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Found 15 results

  1. 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 - booking.com 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.
  2. 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.
  3. “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. (http://www.bigmacafricasafaris.com) 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...
  4. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Tawi Lodge, Tawi Conservancy (near Amboseli National Park), Kenya 2) Website address if known: http://www.tawilodge.com/ 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). February 2016 4) Length of stay: 3 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Recommended to me by safari planner. I wanted to visit Amboseli, no idea where I wanted to say. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Safari planner did all the work 7) How many times have you been on Safari? This was my third 8) To which countries? Tanzania and Kenya, one time each prior 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Ngorongoro Farmhouse, Maramboi Tented Camp in TZ. Nothing comparable on my last Kenya visit (all Porini camps) 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? Yes, fenced 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 12 "bandas" or thatched-roofed cottages 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? All bandas have a view of Kilimanjaro from the bed and bath. There was a banda behind mine, in the sense they'd have to walk along my deck area to get to theirs. Other than overnight security checks, I heard no one outside my banda. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very comfortable: overstuffed chairs in front of fireplace, large queen sized bed, soaker tub, waterfall shower, toilet, double-sinks in bathroom, porch with lounge chairs and deck area. 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. I LOVED THE FOOD. I'm a vegetarian and Tawi had some of the freshest, most creative, vegetarian options I've had anywhere, let alone Kenya. Most veg are grown on site, and they sundry their own tomatoes. Every meal was wonderful. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) It was a set menu. Yes, they catered to vegetarian, unsure of other diets. I requested this in advance through my safari planner. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Single tables. Manager was around most of the time, socializing with guests. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Did not have any meals out on game drives. 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Typical Land-Rovers, open sides, canopy top (could open fully if we wanted), three rows of seats 19) How many guests per row? 2 in the first row 2 rows behind driver, 3 in the last row 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? I would go out 6:15-10 and again 4-6:30 (Amboseli closes at 6:30, you have to be heading out then) Drive through the conservancy back to camp lasted 10-15 minutes, unless wildlife encountered. 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? I’m assuming they are the hours I went out. I never asked to stay out all day or longer. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? It is a private concession, and when on it, I never saw any other vehicles or lodges. 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? I was surprised in Amboseli how few other vehicles I saw. On one elephant crossing, maybe two others, but most of the time we were alone. On one rare lioness sighting where there were 7 vehicles total. 24) Are you able to off-road? Not in the park, but yes in the conservancy. 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. It never came up, unsure. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Elephants, elephants, elephants. Amazing sightings and encounters. Closer than I ever anticipated without even trying (they would pass right next to the vehicle). Some plains game in the National Park was good. Some giraffes and native elephants outside of the lodge on the conservancy and a bunch of "regulars" who would show up to the lodge's private watering hole every day around mealtimes. Three elephants in particular came around at almost every mealtime. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent. 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? None 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: I thought Julius knew the elephant families and habits extremely well, which worked to my advantage. He could tell what family was what from quite a ways. He also knows where to find other wildlife if you're interested. He's very aware of how to position a vehicle for good light, for wildlife crossings and for interactions that he sees coming that I don't. I was very happy with the guiding and my time in ANP. Also very knowledgeable about elephant behavior. Despite my reassurance that I don't need to see cats, he really tried to find them. We did see a lioness. Four cheetahs were spotted on the far side of Amboseli by other guests, but I opted not to drive that far hoping to see them. 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Extremely so. They were very friendly to me as a single traveler, engaging with me to feel welcome and entertained but not overdoing it. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Tawi Lodge is on its own conservancy (Tawi - Kilitome Conservancy) that is a result of a joint partnership with African Wildlife Foundation. 32) Safaritalk trip report link: http://safaritalk.net/topic/15901-my-safari-3-kenya-again-and-again/ 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: Outside of game rides, you can do nature walks with the guides, or have massages/spa treatments. I took them up on neither, choosing instead to read/nap on my back porch or deck. Menno, the manager at Tawi, is a rock star. Extremely friendly, a joy to sit and talk to over a G&T at the bar, accommodating and resourceful. He's someone I'd want to be friends with in non-safari life. This lodge was a bit more plush/luxe than what I thought I wanted. I really thought I wanted to be out in the mobile tents, bucket showering it up and being right in the middle of the wildlife. This is just as in the middle of wildlife, but with all the comforts of home. No wifi, don't even think about it. And I say that as a positive, not a negative. 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings. Elephant at watering hole near pool/dining/firepit area -- photo from the lunch table Pre-dawn Kilimanjaro from my private deck:
