Blog post 4. Madeleine and Arjun
Throughout this course, we’ve discussed the pervasive misconception that Africa is a homogenous entity. We are learning that this is far from true, as Africa is rich with diversity—in terms of flora, fauna, and geology, as well as culture. Extending this idea, we are already seeing the vast diversity present in just this small portion of the country of Kenya. This was perhaps most apparent today, where we woke up at Lake Naivasha—a freshwater ecosystem—and ended up in Maasai Mara—a savannah—and travelled through pastoral, agricultural land, and urban areas, among others. On our journey, we saw a change in the bird and mammal species, as well as the landscapes and geological features. These changes were apparent in only 230 km of travel, and showcase the diversity that is present in only a small geographical range. Having seen this, it would be exceedingly foolish to treat Africa—or even Kenya—as a singular culture or ecotype. The hippopotamuses, African Fish Eagles, and Lilac-Breasted Rollers of Lake Naivasha are remarkably different from the White-Browed Sparrow Weavers, Cutthroats, and field mice we saw in Maasai Mara. In the next several days of this course, we look forward to seeing more of Kenya’s diversity and learning about the plants and animals of different ecosystems.
This morning started relatively early, by waking up before the sunrise over Lake Naivasha. Though we needed to pack our bags and tents and have another tasty breakfast prepared by our wonderful cooks, we had enough time to sneak in some birding and photography. Many of the birds we saw are already familiar to us, such as the Egyptian Goose and Superb Starling. We even had a Glossy Ibis sighting. For over a half hour, Allen struggled to take a photo of a Lilac-Breasted Roller in flight but, in his words “failed miserably” (though we are sure his photos are actually great). We said goodbye to Lake Naivasha and its incredible wildlife and began our 5-hour drive to our next destination, Maasai Mara.
On our travels southward to Maasai Mara, we observed great changes in the landscape. From the brown silts and sands of Lake Naivasha and its lush vegetation, we entered lands of hardened clay and scrubland. But after arriving at our camp, just outside Maasai Mara National Reserve, the wildlife was abundant. Nests of White-Browed Sparrow Weavers graced many of the small trees scattered around camp. The weavers flew amongst us without fear, so bold that they would eventually approach within metres of us. Upon arrival at the camp, we were greeted by yet another Steve, a Maasai member of the staff. He sold us some wonderful trinkets crafted by his mother. Not long after, we gathered around to listen to the final article presentations, by Arjun, Meg, and Allen. The presentations sparked some lively conversations about wildlife conservation, the nature of Indigeneity, and statistical methods of inference, while the weavers looked on. Throughout the presentations and later into the evening, we saw a few other birds as well, including the Cutthroat (a type of waxbill) and the Bare-faced Go-away-bird. Then as usual, we had a delicious dinner. And with that, we are off to our tents to sleep, hopeful to hear the rolling cackles of hyenas in the distance, as promised by the hyena information sheets hung up next to the squatting toilets.