigh as much as 250kg. Despite this bulk they are pure muscle, and are relentless when advancing – entire herds can cover long distances at a slow gallop or fast run. Millions of visitors come to Kenya to experience the fascinating ecosystems within the country’s 39 national parks and reserves, taking the opportunity to view game as well as traverse the rolling plains and rocky gorges. Safe havens such as the Maasai Mara Reserve are dedicated to conserving and protecting the varied Kenyan wildlife and its habitat. they also serve as home to native communities like the Maasai tribe, who allow a glimpse into their remarkable lives, lived side by side with majestic animals, providing tourists a truly authentic, and truly wild, travel adventure!

[The article was originally published in PASSIONS Vol 55]
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