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Found 102 results

  1. 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...
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. Another outstanding trip is over. I know I say it each time, but it was the best safari ever. It was just packed with big cats and action. I was in Porini Lion for the whole stay (8 nights) To name a few highlights of these 8 days: we saw 10 successful kills, one outstanding attempt of 5 male cheetahs to bring an adult wildebeest down, 14 different cheetahs (Malaika and her two boys, Musiara, Imani, two Imani's daughters, 5 Musketeers, Mjala and her cub), 4 leopards (Fig and her 5 month old cub, Lorian and her adult daughter Luluka), close to 150 lions that belong to different groups (Moniko pride and its males Olerai and Ole Kiti, Eseketa pride, its new males and Eseketa pride split, Oldikidiki pride, Enkoyanai pride, Ololparpit and Olbarnoti males, Blacky and Lipstick males, Ridge pride, Dann's pride, Marsh pride, nomad coalition of 5 young males, nomad coalition of 3 gold mane males, etc), multiple unsuccessful hunts/chases including the one, that was done by the laziest male lion ever :), new born or couple day old calves (Tommies, topis, giraffe, etc), 3-4 week old lion cubs and much more. I loved November. So far for me this is the best time of the year in Mara. I would want to add here a few words about my guide Meshack: he was just the best! I mean he worked extremely hard to know location of each cheetah group we were interested in on daily basis as well as to know what each of those group did in last 12-24 hours so that we can make the right choice for each day. We spend with cats from 6 am to 7:30 pm. No break no matter what. We were even having lunch on our knees as cheetahs were not always cooperative :). And Meshack was always enthusiastic, dedicated, hard working and patient (lol even when we crossed Talek river 4 times during the day, trying to understand what sighting was more promising). Well, I should say the whole Porini team was outstanding. Starting from Julie that was extremely helpful and responsive (as usually) and ending with all drivers, camp workers, chef, Patrick (the camp manager) and everybody else who were making sure that our back is covered. While I am loading all photos, here are a few warnings: - this report is heavily loaded with cheetah photos (like 70%). Pretty much I shot animals other than cheetahs and leopards only on our way to them or while we were waiting for things to happen - photos were taken with a lot enthusiasm but it did not help their quality - report will be quite graphical so the viewer discretion is advised - my spelling can be horrible so I apologize one time for the whole report While I am loading my photos here are couple taken by Meshack, they show the time between actions
  6. Almost 2 years to the day that the Marsh Pride was poisoned and lioness Siena among the dead, the Mara’s Ridge Pride was attacked by humans, two adult lions injured and one small cub impaled by a spear and stuck to the ground. The video on social media was incredibly hard to watch, I can NEVER unsee this. Thankfully the lioness got it unstuck and KWS treated the cub and the other injured lions and it seems they’ll all recover as none of the wounds hit vital organs. But what can be done about this conflict? It’s unclear to me, at least in the posts I can find, what caused this attack, but I can only speculate that it was similar to the Marsh Pride situation in 2015.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Hi All! I am the lucky husband of a wife who works for Kempinski hotels, and therefore I have discounted rates for staying at the "Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara". I always dreamed to go on a Safari and I thought that this could be a great opportunity. I guess we will have a 14 days holiday, including all the journeys (and travelling to Nairobi will take us an entire day). Has anybody seen the Olare Orok Conservancy? Does anybody have any suggestion on when to go? I know the best time is during summer, but will there be too many people to enjoy it? What about late winter? Do you think I should also move from there and go and see something else? We are interested in anything: culture, local traditions, sceneries, trekking on Mount Kenya... Any idea would be welcome Thank you and have a great day! Giovanni
  10. 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
  11. Having several African safaris under our belt--South Africa twice, Tanzania, Botswana--and having read so many wonderful Kenya trip reports on SafariTalk, Kenya seemed the logical destination for our next safari. But where to go? I knew that the Mara had to be included. Should we add other areas and parks? Usually for a first trip to a country we like to get an overview and see as much as possible of different habitats but in the end, mainly due to time and budget constraints, we decided to concentrate on the Masai Mara--and do it at the optimal time to witness the "Great Migration" and the famed river crossings. The only other thing I was certain of was that we wanted to stay primarily in the conservancies, so that we would have less crowds and the ability to off-road. So, with the expert guidance of our safari planner, Bill Given at The Wild Source, we decided on the following itinerary, commencing mid-September 2016. 1 night Eka Hotel, Nairobi 3 nights Porini Lion Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights Encounter Mara Camp, Naboisho Conservancy 4 nights Wild Source's private mobile camp, Enaidura, in the Mara triangle 1 Night Ololo Lodge, Nairobi The Wild Source has a new collaborative model with two local Masai guides, who have co-ownership in the Enaidura operation: Johnson Ping’ua Nkukuu (Ping) and Paul Kirui. They also have arranged with some camps to allow these guides (who are very well respected across Kenya) to bring clients to those camps in Wild Sources' specially configured safari vehicle. So this unique arrangement enabled us to have our own vehicle with well-known and highly regarded Ping as our private guide while we were at Encounter Mara and Enaidura Camps. At Porini Lion, we were to be in a shared vehicle (or so we thought...) As departure approached I started to get a little apprehensive--were we making a mistake staying in just one location--the Mara--for our whole trip? As birders, I knew we were unlikely to add many "lifers" in this area, since being contiguous with the Serengeti, where we'd been in Tanzania, there would be few birds that were unique or new. Would there be enough photographic opportunities?? Would we drive endlessly through featureless savanna without seeing much of anything?? Would we be bored with so many nights in one area...were the three camps different enough? those of you who have been to the Mara must know, there was no need to worry. I can honestly say that we have not been anywhere else on safari where there was never a dull moment--never a lull--always something to see just around the corner! And each camp was unique with its own attractions. And we learned a few things: the Mara is THE place for cats--we saw 7 unique leopards, countless lions, 12 different cheetahs, and 2 servals. And we even picked up 152 birds, with 15 of them lifers--more than I expected! Not to mention the endless plains of wildebeest, zebra, and all the other game species. And one other thing I learned--although I am glad that we saw a few river crossings--I don't ever have to, or want to, do that again. More on that later. So enough preamble, I'm sure you want to get to the meat of it--and some photos! A bit later...
