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  1. 23 likes
    MARRICK DAY 2 NIGHTDRIVE Oh man, this night was even more chilly. A cold wind swept across the grass plains. The animals seemed not to care about it as much as I did though... No Smith´s red rock hares today on the rocky outcrops close to lodge. Yesterday they were many and today none. Maybe they didn´t like the cold wind after all. The first creature was an Spotted eagle owl. The second creature of the night was an Aardwolf. The one we missed yesterday. Only very brief sighting of it as it run away on a big distance back into the darkness. Only 10 minutes afterwards there was another Aardwolf! This time much better sighting. Still big distance and a skittish animal who just wanted to escape in the grass but it was a satisfying lifer for me. Unfortunately no pictures worth posting of it. Then we stumbled on probably the same male Black footed cat as yesterday. This time we approached it. To see if it were cooperative. It was very relaxed and I got the pictures I so much wanted. Couldn´t wish for a better Black footed cat sighting than this. A beautiful creature. It was so relaxed that it eventually started to sneak for prey in the grass instead of looking at us. Maybe for prey like this one, a Gerbil mouse or Large eared mouse as it is also called. We saw a couple of them this second night. A "stone" was moving in the grass. That means Aardvark. Jonnhy, my guide, spotted another one for me this night. First in the high grass, but we saw it was moving towards the road and waited for him to come out... ...Which it did. Another great Aardvark sighting! Also around 10 Bat eared foxes and 30-50 Springhares this night. Another creature who seemed to like the cold night was porcupines. Three of them showed themselves this night. Only brief sightings when they quickly moved into the grass and disappeared. No pictures. The last eyeshine of this night was another Black footed cat! This time a smaller female. She was on her lookout point over the plains. They are almost like mini-cheetahs. Very much like to get up on termite mounds for better visibility. Quite big distance and we did not do an attempt to approach as we were more than happy with our first sighting of them. The 3 hour nightdrive session was over and the summary this night were: 2 Black footed cat (1 Male and 1 Female) 1 Aardvark 2 Aardwolf 3 Porcupine 2 Gerbil mouse (Large eared mouse) 10 Bat eared foxe 30-50 Springhare One nightdrive left and the only missing thing now was a decent photo of the Aardwolf...
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    MARRICK DAY 2 Mokala NP is 1½ hour away from Marrick and this is wehere I spent this morning and afternoon. Mokala NP is South Africa´s newest nationalpark established in 2007. A beautiful park with different environments from rocky areas, to plains, forest and lowland bushes. A great potential for a wide range of species. No big cats in the park... so far. They do talk about introduce Cheetah... They are also in a process to expand the park even more. Also very quite. It seems like Mokala NP lies off the radar for most people. Trevor at Marrick easily organize a trip here if you want to go. He have a retired friend, an enthusiastic birder with a great knowledge of the park, who is more than happy to bring you here. Tsessebe´s walking away in the morning light. Black wildebeest´s thriving in this park. Actually they were a lifer for me so I gave them some extra notice. Walking in gold... Red Hartebeest and Zebra also thriving here. My guide showed me a Barn owl nest with some youngsters inside. Barn owl, also a lifer for me... very strange when I think about it. Roan Antelopes are also introduced here. Even though it´s outside their natural habitat. Both White and Black Rhinos exists in Mokala, the latter is very rarely seen though. I saw a few White Rhino´s this day. Nyala Family drinking... I asked my guide if there is any Meerkats around this park and I barely open my mouth before he said.... "there they are!" A quite skittish Meerkat colony looked at us as we watched them. As in Marrick, Bat eared foxes were very cooperative. We stumbled upon two different couples during my day. Funny looking when they leans back their ears like this... Some other small carnivores... Black backed jackal lurking around a waterhole. Yellow mongoose´s on the hunt... The beautiful Oryx and the "stand still like a stone"-Steenbok were in the area as well. There is some +150 species of birds in Mokala but probably more than that as the birdlist is very much incomplete due to the fact that the park is only 10 years old. We looked a bit for the Pygme Falcon as they are quite common here but unfortunately didn´t find it. The world´s most numerous bird, Red billed quelea was however present in very good numbers... Here sipping for a drink. In some sort of a bird-mayhem they went back and forward to drink. Three banded plover was not very happy with their low numbers compared to the Quelea and started to make more... Didn´t had any expectations at all about Mokala as it was a blank paper for me. But it was a very pleasant day with a great guide and a beautiful, quiet park. If you are in Marrick I do recommend a visit here. Now time to go back for my second nightdrive. I still have some species to tick off. Especially Aardwolf.
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    Second part of the tour we have visited the AfriCat learning and research centre. Our guide (whos name I have also forgot) explained us about what are AfriCat missions. Last stop was at the cafe; as said in the opening, Okonjima has a very varied landscape and enough of wildlife to warrant a night or two, best at the start of the tour of Namibia. Explaining the project View from the cafe Short-toed Rock-thrush Large male kudu Surprised waterbuck ... but we were even more surprised to see it! That's it, folks! Only 220 km to Windhoek, on a boring B1 tar road, drop-off the rental car and shake hands with George, the garage manager, and yet another trip to Africa and Namibia has ended. B1 and construction of a new road on the left side Zero malfunctions zero damages zero flat tires ... thumbs up!
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    Day 22: The Oldest Thing On Planet Earth There is a pretty good reason why most of the people that were already in Namibia recommends to do the clockwise route if Etosha is on itinerary; anything after exiting the wonders of Etosha is like a huge anticlimax! To cope with this feeling I have followed the advice of a wise man. Thank you, @Galana ! After Namutoni we did not took the quickest way towards Otjiwarongo (our next stop) but we decided to visit the site where one can see and touch the oldest thing on Planet Earth: the Hoba meteorite. We have started quite early, after doing our last roof top tent excise, and on the way to Hoba we have stooped at Grootfontein. This is described as a small town but it is not that small at all! I have read somewhere that there is a nice cafe to have your brunch or lunch: The Purple Fig Cafe. The name is catchy but the place was hard to find despite three different navigation maps used. As a last resort I went back to the roots: slowly cruising one street and then the next one and finally we were lucky to spot the place. It looks like a small oasis, and it serves some good sweets and decent burgers. We all have been very please with our 8 nights in Etosha; we have seen almost all of the animals that one can usually see, but the leopard. So Tanja took pity of me lamenting the bad karma I have, and he draw me one! The Hoba Meteorite site is another green oasis, with plenty of trees surrounding the meteorite, and even the braai places for visitors. The meteorite itself is an impressive sight. Many trees have made a bird haven and birding was unexpectedly good. Looking down for birds ... Green-winged Pytilla ... and after seeing this warning ... ... one looks up for birds ... Village Weaver female ... and down ... Violets-Eared Waxbill female ... and Ups, not a bird here ... and up ... Scarlet-chested Sunbird ... but by now you've got the idea !
