Tag Archives: vacation

How I Misjudged Hyenas Before Seeing Them

There were many animals I was looking forward to seeing when we visited Kenya and Tanzania.  One that I hadn’t thought much about and, if I had, it wouldn’t have been positive, was the hyena.  They have a pretty bad image since they clean up all of the debris that is left and will also do their own hunting in the pack.  While this is no different to many other animals, they seem to have been given a more negative image.

When we arrived, we immediately saw loads of hyena.  They were out walking alone and moving in groups.  They are not the sleekest looking animal, but I found myself surprisingly interested in them.  When one would come into view carrying a trophy from a carcass, I would see this as a positive when others were focusing on the negative.  We saw one hyena limping across the road with an obvious wound on its leg.  This reminded me of just how perilous life is for everything in the wild.

Later in the trip we came across a den for the pack.  One hyena was walking back in with a wildebeest leg in its mouth.  This was going to feed some hungry mouths.  There were some cubs in the den, and we could hear them before we could see them.  They were fighting with each other between sessions suckling from their mother.  It was really fun to watch this whole pack of animals in their social setting.

I’m not expecting anyone reading this to suddenly love hyenas.  Some of the pictures will probably reinforce thoughts that yo might already have had about them.  However, I will say that I saw them in a very different light over the time I was in Kenya and Tanzania, and I will never think of them the same way again.

Layers of Hills South of Kelowna

As we were walking around the winery in Kelowna, we had a lovely view to the south across the lake and to the hills beyond.  The weather was quite clear but there was same haze in the air.  This did a nice job of distinguishing between the hills based on their distance with the farthest hills getting obscured the most.  With the warm winter light on this haze, it made for a very attractive view of the terrain in the distance, and I grabbed a longer lens for a quick shot.

A Police Mi-17 That Might Fly?

When we landed in Nairobi, I was walking across the ramp and saw a very clean looking Mi-17 helicopter.  It was marked up as belonging to the police service.  The person I was chatting to told me that this helicopter and its hangar was very expensive but never actually got flown.  Apparently, it might be a bit of a waste of time and money.  Not sure whether that is true or not but that was what I was told.  It certainly did look very shiny.

Mission Hills Winery

During our visit to Kelowna, we stopped off at a winery in the city that produces wine we have had before and that we wanted to get some more from.  It is called Mission Hills and is on the hillside overlooking the lake.  It isn’t a long drive from the center of the city, and you approach it through a residential area.  After passing through the main gate, it all still looks rather anonymous.

However, walk from the parking lot and things open up considerably.  The architecture is styled to resemble an Italian villa.  There are some colonnaded areas, a large chapel type building, the main building in which the wine tastings and sales are handled and a carillon.  Being up on the hill, this all has a lovely view down to the water with some vines on the slopes below.

It was a rather overcast day so not ideal for photographing it, but I had the phone with me, so I was not going to let the visit go unrecorded.  There were a few other people wandering the grounds, but I managed – on the whole – to exclude them from the shots.  Getting the whole carillon in the shot from close up required a little contortion to get the phone on the ground and looking at the right angle.  I think it worked out okay.

The location is very nice, and the wine is even better.  If you are in Kelowna, I do recommend a visit.

Sunsets and Sunrises Over the African Plains

I may have spent a lot of time watching and photographing wildlife while we were in Kenya and Tanzania but the times of day when were out were early morning and late afternoon which meant that there were going to be sunrises and sunsets that I could photograph too.  We had quite the selection of lovely opportunities to take these shots and here are some of the images that I like the most.  We did also get some interesting skies with the light at either end of the day, but I shall give those moments their own posts.

A Dash 7 Almost Catches Me Out

We saw a variety of planes in Kenya and Tanzania.  This one I didn’t get too close to but I was really happy to have caught either way.  Dash 7s are pretty few and far between these days.  There are some up in Canada that I would love to get up to see but the last ones I saw were in Toronto and looked stored.  This one flew overhead and I grabbed a few quick shots.  Oh to have seen it touching down on one of the rough strips.

Which Elephants Make the Cut for the Blog?

Kenya and Tanzania both provided us with multiple opportunities to observe elephants.  Sure, I have seen elephants before including one encounter in the wild in South Africa.  None of these encounters in any way prepared me for the time with elephants we had on this trip.  There were so many of them, I was constantly taken aback by the experience.  They would be traveling in groups and often several groups would be together.  There were so many of them.

