Zarek Cockar

  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

308 Excellent

About Zarek Cockar

  • Rank
    Advanced Member

Previous Fields

  • Category 1
    Safari Guide
  • Category 2
    Born in Africa

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
    Nairobi, Kenya

Contact Methods

  • Skype

Recent Profile Visitors

183 profile views
  1. @pault, as much as Douglas may recommend my ability to form a rapport with his grandchildren, I must say, they were a real joy to be around. They were curious about everything, energetic (but not excessively hyper), polite, willing to get their hands and knees dirty looking at beetles, etc. and quite well-behaved overall. It's difficult NOT to get along with them and release your own inner child when you see that much sand. Sand castles were inevitable!
  2. @Botswanadreams Yes, but this time we camped along the Enisikiria River, below the hippo pools, where we saw the Horse Safari outfit camping when you were with me. Great campsite as well and well located for the core game viewing areas.
  3. Thanks @douglaswise for this trip report. I don't have much to add, but yes, there are a few options for non-lodge safaris in the Mara (and indeed the rest of the country). Having been involved with Naboisho since before it's official formation in 2010, I've seen it grow and "ripen" over the past 7 years, and it's a special place for me. I'm very keen for it to get a wider exposure, but I'm also well aware that not everyone can afford the established options in Naboisho and the other Conservancies, or that they're not necessarily everyone's cup of tea - hence my eagerness to offer mobile camping there. I had never done mobile camping in Olderkesi before, but was able to arrange it through Calvin Cottar, who provided an excellent campsite along the Sand River. I'm not a photographer (lodge, wildlife, or otherwise), but I did snap a few token shots with my phone camera: Our Campsite in Naboisho along the Enisikiria River A little stroll along the Enisikiria river, learning to skip rocks on water, picking up beetles, and gawking at dragonflies: The token "Whistling Thorn" ant demonstration, conveniently timed for a loo break: Wildebeest on the horizon at sunset. Quintessential Mara: Sandcastles with real water in the moats, surrounded by Monitor Lizard tracks and calling Turacos Our dining area under a spreading Sycamore Fig on the banks of the Sand River (Olderkesi Conservancy)
  4. @bettel the situation you describe has been going on, slightly more noticeably every year for the past 5-7 years. What used to be open range land to the North of all the conservancies is now increasingly being fenced, fragmenting, and sometimes completely cutting off dispersal areas for the Loita wildebeest herds and lots of other wildlife. Now as you drive South from Ewaso Nyiro town and hit the end of the tarmac, you're struck by the near-endless fencing that lines both sides of the road for the first 20 minutes. After that, the fencing is more patchy, but increases every time I travel that road. The story is the same if you go down through Ngorengnore and Lemek towards Aitong & Talek. The same is true if you go down from Bomet and Mulot towards Enonkishu. Fencing is probably the single biggest threat to the wildlife, cattle, and Maasai culture in the Mara ecosystem right now. It's a direct result of western education and the shedding of traditional knowledge systems and values by the younger generation of Maasai who value land ownership over community. As for the impact on the conservancies and the reserve, the now almost permanent presence of the Loita herds will put increased pressure on the already limited resources in the conservancies, the reserve and the few remaining unfenced areas surrounding the conservancies. I reckon Loita wildebeest numbers have drastically decreased since 2010, but I'm not sure if anyone has done a scientific study to back that up. So what's driving the increase in fencing? Several factors. 1. Change in Land tenure and land use. What were once communal lands made up of group ranches, have been slowly subdivided, with individual title deeds being handed out across Narok county since the mid 2000's. In some instances, this led to better conservation areas and a better distribution of conservation wealth. In others it led to mass sell-off of land parcels to non-community members for a quick buck (many land owners are now regretting those decisions). 