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    A returm to Zambia. The Luangwa and Zambezi rivers Victoria Falls as, hopefully, the climax to my visit. Meaning a first, all be it quick, visit to Zimbabwe I later realised that 2017 was also the 10th anniversary of my first ever safari. All in all not a bad way to celebrate it! My schedule was as follows: 1 night Pioneer Camp Lusaka 4 nights Tafika Camp, South Luangwa National Park 4 nights Amanzi Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park 1 night Pioneer Camp Lusaka 2 nights Ilala Lodge Victoria Falls The trip was again booked through Africa Travel Resource and my contact there Anneli. Once again everything was arranged perfectly. I think the most difficult bit was trying to get the various bits of the trip to fit together particularly in the right order. Lots of puzzing of heads and trying to find 4 nights in each camp. Eventually I had to put a night in Pioneer camp in the middle of my trip. Not ideal but it meant I didn't have to change my itinerary around and start at the Falls or have private charters for flights. Ths trip was already blowing my budget, private charters were just not possible (unless I robbed a bank, and I didn't really want to do that) I added a night at Pioneer at the beginning just in case my international flights were delayed. I didn't want a re-run of last year's trip to Meru and the delayed Nairobi flight. I wanted to return to South Luangwa as I had really enjoyed my trip there a couple of years ago and also I wanted to see it in another season. Last visit was at the beginning of November, this time my visit would be at the end of June, There would be a difference, not only in temperature! Advice from ATR was to combine it with the Lower Zambezi, to give a contrast in lansdscape, flora etc. I readily agreed as I hadn't been to that park before. There would also be a contrast in camps: Tafika, rustic, a long running camp, far far out in the Northern sector of South Luangwa, very much an old style camp for the safari purist; Amanzi a new camp, not too short on extras, it even had a pool, no roughing it here! At the end of the trip I defined the contrasting camps as hardcore safari and safari light. Only the camps themselves.......the parks and the wildlife where just as good at both locations. So that was the planning and the hopes and ideas for the trip. Now you are asking what happened when I got there? Short answer...... a stupendous trip! It really was special. Fantastic wildlife. There is still something I love about the Luangwa river which I cannot explain, which is going to keep drawing me back. Lower Zambezi was a great park; completely agree with ATR that it gave a good contrast to South Luangwa. And finally the falls which basically blew my mind! Wildlife wise there were 2 BIG highlights. Still undecided if I should give you all a clue, maybe add a photo here or make you all wait till I get there in this report. I will have a think about it, but I am still erring on making you all wait But as mentioned in the title there was lots of water involved in this trip therefore end of post 1 will be a few photos of the rivers and falls. Luangwa River The Zambezi Victoria Falls
  6. 20 likes
    Can I just say, I absolutely loved Cape Town and would return in an instant. I arrived mid morning direct from Heathrow on British Airways. The flight was fine and I actually got a decent amount of sleep. After dealing with immigration formalities, where I had difficulty with the fingerprinting machine (to the point where I think the officer was getting frustrated with me), I quickly picked up my luggage and met my transfer. It took about 40 minutes to drive to the hotel. During this time, I asked the driver various questions about South Africa and he pointed out some sights along the way. It was a sunny warm day and I immediately decided that after I dumped my bags, I would head straight to Table Mountain. I had read how difficult it can sometimes be to visit due to crowds and worse, due to cloud cover. It can be perfectly sunny in the morning and then the clouds roll in and surround the mountain and the new you can't see anything. So as a piece of advice, if you are thinking of going, head straight there at the first opportunity so you don't miss out. I bought my ticket ahead of time from home. You pick the day you want to go and then the ticket is valid for 7 days. Easy peasy! I figured that one day out of the several I would spend here would have good weather. I checked into my hotel, was given a quick tour, had a quick shower as my room was ready and then I had the reception arrange a taxi to the mountain. While I was waiting, I took some photos of the spectacular scenery around the hotel. On arrival at the mountain, I arranged for the same taxi to come pick me up in a few hours. In hindsight, I wish I had allowed myself more time. I just loved it and there was so much to see. Luckily, I didn't waste much time getting to the top. Having my ticket in hand meant I didn't have to stand in line to purchase and could head to the cable car for the flight to the top. The flora, fauna, vistas are just spectacular. I walked and walked. There are lots of lovely trails. I also spent some time chatting to a guy from Australia who I was standing beside on the cable car. It was his first trip also. I took lots of photos and got the rock hyrax and even a sunbird. I was thrilled to bits. This may not be exciting to some, but I had been dreaming if Africa for some time and I was going to enjoy every little thing. i had no trouble finding the taxi and headed back to the hotel. I was then informed that there was a surprise waiting in the hotel bar. My friend and travel agent had arranged tea for me. OMG! There was so much food and so many desserts. I have a friend at home who always complains that I never share my dessert, but I could have easily shared this. I had to take some back to my room. I stayed in the bar to watch the sunset, which in August, is quite early in the evening. I can't figure out how to get the text in between the photos for captions. They are in order: Table Mountain from the Waterfront View of Cape Town taken from plane on landing The Twelve Apostles View of Signal Hill Cable Car to the top View of the mountain Hyrax surveying the territory Pretty Flowers Beautiful Vista Sunbird Tea with a view
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    Thank you. Michael's bravery in dealing with discomfort will surface again. Bale's hauntingly beautiful habitat Bale (pronounced BAH lay) The most endangered canine in the world, the Ethiopian Wolf, drew us to Ethiopia, then the rest of the itinerary followed. While Ethiopian Wolves live in six areas of the country, Bale is the most popular park for wolves because of both the numbers of wolves and wolf sightings. There is a more detailed map on page 13 of this study from several years ago, pre-2015 distemper outbreak and pre-2014 rabies outbreak. https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/2011-090.pdf Ethiopian wolf stalking in Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountain National Park Tragically, between July 2015 and March 2016 about half of the wolf population in Bale was wiped out due to distemper transmitted by domestic dogs. That brought the wolf population down to around 100 in Bale and 350 total wolves throughout Ethiopia, according to Abiy’s estimations. That is similar to numbers from the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme; they put the Bale population at around 130. A Sept 5, 2016 National Geographic article gave the total number of Ethiopian wolves as about 500. Other sources note 400-450. But when any of those #s were established is important because they may omit the loss from distemper. Ethiopian wolf stalking in Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountain National Park There are many dogs in the villages that have been erected inside the park. We even saw a domestic dog that had made it all the way to the Senetti Plateau. Very unsettling. A population of 20,000 people has permanent residence in the park but that doubles in the wet season when up to 160,000 head of livestock roam the park. People, cattle, and especially the dogs (rabies, distemper, risk of possible inbreeding in the future) take a toll on the wolves. Rira was the largest town within the park boundaries and we passed through it each day when we traveled between Bale Mountain Lodge and the Sanetti Plateau. There were homes, a school, a mosque, shops, businesses, restaurants, even billboards advertising the restaurants. Water on the plateau, Bale Mountain National Park - Ruddy shelducks and Blue-winged goose Rabies is also a threat that has swept through the wolf populations in 1991, 2003, 2008, and 2014. An oral vaccine was developed and administered in 2016 that had an 86% success rate in providing wolves that ate the bait with immunity from rabies according to Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme. Injecting the wolves was also done but that’s more time consuming and costly. Thousands of domestic dogs have also been vaccinated against rabies, but there too many dogs for the vaccine to ever remove the rabies risk for wolves. Unlike the rabies vaccine, there has not been a vaccine developed for distemper. Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountain National Park The future of the wolves may depend on the implementation of Bale’s 10-year General Management Plan (the previous 10-year plan spanned 2007-2017) that was in progress during our visit. I’ve tried to get the results since returning home, without success. Maybe it is still in progress. There was speculation that Bale Mountains (on the “tentative list” for World Heritage status) may propose a policy like the Simien Mountains (a World Heritage Site since 1978), which has translocated some villages and is continuing the efforts. Bale Monkeys in Harenna Forest and Ethiopian Wolf drinking at a distance in Sanetti Plateau, Bale Mountain National Park Near Bale Mountains National Park entrance and Gaysay Grasslands (roadkill is civet) Approaching the Bale Mountains National Park entrance and Gaysay Grasslands
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    Day 24: About RTT, morning exercise, and Two Cats on a hot Tin Roof Day 24 was actually the day that we have flown back home. Yet I feel obliged to discuss more about Roof Top Tents and related morning (and evening) exercises. Here it is, in 9 acts. Act 1 Act 2 Act 3 Act 4 Act 5 Act 6 Act 7 Act 8 And what about the two cats and the roof?! Lets reveal the mystery, shall we?! That is our story in 655 photos and some words. We have had great fun during the trip, and we thank you all past, present and future readers for each and every like! See you again in about 3 months. Bye, bye!
