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Found 267 results

  1. ~ This September, 2016 research article published in PLOS One is titled: “Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya: What Are the Causes?”. The study suggests that the viability of wildlife is directly threatened by substantial increases in livestock populations in Kenya's 21 rangeland counties. The authors question the effectiveness of Kenya's wildlife conservation policies, strategies and practices.
  2. Having several African safaris under our belt--South Africa twice, Tanzania, Botswana--and having read so many wonderful Kenya trip reports on SafariTalk, Kenya seemed the logical destination for our next safari. But where to go? I knew that the Mara had to be included. Should we add other areas and parks? Usually for a first trip to a country we like to get an overview and see as much as possible of different habitats but in the end, mainly due to time and budget constraints, we decided to concentrate on the Masai Mara--and do it at the optimal time to witness the "Great Migration" and the famed river crossings. The only other thing I was certain of was that we wanted to stay primarily in the conservancies, so that we would have less crowds and the ability to off-road. So, with the expert guidance of our safari planner, Bill Given at The Wild Source, we decided on the following itinerary, commencing mid-September 2016. 1 night Eka Hotel, Nairobi 3 nights Porini Lion Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights Encounter Mara Camp, Naboisho Conservancy 4 nights Wild Source's private mobile camp, Enaidura, in the Mara triangle 1 Night Ololo Lodge, Nairobi The Wild Source has a new collaborative model with two local Masai guides, who have co-ownership in the Enaidura operation: Johnson Ping’ua Nkukuu (Ping) and Paul Kirui. They also have arranged with some camps to allow these guides (who are very well respected across Kenya) to bring clients to those camps in Wild Sources' specially configured safari vehicle. So this unique arrangement enabled us to have our own vehicle with well-known and highly regarded Ping as our private guide while we were at Encounter Mara and Enaidura Camps. At Porini Lion, we were to be in a shared vehicle (or so we thought...) As departure approached I started to get a little apprehensive--were we making a mistake staying in just one location--the Mara--for our whole trip? As birders, I knew we were unlikely to add many "lifers" in this area, since being contiguous with the Serengeti, where we'd been in Tanzania, there would be few birds that were unique or new. Would there be enough photographic opportunities?? Would we drive endlessly through featureless savanna without seeing much of anything?? Would we be bored with so many nights in one area...were the three camps different enough? those of you who have been to the Mara must know, there was no need to worry. I can honestly say that we have not been anywhere else on safari where there was never a dull moment--never a lull--always something to see just around the corner! And each camp was unique with its own attractions. And we learned a few things: the Mara is THE place for cats--we saw 7 unique leopards, countless lions, 12 different cheetahs, and 2 servals. And we even picked up 152 birds, with 15 of them lifers--more than I expected! Not to mention the endless plains of wildebeest, zebra, and all the other game species. And one other thing I learned--although I am glad that we saw a few river crossings--I don't ever have to, or want to, do that again. More on that later. So enough preamble, I'm sure you want to get to the meat of it--and some photos! A bit later...
  3. ~ From BBC: “Kenya Cholera Outbreak Hits Dozens at Health Conference”
  4. ~ From Daily Nation: “Wildebeest Migration Lights Up Tourism at Maasai Mara”
  5. ~ This article from Daily Nation explains that in Kenya's Lewa Conservancy there were 14 rhino births in 2016. It also notes that no rhino has been poached in the conservancy in the past three years. Lewa Conservancy has also seen a substantial increase in both Grevy's Zebra and African Buffalo populations. Author Kennedy Kimanthi attributes these successes to the excellent community relations.
  6. “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.
