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Found 30 results

  1. Reports www.the-star.co.ke To read the full article click here.
  2. This is part three of Mr. Safarichick and my three-country safari in February 2017. The first two parts were in Ethiopia http://safaritalk.net/topic/17178-into-thin-air/ and Rwanda http://safaritalk.net/topic/17209-mud-sweat-and-tears/ We’d tried to get to bed early the night before in Kigali at the same hotel at which we’d stayed the night before our two nights in Musanze. We had made it back with a full battery worth of charge and I think the other one even still had a little bit left on it. @@Sangeeta had kindly checked for me after I WhatsApped her where we might be able to find another charger. She found a store in Nairobi that sold Panasonic Lumix cameras that might have our charger. (I knew that Nairobi traffic might make that impractical, though). We had a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to Nairobi so we had to be at the airport early. Luckily we had no problems such as @@michael-ibk and @@AndMic had on their trip out of Kigali and got through security very quickly. We were pleased that our plane to Nairobi had been changed from one with a stop to a non-stop so that we would arrive in Nairobi an hour earlier than we originally thought and Chalo Africa had emailed Laikipia Wilderness about that. But when we arrived, our driver was nowhere to be seen. He was to be driving us all the way to LWC, about a 5.5 hour drive. We were having trouble with communications – our phones didn’t have phone service and wifi was only free for about 15 minutes. To get wifi you paid for you had to go inside to one of the gates. Luckily, we found RwandAir which let us use their wifi so we could contact Chalo Africa. They got in touch with LWC who got in touch with the driver. Apparently LWC had never seen the message we were arriving early so the driver didn’t know. And then he was at the wrong terminal also. So by the time he found us, it was about the time we’d originally expected to be picked up. We asked our driver about the camera store @@Sangeeta found online but he said it would be a big delay to go there, and we decided not to do it. We were not at all sure our camera battery would last for four days at LWC though so we were worried about it. I was hoping maybe by some miracle some other tourist would have left one at LWC just as we’d left ours at Bale Mountain Lodge. When we got to Nanyuki, the last city/town/civilization before we’d reach Laikipia Wilderness, we stopped for some lunch and then asked our driver if we could drive through the town to see if by some miracle there might be a store that had a chance of selling our battery charger. We didn’t really think it would be likely but we thought why not just see. We passed one store that had a Kodak sign and sure enough, it was a little camera store. We went in and told the proprietress what we were looking for and amazingly, she had a collection of used camera battery chargers – including one for a Panasonic Lumix – but not ours. She told us if we had about 3-4 hours in town she thought she could get us one (from where I have no idea!) but we told her that unfortunately we could not wait, so off we went. Our driver was not quite sure where the turn off was for LWC and there was a bunch of calling LWC on his cell phone, losing reception, stopping to ask directions of a local who didn’t seem to have a clue, etc. Finally Steve Carey, owner and guide at LWC, was dispatched to meet us on the main road and then we followed him back to camp. It had been a long travel day, from a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to now about 4:15 pm. Other guests were having tea and getting ready to go out for their afternoon activity, so we went to our tent quickly, washed up a bit, and came out to tea as well. After a quick bite of delicious cake with a passionfruit frosting, we were off on a game drive as well. Our first guide was Steven. (It was a bit confusing because there was this Steven, Steve Carey, and then Mr. Safarichick whose name is ALSO Steve!) Also with us in the vehicle was a young woman named Emmy, an Australian student taking a gap year who was living at the camp volunteering. She wants to be a guide eventually and was to be starting university in the fall. We found one of the dog packs in the area, the Tui pack (not sure if I’m spelling that right). The Tui pack seems to be the one that LWC sees most regularly these days. It was the one I was aware of before arriving, that I’d seen photos of on Facebook and Instagram. I knew how many puppies this pack had – I think it was 10 - and had been looking forward to seeing the pack with excitement. I was shocked and saddened to hear that there were only two puppies left. Not sure if it’s known what happened to the rest. But at least the two pups seemed happy with each other and I was grateful that at least they had each other and that at least these two had survived this far. You have to be grateful for small favors sometimes, as my mother used to say. When we first saw the pack, they were still resting, so we hung out watching. Eventually, they began waking up, first the puppies playing then all the rest began to wake up and take part in a greeting ceremony. From where our vehicle was stopped, we couldn't see the greeting ceremony well as they all had started moving to the side. Steven asked whether I wanted to go down on the ground. On our very first outing at LWC? Oh, ok, twist my arm! Emmy got out with me and we got down on ground on our stomachs and tried crawling forward. Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to me that we’d be doing this when we went out on drive and I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt so my knees and elbows were not very comfortable! The dogs didn’t take any notice of us and we watched them for a little while from there. This is me and Emmy: When they began to walk off to go hunting, we quickly clambered back into the vehicle. We attempted to follow them hunting and we would see them and lose them. At one point something jumped out and almost crashed into the car - it was a warthog dashing out of its hole - luckily it stopped short of crashing into us and ran off the other way. Eventually, we had some success. We didn't manage to see what they caught but we did see the alpha male regurgitate food for the pups which was very cool! The alpha male and female are both collared; the male is very old, much older than the female: It was pretty dark by now - here's the only halfway decent photo we got of the whole (or most of?) the pack: In addition to the dogs, on this drive we also saw zebra, giraffe, white-tailed mongoose, vulturine guinea fowl. All in all, we were quite happy with our first drive!
  3. After a few days rest it was time to venture out and see what splendours Ol Pejeta had in store for me. Well, those splendours were, an abundance of young. The were Zebra foals and Buffalo calves everywhere. Impala & Defassa Waterbuck were also breeding well, and as a friend at camp said, "this is good news for the Cheetah". Not a thought that sprang readily to mind, but I understood what he meant. That said, I never saw a cheetah during my time here, though I did hear they were being seen. With the dense croton/whistling thorn bush which covers a lot of Ol Pejeta seeing the cats was never going to be easy. That said, my first drive gave me my only sighting of Lions. Two big males, which made up for any other lack of sightings. They were lying out in the open about thirty meters apart enjoying the early morning sun before it became too hot. Night drives were more successful, with lions being seen quite regularly as well as Hyena. One night at camp the call of a Hyena was so loud I instantly thought it must be very close to camp. Curiosity got the better of me and with torch in hand I headed off to the far end of camp where the call came from. As I shone the torch into the bush the waterbuck, which move close to camp at night for safety, were very agitated. They suddenly moved away in that delightful trotting way they do, then suddenly there he was. The Hyena appeared from behind a bush moving across the line of the waterhole and slowly vanished into the darkness. The waterbuck settled down again and calm was restored. Ol Pejeta was very dry, but the rains were due, and with this in mind the Elephants had started to appear in good numbers. Back from their migratory wanderings on Mt Kenya and the Laikipia plateau, they too had many young among them. I was fortunate, no blessed, to see Elephants on every game drive I took. One memorable moment was when a youngster about 3/4 years showed great bravado in threatening us with mock charges. He did this several times then retreated behind a large bush. He would then peer from behind the bush at us, and as we had not taken the hint, he would repeat the scenario again. On the last charge his mother moved from where she was feeding passing behind us to feed on another bush across the road. On seeing his mother move off his bravado melted away as did he into the bush. Back at camp the resident Egyptian Geese had nine very young gosling, and I found myself counting them each day to make sure they were all safe, as there was a rather persistent Pallid Harrier taking an unhealthy interest in them. He appeared regularly through out the day, but after three days I never saw him again. An African Harrier Hawk made a brief appearance one afternoon but was chased off by a mob of starlings. I was becoming a little apprehensive about the survival of all nine goslings, though mum and dad showed great courage in the face of the Pallid Harrier. Every time he appeared, swooping low the goslings instinctively took cover and mum & dad reared up, wings spread out and Honking their contempt at his audacity to think he would be getting an easy meal. The small guy's were showing a lot of courage around the waterhole and on another occasion three Pied crows saw off a Tawney Eagle that had come a little too close to camp for their liking. Watch this space for news on Ol Pejeta's stars & more..................
