Monday, June 29, 2015

The best place to see geysers.

You have been wondering of where to visit to see the geysers?
Plan for your kenya budget safaris with us and we will take you
to the best place in Africa to see them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Nile crocodile.

Among many reptile species in Africa, the crocodiles have somehow stolen the arena by being the most vocal and other adaptations. Unlike other reptiles they do not shed their skin and instead grow with it.  These dinosaur-like creatures are usually spotted while basking in the early morning sun and late afternoon on the river banks. In the middle of the day when temperatures are higher they lie in the shallow waters sometimes with half of the body partially submerged. It is their way of warming up or cooling behavior. 

Being creatures of the water, they are great swimmers and divers. Their respiratory
System has a  tissue flap that seals off while under water. These enable them to open the mouth and not choke underwater. In addition, crocodile's nostrils close while diving and the same case happens with the external ears. Most reptiles do not have the external ears. Their vision under the water is very good and is facilitated by the nictitating membrane (transparent third eye membrane). This keeps water out of the eye hence no vision interference.

What's more, the tail acts as a oars that helps them maneuver while in the water. They use the tail also for feeding whereby they can disorient schools of fish with strong strokes and catch them. Crocodiles never stay far away from the water. Incase the pool or swamp dries they too die. Their preference is the permanent rivers but on occasions they can be spotted in seasonal rivers especially during the heavy rains whereby they avoid the strong currents. Immediately when the rain subsides they return to their territories.

On land, the crocs can walk fairly fast, up to about 28 miles an hour. Although the back legs are webbed, this does note interfere with their walking on land. Despite this, they do not wader too far from the water. Though they are termed as hunters, their hunting method mostly lying low and wait for their victims to come to drink. Then they thrash forward and grab them, drag and drown them under the water. Their teeth are especially formatted to seize and hold the prey. With crocodiles you can see the two front teeth of the lower jaw.

These lizard-like reptiles live in big groups and can be up to several hundreds. Usually the big males are in charge but it is more of domination than organized social leadership. There is no known coordinated group activity apart from feeding together.
There feeding method is by tearing chunks from the victim and this may sometimes include spinning of the whole body while holding tight with the teeth.

The crocodile (Nile crocodile) reach sexual maturity at the age of 8-12 years. Then they can mate, and after about 60 days the female is ready for laying eggs. She digs a hole and lays her eggs there. She can lay between 20-90 eggs. The eggs are heavily calcified and chicken-egg sized. Inside the buried egg, the temperatures rise to over 90 degrees. After about 90 days later the hatchlings calls for the mother through hissing and she digs them out. Then she moves them to the water. This is a critical stage as most of them are predated on. Among the predators includes birds of prey,( eagles, hawks, vultures..), monitor lizards, among others. Usually when the mother senses danger to her young ones she can put them inside the mouth (gular pouch) for protection. The few survivors are free from the mother after two years and ready to face the world alone. 
Note that crocodiles have no sweat glands. They lose heat through their mouths cavities. You will see them sun-bathing with the mouth open and sometimes panting like dogs. Their color ranges from dark green, to a black-grayish but with a lighter belly. The body is covered with scales and they never shed them.

Their diet varies from small to large animals and in Kenya they have been known to catch birds. Their ectothermic metabolism is very efficient in that the huge crocs can stay for several months without food.

Crocodile have been known to attack and kill people. There are many cases of cows being attacked when they come to drink. Though CITES have classified them endangered, the populations in Kenya and Tanzania are very healthy.It is their habitat that is in constant danger from intrusion, pollution and fishermen's nets.

Peter K. Philip
Natural Track Safaris

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Masai Community.

The Masai community has been one of the symbols of Kenya. They are the famous colorful people who have managed to hold on to their traditional way of life till present time.

Together with Samburu, the Masai are members of the Nilotic tribal group, both of them cattle herders.

They came from Sudan and occupied the central Kenya, best parts for their huge cattle herds. These herds have been their measure of wealth which usually accumulates to adverse economic consequences. The bigger the herd size, the richer the owner.
Known for their red color clothing, the Masai have a reputation of being fierce warriors, though this has been often exaggerated.

Warrior hood system still continues today accompanied by traditional regalia, unchanged by time. This system is for the young males before they marry. The importance of this is to prepare the young males to be responsible people both for themselves and for their community.

The big responsibility of building the homestead (Manyatta) falls in the hands of the women. They are in charge of taking care of the entire home which includes milking cows, searching for firewood and preparing food for the entire family. Men generally make the tribal decisions and care for the cattle.

The homestead of the Masai consists of several thatched houses and smeared with cow dung on the walls. These houses are built in a circular design one next to the other. The central part is left open for the cattle and goats belonging to that particular village.

