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Found 22 results

  1. I received a mailing yesterday from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which was an appeal for donations for a new partnership, working with the Meru Rhino Sanctuary on a massive expansion project. They note that the rhino population was decimated in the 70s-80s but now has 61 white and 28 black rhinos living in the sanctuary. DSWT has already worked to help establish rhino sanctuaries in Nakuru and Ngulia, so this wouldn't be the first time doing this. The proposed project would address the inadequate habitats in the existing Meru sanctuary, doubling the size of the sanctuary, replacing the perimeter fence allowing for wildlife corridors and expanding the western boundary of park and building security bases throughout the sanctuary to enable patrols and protection. Long term goal is to "harbor one of the largest rhino populations in Kenya...serve as a donor to repopulate other areas where rhinos have been eradicated." Total cost is estimated at US$400,000, so understandably they're reaching out to supporters for help. I share this in case anyone else is interested in donating. I'm curious about the existing Meru Rhino Sanctuary, has anyone been, and what's the rhino sighting experience like there?
  2. “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree.” ~ Dr. Wangari Maathai in ‘Unbowed’ Respect for the Land ~ During an eventful safari in August, 2014 there had been ample evidence suggesting that Kenya’s seemingly timeless landscape was, in fact, changing as a consequence of ongoing development, whether in the form of urban expansion or in the form of herding and grazing activities by those squeezed out from the benefits of high technology and advanced education. As a guest in Africa, it wasn’t my place to judge what I saw as the antecedents were far too complex for a casual safari tourist like me to adequately understand. While I cringed when observing large herds in national reserves and national parks, it was clear that the economic pressures involved were far beyond any simplistic understanding which I might have. Added to that were several less than pleasant scenes with safari van overcrowding around plainly harassed predators, sparking questions in my mind about my own presence as part of the telephoto lens and smart phone scrum. Leaving Nairobi for the long journey back to China, there was a malaise which sullied the memories of the wildlife I’d observed. Was Kenya’s verdant land in the process of losing much of the natural charm which had originally attracted me? My very good fortune was having true friends guiding me in farflung areas of Kenya. Safaritalk member @@Anthony Gitau and his wife, Maggie, of Bigmac Africa Safaris,, had been with me on four highly productive safaris, including the August, 2014 visit to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. We had developed trust and rapport such that there was unspoken understanding of what made an ideal game drive. Anthony and Maggie are both such intelligent, warmhearted, humorous individuals, representing Kenya’s finest qualities. One week after returning to China, I contacted them to ask about their availability for a safari in the first week of October, when universities have a one-week vacation in connection with China’s National Day on 1 October. The turnaround time to plan the safari, booking accommodations, was brief, little less than one month. With admirable finesse, Maggie Gitau pulled together the elements of an itinerary which matched my interests and limited time schedule. There were no complaints, despite the scant time available for arranging the details, which is typical of Anthony's and Maggie’s graciousness. They implicitly understood that I needed to return to Kenya as soon as possible to restore my enthusiasm by visiting land with minimal human impact, where the songs of birds and the tracks of herds were the primary evidence of life. Anthony had told me several times that his uncle, who now resides in the United States but was once a safari guide ranging throughout East Africa, had taken him to Meru National Park. That initial visit has triggered Anthony’s love of wildlife tourism, and had given him a special appreciation of Meru National Park. In communicating about possible locations for the October, 2014 safari, I stressed that an itinerary with Meru National Park would be especially welcome. After Anthony praised Meru’s charms, my interest inspired me to learn more about it. Having read several of Mrs. Joy Adamson’s books set in and around Meru National Park, I sensed that a visit there might be a special experience, no matter what sorts of wildlife might be observed. Meru National Park is the training base for newly recruited staff for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and therefore is well maintained despite the relative paucity of visitors. I’d visited nearby Samburu National Reserve with Anthony in May, 2014, and was eager for a return visit. With those considerations in mind, Bigmac Africa proposed an itinerary comprising Meru, Samburu and Lake Nakuru, beginning and concluding at the Sirona Hotel in Nairobi. I agreed with gratitude, for I realized that it had been a complex process to arrange a private safari on such short notice. As I enjoy fresh challenges, I decided to take only one camera, the EOS 1D X, with three lenses, the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2, the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar T* 135mm f/2, and the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto. As it turned out, that trio of lenses was more than adequate for photographing all that was observed during the safari. I’d never used Tv, Shutter Priority shooting mode before, therefore I resolved to use it throughout the safari, with a constant shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. An untested piece of equipment was an iPad Air which I’d purchased somewhat reluctantly, with the hope of being able to share with Anthony any especially satisfactory images from game drives on the previous days. On every safari there’s invariably something forgotten. In this case it was a recharging cord for the iPad Air. In Hamad International Airport, in Doha, Qatar, it was possible to buy a replacement cord. Nothing else was forgotten or broken, such that it was a trouble-free safari from start to finish, with exceptionally lovely weather every day. The Qatar Airways flights were all on-time, with ample connection time in Doha. The in-flight meals were excellent. At my request, we stopped for lunch at the Trout Tree restaurant near Naro Moru, making a pleasant break during the all-day drive from Nairobi to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort near Meru National Park. The off-the-menu trout en papillote at the Trout Tree restaurant is a special joy on any Meru or Samburu safari. Accomodations were respectively at the Murera Springs Eco-Resort, the Samburu Sopa Lodge, and the Kivu Lodge in Nakuru. Making allowances as needed, all were more than adequate for my needs. I’d previously stayed at both the Samburu Sopa and the Kivu in prior safaris, but it was the first visit to the Murera Springs Eco-Resort owned by Safaritalk member @@nhanq. What a terrific experience! The staff was delightful, adding