  7. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Porini Lion Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 2) Website address if known: 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). September 15-18, 2016 High Season 4) Length of stay: 3 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? recommendation of agent and fellow SafariTalkers who have been there 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Agent (The Wild Source) 7) How many times have you been on Safari? this was the fifth 8) To which countries? South Africa x2, Tanzania, Botswana, now Kenya 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Tented camps in Botswana would come the closest 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? 10 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? #3 There wasn't much of a direct view due to trees, but if you walked just a few steps forward you looked out over the river below, and a popular spot for animals to come down to drink--we had zebra, wildebeest, impala, and many birds drinking below. Lots of birds in the trees surrounding the tent which kept me busy during siesta time. A bit close to surrounding tents, we could hear loud conversations from #2. 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very comfortable, spacious, and had a writing table which none of the other camps on this trip had; very useful for downloading photos on the laptop, etc. Typical bucket safari shower with scalding hot water--be careful! 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. Very good food, home style cooking, rustic but very good. The pork ribs were especially delicious. 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Both lunch and dinner was served buffet so there were some choices but generally one main dish with salads and vegetables. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Both communal and seperate tables. There was one large photo group of 12 when we were there so we were put at a table with one other couple; after the photo group left there was a communal table for the rest of us. Guides did not join at mealtimes. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Very good 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. Open sided land cruisers with canvas tops. Beanbags were available. I believe they also have one closed, pop-top type vehicle--some of the photo group was using this. 19) How many guests per row? three rows of two. We had a private vehicle and as far as I could tell so did everyone else at camp while we were there, so not sure how many maximum they might put at other times.. 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? Variable, depending on sightings...departure at 6:30 returning around noon, then from 4 until dark. You can also do night drives AFTER dinner here, which was night we went out on a night drive at 9 p.m. until about 10:30. 21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you? See #20 Since we had a private vehicle route and timing were very flexible. We did go out on one full day drive to into the Mara reserve, returning about 6 p.m. 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Yes, Olare Motorogoi Conservancy. There are several camps in the vicinity but none TOO close. We usually saw vehicles from three or four camps at sightings. 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? n/a 24) Are you able to off-road? Yes 25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting. In theory, no more than five at a sighting. This was almost never an issue and we were never bumped--if we saw too many cars at a sighting we just went elsewhere. Most sightings were on our own or with one or two other vehicles. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Cats! It is not called Lion Camp for nothing. We had fabulous sightings of leopard (three different individuals), two different lion prides, lions mating, lions hunting, cheetah with a kill, leopard with a kill, serval on a night drive. Others while we were there had caracal (which we searched for but missed.) Also at this time the wildebeest and zebra migration was massing on the plains just outside of camp--tremendous numbers of wildlife everywhere. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Excellent, our guides were Gerald and Josephat and they were both great, highly recommend either one. 28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue? n/a 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: Personable, fun to be with, informative, really understood about photography, genuinely excited at sightings, etc. Tried hard to get us the caracal! 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Yes 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. As part of the Olare Motorogoi conservancy they are directly involved in that initiative. Here is a link to their statement on their conservation practices: 32) Safaritalk trip report link: to come later 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: When can I go back? 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.
  8. ~ This news article from The Star is an interview with Dr. Margaret Mwakima, the Public Secretary of Kenya's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Dr. Mwakima describes the steps her ministry has taken to achieve sustainable natural resource use, including planting drought-resistant tree species.