  4. Mr. SafariChick and I have been back about a week from the three-country 20th anniversary trip that we'd been planning for over a year. Still not entirely caught up on sleep and haven't been through all the photos yet, but thought I'd best get started on a report before too much time passes. I have decided to write the report in three separate parts, since each part of the trip took place in a different country. (And also because this allows me to use different fun trip report titles. This title was provided by Mr. SafariChick). Here is our oldest daughter hugging me farewell after she drove us to the airport to drop us off (a first for this almost-18-year-old) This trip was an ambitious undertaking, visiting three countries in 12 days - and with each country, our destination for wildlife viewing required a drive of some significance to reach from the airport in which we landed.Nowhere was this more true than our first stop, Ethiopia. After a flight from SFO to Heathrow, a 6-hour layover (at least spent in a very comfortable United lounge with some decent food and beverages), and another flight from Heathrow to Addis, which were about 24 hours total of travel, we arrived at Addis at 6:30 a.m. local time. We obtained our visas without much trouble, changed some money, picked up our bags, and went outside to find our driver, Demiss. Demiss was waiting for us and had us packed up into the car quickly. He was a very nice fellow, with good English and great knowledge of Ethiopia and its history, geography as well as it’s endemic animals. We knew we were to be assigned a guide employed by Bale Mountain Lodge once we arrived there, but having Demiss along was almost like having a second guide, which was great. We asked if there was somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat, not a sit-down place but just something to serve as breakfast. Demiss was a bit unsure what we might want and we tried stopping at a Supermarket called Safeway which amused us since we have a chain of supermarkets in the U.S. called Safeway. We ended up getting a piece of banana bread to share and getting on the road. The drive to Bale Mountain Lodge had been described to me as everything from 6 hours to 7-8 hours to an “all day trip” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even though the road was paved most of the way, the trip actually took us closer to about ten hours including about an hour lunch stop and a couple of short bathroom stops. It was pretty brutal after the air travel we had done, I have to say. In retrospect, it really would have been better to break it up with an overnight half way or at least have had an overnight in Addis first. But we were concerned about not being away from home too long, both because we were leaving our teen girls for the first time for more than two days (with their former babysitter staying at the house) and being away 15 days was about as long as Mr. Safarichick felt comfortable being gone from work. We stopped for a sort of brunch late morning at a restaurant that was quite good. (I am trying to find out the name from Demiss and will post it when I do). I had scrambled eggs and toast, and I don’t recall what everyone else had except that Demiss ordered a macchiato. I was surprised this was something they made in Ethiopia as I think of it as Italian (and co-opted by Starbucks and the like). But the coffee in Ethiopia was delicious and nice and strong and Demiss told us about the history of Italians having attempted to colonize Ethiopia – twice. He and our guide Biruk and some of the park staff would say “Ciao Ciao” to each other to say “goodbye” and he said that came from the Italians who lived in Ethiopia. The drive was made longer and more difficult by the many villages we had to pass through, each of which was populated it seemed by large numbers of humans and their cattle, sheep and goats, as well as cart horses pulling little buggies with people in them. We had to slow to go around all these obstacles and I became somewhat queasy from this and probably from my all around fatigue. In addition to the animals being moved along by people, there were many animals just hanging around at the sides of the road on their own, usually trying to eat something it found on the ground like this goat eating some orange peels. We passed through the park headquarters at Dinsho I think at around 3:00 pm and purchased our park tickets for the next four days, and I was surprised when Demiss told me we still had about two and a half hours to go to get to the lodge! And we actually still had to go through some populated areas even though we had entered the park. There are villages and people living around the park so you will be in what seems total wilderness but then come to a village before getting back to wilderness. The first wildlife we saw was some aggressive baboons that came right up to the cars, seeking a snack, and some warthogs and Mountain Nyala. I didn’t get great photos but here are a few: You have to drive up to and over the Sanetti Plateau, which would be our viewing grounds for the wolves, in order to get to Bale Mountain Lodge. We were hopeful that we might possibly get a glimpse of wolves on this first trip across the plateau but were dismayed to find it started raining and then hailing as we drove through the plateau! This was unexpected as it was not even the rainy season and we hoped it would not continue during the rest of our stay. (Luckily it did not!) The plateau is quite other-worldly looking in any kind of weather, but the hail really made us feel we did not know where we were. We were very glad to finally arrive at Bale Mountain Lodge 10 hours after we left Addis! We were given a room called a Tree House that was a free-standing little house up a half-flight of stairs about a five-minute walk from the main lodge where meals were served. It was r private and in the trees, but there were a few problems with it that would cause us to move to another room halfway through our stay, but more about that later.
  5. As promised, since my plans have changed, our title needs to be changed from: First timers too, mother / daughter combo http://safaritalk.net/topic/16784-first-timers-too-mother-daughter-combo/ Hubby Harry was sad to be missing out on all the fun, although 4 bulging discs in his back makes flying (sitting too long in one position) excruciating. Ergo, our plans are evolving. It is likely that his vacation schedule will dictate a trip beginning in mid-June, so Aberdares is off the table for this trip. Samburu and the Masai Mara are still "must-do"s and I have two bookings at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, hoping to make one of them work. I was browsing the Porini Rhino website yesterday and saw a walking safari mentioned on Laikipia. It looks delightful. Has anyone done walking safaris in Kenya? I believe Sabache Safari Camp offers them too. Thanks!
