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  1. You noticed my spots @Atravelynn Indeed I am proud, as with the instant ID of the Oribi to come. Junior Ranger sounds like something awarded to someone who goes on safari with his Mum... Oh!!! And like mother like son is a scary comment, except that I hear a chorus of "you should be so lucky!"
  2. @JakeGC That is a good idea Jake. The use of mobile phones has really increased a lot in the Mara conservancies - for the reasons you mention - but I note guides still tend to be a bit "discreet" and I think that gives the wrong impression. Just like radio comms during drives it's either acceptable (and I much prefer it to the old radio!!) or not acceptable to individual guests and it's good to know how they feel about it. You might even mention it is considered preferable to radio comms. Having said that, it does mean that guides are on their phones and so when there is an urgent message unrelated to the game drive it is hard for them to ignore it.
  3. Oh that is a very nice list of night sightings, Only missing honey badgers! Pretty good in the daytime too!!! And I really like the Nyala family shot - maybe because I have never seen them in the flesh, but I like it.
  4. And another thing to note, further to what @Geoff noted is that the terms can vary quite a lot. Sometimes I have to pay the balance 60 days upfroint, sometimes 30 days and sometimes I pay the balance when I actually arrive in the country. I am not personally keen on the latter method but it is certainly an option with many African-based operators. For some it is a policy to reassure people who aren't happy making bank transfers to Africa (there are some horror stories out there unfortunately) and for some the opportunity to avoid some tax may be a factor. Of course it all depends on what the lodges or camps you want to stay at will accept too.Just thought it worth mentioning.
  5. @Atravelynn What @inyathi said. Same story from me, although tsetses wouldn't be a problem for an experienced Africa traveler like you - they are not that bad compared to other places you may have been I am guessing. Only thing I would add is that it is a bit further to the main game drive circuit from Mdonya Old River than from most other camps mentioned. On the plus side they used to do all day drives (and their packed lunches were great) and they can also do shorter afternoon drives in that part of the park. Plus, as said, there is plenty of wildlife around (well actually practically "in" camp). My wife wants to go again - that is some kind of recommendation. It is one of her "top 5 camps" (if she had such a list) for exact reasons that Rob stated. It's up to 6 in a vehicle style, and they probably have fewer vehicles than some other camps (private vehicles generally cannot be pre-booked) but they used to have a cheaper full board package rate and a guide tent if you want to come with your own vehicles as part of an overland trip. I think I am barelyt more upt o date than Rob (maybe evern less) but I get their newlsletter and, liek Rob said, things really apprear to be same-old.
  6. Thank you @TonyQ And apologies for the poor quality of the writing in the last post ... in every sense. It was really a rush job and it is more than ironic that the reason it is so rushed is that I was busy running a training course today and had much less time than expected at lunch The irony? The topic was written communication skills for new managers. Ha! I think I'll have to add one more post just so there isn't such a pathetic ending!
  7. Last morning and we were out before dawn again. That's not due to a request by the way - it's the norm now to leave at 6 am latest. The special request is to leave later. Although we had to take our bags with us this time, we had packed the night before so a late start wasn't needed. Despite the early hour everybody was there to say goodbye to us. We saw some of the sub-adult lions again but they weren't in a position to make it worth waiting for them at dawn so we decided to try to catch something else.Only a hartebeest on its way somewhere and the usual gazelles, wildebeest and topis though. Dawn ISO 12800 Sun showing its face and down to ISO 1600 We came across some more of the lions but they were not doing much so we had a quick look for Fig (who had disappeared but had just been rediscovered by Charles laying up in thick bush to lick her baboon-inflicted wounds. Fig - or a small part of her Plenty of general game around of course but we were not having luck with anything exciting. A last shrike A herd of eland were not posing nicely, althouigh they did let us get quite close. Buffalos and topis in this area too, but again nothing really happening. And the non-dramatic pleasantness went on with the lions, who we ended up joining for most of the rest of the pre-breakfast time. \ They were around bushes so we couldn't choose where we parked the vehcile really, putting us at the mercy of the light. We almost got to see a last hunt but the lioness was spotted early and so she returned empty-pawed. Nelson did his best to get me some more interesting angles, but the choices were very limited. Young male. And before long it was time for a last breakfast and then we had to make our way to the aOlare Orok airstrip. Parking area at the airstrip We had a stop at Ol Kiombo for fueling, then had to stop at Naboisho