  12. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Porini Lion Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 2) Website address if known: 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). September 15-18, 2016 High Season 4) Length of stay: 3 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? recommendation of agent and fellow SafariTalkers who have been there 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Agent (The Wild Source) 7) How many times have you been on Safari? this was the fifth 8) To which countries? South Africa x2, Tanzania, Botswana, now Kenya 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Tented camps in Botswana would come the closest 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 10 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? #3 There wasn't much of a direct view due to trees, but if you walked just a few steps forward you looked out over the river below, and a popular spot for animals to come down to drink--we had zebra, wildebeest, impala, and many birds drinking below. Lots of birds in the trees surrounding the tent which kept me busy during siesta time. A bit close to surrounding tents, we could hear loud conversations from #2. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very comfortable, spacious, and had a writing table which none of the other camps on this trip had; very useful for downloading photos on the laptop, etc. Typical bucket safari shower with scalding hot water--be careful! 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Very good food, home style cooking, rustic but very good. The pork ribs were especially delicious. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Both lunch and dinner was served buffet so there were some choices but generally one main dish with salads and vegetables. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Both communal and seperate tables. There was one large photo group of 12 when we were there so we were put at a table with one other couple; after the photo group left there was a communal table for the rest of us. Guides did not join at mealtimes. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Open sided land cruisers with canvas tops. Beanbags were available. I believe they also have one closed, pop-top type vehicle--some of the photo group was using this. 19) How many guests per row? three rows of two. We had a private vehicle and as far as I could tell so did everyone else at camp while we were there, so not sure how many maximum they might put at other times.. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Variable, depending on sightings...departure at 6:30 returning around noon, then from 4 until dark. You can also do night drives AFTER dinner here, which was night we went out on a night drive at 9 p.m. until about 10:30. 21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? See #20 Since we had a private vehicle route and timing were very flexible. We did go out on one full day drive to into the Mara reserve, returning about 6 p.m. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Yes, Olare Motorogoi Conservancy. There are several camps in the vicinity but none TOO close. We usually saw vehicles from three or four camps at sightings. 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 theory, no more than five at a sighting. This was almost never an issue and we were never bumped--if we saw too many cars at a sighting we just went elsewhere. Most sightings were on our own or with one or two other vehicles. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Cats! It is not called Lion Camp for nothing. We had fabulous sightings of leopard (three different individuals), two different lion prides, lions mating, lions hunting, cheetah with a kill, leopard with a kill, serval on a night drive. Others while we were there had caracal (which we searched for but missed.) Also at this time the wildebeest and zebra migration was massing on the plains just outside of camp--tremendous numbers of wildlife everywhere. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent, our guides were Gerald and Josephat and they were both great, highly recommend either one. 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? n/a 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Personable, fun to be with, informative, really understood about photography, genuinely excited at sightings, etc. Tried hard to get us the caracal! 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. As part of the Olare Motorogoi conservancy they are directly involved in that initiative. Here is a link to their statement on their conservation practices: 32) Safaritalk trip report link: to come later 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: When can I go back? 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
  13. I am leaning towards Kenya for next year, early July 2015. I am thinking of spending 4 nights in the Mara area and then 8 nights in Laikipia/Meru. I am struggling to decide which concession to stay in. I am hoping for lots of cats and elephants just in case the sightings aren't great in the other areas I will be in. I am partial to Mara North and staying at Serian since they assign a private vehicle but am worried it will feel a little too crowded. Any thoughts?