  12. 18 likes
    While they do help reintroducing also leopards, cheetah are their main "target animal". The guide told us all the numbers but I have forgot most of them. What striked me though, was a relatively low number of adult animals that are released into the larger Okonjima territory, and even lower number of cheetah that are reintroduced to places elsewhere, like Etosha. As day visitors we did board a game drive vehicle and were transported to where majority of cheetah are kept. They are fed with mostly a donkey meat; and they are mostly living in pairs. Thus we have been driven inside of of those "living rooms" and have spent some time with two cheetahs. They must have been there for a while as they seemed to be well acquainted to the humans. That gave us some excellent photo opportunities. In comparison to the cheetah we have seen in the wild (Etosha and Kgalagadi) these two exemplars were like bodybuilders. Well fed, muscular, from a distance a silhouette of a leopard; but also here I cannot but to notice kind of sad expression in their eyes. Or is it only my imagination?? Or maybe it was me, being sad that yet another fantastic trip has come to an end??? Welcoming visitors Sad eyes Annoyed by something (or someone?) Friends for life Breakfast was delicious Playing with the tail Stretching the muscles Good bye, and good luck!
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    Day 23: Sadness in the Eyes We woke up into our last full day in Namibia. In 2014 Zvezda and me have visited the CCF - Cheetah Conservation Fund. This year we wnet to see the AfriCat Foundation. Both dedicates their effort to save cheetah in the wild. AfriCat has its main "office" within the much larger Okonjima Nature Reserve. It is about 30 minutes south of Otjiwarongo, and thus only about 2 1/2 hrs from Windhoek. As from recently there are accommodations also at CCF, yet it is hard to believe they are on the same level as those at Okonjima. I am no fan of luxury when in the wild, so it was good to learn there is also a campsite there. Finding Okonjima (and AfriCat) is easy; there was no need for advanced booking of a tour yet I did call the office in the morning anyway. While guests of the Okonjima can do the game drives in the larger area of the Reserve, day visitors to AfriCat can only do the game drive within smaller enclousures where the cheetah are kept during the "rehabilitation" process. I am no fan of such places. It is very hard for me to find that fine red line where the conservancy ends and business starts. But putting that aside, I have found Okonjima to be very "photogenic" place, and a good place to be introduced to the wildlife of Namibia. Main sign along the B1 road Monteiro's Hornbill with a critter First gate to Okonjima ... ... and second gate to AfriCat A group of Banded Mongoose ... ... and another curious giraffe
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    Abiy and Michael on Sanetti Plateau Ethiopian wolf on Sanetti Plateau The Sanetti Plateau is home to the wolves, but that’s in large part because it is home to the endemic Giant Mole Rat, which makes up over 95% of the wolves' diet. We definitely found the morning hours before 10 am to be best for the GMRs. The popularity of these Giant Mole Rats with the wolves made them very shy and therefore hard to photograph. Sanetti Plains, Bale Mountain National Park Michael stalking the wily Giant Mole Rat Blick's rats live in Sanetti Plateu too Sanetti Plateau. Vegetation:Hillycrisum in clumps on the ground Lobelia (small plams) Sanetti Plateau It took about 1.5-2 hours to reach the Sanetti Plateau from Bale Mountain Lodge. While we did view some of the wolves on foot, the best sightings and photos were from the car. The wolves are more comfortable with vehicles than people. Our first evening we saw 2 wolves together, the most we would see in close proximity throughout our visit. Note the blue ear tag on the left, indicating the wolf had been vaccinated for rabies. When we saw cows, we became watchful for wolves. The wolves follow the cows because they scare up the rodents as they graze. Our Bale wolf sightings were 2 on our eve of arrival, 12, 2, and 6. The earliest we found wolves was about 10:10 am and the latest about 5:10 pm. Abiy said our number of sightings is about what would be expected. For us, about average added up to "Happy Satisfaction!" I made a special request of Abiy to try to find an endemic Stark’s Hare on our last pass through the Sanetti Plateau as we departed Bale. The greater challenge was not for him to find the rabbits, but to have me see these camouflaged creatures. 2 Stark's Hares on the Sanetti Plateau. Also pictured is one of many "wolf rocks." The red color looks just like the wolves. Endemic Stark's Hare on Sanetti Plateau. There it is, Abiy, I see it! The blowing fur shows how windy it was on the plateau.
