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Found 308 results

  1. Leopards Lions L'cheetahs There is no doubt that the greater Masai Mara park has the Big Cats in abundance. Even when it pours every day. even when the rivers are roaring through the grounds and the parks are covered with verdant healthy grasses which is when prey supposedly disperses. At least, not in the conservancies of Mara North and Olare Motorogi. The conservancies are pumping. And as a mere observer, I simply am just a recorder of events. and so this is, nothing more.
  2. I had a terrific first trip to Kenya with a 4 night, five day trip to Offbeat Mara. This camp is in the Mara North conservancy. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly with weather and sightings in January, but I was pleasantly surprised! With the changes in weather patterns, the Mara was green like a giant golf course (I was told it was supposed to be dry in January). We had several rainstorms during my stay which provided some beautiful lighting. My other trips to Africa were in the dry season, so I was thrilled to have the chance to photograph the animals with the lush green backgrounds. My main goal was to see lion cubs, and I saw lots of them, from all three prides that roam that conservancy. I still have not managed to see a successful hunt, but we saw two unsuccessful hunts--a cheetah going after a warthog baby, chased away by mom, and 2 young lions stalking warthogs unsuccessfully. Lots of babies around--impalas, zebras, kopi, gazelles, elephants, and of course the lions. We even saw a gazelle give birth, which was very exciting. I was very impressed with the guide I had throughout the stay there, Stanley; he was the equal of the best guides I had in Botswana and South Africa. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the trip... The first afternoon we had a great lion sighting--we followed a lioness while she retrieved her 3 cubs at the top of a cliff, where they were well hidden, and then joined her sister and her 3 cubs at the remains of a zebra kill. The lionesses were jealously guarding the kill, while the cubs were playing around in the carcass. The next day the carcass had disappeared, so some other animal had made off with it. It was fantastic to see the six cubs, nearly the same age, playing together! Other great sightings--a crowd of hyenas at a hippo carcass and a mother hyena peacefully nursing her pups...
  3. Could any of the birders out there help me ID these birds from my recent trip? Thanks in advance. I was especially taken by the tiny hawk in the fourth image--it was about the size of a sparrow. We saw that one outside of Bwindi in Uganda.
  4. So with the new non-stop JFK to Nairobi flights on Air Kenya starting up, I am planning a "quickie" return visit to the Mara for February 2019. Just 8 nights. Four nights will be at Enaidura again, with Ping as our private guide (hoping the 5 Musketeers will still be around--even if they have separated by then, they should still be in the area.) But I want to spend 4 nights in a conservancy as well. We really loved Olare Motorogi and last trip stayed at Porini Lion. We were totally happy there, but I really want to try a new may sound nuts but to me that will make it feel like we are not just repeating ourselves. Also, I have learned the lesson from our Zambia trip, and from now on will always book a private vehicle. The only other remotely affordable option in OMC is Kicheche Bush Camp. I really love the look of that they are geared to photographers, with vehicles really well-equipped for photography (like that they have open roofs with bracing for beanbags, so that you have sort of the best of both worlds) and by all reports, outstanding guiding. It would also be my birthday when we are there and Kicheche Bush Camp definitely looks more posh, while still being a tented camp. But, they offer no deals, and really top out our budget. Another option would be Offbeat Mara in Mara North Conservancy. This would save me considerable money, as they offer a four for three night deal, plus a 10% early booking discount, plus are less expensive than Kicheche to begin with. I know that @amybatt had a fantastic trip with them and is returning, in fact, next fall. But I really haven't heard much else about Mara North. It seems there are many more camps there than in maybe more vehicles...but on the other hand, the conservancy itself seems larger. So I am completely I go for the much more expensive option in OMC where I would really love to see Fig again, and Figlet, and Olare (Fig's son from a prior engagement And where I know there is a very high density of cats in general, with multiple lion prides? Or do I take a chance on Mara North, which I really know little about...and save a bunch of money? (In theory I could even add another day there, although we really want to keep this trip shortish.) I have read that maybe the Loita herds could be in that area in February...or maybe not. Anyway I would love to hear from anyone who has been to Mara North and any thoughts on Offbeat Mara vs. Kichche Bush Camp---especially in the Jan/Feb season.
  5. I call this a Safari Talk Safari as we followed in the footsteps of two ST members on this trip @Towlersonsafari and @michael-ibk . Once we read their trip reports we knew immediately that our journey to Kenya would include their recommendations and they proved to be perfect for us. Thank you so much for all the help you gave us in particular @michael-ibk who introduced us to Petra Allmendinger who has a guest farm near the Aberdare's, Sandai Homestay and arranged a wonderful 11 day tour for us with our own private vehicle. We spent 5 weeks discovering this new, for us, country travelling from Nairobi where we met our adopted orphans and their wonderful keepers at the David Sheldrik Wildlife Trust orphanage onto the Masai Mara, The Aberdare's, Solio and Samburu. We also stayed at two of the fabulous DSWT release sights Umani Springs and Ithumba and finally to Amboselli before a last wet and muddy visit to the orphanage on our last evening in Nairobi. We travelled with different companies and different drivers and all of them were friendly, helpful, welcoming people who took great care of us. We arrived a few days after the disputed general elections and everyone went out of their way to reassure us that we were safe. We had no problems what so ever. Although we began our trip with a couple of days in Nairobi I will begin with our 6 nights spent in the Masai Mara at Brian Freeman's camp and will return to Nairobi and our onward journey from there later. @Towlersonsafari had so enjoyed their stay at Brian's 'secret' tented camp that we contacted Brian and booked with him direct. He included a private vehicle and if we wished we could stay out from sunrise to sunset. Brian does not advertise his camp on any web site other than his own. He has a few, excellent, reviews on Trip Advisor but his business is mainly return clients. We flew to the Masai Mara on 16 August 2017. We left Nairobi on the early morning Air Kenya flight and landed at Ol Kiombo airstrip. Its only a short drive to Brians camp and our guide/driver Josh met us and we immediately set off on a game drive before going to camp for lunch. Josh asked us what we wanted to see most of all. 'Leopards please! and everything else of course'. We have had bad luck with finding leopards on our previous trips to Africa and hoped that this time we would fulfil our dreams of spending quality time with a leopard/leopards. Josh promised to do his best for us and boy did he deliver
  6. As several of you probably know, one of the leading figure in Kenya' safari industry, Willie Roberts, has passed away at the end of January. I find this piece, courtesy of the Mara Elephant Project, very interesting: i met Willie only once, and briefly, at his home, Sirikoi in Lewa. His legacy is now in the hands of his son Richard, one of the most prominent and successful safari guides in Kenya. The Roberts family has also got strong ties with Tropic Air. (This relationship, amongst other things, has recently permitted Richard to lead a wonderful helicopter safari in Chad's Tibesti and Ennedi)
  7. I apologize for the large gap in posting Part 3 of this trip report. The delay would have been longer, but reading the gripping trip report from @bettel, who visited this same area earlier in November, got me motivated to finish my own report. I know I promised at the beginning of these trip reports that I would focus on just the highlights rather than a blow-by-description, but , . . let's just say there were a lot of highlights from my visit to Lion Camp and the Olare Motorogi Conservancy (and adjacent Mara Reserve). Day 7 (26 Nov PM) - After arrival at Lion Camp from the morning drive over from Mara Camp, I confess to having a bit of "civilization shock" on seeing a larger camp . . . 10 whole tents! A separate lounge tent!! After the smaller 7-tent Rhino Camp and 6-tent Mara Camp, this seemed like a small metropolis. All camps were only half-full at this time of year, but more people around might stress my limited social skills to the max. I needn't have worried, as all the guests were friendly and delightful, and the Lion Camp staff continued to demonstrate the excellent personal level of attention that I experienced at the other Porini camps. We enjoyed a nice outdoor lunch with a few other guests who were not out doing game drives at the moment, and then retired to our tent to get settled in and get our photography gear ready for the next drive. I had some concern whether we could actually do an afternoon drive this day, since shortly after lunch the skies opened with one of those Mara downpours. But the rain had let up by the time of the afternoon drive (415PM), and we headed off with our guide Meshack and spotter George. First encounters outside of camp were a couple colorful birds, a violet-backed starling and a malachite kingfisher. Note - my bird ID book hasn't arrived yet, so take my bird IDs with a grain of salt. To be error-free, I should probably just identify these as "BIRD". We came up to our first river crossing of the drive after the afternoon rainstorm, and it took a little time to find a safe place to cross. A Thompson's gazelle was going through the same decision process as us, running back and forth along the bank, though ultimately we didn't see the gazelle brave the waters. We eventually made our own crossing, which Meshack negotiated with aplomb, while Harry and I hung onto the vehicle and our camera gear, and continued our afternoon drive through the southern portion of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. This Conservancy is contiguous with the northern border of the Mara Reserve, and the benefits of this arrangement would become very apparent tomorrow. Soon after the crossing, we found a marsh harrier (which I assume was enjoying all the wet terrain after the afternoon downpour). Finally, a species that is moving at a pace an old guy like me can follow - fireball lilies. And another species moving at a stately pace, even in flight - white storks. I understand these large birds spend their summers in Europe and their winters in Africa. We came across two large flocks of these birds in the Conservancy. You know how herds of zebra can be happily grazing away at their piece of the savannah and then, for no obvious reason, they all up and run to a different patch of grassland (that looks pretty much the same to us humans)? These white storks displayed similar behavior, feeding peacefully along the ground, then the flock decides to fly off to another similar patch of ground. Rinse and repeat. Between the two stork flocks stood this proud zebra mother with what appears to be a very young foal. With all the big cats in this part of the conservancy, I hope the foal survives into adulthood. And yet more white storks from the second flock, doing their stork thing. This is one of those iconic Mara scenes, a group of wildebeest making their way down a distant hillside. After another exciting river crossing which put us on the same side as the wildebeest, a smaller subset of this herd raced past our safari vehicle. Which is when I learned the difficulty of getting an effective panned photo of a running animal. But it is still fun trying . . . Our guide Meshack found an interesting small group of young lions. The female did not seem old enough to be the mother, so we hypothesized that these must all be siblings. Which would explain why the younger cub is comfortably asleep next to