2. Pressure from non-Maasai looking for agricultural land. As with Kajiado county and other areas of Kenya, marginal areas are being taken over by agriculturalists who have exhausted the land available in Central and Western Kenya. Agriculture requires more water than traditional pastoralism, and it's requirements for fencing make it incompatible with wildlife. Couple that with pesticide use and synthetic fertilizers which degrade the soil health, and you have a rapidly changing landscape devoid of biodiversity. This all may sound rather alarmist at this stage, but if people don't stop vilifying pastoralist cultures and their cows, all we'll be left with are maize farms with failing crops from multinational corporations. 3. Western Education and an abandonment of traditional knowledge and values by young Maasai. Maasai culture across Southern Kenya is having a bit of a crisis as it grapples with the two vastly different value systems of Western capitalism (me first!) and traditional Maasai (community and cows first). The older generation can see what's happening and know how to fix it, but no one is asking them. Everyone is looking to foreign NGO's, government for solutions to problems those parties can't solve. A marriage of modern scientific understanding and traditional Maasai knowledge is what is required to find modern solutions to these modern problems (I'm under no illusion that "back to basics" can work on its own). What are the solutions: I'm afraid I don't have all the solutions, but anyone interested in helping the Maasai conserve their land for wildlife and their cattle needs to talk to them first before bulldozing their way in with outsider solutions. Maasai, like all communities who have to live with wildlife every day, need to see direct, tangible benefits from maintaining suitable habitat and healthy soil. Maybe all the big-heavies in the conservation NGO world need to start directing funding towards payments for ecosystems services rather than band-aid projects to protect individual charismatic species from an inevitable extinction. Cattle, when managed correctly, can, and will, improve the quality of an equatorial grassland better than fire, or a complete lack of livestock (which only results in further degradation). The conservancies and neighboring community lands are now slowly beginning to engage in a livestock management plan that will help achieve this, as well as providing access to market for livestock owners so they can contribute to the national economy and benefit from cattle (hopefully resulting in fewer of them turning to crop farming, which is taboo in Maasai culture). Education, obviously is important. Yes, all children have a right to go to school and to learn how to get by in this world. Yes, they all need to learn mathematics, science, art, geography, history, etc. But they ALSO need to learn how grasslands work, where to graze in the dry season, in the wet season, how to get the most out of their livestock, how to increase stock wealth while improving the grassland that supports it - as ultimately most of them will continue to live in that environment rather than moving to urban areas. Hence the local education curriculum needs to be overhauled to include practical lessons that will replace sitting around the fire with the wazee. Such schooling systems exist in other areas of the world, including in other parts of Kenya, and have proven very effective. There's a great documentary and accompanying website called "Schooling The World" that focuses on how most of the world has taken on a pretty uniform, formulaic education model that tries to break people away from their own cultures to fit into this narrow box created by a few elitist western educators in the 19th and 20th centuries. Using examples from North and South America, Africa, and Asia, they show how cultures have developed in tandem with the land around them and the more the cultures are westernised, the more the land around them begins to deteriorate as they grow apart from it. I've run out of steam, but there's so much to say on the topic. I realize I've diverged from purely speaking about the Loita Migration to speaking about the deterioration of a culture, but the point is that the deterioration of a culture is at the root of what's causing the loss of biodiversity and a magnificent wildlife migration.
  5. "Cheetah Chat" update from the Mara Cheetah Project from November & December 2017:
  6. Many of the roads in Western Kenya are very good, new, or well-maintained roads. You’d think you could make good time between Kitale and Kakamega. They’re really not that far apart. But you’d be wrong. Every kiosk, every house, every shack has a speed bump in front of it, official or home-made. It’s rare to get over 70kph, and with all the slowing down for bumps, I reckon your overall mean/average speed is around 30kph. Kenyan drivers do have a tendency to ignore speed limit signs and pedestrians, so in some ways, speed bumps are necessary in towns, but one big one at either end of town would suffice. Anyway, enough about speed bumps. I really dislike them. Road construction North of Kakamega town meant that I missed the turning to drive around over the top of the forest. Eventually found it through a maze of bollards, dust, matatus, and parked construction lorries. Thankfully once we were on the dirt road, it began to rain and cooled things off a little. We arrived at Rondo Retreat for a late lunch (this is becoming a bit of a trend here, I see) and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at Rondo, racking up the bird list quickly just sitting on a bench in the garden. For those of you who are not familiar with Rondo, it has a long history, first being part of a timber mill, then an orphanage, then being abandoned, becoming a school, and eventually a retreat owned by Trinity Fellowship, a Christian Mission. Despite the religious influence, there’s a strong focus on environmental awareness, birds, and butterflies. The buildings are quaint wooden cottages surrounded by a beautiful garden with lots of big trees and flowers, attracting all sorts of birds and butterflies. The garden is then surrounded by a wall of thick forest. I have always found Rondo very pleasant. It’s not a luxury lodge and there are no frills, but there really isn’t anywhere else to stay in Kakamega forest, and spending the night in Kakamega town doesn’t appeal to most visitors to the forest. Though it wasn’t pre-arranged, we decided to get a local guide, Smith, to take us around the following day for a morning and afternoon walk. I know my way around Kakamega relatively well, and I can ID many of the birds there, but I have to admit that we did identify more birds with Smith that we would have without him. I started birding at 11 years old when I joined my prep school’s Birdwatching Club. I got myself an old bird guide book. When I saw a picture of the Great Blue Turaco, I knew I HAD to see that bird! For various reasons, I didn’t visit Kakamega Forest until I was an adult, had dropped birding, and just recently picked it up again. On my first trip there, I pulled into Rondo, put my bags in my room stepped out on the verandah, and there was a Great Blue sitting on the hedge 15m away from me. I really could have stopped birding right there. I thought that was the pinnacle of all my years of birdwatching. But then as I walked around the garden with my bird-mad friend, I began to see all the other birds I had always stared at in my book but never seen in real life. And they were marvelous. And birding just got more and more exciting for me from that point on. I have to admit, I’m not a very good birder, when compared to some of the other bird specialist guides in Kenya. I’m colour-blind in greens and reds, and there are many birds with red on them that sit in green trees. It’s as if they’re conspiring against me. So while I’ve developed other ways of identifying birds, I don’t think I’ll ever be Kenya’s Top Birder. The following day, we had breakfast, packed up the vehicle and headed home to Nairobi. I have very few photos from Kakamega. Just a couple of butterflies, a moth, and a Fruit Chafer Beetle who hitched a ride on the vehicle
  7. From Baringo, we got onto the Marigat – Iten road, heading up through the lush green Tugen hills, through Kabarnet town (former President Moi’s hometown) and out into the clear, overlooking the Kerio Valley. The land just seems to drop out in front of you and the Uasin Gishu Plateau rises up on the opposite side like a sheer wall 4,300 feet from the Kerio river. To say it’s dramatic would be a bit of an understatement. I’ve done this drive many times, but it never gets old for me. Winding, un-potholed roads, up and down hills. I could drive it all day long. Once you get up to Iten (the home of Kenya’s long-distance running elite), the scenery is unremarkable through Eldoret and Kitale. Lush farmlands that feed the country are beautiful in their own right, but I get more excited about indigenous diversity. We managed to get in to Barnley’s Guest House for a late lunch with Richard Barnley and his 91 year old mother, Jane. The Barnley’s garden is a 5 acrer oasis of old-growth indigenous forest in a sea of monoculture crops and Eucalyptus trees. Naturally, it’s full of fantastic Western Kenya birds and even a resident troop of Colobus Monkeys. As I always do there, I called upon the help of Maurice, Richard’s bird guide, to take us around for the first afternoon towards Keringet swamp and the surrounding fields. We clocked up a good number of species here, including Golden-Backed Weaver, Chubb’s Cisticola, Lesser Blue-Eared Starling, African Hawk-Eagle, and Heuglin’s Masked Weaver (a Uganda bird). Back to Barnley’s for a hot shower and a hearty family meal near the fireplace. Jane and her late husband built the house over 50 years ago after the got married. It has so much character, and every room is