  6. I can’t fully recall what the events where that led up to me booking a place on this short safari but they went something like this. Last summer I was waiting impatiently for our trip to Zimbabwe in Sept to happen. I was keen to photograph dogs again and I think Neil Aldridge may have announced a Wild Dog trip in Botswana on Facebook that coincided with another trip we were planning in 2015. So I did a quick internet search for other wild dog photographic opportunities and found this small group trip through Steppes Travel. I showed the link to my wife, Angela, who said I should go, surprisingly, on my own. Something she would start to regret as the departure date grew closer and when I returned with stories of the trip. This is my 1st Trip Report. As the trip was a photo safari, the pictures I have chosen to show here are not the best I took on the trip (I do have a few I am really pleased with) but I hope they help illustrate and document what I experienced. The trip started here on the Sunday, 8th March. With a bottle of Painted Wolf Chenin blanc and a nice chicken dinner. Monday morning was spent packing and I left for the airport after lunch. A trouble free taxi journey from east Essex to Heathrow meant I had plenty of time to relax and wait for the evening flight to Nairobi. I managed to get a few hours sleep during the flight. We landed ahead of schedule at around 6am local time. Visa and immigration sorted, luggage collected and airport finally exited I was met by a local representative and met some of my fellow photographers who had flown in on the same flight. We were heading out to the camp the same morning. The transfer to Wilson was slow, but as the internal flight wasn't until 10:20 and the majority of the passengers were in our group we had plenty of time to get there. As we waited for the flight more members of our small group started to appear. There was 7 of the 8 participants on the internal flight to Nanyuki. The flight was bumpy but I think I dozed off as it didn’t take as long as anticipated, it’s not a long flight anyway. We were met by Steve and the final guest at the airstrip. Steve took our luggage and one guest in his pickup and another local driver Anthony crammed the remaining seven of us into his vehicle. It was 1 and a half to 2 hours to the camp from here. The drive started off fine but eventually we ran out of tarmac and it started to get a bit bumpy and very dusty. We spotted a few giraffe, impala and elephants on the way to the camp. Nothing worth stopping for. Eventually we arrived at Laikipia Wilderness Camp, met Albie and some of the staff. After some drinks and more introductions we were shown our tents and given a brief opportunity to settle in before lunch. During lunch Albie went round the table and asked people about their photography experience and what camera gear they had. There were 7 out of the 8 in the group that were photographers. The group was split into two open side/top vehicles so that almost everyone had a row each or we could at least rotate rows and positions. Steve and Albie were going to rotate vehicles every day so that we could either benefit from Albie’s photography knowledge or Steve’s tracking and local knowledge. We were also joined on most drived by local guides/trackers Mugambo and Adam. In between lunch and afternoon tea there was just about time to get cleaned up, unpacked and ready for the first drive of the day. Tea was at 4:30 and we left shortly after. Bolting down one of the lovely cakes that were baked on a daily basis throughout our stay. Drive 1 - Tuesday 10th March Afternoon As this was a Wild Dog themed safari more effort than usual was made to locate the dogs on a daily basis. There were two packs that had recently been in the area both moving in opposite directions. Our first drive Steve went after one pack and Albie went after the other. I was with Steve’s group this afternoon. Every so often we would stop and Steve would popup through his sun roof and scan the airwaves for the dogs then we would head off in the direction where any hint of a signal was coming from. We had a good afternoon spotting a Bustard (Arabian) A nice little herd of Plains Zebra A few elephants and plenty of Dik dik (aka Dog Food). The signal for the pack we were looking for was getting stronger and it was time to off road. The terrain in this part of Laikipia is rocky with thickets of bush and cacti. Ideal country for dogs to easily disappear. We circled an area until the tell tale sign of a dog’s Mickey Mouse profile gave them away against the backdrop of a cactus. It was a joy to see the 9 or 10, 9 month old pups left with an adult to babysit. Steve positioned the vehicle as best he could, it was a tight spot and we were shooting into the sun. Not ideal but still an opportunity to get some shots and hopefully they might get up and move around. It was getting to that time of the day when they start to hunt. The adults showed up, it wasn't clear if they had just been behind another bush or whether they had come from somewhere else. But I think it’s safe to assume the former, it was too early for them to be returning from a hunt. With the adults back the pack was now up to roughly 19 dogs (we didn't manage a very accurate head count). There was much squealing and we got to watch some of the meet and greet antics that dogs are famous for. Bush was dense people were moving in the vehicles, getting any clear shots in good light were challenging. The youngsters were curious and kept checking us out. After the wake up and re-establishing their bonds the pack started to move. It looked like they were ready to hunt. We followed where we could, using roads to cut them off as they ran through the scrub. It was very interesting and exciting to watch the adults of the pack in action with the youngsters following up behind. We followed while the light was good but as it faded we left them to it. Hopefully we would catch up with them in the morning.
  7. The Grevy zebra rally resulted to be a great tool in order to count the zebra population found in a 25.000 km2 area of Northern Kenya. Princeton scientists designed a software able to recognize each different zebra according to the bar pattern of their coat. Thus the scientists only needed people taking pictures. They took picture of +/- 1950 zebras, they estimated 2250 zebras in the areas prospected, and assumed there might be a further 100 zebras in areas that were not prospected. This gives a total number of 2350 zebras for Northern Kenya according to the team, which stated that the population has stabilized. The new goal for the next 5 years is to increase the population through grazing management and improving access to water. There was an estimated 25000 zebras few decades ago. This is the press release: http://www.nrt-kenya.org/news-list/2016/9/5/grevys-zebra-count-the-results-are-in
  8. Annabelle Carey of Laikipia Wilderness is hosting an evening sale of African wildlife art and photography, with drinks at Patrick Mavros’s beautiful shop in London on 1st September. Professor Rosie Woodroffe will be giving a talk and slideshow about African Wild Dogs, a unique and wonderful species which is critically endangered and amazing animals. This will be a fun and interesting evening as well as a wonderful chance to see some of the best wildlife art from Africa and from artists who visit Africa every year to gather inspiration. All profits from the art sale go to the Laikipia Wild Dog project which Laikipia Wilderness work closely with gathering wild dog sightings in Laikipia. The project has been running for 16 years and keeping this unit going is an ongoing challenge. Their work provides an incredible insight into the lives of the wild dog, and monitors the threats which have caused their dramatic decline in recent years such as domestic dog diseases encroaching into wilderness areas, human/animals conflict which leads to people killing them, and random snaring. This is the fastest growing population of wild dogs in Africa and it is crucial this area is protected in order for them to survive the challenges of an ever increasing human population. Each year Laikipia Wilderness hosts professional photographers from all over the world to photograph the dogs and are so lucky to follow them hunting almost daily. On 1st September there will be about 60 pieces of artwork for sale by well known wildlife artists such as Dominique Salm, Annabel Pope, Karen Laurence-Rowe, Sophie Standing, David Maiden, Murray Grant, Paul Joynson-Hicks, Paul Wild, Albie Venter, Richard Carey, David Mbugua, Henrietta Jordan, Catherine Ingleby, Flora de Winton, Alex Sypratos, Hilary Hann, Lin Barrie and David Cox. The work spans a huge range of mediums from watercolour, oil on canvas, fabric embroidered with wild dogs stitched into a painting, bronze sculptures, ink sketches and photographs printed on canvas. Please do come and invite any of your friends who might enjoy this fascinating evening, a chance to buy some wonderful pieces of art in aid of conservation.
  9. I received the 2015 Lewa anual report. http://www.lewa.org/fileadmin/user/pdf/Lewa_Wildlife_Conservancy_2015_Annual_Report_PDF.pdf Concerning wildlife, there are many good news: Lewa did not loose any rhinos in 2015, poaching indicators (PIKE) are decreasing in the region since the 2012 peak, and key species populations are on the increase in 2015 (giraffes, rhinos, grey zebras, buffaloes).
  10. My friend Augustine was frozen in her seat with her heart pounding, camera held just below her eyes, where moments earlier a male lion known as Mohican had progressively filled her frame as he approached the vehicle. Being unable to take any more images, she had lowered the camera to find him heading straight for her, only metres away and closing. Just as he was about to hit the car he looked up and looked straight into her eyes - "straight into my soul" - before veering away and disappearing. It took several minutes for Augustine to regain her composure but she knew then that she would remember that look forever, and I knew, from that moment, Africa was always going to be in her heart. That later she would take a truly memorable image of Mohican, majestic above us on a mound, which will one day decorate her home was an added bonus. Our first day was an exceptional day on safari - sighting after sighting - the like of which I have never experienced before and don't expect to again. It truly was an outstanding opening to a superb safari! We were in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, on our first full day of our safari, a trip which had been some 18months in the planning. Hubby and I were on our second trip to Africa together, my third trip, and we met Augustine and Dave, Africa virgins, in Nairobi. They had been travelling around Asia for the previous 7 months and this was their last destination before heading home. When deciding on destinations, the Great Migration was on Augustine's bucket list so Kenya was chosen. We were limited by school holidays so towards the end of September we headed off from Australia to Nairobi. Endless hours of (fun) research on Safaritalk and other websites had lead me to the Kicheche Bush Camp in the Olare Motorongi Conservancy off the main Masai Mara reserve and that was the basis of our trip. We had 7 nights there, followed by 4 nights in Kicheche Laikipia and then 3 nights in Amboseli, staying at the Tawi Lodge. Once we had chosen Kicheche Bush camp, we made contact through their website which lead us to Josephine from Chameleon Tours who then organised the trip for us. Overall we were exceptionally happy with our trip, and I have to say that the Masai Mara is my new favourite place in Africa. Our flights from Australia were from Brisbane to Sydney and then to Johannesburg with Qantas, using Frequent Flyer points. We spent one night there before flying to Nairobi on South African Airways. We were met at the airport by Chameleon Tours who took us to the Fairview Nairobi Hotel. Seeing the giraffe next to the fence in Nairobi National Park on the way to the hotel, I knew we were in Africa! We had a lovely stay at the Fairview, with a wonderful meal in their fine dining restaurant. I can happily recommend this as a place to stay in Nairobi. The next morning we were again collected at the hotel and taken to Wilson airport for our flight to the Mara. How wonderful it is to again be flying over African landscapes, knowing that it is teeming with life and upcoming adventure!