to the pleasure of visiting Meru for the first time. I had no idea that I would subsequently be a guest at Murera Springs on two later safaris. I’m not especially meal-oriented, but felt that all meals throughout the safari were excellent. As is my custom, when Anthony stopped in Nairobi on the departure morning to fill the fuel tank with petrol and check both tires and suspension, I wandered into the service station convenience shop, strolling back out with a rather large sack filled with small boxes of juice. Apple, black currant, red grape, guava — they sustain me during long drives between destinations, and refresh during lulls between game drive sightings. Whenever the white Toyota safari van stops for refuelling, Anthony’s ritual is to rock it back and forth to assess how the suspension is functioning. That’s a favorite with me, because it signifies “safari” in my mind. Notes about each day on safari were made, as usual, in a mini-notebook from Muji. I’m a devoted Montblanc fountain pen user, therefore two pens were brought along for late-night notes and sketches. The late @@graceland told me that: “a trip report is for you. If others enjoy it, that’s great, but write to express what you feel”. In that spirit this trip report is prepared fully two years after the fact. Life has gone on in Kenya and for me, but the natural beauty I observed during the October, 2014 safari retains its appeal. As will be apparent, this was a “Big Five” safari, the third of eight consecutive “Big Five” safaris. Encountering any species is a treat, whether obscure or “Big Five”. I’m especially drawn to plants, including wildflowers and palm trees. Beauty abounds if one takes time to spot it. Although my profession involves teaching life science students about field ecology, in a trip report I’m far less concerned with precise species identification and far more interested in appreciation of the intense loveliness of the natural world. Simply being outside in Africa’s vibrant scenery is more than enough. There’s a place for carefully reasoned analytical reports about wildlife behavior. That’s not my purpose here, where I prefer to share what I saw, using photographs and poetry to convey cherished memories of a hastily planned safari. A special thanks is in order to @@fictionauthor, @@Peter Connan and @@offshorebirder, all of whom have regularly encoraged me during the past half a year, each being remarkably gifted individuals and loyal friends. Most of all, heartfelt thanks to @@Anthony Gitau and Maggie Gitau, for making this gem of a safari possible.
  3. Visit Three Steers Hotel, Meru Kenya for a great experience.Come Enjoy African Food, while at the hotel visit Meru National Park
  4. Peter assured us we would be quite safe in the vehicle but was less confident when my wife asked him "what happens when we need to go to the toilet" "that is the least of our worries at the moment" he replied. He had never been in this situation before, but he did have a plan. "the lodge will realize we are not back, and if I flash our headlights four or five times every ten minutes maybe someone at the lodge will see it" he said. Ok, we said cautiously not being able to come up with anything better. We passed the first hour in true Brit' fashion, drawing on that old Dunkirk spirit and sang all sorts of songs old and new, even Peter gave us a chorus of Malaika. Initially I think Peter was somewhat concerned as to how we would react to his plan, but are sure he was pleased with the out come. Whenever Peter flashed the lights it was a pleasant feeling seeing the road ahead. although we were not in complete darkness, the light from the moon enabled us to make out some shapes outside. Another hour passed, the singing was replaced by telling jokes, of which none of us would win a prize, but surprisingly, Peter seemed to enjoy our black humour about out situation. The novelty of our unplanned adventure was beginning to ware off, and my wife was getting concerned about how we were to deal with the toilet situation. As we settled down Peter flashed the headlights again, and again and again. We were into the third hour and the vehicle had become very quiet, when suddenly Peter shouted "there" "where" we said, Peter put the internal light on so we could see where he was pointing, "there" pointing ahead and to the right. There was a momentary flash of light a short distance away, we thought it was lightening but Peter was sure it was not. "No" he said excitedly, it's a car" and he switched on our headlights. Meru undulates so if it was a vehicles headlights we would only see them as the vehicle came up an incline. Ten minutes later we could hear the sound of a car engine and, singing? Peter began flashing the headlights as if to reel in the other vehicle and as he did the singing got louder and louder. The song was one of those African songs sung when men are working to encourage each other in the task at hand. Suddenly, out of the darkness ahead of us appeared a 4x4 truck ladened with most of the staff from the lodge. Pulling up in front of us and spilling it's cargo of singing, dancing, and smiling faces which spent the next five minutes circling our vehicle. We tried to tell them about the Lions we though may be around, but when the cry went up to get to work, they stopped singing & dancing, fitted the tow rope to our vehicle and within minutes pulled us free. The staff escorted us back to the lodge amid much more singing and drumming on the cab roof of their vehicle. We arrived back at the lodge about 9pm and were ushered straight into dinner as the chef was getting a little flustered. Sitting at the table I looked to see where Peter was and all I could see was a trail of dried mud which had fallen from our boots. Peter joined us after talking to some of the staff about how they knew where we were. They told him; When we were not back by 7pm they realized there maybe a problem. The other couple were back but had not seen us. But they could not come looking for us without some idea as to where we were. So, one of the staff climbed up onto the highest point of the lodge roof scanning the horizon for any sign of our headlights. When he did see them he had to wait to see if we were on the move or not. When he saw our headlight again, and that they were in the same spot he came straight down and informed the manager who dispatched the staff vehicle ladened with very eager volunteers. After dinner we all went off to our rondavel's, and collapsed on the beds exhausted and slept through until morning. On awakening I looked around the room thinking, what on earth has been going on here? There was red mud everywhere. On the floor, the sheets, our clothes? Slowly the events of the night before came back to me, though I was surprised how much mud there was. But on reflection we were ankle deep in it when trying to get the vehicle free. Half an hour later, showered, dressed and feeling refreshed we went off on another adventure. I have to make a special mention of the room stewards who had to deal with the mess we had created. When we arrived back from our game drive, our rooms were spotless, as if nothing had ever happened, and they were so good humoured about it when we thanked them. In fact I think it was one of the best nights the staff had had and certainly one they will talk about for a long time.