before heading abck to Nairobi. The Mara River as we tuirned and headed toward Naboisho And hten we were out of the conservancy areas and it was all nearly over... nearly. We landed at Wilson Airport on time and were met by someone from Chameleon, who was going to take us to lunch at Utamaduni and then rendevouz with our guide from Ololo Lodge, who would take us through the park to the loadge. We were at the restuarant by about 1.30 pm so hoped to be oout by 2 pm or so and have tiime for an evening drive in the park. At 2 pm we were still waiting for our food. At 2.30 pm we had received one of three titems. At 2.45 pm we had received on more item and decided we had to leave and I went to cancel the order. At 2.46 pm we received the remaining dish. At 3 pm I gave up waiting for change and went to get it from the waiter myself. He pointed out that tips were not incldued.. I snorted like a rutting wildebeest. If he had said another word I would have locked horns there and then and driven him out of the restaurant area, then run around chasing off any other males I could find and preventing the women from leaving. We drove to Nairobi National Park in a fairly foul mood as we were (i) leaving and (ii) would be too late for a drive now. And it was Sunday so of course the area around the National Park entrance was very busy. The Maasai parking attendants are still there - same guys - occasionally interrupting their work of clearing traffic, advising people where to park and chasing off baboons with a tipped ("this is us and the Maasai") photo op. Actually t was quite intreresting to see so many people, Of course inside the park was much better. Our guide asked us if we were in a hurry or wanted to go for a bit of a game drive. We said we would prefer just to get there, although of course we could stop if we saw something. He asked if that meant we were not in a big hurry - wildlife first? Yes, we confirmed. So he took us to our last sighting of the trip. Two females and five cubs on a buffalo kill!. There were about a dozen vehciles stopped watching them. A mix of locals and tourists and busines and aid visitors. Then a local man drove up with his family and decided he should get out of the car just because he could. He walked around to the side of the car nearest the lions and made a gesture that I think meant he was neither impressed nor scared by this. Somebodygnelty pointed out that he was in breach of regulations and would he mind awfully getting back in the car. With a sneering, dismissive shrug he reluctantly complied, urged on by onlookers, who were of course massively impressed with him. Idiiot. Of course the lions sat up and took notice, and then stood up. But if he had had any sense at all he wouldf have noted that they did not run and got right back in his car. Not running does not seem to be a good sign to me. In fact perhaps someone pointed that out to him in between the abuse, tuts and groans. You've got to be kidding me? Anyway Mr Bottomcavity left, shaking his head at people's lack of tolerance nowadays and we headed off to the lodge. Ololo is very nice. We had booked a stable but were given a tented cotage (more cottage than tent really). All facilities available - just like in the best of the hotels really. Nice gardens, pool and outdoor/indoor dining areas. Not a bad place to hang out after safari at all, even though we were not in the mood to end the safari - really are we ever? And that was that. Drive through the park in the dark and to the airport in 35 minutes or so, where minor chaos reigned, but not enough to moan further about. I won't forgive that restaurant though. I'll maybe post a bit more if I have any more to say, But I am out of time now and so tentatively trhis is the end. Thanks for reading.
  8. Flycatchers don't operate there any more. There might still be park bandas and resthouse... not sure about anything else.
  9. Yes, if you are used to using a monopod, continue to do so- maybe with a quick release clamp so you can transfer to a beanbag easily. You can get down on your knees to use a beanbag but it might discourage you from shooting if you have to do that every time... depends how spry and slim you are and how much space there is in front of the seats. No need to bring beanbags unless you have a very special one.
  10. Whoah there! You kight be taking on a bit more than you think here. It might be your parents' last trip anywhere!! You cannot drive Jinja to Nkuringo. Someone may have done so but they were living dangerously. You cannot drive Nkuringo to Entebbe and be in the Mara the same day.You would be doing well to make it to Nairobi same day. Actually you would be doing pretty well just to drive Nkuringo to Entebbe in a day, unless you had 2-3 drivers. Drop Jinja and fly to Nkuringo and fly back to Entebbe and then on to Nairobi and you should be able to catch an afternoon flight to the Mara - but you'll need to check that -don't just assume it can be done. If you need to add Jinja, go to Buhoma instead but be prepared for a long and exhausting drive there that will not be fun for anyone - and it will still be difficult/ maybe not possible to get to the Mara same day. Other things are doable. I wouldn't (especially adding Amboseli and going back to Nairobi, which is going in the wrong direction and will require a change of guide and driver at the border) but they are doable.