the subadult male, a situation we probably would not see with an unrelated fully adult male lion. The high point of this afternoon game drive for me was without question an encounter with a group of seven jackal pups claiming an old termite mound as their new home. @bettel mentioned this same group in her report. While the King of the Hill spent most of the time snoozing away, the other six pups kept a pretty alert watch on their surroundings. Interesting to see how these pups immediately rotated their heads to follow any interesting sounds and sights. At this age, the ears are roughly the size of the entire pup's head! Bear with me for all these photos of the pups (and be thankful I am only showing you a fraction of what I shot!). If you read my previous sections of this trip report, you know I have a thing for banded mongoose, especially when doing their meerkat impressions. Never pass by a posing kingfisher. As you can tell by these last couple shots, the clouds had mostly cleared and the sun came out at the very end of the afternoon. We went looking for Fig the leopard, and found her asleep in a tree. Not a very good shot, but it was getting to be late dusk at this point. We also saw Figlet in a different tree, but at that time not much more than a dark silohuette against a slightly-less-dark sky. All in all, a promising start for our first three hours of game drive in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Day 8 (27 Nov) turned out to be an all-day drive, starting in the Conservancy and spending most of the day it the Mara Reserve, then returning to the Conservancy and camp later in the afternoon. It is a seamless transition from the Conservancy to the Reserve - no fences, no gates, and no crowds. Now I realized why the Lion Camp is so popular, and can charge a bit more than the other Porini Camps: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. And did I mention there were a few big cats in this area? I had hoped to start the day with a good sunrise photo, something I couldn't achieve on the other mornings due to overcast skies. No luck this morning either, as we had a flat tire to fix and did not leave Lion Camp until shortly after the sun had risen. But there was a nice consolation prize - a beautiful pair of lions enjoying the morning sun from their perch on a rock outcrop. According to our guide Meshack, these were a juvenile male and female pair from the Moniko pride. This time of year, the savannah seemed to abound with Thompson's gazelles, and especially with young gazelle fawns. A fact that becomes significant later in the day. Maybe it was the time of year, maybe the time of day in the early morning, or maybe it was the vegetation and associated insect life in this part of the Conservancy/Reserve, but colorful birdlife was also abundant. We never had to look very hard to find some interesting birds. I could make this the audience participation section of the trip report and let you do your own bird IDs, but I will venture some guesses here. Some elegant secretary birds A pair of superb starlings, with one working to collect material for the nest. I assume they know which is the male and which is the female; I do not. And a southern ground hornbill And you already know that I never pass up lilac breasted rollers. Even I know enough that this next one is not labelled "BIRD." A healthy-looking Kirk's dik-dik. It is interesting to see how quickly the savannah "greens up" after a rainfall. Definitely makes for some happy grazers. Having an ample food supply all around them, this group of zebra seemed quite content for the moment to simply run around and celebrate the joy of life with each other. I believe the technical term for this animal behavior is "frolicking". Seeing animals who often spend much of their days in a relentless search for food and avoidance of predators, it was refreshing to see this more carefree time for the zebra. Of course, a trained psychologist would just diagnose my explanation as simply rationalizing away my obsession with photographing zebra. Most of this day was spent in the Mara Reserve with various big cats, and so the day is best explained in a series of short vignettes about these cat encounters. Interspersed with the occasional photos of birds and other interesting critters. We start with a group of young lions from the Ol Dikidiki pride (according to our guide Meschack), The lions were not very active and seemed to be mostly interested in trying to nap. But a nearby lone helmeted guinea fowl was constantly giving an alarm call. I mean INCESSANTLY - it became the background soundtrack to watching these lions. Occasionally the lions would glare at the bird and I thought one would actually summon up the energy to chase it off, but that never happened. Instead, the lions all eventually got up and moved off to a different location. Interesting interspecies dynamic here. Possible the guinea fowl might have been protecting a nest? Our next encounter with was a pair of male lions (Lipstick and Blackie) with one of the females from the Madomo pride. I think the mating male was Lipstick, but I confess that I did not make careful enough notes to be 100% sure which male was which in this encounter. Another interesting dynamic here, as the act of mating was enthusiastic but brief, followed by some napping, followed by the male getting in the mood again before the female does. I must be careful not to over-generalize too much from this one pair of lions. The mating lions had another audience besides us A little avian relief from the felines, first with a few photos of a tawny eagle in flight and then a great egret. And then we come to my favorites, the cheetahs. I share the passion of @bettel for these svelte animals. These two are daughters of Imani. They started sprinting toward our safari vehicle, though it wasn't obvious to us exactly what prey they were pursuing. Then both abruptly reversed course, and came to a stop at a warthog burrow. There was only room for one of the sisters to get her head down into the burrow, but eventually she hauled out a hare! They ultimately ripped the hare into two parts, and each cheetah went to work on their respective parts of the hare. There was a somewhat gruesome ending to this cheetah encounter. When the cheetahs split the hare into two parts, there was one piece left in the middle. It turned out that the hare was pregnant, and the fetus was wriggling away on the ground. That wriggling in the end attracted the attention of one of the cheetah sisters. An interlude after the cheetah kill (which, by the way, was not silent) was a small wildebeest crossing. Not a huge herd, but still exciting to see, in part as one witnesses the indecisiveness of the wildebeest. Fortunately for the wildebeest, there were no crocodile attacks and the crossing came off without casualties. Though we did spot a Nile crocodile in the river nearby just a few minutes later; must not have been hungry enough yet. Late in the morning, we came across Malaika and her two sons, and we spent quite a bit of the afternoon (maybe 4 hours) following these cheetahs and watching them hunt. An aside here - the guides at the other Porini camps were outstanding, but Meshack here at Lion Camp was a cut above that high bar. Two reasons why I think he is so good: first, he has an uncanny ability to anticipate where the animals are going NEXT, so frequently we would pull away from their immediate location and wait for them to come to us. Rarely was he wrong. Second, Meshack is also an accomplished (and enthusiastic) photographer, so he sees things the way photographers do, thinking in terms of light, background, etc. He was truly exceptional. Full-grown cheetahs are beautiful and elegant. Adolescent cheetahs are much the same, with the added attraction of that extra little ruff of fur on the back of the neck. I could watch these cats all day (which is pretty much how we spent a large chunk of our day in the Mara). One advantage of the location of Lion Camp is that you have relatively short transit times to good locations in the Mara. For some guests, this could mean more time available to cover more ground and see different animals and scenery in the Mara, but in our case it translated to more quality time spent with individual animals or groups of animals. More pictures below of Malaika and her two sons taking a leisurely stroll through the savannah. They passed close to some possible prey, and made a few half-hearted chases led by mom, but ultimately no kills this afternoon. And it was not because the teenagers were screwing up the hunt - they followed dutifully behind mom at a reasonable distance. It just seemed that Malaika never really got out of second gear during her chases. Not that I am complaining - an afternoon spent with these beautiful animals is about as good as it gets. Can't you almost feel the pleasure of this stretch? I seriously thought this cheetah boy was going to climb into the back seat with Harry! And of course I was wondering if I could turn around and capture good photos of their encounter. I was also wondering whether our guide Meschack could have anticipated Harry's reaction and move our vehicle so that I would be appropriately positioned to get good pictures of Harry and the pursuing cheetah sprinting TOWARD the camera. For the photographers in the forum, this was shot at a focal length of 70mm on a DX format camera, so the 35mm equivalent would have been 105mm, the classic Nikon portrait focal length. Intimidating nosy tourists on the savannah is tiring work! We stopped for a much-needed lunch break - watching cheetahs is also tiring. Near a nice grouping of topi . . . And found a bird I have never seen before, a Meyer's parrot. Okay, I should have learned my lesson from multiple mis-identifications in Parts 1 and 2. BIRD. The water levels had dropped noticeably after the previous day's rains, but river crossings are always a little exciting, maybe because they represent a geographic boundary marking entry into a new area (at least to us) of the Reserve. These elephants still seem a bit damp on the underside, so I suspect they were in the stream shortly before we did our crossing. On the other side of the stream, our guide found us again the two daughters of Imani, resting in the shade. I fear she is expressing boredom at seeing us again. If this wasn't a yawn, then was expressing a different reaction to us. Eventually the two girls awoke from their nap and ambled to the top of a low rise, checking out possible hunting opportunities. And then settled back down in a good vantage point by a fallen tree trunk. Lots of young Thompson's gazelles in the direction they were looking. Since the cheetah sisters seemed in no rush to hunt, Meschack moved us ahead of them, on the other side of the gazelle herd. We then explored a little bit around the banks of a nearby gully, and found another BIRD new to me (wooly-necked stork . . . maybe). Okay, I feel my confidence coming back (always a dangerous thing): an African fish eagle keeping a close watch on the stream. The eagle flew down and landed on the streambank but came away empty-handed, so flew off to better hunting grounds. A stately yellow-billed stork. And a pied wagtail (I hope). A grey heron taking flight. These watercourses in the northern Mara turn out to be quite productive for bird life. An advantage of the occasional rains in November is that the savannah is just teeming with life everywhere. The cheetah girls were still perched by their fallen log, still keeping an eye on the Thompson's gazelles. And there were certainly LOTS of gazelle fawns bouncing around (I don't know how else to describe the gait of these young ones). We waited at this spot for a half hour or more, just to see what would develop. Finally, an alert from Meshack: "THEY'RE COMING!" Both cheetahs were running at moderate speed towards the gazelle herd, and diagonally across the front of our Land Cruiser. I didn't have the sense that they were each pursuing individual prey this early in the chase, but rather that they were simply running into the herd and would then choose a suitable prey animal once they saw how the herd scattered. Maybe fifty yards away from our vehicle, the two cheetahs diverged in their respective paths, and seemed to kick their pursuit into higher gear. If these were automobiles, you would say they have a continuously variable transmission - no obvious change in effort to reach higher "gear", but you realize they are now moving at much higher speed. Okay, the cheetahs seem to possess a