  5. An article by Paul Ogden in the Manchester Evening News: Going back to nature on an ecologically friendly African adventurehttp://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/trips-and-breaks/travel-review-conservation-themed-safari-11002675 Camps and Lodges available from Gamewatchers Safaris
  6. Hello everyone and thanks for having me. I am travelling in January and February, to Rwanda (Volcanoes NP), then on to Meru, then Masaai Mara, Amboseli and finishing with a week in the north of Zanzibar. Dream come true. Most of this I have plotted out myself, and it has taken a lot of time and careful research, but I think I'm doing okay. Just wondered if any of you seasoned vets have any advice for a first timer. It can be on ANY topic... Must do's, musn't do's... Any of you who have travelled to the above... I'm of course doing the gorilla trek in Rwanda and staying at Muhabura lodge... Then I'm with Offbeat Safari for Meru and Mara, and Tortilli's in Amboseli. In Zanzibar I have a little hut for the week, not too worried about that leg as I'll be sleeping on the beach for 6 days lol. However, currency tips, safety tips, clothing advice, etc. I'm female, 40ish, travelling alone, so any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  7. Hi Friends, I am doing my very first tour to Africa next month (March 2016). My tour will be 3 nights in Amboseli and 3 nights in Tsavo East In Amboseli I will be staying at Serena Lodge and in Tsavo East will be at Ashnil Aruba. I have so many questions, I hope you can help me with this regards 1 How are the places I am staying in? how about safety? 2 Has anyone been to the above two parks recently? how were the sightings and weather? 3 I am after some big bull tuskers, whom I have am very keen to photograph, has there been any recent sightings? 4 I am travelling with my 60 year old mom. Are there any toilets in the park in case she needs to go for an emergency. Appreciate your advise and assistance. Thanks Rajiv
  8. 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.
  9. My friend Augustine was frozen in her seat with her heart pounding, camera held just below her eyes, where moments earlier a male lion known as Mohican had progressively filled her frame as he approached the vehicle. Being unable to take any more images, she had lowered the camera to find him heading straight for her, only metres away and closing. Just as he was about to hit the car he looked up and looked straight into her eyes - "straight into my soul" - before veering away and disappearing. It took several minutes for Augustine to regain her composure but she knew then that she would remember that look forever, and I knew, from that moment, Africa was always going to be in her heart. That later she would take a truly memorable image of Mohican, majestic above us on a mound, which will one day decorate her home was an added bonus. Our first day was an exceptional day on safari - sighting after sighting - the like of which I have never experienced before and don't expect to again. It truly was an outstanding opening to a superb safari! We were in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, on our first full day of our safari, a trip which had been some 18months in the planning. Hubby and I were on our second trip to Africa together, my third trip, and we met Augustine and Dave, Africa virgins, in Nairobi. They had been travelling around Asia for the previous 7 months and this was their last destination before heading home. When deciding on destinations, the Great Migration was on Augustine's bucket list so Kenya was chosen. We were limited by school holidays so towards the end of September we headed off from Australia to Nairobi. Endless hours of (fun) research on Safaritalk and other websites had lead me to the Kicheche Bush Camp in the Olare Motorongi Conservancy off the main Masai Mara reserve and that was the basis of our trip. We had 7 nights there, followed by 4 nights in Kicheche Laikipia and then 3 nights in Amboseli, staying at the Tawi Lodge. Once we had chosen Kicheche Bush camp, we made contact through their website which lead us to Josephine from Chameleon Tours who then organised the trip for us. Overall we were exceptionally happy with our trip, and I have to say that the Masai Mara is my new favourite place in Africa. Our flights from Australia were from Brisbane to Sydney and then to Johannesburg with Qantas, using Frequent Flyer points. We spent one night there before flying to Nairobi on South African Airways. We were met at the airport by Chameleon Tours who took us to the Fairview Nairobi Hotel. Seeing the giraffe next to the fence in Nairobi National Park on the way to the hotel, I knew we were in Africa! We had a lovely stay at the Fairview, with a wonderful meal in their fine dining restaurant. I can happily recommend this as a place to stay in Nairobi. The next morning we were again collected at the hotel and taken to Wilson airport for our flight to the Mara. How wonderful it is to again be flying over African landscapes, knowing that it is teeming with life and upcoming adventure!