  9. This is part three of Mr. Safarichick and my three-country safari in February 2017. The first two parts were in Ethiopia and Rwanda We’d tried to get to bed early the night before in Kigali at the same hotel at which we’d stayed the night before our two nights in Musanze. We had made it back with a full battery worth of charge and I think the other one even still had a little bit left on it. @@Sangeeta had kindly checked for me after I WhatsApped her where we might be able to find another charger. She found a store in Nairobi that sold Panasonic Lumix cameras that might have our charger. (I knew that Nairobi traffic might make that impractical, though). We had a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to Nairobi so we had to be at the airport early. Luckily we had no problems such as @@michael-ibk and @@AndMic had on their trip out of Kigali and got through security very quickly. We were pleased that our plane to Nairobi had been changed from one with a stop to a non-stop so that we would arrive in Nairobi an hour earlier than we originally thought and Chalo Africa had emailed Laikipia Wilderness about that. But when we arrived, our driver was nowhere to be seen. He was to be driving us all the way to LWC, about a 5.5 hour drive. We were having trouble with communications – our phones didn’t have phone service and wifi was only free for about 15 minutes. To get wifi you paid for you had to go inside to one of the gates. Luckily, we found RwandAir which let us use their wifi so we could contact Chalo Africa. They got in touch with LWC who got in touch with the driver. Apparently LWC had never seen the message we were arriving early so the driver didn’t know. And then he was at the wrong terminal also. So by the time he found us, it was about the time we’d originally expected to be picked up. We asked our driver about the camera store @@Sangeeta found online but he said it would be a big delay to go there, and we decided not to do it. We were not at all sure our camera battery would last for four days at LWC though so we were worried about it. I was hoping maybe by some miracle some other tourist would have left one at LWC just as we’d left ours at Bale Mountain Lodge. When we got to Nanyuki, the last city/town/civilization before we’d reach Laikipia Wilderness, we stopped for some lunch and then asked our driver if we could drive through the town to see if by some miracle there might be a store that had a chance of selling our battery charger. We didn’t really think it would be likely but we thought why not just see. We passed one store that had a Kodak sign and sure enough, it was a little camera store. We went in and told the proprietress what we were looking for and amazingly, she had a collection of used camera battery chargers – including one for a Panasonic Lumix – but not ours. She told us if we had about 3-4 hours in town she thought she could get us one (from where I have no idea!) but we told her that unfortunately we could not wait, so off we went. Our driver was not quite sure where the turn off was for LWC and there was a bunch of calling LWC on his cell phone, losing reception, stopping to ask directions of a local who didn’t seem to have a clue, etc. Finally Steve Carey, owner and guide at LWC, was dispatched to meet us on the main road and then we followed him back to camp. It had been a long travel day, from a 7 a.m. flight from Kigali to now about 4:15 pm. Other guests were having tea and getting ready to go out for their afternoon activity, so we went to our tent quickly, washed up a bit, and came out to tea as well. After a quick bite of delicious cake with a passionfruit frosting, we were off on a game drive as well. Our first guide was Steven. (It was a bit confusing because there was this Steven, Steve Carey, and then Mr. Safarichick whose name is ALSO Steve!) Also with us in the vehicle was a young woman named Emmy, an Australian student taking a gap year who was living at the camp volunteering. She wants to be a guide eventually and was to be starting university in the fall. We found one of the dog packs in the area, the Tui pack (not sure if I’m spelling that right). The Tui pack seems to be the one that LWC sees most regularly these days. It was the one I was aware of before arriving, that I’d seen photos of on Facebook and Instagram. I knew how many puppies this pack had – I think it was 10 - and had been looking forward to seeing the pack with excitement. I was shocked and saddened to hear that there were only two puppies left. Not sure if it’s known what happened to the rest. But at least the two pups seemed happy with each other and I was grateful that at least they had each other and that at least these two had survived this far. You have to be grateful for small favors sometimes, as my mother used to say. When we first saw the pack, they were still resting, so we hung out watching. Eventually, they began waking up, first the puppies playing then all the rest began to wake up and take part in a greeting ceremony. From where our vehicle was stopped, we couldn't see the greeting ceremony well as they all had started moving to the side. Steven asked whether I wanted to go down on the ground. On our very first outing at LWC? Oh, ok, twist my arm! Emmy got out with me and we got down on ground on our stomachs and tried crawling forward. Unfortunately it hadn’t occurred to me that we’d be doing this when we went out on drive and I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt so my knees and elbows were not very comfortable! The dogs didn’t take any notice of us and we watched them for a little while from there. This is me and Emmy: When they began to walk off to go hunting, we quickly clambered back into the vehicle. We attempted to follow them hunting and we would see them and lose them. At one point something jumped out and almost crashed into the car - it was a warthog dashing out of its hole - luckily it stopped short of crashing into us and ran off the other way. Eventually, we had some success. We didn't manage to see what they caught but we did see the alpha male regurgitate food for the pups which was very cool! The alpha male and female are both collared; the male is very old, much older than the female: It was pretty dark by now - here's the only halfway decent photo we got of the whole (or most of?) the pack: In addition to the dogs, on this drive we also saw zebra, giraffe, white-tailed mongoose, vulturine guinea fowl. All in all, we were quite happy with our first drive!
  10. ~ This March, 2016 communication published in the African Journal of Ecology provides the background of observations of a Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi, Rothschild's Giraffe, in the Soysambu Conservancy of Kenya's Rift Valley. From 2010 to 2016 the male giraffe was observed, gradually developing pigmentation changes as white spots spread and enlarged on the neck. The change was attributed to adult onset vitiligo, rather than to genetic factors. Several photographs illustrate the giraffe's condition.