  11. On January 30th & 31st 2016, the Grevy's Zebra Trust, along with other organizations is hosting The Great Grevy's Rally, a national census of Grevy's Zebra in Northern Kenya. They're inviting members of the public to help out in the census. Check it out on the website below: http://www.greatgrevysrally.com/ From the Website (@@Game Warden - please advise if this is ok - I've copied & pasted directly from the website....)
  12. Our safari was like the leaves caught in this spider web at Macushla …the intricate web pulling different ways but catching the colours and beauty of the places we would visit. IN THE BEGINNING (twaffle) As I sit under the trees at Utamaduni’s newly renamed Makutano Café on our day of departure, I have a chance, at last, to reflect on the last two weeks. The strange ups and downs we experienced which could have thrown a dampener on the whole trip but which didn’t. My attitude was that the curve balls thrown our way made me feel that I had had a proper adventure, one to remember with great affection. It began for me over a year ago, the germ of an idea for this trip, after Rainbirder enticed with his Bogoria photos. I thought I’d add that in as a safari starter, knowing how much my husband would enjoy it. Having never been to Shaba I wanted to see the landscape there as I had heard so much about it, so that was added to my list. A return to Meru was also required, for as many days as I could manage. In my first iteration of the itinerary I thought I should end with some time at one of the Mara Conservancies as my husband hadn’t been there since 2005. I contacted Paolo for some advice on some additional ideas in the remote North and he included in his reply some information on a new light mobile camp which Squack Evans was putting together. He also mentioned his plans for a safari using this camp for about the same time I was considering and going to some of the same places. So that is how we eventually joined forces. Later on in the planning I began to try and make work a separate trip to the Amboseli area for a safari with my son. As many would remember, he spent 7 weeks at Serian and I had thought that we could have a week’s safari at the end of it somewhere quite different. I thought that a week in the dust of Lake Amboseli would provide him with some variety and me with an opportunity to continue with a series of images to complement my exhibition work. A considerable amount of ground work later (thank you @@Safaridude), I realised that staying in Kitirua, the conservancy which best suited my needs, wasn’t possible at a cost that I could afford due to my needs for private vehicle, private guide and given the restrictions imposed by the only lodge with access. I am discounting Ker & Downey as they are out of my league! Despite being disappointed, I added it to my mental list for possible addition to this trip. However, early on it became apparent that it wasn’t really a favorite with Paolo and that Ishaqbini was the prize and becoming more and more possible. INTRODUCTION (Paolo) As we all know, safari planning is often a long and winding exercise. Sometimes you do a good deal of work, just to find yourself back at the drawing board. The planning of this particular safari was no exception. None at all. I and Twaffle had started to discuss the possibility of a trip together back in May or June 2012. She wanted to explore Kenya beyond her familiar haunts, both to experience real solitude and wilderness and to pursue some of her photographic interests, in particular in relation to landscape photography. As for me, whilst I had trips to Uganda and Ethiopia coming in the following months, I was very keen to stay in Squack Evans's new mobile camp, a concept that was aimed at matching comfort, mobility, exclusivity and – needless to say, being Squack in charge of all that – outstanding guiding, and that seemed very well suited for exploring the rugged expanses of northern Kenya. In the beginning, one of the main goals of the trip, mostly under the influence of some great trip reports by @@Rainbirder, was Lake Bogoria and its immense flamingo population. Then Shaba, which I had had visited with @@Safaridude just a few months earlier, and whose scenery was extremely promising for Twaffle's photography, and Meru, an old favorite. Sera Conservancy, an area of sandy luggas, thorns and natural springs to the north of Shaba and east of the Matthews' Range was also briefly discussed at that stage. In November 2012, Squack went on a recce trip to Lake Bogoria, in order to check possible campsites, and the news was not good. As widely reported, the water levels in Bogoria (as in many lakes in the Rift Valley) were exceptionally high – this being the result of copious inflows of rainwater or – as some said – due to an accelerated encroachment by the Red Sea of the Danakil Depression, which in turn had affected the water tables in the Rift Valley. Anyway, access to feasible campsites was problematic and the majority of the flamingo mega flock had gone elsewhere – where exactly, it was anybody's guess. The itinerary was then subject to a major overhaul: exit Bogoria and enter Laikipia Wilderness camp that had just opened, but was reporting excellent and consistent wild dog sightings, and – above all – Ishaqbini Conservancy, on the Tana river, not far from the Indian Ocean, and even closer to the border with Somalia. As many here on Safaritalk will recall, Ishaqbini is the last refuge of the critically endangered Hirola, an antelope belonging to its own genus, and whose numbers are lower than 500. In 2011, Safaritalk was instrumental in launching a campaign aimed at raising awareness on the plight of the Hirola, with a few members involved, and culminating with an event that took place in Rome on October 28, 2011, organized by The Nature Conservancy and called “Africa a Roma”. I had met Twaffle (as well as Mr. Twaffle) for the first time in occasion of “Africa a Roma”, so it seemed utmost fitting that our quest for this beautiful and elusive creature was to be satisfied during our safari. But Ishaqbini is not only about the Hirola: its ecosystem – the so called “Garsa” woodland – is precious and unique, hosting – among others – Coastal Topi, Harvey's Red Duiker, Maneless Zebra and Haggard's Oribi. On the othger side of the Tana river, there is a primate reserve, with its endemic Mangabey and Red Colobus. A bit to the north lies the mysterious, tantalising Boni Forest, with its inhabitants being a tribe of pygmies hunters-gatherers, who will tell you tales about a legendary creature, a sort of ape called the Gojam..... In the end, my father also committed to the following itinerary: - o/n Nairobi, Macushla House - 2 nights Shaba National Reserve (Joy's Camp) - 4 nights Meru National Park (Squack's mobile camp) - 4 nights Ol Donyo Lemboro, Laikipia Plateau (Laikipia Wilderness Camp) - 5 nights Ishaqbini Conservancy (Squack's mobile camp) - -o/n Nairobi, Macushla House (Twaffle and Mr. Twaffle only) I know only a small part of it, but organizing the mobile camp in Ishaqbini must have been a significant logistical challenge; just moving the camp from Meru would take three days. Luckily, Squack was given ample support and cooperation from Ian Craig, CEO of the Northern Rangelands Trust, as well as by the NRT staff located in Ishaqbini, so all the hurdles were overcome. Everybody involved was so excited!
  13. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0140125 http://phys.org/news/2015-10-camels-positive-respiratory-virus-kenya.html http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Mers-virus-a-threat-to-camels-in-Kenya-/-/2558/2932142/-/jd1joqz/-/index.html http://allafrica.com/stories/201510191033.html ~ A serological study of nine herds of dromedary camels in Laikipia County, Kenya, revealed that 47% of the camels had been infected by the Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS). Camels function as a host reservoir for MERS, for which there is no vaccine or treatment. Viral transmission in the Laikipia herds continues despite a comparatively low density population.
