Many of you knew that Liz and I were running Joys Camp in January and February and many of you have asked how did it go and what did you do. We apologize for taking so long to write this blog and tell you our story.
Stefano & Liz enjoying sundowners at Joy's Camp
It was fantastic to be back in the bush and to do those things that both Liz and I love so much. Living, breathing, Africa at its most wild. We would be woken up each morning by birds singing and chattering – loud and excited, I guess telling each other how they survived another night.
Chestnut weavers enjoying Joy's Camp's swimming pool
We would go to sleep with the roaring of the lions and the coughing of the leopard. For 2 weeks a pair of mating lions based themselves literally at the camp. My mother, Mimma, came to stay with us from Italy and she was convinced that the lions were purposely outside her tent every night to terrify her! It became the camp joke.
We got stuck into the stores, systems, the back of house in general, we painted, reorganized, built shelves, more stores. Did some landscaping and gardening, rebuilt the swimming pool, trained all the staff from gardeners to chefs, house keepers to dining staff and of course worked intensely with our wonderful guides; bush breakfasts, sundowers … We visited the local community, reinforced relationships with them and it was great to be able to spend time making constructive plans with the warden of Shaba.
Flash lights for night game drives being prepared
We came up with some new and great activities for our area of Shaba and the Nakupart – Gotu conservancy. This is true Africa and we must not forget it, it is true wilderness. Shaba is equal in size to Buffalo Springs and Samburu Reserve put together; with only Joys Camp clients game driving in it. It gives you that true filling of “Old Africa”; no other tourists around, flat toped Tortilis Acacia trees, Sausages trees, kopjes and springs and the massive Ewaso Nyiro river with its “film-set” gorge to walk down.
Stopping on top of one of the kopjes and having your morning coffee or sundowner gin & tonic, – is what in essence for me is the real Africa. It’s not about just racing around desperately trying to tick a list of animal sightings in our new world of instant gratification.
The stunning Ewaso Nyiro River Gorge in Shaba
Night game drives – We introduced night game drives; but differently from our other camps. Unlike the cooler savannahs, in this semi-desert wilderness, there is LOTS of activity way into the night!
The day would start for our guests in the normal C&P style, tea in bed, early gamedrive with a picnic breakfast, and back to camp in the heat of day for lunch. However, in the afternoon, relax, have a massage?, early “theatre dinner” at 6.30pm – and out for a night gamedrive! Guests were out regularly till 10.00pm; a great success – Porcupines, Genet cats, Caracals, African Wild Cats, Honey Badger, Bush Babies, Aardwolf and Striped Hyena as well as our romantic lions and the Joy’s leopard.
Striped hyena spotted during night game drive
Magado Crater and the Bojidera springs – We introduced early morning departure to the Magado Crater 1 hrs 30 min drive away, a biblical and colourful scene – mining for salt in the bottom of the crater lake.
A visit to the Magado Crater located in the Nakuprat Gotu Conservancy
Returning via the hot springs of Bojidera for a swim and breakfast. The little tilapia fish clean the dead skin off your feet, something we hear, the Japanese pay a lot of money for.
Bojidera Springs - Liz, Chania and Helen enjoying a drink and a natural feet-peel
New roads, gamedrive circuits and stunning breakfast spots – We surveyed Shaba by air with our little Cessna 182 and decided, with the senior warden’s blessing, to put in some new and exciting routes. The first one was finalized just before we left Shaba and it drives from Joys Camp directly across to the Funan Springs.
New game drive tracks in Shaba
The elements have been kind to Shaba in recent years, there is good grazing, and game viewing has increased. The grass lands are recovering from the 2009 drought, poaching is right down thanks to NRT’s efforts and to the creation of the Nakuprat – Gotu conservancy that surrounds Shaba. We had regular wonderful sighting of herds of oryx, grevy and burchell zebra, impala, herds of up to 50 reticulated giraffe, buffalo, elephant, gerenuk, somali ostrich, and desert warthogs. We hear that we have more romantic lions around camp, with a second female in the pride coming into estrous!
Large herds of Reticulated Giraffe
Ewaso Lion project – Joys Camp is now working with Shivani and Jenera of Ewaso Lions; identifying and mapping our population of lions, leopards, and cheetah. Shivani is delighted to have a partner to help identify and track the large carnivores of Shaba, and we are delighted to work with professionals that can give us even more information about our resident big cats. Between us we estimate we have a resident population of over 16 lions, plus healthy cheetahs with cubs and many leopard! Watch this space ..
Introducing Iris & Pelham – We handed Joy’s Camp to a lovely couple that just like us have become passionate about Shaba and its wilderness feel, its rocks and kopjes the changing colours during the day. Iris and Pelham are now in charge and loving it, Iris is Swiss from near Bern and Pelham is from Gloucestershire UK, both trained as guides in South Africa and both have Fgasa training; we have only had great positive feed back and we are looking forward to a long working relationship with them.
Sadly Liz and I had to return to the grind and grime of Nairobi and having to hit the manic traffic to the office every morning. But we enjoyed first dinner out at our favourite Japanese restaurant in the world, the Haru. Yes don’t forget that even with all its bad publicity, Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city with world-class restaurants, and great shopping. Hence why all the journalists that service sub Saharan Africa prefer living in Nairobi!