  11. Well, yes it is repetitive but only you can say if it is too repetitive. I've "repeated" Mara North and the two trips were very different. One thing to note is that if you are going at the same time of year, this year was rather dry, so the Mara will be different if they have more rain April- June. That's good from a "different experience" point of view - possibly. You don't "repeat" the Mara really. It is always different and actually there are a lot of areas that you haven;t been to. Have you considered Naboisho? So far as I know (and I haven't stayed at Offbeat) Offbeat Mara operates in a fairly similar way to Kicheche.and I think that while there will be differences, overall everything would be of a very similar standard. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit more basic, but deliberately so, is my impression. My wife's opinion is that anything done different from Kicheche Bush Camp is be definition a lower standard, but I do not agree and I just tell you that in case you have a similarly smitten and stubborn family member. Anyway, looks great to me. Without Ol Lentille or something else it might be a "step down" on the luxury sdie - especially teh lack of available spa teatements and having your own house with butler (although you will have your own camp staff in Meru, which is surely just as good?) Not sure if that will make a difference to anyone. You probably don't need to book yet unless you want specific nights at Kicheche Bush Camp... can ponder a bit longer.
  12. Thanks! Not sure. Like Pen said they have been around Explorer/ Intrepids (on the Olare Motorogi side of the Talek when we spotted them, but they've moved around a fair bit. They should be happy where they were for now as there are plenty of wildebeest calves and few lions in that area, but of course things change. So far, not Olare Orok very often but other than that.......... I did put a warning! Thank you for adding another aardvark to our sightings.... haha I know your brain was thinking aardwolf, but the fingers didn't listen! It seemed a bit surreal at times, especially with my Mum there. I actually though our last visit to Olare Orok was even more remarkable as we were only there three nights. But we always hit the jackpot with Nelson - chemistry of luck? I no longer have any explanations for why we keep on seeing so much. I used to think it was reward for time out, and our attitude of the little things being just as important..... but truth is that we didn't do anything special this trip.. I suppose the fact that we mostly (apart from Fig) looked hard for our own stuff - by both choice and necessity - may have something to do with it. Our guides have to take credit - we had hardworking guides throughout this trip. I have to admit I do not know about a tower vs a journey.It makes sense but also sounds like something someone could make up, No doubt someone can answer definitively. I am afraid the final installment won;t be in time, but you'll be writing your own installments in real time, which I assure you is much better. Have a great, great trip.
  13. Very good! Wild dog and rhino in a hurry to the restcamp. How frustrating! I'd have paid the fine. (But maybe not if it was my first trip).
  14. I forgot one sighting! An oribi. I had to confirm identification as, quite incredibly, Nelson had never seen one that he could remember. We'd come across them on our first two safaris so remembered the tell-tail signs ( a reedbuck in the wrong place that is too crouched over and has too sharp a face, a steenbuck that is too big..... and then look at the ears... yes it is an oribi). We had crossed the Talek for breakfast and ended up down by the Mara River. There were huge numbers of wildebeest and it was clear the southerners had arrived (the panoramic shots above are from this morning). There were also big herds of eland and buffalo and I am not sure why I didn't take pictures of these. I think I expected better light for them later but really I just wasn't thinking straight because we didn't see them later! We saw large herds gathering on the banks of the river at three different spots but we didn't have any desire to sit around waiting for a crossing in the sun with a crowd. For some reason they were all heading south, while all the other wildebeest we had seen had been heading north - there didn't seem to be much logic to it. However, the sheer numbers of wildebeest were keeping anything else away and it was getting a bit hot for the predators - in fact it was turning into a surprisingly hot day. In the end, Nelson found us a spot in shade with a decent view (although a little far away) of the herd that his riverside based contacts deemed most likely to be about to cross, and we just enjoyed the shade, birdsong and what little breeze there was and watched the wildebeest and hippos (as this crossing spot took them right past a pod of hippos). Sure enough, we only had to wait about 40 minutes. Even this we wouldn't have bothered, but like I said there was little going on and it was a pretty sure thing - plus I admit after the cheetahs and the masses of wildebeest in the ocean of yellow grass we were like people who had eaten a very large lunch being offered more food a little later and just kind of picking at it absentmindedly. It was quite a pretty scene and strange being at a distance that there was no sound at first and even when the sound did arrive, it was relatively quiet. I liked the spot though - no doubt one of the back-up spots for watching crossings when there is not a spot to park at on the banks from July to September. When the crossing got underway the hippos on that bank crossed too, to get out of the way. They knew what was coming. What was coming was that it was going to start raining wildebeest. Incredibly only one was injured in the cliff leaps. I'd set up the camera to frame the scene nicely but the wildebeest had foiled my plans by crossing slightly further up that I had expected. Eventually they started to cross in the right (and logical as there was a less steep descent there) place. Nearly right! That's it! This is what I wanted. The hippos kept a wary eye on the wildebeest but didn't interfere, and neither did a crocodile who was probably already full after the crossings the other way that there must have been in the preceding days. Bart the one wildebeest injured falling off the bank, all made it across. After that we watched the wildebeest rutting and running some more and then found a big journey of giraffes, which was quite impressive! There were more than 20. most of which are here. Another panorama you should be able to click on and enlarge. After lunch (and boy was it difficult to find a spare tree even on 1 July) crossing back across the Talek we watched some wildebeest, zebras and topis do the same and tried to take some different angled shots of this micro-crossing, with mixed success. Back in Olare Orok we pottered around for another 2-3 hours without seeing an awful lot. A relaxed reedbuck was another "first since Aberdare NP". A little-ringed plover had something in its mouth - a seed I guess? A sandgrouse - yellow-throated possibly although I should look through my files as I have a picture of the male somewhere too. And a secretary bird. We got back to camp before sunset and watched it from our tent as the herds had arrived and the camp was surrounded by wildebeest and impala, making a racket as they rutted away. We spotted eland. banded mongooses and gazelles too, without the aid of binoculars, but I didn't bother photographing any of it. With departure the next day i was feeling rather sad, but also quite happy. Anyway it was a time for wine, not a telephoto. I'll wrap up in the next post - not much more to come really - no last minute drama although I am going to have a moan about something, just because I can!