  5. I´m pretty much decided on doing a 2-week Kenya trip in autumn 2014, with Meru, Samburu, Aberdares, Nakuru and the Mara. I have a pretty appealing offer for a jeep safari from an operator with 3 nights Meru at Murera Springs Eco Lodge 3 nights Samburu at Samburu Game Lodge 2 nights Aberdares at Aberdares Country Club 2 nights Lake Nakuru at Flamingo HIll Camp 5 nights Mara at Mara Bush Camp Does any of you have personal experience about these accomodations? (Game drive times at lodges are not an issue since we would have our private car for the whole trip.) Our time frame would be September/October. Of course we would like to have good chances for experiencing a crossing so advice on when to go would be welcome, and of course I am interested in your thoughts about this itinerary. Thanks in advance.
  6. It was some years ago now, when Meru had only one lodge, Meru Mulika, which was at this time(1980's) in need of a lot of TLC. It's condition was the result of years of neglect as Meru was no longer on northern Kenya's safari circuit due to problems with Shifta(bandits). Our journey to Meru was an adventure in itself. The roads to Embu were ok by African standards, but from there on it was a competition to who could stay in their seat longest. We arrived at the lodge around 3pm, hot, dusty & exhausted. While checking in we were informed that there had been a fire in the staff quarters & they were now occupying the main block normally reserved for the tourists as there was not enough rondavel's to accommodate them all. As there was only two other guest's and us four it made sense and we were in no mood to argue. As it was the Rondavel's were very nice. Although the lodge was in need of some TLC, the park was in pristine condition, due mainly to the 13 rivers that bisect the park, and with the Nyambeni hills as it's backdrop the park was looking good and lifted our spirits after our long drive. After our evening meal and a good nights sleep we were ready for all that Meru could offer. As you are all aware African sunrise's can be very special, depending on where you are of course. On our first morning I was up around dawn, I had awoken earlier than normal and was standing outside of our rondavel which overlooked a marsh in the depression below. The sun was rising slowly from behind the Nyembeni hills. The sky was a mixture of reds & oranges and slowly the sun began to show itself over the rim of the hills, and the Doum palms began to cast their dancing shadows across the marsh. The sound of birdsong was in the air, and the sweet smell of dew laden grasses drifted on the gentle morning breeze. The cool morning air was slowly being replaced by much warmer air as the sun broke free of the hills. As I stood there trying to take in the abundance of smells, sounds, & colours, I heard a soft rustling sound coming from behind me to my left. I looked around to see a large herd of buffalo a short distance away passing by the lodge. They were making their way down to the marsh to drink. These magnificent animals moved in unison, with just the occasional lowing and sound of dry grass being brushed aside giving away their presence. Like Samburu, Meru is blessed with an abundance of Kenya's Northern species. Gerenuk, Grevy Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Lesser Kudu and last but definitely not least the beautiful Reticulated Giraffe. Meru is also blessed with many Elephant, though sadly at this time no Rhino. When in Meru Some years earlier, before the poaching, we were privileged to see the six White Rhino Meru was famous for. Sadly That privilege was removed in 1988 when 5 of them were killed along with two Rangers. But Meru was peaceful now and once again a joy to visit. But I digress. Our morning drive was wonderful seeing almost all of the northern species and much more. Our afternoon drive continued in the same mode with the addition of Elephants. It was beginning to get late and our search for Lions, which we were told were around the swamp area, had proven fruitless, so we stopped for a final photo of the sun setting behind the Doum palms on the other side of the swamp. It was dusk and the Lions would have to wait until tomorrow, though we were reasonably sure that they were not far away, hidden deep in the long grasses. We settled down for the drive back, Peter, our driver, started the engine, put it in gear, and NOTHING! The engine was powering away but we were not moving? Engine off, out of the vehicle, and as we walked around the rear of the vehicle we saw the problem. The back wheels had almost vanished into the mire. We had pulled off of the road so as not to block it for others, not realizing that the swamp was partially on the other side of the road. The front wheels were fine, and if we had pulled over a few meters ahead we would have been ok! and on our way back to the lodge. However, our vehicle was not a 4x4 but a regular mini bus so we had no front wheel traction. It was back to basics. Out came the jack, under it went and we just hoped it would hold being we only had a small area of firm ground to work with. Gently the vehicle rose enough for us to get as much debris, rocks & lumps of wood, as we could find under the wheels, then as it was lowered we were a little concerned as all the debris disappeared into the mire. Up she went again, more debris went in, and as we lowered her again, there was total dismay! as it all disappeared into the mire again. The ground seemed to be bottomless, and now it was getting dark. To find more debris we would need to go further a field, but our wives who were keeping a look out did not think that was a good idea as they reminded us we were looking for Lions around here. Baring this in mind Peter called a halt to the proceedings, put the jack in the back, and we all got into the vehicle pulling down the roof which made it hot inside, but opening the windows was not an option as we were next to a swamp and it was Mosquito time. It would be dark in about fifteen minutes and Peter's only concern was for our safety. Peter looking back at us he said "there are some blankets & water in the back if you would like to get them". Suddenly it all became very real, we could be here all night.
