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Found 12 results

  1. So with the new non-stop JFK to Nairobi flights on Air Kenya starting up, I am planning a "quickie" return visit to the Mara for February 2019. Just 8 nights. Four nights will be at Enaidura again, with Ping as our private guide (hoping the 5 Musketeers will still be around--even if they have separated by then, they should still be in the area.) But I want to spend 4 nights in a conservancy as well. We really loved Olare Motorogi and last trip stayed at Porini Lion. We were totally happy there, but I really want to try a new camp...it may sound nuts but to me that will make it feel like we are not just repeating ourselves. Also, I have learned the lesson from our Zambia trip, and from now on will always book a private vehicle. The only other remotely affordable option in OMC is Kicheche Bush Camp. I really love the look of Kicheche...like that they are geared to photographers, with vehicles really well-equipped for photography (like that they have open roofs with bracing for beanbags, so that you have sort of the best of both worlds) and by all reports, outstanding guiding. It would also be my birthday when we are there and Kicheche Bush Camp definitely looks more posh, while still being a tented camp. But, they offer no deals, and really top out our budget. Another option would be Offbeat Mara in Mara North Conservancy. This would save me considerable money, as they offer a four for three night deal, plus a 10% early booking discount, plus are less expensive than Kicheche to begin with. I know that @amybatt had a fantastic trip with them and is returning, in fact, next fall. But I really haven't heard much else about Mara North. It seems there are many more camps there than in OMC...so maybe more vehicles...but on the other hand, the conservancy itself seems larger. So I am completely torn...do I go for the much more expensive option in OMC where I would really love to see Fig again, and Figlet, and Olare (Fig's son from a prior engagement And where I know there is a very high density of cats in general, with multiple lion prides? Or do I take a chance on Mara North, which I really know little about...and save a bunch of money? (In theory I could even add another day there, although we really want to keep this trip shortish.) I have read that maybe the Loita herds could be in that area in February...or maybe not. Anyway I would love to hear from anyone who has been to Mara North and any thoughts on Offbeat Mara vs. Kichche Bush Camp---especially in the Jan/Feb season.
  2. PART 2 - OL KINYEI AND NABOISHO CONSERVANCIES (PORINI MARA CAMP) My gratitude to the kind folks who commented on part 1 of my trip report. However, had you been more candid, you might have saved yourselves from the pain of even more photos in part 2. Now my conscience is clear going forward with this section . . . Departure from Nanyuki West airstrip for the flight down to the Ol Seki airstrip (closest to the Mara Camp) was uneventful, but interesting nonetheless. I had assumed that we might get a direct flight to Ol Seki, but it didn't work out that way. In fact, it took two different aircraft (Twin Otter & Caravan) and four flight segments to reach Ol Seki airstrip, but all segments were reasonably short, skies were calm, and the flights were no hassle. Every one of our AirKenya flights left at a different time than originally scheduled, which I gather is routine for these safari flights in Africa, but what really impressed me was how well AirKenya and Porini handled these changes. Once AirKenya figured out their schedule for the coming day (presumably looking for an efficient mix of aircraft, crews, passengers, and destinations), they would contact with Porini main office in Nairobi with any schedule changes (and it seemed there were ALWAYS schedule changes). The Porini main office would then contact the relevant camp manager, and the most disruption a guest might see is to hear "your flight is leaving an hour later tomorrow morning, so you will get an extra hour of game drive". Amazing how smoothly this all operated. Mara Camp itself has only six guest tents, situated in an arc along the banks of a small winding stream, and a dining/lounge tent located at the approximate center of that arc. In the larger sense, this camp is situated on the western edge of the 18,700-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy, but that borders directly on the 50,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy, so the Mara Camp has easy access to a lot of productive terrain. I am not sure I can articulate exactly why this is so, but I thought the Mara Camp had the best "vibe" of the three Porini camps I visited. Sometimes it is the setting, sometimes it is the staff, sometimes it is the other guests - in the case of the Mara Camp, I guess it was all of those things. The camp has a resident bushbuck (not by any means tame, but clearly accustomed to hanging around the safety of the camp environs) As well as a troop of vervet monkeys that frolic around the camp (well, okay, also THROUGH the camp). An editorial comment here. A small river forms the boundary between Ol Kinyei and Naboisho, and someone was very smart in how they handled the river crossing. Instead of just driving down one bank, through the water and up the opposite bank as you see in the Mara Reserve, the conservancies here have built a short section of pavement through the lowest part of the crossing (what we would call a "Texas crossing" here in the