  15. I am not even going to try to build the "can Nelson find them?" suspense. We made one request - to see the coalition of five male cheetahs (not all from the same mother) if at all possible. We went to an area near to Mara Explorer Camp along the Talek River where I think Nelson had heard they might be hanging out - although we had no radio or other contact that morning so it was just a "recently seen near...." tip from the evening before I think. We looked here, looked there, and then found a large gathering of wildebeest looking like they were about to cross the Talek North- South or West-East (it's a windy river of course, but heading towards Olare Motorogi). We said "nah, stick to the plan" even though we were the only vehicle there. That was a good decision because not long after Nelson got a smile on while doing one of his regular scans. There they were, eating a wildebeest that they had clearly only recently killed (we must have just missed it, but you can't have all the luck) and they were actually the reason the wildebeest hadn't crossed yet - suddenly the scene had the look of a crossing half-finished- interrupted by the cheetahs taking down a wildebeest. Amazingly, given the location in the Reserve (although there is nowhere to cross the Talek right near this spot, so it is a little sheltered) there were no other vehicles around at all despite it being well before breakfast time. The scene (should be clickable, although I think you can see the important things at this size. We'd come in from the left side of this picture originally and with the cheetahs having their heads down in long grass, hadn't initially seen them. 1-2-3-4-5 Hah!!! Chowing down. A couple of little snarls when two got the ends of the same bone, but generally they were all feeding together very peacefully, with one or the other popping his head up every now and again to scan for danger. \ A couple of vehicles appeared on the other side of the river, but as far as they knew we were waiting for the crossing. Nelson didn't turn on the radio to allow them to confirm this and it was another 40 minutes or so before the first of them got near enough that Nelson gave them a heads-up, having checked with my wife that she had had her fill (well, I am sure they were coming anyway - by that time we were clearly following something and it wasn't the elephants over there). Since one small wildebeest isn't necessarily enough for five cheetahs, we popped down to the river to see if a crossing was on, as that would have surely prompted them to hunt again, but the wildebeest and zebra were well aware of the cheetahs' presence and just coming down for a drink. When they had finished eating, the cheetahs went for a walk together... what we had been waiting for!! Of course there are a couple who lead, especially the one with the collar fitted, and there is one who is noticably smaller and really doesn't look like he should be away from his mother or that he could survive on his own (we thought Nelson's comment "I hope the others don't notice." when I pointed this out to be hilarious, and it was, but perhaps you had to be there. They were playing too, but mostly in the bushes unfortunately. Anyway, although they didn't all mount a termite mound together, this was well beyond expectations and after more than an hour we were happy to leave them to the three other vehicles now arriving (one guide gave Nelson a "you should have called us" look and Nelson gave him back a sheepish "Yeah, possibly.,,,, next time maybe." grin, but he had another tip up his sleeve that we hadn't used and shared that to make sure they were all buddies again. One last look and then we'll go and see if those wildebeest are up to anything. Oh, they are up to something! And of course we had most of this to ourselves too as the few vehicles around were with the cheetahs and some way from the river now. Eventually the crossing attracted about six vehicles. It wasn't a thriller crossing anyway, as the river was calm and shallow and the banks not very steep. But no mayhem is nice too sometimes and it was the perfect way to end stage one of the day. And then to breakfast!

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