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    So early is when you saw the greeting. That's right you also saw klipspringers! I don't recall seeing any in Bale. Maybe the guys saw some. In fact a couple of times Abiy noted that the fire that had killed Biniyam Adamsu had wiped out some of the better klipspringer habitat. And my memory was refreshed on why the Ethiopian Wolf crossed the road. The Harenna Forest at the southern end of the park is where Bale Mountain Lodge sits. We did a 6 km 3 hour and 45-minute forest walk, leaving right from the lodge, with Abiy and a local guide. 7:45 am to 11:15 am. We were hoping for the Bale Monkey, but no sign of them. Our luck with the wolves seemed not to extend to the Bale Monkeys. At the lodge we’d hear others talk about how 20 Bale Monkeys suddenly emerged from the forest and romped animatedly near their vehicle before crossing the road in front of them. People were toasting their monkey sightings! Endemic Bale Monkey (part of a trip we eventually found) near Harrena Forest in Bale Mountains National Park We tried several locations with bamboo stands (their preferred food and over 3/4 of their diet) and managed to glimpse one Bale Monkey near the ground briefly as the light was fading. Then we got a quick snap of another lone Bale monkey on a fence in Rira on a walk. In addition to a lone monkey we enjoyed Menelik's Bushbuck, Colobus, waterfalls, and birds all on foot. Bale Monkey, 1st one..........................................Menelik's Bushbuck...................................Emerald Cuckoo, all seen on walk near Rira, a town within Bale Mountain National Park Emerald Cuckoo on walk near Rira, a town within Bale Mountain National Park @AndMic photographing a mini-waterfall and then 2 proper waterfalls on walk near Rira, a town within Bale Mountain National Park White-cheeked turacao and Menelik's Bushbuck on walk near Rira, a town within Bale Mountain National Park During our Bale Monkey searches the Colobus monkeys were fairly abundant, though not as easily viewed as in Lake Langano. I started feeling guilty when movement in the trees was determined to be Colobus, not Bale Monkeys, and our sentiment was a disappointed, “Darn, more Colobus.” To think how many of us make a special effort to try to see Colobus and here we were, disappointed at yet another Colobus, not a Bale Monkey. Colobus Monkey on walk near Rira, a town within Bale Mountain National Park As we drove along near Rira, Abiy decided to start asking the “man on the street” if any Bale Monkeys had been spotted. One guy responded that there were some in the trees near an overturned truck in the direction we were headed. The guy then handed us a water bottle to take to the truck driver who was fortunately only thirsty and not injured. Abiy’s and Bege’s reaction at this promising news was endearing. They did a drum roll karate chop on the dashboard in excitement. The monkeys had moved but we found them and spent about an hour with these shy creatures. There are 500-1000 of these endemic Bale monkeys and fortunately no known diseases and few predators threaten them. People in the area know these monkeys are endemic and don’t harass them and leave the bamboo for them. The monkeys had moved but we found them and spent about an hour with these shy creatures. There are 500-1000 of endemic Bale Monkeys and fortunately no known diseases and few predators threaten them. People in the area are aware these monkeys are endemic and don’t harass them and leave the bamboo for them. Endemic Bale Monkeys, all viewed on foot, about 20 minutes by car from Bale Mountain Lodge in Herrena Forest Bale Mountain Lodge was comfortable with friendly staff, some of whom were new at this kind of work, and great food. We found the less private and secluded rooms near the lounge to be very convenient. View from Bale Mountain Lodge In front of lodge -- viewing platform at lodge. I did not bounce around on the platform or even stay more than a couple of minutes. Bale Mountain Lodge - our rooms were closest to the main circular lodge, about where the cows are. My room in left photo. View from the room about a 5-10 minute walk into the forest. We all visited this empty room and a couple of us enjoyed the balcony. No bugs. @michael-ibk spent little time on the balcony and was romping up and down the slopes like a Menelik's Bushbuck and I think he may even have seen one.
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    In early July 2017, the missus and I spent four days at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Alaska. Access to McNeil River is via permit only, with permits issued following an annual lottery held in mid-March. Only 10 guided permits are issued for each four-day permit block. For the past five years, only 3% of applicants for our time block, July 5 through 9, won a permit. As first-time applicants, I guess we got lucky. Over the next few weeks, as I pour through and process way too many images, I'll try to give a summary of the sights for those who may be interested in visiting some day. What we were there to see, of course, was brown bears, like this fellow with a chum salmon: In the next installment, I'll try to provide a little more background and give an overview of the location and the practices in place to enable safe, close-encounter viewing of very large furry critters. -tom a.
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    So now we come to the point at which we'll actually see some bears. I've processed very few images, however, and those that I've processed I've looked at only on a 13-inch screen (rather than the 27-inch screen, which may be less forgiving). So, for now, I'll post just a few wide-angle shots to give people a sense of the land. Here's (I think) essentially my first view of the falls: This shot is taken at about 22mm, so it's clear we're going to end up pretty close to the bears at the falls. If you look closely, in just about the center of the image, you can see the upper viewing pad. That pad (and a second pad, just below it) are where humans live every day of the summer, and where bears are not allowed. As crazy as that sounds, somehow it seems to work. When approaching the falls, the group gathers at the point at which the trail first pops into view of the falls, in order to give the bears a view of what's about to join them. After a minute or two, and assuming there's no particular bear activity on the trail, the group moves down to the upper pad. Jumping ahead a bit, here's the view from the upper pad: This shot is at 18mm so, again, one gets a sense of the proximity. The chairs (I think also provided by Friends of McNeil River), are stored in a cave just below the upper pad; the cave forms the backdrop for the lower pad, which is the better location for close-up shots, but which receives little or no direct sun for most of the day. The group splits into two, with half starting the day on the lower pad, then switching places with those on the upper pad for the second half of the day. This shot, taken on the lower pad, gives a pretty good feel for proximity. This is at 19 mm: You'll notice bears to the immediate right of, and immediately below, the pad. Trails ringed three sides of the lower pad (with a cave behind, on the fourth side), making for lots of close views throughout the day. Again, a major aspect of this arrangement is that the bears EXPECT humans to be here, and therefore (apparently) aren't too bothered by them. I'll point out the bear in the water closest to the pad, moving from right to left. This bear became a favorite of the group (perhaps for anthropomorphic reasons), and you'll see an image or two of her later. And here's another wide-angle shot from the lower pad (at 10 mm), which gives some perspective to the set-up, in which two fold-up chairs form a visual barricade ("bearicade"?), a seemingly ridiculous tactic, but which seems to work: Similarly, here's a shot from the upper pad, in which bears (and people) mill about: Well, I guess I have to start processing images shot with the other camera, so I'll leave you with this image taken on the trail back to camp at the end of the day. With sunset at bout 11:30 p.m., the late evening light typically was fairly nice: More later.
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    At 2,150 sq sm or 830 sq miles, Bale is almost 1.5 times the size of Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and contains a variety of habitats. Map of Bale Mountains National Park Visitors first encounter the Gaysay Grasslands in the north, that make up a tiny part of the park. This is good habitat for the endemic Mountain Nyala and our first sightings of it were here. A paved road cuts through the grassland, leaving about 5 km on either side. Young male, female in the herd, youngster with a fluffy snow white white tail. Endemic Mountain Nyala in Gaysay Grassland region of Bale Mountains National Park. Endemic Rouget's Rail, with an equally fluffy snow white tail in Gaysay Grassland retiong of Bale Mountains National Park Dinsho, the park headquarters, is located at this northern end of the park in Grassland and Juniper Woodland. Abiy arranged a very enjoyable couple of hours walk for us, escorted by one of the Dinsho rangers, to look for mammals and owls. Female Mountain Nyala (endemic) enjoy yellow wild tomato-like fruits, which are poisonous to humans. Seen on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. Abyssinian long eared owl (2) and Verreaux's eagle owl - on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. Michael got more photos of an Africa wood owl as well. The ranger very obligingly climbed some of the trees--before we knew what was even happening--to better point out the owls to us. Endemic Mountain Nyala, viewed on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. The boys. Endemic Mountain Nyala, viewed on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. The whole family. Endemic Mountain Nyala, viewed on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. 2 endemics--Mountain Nyala in background and Melenik's Bushbuck in foreground--viewed on foot near Dinsho, park headquarters, of Bale Mountains National Park. There was a moving tribute and memorial at Dinsho to Biniyam Admasu, a young conservationist, just 33, who had died two years earlier fighting a fire in Bale. At Dinsho, Park Headquarters Dinsho and the nearby Gaysay Grasslands and Juniper Forest were about 2.5 hours driving from Bale Mountain Lodge. We discussed an itinerary change that would allow exploration of this area with less driving. Our 5 days in Bale could have rearranged to 2 nts Dinsho Lodge 3 nts Bale (this would flow from lower to higher grade accommodation) Or 3 nts Bale 2 nts Dinsho Lodge (this would flow down hill from higher grade to low grade accommodation) Or even 1 nt Dinsho Lodge 3 nts Bale 1 nt Dinsho Lodge For the drive between Dinsho and Bale, the timing could maximize hours spent in the Sanetti Plateau, which is between Dinsho and Bale. The wolves come out about 10:00 am and are active throughout the day until around sunset. But early morning is not a good time to look for wolves. I have looked up the drive times from Addis to Dinsho (about 6.5 hours) vs. Addis to Bale Mountain Lodge (about 9 hours). Driving Addis to Dinsho or vice-versa in a day is more doable than Addis-Bale Mountain Lodge. @Safarichick can weigh in on that trip! Now, Dinsho Lodge cannot even compare to the level of comfort at Bale Mountain Lodge, the food, the view, the atmosphere, etc. which is something to consider as well. Here are a few quick snaps of the lodge taken after we ate lunch outside in the “courtyard.” Dining room, 2 types of bdms, the shared toilet down the hall. Not sure where the shower was. Dinsho Lodge in the north of the park. We did not stay here, just took some pics.
