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Fascinating Facts

In 1987 when we first opened ol Donyo Lodge, just seeing an elephant track imprinted in the lava ash was an exciting occurrence. We have gone from that scenario to having probably what are two of East Africa's largest tuskers almost resident at the lodge. Both these bull elephants have ivory that is over one hundred pounds a side and they are usually accompanied by up to ten "Askari" or "guardian" bulls. Come and see these magnificent creatures – you won’t believe your eyes.

Fascinating Facts

There is no question which tree most signifies Ol Kanjau Tented Camp in Ambosell. It’s the classic African umbrella acacia – Acacia tortilis spirocarpa – known to the Maasai as Oltepis. “Tenio nkanyit, todwaa lcheni.” The Maasai say that if you want to understand respect for life start with a tree and a favorite example is the Tortilis. For the Maasai its abundance is proportional to the quality of rangeland habitat for wildlife as well as many wild herbivores.

Since the early sixties Amboseli’s central basin and the National Park have become treeless because of increased rainfall that brings mineralized water into contact with the roots of old trees. At the same time tree regeneration has been inhibited by the high densities of elephants that have sought refuge in the Park since the mid seventies. But on the higher, better drained slopes on the Maasai group ranches just outside the Park, conditions are excellent for abundant woody plant growth and it is this source which now most supports Amboseli’s large and still growing population of elephants. These young trees are most attractive to bachelor herds of elephant males who seem to delight in testing their strength as they push them over one after the other.

Ol Kanjau Camp is protected by such a grove of young acacias which are continually re-landscaped by elephant bulls. In the last two years we estimate that as much as 20% of our Tortilis trees have been partially pushed over. But it’s a tribute to the resilience of the Acacia Tortilis trees that only about 1% of this damage is lasting.

The red chestnut heartwood is in fact a metaphor for strength in adversity. This symbol for strength and power was known and used by the ancient Egyptians who used tortilis heartwood for the funerary furniture of the pharaohs. And even today a ceremonial rungu from the same source is a prized symbol of portable pastoral power for the Maasai.

The white blossoms of the tortilis tree are an amazing food source; they make the sweetest honey and the strongest beer and later, when they develop into spiral seed pods they store very high levels of protein and other nutrients and are highly valued as the dry season staple of choice for people, livestock and wildlife. The Maasai curse the cutting of a mature tortilis tree whose cool, evergreen branches provide midday shade for neighborhood elders meetings.

For many years we have found that the most long lasting Acacia tortilis survivors make excellent landscape markers, more useful even than modern GPS devices. We use them as mnemonics to keep from getting lost in miles and miles of similar bushland. Matching a landscape characteristic to a well known individual tree is complete by adding a tree suffix to the most striking specimens. Thus “symmetree”, “solitree” , “opotometree”, “ancestree”, and “heredetree”. These last two mark the south and west approaches to Ol Kanjau Camp and are probably the oldest trees in Greater Amboseli. With a basal diameter of more than 2 metres they are likely more than 300 years old.

Fascinating Facts

As the sun rises at Ol Malo you may be awakened to a well orchestrated duet, rising and falling like a whistled wave. A small dark bantam-like game bird, with its tail cocked and its chest puffed out will be perched on rocks on the cliffs telling our guests to wake up and enjoy the beautiful morning.

At close quarters, this bird shows a slightly scaly head, faint barring on the flanks and red facial skin. They move around in pairs and small groups and are rarely common on rocky hillsides. The stone partridge is exceptional amongst game birds in that the female, to the human eye, is showier than the male.

Come and see this wonderful bird whilst staying at Ol Malo.

Fascinating Facts

Unlike the Serengeti, the Mara region is punctuated by few granite outcroppings or kopjes, the result of volcanic activity in the past. Situated on a wonderful rocky promontory, Ol Seki is in a unique position with fabulous views of the Siana hills and the Loitas to the north. Quartz inclusions provide interesting highlights and the beautiful colours of lichen after the rains add a richness to the flora. The rocks give succor to the small ferns and succulent plants that enjoy their shade, and sustenance from the early morning dew that drips over the stones, providing a micro-habitat for both fauna and flora.

The gaps between the overflowing and tumbling rock forms provide a refuge for many small birds and creatures. The little bush hyrax (Heterohyrax,) families, cavort amongst the rocks and the high underground water makes it possible for the most amazing fig trees (Ficus natalensis) and the Albizia gummifera to survive, and provide refuge for sunbirds, starlings, bulbuls, barbets, raucous turacos and tiny tinkerbirds.

It is not only the tiny creatures of the wild that take refuge in these rocky places but when we found the site, Letilet, an Il Ndorobo hunter, had his home under a rocky overhang and his 'bedroom' further along the cliff. Originally a hunter gatherer, Letilet found himself 'on the run' after the hunting ban in 1976 and his stories of living in the wild and his knowledge and uses of medicinal plants fascinate our guests and add a whole other dimension to the Mara experience. His cave faces the east and early morning shots of Letilet making fire and showing the tools of his trade, provide great photo opportunities.

Fascinating Facts

Over the past 2 1/2 years Sarara Camp has worked very closely in conjunction with a very kind donor and the Namunyak Community to develop a vegetable growing project in Wamba town. The aim was to bring 20 single mothers together who had no other way of making a living except to brew beer and cut trees for charcoal making.

An area has now been fenced and water pump, water tanks been bought and a very good corn crop has been harvested among other smaller crops throughout the years. This has provided an income for these women together with improving the nutrition of the surrounding townsfolk and it has now become a model in the area of what can be done. Nobody in this area ever thought of growing anything as this is a pastoralist community who lived off blood and milk from their cattle. Their eyes have been opened now and this project is proving an incredible success in changing the lives of people who had very little hope before and giving them a much brighter future.

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