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Everything posted by janzin

  1. Well we've finally finalized our plans for our 2nd big trip of 2018. And it turns out it won't be Madagascar (this time!) After attending the American Birding Expo last month, where we met several tour operators and came home with bags of brochures, we had narrowed it down to two choices: Patagonia for birds, pumas, kodkod, and spectacular scenery, or Australia for birds and bizarre beasts like platypus and various marsupials. So...drum-roll..Australia has won out, mainly because of the allure of photographing colorful birds and picking up potentially hundreds of new species. Its been awhile since we were on a serious birding trip with dedicated birding guides (well, there was Cuba last year, which was fabulous, but a very small bird list relative to something like this.) Thanks to @Treepol for her advice and suggestions! This will be the first two weeks in September Fly to Brisbane from JFK Two nights/three full days of birding Lamington National Park, with private bird guide One night Brisbane near airport Fly to Darwin Six nights in the Top End with a private birding/photography guide (Darwin surrounds, Kakadu, Nitmiluk, Katherine Gorge, etc.) Fly to Cairns Seven nights in Tropical Queensland with private birding guide (who we actually met at the Birding Expo.) (Daintree, Atherton Tablelands, Kingfisher Park.) I did end up with an excellent itinerary for Chile/Patagonia, but the price for just the two of us was too high. However, the price for four was very workable so we may revisit that itinerary for fall 2019 and we'll be looking for another couple of folks to join us.
  2. 22 and 15 safaris? Is that a typo? Did you do your first at five years old??
  3. Having several African safaris under our belt--South Africa twice, Tanzania, Botswana--and having read so many wonderful Kenya trip reports on SafariTalk, Kenya seemed the logical destination for our next safari. But where to go? I knew that the Mara had to be included. Should we add other areas and parks? Usually for a first trip to a country we like to get an overview and see as much as possible of different habitats but in the end, mainly due to time and budget constraints, we decided to concentrate on the Masai Mara--and do it at the optimal time to witness the "Great Migration" and the famed river crossings. The only other thing I was certain of was that we wanted to stay primarily in the conservancies, so that we would have less crowds and the ability to off-road. So, with the expert guidance of our safari planner, Bill Given at The Wild Source, we decided on the following itinerary, commencing mid-September 2016. 1 night Eka Hotel, Nairobi 3 nights Porini Lion Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights Encounter Mara Camp, Naboisho Conservancy 4 nights Wild Source's private mobile camp, Enaidura, in the Mara triangle 1 Night Ololo Lodge, Nairobi The Wild Source has a new collaborative model with two local Masai guides, who have co-ownership in the Enaidura operation: Johnson Ping’ua Nkukuu (Ping) and Paul Kirui. They also have arranged with some camps to allow these guides (who are very well respected across Kenya) to bring clients to those camps in Wild Sources' specially configured safari vehicle. So this unique arrangement enabled us to have our own vehicle with well-known and highly regarded Ping as our private guide while we were at Encounter Mara and Enaidura Camps. At Porini Lion, we were to be in a shared vehicle (or so we thought...) As departure approached I started to get a little apprehensive--were we making a mistake staying in just one location--the Mara--for our whole trip? As birders, I knew we were unlikely to add many "lifers" in this area, since being contiguous with the Serengeti, where we'd been in Tanzania, there would be few birds that were unique or new. Would there be enough photographic opportunities?? Would we drive endlessly through featureless savanna without seeing much of anything?? Would we be bored with so many nights in one area...were the three camps different enough? Well...as those of you who have been to the Mara must know, there was no need to worry. I can honestly say that we have not been anywhere else on safari where there was never a dull moment--never a lull--always something to see just around the corner! And each camp was unique with its own attractions. And we learned a few things: the Mara is THE place for cats--we saw 7 unique leopards, countless lions, 12 different cheetahs, and 2 servals. And we even picked up 152 birds, with 15 of them lifers--more than I expected! Not to mention the endless plains of wildebeest, zebra, and all the other game species. And one other thing I learned--although I am glad that we saw a few river crossings--I don't ever have to, or want to, do that again. More on that later. So enough preamble, I'm sure you want to get to the meat of it--and some photos! A bit later...
  4. The easiest way is to install an "exif reader" in your browser. I use a Firefox Add-on called FxIF but there are others. Similarly for Chrome. (If you use a Mac, I have no idea.)
  5. @AmyT as far as I know all the vehicles in northern Tanzania are pop-top or closed, from what I've read this is because they need to travel between parks on busy highways. In the southern parks they can be open. I don't recall seeing any open vehicles in the Serengeti. I'm short and I didn't have a problem in Tanzania, I either stood on the seat or if I recall they had a crate I could stand on.