  14. I spent the last 3 days of July 2013 in Laikipia Wilderness Camp as the start of a longer safari in Kenya/Tanzania. It was my first time in Kenya and LWC was the first camp visited -- what an intro to the country it was!! It seems that LWC is pretty well covered on this forum with lots of TRs, so I'm not going to spend too much time going on about logistics, etc. Day 1: Laikipia Wilderness Camp is centrally located for the wildlife action, but not as accessible as some other camps in terms of airstrips, etc - exactly the way I prefer. Anyway, given that flying into either Sosian or Loisaba airstrips would entail an hour or two of driving after an hour's flight from Nairobi and a reasonable amount of airport procedures, I figured I'd be better off (or at least the same) driving instead. At the very least even if I didn't see too much wildlife, I'd get to know the country a little better. I did the standard "tourist drive" north from Nairobi up to Nanyuki, but at this point things got interesting as we turned off the main road into the bush (eventually heading North towards Maralal I think). I first saw small numbers of Thomson's Gazelles (not present in LWC, so this area near Nanyuki is the only place to see them according to Steve) and Plains Zebras in some degraded bush just outside Nanyuki, but things got interesting as we headed deeper into Laikipia. After traversing several small ranches, we then began following the border of a ranch, which Steve informed me later, was called Naibor. I then spotted two small dik-diks drinking from a puddle next to the road. I grabbed my camera and shot off a couple of poor pictures before leaving after snatching a view of the animals in my binoculars. I was expecting Gunther's as that is the only species present in much of Laikipia but these seemed much more like Kirk's, lacking the pronounced proboscis of Gunther's. I was surprised as Kirk's has not been confirmed from the plateau but Steve informed me later that he has seen them at this same area. Shortly after, I then spotted my first Reticulated Giraffe, a beautiful animal which I stopped to admire a bit, and a Martial Eagle in a roadside tree. As we headed along Ol Jogi, I started seeing increasing numbers of Impala, Olive Baboons, and small groups of Grant's Gazelles. But one bigger surprise was in store for me. As we drove through a large area of dense, scrubby Acacia, I spotted a few slender antelopes run off into the bush; I first thought they were Impala, but then realized they were my first Gerenuk and my driver confirmed! This was a species I thought I might miss on this trip as LWC was the only area in Gerenuk habitat I was visiting, and here they are apparently rare. I was amazed at my luck regarding this sighting the rest of the day until Steve told me that he sees Gerenuk often here - he told me that if I found a Lesser Kudu though, I'd be truly lucky (he's only seen tracks in this area, probably the only place in Western Laikipia where they occur - they are common further E in Tumaren, Tassia, etc.). I also saw some Warthogs at this site which I thought might be Desert at first due to their small size and habitat; I was later informed by Steve that there are no confirmed sightings of Desert Warthog in Laikipia and these animals are Common Warthog, which can be very to tricky to differentiate sometimes. We continued onto the Mpala Plains past the main bridge, where I saw more of the same species (except Gerenuk and Kirk's Dik-dik of course), plus a distant herd of Beisa Oryx - my first of the species. It turned out that this small, far-off group of 4 animals was the only sighting I would have of this species as it is apparently quite rare in the area around LWC. My next goal was to try to find a Greater Kudu, one of my main targets for LWC, but all concerns about kudu subsided when I found out we were back at a place we had passed earlier and my driver didn't really know which turn to take to get to camp. We called Steve at LWC, and he sent a staff member on a motorbike, who found us and led us back to camp. We had a bit of a late lunch with Steve (due to the unexpected detour along the way) after meeting our fabulous guide, Barend. My main question was the Wild Dogs, which Steve seemed a little apprehensive about as he hadn't seen them in a couple of days and feared they might be deep into the next ranch, Mpala, which he doesn't have free traversing rights for anymore. After finishing lunch, I returned to my room for a few hours before coming back out for a snack. I met Steve and Barend here again and both were looking off into the distance, watching the heavy downpour over the escarpment to the South. Steve told me there would be a change in plans for the evening - as instead of taking a longer drive up to the escarpment (with our dinner), the best area for night drives, we would stick to the area along the river (the rocky road to the top of the escarpment is too tricky to drive with recent heavy rain). I was a little disappointed, but knew no one was at fault here so hoped that the shorter drive might deliver too. We set off for our drive with dark clouds overhead, but got our first lucky break barely a minute from the leaving camp; on the track towards the river, Mugambe spotted 3 Defassa Waterbuck in an area of tall brush. We weren't in a position for pictures, but got great views at the animals moving through the tall grass and dense Combretum. I was happy to hear that these are difficult to see in the area - it's always great to stumble upon something unexpected. I was interested to notice that these were Defassa, not Common even though they are East of the Rift escarpment (the general pattern is Common to the East, Defassa to the West), but it turns out that Laikipia is an exception!! **Interestingly, I saw lots of Defassa Waterbuck the next year at Lewa Downs, much lower in elevation and further East in Laikipia as well - this was an area I was expecting Common in but apparently even up to the Samburu reserve complex you can see Defassa characteristics in the animals (birding tour groups have recorded hybrids in Buffalo Springs). As we arrived at the river, there was slight drizzle in the air but concern subsided when we soon found a group of African Bush Elephants coming down to drink at the Ewaso Narok. We walked down to the river opposite the elephants, following Joseph's lead. The rushing river, drinking Elephants, drizzle, tall grass, and breeze made the moment truly sublime. At this point, 3 Hippos cruised into the shallows not far from us. Not a species that I was expecting to find here in this rocky and fast river, but apparently they are commonly seen here. At this point, we continued into denser brush as the sun set, spotting lots of Guenther's Dik-diks, African Savanna Hares (they call this animal "Scrub Hare" here, but true Scrub Hares are native to Namibia/SA!), and my first flocks of wonderfully iridescent Vulturine Guineafowl (pictures are poor due to dim light though). As darkness fell Joseph pulled out the spotlight and started scanning for wildlife in the dense bush. I was hoping for a Side-striped Jackal, Zorilla, or African Wildcat, but Joseph shocked me when he quietly said "Caracal." As I stumbled around trying to get a look, the animal moved into the open a little more and Joseph and I realized it was probably just a Bush Duiker. Oops!! As we continued back to camp, we saw lots of Dik-diks, Hares, and Nightjars along the road, but little big wildlife, but this changed abruptly when 8 Eland dashed off into the bush next to the car, giving great views - the closest I had during the course of my stay. We then headed to a den which was apparently occupied by a family of Spotted Hyenas, but were shocked to pull up and see a Common Warthog dash out! Seems either the Hyenas have left or he is an incredible lucky tenant to leave that burrow alive!! At this point the wildlife came thick and fast as we started seeing large groups of Impalas, then a Common Genet and a White-tailed Mongoose foraging very close to each other. We then hit a big break when Barend spotted a small herd of Plains Zebras trailed by 2 magnificent Grevy's Zebra stallions - a truly magnificent sight and my first sighting of this species (lots of firsts/"lifers" for me here!). I was a little surprised to see Grevy's mixing with Plain's like this but apparently the species have hybridized in the past and there is one hybrid animal that crosses into LWC's ranch (Ol Doinyo Lemboro) occasionally from Sosian. As we neared camp, we checked a burrow at the entrance that is home to a Crested Porcupine, but no luck - only some freshly shed quills at the entrance. I was really happy at this point as the only primary herbivore target I had left for Laikipia was East African Greater Kudu -- so now I could focus on Wild Dogs and nocturnal species. Since Steve and Barend informed me that there was a female kudu that could often be observed on the kopje behind camp, I figured I'd have plenty of opportunities to look for her at some point in my stay. After such a long day, all I needed at this point was some rest!