stuffed full of books on natural history, adventure stories, classics, and general Africana. Beautifully painted Kenyan birds adorn the walls. This place is a real gem. The following day, we decided to head up to Kapcherop forest, a 90,000 hectare forest block on the slopes of the Cherangani Hills, to look for Spotted Creeper, a strange, shy bird that almost no one sees in Kenya. They’re more common in the neighbouring countries to the West. We looked long and hard, and found many other species, but alas, a Spotted Creeper sighting was not to be. After a picnic lunch in the forest, we headed down again, dropping down the Kongelai escarpment, an unexpected fault in the earth, the scenery around which looks like something out of Tsavo West. Dry country birds and Ugandan species abound here from Yellow-Billed Shrike to White Crested Turaco. Our highlights here were Verreauxs’ Eagles soaring over us looking for Rock Hyraxes, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Mocking Cliff Chat, Marico Sunbird, and Slender-Billed Starling. This was a LONG day. By the time we got back to Barnley’s we were both exhausted. But another hearty dinner, a cold beer, a hot shower, and a comfy bed did the trick. We woke up refreshed and ready to head to Saiwa Swamp National Park on our way out towards Kakamega. Maurice was with us again and we got into the park early, picking up lots of bird species along the way. The mammal highlights here are Red-Tailed Monkeys, Colobus Monkeys, Bushbuck, and of course Sitatunga, all of which made an appearance. Saiwa Swamp NP is only 3km squared, but it’s so densely packed with such a high diversity of birds, that you can’t help but love it. One of my favourite birds here is the Snowy-Capped Robin-Chat. Onward South to Kakamega for our last stop… A quick stop on the edge of the newly built "Cherangani Highway" to take in the views and do some quick birding. This is looking West towards Mt. Kadam on the UG border. The view looking out over the Kongelai Escparpment @optig traversing a river over a fallen tree.
  8. Just a quick overview from me. We camped in the Aberdares for 2 nights at Ruhiruini Campsite, near Ruhiruini Gate, a couple of kilometers down the road from the old Tusk Camp, which as been "under renovation" for quite some time now. All of the campsites down in the Salient are Private Campsites, which require a $75 booking fee on top of the regular daily camping fees and park fees. Plus Ruhiruini is at the upper end of the salient on the main road West, giving us easy access to both the forest and the moorlands. The whole dead elephant debacle ruined the mood for both of us quite early on. We were alerted to them by a friend of mine, a fellow guide, Ben Mugambi (whom @offshorebirder knows well), as we entered the park around the same time. We found them in a big clearing only around 3-4 km from the Treetops gate. KWS's official story that they had died en-route from Kajiado felt a bit suspicious. Their faces had clearly been chopped off in a hurry. When the authorities remove tusks from a dead elephant, it looks quite different. Secondly, why were they spread out across this clearing in plain sight for everyone to see (and smell)? The sight of a dead elephant is an extremely distressing thing, and unless you ask KWS (and then believe them), it also completely undermines their image as an anti-poaching force. It all just seemed a little too weird and unusual. But we'll go with their story for now, because we don't have another one. That first afternoon, we had a pleasant, easy game drive, not venturing too far from the campsite. Plenty of Bushbuck, a couple of very frightened elephants (I wonder why?), some old buffalo bulls lazing in a mud pool, our first Giant Forest Hog, and that Coypu! Lots of Silvery-Cheeked Hornbills, some beautiful European Bee-Eaters sitting in the golden afternoon sun (but never long enough for the camera to focus on them!), and African Cuckoo Hawk rather close! and and African Hobby!! The following day, we took a full-day drive up to explore the moorlands. Plenty of Bushbuck, buffalo, some distant eland, more elephants, more hogs, waterbuck, and flashes of Duikers, but no good clear views. I believe both @pault and @twaffle have photos of the same short-horned buffalo. He seems to be a regular feature on my safaris and has been there in that same spot for the last couple of years. He never seems unhealthy, and I suppose the lack of lions means his lack of horns are of no disadvantage to him. Anyway, eventually the clouds began to look ominous and heavy, so we began to head back down to camp. Spent the late afternoon over looking the stream that runs through the campsite, watching the sun set, and listening to the birds and monkeys overhead with drink in hand. Off we then went, through