turbocharger as well! This one cheetah has singled out her prey and is pursuing the fawn away from the front of our vehicle. With one swipe of her paw, the cheetah upends the little gazelle, and shortly thereafter has her jaws clamped on the prey's throat. Once both cheetahs had their respective kills firmly secured, Meshack slowly edged our vehicle closer. Clearly some nervous neighbors keeping a close watch on our cheetah. This was another kill that was not a quiet one, but at this point in the process, the only sound on the savannah was the cheetah panting to catch her breath after the chase. She did not seem to be in any hurry to begin eating her meal. By this time, it was approaching 5PM, so we began working our way slowly back to the Conservancy and home at the Lion Camp. After all the time with lions and cheetahs this day, the drive back was somewhat anticlimatic, except for one nice Kori bustard. But wait, there were several more significant rewards waiting for us at the end of this long day. First, a little clue for you . . . Yes, Fig the leopard was back in her tree, but she was awake this time, and in daylight as opposed to the dusk of the previous evening. Technically, "awake" was really an intermittent condition with her. Only this ST crowd could get excited watching a leopard doze and yawn, but hey, this is FIG we're talking about. On the way back to camp from our Fig sighting, we passed by this magnificent lone male lion. We may have missed out on sunrise this morning, but Meshack went to extra effort to find us a good sunset location. A fitting end to a rather spectacular 12 hours in the Conservancy and the Mara. Now I definitely understand the appeal of Lion Camp. I had modest expectations for our final morning at Lion Camp and final day in Kenya (Day 9, 28 Nov). I was already thrilled with everything we had seen so far, but you never know what surprises Africa will throw at you. The day started well, as I finally got to see my Mara sunrise. This is one of the advantages of staying in the private conservancies versus staying in the national parks and reserves, which don't let the guests out before sunrise or after sunset. What could be better than an iconic Mara sunrise? How about Fig being wide awake and out of her tree? If I thought that watching her sleep was moderately fascinating, imagine watching her do her runway model walk! Gorgeous creature. She seemed to be casually looking for breakfast, but the only obvious nearby candidate (a hare) scampered away, and Fig did not pursue. We left Fig alone so that we would not interfere with her hunting efforts. A dwarf mongoose also out looking for breakfast. These seem like they would be an easy prey for eagles, especially as the dwarf mongooses don't appear to live in larger groups with designated "watchers", as the banded mongoose do. Then Meshack received a report from another guide about a group of lions nearby, with one digging in a warthog burrow. And here I thought that male lions lived a life of leisure, letting the females do most of the hunting, mating when they had the urge, and fighting off challenges from younger males. Well, this fellow did not get the memo, as he spent quite a while determinedly digging up this burrow. With the females of his pride . . . just watching. Eventually, the sqealing warthog burst from his burrow, and the male lion promptly latched onto the back of the warthog's neck. The male lion did not instantly kill his prey, as at this point the warthog was still making a fair amount of noise. Though some of that was because the female lions finally became interested, and several moved in to start feeding on the warthog's hindquarters (while the warthog was still alive). Not a sound one will soon forget. The scuffle with the warthog kicked up a fair amount of dirt, which is why these photos seem peppered with lots of small light spots. The other sound I hear in my mind is the frequent growling and snarling of the lions at each other, as the male sought to protect his kill and the females sought better portions for themselves. No harm done to any of the lions, but finally the prize was torn into two pieces and the male came away for the front end of the warthog. Both halves of the warthog were taken down the banks of a small creek, which later furnished the lions with a drink after their meal. There must have been some of the back half of the warthog still left, as there was still some visible (and audible) tension between a couple of the remaining female lions. Or maybe that is just how the pride females dialog with each other after a meal. By contrast, the little grey-headed kingfisher is a quiet diner . . . We finally had our own breakfast after an exciting morning, with Meshack finding us a nice riverside spot with nearby giraffes and hippos, and some attractive little avian company (little bee eater and malachite kingfisher). And one final discovery on our drive to the airstrip at Mara North. We found a male Von de Decken's hornbill repeatedly flying back and forth to a particular tree. On getting closer, it became obvious he was bringing insects to his young tucked away in a hole in the tree. In the same tree was perched a Bateleur eagle, holding a small rodent in one claw. With that, we come to our last wildlife sighting, and time to say farewell to George and Meshack. The ride back to Wilson Airport on AirKenya was uneventful, as was the short "dayroom" stay at the Eka Hotel. I suspect I am not alone in thinking that JKIA is not a comfortable airport in which to spend a long period of time. A couple parting thoughts on this trip: - As you can tell, I was very impressed with the Gamewatchers/Porini operation. The three camps I visited were all different, but all exceptional in their own way. The Porini emphasis is on quality gamewatching, which is at it should be. If this matters, I am already thinking about returning to the Porini camps the same time of year in 2018, either late Nov or early Dec. I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in this part of East Africa. - There is one thing I would do differently, though. I would definitely stay at least one more night at the Lion Camp, now that I know what all that location offers. For some non-budgetary reason, I thought my wife would not appreciate it if I was gone overseas for too long. I may be imagining this, but on my return home, her reaction might best be summarized as "Oh, you're back already?". Lesson learned. My friend Harry is a quiet retiring sort of guy, so he might not want me ending this trip report with a photo of the back of his head on the return flight to Nairobi. So I will bow to crowd pressure and instead close with one more shot of our dappled girl in dappled light. Thanks for reading this 3-part trip report, and I hope it provided some mid-winter relief for our ST readers in the Northern Hemisphere. I also hope it may be of some value to the person contemplating when and where to do their next safari. ASANTE SANA
  8. This is Part Two of my 2016 African trip to the Masai Mara during October. Part One ~ The South Luangwa N.P., Zambia during September can be found here. Preamble ~ I had not been to the Masai Mara for decades. Whilst no one can argue that the abundance of wildlife is astonishing and the scenery beautiful I struggle with the number of vehicles jostling for position at many of the sightings. For me, who prefers a feeling of isolation in the wilderness, this degrades the experience considerably and I often wonder whether I am actually witnessing natural animal behaviour. Peter, my travelling companion, had said that if I could put up with the crowds in the main reserve it should be quieter in the conservancies and mostly that was true though there were some sightings (mainly of leopards) in the conservancies where there were in excess of 10 vehicles present. The itinerary for this portion of the trip consisted of; 1 night Nairobi (after arriving on a flight from Lusaka @ 9:00 PM) 7 nights Entim Camp 5 nights Kicheche Bush Camp 2 nights Kicheche Valley Camp Entim camp within the main reserve sits on the edge of a forest with a private outlook over one of the crossing points on the Mara River. This was the rationale for staying here but unfortunately the number of wildebeeste I saw investigate the crossing point was a grand total of four. Kicheche Bush Camp situated in the Olare Motogori Conservancy has long been a favourite of Peter’s and he has stayed there many times, often a few times a year. From reading many other TR’s I note that quite a few members of ST have also stayed here.The current hosts Darren & Emma are a delight and the tents are spacious, extremely comfortable and private. Whilst my tent and I suspect all others looked out onto the bush there is nothing in the way of what I would call fabulous views. We had hoped to stay here for 7 nights but the owner was hosting a photographic tour and the camp was booked for the last 2 nights of our intended stay so we decided on Kicheche Valley Camp for those 2 nights. Kicheche Valley Camp (as the name describes) is in a valley in the Naboisho Conservancy. The area around the camp comprises of acacia woodland & rocky (granite?) outcrops with permanent water in the river system at the bottom of the valley. As such the area in the immediate vicinity of the camp provides a slightly different game viewing experience to other areas of the Mara. Though the open plains that typify the Mara are a short drive to the north of camp. When the first wildebeeste takes the plunge the others will follow A lioness surveying the plains passes extremely close to the vehicle A Griffon vulture arriving at a carcass A confiding Little Bee-eater at morning tea. Buffalo with Red-billed Oxpecker.
  9. Hello STers i have a colleague who is booking a bucket and spade tri to Mombasa and is eager to arrange a 3 night safari to Tsavo East and Amboseli. Yes, I know it’s not long, yes I’ve asked if they can stretch to 4 nights. 😀 I haven’t been to Tsavo East since 1989 or Amboseli since 2000. So to say my experience is out of date is an understatement! I’m looking for advice or recommendations for an operator/camps/lodges. I don’t know their budget yet. But I am guessing at the lower end given this is their first trip to Africa and they are dipping their toes in the Safari world....I’ve explained it won’t be their last!
  10. Many years ago when Samburu in northern Kenya had a good population of cheetah, we had a very special moment as we were leaving the reserve. As we headed for the gate we came across three cheetahs that were in a playful mood as they chased each other and practised their tripping technic. It was a very nice way to finish our stay in Samburu, but as we watched we noticed a large figure in the distance which was making its way towards us. Through our, now well trained eyes, we could make out that it was a male Lion. He was moving at quite a pace and soon caught the attention of the playing Cheetahs. The Cheetahs stopped playing as the lion broke into a gentle run. This prompted the Cheetahs to split, each moving about twenty meters apart in the shape of a triangle. The lion showed a lot of attitude as he got closer making it clear who was the boss, but I don’t think the Cheetahs were overly impressed. When he was closer, the Cheetahs, each in turn moved towards the lion tempting him to chase them. He turned from one cheetah then to another, and then charged at the one to our left. As he did the other two Cheetahs moved closer calling to each other, or were they teasing the lion? He turned and gave chase to the Cheetah on our right. They knew as we did, he would never catch one of them, but he had to make a statement of intent and back up his position as top cat. The Cheetahs moved back & forth pulling the lion first this way then the other testing his resolve to prove himself. Again he gave chase, this time a little half-hearted, then stopped abruptly in a cloud of dust. The cheetah also stopped and turned walking square to him, almost as if taunting him. The other two Cheetahs were now quite close to him and as he turned around he seemed unsure which one to take his frustration out on. He decided on the Cheetah on the right, but in half charge he veered off to the left surprising the other Cheetah and almost caught him. This game of tag went on for about 15/20 minutes and we had to go. As we drove away, looking back we saw the lion walking away, the Cheetahs now standing together looking rather pleased with themselves. No photos as I had packed all my cameras away.