  11. Blue-headed Tree Agama This prologue is for a trip report covering a recent Kenya safari I took with my friend Roger, who is a fellow birder-naturalist. Conditions were DRY throughout our travels, which ran from January 14 - 29. Throughout much of Kenya, we learned that the short rains came late or little this year, or almost failed completely - depending on the area in question. After reading @@michael-ibk's recent Kenya trip report, I suspect places like Kakamega Forest (that seemed OK when he visited) had dried out by the time we came through a few weeks later. Our guide Ben Mugambi said it was the driest he had ever seen Kakamega Forest - and also Aranbuko-Sokoke Forest on the coast. The forest trails and forest floor in Kakamega and Arabuko-Sokoke were carpeted with crispy dry leaves - which made moving quietly or stealthily pretty difficult. Dry Kakamega undergrowth - January 18 In the Mara, Musiara Swamp was almost completely dry, with dust devils blowing round. Orange-leafed Croton bushes were either shriveled or bare all around Mara North. Dry and dusty Musiara Marsh with Governor's Camp and the Mara River in the background -- But we still did very well - and the theme of the trip was "quality over quantity". Another theme was "improbable chance meetings". We got almost all our major bird and critter targets and the Mara delivered fabulously again. Some highlights of the safari included: - Three big cat species in 19 minutes in Mara North Conservancy, followed by a sighting of the "Offbeat male Leopard" from the porch of our tent #4 after lunch. Viewing two male Leopards within a couple of hours of each other was a real treat! Leopard stalking Leopard resting Cheetah - 18 Suni in Nairobi National Park! Photos and video obtained. - Black Rhinos parading and sleeping in the open in Nairobi National Park. And the first Verreaux's Eagle sighting in Nairobi NP in over 10 years. And a pair of Crowned Eagles over the forest just west of Nairobi Tented Camp. Black Rhinos - Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. (wait for that day's report for a photo) - Frank and Jesse the Offbeat pride males, are still large and in charge in Mara North. Had good quality time with the Offbeat Pride of Lions with cubs of varying ages. Jesse - A very enjoyable birding over lunch experience at Little Governor's Camp and finally meeting a "nemesis bird" - Schalow's Turaco. Crossing_Mara_River - Great shorebirding and coastal birds at Mida Creek and the Sabaki River Mouth. - A neat boat excursion on Lake Victoria to break up the drive from Kakamega Forest to the Mara. - Stumbling on a great birding spot at a crest in the Tugen Hills and photographing a Narina Trogon. Narina Trogon - Great birding at Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. Heuglin's Courser Pygmy Kingfisher - Ongoing evolution and improvements at Offbeat Mara camp. They are so flexible and accommodating to guest desires. For example: one day we did a bush breakfast and all-morning game drive, then afternoon game drive, transitioning into a fine bush dinner with some other guests and then straight into a night drive ending up back at camp after a couple of hours. Birding behind Offbeat Mara - down behind the dining tent, beside the Olare Orok River. - Shy and difficult-to-observe birds in Kakamega Forest Spotted Flufftail Dusky-crested Flycatcher -- Before the trip, I had warned Roger that "something will go wrong" and that we would just go with the flow and with Ben and his network's help, things would work out. Sure enough we had a few blips during our time on the coast, but things worked out just fine. Our first issue was before leaving the USA - our Emirates flight was very late departing JFK and we missed our connecting flight from Dubai to Nairobi. But we were met exiting the plane in Dubai with tickets for the next morning's flight to Nairobi, a hotel voucher, and an explanation that we did not need to collect luggage - it would be put on tomorrow's plane for us. So we got a free night in Dubai and had some good birding in the hotel garden that afternoon. The downside was that we would miss our day trip to Nairobi National Park on January 14 but I had a plan to address that. Our itinerary ended up being: January 14 - Arrive at JKIA one day late. Hit the Nakumatt, do some birding along Red Cross Road. Overnight Boma hotel. January 15 - Drive to Lake Baringo for lunch and afternoon birding, Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 16 - Lake Baringo + Lake Bogoria. Overnight Tumbili Cliff Lodge. January 17 - Drive to Kakamega Forest by way of Tugen Hills and Kerio Valley. Overnight Rondo Retreat. January 18 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 19 - Kakamega Forest, overnight Rondo Retreat. January 20 - Drive to Mara North, via Kisumu. overnight Offbeat Mara. January 21 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 22 - Mara North Conservancy, overnight Offbeat Mara January 23 - All day in the Main Reserve, lunch at Little Governor's, overnight Offbeat Mara. January 24 - Morning game drive in Mara North, after lunch bush flight to Malindi, overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 25 - Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 26 - Sabaki River Mouth and Mida Creek. overnight Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu. January 27 - Morning birding at Mida Creek, fly to JKIA in Nairobi. Overnight Boma hotel. January 28 - All day outing in Nairobi National Park. Overnight Boma hotel. January 29 - Morning birding along Magadi Road south of Nairobi. Fly home in the late afternoon. -- I talked to Ben and Roger and we agreed to cut a day off our time at the coast, in order to