  14. This is only the third time in the past five years that I am aware of that wild dogs have been spotted in the Mara Triangle. I belive that the other times they were spotted they were around the Serengeti border and near the Serena. This time I think that they were spotted by the Serena and also by the Oloololo gate. I hope that they stay in the Reserve or head south t the Serengeti. Does anyone have any details of other wild dog sightings in the Triangle? I believe that there may also be a small population in Mara North (Aitong area).
  15. We were staying at Kitchwa tembo camp on the west side of the Masai mara, just outside the actual reserve. We chose this area as we knew from past experiences that this was good Lion country. We were not far from the Musiara mash and it's famous Lion's when we thought we had found Lion's on a kill, technically we had, but on close inspection we realised that the Zebra was still alive. The other unusual thing was, all the Lion's were youngsters. We could not see an adult, but did not think these young Lion's had made this kill as they did not seem to know what to do with the Zebra which was braying and trying to get up. Two of the female Lions were holding the zebra down while the male kept walking backwards & forwards near to the head. It was as if the females were waiting for the male to finish the Zebra off, and the male looked like he knew he should, but how? He jumped on the Zebra which gave out a stifled cry. He bit at the Zebra's neck but looked confused, as did the females who were depending on the male to give the coup de grace. The male tried to pull the Zebra over to expose it's throat but the females holding it would not let go. We had been here about half-hour and it was a little distressing but were aware this has to happen for the youngster to learn. The male walked around the other side and jumped upon the Zebra again biting at it's neck. The zebra was kicking out weakly when the other female decided to join in and grabbed at the Zebra's flailing leg's. As the Zebra struggled it cried out in desperation which startled one of the Lion's which leapt backwards looking a little confused. At that moment we noticed a movement in a bush just beyond where the Lion's were. We thought it must be another youngster about to join the struggle. We drove slowly around to the other side and there was the architect of the kill, Mama. She had reacted to the Zebra's last cry of desperation, probably not believing her young had still not finished the job. She made no attempt to go and help them. She had chosen well, the Zebra was a sub adult, a good size to test her youngsters but had they been paying attention when she had previously shown them what to do? From what we had seen so far the answer was No!. The last effort by the Zebra caused it to turn more onto it's back and the male suddenly gripped the Zebra by the throat, a few adjustments and a final effort by the Zebra to get free, and it was all over. It was only now that Mama came over to show them the art of opening up their pray. As distressing as it all was, we must assume the Zebra was in shock through out. It had been about one hour in all and mama had resisted any temptation to help. She had done her part in bringing the Zebra down. You can imaging the scenario; Ok kids, here is your lunch. You have seen me do it now don't disappoint me. And eventually they didn't. On another occasion in the north of the Masai mara near the Talek river we saw a mother Cheetah do the same thing. She caught a young Thompson's Gazelle and carried it back to her three cubs. She dropped it in front of them and surprisingly the gazelle just lay there.The cubs stood looking at the young gazelle and then at each other and then back at the Gazelle. The gazelle got up but the cubs never moved, the gazelle started to run and the cheetah cubs instinctively gave chase. They soon caught the up with the gazelle and the lead cub tripped it with a quick flick of it's paw. The three cubs once again surrounded the gazelle and standing there staring at the gazelle seemed totally bemused as to what they should do. Two of them clawed at their prey but without any real conviction when suddenly the gazelle was up and running again. Once more they gave chase and caught the gazelle once again, this happened two more times until mama decided that was enough practise for one day, and she calmly walked over, dispatched the gazelle, opened it up allowed the cubs to feed first. Resting a short distance away she waited until they had finished and then ate herself.
  16. This is my third trip to Masai Mara. My last trip can be read om this trip report; My first time I haven´t come around yet to write a trip report on Safari Talk. But a trip report of that trip can be read in swedish here; After an uneventful night flight with Ethiopian via Addis, I landed in the morning att Nairobi. This time a choose to use a operator I used my first trip, Bush Adventure.They provided a excellent service first time and was just as excellent this time. At Nairobi airport my driver and guide for the week, David, collected me and we started the tedious drive to Masai mara. On the way to Masai Mara we talked about my exceptions för the week, and my previous experiences. I don´t have any wish to see anything special, i have already seen and photographed all animals, but there is always a new picture to be taken. It is all about light, angle, situation, interaction between animals and background. First light in the morning is always the best, and the last light in the evening second best. This makes for long days I brought my "standard" equipment kit: 2x Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm f/4, Nikon 300 mm f/4 PF, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2,8, Ricoh GR and a bean bag. Day 1, 31st October We arrived late in the afternoon at Sekani gate, and decided to stay out and do some "game drive", before going to the Keekorok lodge at curfew