  7. My wife, Mama Ndege and I have traveled to Africa on safari five previous times. All of these trips were organized by a young man who operates Cowabunga Safaris. He grew up in the lightly populated county in Kansas where we are from. Our first safari with his group was in 2001 to Kenya. We have not been back to Kenya since then. Most of the African safaris we recently have taken have been mobile camping safaris. Cowabunga Safaris was originally started by the Topeka Zoo Director Gary Clark, who is a legend in Africa. Mzungu Mrefu is our friends Swahili name that he earned while going to school in Dar Es Salaam. He is now a college professor in international studies and only takes groups to Africa in the summer during school vacation. So Mama Ndege and I decided to try a winter trip and used the services of Expert Africa to help us plan our trip. Ellie Dunkels was the TO that we used and she did a great job. She was always very prompt with her replies and all our connections and camps were trouble free and top notch. Most of the photos in this trip report will be from Mama Ndege's camera. We are a bit humbled by the fantastic photographers on safari talk. We actually met two really good photographers on our recent trip in Kenya at different camps. That would be @@tony Q and his wife @Thursdays Child at Offbeat Meru and @@offshorebirder at Offbeat Mara. It was fun to visit about our safari talk acquaintance. We flew from Kansas City airport on a cold 4 degree Fahrenheit (minus 16 Celsius) day to Chicago. From there we flew to London Heathrow and then on to Nairobi. We landed about 9:30 PM a day after we left home, around 28 hours in transit. We were taken to the Nairobi Tented Camp in Nairobi National Park. While driving into the park we saw a leopard and hyena cross the road on the way to camp. What a way to start our Kenya safari!! After a hot bucket shower we were in bed by midnight anticipating our early morning safari at 6 AM. We met our guide, Andrew, and three fellows from California who were spending their last day in Africa after climbing Kilimanjaro and taking a short safari in Tanzania. The light was still not very good when we took off from camp but soon we were seeing game with the skyline of Nairobi in the background. It wasn't long before we came on a black rhino family consisting of a large male, female and baby. Andrew mentioned it was unusual to see a male with a female and young one but we didn't complain. A little further on we approached 4 white rhino sleeping in the road. They were quite content to look like big couch potatoes. White rhino sleeping in the road We stopped and talked to one of the few safari vehicles that we saw during our time in Nairobi National Park and he must have given Andrew the info that there was a pride of lions up ahead. We found them lying on a rocky outcropping set to sleep the day away. There were three females and five 9 month old cubs. We continued on with our drive and were astounded at the variety and quantity of game in this park. Here we were not more than a mile or two from the bustling city with the skyline in plain view, and we had fantastic game viewing of healthy, contented wildlife. After this first morning safari of less than three hours, we were overwhelmed with the wonderful sightings and had to pinch ourselves to think that less than two days ago we had been in freezing Kansas. Here we were in Kenya living a dream. What a privilege to be able to experience this!!! It was now back to camp for breakfast. The guys from California who had accompanied us were soon off to fly back home. We had been having so much fun that we hadn't even thought about jet lag. Here is the lounge tent and mess tent at Nairobi Tented Camp.
  8. ATR is reporting that Offbeat Meru is closed- it had to have been recent, but I can't find info anywhere else. I do have an email into Offbeat, but this is somewhat changing what my Kenya plans were for 2017- any one hear of this?
  9. "Africa? Are you mad? With all that Ebola? What? KENYA?!? Completely mad? With all that terrorism I hear about on the news? Haven´t they even issued travel warnings?" Normally when I tell friends and familiy about my safari plans they are pretty positive. Though they think I must have seen enough animals by now and are not really getting it, it´s mostly "Wow, safari! Really cool, must do that sometime." (Sometime=never in a million years) Not this year. All my "Africa is huge, Spain and France are closer to the Ebola countries than Kenya" and "Really, trust me, I´ve researched this, it´s totally safe where we are going" did little to convince anybody that I was not out of my mind. A minor nuisance for me. A heavy blow for Kenya´s tourism, and therefore devastating for the country. Bloody shame. What a fantastic country it is, and how much it has to offer. I always felt completely safe and people were friendly and welcoming everywhere. On this 16-day-trip I was totally blown away by the many facets one can experience in Kenya, and how different all those magnificent places are I was lucky enough to visit. The unspoilt wilderness of Meru: Samburu with its unique Northern animals: The Aberdares, the surprise highlight of this safari for me. Wow, did I love this place. Lake Nakuru, good for rhinos and - yes! - still flamingos. No need to say anything about the Mara. A gnu´s world there. And of course THE place to see all the big cats. And some smaller ones. You know what they say. Relax and go to Kenya! I will again, that´s for sure.
  10. 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:
  11. Our first trip to Kenya. (MrsQ a.k.a @Thursday’s Child and I) We have visited a number of other African countries but never Kenya. Why? – ignorance based on inaccurate stereotypes of a Kenyan safari. Well, Safaritalk has put us right – many thanks to those of you who have contributed Kenya trip reports. The trip was booked through Expert Africa following long and helpful discussions with Richard Trillo (a Safaritalk member @@richard Trillo) and with Eleanor Dunkels. We had used Expert Africa to book our Zambia trip a couple of years ago and were pleased with them again. Summary of Trip: Wilson Aero Club Nairobi 1 night (January 9th) Offbeat Meru 4 nights Kicheche Laikipia, Ol Pejeta 5 nights Kicheche Bush, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights The rains had been heavier and longer than is usual. Before the visit we nervously checked the weather forecasts and hoped! All of our previous safaris had been in the dry season. Still, it would be interesting.