return to Nairobi a day early and get a full day in Nairobi National Park. For this safari, I had obtained a new camera backpack - Think Tank Photo's Airport Commuter. I love this camera bag! It held my camera, lens, a Swarovski spotting scope, Swarovski binoculars, laptop, iPad, memory cards, batteries, a La Cie portable hard drive, cables, camera cleaning kit, and 1 day's clothing. I checked two bags, including a large duffel bag (Patagonia Black Hole Bag). This was to take my tripod, beanbag, and other bulky gear. When we arrived at JKIA, there was a long line of dozens, maybe hundreds, or people in the e-Visa line. Roger and I walked up to an empty desk for Visa-on-arrival passengers. I see no reason at all to put forth the effort and time (and online credit card activity) for an e-Visa. We spent part of our first afternoon in Nairobi birding Red Cross Road - the road where the Boma hotel and Boma Inn are located. We tracked down the ATM near the gate of the Boma Inn and of course we had our binoculars with us and started birding from the gate and out onto the sidewalk. There is a nice hedge and some trees across the street from the Boma complex - we had close to 30 bird species just standing by the gate. Both young security guards - a gentleman and a lady - were interested in the birds we were seeing. We loaned them our binoculars in turn - they could not both be distracted at once you know. They both relished seeing the birds closer and clearer and the young man in particular looked and looked at birds. He had fun tracking swifts and swallows especially. Boma birding We were guided throughout the trip by the incomparable Ben Mugambi, of Ben's Ecological Safaris. I booked all the accomodations and bush flights through Ben's as well. Ben and his office staff handled everything deftly - including a few unforeseen hurdles. Ben knew people everywhere we went, which came in handy a couple of times. The vehicles: Offbeat Mara won "Best Safari Vehicle" again - closely followed by Ben's Ecological Safaris. Offbeat continues to improve and evolve, and their vehicles are no exception. They seem to have taken @@pault's advice and added flat trays to the armrests of their game drive vehicles. These trays are great platforms for photo beanbags. Offbeat photo tray While at Campi ya Offbeat, we had the same trusty Landcruiser as last time - with the photo tray improvements. This vehicle has pop-top roof hatches over both rows of rear passenger seats, and another pop-top hatch over the driver and spotter's seats. These hatches let you see and photograph birds and other things directly overhead. Or stand on the seat and observe + photograph from above roof level. Or sit on the roof in certain situations. Or close the hatch if you need a break from the sun. Offbeat vehicle We used two of Ben's vehicles during the safari - his large Landcruiser for most of the non-Mara safari, then his pride and joy - a 1980 Toyota Landcruiser VX - in Nairobi National Park and Magadi Road the last two days of the safari. Ben's primary safari vehicle, with Ben and driver Simon parked in front of a Baobab Tree near Mida Creek. Ben's Safari Vehicle Ben's Landcruiser VX Ben's VX Landcruiser is the quietest safari vehicle (and quietest diesel SUV) I have ever seen! It is a 12-cylinder turbo-diesel and Ben has the idle speed turned down low. So it purrs along very quietly through field and forest. Ben has some real war stories about using it to deliver late-arriving clients to the Mara late at night in stormy weather and passing abandoned Landrovers and other Landcruisers stuck deep in the muck. The companions: We were fortunate to have Ben Mugambi with us the entire time. We also had great local guides helping in different areas. Super-sharp Francis Cherutich guided us on his home ground of Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria. We were fortunate to have Josphat and Kapeen at Offbeat Mara. At Arabuko-Sokoke forest we had William (Willie), and on Lake Victoria and adjacent land birding we had Solomon. I hope this teaser post stokes some interest. Maybe a few videos will help:
  12. Reports To read the full article click here. Meru NP is truly a beautiful place as many Safaritalkers, including myself, are aware. It needs more visitors but how to encourage them?
  13. Reports To read the full article click here.
  14. "When a poacher steps into a certain wildlife park in Kenya in the middle of the night, a thermal camera at the perimeter notices the action. Then an algorithm automatically identifies that the heat is coming from a person and not a giraffe, and a team of rangers gets an alert. The technology—which World Wildlife Fund started testing in two Kenyans parks in March 2016—has already led to more than 25 arrests. "It allows you to see in total darkness," says Travis Merrell, senior vice president of FLIR, the thermal technology company that donated the equipment to WWF. The cameras can also see through rain, smoke, and fog. In the Mara Conservancy—home to lions, rhinos, elephants, and other threatened or endangered species—the cameras are mounted on trucks. As rangers drive, a screen inside shows movement of both animals and poachers up to a mile away."
  15. I have been reading several tour itineraries and I have realized many says that of late things have changed in lake Nakuru National park and that at times there are not as many flamingos. They go ahead to say that they are on high population when the lake is shallow alkaline and warm. Its basically the time algae grows and flamingos flock the lake to feed on it. My question now comes in. When is the right time to have these conditions? I will appreciate your help fellow travelers.