  6. Fantastic, glad I found this report as we are considering a similar itinerary, in part, in 2018. Excited to see that you had platypus, and that stripped possum is gorgeous, and so many colorful birds! Australia is calling...!
  7. What a fascinating report! PNG is on our bucket list for birding but its always seemed so daunting, even with a tour (as it would need to be.) Just catching up a bit late but I look forward to the continuation.
  8. too cute! That cub looks so fat she can't even stand up! Glad to see momma ate some as well.
  9. Well just as a stark comparison, here is the exact same view of the bridge as you posted...two months later! Incredible difference!
  10. aardwolf video = WOW!
  11. Well you have certainly teased us enough now about Day 9 that we all are waiting with baited breath Now we know it involves a lion! Meantime, thoroughly enjoying the report and photos...love to hear the enthusiasm of a first-timer! Although I don't think the thrill of a lion staring at you ever goes away....
  12. I've been terribly upset about this too. Those photos of the dead Flamingos on Cayos Coco and Guillermo, Cuba, were horribly distressing, especially since we were just there a few months ago and saw them in all their glory. A fund has been set up to benefit BirdsCaribbean which is an organization protecting birds in that area. I've donated...don't watch the video unless you want to see these beautiful birds dead and dying https://www.razoo.com/story/Birdscaribbean-Hurricane-Relief
  13. haha NO! At least, not once in South Luangwa. We did wear them briefly in the mornings in Lower Zambezi, it was slightly cooler there. But I think we would have been fine without them because I don't think we wore them for more than 1/2 an hour in the morning.
  14. I know that everyone always says "bring a fleece" and on past safaris I have done so, and often was glad that I did, when we'd hit a rain front or chilly morning. But that seems highly unlikely for South Luangwa/Lower Zambezi the first two weeks in September. It looks to me that the lowest temperatures might be in the mid 60's (that's 15-20C I think) which seems way too warm for a fleece. This is the current forecast for Mfuwe and I don't think it will change much in the next couple of weeks (except maybe get hotter!) Is Lower Zambezi even hotter than South Luangwa, or about the same? Is Victoria Falls much cooler than the Luangwa valley? We've got very light fleeces but while light, they take up space and I just have a feeling they won't get used. Would a long-sleeve t-shirt be sufficient in place of a fleece?
  15. Having just returned yesterday from Zambia and Lower Zambezi I had to revisit this report. We will now join the ranks of "lovers of Lower Zambezi!" We actually preferred it to South Luangwa (shhh don't tell the fans.) It really was fabulous and since it will likely be awhile before I get to my own trip report I'll answer the question I know @deano is wondering--no we didn't do a canoe trip The hippos were frightfully frightful and seemingly in the millions and even the small boat ride was a bit nerve-wracking--but we loved it!
  16. Having just returned from South Luangwa (and Victoria Falls) myself--just yesterday!--I was eager to read your report! Wow, you had some incredible sightings. To be honest I think you fared better than we did, and it seems to me that June might just be the perfect time to go. I will wait for my trip report to go into details, but we were a bit disappointed in the sightings we had. Although it is always said that later in the season is best for predators, I think they may be more active in the cooler weather. And its certainly a bit greener! The only negative I can think of for a birder is that the Carmine Bee-eaters aren't there yet in June, and the colonies were a highlight of our trip. But now that we've seen them many times, if I returned, I'd do it in June or even earlier in the green season, I think. The Easter egg leopard is fantastic, and I can't believe you just casually posted a Pel's Fishing Owl!! One of the most sought birds in Southern Africa! Fantastic leopard and dog sightings too; and I'm so envious that you saw Ginger and Garlic (I knew we wouldn't as we weren't in their territory of the park, but I was sad not to see them.) Its incredible how different just a few months makes in Victoria Falls. There was almost no water on the Zambia side (we also stayed at the Avani) and no need for ponchos, lol, even on the Zimbabwe side. It was still fantastic to see but I'd love to see it in full force!
  17. I don't want to turn this thread into a critique of ATR, but I have to say take what they recommend with "a grain of salt." Twice I have asked them for quotes for a safari, and twice they came in with quotes WAY over the budget I said I had...I mean, not even close, it was insulting. They are definitely pushing more expensive camps. Only after me telling them that their proposal was out of the question did they reluctantly come back with less expensive suggestions which they were very clear "would not be as suitable." On top of that, one of their agents was very condescending to me when I suggested combining Laikipia with the Mara, he literally said "why would you want to go on safari in degraded farming habitat?" I would never bother with them again (although their website is very useful Anyway, we loved Porini Lion camp and had excellent guiding and sightings there (see my review on this site as well as my trip report "Can you have too much time in the Mara".) I would go back in a heartbeat and I would definitely like to combine it with other Porini camps for a future trip.