  10. 1) Name of property: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as a tags.) Tortilis Safari Camp, Amboseli 2) Website address if known: http://tortilis.com 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known) July 2014, High Season 4) Length of stay: 4 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? It has been rated as the best in Amboseli, run by Cheli & Peacock 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Through Cheli and Peacock directly. Very quick, easy and efficent. 7) How many times have you been on Safari? Many, many, many times. 8) To which countries? Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, India 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Saruni Samburu, Loisaba, Mara Explorer, Shompole, Little Shompole, Mara Intrepids 10) Was the property fenced? Yes 11) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Can't remember, but it was one of the furtherest ones away. It overlooked plains and a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro when it was clear. The room was not private, as we could see and hear all our neighbours. 12) How comfortable was the bed - were suitable amounts of blankets/duvets/pillows provided? Bed was comfy. Enough bedding. 13) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Best safari food ever. Superb Italian cuisine. 14) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) It was always a buffet but very good quality, supplemented with plated main courses. 15) Can you choose where you eat, ie privately or with other guests, guides? Single tables or communal dining? All single tables. 16) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good. Big Italian influence, so we did ask for more English style options such as eggs and bacon. 17) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Open sided landrovers 18) How many guests per row? max 2. We were on our own. 19) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? As long as you wanted. Always varied, sometimes we went into Amboseli, and other times in the private conservancy, 20) Are game drive times flexible: ie, if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, ie not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? Very flexible. 21) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Elephants. Oh did I mention Elephants? Superb sightings. 22) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent 23) 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? 24) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Very passionate, knowledgable, and willing, 25) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes. They really looked after us. 26) Trip report link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g298252-d455733-r217175605-Tortilis_Camp-Amboseli_Eco_system_Rift_Valley_Province.html 27) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: I was very disappointed in the property. The tents were too small and too close to each other. It does not feel like any of the other Cheli & Peacock properties. 28) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
  11. Click on the link below to hear an interview by Tamara LePine Williams on ClassicFm.co.za with Jake Grieves-Cook http://www.classicfm.co.za/classic-lifestyle/podcasts/2015/january/15-january/masai-mara-conservancy-1/at_download/file
  12. Would you mind joining one of groups that i organise departing for Masai Mara and other parks? In doing this,it doesn't give you a chance to meet different travelers from other parts of the world only! but also, helps you to travel cheap and comfy. 5 DAYS SAFARI. So here again, Putting precious moments captured in Kenya is on auction,5 days Masai Mara-Lake Nakuru and Naivasha. Join this group to cost share and capture for yourself very precious moments of the wildlife in their natural habitats. Join now and onwards! DISCOVER THE famous RESERVES at their best! Visit our website- www.africanbreezetours.com Email at info@africanbreezetours.com or follow the f.b link below for more safari pics https://www.facebook.com/pages/African-Breeze-Tours/103131389727053
  13. I'm heading out for a four night camping trip to Tsavo West and Amboseli in a couple of weeks time. There are plenty of special campsites in Tsavo West, but in Amboseli there is only one public campsite which is not that nice. Does anyone know of any good community campsites just outside the park? I hear there used to be one on the Southern border but I can't find any information online and it's not marked on my map. Many thanks in advance.