time. Masai Mara is always so wonderful, and I love the landscape. Cruising the Sekani area was really lovely and there was a lot of animals. Large groups of Elans (I have never seen so plentiful with Elands ), zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, topis etc. Suddenly a Thompson gasell ran past us very fast with a jackal tailing it. Luckily the gasel got away. I didn't even have time to adjust camera settings, hence the 1/640s shutter time. One advantage (sometimes disadvantage) with popular safari destinations like the Mara is that the drivers communicate sightings over the radio. And David told me a Leopard had been sighted close to Keekorok lodge. With just a few minutes of daylight left we found the leopard (no other cars left in the area). This was a large male. He looked very grumpy and not at all happy to see us, I guess he wanted the place to him self. I was glad to see him, though Then it was just to say farewell to him and continue to my favorite lodge in the Mara, Keekorok. They know me by now and I was warmly greeted
  17. Hi All It’s took 44 years to get myself into a position to start planning my first actual Safari and although I am very excited and “buzzing”, I am also very nervous too. Nervous about making the wrong choices in regards to travel, parks and camps. Also nervous about security (safari security as opposed to Country security!). Also taking my 13 year old Autistic Son too so it is important I get this trip as perfect as possible for him too The above is the reason why I have joined this forum – to try and obtain as much guidance and advice as possible from both professionals Safari companies and independent travellers alike to enable my Son and I to have the best time possible on our first trip. After all due to health and finances, it may be my only opportunity. I may not be able to repeat this type of trip again, so I have one shot at getting this right. Therefore, any help, advice and guidance anyone can offer would be very much appreciated. So, the type of advice I am looking for is the following: · Camps – Looking for solid structure accommodation as opposed to a tent that looks like it has “been thrown into the middle of a field”. Also customer service has to be second to none. Absolutely hate staff who cannot be bothered or have a poor attitude. · Masai Mara or Serengeti? – Everything considered, which one do people prefer? I suppose on my trip the importance is the “Big 5” as not really a bird fan. · Fly or drive transfers between airport and camps? Pro’s and Cons for both? · How strict are Safari link on baggage allowance? If my bag weighed 18kg (for example), would they turn a blind eye to the extra 3kg, make me pay for the extra 3kg or insist that I reduce the weight by 3kg meaning I will have to “bin” some items? · Best to book the whole lot (flights, camps, transfers etc) with a tour operator or use separate airline and Safari companies (if so, any recommendations)? · What can I actually expect on my first Safari as opposed to public perception? · Anything you think I may need to know that I may not have thought of to make my trip enjoyable? Any help, guidance or advice would most appreciated Thanks
  18. I'm not one to usually ask for lens advice but I'm really stymied! I'll be traveling to the Masai Mara in September for the migration and of course birds and everything else. We will have a private guide and vehicle for most of the trip, just sharing for three days in one camp. My problem is that I have too many lenses to choose from! (I know, a sad story.) I'll have two bodies, a Nikon D810 (full frame) and Nikon D500 (1.5 crop.) My current thoughts: I'll take the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 for use on the D810. For scenery, larger and closer beasts, beasts in habitat, etc. This is pretty set. But I have several options for the crop frame D500, which will be my primary for birds and also, I'd imagine, any kind of action as it is built for speed. 1) The 200-400 F4 VR has been my staple safari lens for years. I have had good success with this lens, and used it mostly with the 1.4 tc. But have not been 100% happy with the IQ, especially with the TC. It is well known that this lens does well at short distances but does not resolve well at long distances. So the con of this lens is less than excellent IQ, especially with the TC. But the pros of this lens is versatility of range, and also hand-holdability. I can hand-hold this pretty well for short distances walking and for longer periods in a vehicle. It focuses quickly even with the TC. It also close focuses a bit closer than the 500 F4. 2) 500 F4 VR The IQ of this lens is superb and does well even at long distances. Adding a 1.4 tc barely effects quality, in my opinion. PROS of this are: Better IQ with the TC than the 200-400, and longer reach. This would be especially useful for birds. CONS: Too heavy for hand-holding. Would need to always have support in the vehicle, whether bean bag or maybe monopod (walking isn't really an issue for this trip as I doubt there will be much, even in the camps which are small.) Less versatile than the 200-400 in range (but I could cover that range with the 70-200 + TC) 3) Nikon 200-500 F5.6 VR This lens has surprisingly good IQ and I think its actually sharper than the 200-400VR. PROS: Very versatile range. Totally hand-holdable, I can walk with this lens all day on a sling strap, so would be very easy to maneuver in a vehicle. CONS: Slow to focus at times, especially in low light. Slow lens (F 5.6) In theory it can be used with a 1.4 TC but I haven't tried it. I'd also be concerned about the build...its a well-built lens but it does extend when zooming which can introduce a lot of dust and makes it less rugged than the other two which are weather sealed, pro lenses. SO...if you have read this far...thoughts??? I guess one question I'd have is how often in the Mara are you really distant from the action? I've got lots of time to fret over this....