  12. This trip has already been booked therefore not looking for camp/lodge information more in the direction of recent sightings, which areas to visit. I will be continuing my own research (including all the trip reports) but will be glad to have any info/tips which spring to mind. Mara is a return visit. Any info from recent visitors? I have two nights in the reserve and 3 nights in Mara North. Meru is a new park for me therefore any information gratefully received. 4 nights here. Thanks in advance!
  13. “They had made this safari with the minimum of comfort. There was no hardship; but there was no luxury and he had thought that he could get back into training that way. That in some way he could work the fat off his soul the way a fighter went into the mountains to work and train in order to burn it out of his body”. ~ Ernest Hemingway in ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ Pre-Safari Planning ~ All safaris I've experienced have been unique yet in certain respects the preparations in each case were nearly identical. My first safari was in 2011 as the guest of a former student who was then working in the Paleoanthropology Department of the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi. As he organized all aspects of that safari, I did no more than bring two overpacked bags, enough camera gear for an around the world trek and my own illusions. As it turned out, it was a fine experience on a standard joining safari in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, staying at a tented camp. Based on that experience I waited, taught a series of extra courses and thereby saved enough to upgrade both camera and travel gear. I returned to Kenya for a second safari in 2013. There have now been seven safaris, all in Kenya, with an eighth safari scheduled for less than four weeks from this writing. Why do I go on safari? To enjoy the experience of being outdoors in nature. Doing so is a contrast to my life as a university faculty member in Beijing. Occasionally Chinese life science and medical students join me. They've told me that they notice that my skin rapidly tans and I laugh every day while on safari. Wearing no pith helmet the equatorial sunshine has its way. The laughter may be my response to the untrammeled joie de vivre that I experience while being driven at breakneck speeds on dusty tracks to a far-off big cat sighting. Smiling is my innate response to the freedom from tedious convention, the warmth and jovial hospitality of Kenyans, and the long-delayed fulfillment of childhood dreams of being with wildlife in its home, which is also our original home. Perhaps the only extraordinary experience I've had in Kenya was on the first safari, when a kindly curator graciously invited me to photograph the 1.5 million year old skeletal remains of Turkana Boy, or Nariokotome Boy, when they were temporarily out of storage to be photographed by visiting National Geographic staff photographers. That experience underscored that biologically we're equatorial primates whose genome was shaped for life in the very biomes in which I've travelled. The six safaris which I've planned following the initial safari, have all been organized on nearly the same pattern. What will be described for this, the seventh safari, would equally fit the second safari and the others between. My reticence to recommend anything I've done stems from the conviction that others know best for themselves and my own approach is far from ideal. This description serves as no more than a prelude, to set the stage for the safari which followed. Others in similar circumstances might understandably follow substantially dissimilar approaches. While variety is said to be the spice of life, the spice of my safari experience has been the cheerfulness of those who've made possible all aspects of the travels. Although Christian churches dot Kenya, what's even more ubiquitous are small schools, academies and institutes. The Kenyan graduate students in botany who I taught in Beijing were astute in their approach to research. Kenyans by and large have treated my frailties, ignorance and missteps with grace, good humor and intelligence. To have been a frequent guest in their homeland is one of the treasures of my life. What stands out has been the consistently high quality of my experience out in the bush. Not high quality in the sense of luxury, but rather in the sense of authenticity, modesty, kindheartedness, care and awareness of basic needs. My career has been predicated on the feeling that quality trumps quantity as far as those aspects of life dearest to my heart. Maggie & Anthony Gitau of Bigmac Africa Safaris Although safaris focus on wildlife and plant viewing, they start with those who make everything possible. In my case that's been a couple, Maggie and Anthony Gitau of Bigmac Africa Safaris in Nairobi. ( They're a young Kenyan couple with a son, Adrian, in kindergarten. Anthony's from Nyeri County and studied tourism in university, with a specialization in large mammals. He's a gifted photographer with a fine set of lenses, such that he's highly sensitive as to what might be an optimal shooting position. As the portrait shows, they're warmhearted, loving individuals, which is what I most appreciate. Anthony and I share a predilection for staying back from larger wildlife so as to disturb as little as possible. As I use a super telephoto lens during game drives, the distance is seldom an issue. Last year year Anthony remarked to me: “I could never, ever kill any animal”. He's been my guide, driver, field instructor and friend on six safaris. We don't talk all that much between game drives as he's typically on his mobile phone talking with his wide network of friends. At the gates of parks and nature reserves it's self-evident that he's very popular among park staff and other drivers. When we talk it's delightful, as we share an active interest in the photography of trees, wildflowers, shrubs, grasses, butterflies, dragonflies, spiderwebs, rock formations, birds of all species and sunsets, as well as larger mammals. I fully and implicitly trust them, who have made my safaris trouble-free and satisfying. Initial safari planning amounts to seeing an availability on the academic calendar, looking at the bank balance, proposing tentative travel dates to Maggie by e-mail and tossing out places of interest. All of my safaris have been private safaris in which I hire the vehicle, a white Toyota safari van, with Anthony as guide and driver. I originally stayed in tented camps but have shifted to lodges. When Chinese students have accompanied me, the per person rate has reduced accordingly. They propose an itinerary to which I've heretofore always agreed. By now Anthony understands that I'm interested in observing seasonal changes to ecology, hence welcome repeat visits. Visiting unfamiliar parks or reserves or observing previously unfamiliar species is a much lower priority for me than watching the process of change at different times of the year, hence the safaris have been scattered throughout the calendar. Anthony picks me up and drops me off at the Sirona Hotel in Nairobi, which is walking distance from the National Museum of Kenya and has been my Nairobi overnight lodging. As a consequence of Safaritalk reviews, I may begin including the Emakoko in my travel plans. During game drives we eat box lunches provided by the lodges. I'd never heard of sundowners until reading Safaritalk trip reports. After Maggie confirms the tentative dates, I go to the city ticket office of Etihad Airways to purchase an economy roundtrip ticket between Beijing and Nairobi, with a change of aircraft