  14. http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/news/paradise-grows-amboseli-elephants Space for elephants to roam free and safe at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, grew by nearly 16,000 acres today, with the signing of a lease agreement between the local Maasai community and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org). “Paradise for elephants and other wildlife has just grown that much bigger,” said Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, at a ceremony to mark the creation of the “Kitenden Corridor.” The leased area will extend elephant range space from Amboseli National Park to the Tanzanian border, where a similar strip of land, also referred to as the Kitenden Corridor connects to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. “We have the community of the Olguluilui/Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) to thank for their foresight and concern for the safety of Amboseli’s wildlife. By agreeing to lease land to IFAW, elephant range space has been massively extended and both humans and wildlife can look forward to living free of conflict,” said Downes. About 1,400 elephants live in the Amboseli ecosystem, and routinely move into the ranch area, particularly during the rainy season and sometimes come into conflict with farmers and villagers. The Kitenden Corridor which runs from Amboseli to Mount Kilimanjaro will ensure that a favoured route that elephants have used for millennia to move across the Tanzanian border is secured from habitat fragmentation and potential conflicts with local communities. IFAW has a long standing relationship with the leadership and people of OOGR. Earlier this year ten community scouts sponsored by IFAW graduated from the Kenya Wildlife Service Enforcement Academy. The scout’s mission is to save elephants and protect human livelihoods and IFAW will continue to support the KWS training programme. “The Government recognizes and appreciates the role played by IFAW in support of wildlife conservation in our country, in particular conserving elephants and other endangered species and their habitats,” said Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. “The greatest threat to wildlife conservation today lies mainly on the human population pressure on scarce land resources and this leads to human-wildlife conflicts. This calls for the need to plan on how to manage the elephant populations and this Kitenden Corridor conservation area is one such approach,” said Wakhungu. The OOGR, and five other adjoining group ranches, are the first community in Kenya that has agreed to an ecosystem management plan between Kenya Wildlife Services and Amboseli Maasai ranches that surround the park. The next steps for the Kitenden Corridor, will be transforming the land into an operational conservancy. “IFAW’s aim is to work with the OOGR and KWS, to ensure that habitat is improved, that viable tourism initiatives are established that will benefit every member of the OOGR, and that Kitenden will ultimately become a viable and safe habitat for elephants and other wildlife,” said James Isiche, Regional Director of IFAW East Africa. “It is a profound day for IFAW and the OOGR, and honours the Maasai community values of protecting wildlife in Amboseli for nearly 300 years,” said Isiche. The signing agreement was attended by Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Water, Environment and Natural Resources under whose docket wildlife management in Kenya falls, Daniel Leturesh, Chairman of the OOGR, Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, William Kiprono, Director of KWS, Dr David Nkedienye, Governor of Kajiado Country, Katoo Ole Metito, Mp for Kajiado South, Joseph Ole Lenku, Cabinet Secretary Interior and Coordination of National Government, and other dignitaries. About 500 landowners from the OOGR were present to witness the historic event, having walked for hours from all corners of the ranch which borders Amboseli, and is roughly 3.5 times the size of the national park."
  15. Hi all, I've been getting some great advice over on the photography forum about a Kenya trip for next year but I thought I'd post over here as well. Hubby and I (and maybe 2-3 friends) are looking at a few different options for a 14 night visit in either September or early December. I have been corresponding with the Kicheche group and their recommendation is for 5 nights in Tawi Lodge in Amboseli, 3 nights in Kicheche Laikipia and 6 nights in Kicheche Bush Camp in the Masai Mara. My questions are: - how does mix look? Should it be more evenly spread? - should I look at the other Kicheche camps in the Mara or is staying in just one okay? - the price difference between September (migration) and December is several thousand dollars and takes it over our preferred budget. They are also saying they are almost booked out and we would need to book (and pay a substantial deposit I expect) which we aren't really in a position to do. But, is the migration just so great and awesome that I should move heaven and earth to make it happen?? - any other comments gratefully received. As some background, this will be our second trip to Africa together (my third trip, having been to Kenya and Tanzania many years ago), having been to Botswana and Namibia last year. I am a keen amateur photographer and we love to travel! Thanks for reading!

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