|For the long 4th of July weekend, we decided to go somewhere inexpensive (and we had to be back Monday because Evan had to work at the Ambassador's 4th of July party so he didn't actually get a holiday.) We had been to the Ark, which was fashioned on the Treetops hotel. This place has been around for ages, albeit in several iterations. And this was also the place, in 1952, that Princess Elizabeth was vacationing when her father died and she became queen. So of course we had to check it out.
Drove up Saturday morning. We spent the ride going over the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest movie songs ever (Can anyone guess the #1 song?). It was lots of fun and made the 2+ hour drive fly by. We arrived in time for lunch at the Outspan hotel, where we would leave the car overnight. After lunch we boarded the bus and headed out.
The place was not really in the tree tops. Apparently there had once been lots of trees surrounding it, but the elephants ripped them down. So, it's a big wooded rectangular building on stilts. It's pretty cool. We had to climb many stairs to get inside. And there are tree branched going through the floor and ceilings! They were padded with sheepskin. Even I had to watch out so I wouldn't hit my head, so you can imagine how Evan must've felt! Our room was right next to the Princess Elizabeth suite. (And why were we not staying in there?) The room - how to describe it? Tiny? Well yes. Was there an ensuite bathroom? No, there was not! Yeah, the room was just two twin beds and a small table. It was kinda like being on a ship with those teeny-tiny cabins that they have, but smaller. Granted, we spend most of the time on the balconies watching the animals, so it didn't really matter. We did have a window overlooking the waterhole which was nice.
When we arrived the place was lousy with buffalo. By the waterhole, on the salt lick, off in the distance. There were at least 100 buffalo. I definitely think it's the most we have seen. So as we are hanging out, all of a sudden this herd of elephants came rumbling around the corner. There was one really big, old guy who was kinda with them, but kinda not. Generally, elephants are found in two groups - mom and kids, and bachelor males. This was mostly moms and kids. There was this one little elephant that was so cute!! He couldn't have been more than 3 ft high. He was still nursing. There were a couple other small ones and some bigger ones. We counted 11 total at this point. The big male was something else. He kept sticking his trunk into the females' business (if ya know what I mean, wink, wink) And there was several instances of evidence proving that we was definitly a male!
The salt lick was right in front of this ground level hide with little slot windows. We headed there and we not more than 20 yards from the elephants as they dug up the ground with their tusks to get the salt from the dirt. It was awesome. Evan's hole in the hide was closer to them than mine, so he took the pictures from here. One is this huge elephant face - it's a really cool picture.
As we were waiting for dinner, another herd of elephants lumbered up. Total there were 24 elephants of varying sizes. And the big boy kept getting in everyone's business. He was like a dirty old man hitting on all the young girls. It was kinda funny. And maybe a little sad.
Dinner was a choice between beef, fish, chicken, pasta. I had the beef on a pool of duo pepper sauce. Which was not a sauce of green and red peppers as I imagined. It was black pepper and some other kind. It was tasty, but very peppery. Evan had the fish. It was also very tasty - I tried his.
After dinner we headed out to see if any more animals showed up. We were hoping to see a bongo or a leopard. Leopards are notoriouly difficult to see. They don't show themselves much, although they are around alot. And the bongo is a hoofed animals that is teetering on the edge of extinction (although they are beginning to make a comeback). They only live up in the hills around Mt Kenya and are nocturnal. They see one about once a year at the Ark. There were no stats for Treetops. Bongos are the most difficult animal to see - so of course that's the one we were really hoping for! (although they have several of them at the Nairobi National Park Safari Walk, but that doesn't count 'cause it's like a zoo.) Well, no bongos or leopards. We did see a handful of white tailed mongooses (mongeese?) which were new for us. We finally called it a night when all the elephants had left.
They have a buzzer system here, as at the Ark. If any animals show in the night, they buzz in the rooms - 1 buzz for hyenas, 2 for leopards, 3 for rhinos, 4 for elephants. We planned to get up for 1-3 buzzes but not for elephants. It didn't matter, though, as we had a buzz-free night.
Early morning, we had to take showers (it was like a dorm with communal bathrooms) and get on the bus by 7am (!!) to head back to Outspan for breakfast. Another buffet. Then we headed out.
The last time we were up here, we went to the equator but did not see the water demonstration. I have wanted to go back to see this - they have this bucket of water and a bowl with a hole in it. On one side of the equator, the water swirls clockwise. On the other side, it swirls the other way. I wanted to know what happened right on the line. So we drove up to the equator (which was way farther than I remembered it) for the demonstration. They put a little wooded stick in the water so you can see the swirl. So, north it swirled...I don't remember if it was clockwise or counter...but it swirled the other way in the south. And right on the line - it doesn't swirl at all. It just drains straight. It was really cool. I am glad that we took the detour up to see this. I also got a certificate saying I was there. Cheesy, but necessary!