  11. PART 2 - OL KINYEI AND NABOISHO CONSERVANCIES (PORINI MARA CAMP) My gratitude to the kind folks who commented on part 1 of my trip report. However, had you been more candid, you might have saved yourselves from the pain of even more photos in part 2. Now my conscience is clear going forward with this section . . . Departure from Nanyuki West airstrip for the flight down to the Ol Seki airstrip (closest to the Mara Camp) was uneventful, but interesting nonetheless. I had assumed that we might get a direct flight to Ol Seki, but it didn't work out that way. In fact, it took two different aircraft (Twin Otter & Caravan) and four flight segments to reach Ol Seki airstrip, but all segments were reasonably short, skies were calm, and the flights were no hassle. Every one of our AirKenya flights left at a different time than originally scheduled, which I gather is routine for these safari flights in Africa, but what really impressed me was how well AirKenya and Porini handled these changes. Once AirKenya figured out their schedule for the coming day (presumably looking for an efficient mix of aircraft, crews, passengers, and destinations), they would contact with Porini main office in Nairobi with any schedule changes (and it seemed there were ALWAYS schedule changes). The Porini main office would then contact the relevant camp manager, and the most disruption a guest might see is to hear "your flight is leaving an hour later tomorrow morning, so you will get an extra hour of game drive". Amazing how smoothly this all operated. Mara Camp itself has only six guest tents, situated in an arc along the banks of a small winding stream, and a dining/lounge tent located at the approximate center of that arc. In the larger sense, this camp is situated on the western edge of the 18,700-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy, but that borders directly on the 50,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy, so the Mara Camp has easy access to a lot of productive terrain. I am not sure I can articulate exactly why this is so, but I thought the Mara Camp had the best "vibe" of the three Porini camps I visited. Sometimes it is the setting, sometimes it is the staff, sometimes it is the other guests - in the case of the Mara Camp, I guess it was all of those things. The camp has a resident bushbuck (not by any means tame, but clearly accustomed to hanging around the safety of the camp environs) As well as a troop of vervet monkeys that frolic around the camp (well, okay, also THROUGH the camp). An editorial comment here. A small river forms the boundary between Ol Kinyei and Naboisho, and someone was very smart in how they handled the river crossing. Instead of just driving down one bank, through the water and up the opposite bank as you see in the Mara Reserve, the conservancies here have built a short section of pavement through the lowest part of the crossing (what we would call a "Texas crossing" here in the United States). There are upright concrete posts on the downstream side of this paved section, which I assume gives the driver a visual reference on water depth and also would keep a vehicle from washing downstream. Not only does this type of crossing (also seen elsewhere in these two conservancies) seem safer, it also reduces streambed erosion and creates a small impoundment of water upstream. And you know how much the local animals and birdlife benefit from reliable water sources in the savannah. In the vicinity of this border between the two conservancies, we saw a number of very healthy grazing animals, including numerous impala (always graceful). And this unusual-for-me Coke's hartbeest. This terrain seemed to abound in birdlife, and I can never seem to resist a lilac breasted roller in good light. The highlight of this first afternoon (23 Nov) at the Mara Camp, and probably the highlight of my entire visit to this camp, was time spent with a small lion pride on the eastern side of Naboisho Conservancy. The weather was overcast, and looked like an afternoon shower was likely. This pride of two adult females and five cubs was sleeping off their evening meal of wildebeest. The fifth cub is not visible in this first photo; more on this cub later. WARNING - lots of lion photos to follow. This particular cub is definitely well-fed; even lying on her back, her belly is enormous! One other cub found a nice plaything from part of the wildebeest carcass, and went looking for a playmate. However, an afternoon downpour started, and everyone, including the playful cub, headed for cover. Given the small size of the local bushes, most of the adult lion bodies were left stuck out in the rain. The cubs fared better in finding cover, but their attention span for sitting still did not last long, and soon they were back out in the easing rain. Some of the cubs began cleaning each other, and some others started playing together. But our little bundle of trouble with the wildebeest bodypart toy went back out looking for new playmate to engage in a little tug of war. Meanwhile, one of the adult females did her best to shake off the excess water, and then sprawled out on her back - because it is important that the ENTIRE lion be clean and dry. Trouble eventually did stir up some interest in a game of tug of war, but probably not with the body part he had in mind. This cub seems to be trying to strike that perfect balance between cute and fierce. Sorry, buddy, still too cute! Most of the cubs began wandering further afield into a shallow depression, and became much dirtier in the process. Meanwhile, the fifth cub stayed tucked under the bushes near the wildebeest carcass. Our guide was concerned this cub could be ill and might not last too much longer. After a quick round of seconds on the carcass, the pride began moving off to stage right (minus the fifth cub). The adult females looked pretty clean and tidy at this point, if still a bit damp. Some of the cubs . . . not so much. This one female doesn't seem very happy with a muddy cubby walking so close to her. At this point, an adult jackal was approaching from stage left, and one of the adult females was keeping a close watch on this jackal. With the pride apparently departing the scene, we were worried what this jackal might mean for the fifth cub. Fortunately, this cub got up and walked away (and looked normal walking) as the jackal approached the carcass, and eventually the jackal was left to dine in peace. I did alert you there would be a lot of lion photos. But lion cubs are so adorable, even when wet. Maybe especially when wet. The adult lions seem really annoyed with being wet, whereas the cubs' joy at being alive seems to override any temporary discomfort from the rain. Beyond the photos, the memory that will stay with me from this time with the lions is the SOUND of the pride members softly calling to each. Not really a MEOW like our domestic cats make, more just the "OW" portion of the sound. Interesting that it was hard to distinguish whether it was an adult or a cub making those OW sounds. All made for a memorable encounter. The sky stayed overcast at dusk, and we were in for heavy rain through the overnight hours. Day 5 (24 Nov) dawned clear and a little cooler. This seemed to be the pattern for the next several days- cloud cover building up during the day with late afternoon thunderstorms, typically with the rain continuing overnight. I knew going in that this was at the end of the short rainy season, so some rain was not at all surprising. The camp manager here (Jimmy) said that the rains were a little later coming than usual this year, as it more typically dry by the latter part of November. The rain did not really cause any problems or prohibit any game drives. Some of the river crossings, especially down in the Mara Reserve, were probably more challenging for the drivers than they would otherwise be, and I was surprised how much standing water there would be on flat sections of ground after a rainstorm. The most significant impact for me was just the lower light levels from the overcast skies - I spent a lot of time shooting at ISO3200. Our morning drive with Josephat as our guide and Julius as our driver was quite productive in terms of bird life, especially around some of the river crossings in the Naboisho Conservancy. Morning sun highlighted the coloration of the Maasai giraffe, noticeably different from the reticulated variety up in Ol Pejeta. A group of grey-backed fiscals enjoying the morning. Would this be called a flutter of fiscals? An Isabelline wheatear, a new species for me. And a male Maasai ostrich, looking for a mate. A mated pair of Kirk's dik-diks. This little species seems to be fairly reclusive, which probably keeps them from being eaten. This scene struck us as a bit unusual, a group of five vultures in the morning sun. But three different species of vulture all together: African white-backed vulture, lappet-faced vulture, and Ruppell's griffon vulture. We sat for a while at one of the river crossings and just watched the birds come and go. Starting with a grey-headed heron reclaiming his favorite parking spot. Continuing with this vulture flying from tree to tree looking for the perfect perch. A nearby Thompson's gazelle had a pair of horns that seemed nearly as long as his legs. A white-headed buffalo weaver busy collecting construction materials for a new nest. And a pair of yellow-billed oxpeckers was just hanging out at their local breakfast joint. Our guide thought this topi calf might be only a day or two old. Harry, driver Julius, and guide Josephat enjoying a bush breakfast in Naboisho Conservancy. And a lilac breasted roller enjoying his own bush breakfast (I think I'll just stick with my toast, thank you) These helmeted guineafowl seem to be fairly common, but are surprisingly hard to photograph as they are always in motion (and usually moving AWAY from the photographer). Sort of the avian equivalent of warthogs . . . What kingfishers eat for breakfast when they get tired of fish . . . And another satisfied bug-eater, this one a female Von der Decken's hornbill. I expect most everyone else has already seen these mwanza flat-headed agamas, but this was the first time I noticed them. In part 1 of this trip report, I did ask readers to take notice of where the elephant calf was nursing. No, the answer is not that the calf was nursing in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. I meant where on the mother elephant the calf was nursing - strangely enough, and something I never knew, elephant mammary glands are located just behind the front legs. And that is relevant why? Well, because the elephant's closest terrestrial relative shares this distinguishing anatomical feature, as does the elephant's closest marine relative (the sea cow/dugong/manatee). In addition to the locaton of the mammary glands and having a long gestation period, these terrestrial cousins share some other common features involving the shape of the toes and toenails, tusk-like dentition, and internal testes in the males. If you were to see these two creatures standing side by side . . . well, you probably wouldn't even notice one of them. Welcome to the world of the little rock hyrax. This little fellow is politely posing for his school yearbook photo (voted LEAST LIKELY TO BE MISTAKEN FOR AN ELEPHANT). And a creature that you might think is closely related to an elephant, but is not. Unfortunately, I did not note down the name of the river where these happy hippos were found. Here is a lovely violet-backed starling: And a hammerkop poised to do something, I'm not quite sure if it was actively hunting or just thinking about it. Our afternoon game drive went to the eastern side of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, new terrain for Harry and me. Finally, a presentable photo of a little bee eater! A lovely striped kingfisher I am always a sucker for zebras. A mother giraffe next to junior What a magnificent pair of horns on this impala When not hunting or scavenging, jackals are really quite striking animals. Definite look of intelligence behind those eyes. The afternoon rain arrived, and soaked a pair of cheetah brothers. Like the lions, still gorgeous even when soaking wet. Day 6 (25 Nov) was an all-day drive from the Mara Camp down into the Mara Reserve. This daytrip bears a little more explanation. I understood that stays of 3 nights or more at Mara Camp include a one-day admission to the Mara Reserve, so Harry and I assumed that one of our two full days at Mara Camp would include this trip. The camp manager Jimmy and our guide Josephat, knowing that we were going on to Lion Camp next, assumed that we would prefer to do our Mara Reserve visit from there, a much shorter drive. However, we only had a 2-night stay at Lion Camp, meaning only one full day there, and I felt we had more time for the Reserve visit during our longer stay at the Mara Camp. Was I right in persisting for a one-day visit to the Reserve from Mara Camp? Well, you will have to keep reading to learn the answer to that question. As with the previous day, this one dawned clear and that first hour provided some of the best game viewing and photography. Most of these photos were taken during the drive through the Naboisho Conservancy to reach the Talek Gate into the Reserve. The total drive takes maybe two hours, but the last hour or so is not particularly scenic. Here is a tawny eagle warming up with the sunrise (and probably also scoping out breakfast opportunities). An already-beautiful lilac breasted roller looks even better in morning light. Everything looks good in morning light, even this Ruppell's griffon vulture. After entering the Reserve via the Talek Gate (and resisting the urge to buy a shuka, necklace, or a Maasai spear (not that the opportunity did not present itself), we did come across this lovely zebra mother with her young foal I do like the "milk chocolate" coloring of the young Zebras. And the zebra lookout. Almost should qualify as a "dazzle of one". Further into the Reserve, we located a leopard sleeping in a tree. Well, maybe more accurately, we located a gaggle of safari vehicles full of tourists all trying to observe a leopard sleeping in a tree. I think our guide quickly understood that this wasn't the Mara we came to see, so we headed off in different directions from the rest of the crowd in search of something out of the ordinary (and, to be honest, some solitude). Josephat soon found us a yellow-throated longclaw . . . Enroute to more open spaces, we did see a herd of elephants (being somewhat harried by safari vehicles and white minivans) and what I gather is somewhat unusual for the Mara, a couple of black rhinos. By only 10AM in the morning, the sky was already starting to cloud up. At our stop for another bush breakfast, we discovered some lion pawprints in the vehicle tracks (hopefully made prior to our arrival, not during . . . or so we convinced ourselves!). There is something special about those Mara landscapes. Those who have been there already know what I mean. Those who haven't been there yet - you have to go and experience this place. As the lion tracks attest, things were a bit damp from heavy rains the night before. The other evidence of recent rains - it seemed that half the puddles were occupied by hyenas cooling their hindquarters! Josephat soon found us a close cousin to the yellow-throated longclaw we had seen earlier in the morning. This would be the rosy-throated variety of the longclaw. I have earlier confessed to my fascination with small mammals in Africa, and thought at some point in my safari future I should visit the Kalahari to see those cute little standing meerkats. Just saved myself a trip, when we came across a group of banded mongoose doing their best meerkat impressions: Not that I can pass up some of the larger mammals: Another of those iconic Mara landscapes. I am pretty sure this is a pale variant of a tawny eagle, but feel free to correct me if that is wrong. That request goes for all of my species identifications and misidentifications. This one I think I can identify with some confidence (always a dangerous thing). Superb starling. Part of the magic of the Mara and surrounding conservancies at this time of year is seeing how quickly everything "greens up" after some rainfall. All the grazers seem to thrive with all the fresh green grass. This small pod of hippos was either on the lower reaches of the Talek River just before it joins the Mara River, or on the main Mara River itself just after the confluence with the Talek (I forgot to ask). And where there are hippos, there often seem to be Nile crocodiles. The riverbank was a promising place to search for small birds. First, a little bee eater (why do they often looked so pissed?)r: And a grey-headed kingfisher: Black-winged Plover (or Black-winged Lapwing, pick your poison) More banded mongoose, some in motion, and some other ones . . . also in motion. I didn't take the photograph of the mating mongoose pair out of prurient interest. Rather, note that the female is continuing to look for food. So much for the whole dinner-and-a-movie thing first! The river levels were still high from the previous evening's rain. They would get higher. The sky began to darken, there were rumbles of thunder in the distance, and the temperature dropped dramatically. Interesting to watch how the animals reacted to an impending storm. Even us humans finally figured that something was coming, and we decided to head for home. We were not quite timely enough with that decision, and spent much of the drive back to the Mara Camp through the pouring rain, with the canvas side covers rolled down. Photographing from open-sided safari vehicles, I expected to come back and have to wipe off some dust and occasional moisture from the cameras and lenses. This was the first time I came back and had to clean mud spatters off of EVERYTHING (including myself). I mentioned before how I was surprised at how water stands on the flat terrain after a rainstorm - this photo gives you a sense of that. Even when the land is dry overall, I guess the soil type here does not allow for rapid infiltration of the rainwater. Closer to camp and through the worst of the rain, we found a couple soggy cheetahs - I think these are the same cheetah brothers we had seen on the previous afternoon. Unlike the young lion cubs from earlier in this Mara Camp adventure, I guess these adolescent cheetahs are old enough to capture that feline look of aggravation and misery at being wet. So, was I right or wrong about insisting on a daytrip to the Mara Reserve this day? WIth the advantage of hindsight (and especially after visiting Lion Camp), the camp staff at the Mara Camp was right and I was wrong. You do lose some transit time getting from camp to the Reserve, and some of the drive right after entering the Talek Gate is not particularly interesting, but in a sense you gain that time back by having lunch in the Reserve instead of returning to camp for a lunch break. My real issue is that, after enjoying the relative solitude of the private conservancies, the Mara Reserve just seemed . . . overcrowded with tourists. Some behaving badly. I still love the Mara, it is a special place, but I fear it is being loved to death. Too many people for my tastes, even in off-season. In retrospect, I would have done as well for game viewing and photography to have stayed in the Ol Kinyei and Naboisho conservancies for those 12 hours, and I would have had a more enjoyable time in the process. End of sermon . . . Day 7 (26 Nov) dawned with a light overcast. This was our day to drive (rather than fly) from the Mara Camp over to the Lion Camp, a drive of roughly 2 hours duration. However, we coupled this with a morning game drive through the Naboisho Conservancy, so it became more like a 6-hour journey. The most fascinating part of this trip was watching a pair of young male lions slowly working their way from east to west through the Conservancy. Josephat thought they were from out of the area, and either looking for new territory or trying to reunite with their pride. You know how older male lions show their age with scars and other wear and tear? These two young lions (Joesphat estimated 5-6 years old) were in magnificent shape, positively beautiful. As you are about to see for yourselves . . . These two tended to mosey along at 100 yds or more apart, so I did not capture too many photographs of them together. A few more subjects of interest from our drive over to Lion Camp. Bare-faced go-away-bird Tawny eagle hunting on the ground White-backed vulture feeding on carcass A crested lark Blue-headed tree agama A Ruppell's griffon vulture (I think) And one more cheetah portrait I will end this portion of the trip report with a parting photo of our driver Julius and our guide Josephat, and a sincere thank you to both of them and to manager Jimmy and all the other staff at Mara Camp. And for those readers that have stuck with me so far, I should warn you that Part 3 will have cats, cats, and more cats. However, due to a travel commitment, I won't be able to post Part 3 until another two weeks or so. Sorry about the dramatic pause...
  12. We have narrowed down the quotes to two companies for our upcoming trip to Kenya and Tanzania in June. Both companies are KATO members, have listened to our requests, wishes and budget and have come back with similar itineraries and quotes. If anyone on the forum here can comment on their experiences with African Eden: or Aardwolf Africa: I would really appreciate your perspective. Issues? Customer Service? Guide quality? Thanks!
  13. INTRODUCTION This will be a three-part trip report covering visits to several different conservancies in Kenya during the latter part of November 2018: Ol Pejeta Conservancy via Porini Rhino Camp, Ol Kinyei and Naboisho Conservancies via Porini Mara Camp, and Olare Motorogi Conservancy plus the Mara Reserve via Porini Lion Camp. I am a relative newcomer to SafariTalk, but I found it an invaluable resource in planning this trip, so it is time to start paying it back (or paying it forward for the next person contemplating such a trip). This won't be an hour-by-hour detailed recap of everything on the trip. Instead, I will try to post things that might interest more experienced ST members, such as animal behavior, new and unusual species (at least new to me), critters I find particularly photogenic, etc. However, this is only my second safari trip and my very first ST trip report, so when it comes to my narrative text and photos . . . be gentle. A little background pertinent to this trip. I did one of those "package safaris" to Kenya in Sept 2016 with Odyssey Safaris. It seemed like a good introduction to safaris in general and to Kenya specifically, as it covered Amboseli, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, and the Maasai Mara Reserve, all-inclusive with international airfare from the US for under $4000USD. After an initial night on arrival in Nairobi at the Safari Park Hotel, there were two nights at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge, two nights at the Naivasha Sopa Lodge, and two nights at the Ashnil Tented Camp in the Mara Reserve. I had a feeling I would fall in love with Africa, so I viewed this first safari as sort of a budget reconnaissance trip for me, and it delivered well for that purpose. The food and lodging were all better than I expected, the single driver/guide was good (only four passengers per pop-top Land Cruiser), and the quantity and variety of the wildlife was amazing to me. Interestingly, of the eight guests on that package safari, I was the only one who caught the safari bug and was determined to return as soon as possible. For everyone else on that trip, an African safari seemed to be a one-time "bucket list" sort of trip. That said, I knew there were a few things I wanted to do differently on my next safari. First, I wanted the smaller tent camps versus the larger established "lodges". Second, I wanted to fly between the safari destinations; a lot of potential game-viewing time was wasted on my previous safari in driving time between the various parks and reserves (and on Kenyan roads, that can be hard for someone like me with bad disks). While photographing with a beanbag under the open pop-top of the Land Cruiser worked well, the side windows made photographing out the sides quite frustrating. Third, the all-inclusive package price included international airfare that was purchased at the lowest possible fare class through a ticket consolidator - which meant no seat assignments until the day of departure at the airport. For someone whose personal travel nightmare would be a middle seat on a long international flight, I resolved to handle my own airline reservations the next time around. Fourth, the arrangement of a single guide that handled multiple safari destinations in Kenya meant he could not be knowledgeable on the latest game activities at a particular location, so I knew I wanted to stay at safari camps that had "resident" guides. Lastly, being conscious of the numbers of other visitors at places like Amboseli and especially at the Mara Reserve, I wanted to try the private conservancies bordering the national parks and reserves. After doing underwater photography for 30 years, I have learned that crowds of more people never make for a better wildlife viewing experience, nor for better wildlife photographs. A little research, including a lot of time reading ST trip reports, led me to Gamewatchers and the Porini Camps in Kenya. From my perspective, they were PERFECT for this second safari. The Porini tent camps absolutely hit the sweet spot for me - the food is good and the lodging comfortable, but the real emphasis is on the game viewing. After reading a couple of the most recent Kenya trip reports here on ST, I guess other people already figured that out. The open-sided Porini safari vehicles (with canvas roof and side-curtains) were were photographer-friendly. As an aside, of the 8 guests on my previous safari, only my buddy and I would count as remotely semi-serious photographers - one person had a borrowed a DSLR with non-working autofocus, one had a small point-and-shoot, and the other 4 were using only cellphones. This is not meant as a criticism of how other folks do their safaris; rather, I was not impressed that Odyssey did not seem to put any thought into how they assigned guests to their vehicles, so I felt sorry for the two non-photographer guests who were stuck with us two photographers. Porini gets it - with the exception of one afternoon game drive, every other drive during this most recent trip was just me and my photographer friend Harry in a single vehicle. Porini staff make an effort to accomodate each guest's particular safari interests in a way that did not happen for me in 2016. With a lot of patient help from Phil Bottrell, one of the Gamewatchers representatives in the US, I put together this trip on the assumption I would be traveling as a single. Fortunately, a friend of mine (Harry from California) decided to join me about four weeks prior to departure. I welcomed the company of another photographer, but Harry's presence also brought my cost down by roughly $500. Total trip cost (1 night in Nairobi plus 8 nights in the field), including tips and everything (and use of 80,000 United miles) came in under $4000, which I consider an outstanding value for the safari experience delivered. PART I - THE OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY AND PORINI RHINO CAMP For this return visit to Kenya, I wanted to add a destination in central Kenya to pick up some of those unique species resident there such as Grevy's zebras and reticulatied giraffes. And most especially I wanted to see some wild dogs. As I was finalizing the arrangements for this trip, I used to tease Phil at Gamewatchers about making sure to "reserve" a pack of wild dogs for me (preferably slow ones that would be easy to photograph). When Harry decided to join this trip, seeing leopards was at the top of his wish list, to which I readily agreed as I never saw any leopards during the 2016 safari. Believe me, I understand from my scuba diving days that you have to take whatever nature gives you, but I find having a goal or two in mind makes the trip planning more focused. And it does build up one's anticipation prior to the trip. After a late evening arrival in Nairobi on 19 Nov (Phoenix >> Frankfurt >> NBO), and a short night at the Eka Hotel, we departed at 0615 for a short drive to Wilson Airport (which would not have been a 15-minute drive later into morning rush hour). Since I was carrying a photo pack with approx 11kg of camera equipment, I was a bit concerned about fitting within the 15kg total baggage limit for in-country safari flights. Before I ever had a chance to put a camera and lens over my shoulder and a couple batteries and chargers in my pants pockets, the staff at Wilson weighed my total baggage at 16kg (Harry's was similar). Nobody seemed to care about that slight over-weight issue, and once we boarded our AirKenya flight, we realized why - Harry and I were the only passengers on the DH Twin Otter flying to Nanyuki that morning. Technically, we flew into an alternate dirt airstrip (Nanyuki West?) on the western side of the Conservancy, as we were told the main Nanyuki airport was undergoing repairs. One additional aside regarding air travel - after obsessing a bit about the plastic bag ban in Kenya, on arrival at NBO - no obvious signs regarding plastic bags, no questions about plastic bags, in short zero hassles. The Nanyuki West airstrip is only a 10-minute drive or so to the Rhino Camp, so we did a lazy meandering drive to reach the camp around lunchtime. Nice small tent camp with only seven tents spread along a small creek. To me, it has two big advantages - first, most camps and lodges are on the eastern side of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, so it felt like Rhino Camp guests had the western half of the Conservancy pretty much to ourselves. Second, the porch of the main dining tent looks out on a nice waterhole which attracts a good variety of animal life (and bird life on the vegetation bordering the streambanks). After checking in, getting unpacked in the tent, and a nice lunch, we did a short walk with the Maasai staff for the spear-throwing and dancing demonstration, and then headed out for our afternoon game drive. My personal highlights of that first day (20 Nov) at Rhino Camp included a Kori bustard doing his mating display, some attractive reticulated giraffes (these photos were taken at the camp waterhole,as was the nearby Speke's weaver), and several curious young jackals and hyenas. A Speke's weaver, taken from the porch of the Rhino Camp dining tent: As you will eventually figure out through this trip report, I do have a thing for some of the smaller mammals in Kenya, and some of the ones like hyenas that we sort of take for granted. And for zebras. But those were just the appetizers. Toward the end of the afternoon, our guide Benjamin and his eagle-eyed spotter Henry saw something light-colored high in the trees in the distance. Turned out to be a leopard! Mind you, this was quite distant (photo is taken at 500mm with DX sensor, and cropped significantly), but still . . . any leopard sighting is a good sighting when you have never seen one in the wild before. A promising end to our first day at Rhino Camp in Ol Pejeta. We awoke early on Day 2 (around 0430), with nearby hyenas making quite a racket over their breakfast of zebra. Enroute to the eastern side of the Conservancy, we came across a small pride of lions working their way through the acacia scrub. Lion cubs of any size, age, and location are always cute . . . even when wet. Also a pair of cheetah brothers, either just waking up or just falling asleep - one can never be entirely certain with cheetahs. I should note that, when driving between Rhino Camp and the eastern side of the Conservancy, one passes by a substantial livestock operation including a slaugterhouse and worker housing (little village is named Kamok?). At first this struck a bit of an off note with me in the midst of so much natural beauty, but I came to accept it. After all, the Conservancy was formerly a 90,000-acre cattle ranch, and continues with a sustainable livestock operation that provides a source of both food and income to the local people. And the wildlife certainly seems to enjoy the watering stations that were built for the cattle. The eastern side of OP, though it gets more visitors than the western side, definitely has more beautiful terrain, especially the riverbanks along the Ewaso Nyiro River. Made a lovely spot for a bush breakfast. A local elephant herd seems quite at home in the river valley environment, and several family groups with cute baby elephants were present in the area. Note where the elephant calf is nursing in the first photo; this fact becomes significant later in the trip. Several African fish eagles also seemed to appreciate the location along the river. The central part of the Conservancy abounds with both southern white and black rhinos, though there seemed to be quite a bit more of the southern white variety (or possibly the black rhinos were feeding back in the bushes and therefore less obvious). These appeared to be family members playing together rather than any serious tussle. On the drive back to the western side for lunch, we came across a nice martial eagle, and one of my personal favorites (another underappreciated animal), the common warthog. But then, but then . . . let's just say that Christmas came early for me last November. Our guides spotted a lone wild dog moving around in the shade of a large tree. Apparently this young female was separated from the rest of her pack during a hunt roughly half a year ago, and the pack moved on while this young female was left here. Sort of sad to see a pack animal without her pack, and a social animal being all alone, but fortunately she looked quite healthy. After a lunch break, we headed out later in the afternoon with Benjamin and Henry trying to see if we could find the wild dog again. Close by the camp, we were passed by a herd of Thompson's gazelles zigzagging past us at full speed, headed in the opposite direction . . . followed soon thereafter by the wild dog. We tried reversing course to follow them, but it wasn't really possible with all the acacia scrub and the speeding animals, so no pictures of the solo wild dog hunting. Shortly thereafter, as we reached an area of more open grassland, keen-eyed Henry spotted our wild dog in the distance, apparently feeding on a kill. It was clear she has figured out how to catch gazelles on her own, without the rest of the pack to help. Also clear that she had to pass through some muddy terrain to catch her dinner this day. It was fascinating to see the hunting and feeding behavior of this distant relative of our domestic dogs. I know our Norwich terrier had a pretty strong hunting instinct around small rodents and lizards, but the shih tzu - not so much. His idea of hunting was to bark at the refrigerator. So within the span of about 26 hours at Ol Pejeta, we had both a leopard and a wild dog sighting. At this point, if the rest of the trip just had shown me the routine African wildlife, I would have felt this to be a successful safari that already met my expectations. We did spot a bird I had never seen before, the white-bellied go-away-bird: But there was one more interesting incident later that afternoon. Near the wild dog kill, a pair of young jackals were engaged in a tug of war over their dinner (some sort of very young grazing animal, not sure what). Unfortunately, they made enough racket to attract the attention of a nearby hyena. One jackal had sole possession of his prize for a brief moment in time, but as soon as the hyena came near, the jackal dropped the carcass and the hyena came away with a free dinner. If nothing else, these pictures show the significant size discrepancy between the two animals. Smart jackal. The end of a good full day in Ol Pejeta. Our Day 3 morning (22 Nov) involved another trip over to the eastern side of the Conservancy, this time to see the three remaining northern white rhinos and the Grevy's zebra. The morning drive eastward brought us a nice tawny eagle looking for breakfast: Some up-close-and-personal views of a reticulated giraffe: And the ugly-but-strangely-elegant marabou stork: I love seeing cheetahs, especially young sibling groups. They seem to share an almost telepathic connection. Cheetahs on the hunt are so focused . . . But sometimes their brother is only dreaming of the hunt . . . so much for my telepathy theory. As I mentioned before, there were lots of healthy-looking southern white rhinos in the central part of the Conservancy and other healthy grazers, I guess visual proof that the conservancy model is working well. On the previous day, we had visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary along the Ewaso Nyiro River to see Poco and the other rescued chimpanzees from elsewhere in Africa. Admission was included with the stay at Rhino Camp, and it was a worthwhile visit, but nonetheless a somewhat grim place. We had the option of visiting the Endangered Species Boma the next day, but opted to pass. Our guide Benjamin suggested that we could see the endangered Northern White Rhinos and the Grevy's almost as well from the outside of the fence, which is what we did. Again, this facility is a sad place, to see animals fenced in that should be in the wild, but it is sadder still to know that it is necessary because of human actions. Other than a nice view of the Grevy's zebras, I did not come away with any good pictures of the three northern white rhinos other than some for record purposes. Soon afterwards, we did go to visit Baraka the blind black rhino. Maybe a little inconsistent that I did not have such a negative reaction here, but that might be because here humans are taking care of a native Kenyan animal that was injured by forces of nature rather than by human actions. In any case, Baraka was worth seeing (this is Harry with one of the local rangers). On the way heading back to the west side and Rhino Camp, Harry and I had been looking for small birds such as lilac breasted rollers and bee eaters. My friend Harry is a real birder; I am not. I enjoy photographing large impressive birds and small colorful birds, but the little brown jobs (however rare) don't do it for me. I wasn't getting great shots of these small perching birds, so to amuse myself I tried to get some flight photos, right after they take off. I tried quickly panning to the right or left, but wasn't at all successful, so eventually I zoomed out to try to catch the bird in flight in any direction it might head. I apologize in advance for the quality of the following two photos. They are poor technically, but are interesting for another reason. This first photo shows what Harry tells me is a European bee eater, perched on a branch. Not real exciting, right? Now take a look at the picture taken just a split second later, when this bee eater has decided to fly away. Note that he not only did a nose dive off from his branch, but he has also rolled through 180 degrees, which is why we are seeing his underside rather than his back. I thought that rollers (and related bee eaters, in the same order Coraciiformes) were so named for acrobatic maneuvers they perform during courtship - either these particular birds also do these acrobatics during daily life, or this guy is practicing for his big date. Or more troubling, this little bee eater is courting a Land Rover Defender. In any case, I am impressed . . . Came across a rhino parent and young one enjoying a mud bath at the local spa And a warthog family group enjoying the same treatment. Entertaining watching a warthog parent and adolescent interact with each other (well, maybe more fun for the little one than the parent). A few more scenes that caught my attention on the drive back to Rhino camp, all pretty much self-explanatory. Black rhino with oxpeckers (kept waiting for the rhino in the first photo to sneeze out the oxpecker, but didn't happen): Olive baboon mothers with young ones: And an elegant (and not ugly) sacred ibis: Can never go wrong with more baby elephants . . . Though young hyenas might give them some competition in the cute category . . . I knew I was visiting near the anticipated end of the short rainy season, so I fully expected to see some rain during this trip. We were lucky with no showers during the first three days, but rain started during dinner on Day 3 and was occasionally pretty heavy during the night. The game drive the next morning, enroute back to the Nanyuki West airstrip for our flight down south to the Mara Camp, was fairly sparse as far as large game goes, and the ground was still pretty wet, but we did see a few interesting birds including this Speke's weaver, and one good-looking black-backed jackal. And of course a parting shot of our wonderful spotter Henry and our guide Benjamin. Both did an exceptional job, as did camp manager David and all the staff at Rhino camp. Thanks for reading this far. END OF PART I.
