So who like me watched nothing but Wildlife programmes on the TV whilst growing up in the 60’s and 70’s? I remember the whole family being fascinated by Sir David and his documentaries about people, places and wildlife that we had not even studied in Geography at school.
The seeds had been set from an early age but it was to take a walk in the forest up around Watamu in Kenya to really set the fire going on my road to where I am now.
I had been on my first ever “safari” back in 2000 whilst in South Africa. We had seen all the usual things and like most thought that African wildlife began and ended with “The Big Five” In 2002 I was in Kenya for a couple of weeks at a brilliant hotel called “Hemmingways” A non too shabby place I had found purely by chance. To give you a clue what it’s like, as I arrived Tina Turner was just leaving…..obviously heard I was coming.
Whilst there I was able to visit such places as the Bio Ken Snake Farm near to the hotel where they milk Black Mambas for their venom and I was lucky enough to even join the head guide as he visited a couple of local villages to “remove” snakes from the area. What he actually did was simply relocated the snake he has caught in one village to just outside the next. Wildlife recycling I guess you would call it.
A couple of days later the General Manager of the hotel was treating a few of us to a short walk into the local forest. Turns out it is actually the last coastal forest left in Kenya and was once home to herds of forest elephants. The old elle trails can still be seen today. Whilst Garry chatted to the group about various sightings in the forest and we stood drinking GnT and snacked on Biltong I started to look around ( without wandering too far of course) 🙂 Under a giant tree who’s name I couldn’t remember even if I had been told it, where numerous small pits in the sand. Forever inquisitive I stood looking at these and tried to think what may have caused them. Was it something dripping from the tree? Too uniform in shape for that. Maybe someone with a stick just standing in that place…..no footprints. In the end I asked Garry the GM and he kindly explained.
“Watch” he said, as he took a blade of grass and just touched the side of the hole in the sand. The sides of the pit began to slip away just as if it were talcum powder. Then from below the sand it started to flick. Scooping the sand up in his had he showed me a small insect that look such a way that only its mother could love it. It transpires that this is just the Antlion larva This was my introduction to the first of the little five. How awesome is that I thought. This tiny creature is able to build such a trap so it can eat other insects. I have to say that this was probably my lightbulb moment when suddenly I could see a whole new world of natural things I just needed to know more about. The Ant Lion then goes on to become a rather stunning adult with transparent wings and a brownish body.
Garry introduced me to his son who had recently started his Ranger Training. I was already hooked and on returning to the UK I started to investigate where I could do that type of training. Not because I had any ambition of being a Bush Ranger but simply because I just wanted to know more. Kenya was cost prohibitive as far as trying courses went, but I did find a place in South Africa that offered the same training for under half the price. Well we all know where that lead!!! You don’t know? I’ll tell you another time.
If there is a message in this story ( there doesn’t have to be) then I guess it could be that sometimes from the smallest, simplest thing, a whole new world of interest can open up and change your life forever.
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