Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Last days in Kenya

We finished up another terrific week at A Rocha with a series of student presentations, another pre-dawn trip into Arabuko-Sokoke forest to do some more bird mist-nesting, a mid-day visit to nearby Mida Creek (a highly productive inlet off of the Indian Ocean that regularly harbors tens of thousands of shorebirds, many of them long-distance migrants from Europe and Asia), and late-night turtle patrols. On the turtle front, Thursday night we came across several series of fresh tracks emerging from the water to the beach – but none that led to nests. This behavior, in which turtles emerge and make their way up the beach only to turn around and head back into the water with deposting eggs, is referred to as a “false crawl”, and may stem from several different reasons, including being startled, confusion due to artificial lights on the shore, or some innate sense the turtle may have about the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of the area for nesting. Whatever the reasons, finding evidence of five false crawls in one night is highly unusual, and left us and the Watamu Turtle Watch staff perplexed. Friday Jim, Buck, & Nelly (from Watamu Turtle Watch) spent four hours collecting more data along 4.5 km of beachfront in order to more clearly analyze the relationship between beach condition and frequency of nesting.
Late in the week the class took a boat out to the coral gardens offshore and had a chance to snorkel (or “goggle”, as it is known here) amidst swarms of colorful tropical fish. Friday night was our last night at A Rocha, and the staff honored us with a goat roast – delicious both fried and roasted! We loaded up the vans early Saturday morning and headed west to Tsavo East National Park - the largest game reserve in Kenya, known for its large elephant herds as well as the infamous man-eating lions of Tsavo. We had an evening game drive amongst the red-dusted elephants and other wildlife, followed by a relaxing evening dining and lounging in front of the watering hole in the Satao camp, where impala and gazelles grazed with a wary eye out for predators. Shortly before midnight, four lions (one male, three females) drifted into camp briefly – quite an experience drifting off to sleep surrounded by the roar of lions, trumpeting of elephants, and hooting of baboons!
Sunday morning we had an early morning game drive followed by a nice breakfast at Satao camp – and then headed for Nairobi and our flight home. Kwaheri Kenya!

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