  14. this is how the information was released , the minister gave details at a press confrence , it does not look like there is any detailed PDF report available the press section of the KWS site is not often updated please see Results of Censuses of Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe and Grevy’s Zebra Counted In Five Key Ecosystems (Kenya) Coastweek December 31, 2017 this comes from aerial surveys in savannah ecosystems of Laikipia-Samburu-Marsabit, Meru Conservation Area and Mwea National Reserve, whereas ground surveys using the dung count method have been carried out in the forested ecosystems of Aberdare Forest, the Mau Forest Complex and the Mount Kenya Forest all the trends are good with good growth, or a slowed decline in the case of Grevy's zebras no recent dead elephants were found
  15. Hubby and I, along with along with two of our favorite travelling friends, will be doing our first safari this June. We have 3 weeks and have contacted several tour operators for quotes through KATO. Not sure if we are being over-ambitious because we do enjoy road trips and can't see spending so much more for private flights. However, if the roads are really bad, then that takes the fun out of seeing the countryside and nobody likes 10-12 hrs driving days. We are looking to see the big 5, along with all the other critters and birds that East Africa has to offer, especially monkeys and cats.. I'm the photog of the group and hubby is the birder. Sue keeps the party going and Dave is our lightning rod (if anything goes wrong, it happens to him). We're celebrating my membership to the fifth decade as I'm the last one to join! We also want to experience the varying landscapes, culture, and food. We camp every year at home, so will enjoy a mix of both lodge and camp experiences (although the camp pictures I've seen are quite a bit nicer than the camping we usually do!) Our favorite (thus far) has an itinerary as follows: 1) June 3 arrive Nairobi - Best Western or Intercontinental (I have free nights at both but not sure if the CBD is a great area to stay?) 2) Drive to Ol Pejeta - Porini Rhino Camp 3) Ol Pejeta - Porini Rhino Camp 4) Drive to Lake Nakuru - Sopa Lodge 5) Drive to Maasi Mara - Entim Camp 6) Maasi Mara - Entim Camp 7) Maasi Mara - Entim Camp 8) Drive to Serengeti - Kubu Kubu Camp 9) Serengeti - Kubu Kubu Camp 10) Drive to Ngorongoro - Sopa Lodge 11) Ngorongoro - Sopa Lodge 12) Drive to Tarangire - Mawe Ninga 13) Tarangire - Mawe Ninga 14) Drive to Amboseli - Kibo Camp 15) Amboseli -Kibo Camp 16) Drive to Mombasa- Voyager Beach Hotel (we're also avid divers and hope to do some dive/snorkle trips from here) 17- 20) Mombasa - Voyager Beach 21) June 24 - Head home Trip is inclusive of all meals, game park and conservation fees, airport and border transfers, services of experienced driver/ guide. Some questions that I have are: - Will the drive days be ok? 6-8 hrs is pretty much max we'd want to do. I have specifically requested a 4x4 Landcruiser for the entire trip as I'm on the small (ok: short) side and am afraid the minibus won't do. - Can anyone give first hand experience on the accomodations listed? Most of my research shows these are good choices, but its hard with the overwhelming amount of questionable reviews on other websites. - Do the lodges offer laundry service? We'd like to pack just 7 days of clothes and do laundry as needed. This was really easy and cheap when we were in SE Asia, so hoping its similar in Africa. - Can anyone recommend the Olduvai museum? I did my undergrad in anthropology/archaeology and am interested whether or not its worth the stop. That's all I can think of at the moment. There will be more, so thanks in advance!
  16. A stoichiometric perspective of the effect of herbivore dung on ecosystem functioning Judith Sitters and Harry Olde Venterink Version of Record online: 15 DEC 2017 | DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3666 We propose a novel concept of savanna ecosystem functioning in which the balance between trees and grasses is maintained through stoichiometric differences in dung of herbivores that feed on them. We describe a conceptual framework in which N2-fixing trees and grasses, as well as ungulate browsing and grazing herbivores, occupy opposite positions in an interconnected cycle of processes. The framework makes the testable assumption that the differences in dung N:P ratio among browsers and grazers are large enough to influence competitive interactions between N2-fixing trees and grasses. ORIGINAL RESEARCH
  17. We are hoping to return to the Masai Mara next year. This year we stayed with Brian Freeman Safari's which is located in the Talek River area in the reserve. We have been looking for something less expensive. There are some new(ish) camps not far from Brian's place but hardly any reviews of them. Even on TA they are mainly 'one hit wonders' which I often suspect might be friends or relatives. The camps are called Legends Camp, Mara Olapa Camp and Malaika Camp. All are offering quite competitive prices with a private vehicle. Anyone know of these camps or have even visited them? As some camps closed last year I am a little concerned that these new camps may not survive the challenges of the Kenyan tourist industry. Thanks Pen
  18. Our remaining days were spent covering as much of Ol Pejeta’s 90,000 acres as was possible, but we soon came to realise it would not be possible to see it all, the remainder would have to wait until next time. The area east of the river is normally the most productive and with the most amount of game, but on this trip the west side of the river was proving to be much more productive. We constantly found small herds of Elephant, many with young and in all sorts of terrain. On one occasion as we worked our way through the bush near to the Chimp sanctuary we were surprised by a magnificent bull Elephant which suddenly materialised from out of nowhere. He was in musth with the glands on the sides of his head distinctly marked by the oily secretion produced when his testosterone levels rise. We could also detect the scent of urine as the light breeze wafted the aroma in our direction, and we could see the stains on the inside of his back legs. Sam our driver became hyper alert when this big guy appeared ahead of us. Watching & waiting to see where he was going so as not to obstruct him. He momentarily gave us “that look” that big bulls give as a distinct warning, and after a shake of his head he turned 180 degrees and moved off having first to cross a small stream. It was amazing to watch this enormous animal tackle this small but tricky obstacle. The stream was about a meter or so deep so he had to be careful, first placing his front legs in the stream, his back legs were now bent so as to be on his knees, he slowly pulled one back leg forward, then the other and in one movement pushed up on his front legs was soon on the other bank. A little further along the stream we found several Buffalo standing up to their stomach’s in the stream feeding on the rich vegetation.The Buffalo are doing very well and on one morning drive we were seeing large herds everywhere. Approaching the Ol Pejeta dam it was like watching an exodus. Buffalo were coming from all directions and there were so many calves among the herds which was a good sign for the future. The herds were all converging on the dam and in the early morning light it was a magical scene which lay before us. With the rains coming much of the game had young and there is nothing more endearing than a young Giraffe. We came across one such endearing creature with its mother, whom we had seen from a distance earlier, and we were amazed at the distance they had covered to where we had now found them. The youngster was about 10ft tall so we took it to be about a year old. This area was also where we had seen the two lionesses’s so mum was very alert and wary as they moved through the low whistling thorn bush. We were seeing black/silver back Jackal on most game drives; constantly on the move they always seemed to be going somewhere. Occasionally they would rest, but something in their psyche seemed to prompt them in to action and they were off again. The large amount of Jackal is probably the result of the immense amount of young we saw in March. The Eland is without doubt my favourite antelope and I will photograph them at every opportunity if possible. This is fine when I travel alone but on this trip my family & friends were not impressed when I asked Sam to stop for a photo opportunity while we were heading to where we were told there were two male lions. But they were very generous knowing my love of Eland, and we did find the lions, and they were the two comatose lions we had seen before. Overall, I think you will agree, it had been a successful safari, and an amazing one for my first time visitors, I mean “wild dog” on their first visit. They were very happy, especially with the Elephant sightings, and assure me they will return. Apart from Leopard they had seen just about everything Ol Pejeta has to offer. Roll on next year.