  19. Dear ST members, I recently met Dr. Elena Chelysheva when I was in the Mara over Easter. She has been running a research project on the cheetahs of the Mara since 2001 and has established a great database in that time. The link to her work is as follows: If anyone has photos of cheetahs taken in the Mara over the last 15 years, and is willing to share them on this post, her research would be greatly enhanced. I will start off by posting a photo of Bawa, the son of Malaika taken in June 2013. Thanks in advance Dhruv
  20. Per the below found on ATTA's website the it may be possible at some point in the future to legally cross between the Triangle and the Serengeti. I have mixed feelings as this would be a great way to see both parks and allow access (from the Kaogatende airstrip) to other parks in Tanzania. I am however a bit concerned that it may cause an influx of min-busses from Tanzania into the Triangle during the migration period. (If they allow drivers from one country to guide in the other). I'm already planning an itinerary should the boarder ever actually be opened... - fly into Nairobi, stay in the Mara Triangle and Serengeti for a few days; flyi to Lake Manyara from Kogatende (Manyara NP and a crater visit); drive down to Arusha NP, fly from KIA back to JKIA.
  21. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Enaidura Mobile Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 2) Website address if known: 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). High season (migration season) September 22-26 4) Length of stay: Four nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Wonderful opportunity to have a private, mobile camp with a private guide. Our agent/tour operator is a partner in this camp, along with two local Kenyan guides. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Directly with The Wild Source which is in a partnership with the freelance guides of the camp. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? This was the fifth 8) To which countries? 2 x South Africa, 1 x Tanzania, 1 x Botswana, now Kenya 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Difficult to compare to other camps as this is the only time we've stayed in a mobile camp. 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? Can have up to six but for our party only one tent was set up, since we were the only guests. 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? N/A. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Wonderfully furnished. Very comfortable real mattress, 24 hour solar lighting, charging station right in room, large area for storing clothes, very large bathroom with typical safari bucket shower (hot water plentiful and on-demand) and flush toilet. Hot water via bucket was also provided in the sink in the early morning, much appreciated. 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Food was wonderful, especially considering it was done in only a rudimentary portable kitchen. Very varied, delicious salads, chicken and fish dishes, lunches of pizza, quiches, a chicken curry, always with lots of accompanying salads. Even a cheese plate one lunch! Great desserts and chocolates by your bedside at night. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Set food but we could request anything specific and certainly vegetarian would have been easily accommodated. I have a particular intolerance requirement which was cheerfully met. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? N/A since it was just us, but the guide ate with us. For larger parties it would be a large communal table. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good breakfasts, although with no variety. Always hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausage, granola with yogurt and fruit, bread, juices, coffee and tea. Once when we were "stuck" at a sighting of cheetah with cub...they packed up the intended lunch (happened that day to be chicken curry with rice, and salad) and it was brought to us over an hour away from camp. Great service! 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Custom-built roofed, open Land Cruiser with side table for bean bags, built-in charging. (You can see the bean bag table on the far side in this photo.) 19) How many guests per row? Has three rows but we had it privately. I'm told they would not put more than four in a vehicle. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? As long or short as we wanted, wherever we wanted. 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? Totally flexible. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? n/a 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? This camp, while mobile, is based in the Mara Triangle. The large Serena lodge is nearby as are several mobile campsites. Density can be high at priority sightings (river crossings, cheetahs, etc) but it is also quite easy to get away from the crowds. We took some drives where we saw no other vehicles at all. 24) Are you able to off-road? No, but there are lots of legal tracks in most areas. 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. Yes, there are wardens patrolling that regulate the sightings. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? River crossings during migration time. Excellent chance of seeing Rhino. Lions, cheetah. We saw all of this! 27) How was the standard of guiding? Top-notch, our guide Ping is one of the top guides in Kenya and a pleasure to be with. 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? n/a 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Always flexible, communicative, knowledgeable, always was able to predict the movement of the wildlife, best position for photography, etc. And a genuinely interesting person to be around. 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Amazingly! We had a staff of eight cheerfully attending to our every need. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Yes, The Wild Source, which is a partner in this camp, has several initiatives benefiting the community as well as conservation research in different areas of Africa, which is one of the reasons I like to book with them. This particular camp is in partnership with the Masai freelance guides, giving them an autonomy and responsibility they do not get elsewhere. Here is a page summarizing their work: 32) Safaritalk trip report link: This will come later! 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings. The property site itself would change, as this is a mobile camp. But this is representative. Our tent the dining/lounge tent
