Category Archives: Suni

Nocturnal Adventures

Last night was a particularly special night for the lucky folk based in Shimoni.  Instead of tucking ourselves into beds in our house in the village, we all packed water, first aid kits, roll mats and torches and headed out into Shimoni forest for a campout! 

We have done this before, but not since this time last year.  The reasons being that during January – March season, there is no chance of rain, and the mosquitoes are few and far between!  Any other time of year and one could end up getting rather wet and eaten alive by the biting critters.

Heading to transect 2

Heading to transect 2

We prepared a huge pot of potato salad, bought ourselves two whole chickens, scrubbed our handy homemade grill, and marched out to section 22 of transect 2 to set up.  We had been out scouting earlier in the day, and had found a nice open area that didn’t have too much coral rag.  We all gathered deadwood off the forest  floor for firewood and got the fire going without any trouble.  Julien (a volunteer from Portugal) proceeded to cook the chicken to perfection in a lime and chilli marinade! 

Arriving at the site

Arriving at the site

Once we were all fed and settled, we donned our forest boots and torches and headed out for a night walk!  Night walks are one of my favorite things to do in the forest – it is a completely different place at night.  The forest is alive with nocturnal creatures; the rustling of small feet in the leaf litter and the night calls of the various animals are all around you, making you strain your eyes into the shadows to look for the telltale reflections of eyes in the torchlight.

Clearing the area

Clearing the area

We were fortunate to get some awesome sightings of several sunis and a pair of small eared galagos (bushbabies) hopping through the trees.  These two animals are the ones most likely to be seen at night, as they are the most abundant nocturnal animals in the forest. 

 

Let there be fire!

Let there be fire!

Sunis are tiny antelope, whose shoulders rarely rise above 40cm off the ground.  They are primarily nocturnal, and feed on leaves, shoots and fruits on the forest  floor.  They are very shy creatures, but get stunned in the torchlight, so night walks are the only times you can get a really good look at them.  Small eared galagos are one of my favorite animals – relatively large for a bushbaby, with incredibly soft, wooly fur, bushy tails and huge eyes that glow red in torchlight.  Apart from being very cute, they are considered to be the closest living representatives of the earliest primates.  Their form of locomotion has been retained, and you can see the subtle differences between them and other primates. 

Julien in charge of the chicken

Julien in charge of the chicken

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any good photos of the animals seen, but it was a great experience for all present.  We are going to do this a couple more times in the next couple of months hopefully, to take advantage of the season and to get some good photos of the nocturnal wildlife.  We’ll keep you updated (naturally…)

Relaxing after the night walk

Relaxing after the night walk

Close Encounters of the Small Kind

Hello again everyone

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed the last couple of blogs from some of the other members of GVI here in Kenya.  I thought I’d do this one myself, to tell you about the exciting night we had.

Last night we embarked on our second night sleeping out in Shimoni East Forest.  This being our second time, we were even better prepared (with spare batteries for the torches this time!) and had another awesome night.

We headed in at about 6pm, when the forest is bathed in that amazing orange light, and the temperature has fallen to a slightly more pleasant level.  We headed east for about half a kilometer, approximately in the middle between transect 1 and 2.  We went back to the same spot we went to last week; a rather convenient natural clearing that is (almost) devoid of coral rag.  After collecting deadwood and preparing a safe spot for our cooking fire (we want to leave as little evidence of us being there as possible), we all laid out our roll mats and made ourselves comfortable. 

The forest is such an amazing place to be as the sun is setting; you get the feeling all the creatures of the day are winding down, and you get that period of about 20 minutes where there is silence and calm.  Then once the sun has set, all the night noises begin…
After an incredible dinner of nyama choma (BBQ’d meat!), we all gathered our torches, whistles and compasses and headed off for a night walk deeper into the forest.

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A.P – A former student of the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute – getting ready to cook dinner

We were not to be disappointed!  About 5 minutes after leaving we head a noise just to the right of us.  We all spun around and shone our torches to where the sound came from, and standing right there, no more than 3.5 metres away from us, was a suni!  A Suni (Neotragus moschatus) is a tiny antelope with long, slender legs, that stands no more than 30-40cm off the ground.  It was immediately stunned by the torchlight, allowing us an unbelievably close view of a usually very shy antelope.  It then proceeded to walk slowly around the area, foraging on nearby leaves, never going more than 6 or 7 metres away from us.  We watched it in silence for at least 10 minutes.  It was, hands down, the best sighting of a suni I have ever had!

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The suni!

We carried on the walk, our spirits soaring, and were lucky enough to get a brief sighting of a small-eared galago (bushbaby), and another suni, although it simply didn’t compare to the first one!

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Its eyes reflect the torchlight

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Suni decides to start moving away

We then headed back to camp, and joined Adam (the unfortunate one who drew the short straw and had to stay back to watch the fire), where we all lay around the dying embers, and fell asleep to the sounds of the forest.

It was the second successful camp out in the forest, and I’m pretty convinced this is going to become a regular activity!
That’s all from me for now, I’ll be back soon!
Regards,
Matt