the salient to Mweiga, up to Nyahururu, down to Nakuru, and all the way up to Baringo in time for a late lunch at Tumbili Cliff Lodge. The staff there are very laid back, but always pleasant and helpful. I love the views from the lodge, looking out over the lake from on top of a small cliff towards Olkokwe Island. As soon as you walk in, the birding begins. By the time we left Baringo I had 100 species on my list, with a further 31 from Bogoria. We never birded aggressively, but did spend the first afternoon looking for owls. As per @optig's photos, we found Pearl Spotted Owlet, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, and Northern White Faced Scops Owl. The Scops Owls that we usually find near the old Lake Baringo Club had moved and we couldn't find them. We looked hard, as well, for Greyish & Spotted Eagle Owls in a ravine where we usually see them, but as King Charles the 1st once said, "I see all the birds are flown". We did, however, get a great, close-up view of a Heuglin's (Three-Banded) Courser. This bird, in the books, looks completely unremarkable. In person, however, it's exquisitely beautiful, and because of it's hectic camouflage and habit of sitting/standing dead still, it can be a real challenge to find them. The next day we took a boat ride, which, as usual, offered up some great sightings of herons, monitor lizards, malachite kingfishers, crocs, hippos, fish-eagles, and even a stunning Northern Red Bishop in the bright morning sun. You'll also no doubt have seen the Senegal Thick-Knee photos above, which we found on Teddy Bear Island (I know, it's a strange name for an island). In the afternoon, we headed to Lake Bogoria National Reserve. I used to come to Bogoria as a child with my parents. We would camp at the Southern end of the lake under some massive, spreading Fig Trees, next to a fresh-water stream and some hot springs. I have many fond memories of that place, but I’ll never forget how alert we’d have to be to the resident troop of baboons who seemed particularly fond of naan. In those days, I don’t remember seeing a single other vehicle (mind you, I was young and probably wasn’t paying much attention). Now, there are a decent number of visitors to the reserve, mostly because Nakuru no longer supports the flamingo numbers it once did, and Elementaita is somewhat unreliable for flamingoes. Most of the tourists we saw were Chinese, and were staying at Lake Bogoria Spa Resort on the edge of the park. They all seemed to be enjoying the experience (as did we, by the way). I was, however, a little dismayed at how few mammals we saw in the 3.5 hours we were in the Reserve. I think we saw Baboons, Vervets, a couple of Dikdik, a handful of impala (in a single group), 2 warthog, and a single, stunning Greater Kudu bull. The entrance of the Reserve, and the first few KM’s along the road are surrounded by Prosopis juliflora (Mesquite), an alien invasive tree from the South-Western United States and Central America. It was brought in to East Africa back in the 60s, I believe, to “green the desert”. How I wish the powers-that-were had recognized the potential of Acacia tortilis instead. Anyway, all of this to say that I really feel Bogoria has huge potential, if properly managed. There needs to be better law enforcement, controlling cattle. There needs to be ecological monitoring and improvement. They could put in a few more game drive roads. Someone could put in an eco-lodge that supports local conservation efforts. Don’t get me wrong, though. I thoroughly enjoyed being back in Bogoria. It really is a stunningly beautiful place. The next day, we took off after breakfast, heading west…. The stream running past Ruhiruini Campsite: A fancy Jewel Bug from our Aberdare Campsite: Crisp views of Mt. Kenya on our way up toward the moorlands A bizarre fungus or fruit (I have no idea) that we found in the high bamboo. Black markings all around it on the ground... An abandoned campsite we found exploring little side tracks. What. A. Spot. Interesting beetle at the campsite. I have yet to try to ID him. Moonrise over Lake Bogoria Sunrise over Lake Baringo
  9. Mara Cheetah Project update from September & October 2017 MCP_Cheetah-Update-26_September-October-2017.pdf
  10. Quarterly Report from the Mara Cheetah Project. 38 pages, so it's a big PDF. It's on dropbox. Let me know if you have trouble getting it to open. Mara Cheetah Project - 2017_Q3.pdf?dl=0
  11. 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!!
  12. @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!
  13. @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.
  14. 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.
  15. @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.

© 2006 - 2018 - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.