  16. I received this email this morning from Offbeat Safaris, thought it would be of interest here. Such a bummer for a well-regarded camp. I hope there's a quick(er) recovery! Not sure if this is the best forum location for this, but mods can move it as they see fit. As you are well aware, parts of West Laikipia have been unsettled since the beginning of the year and Sosian re-located all their bookings during this time to err on the side of caution. Today, the seven owners/shareholders of Sosian have taken the decision to down scale the lodge to their private house until such a time that they are confident that our guests will the receive the top class safari experience that Sosian has become so well known for. Whilst we shall miss our guests hugely over this time, we will also be able to focus 100% on re-habilitating the land and working with the government to path a positive long-term future. Sean Outram, the general manager, has done an extraordinary job during these difficult times and he will continue to work tirelessly on rejuvenating Sosian back to the point of welcoming guests again. The lodge managers, Simon Kenyon & Rosie Constant have some exciting plans in the interim, as Simon becomes head riding guide for Offbeat Safaris and Rosie begins some free lance safari work sharing her secrets in the kitchen and office as well as her faultless hosting! We’d like to thank so many of you for your incredible support of Sosian. We couldn’t do it without you, and we’ll be looking forward to letting you know when we shall be welcoming guests once again. Offbeat Safaris continues as normal with an exciting riding season ahead of them with Simon and the team, plus Piers’ Offbeat Mara Camp with a stunning new mess tent and a busy migration season ahead! Best wishes from all of us at Sosian & Offbeat Safaris
  17. In two months and a couple of days, we will be winging our way to Kenya! I cannot wait and have nothing left to plan!! I am thrilled that a friend from work and her high-school aged daughter decided to join us at the last minute, which should make the experience that much better (unless I drive her bonkers with my many exclamations.) My boss is retiring at the end of the school year and she considered going with us too; the timing wasn't right as we leave two days after school gets out and she has to stay through the end of June. So now I am wondering about a "next safari," when I haven't gone on the first one yet! What say you, collective Safari Gurus? This might be a teacher's trip, so probably shorter than the 2 weeks that I'm going this year. Daughter will be doing an internship next summer so I won't have to work around her schedule, although we will be pretty much restricted to mid-June to early-August again. PS That we I in the title is going to drive me bonkers. Can someone fix it to we?
  18. I just checked the website for the Kenyan visas and ours have been issued. I am guessing that I don't need to download anything or print anything, or am I just naive?
  19. 'It was one of the best days' was the understated verdict of Christopher, our spotter, after we returned from seeing a leopard stalk, another leopard chasing guinea fowl, the Queen of the Mara, the introduction of 3 week old lion clubs to their extended family (and the world at large) as well as the minor matter of a significant Mara crossing in early February despite the best efforts of a lion to disrupt it. This was my second full day at Porini Lion on a short trip that took in a night at Nairobi Tented Camp, 3 nights at Porini Lion and a last afternoon at the Tented Camp before heading home. Although I would have taken the experience of this single day as sufficient for a full safari there was much more. Highlights included the experience at both camps, lots of active cats, some very cute babies and lots of nature red in tooth and claw. A single photo for now as the internet at Nairobi airport isn't great and I have about 2000 images to sort through. This is a crossing pioneer having second thoughts on seeing the welcome committee; the hippo plays no part in this story. Much more to come.
  20. For those of you who have provided countless words of support and advice, I thank you. The last 4 months have been the worst we've ever had in travel planning! But in the end, we are back to Katy (daughter age 19) and myself going to Kenya together. Although after hubby's car accident (hit by a drunk driver), I considered staying home in 2017... Africa's siren song is just too strong. With Harry's blessing, I agreed to terms for our safari on Wednesday, and then added another day today. We do get our private visit at Sheldrick's to start out our journey. Once the deposit has been paid (I'm still waiting for an invoice!) ... I will share where we're going! Seriously, SafariTalkers... you rock. Thanks for including me in your family.
  21. Well, it has been several weeks since I got back from my favourite place in Kenya, Ol Pejeta, and with what will be months of sorting & editing, and finally putting a film together of my latest trip, I thought I would ease myself in by sharing some of memories with you. So. Let me take you back four months. I arranged my twelve nights accommodation directly with Sweetwaters tented camp, that sorted I scoured the internet for a cheap flight from London to Nairobi, I finally found a possibility with KLM, flying Kenyan airways. KLM own 25% of Kenyan airways so often use their partners Nairobi flights. The return would be via Amsterdam, no problem, but it's arrival in Nairobi would be at 05.00. Not a problem if you are staying over, but I would be flying from Wilson airport to Nanyuki that morning, and that flight was not until 09.20 and that is a long wait in an airport(?) with very little to occupy oneself. So, after some thought, and a change of plan, I decided to go by road, but still fly back . I use Real Africa safari for all my transport, transfers & my overnight