in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I've flown once each respectively on Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways and wouldn't hesitate to do so again. The inflight catering on Ethiopian was superb and the Doha, Qatar Hamad Airport was impressive. Most trips have been on Etihad due to their convenient timetable and reasonable prices. Etihad's ‘Seafood Special Meals’, by advance request, have been flavorsome and well-prepared. All three airlines have been accommodating of the larger than usual camera bag with a bulky lens, permitting it be carried onboard as cabin baggage. Roundtrip airfare, PEK – NBO – PEK, has ranged between RMB ¥6500 to RMB ¥10,500, depending on season and advance purchase timing. The January, 2015 safari rate was for an all-inclusive private lodge safari with two guests in separate rooms priced at USD $340 per day for 11 days/10 nights which was reasonable in light of the value received. All of the safaris since the initial experience have involved a single soft-sided camera bag plus a small camera. I've never felt constrained, aside from occasionally wishing that it were possible to bring a few more lenses. Airline weight restrictions rule, therefore I've made the necessary adjustments. Maps and Field Guides • While daydreaming of the next safari and enjoying memories of safaris past, I find maps and field guides to be indispensable tools. Since childhood my approach to science has been largely empirical, emphasizing field observation and analysis. The maps and books shown above were nearly all purchased at the National Museum of Kenya Gift Shop. At the close of every safari I buy a few more books to bring back to Beijing. Through having a variety of materials, it's possible to cross-check information in hopes of increasing certainty. There's nearly always one of these safari-oriented books in my briefcase to read and highlight key passages during breaks between classes. They're an excellent way to increase familiarity with species, binomial nomenclature and locations. What I've happily learned in recent weeks is that Safaritalk also provides a comparable educational function, but larded with humor. I don't bring books on safari and bring only a single map, as in the field I prefer to relax and enjoy the experience, leaving detailed identification to the long months at home. Safari Essentials • Above are the essentials which are packed for each safari. What isn't worn by me travels in a sturdy Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW camera bag. It snugly fits into overhead baggage bins on all flights, albeit with occasional squeezing and shifting of contents before finally being safely wedged into place. To date nothing has ever broken, nor has anything ever been lost or stolen. The bag stays with me at all times, even in washrooms. • I wear tan khaki long pants and light, short-sleeved shirts, my favorite shown in the photo above. A floppy pair of well-worn Timberland slip-ons has served me well in all safari situations, including walking through thick mud during a Nairobi downpour. I habitually take a new pair of light colored socks with me. A former student photographed birds and insects in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, after which he generously gave me a Nikko sun hat with a neck covering. I seldom wear it, yet at midday in Amboseli, it's a godsend. A light-colored cloth is useful for drying forehead perspiration or wet hands. My U.S. passport, wallet, reading glasses, and wristwatch I check several times a day, to be sure they haven't been misplaced. A safari diary keeps me honest in my recollections and is invaluable for accurate photo labelling months or years later. A yellow Staedtler marker and an EF nib Montblanc 149 fountain pen with blue ink are reliable tools, which write in all sorts of weather. They're protected in a black sheepskin leather Clairefontaine pencil case. The fountain pen has never leaked during flights and has had enough ink for use throughout each safari. The most recent addition is an iPad Air. I hesitated for several safaris before buying it, as I want to limit carryon weight. It's primary value is showing images from the previous day's safari to Anthony, other drivers and both lodge and restaurant staff. It's also useful for sending brief messages from lodges confirming my safe arrival and safari experience. By far the most frequent question from students and friends is: “Have you seen a leopard?” or “Did you get your leopard?”, to which there has usually been a positive response. • Every safari I bring a Sony RX1 R full-frame camera with a fixed Zeiss 35mm lens. It's discreet, lightweight, user-friendly and takes fine images in low light. The moderately wide lens suits landscape scenes. I've found that it takes excellent shots out of a moving vehicle window. The other camera is an EOS 1D X full-frame camera. It's rugged and versatile, which I highly appreciate. As a back-up there is an EOS 1D Mark IV with an APS-H sensor. Students may borrow it if they join me on safari. The custom neck straps by Phat Straps are comfortable in high temperatures. A Manfrotto 680B monopod is used to support the large lens. I usually hold it in my hands, rather than extending the monopod to rest on the ground. The monopod's solid design makes it a joy to use. • The primary safari lens is an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super telephoto lens. It's well-suited for low-light conditions and generally produces the bright images typical of fast lenses. There are two extenders, respectively 1.4x and 2x, which are sometimes used with it, but not very often. I'd originally planned to acquire a 500mm or 600mm lens, but was dissuaded by the same friend who gave me the Nikko sun hat. He said that I'd eventually be glad that I had the brighter lens. He was right. The other lens which now is a regular on safaris is the Zeiss Apo-Sonnar T* 135mm f/2 ZE manual focus telephoto lens. It's color rendering is the finest I've seen of any telephoto. I like the 3-dimensional quality of the images it produces. There are other lenses, chiefly Zeiss wide angle lenses, which I occasionally bring, according to my interests of the moment. • No pith helmet and certainly no ‘mankini’, but one has one's own safari traditions. A student who's now a mineralogist gave me a safari vest for the first safari. It's now in sore need of a tailor's care, due to having accompanied on all seven safaris. Handy for carrying pen, passport, reading glasses and the like, when I wear it I feel like it's really and truly ‘Safari Time’. It also seems to accord me a certain sympathetic treatment by airport customs and immigration officials. After switching to lodge-based safaris it was a pleasant surprise to find they usually have a swimming pool. When I neglected to bring a swimsuit, Anthony stopped at the Nakumatt supermarket in Meru where I bought the colorful blue suit above. I think of it as my only African apparel, but truth be told, it was ‘Made in China’. • There's one more essential on a safari which isn't visible. Music. The sound of birds, animals and wind is all that I hear on game drives, yet something else occurs. In my mind is a horde of western classical music and jazz, which plays along with changing scenery. I don't bring music with me nor do I own any headphones. While flying along through the African savannah and bushland, strains of Beethoven, Mozart, J.S. Bach, or Schubert mingle with the deftly composed melodies of Gershwin, Kern, Jobim, Ellington and Berlin. When my heart soars, there's inevitably an elegant soundtrack, but none other hears it but the angels. ~ Now on to the safari in question...
