A weekend on Bird Island with friends from Kenya provided one opportunity after another to get all of us, kids included, thinking in terms of wildlife large and small.
Our visit to their neck of the woods last year took us to Tsavo National Park where we watched herds of elephants pick gigantic bouquets (trunkgays?) from vast fields of end-of-rainy-season blooms as baby giraffes clumsily cavorted under the far-distant noses of attentive mothers.
The whole of Bird Island being about the same size as the grounds of the Kilaguni Lodge, our Tsavo home-from-home, had to bring a completely different experience.
The ten-year-old in our midst was instantly taken with the tag-team of common noddies that found his family’s chalet the perfect perching point, so didn’t seem to miss at all the much larger mammalian fauna of home.
My kids are well acquainted with the local varieties of feathered friends, but with more than a million sooty terns calling Bird home for the breeding season, even two-year-old Cj was impressed, spending a good portion the first day on the island astonished by almost every single one of those more-than-a-million.
“Mommy! Mommy!” she’d shout, “Birdy … LOOK!”
Darned cute for the first, what? … eighty-five times? Just a tad tedious from then on. Thankfully, she developed an immunity by Day Two and spent more time trying to avoid stepping in bird poop.
Sam, at almost five, was in his element with the freedom a small island gives a small boy, warm and calm seas, birds and lizards and giant tortoises everywhere, and full use of Mom’s digital camera to record all the wonders. His shot of a baby fairy tern earned him our combined families’ unofficial, but so prestigious “David Attenborough Award” that came in the shape of a bowl of coconut ice cream.
By mutual agreement it was decided that Bird Island’s “Big Five” must-see counterpart to Kenya’s list — lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe and elephant — would boil down to: dolphin, whale, whale shark, ray and sea turtle. (Land creatures on Bird being habituated to humans and far too easy to ‘spot’, the challenge had to come from the sea.)
One morning out on a boat produced fine viewing of three out of the five … the whales and whale sharks not cooperating, apparently … so everyone was happy as a clam (also not seen).
We’ll be doing this again.