Jambo! I’ve been in Kenya for two weeks now, but it feels like far longer. Each day begins at dawn, with a breakfast of eggs, toast, and pineapple served under an open tent overlooking the Ewaso Ng’iro (Brown River). After breakfast at camp, we usually embark to do one of three things:
- go to the field to collect data for our projects (i.e., walk around the African savanna)
- work on drafts of our research papers at the Mpala Research Center, where the computers are
- set out on game drives during which we usually find herds of impala, zebra, and gazelles, and the occasional giraffe, elephant, or warthog along the way
We spend the morning and the afternoon out, stopping back at camp for lunch (and a nap if I’m lucky). We return to camp for the night usually around 6pm, giving people time to shower, wash their clothes, or play some soccer with the camp employees before dinner. The dinners are always amazing – there is always some variety of delicious meat (once they told us it was camel) with a side dish of potatoes, pasta, or rice. Once in a while we are given chipates, which are delicious fried dough pancakes. If you add meat, it’s a taco; if you add chocolate sauce, it’s a crepe. Yum.
After dinner, we hang out around the campfire watching the amazing array stars in a sky that is clear enough to make out the Milky Way. I usually go to bed around 9pm. We sleep in deluxe “tents” located under thatched roofs. They house two students each (my tentmate is Jennine! She’s awesome!) and most are not far from the river. After dark, we can hear hyenas, hippos, baboons, and sometimes elephants on the opposite riverbank or just outside the tents. If we don’t hear them, we often find evidence of animals in the form of fresh dung piles or browsed bushes around camp in the morning. Just before daybreak, a loud chorus of birds breaks into song, helping wake me up whether I want to or not. I’ve included pictures to show what the tents look like.
The diversity of life is amazing – I’ll step out of my tent to brush my teeth in the morning and I’ll be watching a bushbuck grazing across the river, or see a Vervet monkey just waking up in the Yellow Fever acacia trees (Acacia xanthophlorea) outside my tent. For the final project, I was watching the foraging behaviors of a bird called the Forked-Tail Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). I spent four hours watching a short section of the river, and in the first two hours I saw: a toad, a lilac-breasted roller, 2 goshawks, a pygmy owl, 3 parrots, an egret, 2 hadada ibis, 2 vervet monkeys, a guineafowl, and some drongos. I’ve never been somewhere with such richness and abundance of species! It fills me with a desire to see more, do more, and know more.