Lions, Zebra and Elephants, Oh My!

Oakland Zoo
March 28, 2018

In January, Andrea Dougall and I led an intrepid group of travelers on a trip to Kenya. Annually, the Animal Care department offers 16 lucky people the opportunity to travel with experienced Animal Care professionals to three beautiful parks in Kenya,

In addition to seeing hundreds of species of animals, we also take the opportunity to visit with our international Conservation Partners.

Our adventure began before we left Nairobi. Nestled within the Nairobi National Park is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Founded in 1977 by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the trust rescues orphaned elephants and rhinos. The Trust has successfully hand raised over 150 infant elephants, returning some of them to the wild. We made a monetary donation and also brought elephant sized baby bottles for the bottle fed baby elephants. Our group was lucky enough to meet some of the orphans up close and personal. A few of our travelers had adopted elephants on the Sheldrick website and were able to meet their adoptees. Insert photos

We left Nairobi and drove the Amboseli National Park located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Insert Kilimanjaro photo. The melting glacial water creates vast swampland in teh park, much to the delight of the elephants. Our days began early. Up at 6:00am for coffee, we were on the road by 6:30 heading to the park for a game drive. Insert Photo of van Our drivers/guides have over 60 years of knowledge and experience between the 3 of them and they can pick an eagle out of a tree at 200 yards or point out a tiny dung beetle on the ground. In Amboseli we saw large families of elephants with their babies, herds of gazelles, zebra, wildebeest, packs of hyenas and prides of lions. The water birds were beautiful and there were so many different species!

In the park we visited a local Masai village and learned about their daily lives. There is a school on site and we were able to visit the children and watch them demonstrate their reading abilities.  Insert photo of village and video.

We also visited the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, founded by Cynthia Moss over 40 years ago. Most of what we know about the elephants' matriarch society was discovered by Cynthia and her researchers. Insert photos of ATFE

After 4 wonderful days in Amboseli, we boarded 2 small planes and flew to the Samburu National Park. Located above the equator, Samburu was much hotter and drier than Amboseli. The large river that runs through the park was dry and rangers were digging watering holes for the animals. We were lucky to see the Samburu Finve- a whole new group of animals most not found outside of this region:. Grevy's Zebra (which is highly endangered), Vulterine guinea fowl, Oryx, Reticulated giraffe (also endangered) and Somali Ostrich (they have blue legs).

Insert photos. We were able to meet with and learn about the work being down by 3 of our partners; Ewaso Lion Project, Reticulated Giraffe Project and Save the Elephants. Insert Photos. Gilbert, a researcher with Save the Elephants entertained the group with the story of what happens when an angry bull elephant meets a Toyota truck. Insert Photo.

Our lodge in Samburu had man-made water holes which were frequented by a large troop of olive baboons, warthogs and impala. At night we could hear the hyenas calling- it sounded like they were right outside our huts- They probably were!

On Day 8 we flew to the vast Masai Mara, a huge park with rolling grasslands and dots of acacia trees. The river which runs through the park was full of families of hippos and crocodiles. In the Mara we saw more new animals that we hadn't yet seen at the other 2 parks. ; RHINOS!, waterbuck, topi antelope, hartebeests and huge herds of cape buffalo.Insert photos

Our lodge sat at the top of a hill with a panoramic view of the savanna below. 10 of our crowd took an early morning hot air balloon ride followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush. Insert photos.

We had the opportunity to visit one of the 4 schools in the Masai Mara area. We took school supplies to the children and enjoyed a tour of the school. Insert Photos

One morning, as we were heading back to the lodge for breakfast, our guides told us they knew of a special location to see more hippo and crocodile. Instead, we were surprised by a champagne breakfast set up alongside the river! Andrea and I knew about the surprise, but we weren't prepared for the linen table cloths, napkins and made to order breakfast. Insert photo

Finally, our wonderful trip was quickly coming to a close as we flew back to civilization. With one more stop to feed giraffe at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, we headed to the airport to prepare ourselves for the long flights home and back to reality. But we came back with 17 new friends and memories which will last a lifetime.  
During our trip, we donated over $7000 to our conservation partners.