  22. Here goes my first travel report on our (myself and my wife) very first trip to Africa, a safari in Kenya. Like many other first timers we faced the question of choosing a location. The most general dilemma usually is Eastern Africa vs. Southern Africa. After reading quite a lot about both regions, we decided to go to Eastern Africa, the annual wildebeest and zebra migration being the single most important factor which influenced our decision. The next logical step was to decide where exactly to go in order to witness the annual migration with choices obviously being Serengeti or Masai Mara. At first I made an itinerary for 12 days Kenya plus Tanzania safari, then decided not to spend half of the trip driving between national parks and to concentrate on one country. Finally Kenya was chosen as a destination country, since we could combine the Great Rift Valley Lakes, with the elephants in Amboseli NP and the migration in Masai Mara. We used three different safari companies – the backbone of the trip was Gamewatchers Safaris with their "adventure camps" in Selenkay and Ol Kinyei private conservancies. They offered a good package, which included local flights from Nairobi to Selenkay (Amboseli eco system), then to Ol Kinyei (Masai Mara eco system) and back to Nairobi with full day visits to both Amboseli and Masai Mara national parks. For Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria we chose African Game Trek Safaris, they were the only one who offered both lakes in one two days/one night trip. After the Selenkay and Ol Kinyei conservancies we choose Freeman Safaris for a camp in Central Mara (the hidden gem in the Mara eco system, I would have never found the website if I wasn’t referred by a friend who has stayed there before). Logistically three overnights in Nairobi were needed (one after arrival, one between the lakes and the Gamewatchers conservancies and one just prior to departure). Here I made the wrong choice - Bush House & Camp located in the suburb or Karen. Made the booking four months in advance via a major portal that I have been using extensively for the last 6-7 years - and also sent an email directly to the guesthouse, they replied back and confirmed the reservation. Two days before departure I reminded them about our reservation and they confirmed again. When we showed up at the hotel, the receptionist told us that there is a problem and they have a double booking, some family got sick and needed to delay their flight back home and to stay longer with them, which was a total bull… (I read a review on Trip Advisor from a client who has been told exactly the same thing a week after this happened to us). To be totally honest, I should mention that they did send us to a similar guest house nearby, but since I already had pick-up arrangements with two different safari companies the whole thing did cause some confusion. The good part was that we went to Karen Embers guesthouse, which we found to be an excellent budget pre- and post safari accommodation in Nairobi (see the photos below). My better half having breakfast at Karen Embers: July 31, 2013. After having a great breakfast at the guesthouse we were picked up by African Game Trek Safaris for our trip to the Great Rift Valley lakes. This was a budget safari with the so hated by seasoned safari goers "white van". Actually the safari van was absolutely fine for this trip, although I would strongly recommend a 4X4 (Land Rover or Land Cruiser) vehicle for Amboseli, the private concessions and Masai Mara, since we really needed do some serious offloading in these places. Contrary to common believe off-road driving in Masai Mara is tolerated when it comes to following important wildlife sightings (we did climb to the top of a ridge to see black rhino in Mara). The other good news was that it turned out that the tour was private, just two of us in the van. I did not believe that for this price we could get a private tour, so I did not clarify this at the time of booking. I was also surprised that the manager of the company was also with us for the entire trip. One of the reasons could be that when alone with the drivers, they tend to give you their phone number and email address and promise a cheaper safari if you contact them directly next time. We had a really nice drive, both the manager and the driver, who was also a very good guide were relaxed and great companions and since we were alone in the van, there was more than enough space for us, our luggage, photo and video equipment etc. Being on our first trip to Africa meant that everything was interesting to us - from the suburbs of Nairobi to the countryside and The Great Rift Valley scenery. We stopped at a look-out point with fabulous views of the valley where I found a Gamewatchers Safaris vehicle and had a short chat with the driver (in two days we were about to go on safari with this company). Then we were driven to some sort of hotel in Nakuru town, had lunch there and off to the first game drive in our lives - Lake Nakuru NP. Needless to say that we were very excited and liked the park very much. Although quite large, the park is fenced (we never saw the fence) and the wildlife has been introduced to the place years ago. For this reason some rare spices like Rothschild's giraffe and rhinos are kept there (easier to safeguard from pouching). We should have pushed from the very beginning of the game drive to look for rhino since this is the perhaps the best place for this in Kenya, but being our first game drive, we did not know what we could or could not ask for. So, we saw a white rhino from very far towards the end of the drive and it was not even worth taking a photo of it. Were not lucky enough to see “lions on trees”, the only lions we saw in Lake Nakuru NP were actually sleeping in the tall grass, again not worth taking a picture of parts of their bodies only. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the park and the game we saw very much – Thompson and Grant’s gazelles, impalas, warthogs, cape buffalos, Rothschild's giraffes, baboons and all sorts of birds. We knew in advance that the huge flocks of flamingos are not present at Lake Nakuru any longer due to high water levels, this is why we planned for Lake Bogoria on the next day. Lake Elementaita: Lake Nakuru NP: At the end of the game drive it started to rain and we were relieved that the weather forecast proved to be correct after we finished our safari for the day.