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    As we headed back towards Salen Ringed Plover (we also saw another distant otter in this loch. White-tailed Eagle being mobbed by Hooded Crows - great to see the eagle in flight Another Red Deer The light was fading a little, We saw a small group using binoculars and long lenses, scanning from a parking spot. We pulled in and were very excited to see Short-eared owl, crossing the ground hunting. This was the first time I have seen one of these birds. A real treat. We headed back towards Salen as we had a meal booked at the very good Meditteranea restaurant. But we still had time to see another red deer by the side of the road to round off a great day.
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    Birds of the afternoon : Black-shouldered kite. Lilac-breasted rollers. Helmeted guinea fowls, juveniles and adult. African fish eagle in the teaks with, it won’t hurt for once, something different in its claws, in this case a francolin.
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    I won't delve too deeply into the history of the McNeil River sanctuary, as I understand it only superficially. The sanctuary was established 50 years ago by the state government, and eventually a system emerged under which small groups, admitted by permit only and escorted by Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) personnel, have been able to observe brown bears in quite close proximity during the summer. The system is based on repetitive, predictable behavior by visitors. Over time, the bears have (largely) come to accept human visitors as a regular component of the local environment. I have bumped into grizzlies and black bears previously while backpacking, but I had never before come so close to any bear as large as these coastal browns. It's really quite an experience, and it's funny how quickly one becomes accustomed to being so close to the bears. For the official state summary on the McNeil River sanctuary (including the permit application process), see this link: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=mcneilriver.main This map, from the link above, shows the general area: The sanctuary is adjacent to Katmai National Park, home of the sockeye salmon that so famously jump into the open mouths of waiting bears at Brooks Falls. For most visitors to McNeil River, the jumping off point is the town of Homer, about 100 miles (162 km, for some of you!) across Cook Inlet. Effectively, access is only via float plane. For domestic visitors, the float plane is typically the most expensive aspect of the trip, with a price tag of $700 - $800 round trip per person between Homer and McNeil River. Planes will land only at high tide, and only on daytime high tides of at least a certain level, which can impact the dates on which one is able to get into the sanctuary. The 10 lucky permit winners in our group all flew from Homer, and all with the same company, which used two planes: a de Havilland Otter and a Cessna 206: After the hundred-mile flight, one arrives over the sanctuary: If seas are calm enough, planes will land in McNeil Cove (allowing a short carry of gear to the camp); in rougher weather, they opt for the more protected lagoon, located behind a spit. In the image above, the camp is just visible to the left of the aircraft's strut. To the right of the strut, McNeil River enters the lagoon from the right, while the smaller Mikfik Creek enters from the upper left. In this image, the Otter has already landed in the cove, and our Cessna is just beginning its downward spiral. Upon arrival, the first order of business is unloading the planes. Here's the Otter discharging its load: For those interested, we (two people) were allowed a total of 520 pounds (about 236 kg), including our body weight. Basically, this is a camping trip, so one must bring tents, sleeping bags and pads, clothing for various possibilities, waders for crossing the lagoon, food and drink, camera gear, etc. In our case, we weighed in at about 493 pounds. More in the next post.
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    110) Lanner Falcon Edelvalk Falco biarmicus Rostock Ritz and Kgalagadi, April. This will probably be my last post here for a week or so. At 12h30 today, I am off on my first ever photographic assignment. Hopefully there will be a few birds along the way!
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    This is what silence looks like One my the most amazing and thought provoking safari moments. The waterhole is floodlit at night. In the late evening I sat there with cicadas providing a constant backround hum but uncannily going quiet as soon as one stood up. One morning I woke up a little early and arrived at the lodge which was still dark - no coffee yet. I wandered down to the waterhole and sat. For 10 minutes nothing moved - the wind had died completely. There was absolutely no sound. The cicadas finish early round here. I sat and enjoyed the complete absence of noise - although after a minute or two this seems deafening in its own right. Finally a lion roared in the distance. Without too much over analysis this was a unique and very special experience for me.
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    At Shumba, at the end of the afternoon, the hamerkops were, like the previous days, busy hunting frogs. As soon as the sun went down, it was no longer along the road but rather over the pan, a little like the skimmers do. The following three pictures have been strongly over-processed. They were originally completely missed, but perhaps they are still? At night, the serval was back. This sighting was better than the day before.