  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 Mara Camp, Kenya 2) Website address if known: 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). November 2017, Shoulder Season 4) Length of stay: 4 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? I have visited another of Porini's camps, Porini Lion, and wanted to try out another of their camps. I liked the fact that Porini Mara is situated in a conservancy, Ol Kinyei - and only Porini vehicles have traversing rights to that conservancy 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Though Gamewatchers - enquiries were dealt with quickly and efficiently, and special requests catered for. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? 14 times 8) To which countries? Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Other Porini camp (Porini Lion) + various other properties in East Africa: Entim Camp, Serian Nkorombo, Encounter Mara, and Asilia's Dunia and Sayari Camps to name a few. 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 6 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Tent 3 I believe ... It had a nice view of some trees, a little stream/river, and an open grassland. It was quite private. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Simple but very comfortable - ample space and 1 double + 1 single bed. 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Yes, food was great! I loved the soups as a starter for dinner. Lunch was nice and varied with various vegetarian and meat options. Great desserts - sometimes fresh fruits, sometimes decadent baked sweet desserts. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) For lunch a few dishes are offered to choose from - both vegetarian and meat based. They had no problems catering for vegetarian options or in my case exclusion of some meats. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Communal dining around one table. No hosting and no guides, but the manager dropped in at the end of meals to converse with the guests. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? We took packed breakfasts every day and they were very nice! Sausages, bacon, toast, pancakes, fresh fruit, yoghurt, eggs, juice etc. 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. We had an open Land Cruiser with 7 passenger seats. Modified to be large, so quite spacious. Vehicle was very reliable and never had an issue. 19) How many guests per row? 2 rows of 2 and back row of 3. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? We had a private vehicle so the game drives were per our request - usually morning drive till lunch, and then resume afternoon drive at 3:30pm and returning back just before dinner. Perhaps 7-7:45pm or so. Routes were chosen depending on the animals we wanted to see - in our case we were keen to see cheetahs. 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? At Porini they are very flexible and try to accommodate all requests as long as the guests sharing the vehicle agree. We had a private vehicle and they accommodated all of our requests. We often stayed out well after dark if we were enjoying a sighting a bit further away from camp. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Yes Porini Mara is situated in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. In the conservancy there are very few vehicles because only Porini vehicles have traversing rights. That is a huge bonus for those preferring a more exclusive experience. Another big bonus is that guests at Porini Mara also have traversing rights into the Naboisho conservancy - so if there are interesting sightings there the guests can enjoy them too, and they can also experience more variety of habitats. Both conservancies have quite a pretty and varied landscape. 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 Ol Kinyei this is not an issue as there are so few vehicles. But if I am not mistaken the max is 5 vehicles. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Ol Kinyei is very good for cheetah and lion sightings. We also saw many elephants - the elephants were very calm and mothers had no issues with their calves approaching the vehicles closely. We saw many wildebeests, which was a surprise to me as I was not visiting in the migration season - but these were part of the Loita wildebeests. We saw many other interesting birds, animals and reptiles. 27) How was the standard of guiding? The guiding was excellent as I am always used to with Porini. Our guide and spotter did their very best to find what was most important to us - namely cheetahs. They were very enthusiastic, and fun to spend time with, and they seem genuinely happy to share their wealth of information with us and proud to show us the beauty of the area. 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? No issues whatsoever - we were very happy guests. 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: I love it when the guides seem to genuinely love their job and love the animals and the beautiful wilderness where they live - all Porini guides I have had the pleasure to spend time with fit this description to the dot. 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes, very much so. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Yes, Porini are very well known for this, and it is a reason why I choose them - it is important for me to choose ethical companies that value conservation and communities. Porini support many initiatives spanning both conservation and communities, with their main pillars being conservation, education and water. There is plenty of information about their initiatives here: 32) Safaritalk trip report link: 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: We had a great time, and we really enjoyed our stay in Porini Mara and Ol Kinyei - the conservancy is beautiful and rich in wildlife and the experience is quite exclusive with so little vehicles around. The small size of the camp promotes a more friendly and intimate dynamic. I don't know why it took me so long to visit this little gem! 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
  20. Hi, I'm leaving in less than a month on my 3rd Africa safari--this time to Uganda and Kenya! My son will join me for 2 weeks in Uganda and then he will fly back to finish up his senior year in college and I will fly to Nairobi and then to the Mara for 4 nights at Offbeat Mara. Here is our itinerary: Day 1: free day in Entebbe (maybe visit Botanic gardens, relax from jet lag--Boma Guest House Day 2: Ngamba Island--overnight and Chimp Caregiver for the day experience Day 3: Entebbe to Kibale, Primate Lodge Day 4: chimp habituation experience (can't wait!) Day 5: Kibale - Queen Elizabeth National Park, Parkview Safari Lodge Day 6: QE Park, Kazinga Channel trip, Game Drive, visit to Kikorongo women (anyone done this one?) Day 7: QE - Ishasha - Bwindi, Mahogany Springs Lodge Day 8: Gorilla trek!, Mahogany lodge Day 9: Bwindi to Lake Buyonyi, Birds Nest Lodge Day 10: Lake Buyonyi - Mgahinga National Park, Mt. Gahinga Lodge, Batwa Pygmy experience Day 11: Mgahinga, Kisozi Caldera hike Day 12: Mgahinga, golden monkey hike, journey to Kigali. Overnight at Heaven Boutique Hotel Day 13: Tour Kigali and Genocide Museum, leave in evening for Nairobi, overnight near Wilson Airport Day 14: Fly to Offbeat Mara; 4 nights at Offbeat Mara, plus late departure, then fly back from Nairobi! We leave the day after Christmas! Already got our vaccines, visas, etc., and getting ready to go! Now I just need to get in some good practice with my new camera--I splurged on a Sony DSC-RX10iii bridge camera, which I hope will do great with the low light of the gorillas. Thanks for all the wonderful trip reports and advice posted on this forum--it was really helpful in planning this trip! We are using Let's Go Travel Uganda. I will report back on the trip after! Margo
  21. Introduction: This was our first safari ever, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Easily the best vacation we've ever had. I will try to keep this trip report as short as possible and mostly let the photographs speak for themselves. We are in our late 40's. We chose All Seasons Safari to organize our trip. Our trip involved both flying and driving between camps. It also involved lodges and tents, Mara reserve and the conservancy. This allowed us to experience different options and I will give my opinion on how they compared. Itinerary: 1N Nairobi 2N Amboseli 2N Ol Pejeta 1N Naivasha 4N Masai Mara Warning: This is not necessarily a safari report, but rather a report of our entire trip. Although it was purely a safari trip, we witnessed a lot more than animals and I will be posting a variety of photographs. I prefer landscapes, still life, people more than close up of animals. However, there is plenty of the latter too. The report is primarily catered to the beginners, but I will try to keep it entertaining for the regulars as well. But, I can guarantee even the hardened safari goers, an image I will post will be very interesting to even them. In fact I'd like to know whether anyone has ever witnessed it was an image taken at ISO 16,000 at f4 and a shutter speed of just 1/30 at, its beauty is not in its image quality but rather what it depicts...but, alas it happened on day 9 and everyone will have to wait to see it. It is worth the wait Camera gear: I wanted it to be a compact package, all fitting inside my Lowpro Fastpack 200. We only took two backpacks for our other things. Pentax K5, K7 Pentax 60-250/4, Sigma 50-500/4.5-6.3 Pentax 12-24/4, Pentax 21/3.2, Pentax 43/1.9, Volna 9 50/2.8 1:2 macro
  22. Here is a photo already posted under birds in flight, page 11 COSMIC RHINO asked me to post this photo of Oxpeckers taking flight from a Rhino he saw during a 2017 visit to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. It is a PDF scan of a photo I converted to JPEG for posting to Safaitalk. Click to see a larger version. Edited June 28 by offshorebirder Thursday's Child, Peter Connan and TonyQ like this 3 Like this Lewa is consistently superb , this visit no less than my others every year since 2012 I had seen rhinos with Grevy's zebras before , but they were not good sitings the above picture was on my final morning game drive leaving 630 am with the picnic box this trip I saw Grevy's with rhinos together 5 times , rhinos mud wallowing 5 times, has a good siting of rhinos with reticulated giraffe, many great rhino sitings , elephants ,Grevy's and other animals another highlight was seeing twice a baby rhino suckling with mother and a close look of a small elephant family mud wallowing Quote
  23. Airitalia will start direct flights to Nairobi and Johannesburg Spring 2018. 4 times a week. A possible alternative for those flying to/from Europe
  24. I received an email this morning saying that Offbeat Safaris has just added two new (to them) camps to their portfolio. These appear to be existing camps that have joined the Offbeat family: "After a difficult start to 2017 we are thrilled to end it with some positive news. Mugie House and Ekorian's Mugie Camp are joining the Offbeat family. We will be handling their reservations for any new bookings going forward from the 1st of December 2017. With their mix of small, activity based safari camps and lodges and personal style in a vast unspoilt wilderness rich in wildlife they are the perfect fit for Offbeat. We hope that you are as excited about this as we are." Both appear to be in their own conservancy (Mugie Conservancy) in northwest Laikipia. Anyone know anything more about them? Something to keep in mind for future safari planning!
  25. A few days ago I was watching my ever wonderful safariLive and we were sitting with the Musketeer coalition of cheetah with presenter Scott Dyson. He was chatting with a lovely German couple who help fund the Mara Meru Cheetah Project. They relayed to him they are going to be funding the new Mara Leopard Project, not sure if that's the name, starting next year!! Meaning real documentation of the leopards of the Mara! They just got approved. You guys, I can't tell you how much joy this brings to my heart. I love leopards and I feel they get brushed aside in the Mara because they are 'hard to find' but there seems to be a high density of leopards in the Mara itself both in the Reserve and Triangle, and I know there's a decent population within the Conservancies as well. I don't know how many of you know this but I started my own Facebook group, once WildEarth annoucned they were going to the Mara, to help document and keep identification notes on the different leopards seen in the Mara by photographers, lodges and what is found on safariLive, which isn't many since WE don't spend very much time searching for them. I want to be able to help create a database for the big cats and I do hope I can be of service to this operation.

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