The next stage of the search, looking for the weird looking gerenuk, takes us inland from the lush coastal forest to the dry bush country surrounding the Taru desert. Gerenuk means "giraffe-necked" in the Somali language and in Swahili their name of "swala twiga" translates as Giraffe Antelope. Both names point to this antelope’s most outstanding characteristic its exceptionally long neck. It uses its long neck and small head to browse the higher branches of trees. At times it will stand on its hind legs, resting its forelegs on the branches to steady itself, to reach even higher and pluck leaves with its long upper lip and tongue.

The gerenuk ranges across northern Kenya, eastern Ethiopia and Somalia and it is relatively common where it occurs, although the population density is sparse. In Kenya the best places to find gerenuk are in the drier regions of Tsavo East, Meru and Samburu Parks.

The gerenuk is another example of a species fitting a specialized niche in a complex ecosystem. Although some animals do compete for the same foods, many of the different species frequently seen together do not feed on the same plants, or they eat them at different stages of growth or at different heights. Gerenuks, for example, feed at higher reaches than those of other gazelles and most antelopes. They stand erect on their hind legs, with their long necks extended, to browse on tall bushes. By using their front legs to pull down higher branches, they can reach leaves 6 to 8 feet off the ground. The tender leaves and shoots of prickly bushes and trees make up most of their diet, along with a nutritious mix of buds, flowers, fruit and climbing plants. They do not eat grass nor do they require water. As they can get enough moisture from the plant life they eat, they can survive in dry thorn-bush country and even in desert.

The centre for our search for the gerenuk will be the dry, arid thornbush of Tsavo East which is also home to a number of specialised dry-country species such as fringe-eared oryx, lesser kudu, Kirk's dik-dik and the very rare Grevy's zebra with the rocky hills around Voi also holding a good population of the highly specialised klipspringer. The Tsavo parks are also home to the Big 5 although the small population of black rhino is restricted to Tsavo West but there are large herds of elephant throughout the park.

Although Tsavo East is huge (over 11 thousand square kms) there are relatively few tracks so the animals can be quite hard to find. This is not helped by the thick bush that makes up so much of the habitat making it even harder to spot animals. One of the best areas to look for gerenuk is the stretch of road between the Voi Gate and the Aruba Dam. Gerenuk do not occupy big territories so there are several groups living close to this stretch of road and there is a very good chance of seeing them here.

The abiding memory of Tsavo East is of a vast red landscape with many of the animals tinged red by the soil. Tsavo East was also the home of the infamous Maneaters of Tsavo, a pride of lions that delayed the construction of the railway line through Kenya for several months, in the early 20th century, when they developed a taste for human flesh and started eating the workers.

We normally base ourselves at the Kenyan Wildlife Service's Ndololo campsite which, for a wild campsite, is extremely well serviced and looked after by the KWS staff. Close to Kanderi Swamp the camp is often visited by elephant and the descendants of the man-eating lions, far wilder than their more easily seen savannah counterparts, they always appear larger and more intimidating in the thick bush of Tsavo. Less problematic camp visitors such as waterbuck, dik-dik, impala and baboons also regularly pass through the site.