Each time we would come upon some, I would be momentarily amazed that there were elephants so close.  Then I would realize that there were more around than I had first thought.  They would be so close, so uninterested in us and so impressive.  There would be all ages with senior females, younger elephants and some tiny calves.  It was just incredible.

Seeing so many of them in lots of different places means it becomes harder to narrow down to a few for one post.  The early experiences made a big impression on me but the later ones were still outstanding.  In Amboseli, we ended up with the sun setting over Kilimanjaro as loads of elephants were grazing in the foreground.  At one point, we were standing up in the truck and everywhere I looked there were elephants feeding.  I took the phone out of my pocket and panned around to show just how many there were.  Truly amazing.

Another time we were crossing a river and there were loads of them in the water and along the banks.  They gradually made their way towards us and, at one point, an adult and a calf climbed the road away from the river and the view of them heading off was amazing.  Another time, we found some up on the top of the river bank.  They split up with some foraging along the shore and others fording the river to try their luck on the other side.

Another memorable moment was a lone male slowly heading by the road we were on.  We stopped to watch him for a while, and he turned and started heading towards us.  Having seen videos of elephants pushing vehicles out of their way, I was wondering whether we were going to have to make haste out of his way but apparently we were not his concern and we were able to stay and watch him for a while.

All of these moments were amazing but were not the sum of our encounters.  We had so many times with the elephants that I can’t count them.  I wish I could truly convey just how amazing they were.  Forget the closer moments.  Just watching a family of elephants in the water making their way through the foliage in the distance as they fed was fantastic.  I just love elephants – but then I doubt that is a controversial position.

I Love Hippos and I Wasn’t Disappointed

When going on a safari, there are animals that will be the ones many people will want to see most.  Lions, elephants, maybe rhinos will be top of the list.  I am not saying I didn’t want to see those because I clearly did but I have a fascination with hippos and seeing them was very high on the list of things I wanted.  Thankfully, we had plentiful opportunities to see them in various locations.

I knew that they were one of the more dangerous creatures, but we never got in any situation where they were a direct worry to us.  They tend to come out at night and feed before retreating to the water in the morning to stay cool and away from any predators.  Therefore, many of our sightings were when they were in rivers.  However, this wasn’t always the case.  We would see them wandering on land, heading through marshy ground and even asleep on the land.  I should note that one hippo we saw asleep on the land was showing signs of attack with wounds across its body so this may have been out of character.

We came upon one river that had loads of hippos in it.  We watched then for a while and then, as some of the other trucks pulled out, our guide moved us up into the dead end where they had come from.  This brought us in to sight of another big group of hippos way closer in.  It was amazing to see so many of them together.

What was the shot I wanted?  It had to be the mouth.  Hippos yawn and show off their large mouth and the huge teeth.  I so wanted to get that shot.  One hippo was in the water looking straight at me and I was just willing it to yawn but it didn’t oblige.  However, I did get some more distant shots when the full yawn was happening so that was really great.  They are such excellent creatures and, considering that they are vegetarians, ones that need to be treated with great caution.  What a treat.

Royal Exchange

We were walking through the city checking out areas that we didn’t normally go to when we worked in Town during our visit last year.  Our route brought us up to the Royal Exchange.  It is a really cool looking old structure but one that has been adapted to modern uses.  The inside is some pretty high end retail and we weren’t buying whatever they were selling.  However, I did love the look of the place.  It was also quite funny because I bumped into an old work colleague that I knew from Seattle (who has moved back to the UK).  Not what you expect in a city the size of London!

Kemble Gate Guards

The trip to the UK early this year included a quick trip to Kemble or Cotswolds Airport as it is also known.  Near the tower, they have a couple of preserved airframes that harken back to the time that this was a Royal Air Force base (including it being home of the Red Arrows).  One of the gate guards (okay, they aren’t near the gate, but you get the idea) is a Folland Gnat.  I don’t know whether it is a genuine ex-Red Arrow or just painted to look like one, but it is cool either way.  It is the tiniest of jets.  I wonder what it was like ferrying one across the Atlantic as they did for a tour.

The other airframe is a Hawker Hunter.  This is a classic aircraft and one that continues in use to this day.  It is a trainer version with the side-by-side cockpit arrangement and in a grey paint job that I am not familiar with them having used in service.  Either way, another great looking jet and something cool for any visitors to check out.