  18. The photographer Nilanjan Ray had an amazing sighting and got some photos of a very pale, almost white tiger in Nilgiri biosphere reserve in Tamil Nadu state. Its been getting a lot of press, I first saw it on Facebook as I follow Nilanjan. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/exceptionally-rare-pale-tiger-photographed-in-the-wild http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/super-rare-pale-tiger-photographed-india-180963980/ What a beautiful tiger, hope it stays safe!
  19. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Porini Lion Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 2) Website address if known: https://www.porini.com/kenya/porini-camps/porini-lion-camp/ 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). September 15-18, 2016 High Season 4) Length of stay: 3 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? recommendation of agent and fellow SafariTalkers who have been there 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Agent (The Wild Source) 7) How many times have you been on Safari? this was the fifth 8) To which countries? South Africa x2, Tanzania, Botswana, now Kenya 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Tented camps in Botswana would come the closest 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 10 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? #3 There wasn't much of a direct view due to trees, but if you walked just a few steps forward you looked out over the river below, and a popular spot for animals to come down to drink--we had zebra, wildebeest, impala, and many birds drinking below. Lots of birds in the trees surrounding the tent which kept me busy during siesta time. A bit close to surrounding tents, we could hear loud conversations from #2. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very comfortable, spacious, and had a writing table which none of the other camps on this trip had; very useful for downloading photos on the laptop, etc. Typical bucket safari shower with scalding hot water--be careful! 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Very good food, home style cooking, rustic but very good. The pork ribs were especially delicious. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Both lunch and dinner was served buffet so there were some choices but generally one main dish with salads and vegetables. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Both communal and seperate tables. There was one large photo group of 12 when we were there so we were put at a table with one other couple; after the photo group left there was a communal table for the rest of us. Guides did not join at mealtimes. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Open sided land cruisers with canvas tops. Beanbags were available. I believe they also have one closed, pop-top type vehicle--some of the photo group was using this. 19) How many guests per row? three rows of two. We had a private vehicle and as far as I could tell so did everyone else at camp while we were there, so not sure how many maximum they might put at other times.. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Variable, depending on sightings...departure at 6:30 returning around noon, then from 4 until dark. You can also do night drives AFTER dinner here, which was great...one night we went out on a night drive at 9 p.m. until about 10:30. 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 #20 Since we had a private vehicle route and timing were very flexible. We did go out on one full day drive to into the Mara reserve, returning about 6 p.m. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Yes, Olare Motorogoi Conservancy. There are several camps in the vicinity but none TOO close. We usually saw vehicles from three or four camps at sightings. 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. In theory, no more than five at a sighting. This was almost never an issue and we were never bumped--if we saw too many cars at a sighting we just went elsewhere. Most sightings were on our own or with one or two other vehicles. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Cats! It is not called Lion Camp for nothing. We had fabulous sightings of leopard (three different individuals), two different lion prides, lions mating, lions hunting, cheetah with a kill, leopard with a kill, serval on a night drive. Others while we were there had caracal (which we searched for but missed.) Also at this time the wildebeest and zebra migration was massing on the plains just outside of camp--tremendous numbers of wildlife everywhere. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent, our guides were Gerald and Josephat and they were both great, highly recommend either one. 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? n/a 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Personable, fun to be with, informative, really understood about photography, genuinely excited at sightings, etc. Tried hard to get us the caracal! 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. As part of the Olare Motorogoi conservancy they are directly involved in that initiative. Here is a link to their statement on their conservation practices: http://www.porinisafaricamps.com/responsible-tourism.htm 32) Safaritalk trip report link: to come later 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: When can I go back? 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
  20. Thanks Deano for the wonderful report, I hope we have as great a time in Lower Zambezi as you did (I have no doubt we will!) We leave in the morning!
  21. Tomorrow morning bright and early! All checked in with South African Airways. Next stop Lower Zambezi! (Well, with intermediate stops at Jo'burg and Lusaka.) I think Amanzi has wifi so I'll try to say hello
  22. Omg those lion cubs are precious! Love that last shot of the big and little paws. And so many cheetah! But Ndutu is definitely the place for cheetah, we were only there four nights and saw 14. (That was years ago at Ndutu Safari Lodge.) glad to see this report on Njozi camp as Bill keeps trying to get me to go.looking forward to the continuation.
  23. Thanks Deano for this great report and for finishing it up before we leave on Wednesday! I really didn't know what to expect from Lower Zambezi but you've gotten me really psyched for it with your fabulous photos, videos and stories.

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