  15. For anyone interested in the history surrounding the Maasai settlement of Laikipia and the Maasailands near the Tanzanian border, this article will prove fascinating. Now I have always understood, both from anecdotal tales and from the various history books that I've read, that the subsequent move of the Laikipia inhabitants to the Southern area was undertaken under duress and was a great disaster to the Maasai. The author of the article, David Forrester, who was brought up on the Laikipia plateau at Rumuruti questions some of the assumptions made at the time and adopted by Lotte Hughes in her book Moving the Maasai - A Colonial Misadventure. Namely 4 areas of error that he expands on. 1 The general assumption that the Laikipia Plateau was a high rainfall, fertile land. He claims that this originated from explorers who toured the southern part of the area, and not from any observation of the northern parts in the dry seasons. 2 The next assumption regarded the disease free status of the area. 3 The numbers of stock held by the Maasai and required to move are considered exaggerated. 4 Forrester finds problems with the lack of boundary descriptions in the Hughes book. This causes problems in assessing the extent of the move and the populations of people and domestic stock that were involved. In support of Forrester's points, Veronica Bellers writes Fortunately, Lotte Hughes was able to respond to both accounts and puts forward her views. Fascinating, at least I found it to be and there is another link within the article to a follow up article by Lotte Hughes. I must buy her book as it is definitely a defining part of Kenyan history. http://britishempire.co.uk/article/movingthemaasai.htm#.Veli8ACRtop.facebook
  16. Hello everyone, I'm one of the founders of the Cambridge University Wildlife Conservation Society (which started in December 2014), and we are running a trip to Kenya, departing this Tuesday, for a total of 5 weeks! We'll be visiting a number of community conservancies including in the Loita Hills, Athi-Kapiti Plains, Magadi/Shompole, Laikipia/Samburu region as well as the more famous national parks of Maasai Mara, Tsavo and Nairobi National Park. It will be to learn more about conservation and research initiatives as well as seeing Kenya's iconic wildlife. The trip also has a strong component of visiting local communities themselves, and all the places we will be staying at are either community-owned or community-run. There will be radio-collar tracking, camera-trapping, night-spotlighting and walking alongside the traditional game drives. There may even be a couple of aerial excursions! I hope that the blog can provide people with an insight into the lesser-visited community areas and fresh perspectives, through conservation research initiatives, on the more popular ones too. About me: I have been to Kenya many times (family connections), and have been lucky enough to have safaried in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa - as well as India and Borneo! And, I've just graduated. The last safari was July/August 2014 to Rekero and Naboisho camps - simply spectacular! The blog can be found at: http://cuwcs.soc.srcf.net/?page_id=47 , I also hope (dependent on internet connection!) we'll also be posting frequently to our facebook page at www.facebook.com/cuwcs and twitter @cambridgewcs and instagram @cambridgewcs! Lots of social media channels there! Our society's most recent highlight was having the Tanzanian Minister for Wildlife, Lazaro Nyalandu, coming to speak to us a few weeks back in Cambridge. We've also held fundraising & campaigning events, and film screenings (of 'Virunga' and 'White Gold'). I have learnt so much from following trip reports and many other discussions on here, and I hope you all enjoy our posts. Would be very happy to receive comments, feedback and further thoughts on what you see + read either on this thread, or through comments on the blog, tweeting us, commenting on our fb page and so on - I promise we'll do our best to respond! Best wishes!
  17. Ok guys be gentle with me, this is my first trip report! A short summary, impressions, maybe some helpful information and some photos from my trip last October/November to Kenya. Green season (not so busy, also not so expensive) and a return trip but visiting parks which were new to me. Basic schedule was 2 nights Lake Elementaita /Lake Nakuru (Sleeping Warrior Camp) 3 nights Samburu (Elephant Bedroom Camp) 4 nights Laikipia (Laikipia Wilderness Camp) And to end my trip 6 nights on Zanzibar to (finally) visit Stone Town and for some R&R after the wildlife, Why I hadn't managed to see Stone Town on my previous visit is a story for another time.,,,,,,for that you will have to wait Impressions. Most importantly I totally lucked out with my guides. Apart from Laikipia which I had chosen because I knew I would have good guides this was more by luck than judgement! As I am serious about my woldlife I wasn't going to tag on a few gane drives in between lazing by the pool or having a facial. Nope I was going first and foremost for the wildlife and birdlife! Therefore my guides made this a truly memorable trip. Their knowledge, experience and intuition meant I had some fantastic sightings. I chose three new parks to experience different habitats, eco-systems and to see new species. High point was always going to be the wild dogs in Laikipia. But I also wanted to see African Rhino for the first time. The camps were not completely my choice, I went with the advice of my travel agent. He had also spent time at LWC and was so enthusiastic that I knew I had made the right choice there. Sleeping Warrior was really a stop off point to visit Lake Nakuru NP. I ended up in the lodge instead of the camp as it was closed for the start of the short rains. The lodge was a tad more luxurious than my usual camp! I have the impression that it is more a place to kick back and relax with the odd game drive thrown in. Their morning game drives are not usually scheduled to start before 9am! View from the lodge was spectacular, overlooking the Sleeping Warrior crator (which you can climb.) From my cottage (huge, by the way!) I got an excellent view of one of the waterholes. Food was excellent but way too much for me: cooked breakfast, 3 course lunch and 4 course dinner. I was really pleased I wasn't staying longer, I would have gained kilo's If going to the lodge I would check for national holidays/long weekends, it gets packed with residents from Nairobi coming up for the weekend. The co-owner Jacqueline was fantastic, nothing was too much trouble and she manages the lodge very very well. Her hisband who had designed and helped build the place was unfortunately away so I didn't get to meet him. . I did one afternoon game drive in the Soysamba Conservency. The lodge is the only camp/lodge in the conservency so no danger of being overrun by other vehicles. They also arranged a proper night drive (starting 9pm).for me. Lots and lots of birdlife, zebra, Rothschild giraffe, golden and black backed jackal, buffalo, hippo, impala, Thomson and Grant's gazelle and yes, a leopard. A fleeting glimpse of it stalking through the bushes but I saw one, Night drive was pretty quiet but Spring hares were spotted leaping or is that bouncing around! A new species for me! Day in Lake Nakuru NP was great. The lodge did take some persuasion to leave earlier than 9am but as I had booked sole use of vehicle and guide I eventually got there a bit earlier. The black rhino were elusive but in total I spotted 7 white rhino, one lion (high up a tree....Uganda isn't the only place with tree climbing lions then!) and the usual suspects of buffalo, gazelle, dik dik, jackal, zebra, giraffe, impala etc etc. There are a few more flamingo on the lake but defintely not the high numbers in years gone by. Water levels were retreating so they were hoping for more to come back from further north as lower levels meant more algae for them to eat. So I got my wish to see African Rhino. The way things are going with poaching I count myself very lucky! My guide on all drives and my day in Nakuru was John. Knowledgeable, personable. Very good! Ok, that is part one. It's not very short afterall Thank goodness fior my notebook from the trip! Photos coming up but am going to post this in case I lose it all.
  18. http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Corridor-that-gives-you-perfect-view-of-jumbos-in-their-habitat/-/1056/2754604/-/pia5ae/-/index.html ~ Designed to connect ecosystems with minimal interference by human activities.
