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October 23, 2017

An excursion with Japanese tourists

Insects as food
Insects as food

Although the year was bad as far as the tourism industry is concerned, we still had our diehard customers coming to the country and visiting their preferred parks. My Japanese friend and one of the most celebrated wildlife and nature photographer was in the house as usual, and this time we headed to Amboseli Park. Those who have worked in this industry will attest to the fact that the Kilimanjaro, or indeed any spectacular rise, as a hill or a mountain, is very exciting to the Japanese. I have heard from them that Mt Fuji is the most photographed nature scene in Japan. They have a special attachment to a mountain and especially one that has snow on top of it. Therefore, those who are lucky enough to come to Kenya will not miss a visit to Amboseli to view and photograph Mt Kilimanjaro – the highest lone standing mountain in the world. Everest holds the highest mountain in the world, but it is a mountain range while Kilimanjaro stands alone, though slightly lower than Everest.

We have been going to Serena but this time we were the welcome guests of Oltukai Lodge. We got the interest of the lodge because it has a direct undisturbed view of Kilimanjaro from the rooms and gardens as well. My client had a special agenda during this visit. He wanted to photograph the mountain at night, in the darkness. He also wanted to do a shoot on stars, especially shooting stars and meteorites. I have never done that myself. I may not be a professional photographer but my interest in nature photography drives me to be present and attentive when the professionals are doing something new to me. So I was in attendance to help my Japanese client to set up his cameras in readiness of shooting the night.

Finally the night came and we had to put all the lights close to the camera off. The whole lodge was as silent as a tomb. The darkness was such that I could not see more than few inches. We did not have to use the torches as this would spoil the time lapse being taken by the cameras. Yet, in such darkness, I could hear different flying insects speeding past my face and landing on the lenses of the camera. And I knew that on the grass and around where we were, on the cracks of the timber that we stood on, abundant life was going on. There were as many insects active at night as there were during the day. If we could see them, or even hear their voices, it would be deafening.

Insects have only rudimentary brains. They are guided through life by strange sensory gifts. We talk about five senses, and a sixth one that is controversial. But insects have more senses that science is yet to discover and document. Insects listen to life with two kinds of ears. Delicate hairs that are sensitive to sound waves, or tympanic membranes like our own eardrums, but distributed on many parts of their bodies. Crickets have ears on their knees! The bush crickets actually are known to have supersonic hearing. Entomologists, that is those who study the world of insects, tells us the whole outdoor world maybe ringing with an insect chorus of mating calls, whistleblowers telling of trouble, children calling parents, shouts of fear and so many interchanged messages when we think the night is silent.

As we stood there watching and listening to the slow clicks of the camera registering the pace of the stars, I knew we had enough company yet we could not see them. But they could see us clearly.

Insects see by small eyes called ocelli, situated on top of their heads, and great compound eyes on the sides. They also use a kind of all – over invisible eye – a light sense. With its eye completely covered, a light loving insect will still be able to move towards bright light without a problem. Even the dark loving insects like the crickets will move towards a dark area even with their normal eyes covered. How? By the use of the light sense. Have you ever wondered how a mosquito, in the darkest of the night, would zero in on the only uncovered part of your body and chose the closest blood vessel on your skin from which to suck blood? The world of insect is that interesting.

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