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    Okay, let's finish up. After all, how many photos of yet another bear eating yet another salmon can one look at? The answer, of course, is "a few more." I'll jump back and forth with a few unrelated images below, before finishing up with a couple of final thoughts. I mentioned previously the different fishing techniques of different bears. Now, I don't know that the fellow immediately below was the best fisher, but he certainly seemed the most efficient. Meet Brave Heart: Brave Heart's technique was both simple and elegant: Sit down in the middle of the river, facing downstream, such that an eddy formed immediately in front of him. Then, he'd wait until a fish swam into that eddy, and he would scoop it up, moving only his head and front paws. On consecutive days, one of the people in our group kept track of how many fish Brave Heart caught while we were there. The total? Twenty-six each day (just while we were there). Wow. Occasionally, another bear would come along and try to fish in the same eddy, which didn't seem to bother Brave Heart too much. Other bears had identifiably characteristic behavior as well. One of the rangers noted that if two adult males were play sparring, one of them likely would be a bear known as Mask. Immediately below, we have an older, larger bear, known as Aardvark, on the left, and Mask, on the right: In the next image, the smaller Mask works the body of his larger playmate: I think I learned a lot about bear behavior on this trip. I'm still precessing how much of that knowledge is applicable elsewhere, however. When hiking or backpacking in grizzly country, which I've done quite a few times, one of the cardinal rules is: don't come anywhere near a mother and her cubs. At McNeil River, however, one ends up in situations like the following, which is no big deal, at least there: These bears, walking in a constricted area on the edge of the lagoon (there's a rock wall off-screen to the right), are heading straight toward us and now are not more than 10 meters from us. The cubs (referred to as "COY"s, for "cub of the year," meaning they were born earlier this year) are clearly a little wary, as this is their first season, and thus their first season of experience with humans. The mother, however, is quite relaxed and calm; rather than turn around or head out into the water to bypass us, she simply walks ahead, and the cubs follow her. This scenario--running into bears in this constricted section--was raised with us just that morning by the ranger leading the outing. Our tactic?: move as far from water's edge as possible, right up against the rock wall (allowing the bears the option of staying on course or moving out into the water), get out cameras in advance (so as not to be fumbling around as the bears passed us), and wait. We got our shots, the bears moved on, and all was well. This works at McNeil River, but I wouldn't even consider this in the other places I've encountered bears. All round, a fantastic experience, perhaps once in a lifetime. I WILL apply for another permit when I'm again eligible to do so, but who's to say whether I'll win. For me, this experience was right up there with mountain gorillas in Zaire in the mid- and late-80s, albeit somewhat less exotic. For those interested, our per-person costs directly related to the McNeil River portion of the trip were: Nonrefundable permit application fee: $25 Four-day guided permit: $350 for non-Alaskans Roundtrip float plane fare between Homer and McNeil River: $700 ($750-$800 might be more typical) Self-purchased and self-prepared food and drink while camping at McNeil River: $100 (guesstimate) Rental of waders: $25 One also has to get to Alaska, of course, so that would be a major cost for most international visitors (but not so bad for those of us on the west coast of the U.S.). A note on the permit cost: Apparently the cost of the permit has not increased since it was initially established. Revenue from the application fee and permit sales used to fully fund the program; with the passage of time, however, the fees and sales now cover only about half the cost of operating the program. The state is now evaluating costs, and seems likely to approximately double the cost of the permit, to $700 for non-residents. Bear in mind that that would be $700 for four days of guided activities, a bargain by world standards, in my opinion. Happy to answer any questions, if you have them, and I promise not to inflict and more images on you. -tom a. portland, oregon
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    A drive to Lochbuie A lovely day, slowly driving to Lochbuie in the south of the island, stopping at lochs, scanning hills and generally relaxing. First we drove to Grasspoint. Buzzard We were told that Buzzards are the most common birds of prey on the island. They are often confused (by tourists) with Golden Eagles. They are much smaller, but size can be difficult to determine if they are high overhead. Stonechat – we saw a number of these in this area Back on the “main” road Red Deer at the side of the road. Then on the small road heading to Lochbuie Fallow Deer (probably captive but not sure!)
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    117) Red-headed Finch Rooikopvink Amadina erythrocephala Kgalagadi, 27 April
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    116) Barn Owl Nonnetjie-uil Tyto alba 27 April, Kgalagadi
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    Lochbuie is a lovely place Here, the old Post Office had been turned into a shop/café. When we were there – but was operating on an honesty system. You make yourself a cup of coffee, buy a snack and put your money in an honesty box. I think sometimes it is staffed. The Chaffinch are very used to people and will be keen to share your food. Sheep on the beach With castle We also saw a number of Wheatears, Gannets and a distant pair of Red-throated Divers.
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    106) Great White Pelican Witpelikaan Pelecanus onocrotalus Swakopmund, 22 April
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    120) Secretary Bird The San people apparently believed that Secretary birds don't nest, as seeing them on a nest is a very rare occurence, but I can hardly believe it, since I have seen them on nests three times... Kgalagadi, April
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    115) Ostrich Volstruis Struthio camelus Kgalagadi, April
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    113) Tractrac Chat Gewone Spekvreter Cercomela tractrac Kgalagadi, 26 April
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    112) Common Scimitarbill Swartbekkakelaar Rhinopomastus cyanomelas Kgalagadi, 26 April
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    Since Little Stint was not on the list before, the count remains the same. So: 111) Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Swaelstertbyevreter Merops hirundineus Juvenile: Kgalagadi, Late April \, 26 Richtersveld National Park (Namibia), 26 July
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    By the way Parky is the large 6' tall genteleman and I'm the other one.I can't resist including a couple of shots from the displays.The last display-there were 2 during the day-ended with about 15 birds in the air at the same time, Black Kites,White Storks, and 3 Marabou Storks! Here is a Dishmop
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    109) Rock Kestrel Kransvalk Falco rupicolis Male Female? 25 April, Rostock Ritz
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    Thank you @michael-ibk 101) Pied Avocet Bontelsie Recurvirostra avosetta Walvisbay, 22 April
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    Hi to everybody. I'm Greg and obviously I am new to the community. I've been hanging around the safaritalk for a year or so and now I would like to become a part of it. I am fairly inexperienced a safarist as I've done only 2 trips to Africa. My real first time was in Botswana in 2008 along with my wife and recently we have finished the trip to Namibia with our teenage kids. As I've learnt a lot from this forum not only by reading all the reports, but also by viewing beautiful images, now I would like to reciprocate the kindness of all good people contributing to the safaritalk content and share my recent trip experiences along with some pictures I took on the way. Be warned, though, that I'm not a good storyteller and might not put up a thorough and addicitve report. Still I will try to do my best to convey a basic story and illustrate it by some pertaining pics. OK, here it goes. The first idea to travel to Namibia was born at the time we came back from our Botswana trip back in 2008. From fellow tourist we met there we heard great stories about Namibia and all the cool stuff it had to offer. But there was never a compelling reason to design such a trip. Finally we decided that we would shoot for it just to show a real Africa to our kids as long as they were still willing to join us on a journey. As they are 13 (daughter) and 17 (son) right now I'm pretty sure that maybe in 2 years time it might be impossible to travel in such companion. We started a planning process around August last year and after a month we had our itinerary pretty much fixed. As many times it is a case for a newbie also I committed a mistake of planning the trip without much of listening to all experienced users here and on TA. This resulted in a package that contained all the items I wanted to be covered, but in