hotel on my return journey, and Sam, my driver, was there waiting for me as I came out of Arrivals. There was an advantage to driving to Nanyuki, apart from the numb bottom I would acquire from the four hour journey, the road going out of Nairobi would be relatively quite as most of the traffic would be coming into Nairobi. This was a good plan, and was confirmed as such when the flight came in half an hour early at 04.30. I was off the plane & through passport control quickly, my bag arrived shortly after I reached the carousel and we were on the road by 05.20, Wow! The day was getting better & better. We were passing through Thika by the time it got light, sadly no stop this time at the Blue post Inn to see Chania falls, and we reached Karantina by 07.45. My driver enquired if I needed a toilet stop? "hapana, asante" I replied, practising my kiswahili, and we drove on. We were in Nanyuki by 08.50 and turning left off the main road we headed on to Ol Pejeta conservancy. We arrived at the gate by 09.15, paid the conservancy fees and I was walking into Sweetwaters reception by 09.30. The staff were quite surprised to see me, expecting me around noon as I was coming by road. After a brief explanation and a cool juice, I was asked if I would like breakfast?. "Breakfast" I replied lamely. I was not expecting that, so as I say, the morning was getting better & better, and was about to get even better. As I made my way to the dining room a friend greeted me & said there are some friends of mine at the waterhole. My table was next to the large glass doors looking out onto the waterhole, and WOW! there were fourteen reticulated Giraffe. I have now totally forgotten how tired I am from a rather sleepless overnight flight & four hours on the road, and almost in one movement I removed my jacket and retrieved my cameras from my hand luggage and slipped out through the glass doors to capture my first photo's & footage of my stay at Sweetwaters. It took me a little time to refocus on breakfast, but I did, and once refuelled & after reacquainting myself with the many friends I have made here, it was a leisurely unpack to the sound of bird song, and the occasional distraction of Zebra coming to the waterhole(snap,snap). After completing my bathroom rituals & a very welcoming shower I decided to have a walk around the camps grounds before it got too hot. The camps grounds are quite large with a nice variety of habitats, which of course makes birding here a great joy. The waterhole throws up many waders, storks & herons, the wooded areas are abundant with Barbets, Tinkerbirds, Shrikes and much more,while the garden areas are full of Sunbirds, Starlings, Cuckoos & Woodpeckers, and the skies are full of Swallows & Swifts. My first walk was most rewarding, and with no great effort I saw my first 38 species of birds, and then relaxing after lunch outside my tent brought many more. Of course march is migration time as the European/Northern species head home, so I was a very happy camper with my first day being so rewarding. Watch this space................
  22. Hi All It’s took 44 years to get myself into a position to start planning my first actual Safari and although I am very excited and “buzzing”, I am also very nervous too. Nervous about making the wrong choices in regards to travel, parks and camps. Also nervous about security (safari security as opposed to Country security!). Also taking my 13 year old Autistic Son too so it is important I get this trip as perfect as possible for him too The above is the reason why I have joined this forum – to try and obtain as much guidance and advice as possible from both professionals Safari companies and independent travellers alike to enable my Son and I to have the best time possible on our first trip. After all due to health and finances, it may be my only opportunity. I may not be able to repeat this type of trip again, so I have one shot at getting this right. Therefore, any help, advice and guidance anyone can offer would be very much appreciated. So, the type of advice I am looking for is the following: · Camps – Looking for solid structure accommodation as opposed to a tent that looks like it has “been thrown into the middle of a field”. Also customer service has to be second to none. Absolutely hate staff who cannot be bothered or have a poor attitude. · Masai Mara or Serengeti? – Everything considered, which one do people prefer? I suppose on my trip the importance is the “Big 5” as not really a bird fan. · Fly or drive transfers between airport and camps? Pro’s and Cons for both? · How strict are Safari link on baggage allowance? If my bag weighed 18kg (for example), would they turn a blind eye to the extra 3kg, make me pay for the extra 3kg or insist that I reduce the weight by 3kg meaning I will have to “bin” some items? · Best to book the whole lot (flights, camps, transfers etc) with a tour operator or use separate airline and Safari companies (if so, any recommendations)? · What can I actually expect on my first Safari as opposed to public perception? · Anything you think I may need to know that I may not have thought of to make my trip enjoyable? Any help, guidance or advice would most appreciated Thanks
  23. Any chance that TO / Camp owners, on their website, when promoting camps, lodges etc, actually concentrate on giving details and using photo's of the actual camp / lodges rather than dozens of photo's of lions, buffalo's, wildebeest etc.? I get the fact that most, if not all of us, are there for the wildlife, but there are thousands, if not millions of photo's of Wildlife on the internet, but not necessarily so of the camps, which I believe is important to actually help the traveler on where to stay. Not sure if it is just me or not, but i always feel that if you cannot "show off" or explain / promote your camp / lodges correctly then there is something to hide, which of course, I appreciate, may not be the case.