United States). There are upright concrete posts on the downstream side of this paved section, which I assume gives the driver a visual reference on water depth and also would keep a vehicle from washing downstream. Not only does this type of crossing (also seen elsewhere in these two conservancies) seem safer, it also reduces streambed erosion and creates a small impoundment of water upstream. And you know how much the local animals and birdlife benefit from reliable water sources in the savannah. In the vicinity of this border between the two conservancies, we saw a number of very healthy grazing animals, including numerous impala (always graceful). And this unusual-for-me Coke's hartbeest. This terrain seemed to abound in birdlife, and I can never seem to resist a lilac breasted roller in good light. The highlight of this first afternoon (23 Nov) at the Mara Camp, and probably the highlight of my entire visit to this camp, was time spent with a small lion pride on the eastern side of Naboisho Conservancy. The weather was overcast, and looked like an afternoon shower was likely. This pride of two adult females and five cubs was sleeping off their evening meal of wildebeest. The fifth cub is not visible in this first photo; more on this cub later. WARNING - lots of lion photos to follow. This particular cub is definitely well-fed; even lying on her back, her belly is enormous! One other cub found a nice plaything from part of the wildebeest carcass, and went looking for a playmate. However, an afternoon downpour started, and everyone, including the playful cub, headed for cover. Given the small size of the local bushes, most of the adult lion bodies were left stuck out in the rain. The cubs fared better in finding cover, but their attention span for sitting still did not last long, and soon they were back out in the easing rain. Some of the cubs began cleaning each other, and some others started playing together. But our little bundle of trouble with the wildebeest bodypart toy went back out looking for new playmate to engage in a little tug of war. Meanwhile, one of the adult females did her best to shake off the excess water, and then sprawled out on her back - because it is important that the ENTIRE lion be clean and dry. Trouble eventually did stir up some interest in a game of tug of war, but probably not with the body part he had in mind. This cub seems to be trying to strike that perfect balance between cute and fierce. Sorry, buddy, still too cute! Most of the cubs began wandering further afield into a shallow depression, and became much dirtier in the process. Meanwhile, the fifth cub stayed tucked under the bushes near the wildebeest carcass. Our guide was concerned this cub could be ill and might not last too much longer. After a quick round of seconds on the carcass, the pride began moving off to stage right (minus the fifth cub). The adult females looked pretty clean and tidy at this point, if still a bit damp. Some of the cubs . . . not so much. This one female doesn't seem very happy with a muddy cubby walking so close to her. At this point, an adult jackal was approaching from stage left, and one of the adult females was keeping a close watch on this jackal. With the pride apparently departing the scene, we were worried what this jackal might mean for the fifth cub. Fortunately, this cub got up and walked away (and looked normal walking) as the jackal approached the carcass, and eventually the jackal was left to dine in peace. I did alert you there would be a lot of lion photos. But lion cubs are so adorable, even when wet. Maybe especially when wet. The adult lions seem really annoyed with being wet, whereas the cubs' joy at being alive seems to override any temporary discomfort from the rain. Beyond the photos, the memory that will stay with me from this time with the lions is the SOUND of the pride members softly calling to each. Not really a MEOW like our domestic cats make, more just the "OW" portion of the sound. Interesting that it was hard to distinguish whether it was an adult or a cub making those OW sounds. All made for a memorable encounter. The sky stayed overcast at dusk, and we were in for heavy rain through the overnight hours. Day 5 (24 Nov) dawned clear and a little cooler. This seemed to be the pattern for the next several days- cloud cover building up during the day with late afternoon thunderstorms, typically with the rain continuing overnight. I knew going in that this was at the end of the short rainy season, so some rain was not at all surprising. The camp manager here (Jimmy) said that the rains were a little later coming than usual this year, as it more typically dry by the latter part of November. The rain did not really cause any problems or prohibit any game drives. Some of the river crossings, especially down in the Mara Reserve, were probably more challenging for the drivers than they would otherwise be, and I was surprised how much standing water there would be on flat sections of ground after a rainstorm. The most significant impact for me was just the lower light levels from the overcast skies - I spent a lot of time shooting at ISO3200. Our morning drive with Josephat as our guide and Julius as our driver was quite productive in terms of bird life, especially around some of the river crossings in the Naboisho Conservancy. Morning sun highlighted the coloration of the Maasai giraffe, noticeably different from the reticulated variety up in Ol Pejeta. A group of grey-backed fiscals enjoying the morning. Would this be