  14. INTRODUCTION The trip I made, in 1989, to Kenya was my first trip completely devoted to wildlife observation. On previous trips, I had made brief incursions into the animal world, in particular in Nepal, where I had my first contact with wildlife. But what got me to become absolutely mad about the African bush find its origins outside Africa. During a trip to Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to visit the small reserve of Bundala. I lived an intense moment when I encountered, on foot, an elephant. It was short, but so magical. Misty morning in the Chitwan Nepal, 1981 : Elephants of the Tiger Tops Lodge. Some wildlife pictures from Sri Lanka (1988). Yet, it was not my first travel to Africa. Indeed, I set foot for the first time on the African continent during a two weeks’ professional trip to Niger and Burkina Faso. As part of my work, I was led to travel to remote locations where I saw some wildlife. I still remember my first wild elephant, a big bull walking along the road Niamey-Dosso. On the other hand, what I remember of Burkina Faso has nothing to do with wildlife. Indeed, it was in the days of the revolution of Captain Sankara. Two things are always clearly present in my mind , adolescents and even children , boys and girls in rags, heavily armed , who were the guardians of the revolution and patrolling in Ouagadougou and outside, and something I never saw elsewhere in Africa, motorcycle police women. This topic also includes, but incidentally, the second trip I made to Kenya in 1994. The time has, since, cleared a lot of things from my memory. So, it will be more a photo album, sometimes commented, than a detailed report. The pictures are scanned slides that have not stood very well the test of time, and 10X15 cm poor quality prints. For the 1989 trip, reservations had been made by exchange of faxes with a local Tour Operator that was owned by the State. Some lodges were also owned by the State. My opinion of the driver-guide was excellent at the time, as that of most of those who complete their first safari. Indeed, when you are on a first trip in the bush, most of the time, you don’t know a lot about wildlife. So, if the guide has empathy, good eyes and is attentive to his customers’ wishes, no doubt that he will be considered as being very good. Now looking back, failing to have been an experienced guide, I must say that he was a good driver and a very reliable person. He was retired from an elite regiment of the army. This aspect of his personality was important, because at the time some attacks, whose victims were tourists, were committed by poachers, mainly Somalis. Moreover tragic news occurred in the second part of my stay, in which there was much talk because of the reputation of the victim; George Adamson was murdered, by Somali bandits (shiftas), trying to defend a tourist. Anyway, I enjoyed his company. I recall his name, Joseph Kiluvutu.
  15. 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!
  16. Chapter 1 - "Dr. Wilkinson, I Presume" (Safaridude) As the Cessna circles the runway of the Kinna airstrip at Meru National Park, I am awestruck by a figure looking up at me, standing dangerously close to the side of the runway, both arms stretched toward the sky and the pale, rounded headgear shimmering in the scorching Meru sun. OMG… he really is wearing that thing on his head! And good lord! Look at that beard! Ugh, I hope he doesn't insist on sitting next to me in the vehicle the whole time. The helmet and the beard could get in the way of my photos. He could scare away shy animals even. Boy, this could be one looong safari... I concoct a happy face for the official meeting: “Dr. Wilkinson, I presume.” “Safaridude, what a pleasure to finally meet in person, mate!” An uncomfortably long hug is accompanied by the ndevu engulfing the entire side of my face as well as my backpack. All this is slightly disturbing. The ndevu
  17. I am just back from a short Kenya safari, wher I joined Anita and masterful guide Squack Evans in the latter part of their epic journey throughout northern Kenya, with the help of Andrew Francombe (who I learned to be one of Kenya's best pilots) and his helicopter, a R44 named after his wife. Anita and Squack had had an incredible time before me joining them, and I am pretty sure of that, since after reached Lewa airstrip on a Safarilink flight I was given a few hours ride in their helicopter, and I was totally overwhelmed and blown away the experience of flying with it over the rugged northern Kenya wildlands, a few meters over cliffs and rivers, not to mention landing in seemingly impossible spots, definitely inaccessible in any other way. Yet both Anita and Squack were adamant that those few hours of flying were by far the least spectacular of their trip...... A wonderful sight we had during such flight and that will live with me forever was a herd of 200+ Grevy's Zebra, creating a beautiful dust cloud whilst moving in the arid plains. Neither Andrew nor Squack had ever seen so many Grevy's Zebra together - I had read of herds in the lower hundreds subject of studies in the 1960s, so basically we had been affordedfor some minutes a window into the past.Pure magic. The following three nights at Lewa were quite rewarding and relaxing at the same time. Even if not entirely my cup of tea as a safari camp (but the closer amongst the Lewa properties) Sirikoi was very nice and cozy, and Tash a very good host. During our game drives we had - as we had hoped and expected - several excellent sightings of both Black and White Rhino (we saw roughly 35 different rhinos during our stay), a few cheetahs and, more unusually, a magnificent herd of 130 - 140 Eland and some Mount Kenya Hartebeest. Even more unusually, a Lesser Kudu - something absolutely exceptional for Lewa, that certainly does not provide good habitat for those most beautiful antelopes (unlike, as we would be remembered in emphatic fashion, Meru). Another highlight of our visit to Lewa was the possibility of spending some quality time with Ian Craig (grey eminence of Lewa and founder of the Northern Rangelands Trust) and his wife Jane, one day in camp at lunch and one evening at their most beautiful house, where we were offered some sun dried tomatoes coming from Sera Conservancy...definitely an holistic approach to conservation! (To be continued) P.S.: @@Game Warden- could you please delete "Kenya" at the end of the title? Thanks