Most of the rest of Kenyan people have long forgotten their traditional ways of life. The western way of life slowly deleted the traditions of some of them. The white man brought formal education including modern medicine and this was the exchange price for the age-old customs. While most communities accepted these with open hands, the Masai are yet to open their hands. Despite more than 33 years of self rule, red dress together with traditional rituals are still performed.

For centuries they have continued to believe that all the cattle in the world belong to them and were given to them by Enkai, the God. A fact that has been a source of trouble with other neighboring communities by generating inter-tribal conflicts. The young Masai morans (warrior) job is to protect the cattle of their fathers and to capture those of other communities, because in their folklore God gave them all the cattle.

What has won them the great fame over the decades is their courage. It is true that when they surrounded a marauding lion, they crossed on it and speared it to death. This fearlessness has not been seen in any other community in Kenya. In addition to this braveness, the Masai have won time and again admiration from foreigners visiting the country due to their nomadic way of life, not attachments to possessions, and togetherness banded by the age sets of those who underwent circumcision ritual together. When a young man reached junior elder hood he had the freedom to have sex with the wives of other elders, his comrades, if he so wished.
Likewise, a Masai woman belonged to the entire age-set and sexual jealousy did not exist.

Ornamentation is very important and takes a big part of the Masai tribe. They have very beautiful bead-work that they make for themselves and also sell to tourists. Each age set makes its own pattern.

They have been living side by side with wildlife and sharing pastures. This is changing and at a quick pace as most of the fertile lands has been taken for plantation agriculture.
In the process, the traditional routes for the wildlife have been disrupted, forcing them to be concentrated in particular areas. Due to these plantations, the pasture grounds for the Masai 's cattle has further discouraged the nomadic way of life. Add on it the introduction of legal rule and government orders to keep distance from the areas gazetted as wildlife sanctuaries. There is little doubt as till when the Masai will remain the 'famous Masai '. They continue to demand grazing rights in the National parks.

The community has its own way of organization whereby the elder men are at the top of the hierarchy, then elder women, morans and finally the girls. Passage from one age set from the moran to young adult is marked by slaughtering of a cow as an offering to the gods.

Tourism has taken its toll too on the way of life of the Masai and Samburu people. The construction of tourist hotels in the Masai land imposed further restrictions to their movement and introduced a different way of life for those working in these resorts. The villages near the lodges do make some income from selling their hand -made crafts that include spears, beadwork and customary dances.

Peter K. Philip
Natural Track Safaris

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The ‘mountain of Greatness’

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a demanding, challenging feat. But despite the immense height, the expedition can be successfully climbed by any reasonably fit person. No technical skills are necessary, making Kilimanjaro the highest, most accessible, "walk-able" mountain on the planet.
With its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, Kilimanjaro is an inactive stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa. It is considered the highest freestanding mountain as well as the 4th most prominent mountain in the world.

The mountain draws over 25,000 visitors annually. However, nearly 50% of all climbers fail to reach the summit. This is mainly due to lack of thorough preparation and adherence to climbing rules, tips and guidelines.

The single most important factor in determining the success of your climb is choosing a quality guide service. To succeed on the mountain, it is imperative that climbers are guided by an experienced outfitter, with proven competence, reliability and safety.

Although several hundred tour operators offer Kilimanjaro climbs, only a handful can be considered reputable. Many fail to meet and provide strict standard of services required for successful climbing such as:  professional experienced local guides, hard working team-oriented support staff, quality waterproof four-season mountain tents, roomy dining tents with table and chairs, large portions of fresh healthy nutritious food and clean purified drinking water.

They also lack in crisis management and safety procedures, fair and ethical treatment of porters and more importantly adherence to environmentally responsible trekking guidelines. If you are planning to climb Kilimanjaro, then consider outfitter and tour operators that meet the mentioned principles and surpass them. Other important hints are advance booking, ensuring physical fitness, adequate packing and wise route choice.

Being the highest peak and most famous mountain in Africa, scaling the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is a heavy challenge, more from the rigours of altitude than the actual difficulty of the hike itself. The climb, which takes on average six days, takes hikers through thick forests and alpine grasslands, desolate rock face and brilliant white glaciers.
If there is one thing that everybody remarks about Kili, is the amazing number of stars people can see at night while climbing it. Unaffected by the light pollution that blights the Western World, the sky at night on Kilimanjaro is truly one of the great – and unsung- attractions of climbing Africa’s highest mountain.

Views of Kenya and the Masai Steppe, the Crater Highlands, and the Eastern Arc Mountain Range expand from the summit, and unlike other comparable peaks, you don’t need ropes or climbing equipment to make it to the top. As long as you pace yourself and take it easy at high altitudes, you have every reason to think you can reach the summit, and do it.
It is no doubt that climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highlight of most visitors’ experiences coming to Africa.

Peter K. Philip
 Natural Track Safaris