called a flutter of fiscals? An Isabelline wheatear, a new species for me. And a male Maasai ostrich, looking for a mate. A mated pair of Kirk's dik-diks. This little species seems to be fairly reclusive, which probably keeps them from being eaten. This scene struck us as a bit unusual, a group of five vultures in the morning sun. But three different species of vulture all together: African white-backed vulture, lappet-faced vulture, and Ruppell's griffon vulture. We sat for a while at one of the river crossings and just watched the birds come and go. Starting with a grey-headed heron reclaiming his favorite parking spot. Continuing with this vulture flying from tree to tree looking for the perfect perch. A nearby Thompson's gazelle had a pair of horns that seemed nearly as long as his legs. A white-headed buffalo weaver busy collecting construction materials for a new nest. And a pair of yellow-billed oxpeckers was just hanging out at their local breakfast joint. Our guide thought this topi calf might be only a day or two old. Harry, driver Julius, and guide Josephat enjoying a bush breakfast in Naboisho Conservancy. And a lilac breasted roller enjoying his own bush breakfast (I think I'll just stick with my toast, thank you) These helmeted guineafowl seem to be fairly common, but are surprisingly hard to photograph as they are always in motion (and usually moving AWAY from the photographer). Sort of the avian equivalent of warthogs . . . What kingfishers eat for breakfast when they get tired of fish . . . And another satisfied bug-eater, this one a female Von der Decken's hornbill. I expect most everyone else has already seen these mwanza flat-headed agamas, but this was the first time I noticed them. In part 1 of this trip report, I did ask readers to take notice of where the elephant calf was nursing. No, the answer is not that the calf was nursing in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. I meant where on the mother elephant the calf was nursing - strangely enough, and something I never knew, elephant mammary glands are located just behind the front legs. And that is relevant why? Well, because the elephant's closest terrestrial relative shares this distinguishing anatomical feature, as does the elephant's closest marine relative (the sea cow/dugong/manatee). In addition to the locaton of the mammary glands and having a long gestation period, these terrestrial cousins share some other common features involving the shape of the toes and toenails, tusk-like dentition, and internal testes in the males. If you were to see these two creatures standing side by side . . . well, you probably wouldn't even notice one of them. Welcome to the world of the little rock hyrax. This little fellow is politely posing for his school yearbook photo (voted LEAST LIKELY TO BE MISTAKEN FOR AN ELEPHANT). And a creature that you might think is closely related to an elephant, but is not. Unfortunately, I did not note down the name of the river where these happy hippos were found. Here is a lovely violet-backed starling: And a hammerkop poised to do something, I'm not quite sure if it was actively hunting or just thinking about it. Our afternoon game drive went to the eastern side of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, new terrain for Harry and me. Finally, a presentable photo of a little bee eater! A lovely striped kingfisher I am always a sucker for zebras. A mother giraffe next to junior What a magnificent pair of horns on this impala When not hunting or scavenging, jackals are really quite striking animals. Definite look of intelligence behind those eyes. The afternoon rain arrived, and soaked a pair of cheetah brothers. Like the lions, still gorgeous even when soaking wet. Day 6 (25 Nov) was an all-day drive from the Mara Camp down into the Mara Reserve. This daytrip bears a little more explanation. I understood that stays of 3 nights or more at Mara Camp include a one-day admission to the Mara Reserve, so Harry and I assumed that one of our two full days at Mara Camp would include this trip. The camp manager Jimmy and our guide Josephat, knowing that we were going on to Lion Camp next, assumed that we would prefer to do our Mara Reserve visit from there, a much shorter drive. However, we only had a 2-night stay at Lion Camp, meaning only one full day there, and I felt we had more time for the Reserve visit during our longer stay at the Mara Camp. Was I right in persisting for a one-day visit to the Reserve from Mara Camp? Well, you will have to keep reading to learn the answer to that question. As with the previous day, this one dawned clear and that first hour provided some of the best game viewing and photography. Most of these photos were taken during the drive through the Naboisho Conservancy to reach the Talek Gate into the Reserve. The total drive takes maybe two hours, but the last hour or so is not particularly scenic. Here is a tawny eagle warming up with the sunrise (and probably also scoping out breakfast opportunities). An already-beautiful lilac breasted roller looks even better in morning light. Everything looks good in morning light, even this Ruppell's griffon vulture. After entering the Reserve via the Talek Gate (and resisting the urge to buy a shuka, necklace, or a Maasai spear (not that the opportunity did not present itself), we did come across this lovely zebra mother with her young foal I do like the "milk chocolate" coloring of the young Zebras. And the zebra lookout. Almost should qualify as a "dazzle of one". Further into