The dust of Amboseli

I’d read that Amboseli was dusty. In anticipation I was carrying a breathing mask with a filter in my pockets and had left my camera in my backpack. The Family was prepared to breathe through a dupatta, that all-purpose face mask and head cover that she always has handy, either worn or in a bag. The Mother of Niece Tatu was similarly equipped, and FONT didn’t seem to have any dust allergies. Even with all this preparation, the last few kilometers of the road was something that was astounding. The road was a river of deep dust, blown by winds. As we passed over it, we found ourselves in the middle of our private dust cloud. Part of it entered the car, even with all windows and doors shut.

I took the featured photo with my phone, and The Family got a matching photo (above) on the other side of the car. The environment of this park has been studied very intensively. It is fed by melt-water from Mount Kilimanjaro, and its climate history over the last few thousand years is now known. Although the weather has cycled over wet and dry periods, it has been drying over the last 500 years or so. I found a study conducted over the 25 years ending in 2001 which recorded a huge increase in temperature (almost 7 degrees Celcius over this period, ten times that due to global warming) and an increasing variability in rainfall.

Amboseli is considered one of the jewels of wildlife conservation efforts in Kenya. But even here one finds man-animal conflict as the Masai turn from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle. The growth of land ownership means that animals are excluded from certain patches of land. Combined with the long term local climate trends, this has resulted in a decrease of wildlife numbers (counted over something like half a century) and some local extinctions. We were outside the park when we took these photos, and it is clear that it is not the most hospitable of places. The park was dry, but not as dry as this. I could understand how man-animal conflict could rise, and how, unless the Masai see profit from tourism, the conservation effort may fail in the very long run.

After all this flying through dust when we reached the lodge it turned out that we had time for a shower and a nice lunch before leaving on our first safari. The prologue sounds scary, but our experience in Amboseli was wonderful, as you will see from my photos in the coming days.

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