  24. After a few days rest it was time to venture out and see what splendours Ol Pejeta had in store for me. Well, those splendours were, an abundance of young. The were Zebra foals and Buffalo calves everywhere. Impala & Defassa Waterbuck were also breeding well, and as a friend at camp said, "this is good news for the Cheetah". Not a thought that sprang readily to mind, but I understood what he meant. That said, I never saw a cheetah during my time here, though I did hear they were being seen. With the dense croton/whistling thorn bush which covers a lot of Ol Pejeta seeing the cats was never going to be easy. That said, my first drive gave me my only sighting of Lions. Two big males, which made up for any other lack of sightings. They were lying out in the open about thirty meters apart enjoying the early morning sun before it became too hot. Night drives were more successful, with lions being seen quite regularly as well as Hyena. One night at camp the call of a Hyena was so loud I instantly thought it must be very close to camp. Curiosity got the better of me and with torch in hand I headed off to the far end of camp where the call came from. As I shone the torch into the bush the waterbuck, which move close to camp at night for safety, were very agitated. They suddenly moved away in that delightful trotting way they do, then suddenly there he was. The Hyena appeared from behind a bush moving across the line of the waterhole and slowly vanished into the darkness. The waterbuck settled down again and calm was restored. Ol Pejeta was very dry, but the rains were due, and with this in mind the Elephants had started to appear in good numbers. Back from their migratory wanderings on Mt Kenya and the Laikipia plateau, they too had many young among them. I was fortunate, no blessed, to see Elephants on every game drive I took. One memorable moment was when a youngster about 3/4 years showed great bravado in threatening us with mock charges. He did this several times then retreated behind a large bush. He would then peer from behind the bush at us, and as we had not taken the hint, he would repeat the scenario again. On the last charge his mother moved from where she was feeding passing behind us to feed on another bush across the road. On seeing his mother move off his bravado melted away as did he into the bush. Back at camp the resident Egyptian Geese had nine very young gosling, and I found myself counting them each day to make sure they were all safe, as there was a rather persistent Pallid Harrier taking an unhealthy interest in them. He appeared regularly through out the day, but after three days I never saw him again. An African Harrier Hawk made a brief appearance one afternoon but was chased off by a mob of starlings. I was becoming a little apprehensive about the survival of all nine goslings, though mum and dad showed great courage in the face of the Pallid Harrier. Every time he appeared, swooping low the goslings instinctively took cover and mum & dad reared up, wings spread out and Honking their contempt at his audacity to think he would be getting an easy meal. The small guy's were showing a lot of courage around the waterhole and on another occasion three Pied crows saw off a Tawney Eagle that had come a little too close to camp for their liking. Watch this space for news on Ol Pejeta's stars & more..................
  25. I'm not one to usually ask for lens advice but I'm really stymied! I'll be traveling to the Masai Mara in September for the migration and of course birds and everything else. We will have a private guide and vehicle for most of the trip, just sharing for three days in one camp. My problem is that I have too many lenses to choose from! (I know, a sad story.) I'll have two bodies, a Nikon D810 (full frame) and Nikon D500 (1.5 crop.) My current thoughts: I'll take the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 for use on the D810. For scenery, larger and closer beasts, beasts in habitat, etc. This is pretty set. But I have several options for the crop frame D500, which will be my primary for birds and also, I'd imagine, any kind of action as it is built for speed. 1) The 200-400 F4 VR has been my staple safari lens for years. I have had good success with this lens, and used it mostly with the 1.4 tc. But have not been 100% happy with the IQ, especially with the TC. It is well known that this lens does well at short distances but does not resolve well at long distances. So the con of this lens is less than excellent IQ, especially with the TC. But the pros of this lens is versatility of range, and also hand-holdability. I can hand-hold this pretty well for short distances walking and for longer periods in a vehicle. It focuses quickly even with the TC. It also close focuses a bit closer than the 500 F4. 2) 500 F4 VR The IQ of this lens is superb and does well even at long distances. Adding a 1.4 tc barely effects quality, in my opinion. PROS of this are: Better IQ with the TC than the 200-400, and longer reach. This would be especially useful for birds. CONS: Too heavy for hand-holding. Would need to always have support in the vehicle, whether bean bag or maybe monopod (walking isn't really an issue for this trip as I doubt there will be much, even in the camps which are small.) Less versatile than the 200-400 in range (but I could cover that range with the 70-200 + TC) 3) Nikon 200-500 F5.6 VR This lens has surprisingly good IQ and I think its actually sharper than the 200-400VR. PROS: Very versatile range. Totally hand-holdable, I can walk with this lens all day on a sling strap, so would be very easy to maneuver in a vehicle. CONS: Slow to focus at times, especially in low light. Slow lens (F 5.6) In theory it can be used with a 1.4 TC but I haven't tried it. I'd also be concerned about the build...its a well-built lens but it does extend when zooming which can introduce a lot of dust and makes it less rugged than the other two which are weather sealed, pro lenses. SO...if you have read this far...thoughts??? I guess one question I'd have is how often in the Mara are you really distant from the action? I've got lots of time to fret over this....

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