a far too short period of travelling time. Although I was warned by the agent I was cooperating with that the intended itinerary would be too rushed for a relaxed trip I was just rationalizing to myself my unfortunate (kind of) decisions. Our trip took the following shape: Day 1 July 14 flight from FRA to WDH Day 2 July 15 from Windhoek to Mushara Bush Camp Day 3 July 16 from Mushara Bush Camp to Okaukuejo Day 4 July 17 stay in Okaukuejo Day 5 July 18 from Okaukuejo to Doro Nawas Day 6 July 19 from Doro Nawas to Spitzkoppen Lodge Day 7 July 20 from Spitzkoppen Lodge to Swakopmund Day 8 July 21 from Swakopmund to Sossus Dune Lodge Day 9 July 22 stay in Sossus Dune Lodge Day 10 July 23 from Sossus Dune Lodge to Klein Aus Vista Day 12 July 24 from Klein Aus Vista to Fish River Lodge Day 13 July 25 stay in Fish River Lodge Day 14 July 26 from Fish River Lodge to Mesosaurus Fossil Camp Day 15 July 27 from Mesosaurus Fossil Camp to WDH and flight home Yeah, yeah, I know. It's too rushed, hence the report's title. Only 3 places of 2 nights and all the rest were just single nights. Of course it's doable, but definitely it was a stretch. Since for me 2 weeks is a maximum period of holidays we could not make it longer. But we should have made it shorter in terms of distances to be travelled. Probably we should have stopped at Sesriem dropping FRC and Mesosaurus and add some night to Etosha and possibly somewhere else. But after approving the itinerary and transferring downpayment it was too difficult to make dramatic changes to our trip. So, it stayed as above. But honestly, I do not regret it. With mistakes or not still we enjoyed it quite a lot and the way we did it leaves the chance to come back and make it even better. That's how I look at the bright side of it. tbc Greg
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    So, I'm putting up a review for everyone's benefit, but I start with a disclaimer that I didn't stay at this lodge as a guest, but as a lodge-based guide for 2 sets of guests as a favour. I have stayed in two different guest rooms, though, and partook of all their activities. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Lentorre Lodge, Kenya 2) Website address if known: http://www.lentorre.com/ 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). 6th - 10th June & 19th - 23rd June. I don't know pricing as I was guiding. 4) Length of stay: TOTAL 7 days. 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? I had actually been wanting to visit for a long time, and this temp job opportunity presented itself, so I jumped at it. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Direct with a director 7) How many times have you been on Safari? Umpteen 8) To which countries? Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Serian, Kicheche, Encounter Mara, Naboisho Camp, Laikipia Wilderness, etc. 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 6 units, but room 2 and room 6 are "family units" with two rooms each. So technically 8 en-suite rooms. 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? All tents have great views across the top of the woodland, down to Shompole hill, the most prominent feature on the horizon (other than the Nguruman escarpment, which is ever-present and runs North to South) Tent 1 and 2 have good views of the waterhole in front of camp (as does the lower common/dining area). All tents are completely private with no access in front of the tent. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very. Huge beds, hot showers, fully open fronted rooms, and each room has a little plunge pool. I know plunge pools are not for everyone and I'm generally a purist who doesn't need them, but when it's there and it's 39 degrees, I'll happily use it! 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. All the food was fantastic. Simple, but subtle flavours. Nothing over the top showy, but very good, very hearty, and plenty of it. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Menu is varied from day to day, plenty of vegetarian options. The F&B manager is basically vegetarian herself, so she works with the kitchen to produce a great menu for all requirements. Yes dietary requirements are requested during the booking phase so camp can plan ahead. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? The camp is block-booked for each group, so there is no sharing of tables or vehicles with other groups anyway. Everyone sits down for a dinner together from the one group. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? No packed breakfasts. Camp can organize bush breakfasts and dinners, but only tea, coffee, and small snacks go out 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Toyota Land Cruiser Station Wagons with 3 roof hatches cut and 2 rows of seats on the roof. 19) How many guests per row? Maximum 3, but usually 2. There are 3 vehicles, and additional ones can be brought in for very large groups. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Due to the heat and the unique relationship with cattle (I'll get to that later), game drives usually leave the camp between 5:45 and 6:00 am and have breakfast out in the bush or back in camp at around 8:45 - 9:30 am. Evening game drives would never leave earlier than 4:30 and could come back any time between 6:30 and 9:00 pm depending on how long you wanted to extend the night drive after sunset. There are two main routes directly out of camp, which then split into around 5 main game drive routes. We'd try to take a different route each time, but it also depended on where we'd heard hyenas, lion, and leopard the night before. 21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? See above for standard times. Times are flexible, but there's really no reason to change those times as the heat and the cows (again, I'll get to this in a bit) mean that outside of the normal game drive times, you'll just be hot, dusty, and uncomfortable, and won't see much game. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Olkirimatian Conservancy is a section of Olkirimatian Group Ranch. It is a community conservancy around 25,000 hectares. Lentorre has exclusive rights to Olkirimatian for game drives, so other than the odd pickup or pikipiki (motorbike) on the main road at the edge of the conservancy, you've got it all to yourselves. Olkirimatian is on the northern border of Shompole conservancy, around 60,000 hectares. Lentorre has traversing game drive rights on Shompole as well. The other operators here are Shompole Wilderness (nothing to do with the original Shompole Lodge), and Lale'enok Research Centre. In the 7 days that I was guiding there, I saw the research centre vehicle once, and no others. 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? N/A 24) Are you able to off-road? Yes 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. No need for it with no other vehicles around 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? This is probably the only place I have been where I heard Leopard almost as often as Hyena (which was a lot), and more often than Lion. We had a very good sighting of a leopard at the waterhole at 5:30 in the morning two days in a row. It's also unparalleled for Striped Hyena. You can see Striped & Spotted Hyena, Aardwolf, and Leopard all on the same night just sitting at dinner. Lesser Kudu is common. Gerenuk are present, but not easy to spot. Fringe-Eared Oryx, Grant's Gazelle, and Eastern White Bearded Gnu (a sub-species of Wildebeest, quite different from those in the Mara) are ever-present out on the shompole plains. Zebra, Impala, and Dikdik are very common. Coke's Hartebeest and Waterbuck are present, but less easy to spot. Banded, Slender, White-Tailed, and Dwarf Mongoose are common. Black and White Colobus present. In fact, I can't think of another place in Kenya where you can see Colobus and Oryx on the same game drive. Genets and Civets are also common. There are a few elephant bulls that roam the two conservancies and the Nguruman escarpment behind. Larger families only really seem to come down in the wet season or if a pipe bursts and there's free water! Lions are present and their numbers have increased hugely over the last ten years as the "South Rift Association of Land Owners", the Lale'enok Research Centre, and an organization called "Rebuilding The Pride" have worked to reduced Human Wildlife Conflict and the Maasai tradition of killing lions when they're warriors. We heard lions on numerous occasions and found very fresh tracks, but were unable to follow into the thick bush. I would estimate every other group of guests gets to see lion there. Cheetahs are present as well on the Shompole plains, but we never spent enough time there to find them. Birding is great. At least 4 species of Owl - Southern White Faced Scops, African Scops, Pearl Spotted, and Verreaux's. I reckon there must be plenty of Spotted Eagle Owls as well, but never saw or heard one. Great habitat for them. 27) How was the standard of guiding? As I was the one guiding, I'll decline to answer this one. But the Maasai spotters are excellent and the head spotter/guide, Stephen, is really excellent. 28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? Oh they were just terrible 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Oh, they were just wonderful 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Staff are great. On top of things and plenty of them, so there's no shortage of people around to ask for anything. Manager is present and helpful, but not in your face. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Pay annual lease to the conservancy as well as monthly bed-night fees. 32) Safaritalk trip report link: N/A 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: Cattle and heat. Olikirimatian is sandwiched between the Loita Hills/Nguruman Escarpment to the West and the Southern Ewaso Nyiro River to the East. The Maasai and their bomas switch from one side of the river to the other depending on the rains and the grass. As you may notice from some of the pictures below, there really isn't much grass in Olkirimatian. There's plenty on Shompole. I can't really figure out what the difference is. Maybe soil type. There are two migrations we talk about at the camp. The Macro Migration is the larger movement of cattle, bomas, and wildlife around the larger ecosystem throughout the year looking for better grazing. They'll move to the Eastern side of the river and graze all the way towards the shores of Lake Magadi, and then when the grass there runs out, some of them (not all) will move to the Western side, into the edge of the conservancy. The Micro Migration is the daily movement of cattle and wildlife. Every day, when the cattle come out of the bomas to graze, the wildlife heads West to the foothils of the escarpment. In the evening, the cattle go home and the wildlife spreads East across the conservancy. What seems like an overgrazed wasteland during the day comes to life at night with plains game and predators. It really is very unique. Apparently when it rains, there genuinely is a lot of grass, but I suspect that the shoats don't allow for much perennial growth, so you end up with pioneer, annual grasses every rainy season. Pioneer grasses are great for re-seeding the soil and holding erosion at bay, but they're usually (not always) less nutritious or palatable - more seed, less leaves. There probably are too many shoats there, as is the case across the rest of Maasai land, but I still can't stress how diverse and how abundant the game there is. Other things to mention: - The hide/blind at the waterhole is excellent. Fully enclosed in concrete, so you're safe from ellies, buffalo, and lion. Open from 6am to 6pm. The tunnel to get there extends half way up to the lodge. Once they finish it all the way, it'll be open at night as well. - The hike up the Nguruman Escarpment is lovely. Not a difficult, strenuous hike, but it'll get your heart rate going and the views on top are VERY worth it. Again, we heard leopard just before sunset way up high on the ridge before we started to make our way down. - The boma visits are just about as un-commercial and authentic as they come. Every time guests go out, they visit a different boma, so everyone gets a piece of the pie, but no one gets used to it and starts making a business out of it. There's no cheesy welcome dance or trinkets for sale. You get out of the vehicle late in the afternoon and walk the cows home from pasture, chatting with the herdsmen and the Maasai spotter, learning all about their cows, culture, families, etc. Then you can meet everyone at home. If you really want, they can pierce one of the cow's neck veins so you can taste the blood. Both groups I was with did this (ok, only a couple people from each group). - The sundowner spots are seriously good. 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings. Lake Magadi on the way to the lodge - most people will fly, but I drove. Took about 3.5 hours from Karen (Nairobi) Tent 6 Tent 6 Sunrise from one of the sundowner spots Sunrise from Shompole plains View from the first, lowest ridge behind camp. To the left, you can see the higher ridges which take another half hour or so to get to from here. Walk and talk till the cows come home. Getting ready to draw blood One of the mzees from the boma A dormouse who found his way into my backpack and nearly gave me a heart-attack. If ever there was a time for a rugged safari guide to squeal from being overcome with cuteness, this was it. Walking around looking at all the different tracks on the road. See next photo. Once upon a time, a Civet, a lion, and a porcupine went for a stroll. No explanation needed here Poor quality phone photo of sundowners on the riverbank watching the changing light on the sand wall opposite. Hiking up to one of the higher ridges on the escarpment behind camp. Plenty of zebras on this grassy section. Great light. Panorama. To the left and dead ahead you can see the beginnings of the loita hills rising from the top of the flat-topped nguruman escarpment. Looking out over the Western finger of Lake Magadi on the way back to Nairobi.
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    119) Pygmy Falcon Dwergvalk Polihierax semitorquatus Kgalagadi, April
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    114) Yellow Canary Geelkanarie Serinus flaviventris Kgalagadi, April
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    And now the finale, the last bird we flew, Pamela the adult-she was about 7, White Tailed Eagle.It was a real treat and privelege to get close to these birds, and the White Tailed Eagle was the icing on a very splended cake! The first shot is me Trying to appear confident
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    And so to the first Big Bird-a Bald Eagle a magnificent bird who made a real impact as she landed! Apaprently if she was sulking with Will the falconer, she woudl fly right into his chest, although with talons closed, so that's all right then.
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    Then out into the field! and flying-not very far-this fine bird-and I am ashamed to admit not a species I had herad of.This one was only in its second year
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    107) Green-backed Eremomela Groenbossanger Eremomela gregalis 23 April, Blutkuppe
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    Game Drives Tuningi sits in the southwest corner of the Madikwe. In theory lodges have the ability to drive throughout the reserve but in practice we seemed to stay in a relatively small area between the lodge and the south west corner. Game drives were in an open topped Toyota landcruiser with 3 raised rows of seats. The weather was clear but quite windy as well as increasingly cold. This made the morning game drives quite a challenge - even with lots of layers, hats, gloves and blankets and hot water bottles supplied by the lodge. It seems that many animals don't like it to be excessively hot, at all windy or excessively cold - a sensitive bunch. The terrain could be described as uncooperative. There were a lot of large bushes with 70-100cm long dried grass filling most of the gaps. We saw few large trees and did not go anywhere near a river to break up the general scenery. I did not see any areas of shorter grass as is typical of Kenya (still pining) but also in the Sabi Sands and Timbavati. Even within a couple of metres lions were difficult to see and almost impossible to photograph There were some scenic photo possibilities... The drives themselves were taken with the guide but no tracker - I prefer having a tracker as I believe the chances of spotting game are increased (atlthough our guide was excellent in this regard) but also that decision making is shared. One reason we spent so long (over 6 hours in 4 drives) exploring one 2 square km area of scrub was trying to locate a leopard. Given that tracks could only be seen on the roads in the terrain pictured above this was difficult to understand and seemed to become almost an obsession for the guide. Despite prompting it was not possible to divert onto finding and spending time with some of the non-predators. Indeed my major criticism of the drives was that there seemed to be a single objective of finding big cats. If it hadn't been for the waterhole at the lodge I would have been an unhappy guest. One morning drive produced no photos at all (happily a unique experience for me) and another only 5 images of zebra. This is indicative of both a general shortage of game and the focus of the guide on big cats in general and one leopard in particular. However I don't want to sound too gloomy - we had a lovely cheetah sighting, spent some time with lions that were active and hunting and saw a couple of 'firsts' for me. The sightings at the waterhole were relaxed, ver productive and interesting. I promise more positivity from here
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    118) White-backed Mousebird Witkruismuisvoel Colius colius Kgalagadi, 27 April
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    @Towlersonsafari I haven't done the Eagle Experience at Gauntlet but I have done the half day visit twice and we flew a range of birds and raptors from kestrels, owls, vultures and Harris hawks. We did get to hold an Eagle Owl, fly the vultures and walk through the Cheshire countryside flying the Harris Hawks. On one occaision we were able to hold Vega, a rather diva-ish white tailed fish eagle - I say hold, what I really mean is balance my hand on a fence post and have Vega stand on my quivering arm being held up by the fence post. It's a fabulous experience and the centre does a lot of Vulture conservation in both Africa and Asia. I bet you had an awesome day....maybe you should treat Jane this Christmas. I think the owl knows she hasn't done this before... Landing a vulture with closed eyes is quite a skill. Walking a hawk.... I'm not THAT terrified, just mildly concerned
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    Elephant on the banks of Zambezi @@Game Warden thanks, I got it

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