We are just wallowing in fun – based at Joy’s Camp in beautiful Shaba for the passed two weeks, and we have until the end of February to enjoy it!
Stefano & Liz at Joy's Camp
We have a change over of managers, so we are here to review how the camp is running and handing over to new managers (sadly for us!). The food has always been excellent here at Joy’s, but we are still enjoying working with the cooks on menus and dishes; putting lots of good stuff in the camp veggie garden – and trying not to put on weight. Liz is pruning the gardens, and Stefano is working with the guides. How could life be better!
Dik Dik on the path
We have 3 families of wild, but relaxed Dik Dik in the camp, that just wander past you on the path (above) and Mr & Mrs Von Der Decken hornbill (below) still pose next to the dinning room at lunch time. Did you know that both Dik Diks and the Von Der Decken hornbill mate for life? Funny fact so close to Valentine’s Day!
Von Der Decken Hornbill making a heartshape with tehir beaks
Last night, clients also saw a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl sitting in the tree next to tent 7 and got some good photos.
We have an excellent guiding team at the moment, most of whom come from the area, and whom we are very pleased with. Highlights have been a huge male leopard stay with a group of guests for 1.5hrs before a final snarl and loping off to hunt in the dusk, many sightings of the striped hyenas with clients now realizing how special that is! A birding group that saw 107 species in a morning, plus the William’s Lark – Shaba being the only place in the world to see him.
Leopard in Shaba, photo by Ninian Lowis
Striped Hyena - rare sighting in the daylight
We are looking at night gamedrives, trips to Magado Crater, and have heard of some more lovely springs in Nakuprat – so watch this space!
Sorry to make you all jealous – Best wishes Liz & Stefano
We are the bearers of fantastic news! Our resident Somali ostrich couple – through dedication and vigilance – successfully hatched 12 chicks. Here is Dad is taking his turn to sit on the nest just prior to the hatchings. Incredibly, an ostrich egg can weigh as much as two dozen chicken eggs.
The Somali Ostrich is a subspecies to the Ostrich and is endemic to Kenya’s north. It is more beautiful than its common cousin, its feathers having a more vivid black and white, with blue neck & thighs (rather than pinkish), which become bright blue on the male during the mating season. The females are slightly larger than the males and browner in plumage than other female ostriches.
Ostriches live in small flocks which typically contain less than a dozen birds. Alpha males maintain these flocks and mate with the group’s dominant hen. All of the group’s hens place their eggs in the dominant hen’s nest – though her own are given the prominent centre place. The dominant hen and male take turns incubating the giant eggs, each one of which weighs as much as two dozen chicken eggs.
Here at Shaba our ostriches tend to be more monogamous and this couple have been together for a while and we were delighted with their brood of 12.
Sadly, after a few days the family reduced to 9 chicks – probably taken by smaller carnivores and raptors.
Though they cannot fly, ostriches are fleet, strong runners. Adult ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles per hour. They use their wings as “rudders” to help them change direction while running. An ostrich’s powerful, long legs can also be formidable weapons. Ostrich kicks can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion. Sadly young ostrich chicks have none of these attributes and are highly vulnerable, as we found out from this incredible picture taken by guest Dee Drummy – 1 poor chick taken by a martial eagle on, ironically, Friday 13th September.
1 poor ostrich chick taken by a martial eagle
Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand – though the parents must have been tempted after this occurrence.
On a happier note, Dee & Brian Drummy also took this fabulous pic of our aardwolf mum peeking out from her den. Mother & cub are doing extremely well!
Our trailcam is going from strength to strength – more in our next blog.
What a great few months we’ve had here at Joy’s Camp!
It’s been a high season packed with incredible wildlife sightings – 6 lions on a giraffe kill, bat-eared foxes and striped hyena seen almost daily, the stunning sightings of a caracal, a civet cat seen regularly, the secretive and rare William’s lark often spotted on the lava plains, huge buffalo herds of over 200 and, most excitingly, the amazing discovery of an aardwolf den with pups!
Aardwolf at Joy's Camp
The aardwolf is one of the most elusive species – resembling a thin striped hyena, but with a more slender muzzle, sharper ears, black vertical stripes on a coat of yellowish fur, and a long, distinct mane down the midline of the neck and back.
Have a look at these – can you spot the species?
Aardwolf at Joy's Camp
All these shots have been taken by our recently set up trail camera to record movements, especially of our nocturnal visitors! As you can see we’ve had some incredible shots taken within the first few weeks: 1. Striped Hyena, 2. Leopard, 3. Porcupine, 4. Aardwolf, 5. African Wild Cat, 6. Civet!
Shaba is drying up now following the rains earlier this year. Fortunately here at Joy’s Camp we have a natural spring in front of us – a real oasis for Shaba’s wildlife and a very popular spot at the moment, where a few nights ago we heard a lion killing a buffalo while sitting at the bar and enjoying our G&Ts with Stefano and Liz!
Views from the bar at Joy's Camp
On another note we wanted to say a huge ‘karibu’ to our two new guides – Arnold and Abdi. Arnold holds a Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA) bronze level and also holds an Animal Trailing Certificate and the Level 1 FGASA (Field Guides Association of South Africa). Abdi, a KPSGA bronze guide, is currently studying for his KPSGA Silver Level. We wish Abdi all the best with his studies and with his exam later this year.