  19. I am soon off on safari, leaving for Mana in 2 days but having mentioned my Kenya-Uganda trip a few times, I thought I would post a skeleton itinerary and some pictures. The pictures are a mere handful and far from representing the actual sightings ( with so many new species, a whole different league of birding, big buffalo herds and cheetahs in Kidepo and so much more that I have not gone around to editing and will hopefully keep adding to this). This Safari was for 15 nights with 5 nights in Laikipia Wilderness Camp for wild dogs and the inimitable hospitality of the Careys, an overnight in Kajjansi in Lake Victoria Hotel-Serena followed by 5 nights in the beautiful Kidepo Valley in the private mobile camp from Nga' Moru and the wonderful friendship of Patrick and Lyn who run the mobile and the lodge, followed by the longest bush flight anyone has ever taken in Uganda ( the pilots talking on their radio as we flew, termed it the the longest -from Kidepo to South Bwindi and finally 2 Gorilla treks and one Bwindi Forest walk. The groups I trekked were the Nkuringo Group and one of the 3 families in Ruhija -the K-iaguriro group which was recently opened for tourism from having been a research group for quite some time. In Bwindi I stayed at the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp for 2 nights and 2 nights in the Engagi Lodge - both on the mid affordable range and extremely comfortable with wonderful people running it and some precious views and great birding. The Uganda logistics was put together by Mike Rourke from Safari Skies and who overall did such a splendid job and not only came to pick us up and have dinner inspite of an early start but also and managed to make himself available to visit us for a night at Kidepo where Patrick barbequed some pork and there was a lot of laughter, a lot of jokes and some all round fun. Its funny how suddenly out of the blue you end up bonding with people and miss them months after your safari and that's how special Patrick and Lyn are. I was, for the first time ( and definitely not for the last time), guided by Squack Evans who was not only an effortlessly brilliant guide and extremely easy to talk to but also a very good photographer and hence we had a lot of fun discussing photography as well. I am returning with Squack to Kenya in September-October and then again in January 2015 and hope I can get him to contribute a few images here too - if nothing else, atleast the ones of me with the gorillas, which, Squack, if you read this, you have to send them to me :-D What started in Mana and Gonarezhou in October 2013 with good binoculars and Doug's knowledge and love for birds, continued with Squack as he is an extremely keen birder himself and once you really get into it, sometimes you dont realise that so much time has passed. I am in the middle of packing as well, so I will leave it here and just put up some pictures, merely glossing over all that we saw ( and the first round of editing has a deep bias towards birds) and experienced but will try to come back and cover most sightings in a more orderly manner. Squack will remember this red rumped swallow
  20. As next year is going to be a significant year for me, I'm hitting 50, I have managed to negotiate the possibility of taking all my holiday allowance off in one hit and was planning a long self drive around Namibia (5-6 weeks). Unfortunately our eldest dog is getting old and growing poorly. My wife, Angela, does not want to leave him in kennels (or in the care of friends) for a prolonged period of time. So we are doing two or three shorter trips instead. After this years wonderful trip. I want to go back to Lakipia in late Feb/early march this time with Angela in tow for a good 5-6 days looking for dogs, hopefully there will be pups again. We want to combine this with the best possibility of seeing cheetah we can. We also want to incorporate a visit to David Sheldrick's Elephant orphanage in Nairobi. I've read @@madaboutcheetah 's Chasing Cheetah in Kenya thread and think that Naboisho in the Mara would be a good place to spend 5 or so days. But are there better places at the time of year we plan to go? Or should we combine with elsewhere in the Mara? I should add we have never been to the Mara and only plan on visiting the concessions when we do go. Our best cheetah sightings to date have been in Laikipia (Ol Pejeta). Given that we are going to be in this area anyway would it be worth returning to Ol Pejeta or going up to Lewa (MAC also mentions Lewa in Laikipia as a prime cheetah location). How about Tsavo East or Amboseli? They are well located for a road connection from Nairobi. Another alternative we are thinking about is to go over to Tanzania and try the Serengeti, maybe Ndutu? But we may just save that for a different trip. My remaining dilemma is what to do about that Namibia trip. 2016 is changing shape and we may slide a brown bear trip to Alaska or Ne Russia into the mix.
  21. In February 2014, ST members Safaridude and the Game Warden undertook a Kenyan safari staying at three Offbeat Safari properties in Meru National Park, (Offbeat Meru), Sosian Ranch in Laikipia, (Sosian Lodge), and Masai Mara, (Offbeat Mara - Mara North Conservancy). In the following interview series we focus the Safaritalk Spotlight on Offbeat Safaris and gain an insight into each of its properties: here we speak with Simon Kenyon and Rosie Constant from Sosian Lodge. Part 1 of the interview series, Offbeat Meru can be found here. Part 3 of the interview series, Offbeat Mara can be found here. To read the ongoing photographic trip report, click here. To find out more regarding Offbeat Safaris, visit the website at www.offbeatsafaris.com. ---------- Sosian circa mid-sixties? Sosian circa 1973 What is the history of Offbeat Sosian? I've read that for a time the farmhouse/lodge itself was unoccupied and in disrepair? Why and when was the decision taken to restore it and turn it into a safari property? What were the early days of operation like and how easily were you able to start attracting guests? How is running a safari operation in conjunction with a livestock ranch different from purely farming and how has the farm changed in the last 20 years? In 1999, Tristan Voorspuy organized a group of friends as a syndicate to acquire Sosian from Standard Chartered bank, with the objective of restoring the ranch to a sustainable business. The shareholders decided that the first priority was to restore the infrastructure of the ranch, such as the dams, roads and security. The previous owner had run the ranch into the ground and had all but abandoned the property . At the time the current shareholders took over even the illegal squatters who had been living n the property for some years had moved off due to the poor land conditions as a result of overgrazing and drought. Subsequently the decision was taken to restore the existing ranch house into a small up market lodge, in order to generate income, which would be re-invested in the restoration process. At the same time the syndicate decided to start a small scale agricultural operation based on commercial cattle, goats and sheep. The concept was that tourism and cattle ranching were complimentary activities. The income derived from both sides has from 1999 been re-invested in making Sosian a sustainable operator, whose income is needed to provide security for the wildlife, jobs for more than 200 employees, and to continue the never-ending process of maintaining the land and the ranch. The nature of the farming evolved from commercial cattle, goat and sheep framing, to concentrating on building up a pure bred Boran stud herd in 2005 and today Sosian boasts being the biggest Boran stud breeder in Kenya. When the ranch use changed from purely farming to wildlife and tourism, what wildlife was regularly seen? How different now is the natural environment to how it was when it was a farming ranch and how has wildlife been encouraged back into the area where once it would have been less tolerated? When Sosian was acquired in 1999 it was at the end of a long drought and there was literally no game at all on the ranch. Since we invested in security, water management and ending the illegal grazing problem, (that was rife at the beginning), the wildlife has continued to build up across a wide variety of species. Today Sosian is rich in wildlife which has been encouraged into the area. Lions at Sosian. How many lion prides are there within the Sosian Ranch area and how many individual lions do you estimate in total? How have these numbers changed since wildlife has been encouraged on the ranch? What other predators are regularly seen? I've also read that Sosian baits leopards in order for guests to see them, (one source - www.expertafrica.com/kenya/laikipia/sosian/in-detail): what is involved and why do you do it? What do guests think about such an activity and why is it really neccesary to do so? There are three permanent lion prides that traverse the ranch and neighboring ranches, we would estimate about 35 lions in total that range between Sosian and our direct neighbours. These numbers have increased in line with increasing numbers of prey species. Other predators that are regularly seen are leopards, African wild dogs, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals. In terms of baiting, because we are a cattle ranch, we inevitably have occasions where a calf will die, when this happens we would rather hang up the meat in a tree to see what comes, rather than leaving it on the ground for hyenas, and it helps us to monitor nocturnal animals such as leopards. We never kill animals for bait and we also use many different places to hang the meat, so it is not like animals wait in a