Category Archives: Animals

Monkey day

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As it turns out, there is a huge monkey park in the Netherlands, only about an hours drive from where we live, called De Apenheul. The zoo started in 1971 and is completely dedicated to monkeys. They have large groups of gorilla, orang-gutan, chimpanzee and last but not least over 200 squirrel monkeys running freely within the park just to mention a few good reasons to visit. I just knew I had to see this place once I heard of it and made Rob and my friend Marleen tag along even if it was sunday and odds were the park would be really busy.  As we entered the park we were asked to put our personal belongings in special monkeyproof bags, to avoid harming the squirrel monkeys – I think the bags looked kind of cool so that was no problem at all ^^

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We kept on going and after just a few meters we saw a squirel monkey with a little baby holding on to her back climbing on eager visitors. I stretched out my arm and just like that she moved on to me 🙂 I managed to give her to Marleen as well before she jumped on to the next person. This all went very quickly so it was hard for us to get good photos. We were really happy to experience this though and amazed to have done so within 5 minutes of entering the park.

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We moved on to watch the orang-utans that were in a really large area consisting of several islands. I was really impressed with just how large the group of animals was and I got quite a few nice shots of them climbing around.

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There was even a really cute baby 🙂Image

We moved on to watch the keepers feed the gorillas. Again I was amazed with just how large the family was, not to mention how big the leader of the group, Jambo is: Image

After walking around watching all the different kinds of monkeys in the park, we decided to go back to the start of the trail and see if we could manage to have one of the squirrel monkeys climb on us again. We were in luck, and one of the slightly bigger ones decided to play with us for a while. After trying to steal Marleens earring without sucess (we managed to steal it back just before his friend ran off with it) he tried to get into my monkeyproof bag. This also didn’t work out so he settled for climbing on me for a little while instead 🙂

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This park is definitely worth a visit, but I do reccomend to try and avoid sundays – it was a bit too crowded when we went there.

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Nairobi National Park

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As our flight back to Amsterdam didn’t leave until the evening – we decided to go on one last game drive our final day in Kenya, in Nairobi National Park. As this park is only 7 km from the city centre, you can see Nairobi’s skyline from several areas within the park and with a little luck you can capture some really cool shots of animals in front of it.

We stayed for about 7 hours looking for animals and saw a few gazelles, lots of giraffes and a few ostriches. Compared to the other parks we went to I have to admit this didn’t feel like much. It was still a good way to kill some time while waiting on our flight back though, and Im sure it is a great getaway for people staying in Nairobi 🙂

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We left the park when we got tired of looking for animals, and after a short stop at a shoppingmall by the highway we headed to the airport, and eventually back towards Amsterdam.

I am sure I will remember some of the highlights from this trip for the rest of my life, it really was one of the best vacations I have ever been on and I have decided that I really have to go on another African Safari some day! 🙂

A Game Drive in Masai Mara

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It is 7.15 in the morning, the sun is about to come out and Rob and I are finishing our breakfast at our lodge in Masai Mara National Game Reserve.

“So what do you think we’re gonna see?”

“I don’t know, animals I guess? Nature?”

“time to meet our guide –  wash down that coffe and let’s go”

As we exit our lodge and pull out onto the main road, we see a huge herd of buffalos. We stand up in the car immediately and start taking pictures. Our guide smiles and tells us most people don’t get exited unless there are lions involved. We like all animals, we answer and take some more photos.

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After a little while our guide tells us he has gotten a call on the radio about a rhino a few minutes drive away. We rush over to check it out, and indeed see a beautiful black Rhino standing under a tree not too far from the road.Unlike the peaceful and social White Rhino, the Black one is both shy and very aggressive – it is also the most endangered out of the two types.

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Happy that we got to see this very rare animal, we keep on going, looking for more animals. After a little while we see a rather large group of Elephants. Having been to the shelter in Nairobi, the fully grown Elephants seem incredibly large, and we feel an overwhelming sense of respect for them. (some of them really are larger than the safari van we are in)

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as we move on, we drive around for a while without spotting any animals at all, but the park is beautiful in its own right and we enjoy the scenery. We decide to make a stop at the Mara River, to look for hippos and crocodiles. As we exit the van and get closer to the river, we hear sounds coming from the water. We quickly realize that these sounds are hippos blowing water out of their noses as they stick their heads up from the river. The group of hippos is rather big and there are even quite a few baby hippos in the mix!

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As I try to get closer in order to get better photos, I am told by our guide to keep my distance – as hippos are known to kill humans for fun. It is hard to belive that these adorable animals are cold-blooded killers, but looking at their size I realize that they are probably more than capable of hurting me if they decide that they want to do so. Some other tourists tell us that they saw crocodiles further down the river, so Rob and I decide to go look as well. Sadly we can’t see anything and decide to go back to the van.

Our guide tells us somebody spotted a group of lions, but that they are pretty far away. We begin our drive to the other end of the park, enjoying the hills, the yellow grass and the occasional group of zebras, gazelles or buffalos. As we get closer to where the lions have been spotted, our guide stops the car all of a sudden, telling us to look ahead. After a few minutes we see it too – there is a lioness walking straight towards us. She crosses the road and keeps on walking right past the van. We keep on driving, and finally reach the rest of the lions – a group of lionesses and cubs resting under a tree.