  23. Hi All, I self-drived this route with my wife and 3 kids in a Prado last October. We camped for 4 nights in Serengeti. 1in Kogatende, then 2 in Lobo and 1 in Seronera, then back to Musoma / lake Victoria through the western corridor. Please see the attached map for the route from Masai Mara to Serengeti via Tarime and lamai gate. A very unused route for those who lokk for quietness in the Serengeti. IN addition, we had plenty of wildebeasts in the Lamai wedge, and lions hunting with a rainbow in the background. . As the copy-paste function doesn't work well here, I include a short description, but the attached map is very detailed. day 1 : from Nairobi or from Masai Mara to Tarime, via Isebania border. 1 full day. Day 2 : from Tarime, join Nyamwaga, turn right to go down the escarpment to the mara gold mine. There, stick to the main roads towards Mugumu, and after around 20 km south, find a clear T junction and turn let, heading east to a village called Gisondo. from this village turn right and reach lamai gate. 2,5 hrs from Tarime on good dirt road in great landscape. The road from the mara gold mine to lamai is not on any map that I found, but you can spot it on google earth (not on google maps). From lamai gate to kogatende, 2hrs of Superb game drive, all alone. Make sure the bridge on Mara river is not overflooded to reach Kogatende. There, you will always find a place to camp, even if the special campsites are reportedly booked, the rangers will find a place for you around their place. Day 3 : full day to Lobo Day 4 : lobo only Day 5 : Lobo to Seronera Day 6 : Seronera to Musoma, via grumeti corridor. + a flat tire in front of 2 lions... day 7 : lake Victoria on boat Day 8 : back to Nairobi. 1full day. Map - Mara to Serengeti by road.pdf
  24. It's been about a week since my return and I'm fighting off the nostalgia along with the jetlag. I'll start this now but will likely have to wait for photos until the weekend. There's only so much I can get away with at work nowadays. My itinerary: BOS -- LHR -- NBO via British Airways. Overall a fairly good experience but for freezing cold plane between NBO and LHR both ways, and too long layover at LHR (4 and 6 hours, respectively). I paid to pre-book seats in economy class, choosing to sit where the configuration goes from 3-4-3 to 2-4-2, so that being in that second "2" on the window allowed me additional legroom along the wall. Worked out well. 1 night Nairobi -- Eka Hotel 3 nights Amboseli -- Tawi Lodge 5 nights Mara -- Encounter Mara 1 night Nairobi -- Emakoko @ Nairobi National Park (arrived mid-day Wednesday, left at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, so in essence a full day and a half there, part spent at Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Many thanks to @@Sangeeta for finding me Tawi and Emakoko. Tawi was the perfect place to decompress from the real world and really get into the safari mindset. Emakoko is where I want to retire, I think. Both were heavenly in their own ways, and I often wondered to myself "what did I do to deserve this?" Then I remembered that I work to be able to do this, and it all seemed justified! On my first trip to Kenya, I sort of ignored Amboseli. My focus was cats and more cats. This time I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My guide Julius said "you come to Amboseli to see the elephants and the mountain (Kilimanjaro)". I was not disappointed on either front, but throw in an unexpected lioness sighting and that made it all the more tasty. For me, the Mara was tough this time. The high grass made it a challenge for me photography-wise. Too many times I lost a decent shot because the focus was on the grass and not the cat behind it. Newbie curse, I suppose. All I could think about was how many cats we must be passing by because we can't see under bushes/trees like we used to. I had one trip into the Reserve itself and I am not exaggerating when I say grass is as high as a giraffe's knee and herds of elephant appear to be swimming in the fields of gold. I have photos to prove it. That's not to say I had a completely dry season in spotting cats, just lighter than last time. Two attempted kills and one intra-pride fight were pretty stunning. I'd heard from many on here how fruitful trips to NNP have been so figured it was worth at least a night (a couple game rides, right?) In retrospect I'd spend at least 2 if not 3 nights here. I felt I only scratched the surface. I'll spoil the whole trip report for you right now and just say (because I can't hold it in any longer) that in my last 20 hours in Kenya there, a dozen rhino and an enormous, gorgeous male leopard were my highlights. What on earth more could I possibly ask for, other than another couple days there? I can only imagine what more I'd have seen! Probably the highlight of the trip outside the game rides (and maybe even including the game rides) was my time spent at Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage. I had 5 fosters there before I left and was easily persuaded by one to foster him as well while I was there. I did the morning public visit, the evening foster parent visit and at the last minute, at the behest of @girlinstilettos who was there the week before I left, the 3:00 private visit, which was just me, my guide Peter and 24 elephants with their keepers in the nursery. Heaven!! My biggest life achievement thusfar (and I say this only partially sarcastically) was to travel carry-on only. I used the Lipault bag that the lovely ladies @@SafariChick, @@graceland and @safarikit used last year, and it was hugely successful. Not having to wait for bags in NBO or BOS was such a plus. With Global Entry at home now, I went from deplaning to my awaiting vehicle in 6 minutes! Having eVisa meant absolutely nothing. Other eVisa holders and I were herded into the "Visa" line, which seemed odd, and indeed when we reached the front were chastised by the immigration officer who was "only collecting money". He tried to force us to wait in another line, but after 70 minutes in line at that point, I refused. He stamped the passport and off I went.
