Zarek Cockar

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About Zarek Cockar

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    Safari Guide
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    Born in Africa

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    Nairobi, Kenya

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  1. the latest Mara Cheetah Chat from the Mara Cheetah Project: What you miss in this particular one is news of Forrester, a collared male who spends a fair bit of time in Naboisho conservancy. He regularly kills wildebeest on his own - he's killed 2 just this week!!
  2. @Paolo I never saw Greater Kudu. When I asked the local Maasai spotters, all three looked dubious. I reckon there's a chance you may get them up on the escarpment on a hike, but I doubt they're down in the woodland where you do all your game drives. I never found their tracks on our escarpment hikes, but then again, most of the area is rocky so clear tracks are hard to come by. They are officially on the list of mammals for the area, and I'm not really in a position to question that with any authority. I'd be thrilled if they ARE there! So please do report back if you see any!
  3. @offshorebirder you may also be interested to know that I found a whole flock of Grey-Crested Helmet-Shrikes 300m from the lodge. I only saw them once, but they were right in front of me, plain as day. No chance they were White Crested or even hybrids. It's a probably a good thing I didn't have non-birder guests with me as my excitement was a little hard to contain.
  4. 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: 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.
  5. @michael-ibk which curious road are you talking about? The one with the Tolkein-esque "fangorn forest" where we saw the Serval, or the one heading North and eventually East to the Salient? The Fangorn road section is about 400m from a 4-way junction on the way to the Fishing Lodge and Kiandangoro Gate. One road goes to Mutubio West Gate, one parallel to a long-disused airstrip and eventually past the Sapper Hut, one towards Chania Falls, and the last towards the Fishing Lodge. The Northern road turns off to the left from the MAIN road from the moors to the Salient. It does NOT connect to the two gates far in the North (maybe Rhino and Shamata?), and in my memory having been going there since the 90's I don't think it ever did. It does drive to the Southern foothills of Satima hill (Ol Donyo Lesatima) before turning East towards the northern edge of the Salient, dropping down to where it finally meets Wandare gate. It has been closed for a couple of months previously, but never permanently, for road works. When we took it, it was in a similar condition to most of the other roads. The REAL mystery road (and now I click that this is probably what you're talking about), is the road FROM Wandare Gate to somewhere in the middle of the Salient, where it comes out near Rhino Retreat. It shows up as a main road on my not-so-old map, printed by "Kenya Tourist Maps" and commissioned by KWS themselves! From Wandare gate, it runs right along the fence line for a couple of KM's before turning inwards and following a steep valley edge, dropping down, crossing it, and coming up the other side, where it eventually meets the rest of the established road network near Rhino Retreat. The rangers DO NOT use it except for patrols on foot. It would be a little dangerous to try it in the rain. The bush was somewhat clear, but there was no bare soil. We were driving on a nice grassy lawn for much of it - which is a clear indication it's not a well used road! The road was originally built by the British Army many years ago as a shortcut. You can see that quite a lot of work went into cutting the road into the hillside, laying down concrete on the steepest section of the hill down the valley, and building a cement bridge across the river at the bottom (which is still in perfect condition). It was certainly an adventure! As Paul mentions, the ranger at Wandare gate did say that another vehicle (a land cruiser prado station wagon) had come out the other direction a few days previously, hence our willingness to try it. As you mentioned, that Wandare gate road is often closed, so I had actually never been that way before. In hindsight, it probably would have saved us a little time (and a lot of stress on Bibi's part) if we'd just exited from Wandare and driven around to Ark Gate or Treetops Gate. I felt terrible that we had "wasted" so much time traversing that short section, in an area too steep and remote for most wildlife, when we could have been game driving in less time had we chosen a different route. Lesson firmly learned.
  6. Haha. Classic. Sorry been out on a couple of safaris and I haven't caught up on your report at all, but scrolled through the photos and this line caught my eye.
  7. I'm not really sure what the point of this photo was, but you asked, so here it is. Just found this mzee's old carbine very interesting.
  8. Great report so far @pault. Really enjoying reliving some of the memories. I think you give bibi a little too hard a time! She was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed having her along throughout! I won't even bother posting my photos from the trip. My photo of that short-horned buffalo was woeful, and after that I focused purely on flowers and beetles. Yours, on the other hand, capture the feel and atmosphere of the park so well. Really looking forward to more!
  9. The latest Cheetah Chat. MCP_Cheetah-Update-24_May-June-2017.pdf
  10. @@adam parkison What length, approximately? Did you find them moving around, or always rolled up in a ball?
  11. I haven't. I always seem to be in a different part of the mara from them! I'd love to as well!
  12. @offhsorebirder Sorry just seen this now. Been offline for a while. It is indeed the hermit crab, rather than the snail, which makes the little sand balls. I can't remember what the purpose is. I can try to look it up. My knowledge of marine life is woefully low. There's SO much to learn. I wish I could spend more time down there learning.
  13. For any of you on facebook, this post may be of interest (from the Mara Cheetah Project):
  14. It's not really possible for just anyone. There are a few mobile operators (myself included) who have long-standing relationships with the conservancy who are permitted to set up temporary mobile camps at 1 of around 5 designated mobile camping sites. Our site was not too far the Enooronkon ranger base, between the Mpatipati and Moliban streams (in case you have a map to look at). Tsetse numbers in both Olare Motorogi and Naboisho have decreased drastically since the mid 2000's, allowing for more grazing and permanent settlement. I'm not 100% clear on the reason their numbers have dropped, but the Maasai I have spoken to tell me it's because they now dip their cattle. I don't fully buy this story as there's still plenty of un-dipped game for the tsetse to feed on, and there are no tsetse flag traps like in Meru or Serengeti. There's still plenty of woodland and bush in Naboisho for tsetse breeding (unlike much of the reserve). In 2008/9, I used to get bitten at least once every 2 days or so in OOC and Naboisho if I was walking or on a game drive. Now I basically never see tsetse at all any more. While this may seem like a blessing to tourists, I fear it doesn't bode well for the overall health of the ecosystem in the future. Similar to Mosquitoes. I'm fully in support of never getting bitten by a mosquito again, but I genuinely fear the cascade effect elimination of mosquitoes might have on the food chain. Happy to support malaria treatment and even malaria elimination programmes, but projects working to eliminate mosquitoes altogether, I believe, are misguided. And now I'm very far off topic. I'll try to add more meaningful input on the Naboisho portion of our trip soon. Of all major wildlife destinations in Kenya, Naboisho holds a very special place in my heart.
  15. @@offshorebirder strange, that. I've never been disappointed with the food there.

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