  18. In a few days I will departing for the third safari of this 2014 (quite odd, since at the beginning of the year I only had one trip planned), which happens to be my 28th African safari. This time I had no role in conceiving it. In fact I will join Anita and - needless to say - my friend and guide Squack Evans in the final part of their epic journey through northern Kenya, a trip that apparently took almost two years of meticoulous planning. Anyway, after a quick dash by helicopter into one the NRT's conservancies to the east of Shaba, I will spend 3 nights in Lewa (staying at Sirikoi Camp) and 5 nights in Meru (Squack's mobile camp). Whilst I have visited both Lewa and Meru before (Meru is probably my favourite park in Kenya), I am really looking forward to seeing them in October, besides enjoying the bush with kindred spirits, and lots of laughs and a bit of banter around the campfire.
  19. Please read this much more interesting report on Koiyaki first. This one is early - Game Warden isn't even here to chase it up. Here But it's much easier for me to post from home, and I am not sure that I will have the opportunity again this week. So I'll get started, and hope it pushes me to complete the basic travelogue pictures for the rest of the trip. It usually works for me (although it doesn't seem to work as well for Anita ). Anyway, here we go.......... It's time again for the annual ritual of reporting my seemingly ever less interesting and ever less challenging annual pilgrimages to hunt for the leopard; bump around for days on end with wind whistling around my head and dust in my eyes; sleep like an angel; eat like a king; defy the tsetses; develop an alarmingly red nose and sometimes a comically red neck; shower in a minute, rotate clothes without always washing them (not the inner layers though ); never read a page of the book I brought with me just in case; try desperately to be quick enough on the draw to avoid the traditional kudu bum-shot; try even harder to keep my worn out and crooked neck in reasonable order for two weeks; and wait patiently for the very, very special minutes or hours that I will remember until next year and beyond. Same as it ever was, new as it ever is. What's around the corner this time? Will it be a hippo feeding like a croc? Could it be time for a pangolin? Perhaps a lion acting like a leopard? An elusive nocturnal creature seen in the middle of the day? Or just lions behaving like lions and a bird flying in the night? If you don't want to know the answers to those questions, there'll be little new here. You can safely glance through the pictures and move on. No revelations, little of further educational value; just a few stories of familiar places and some familiar faces, with a couple of twists that you couldn't predict even if I gave you a clue....... which of course I already did. This year's "sexy as a Donald Trump-in-string-vest-and-socks selfie" itinerary was 30 November - 5 December Naboisho Conservancy @ Encounter Mara Camp (one familiar face already!) 6 December - 7 December Emakoko @ Nairobi National Park 8 December - 14 December Elsa's Kopje @ Meru National Park 15 December Day room at Purdy Arms, Nairobi We booked through Chalo Africa (another very familiar face, even if you don't know it) and they used Cheli & Peacock as the ground operator. Both took very good care of us and unfortunately there are no hitches, disappointments or crossed lines to amuse you with this year. Damned efficiency! Safaridude and others recently wrote up Emakoko, while Paolo and twaffle revealed most of Meru's secrets, and Naboisho is hardly a new destination any more (and covered by Anita and Stokeygirl at the least). So I'll just have to tell you about it as best I can, roll out the smoke and mirrors, and hope some minor mental disorder will make you forget that you have heard it all before. And if you do forget, I'll lead you over dry hills and through dry valleys. I'll let you peek through the bushes with me. And I can hope at least to give you a different perspective. But in Naboisho and Meru, being "in the bush" can take on a very literal meaning, and so you'll have to take the rough with the smooth.... Picture perfect. All in a row... one, two, damn!
  20. 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....
  21. 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!
  22. You may have been wondering why pault keeps on turning up in every thread all of a sudden. Well of course it's because there are a lot of public holidays in Thailand at this time of year, because he just got an iPad, and because he is planning a trip. A perfect storm. The last of the holidays is next Monday and once the trip is booked I will return to a more normal level of output until November, when you should brace yourselves again! So to help get me back to commenting on what I actually know something about help me finish my trip planning. I have 6 nights in Naboisho and 6 nights in Meru but there are two nights in between to fill. Probably the cheapest and easiest thing is to add another night in Naboisho and overnight in Nairobi (Meru flights are early morning). However, I may decide to hire a vehicle and guide and go somewhere else. Or do something else entirely - but I am budget restricted. I can arrive Nairobi at around midday on day one and have to be at Elsa's Kopje in Meru by the afternoon of day 3 ( of course they expect me at the airstrip in the morning but they can unexpect that). It will be early December. I know I've been to Kenya quite a few, times so you might think I know it all, but I don't.... or at least not how things are now. 2006 was the last time anyone saw us own the road for any distance north or west of Nairobi.

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