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Wildlife in Diani Beach


Kingfisher, Diani Beach, KenyaThe air, in Diani Beach, smelled earthy. It was thick and humid - like you'd been licked all over by a wet, sycophantic St. Bernard. Strange, shrieking sounds punctuated the silence as we looked around in our own, private awe. The senses were on full alert in this strange and gigantic world. Enormous trees, almost as wide as they were tall, disappeared into a cloudless, blue sky. More cries and squawks echoed down from the thick-leafed coconut palms, which shook and rustled with unknown inhabitants.

Baobab tree, Kenya, Africa"This is a baobab tree," said Tanya, pointing at a huge, freak of nature, sticking out of the ground. It was the elephant of the plant world. An abomination. Legend has it that the baobabs had a raw deal:
"The baobab was among the first trees to appear on the land. Next came the slender, graceful palm tree. When the baobab saw the palm tree, it cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then the beautiful flame tree appeared with its red flower and the baobab was envious for flower blossoms. When the baobab saw the magnificent fig tree, it prayed for fruit as well. The gods became angry with the tree and pulled it up by its roots, then re-planted it upside down to keep it quiet."
And that, is exactly what it looked like! (See above photo, courtesy of Quinn Norton and Wikipedia)

Tanya guided us through her jungle garden, past the palm-fringed pool and onto the beach. I had no idea the sea was so close. It was another 'Condor' moment. I reached for a cigar;) Bleached sand, gently lapped by the lukewarm waters of the Indian Ocean, stretched farther than the eye could see. Bright red, starfish nestled close to rocks in the shallows and well-camouflaged sand dwellers scurried for cover from clumsy, approaching feet. Starfish, Diani Beach, KenyaI could have spent hours photographing one square foot of this place but I was acutely aware that, despite a new 500MB memory card, I would still be pushed for space. I replaced my lens cap and caught up with the others who were heading back to the house.

A loud, crunch underfoot stopped me in my tracks. Bits of shiny, black millipede with scarlet legs were ground into the tread of my shoe; the remainder was on the path. It wasn't necessary to glue it back together to see how big it was. It reminded me of those desert creatures in 'Return of the Jedi'. And, apparently, it Giant millipede, Diani Beach, Kenyawas harmless, but its size and colouring suggested otherwise. I soon came to realise that Africa has much the same insects as us (plus one or two others, of course) but there's one major difference; everything is at least three times the size!

"Claire! Quick, look at this," came the familiar, hysterical tone. Screams and exclamations were now commonplace. They emanated from the garden, toilet, bathroom. This time it came from outside the back door.
I couldn't see what Emma was pointing at.
"Up there!" she said, excitedly.
Something with the appearance of a huge, yellow fisherman's net
Yellow orb weaver, Diani Beach, Kenyastretched from the north side of Tanya's house across to the neighbour's side - approximately 30ft high and wide.
"Where?" I asked. "On that net thing?"
She looked at me as if I'd spoken Urdu via Semaphore.
"That 'net thing'," she said - and I really didn't like her tone of look - "is its web!"
It was one of those 'can't see the wood for the trees' moments. I was trying to see something a quarter of the size. I was probably looking at its toenail. The mist suddenly lifted. I was horrified. The biggest spider in the universe was living next door. It looked like a tree. It had long, elegant, red and black legs and a yellow thorax. How would I sleep?
"It's a Yellow Orb Weaver," said Tanya "and it's harmless." That was the second time she'd said that in less than 15 minutes and I was beginning to doubt her integrity.

That evening, we sat on the veranda, drinking, chatting and watching with delight as the monkeys did Tarzan swings from tree to tree.
Monkey in tree Some had babies clinging to them. The shy colobus monkey made the odd, appearance, as did the equally shy and elusive bush baby. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be experiencing all this. We must have seen everything there is, in just one day, I thought...until something soared vertically past my nose and landed with a soft thud on my thigh. I stopped breathing. I couldn't look down - so I stared straight ahead like a maniac. Suddenly all hell let loose; my addled brain ordered my eyeballs south which, in turn, sent my backside rocketing north, resulting in pina colada flying north-east. The only thing still in position was the huge, black thing stuck to my leg! "Arrrrggggghhhh! What is it?" I screamed. Whatever it was, it was clinging on tight! I started to take off my trousers, when Tanya calmly reached out a hand.
"Oh, that's just a rhinoceros beetle," she said, gently prying the giant, velcro rhinoceros beetle from my trouser leg.
Photo: Rhinoceros Beetle, Diani Beach, Kenya "What do you mean, just? Look at it!" I cried indignantly, zipping up my trousers.
Tanya smiled: "It's harm-"
"Harmless - yeah, we know!"
It's funny how much better you feel when you're on first name terms, I mused, necking the remains of somebody else's pina colada. Read on.....


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