particular area expecting to be fed. Guests have never had a problem with this, it is part of ranching life that sometimes cattle die and it also normally provides guests with a sighting of a leopard that might otherwise be elusive. What do most guests coming to Sosian expect to see and do? How does a stay at Sosian differ from other safari experiences in Kenya, especially such as Lewa and Ol Pejeta for instance? Every guest’s safari experience is individual to their desires and needs, whether it be full on walking or riding, to chilling by the pool, with game drives and night drives as a norm and plenty of bush meals by the river if they wish. Being in Laikipia we have the freedom not only to game drive off road, but also to jump out of the car and explore the bush in other ways – we go fishing, swimming in the waterfall and rivers, walking, horse riding, camel riding, fly camping, game tracking, bird watching etc. Guests get a personal experience and feel like they’ve left having stayed with friends. Sosian runs a much smaller and more personal experience than many places and the shareholders want to keep it that way. The number of repeat client business is a tribute to this policy. At the end of the day we are all selling a similar product in Laikipia, (small, intimate stays with numerous activities available), but we strongly feel it is how this product is sold through the quality of the staff, hosting and presentation that makes the difference. As a working ranch, how are you involved with local communities with regard to such issues as human vs predator conflict, improving animal husbandry etc? How is your relationship with them and what employment and training opportunities do you offer? What percentage of the 24,000 acre conservancy is leased from said communities and what are the plans to extend the overall area? We employ modern cattle boma designs which are predator proof, protecting both the cattle and the lions from gaining a taste for cattle and the chance of becoming a problem to ranching. We monitor lions with radio tracking collars and follow their movements and will inform communities if lions are in the vicinity, in order to avoid community cattle being eaten by lions. We allow the local communities, (samburus/Pokot/turkana/ all immediate surrounding communities), to graze on our land providing they respect our bomas and views on the protection of predators. We also provide the community with jobs, water, firewood, support to a school and a medical clinic. In terms of improving animal husbandry, we are members of the Boran Cattle Breading Society, and as such support the Kenya Breeding Stud book in order to create higher quality stock across the Boran Cattle population. 0% of Sosian is leased from communities and in fact we make some of our land available to communities when they are under pressure for grazing. There are no plans to extend because we are mainly surrounded by secure commercial ranches. Currently leasing grazing to 1600 cattle and 400 sheep/goats to our immediate communities. Also run a steer fattening program allowing our community neighbours to get better prices for the stock though this scheme. Sosian is well regarded for its African wild dog sightings. Firstly, how do you think attitudes towards the wild dogs have changed over the years in Kenya, a species once persecuted by farmers as vermin? How important a draw are they for guests staying with you and what efforts do you make to educate visitors about them and how endangered they are? How many dogs are there at Sosian and on average, each year, how many pups are born? When denning, what restrictions are in place to ensure that the pack and young pups are not disturbed? How close can guests reasonably expect to come to the dogs when guided, either on foot, in a vehicle or on horseback? Sosian is very fortunate to have wild dogs and we make every use of the opportunity for guests to see them. When denning we all ensure that we respect the dogs privacy and we don’t get within 150 metres. However when hunting wild dogs are incredibly curious and sightings of under 10 metres are not uncommon. Sosian as a tourism operation is acutely aware of the historical pressure on wild dogs. Kenya as a whole has policy in place to try to encourage wild dog numbers, and not reduce them. They have vastly increased in this area in Laikipia, with four packs in our immediate area. This is remarkable since they were thought to be extinct in 1980s. Fourth/Fifth largest wild dog population is in the world in Liakipia. Without the restrictions of a national park, guests are offered a greater freedom Sosian: what do you find guests are most keen to do from those activities you offer? With regard to nocturnal activities, what is the best area of the conservancy for night drives and what can one reasonably expect to see? Riding and walking and game and night drives in the vehicle are organized on a daily basis for the guests. Everyone is different, some prefer to ride as much as possible, some like to try everything. Others might prefer to do hard core game drives for game and bird viewing. Families with children tend to love playing at the waterfalls, fly camping and camel riding. Each area offers different night drive opportunities. Leopard, striped hyena and a variety of nocturnal animals are commonly seen. Aside from the more glamourous wildlife of Sosian, what are the rarities which guests can consider themselves to be very lucky if they have an up close and personal sighting? For instance, on your mammal list here, www.offbeatsafaris.com/images/stories/pdfs/Sosian-Mammal-Checklist.pdf, you mention Aardwolf, striped hyena, serval for example. How often are these seen on the ranch? We probably see wild dogs on average three times a week and normally within 100 yards. Rare Jackson’s hartebeest, striped hyena, caracal are all seen frequently, as well as rare northern species – Reticulated giraffe, (only in N. Kenya), Grevy's Zebra, gerunuk, aardwolf. We also occasionally see a cross breed Zebra, (half common and half Grevy’s), which is unusual. Over 350 species of birds are recorded on Sosian well. What changes in the various Sosian ecosystems do you see throughout the year and which months are your own favourites? When is the best time of year for a safari tourist to visit in terms of general wildlife viewing? Just after the rains the game is more spread out as there is water everywhere. All year is good, we particularly like January to April because it is dryer and warmer with clear skies, but any time of the year avoiding the heavy rains, (May and November), is lovely weather. The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk. All images copyright and courtesy of Sosian Lodge.
  22. Here is wishing @@Anita a safe journey, and a wonderful time in Laikipia, Kidepo and Bwindi, rich in sightings, wilderness and adventures :-)
  23. I know there are a few people out there keen to hear about this trip, so I'm going to post the words bit now, and hopefully some photos at a later date. I haven't done a day by day account as frankly it would get a bit repetetive! But I'm going to break it down into multiple posts for readability. Laikipia Wilderness Camp is owned by Steve and Annabelle Carey. Steve is a Zimbabwean guide, and Annabelle is originally from Scotland. They ran a walking safari business in Zim for many years until tourism there collapsed and they moved away, working in Zambia for a while before moving to Kenya where they managed a camp in the Mara, then Sosian lodge for a few years. They opened LWC in June last year. The camp focuses on 3 main interests-tracking wild dogs, walking and family activities. I was there for the dogs, but I was also keen to do some walking. The trip was booked as a third safari for 2013, so I was in a bit of a squeeze for holiday time- originally I had been thinking of combining with the Mara, but my other plans expanded slightly so I only had a week to spare. So I decided to just spend a whole week at LWC. They were closed in April and May, so I picked the second week of June to be spaced between my other two trips. I also hoped they would be quiet (they were) so that I could have free reign to do more or less what I wanted, which was mostly to spend time with the wild dogs. (Note- next year they plan to open all year round).
  24. Just got back home from my Kenya trip with @@twaffle (my 25th African safari), logged into Safaritalk and the first feeling is being overwhelmed by the lively activity and numerous threads that sprung up during my absence. It will take a while to catch up with everything that has been going on here. Anyway, in spite of a few unexpected twists and turns, we really had a wonderful time in some very special places, with many awesome sightings to boot. I and Twaffle will contribute a joint trip report (not sure if there is any precedent of such a thing on ST, so we cannot guarantee it will not be a disaster) in due course. So far, we have just agreed on the title: "Unpredictable Safari: of Shiftas, family dogs and elephants". Stay tuned....
  25. At first light on Sunday I will fly out to Nairobi for a very much coveted safari with our own @@twaffle. This is our itinerary: o/n Nairobi (Macushla House) 2 nights Shaba (Joy's Camp) 4 nights Meru (Squack's mobile camp) 4 nights Laikipia Wilderness Camp 5 nights Ishaqbini Conservancy (Squack's mobile camp) I am happy to revisit Shaba and Meru is a firm favourite of mine, but I especially look forward to having a chance of good wild dog action at LWC and, above all, exploring Ishaqbini and its unique environment - and meeting its most precious inhabitant, the critically endangered Hirola. Fingers crossed!

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