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For me this is, easily, the highlight of the whole day. I love all of the big cats, and seeing so many small cubs just melt my heart. After we have taken at least a hundred photos, we finally let the guide drive away from the lions. It is time for lunch, and as we wanted more time out looking for animals, we have agreed to eat out in the park. Our guide finds us a quiet spot, where we have a picnic out in the bush – awesome 🙂

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The rest of the day is, sadly, rather quitet in terms of animals. The truth is, you do generally spend a lot of time just searching while on game drives. It is, after all, not a trip to the zoo but a visit to the animals own habitat – and you can’t control nature. After a few hours of not finding much we head back to the lodge. We really enjoyed seeing so many animals in their natural environment, and the park itself is beautiful as well. I am pretty sure I will remember some of these moments for the rest of my life! 🙂

I kissed a Giraffe and I liked it!

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Introducing Lynne!
Height: roughly 4-5 meters. Weight: 900 kgs or so. Hobbies: grazing, making friends and kissing humans. She is a Rotschild Giraffe, living at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi. While the Giraffe in general is not particularly endangered, this subspecies only has a few hundred animals left living in the wild. The Giraffe Center in Nairobi is a breeding center, dedicated to perserve the Rotschild giraffe, and to educate school children. Lucky for me, tourists can also visit the center to feed, play with and (yes!!) kiss the giraffes! 🙂

As we entered the center, we saw a huge giraffe standing next to a platform, where people were feeding and petting it:

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I don’t think I actually realized just how tall a giraffe can be until that moment. We climbed the stairs to the platform, where a keeper met us handing out pellets to feed the giraffes with. We fed the giraffes for a little while, they were actually quite tame and let us pat their long necks as well. We noticed that a giraffes toungue is, as it’s neck, extremely long. In spite of this, I decided to try and go for the giraffe kiss – you only live once right?I gave Rob strict instructions to take a series of pictures, put a pellet in my mouth, and there she was – kissing me with her enourmus toungue,it was quite the experience! My whole face was covered in Giraffe saliva, and my cheeks almost hurt a little as the tounge was slightly rugged. It is still hard for myself to belive that I actually kissed a giraffe, but I do have the pictures to prove it I guess 🙂 In my opinion the Giraffe center is absolutely a must if you ever go to Nairobi!

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Baby Elephants!

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Our first day in Kenya, Rob and I had the pleasure of visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust, also known as the Elephant Orphanage. Visiting the shelter was obviously a great experience for us as we got to see over 20 young elephants up close, but the shelter is mainly there for the animals and it has saved hundreds of orphaned elephants over the years.

As elephants actually take about as long as humans to grow up (they grow up at about 17!) , they are not able to survive without their mothers for the first few years of their lives. Sadly a lot of elephants are left orphaned, especially due to poaching – the mother is killed for her ivory and the baby left to die, terrible! :(The David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust started saving baby elephants already in 1952, and the project is still alive today – devoted to save these amazing animals.

We spent around one hour watching as the keepers fed the elephants, and told us the stories of how they saved them for various reasons, how they are doing now and so on. It was really great watching as the elephants played with each other and we got to pat and play with them whenever they got close to the rope we were standing behind.

It is also possible to adopt an elephant, donating a set amount to the shelter every month. You will then receive e-mails with updates about the elephant you select. You can find more information about how to do this, and about the shelter in general on the shelters offical website: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org.

And now, more pictures of the adorable elephants:

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Monkeys in the Mountain

One of the absolute highlights of my trip to Japan was our visit to the Arashiyama monkey park. The day we decided to go see this park it was actually snowing quite heavily and as it turned out you have to walk for about 20 minutes uphill to get to the viewing platform, where you can also meet some of the 133 Japanese monkeys that live in the area.  As we walked up the pretty steep path I started to wonder if the park would be worth the long walk, but we had already paid to enter the park and I wanted to see the monkeys so I kept on going of course. I think what really got to me was that Rob didn’t seem tired at all – just look at him waiting on me completly relaxed!

When we got to the top I forgot all about the long way up there though, the view would have been worth the hike on its own even, as it was pretty amazing. We could see all of Kyoto and the mountains surrounding the city.

While the view was an awesome bonus, the reason we came was of course the monkeys. We could see quite a few of them as we climbed the last few hills up to the top, and even more up on the viewing platform. Visitors to the park get to go into a shelter where they can rest up a bit after the climb. It is also possible to buy monkeyfood, but the only place your allowed to feed the monkeys is from inside the shelter. This way the monkeys can come get food approved by the zoo when they want to, but people won’t harass them – I think it is a great way to let people interact with the animals without  bothering them too much. Rob and I absolutely loved feeding the monkeys and we got two packages of monkeyfood – one with nuts and one with fruit.

I got a few nice pictures of the monkeys outside of the shelter as well, here are some of my personal favorites: