The so-called first rainy season of the year was a damp squib for us here at Kulafumbi. During the "long rains", that traditionally fall between April and June each year, we received all of two showers - they couldn't even qualify as storms. Meanwhile, pockets of the country were receiving bumper rains, with Nairobi and areas of northern and western Kenya literally under water at times. We watched endless storms brewing and boiling over beyond the Yatta Plateau in Tsavo's northern area, but here, as I said, we were denied. That didn't stop the Athi River coming down in a raging flood, thanks to all the upcountry rain - the highest flood, in fact, that we've seen since El Nino in 1997.
As the river rose and rose, it started to chew up and swallow sandbanks in its wake, eroding away beaches and sand flats.
The Tsavo full moon overlooks the ever-rising river.
Birds like these Yellow-billed Storks take refuge in trees as the waters keep coming.
Even the crocodiles, leaving zigzag tracks in the sand, seek refuge in dry luggas.
One almost feels sorry for the trees, like this young Tana River Poplar below our house, which cannot move but have to withstand the raging waters.
Huge chocolate-brown waves roll and roar as the water keeps rising and rising.
The river reaches its highest point on May 6th - looking upstream from our house you cannot even see the water's edge as the river intrudes right into the riverine vegetation - and completely covers our well, which you normally see when looking upstream (above). Looking downstream (below), the swollen river continues on its tumultuous course.
Remember when the riverbed looked like this, with not a drop of water flowing down it? (See my earlier blog post from 2011) - such is the contrast of Tsavo life!
At times, it feels like the river is about to flow onto our balcony - but this, in fact, is an optical illusion, as our house is set quite high above the river...but the deafening roaring noise alone (especially at night when you cannot see the river) triggers a primal instinct in you, telling you to flee...then your rational mind kicks in again, and you know that you are safe, high above the torrent.
Upstream from Kulafumbi, the river is a boiling cauldron...and even the large trees are fighting for their footing.
The main river is so high that it flows back up into the dry luggas that feed into it. Here we see the Mtito River, dry as a bone, being back-filled by the Athi until, with its tranquil mirrored water, it loses "that Kulafumbi feeling" and starts to remind you of the placid spring waters of Tsavo West.
The crocodiles immediately take advantage of the gentler surroundings.
This is a Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca), which we have never seen before (or since) at Kulafumbi.
The Black Heron has a distinctive way of fishing. By using its wings, it forms a cone of shadow over the water, into which fish swim for shelter, only to be speared by the razor bill of the heron, waiting within its feather-tent to strike.
And here's conclusive evidence of the turmoil on the main river: even the Spur-winged Plovers, the most stubborn of birds, have sought refuge inland - and what's more, they're not even bickering for a change!