  25. The scene of thousands of wildebeest crossing the Mara river is literally quite breathtaking, but. It is not always a beautiful sight. The first time we witnessed this wildlife spectacle, it was exciting, but tinged with sadness in every aspect, and one we would never forget. The crossing point was about one mile from Mara Serena lodge where we were staying and a regular crossing point for the wildebeest, though we do not know why as you will find out later. The build up of wildebeest all along the Mara river was increasing daily and on this particular morning we found an extremely large gathering, about 5,000 wildebeest, spread out over about a quarter of a mile section across the river from us, and with many down on a flat sand bank area by the river itself. We decided to wait and see if a crossing was going to happen as the herd seemed to be pressing towards this one area of open sand bank. As the numbers grew the wildebeest on the bank above were being forced down towards the river, which made the wildebeest already there very nervous. Those at the front who after they had drank tried to move back, but could only do so when other wildebeest pushed through to drink themselves. Occasionally something would spook them and en-mass they would turn in unison and storm back up the embankment. Within ten minutes or so they would settle and that force of nature that lies deep within them would draw them back to the river. We had been here now for around two hours and had to make a decision on whether to stay and forgo breakfast or go back and have a quick breakfast and come straight back? We decided on the later as the lodge was not too far away. We were back at the river by ten O-clock, and were so pleased to see they had not started crossing, though there were definitely more wildebeest than when we left. Another hour went by, and apart from a few false starts and an increase in Vulture activity we realised it was going to be a long morning, but one we were enjoying to the full. Another hour passed and the word was out about a huge crossing that might take place as we were now joined by about ten other vehicles. By this time we had been waiting four hours and I could not help thinking, if they cross now all these other people will have waited only a very short time, and it seemed unfair, but that is safari. There was now some noticeable activity at the front of the herd which we reckon was now numbering about 7,000. The Zebra were always braver than the wildebeest and had pushed their way to the front and were standing several meters into the river. This seemed to galvanise the wildebeest into action as a section to the right suddenly surged forward and pushed on out into the river. Within seconds the whole mass moved as one and the crossing was began in earnest. It always strikes me as strange that no matter how wide the gathered herd maybe, they still only cross from the point where the first wildebeest entered the river. So with thousands of wildebeest funnelling down from the bank throwing up vast clouds of dust the whole scene became surreal. The crossing was in full flow but there was a problem, a big problem, there was No easy exit. From our view point we could see it would be tricky as there were masses of large rocks between the river and the only two exit points we could see. The wildebeest were now starting to back up as the lead animals fought frantically to find an easy path through the rocks towards the two openings we could see. With the Wildebeest being held up some of them were now swiming down stream to try and find another way out. Some of the wildebeest had now found the exits and the others followed. The Wildebeest who were caught up in the throng which had built up behind those who were caught on the rocks, were now literally treading water which was tiring them, and several had succumbed and drowned. There was no let up as the wildebeest kept coming causing many to turn back in panic not being able to exit the river easily. The situation now was, we had two flows of wildebeest moving in both directions and there was a steady flow of corpse starting to drift down stream. The body count was building steadily and now the wildebeest had to contend not only the rocks, but with the bodies of those who had gone before, before they could find their way out of this nightmare. They treated both the same, climbing over the bodies onto the rocks then finding a way through exhausted onto the plains of the Mara triangle.Some of the dead bodies were turning white as their skin was being shredded by the sharp edges of the hooves of the clambering wildebeest, disclosing the white flesh below. An hour had passed and our first crossing was slowly turning from excitement and expectation into a state of despair and distress. The scene before us now was not the beautiful image of nature at it's best, but one of carnage and mayhem. The body count was going up and the flow of bodies floating down stream was making life easy for the crocodiles down river. Over the next hour thousands more wildebeest made it onto the plains of the Mara triangle, sadly many with broken limbs, and many being orphaned calves. It was a sad sight as the calves instinctively gathered together in a form of a crèche, their mournful bleats resounding in the still morning air that we feared would alert the predators waiting for the wildebeest's arrival. The Vultures had already started feeding on the eyes of the dead wildebeest, they would have to wait for a larger raptor to open the carcasses properly. The wildebeest kept coming and we estimated there must have been about 5,000 who had crossed safely with probably about 2-3,000 more to come. A rough estimate of those who drowned was about 500, and one of the saddest sights was of wildebeest who were still alive but trapped within the mass of dead bodies, with just their heads showing, weakly trying to free themselves. Half way through I had stopped filming & taking photos, there really did not seem to be any point. We were exhausted after three hours of what we had hoped to be the spectacular event we had looked forward to for so many years, and it was, but for all the wrong reason's. As we mad our way back to the lodge the vast herds of wildebeest were moving towards the Tanzanian border, and their monotone grunting had a more mournful tone to it now. There were no Lions in the direct vicinity, but they would not be far away, and the wildebeest in their injured & exhausted state would be an easy meal. We checked the crossing site later in the afternoon, it was all quite, apart from the sound of squabbling Vultures, and a pair of Tawney eagles who were trying to open up one of the bodies. The scene before us was an extremely sad one and a heavy smell of death lay in the air as the bodies started to decay in the intense heat of the sun. We have seen many crossings since this one, and thankfully none of them like this one. No, they were all spectacular and the only casualties were au-natural by crocodiles.

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