the Reserve, we located a leopard sleeping in a tree. Well, maybe more accurately, we located a gaggle of safari vehicles full of tourists all trying to observe a leopard sleeping in a tree. I think our guide quickly understood that this wasn't the Mara we came to see, so we headed off in different directions from the rest of the crowd in search of something out of the ordinary (and, to be honest, some solitude). Josephat soon found us a yellow-throated longclaw . . . Enroute to more open spaces, we did see a herd of elephants (being somewhat harried by safari vehicles and white minivans) and what I gather is somewhat unusual for the Mara, a couple of black rhinos. By only 10AM in the morning, the sky was already starting to cloud up. At our stop for another bush breakfast, we discovered some lion pawprints in the vehicle tracks (hopefully made prior to our arrival, not during . . . or so we convinced ourselves!). There is something special about those Mara landscapes. Those who have been there already know what I mean. Those who haven't been there yet - you have to go and experience this place. As the lion tracks attest, things were a bit damp from heavy rains the night before. The other evidence of recent rains - it seemed that half the puddles were occupied by hyenas cooling their hindquarters! Josephat soon found us a close cousin to the yellow-throated longclaw we had seen earlier in the morning. This would be the rosy-throated variety of the longclaw. I have earlier confessed to my fascination with small mammals in Africa, and thought at some point in my safari future I should visit the Kalahari to see those cute little standing meerkats. Just saved myself a trip, when we came across a group of banded mongoose doing their best meerkat impressions: Not that I can pass up some of the larger mammals: Another of those iconic Mara landscapes. I am pretty sure this is a pale variant of a tawny eagle, but feel free to correct me if that is wrong. That request goes for all of my species identifications and misidentifications. This one I think I can identify with some confidence (always a dangerous thing). Superb starling. Part of the magic of the Mara and surrounding conservancies at this time of year is seeing how quickly everything "greens up" after some rainfall. All the grazers seem to thrive with all the fresh green grass. This small pod of hippos was either on the lower reaches of the Talek River just before it joins the Mara River, or on the main Mara River itself just after the confluence with the Talek (I forgot to ask). And where there are hippos, there often seem to be Nile crocodiles. The riverbank was a promising place to search for small birds. First, a little bee eater (why do they often looked so pissed?)r: And a grey-headed kingfisher: Black-winged Plover (or Black-winged Lapwing, pick your poison) More banded mongoose, some in motion, and some other ones . . . also in motion. I didn't take the photograph of the mating mongoose pair out of prurient interest. Rather, note that the female is continuing to look for food. So much for the whole dinner-and-a-movie thing first! The river levels were still high from the previous evening's rain. They would get higher. The sky began to darken, there were rumbles of thunder in the distance, and the temperature dropped dramatically. Interesting to watch how the animals reacted to an impending storm. Even us humans finally figured that something was coming, and we decided to head for home. We were not quite timely enough with that decision, and spent much of the drive back to the Mara Camp through the pouring rain, with the canvas side covers rolled down. Photographing from open-sided safari vehicles, I expected to come back and have to wipe off some dust and occasional moisture from the cameras and lenses. This was the first time I came back and had to clean mud spatters off of EVERYTHING (including myself). I mentioned before how I was surprised at how water stands on the flat terrain after a rainstorm - this photo gives you a sense of that. Even when the land is dry overall, I guess the soil type here does not allow for rapid infiltration of the rainwater. Closer to camp and through the worst of the rain, we found a couple soggy cheetahs - I think these are the same cheetah brothers we had seen on the previous afternoon. Unlike the young lion cubs from earlier in this Mara Camp adventure, I guess these adolescent cheetahs are old enough to capture that feline look of aggravation and misery at being wet. So, was I right or wrong about insisting on a daytrip to the Mara Reserve this day? WIth the advantage of hindsight (and especially after visiting Lion Camp), the camp staff at the Mara Camp was right and I was wrong. You do lose some transit time getting from camp to the Reserve, and some of the drive right after entering the Talek Gate is not particularly interesting, but in a sense you gain that time back by having lunch in the Reserve instead of returning to camp for a lunch break. My real issue is that, after enjoying the relative solitude of the private conservancies, the Mara Reserve just seemed . . . overcrowded with tourists. Some behaving badly. I still love the Mara, it is a special place, but I fear it is being loved to death. Too many people for my tastes, even in off-season. In retrospect, I would have done as well for game viewing and photography to have stayed in the Ol Kinyei and Naboisho conservancies for those 12 hours, and I would have had a more enjoyable time in the process. End of sermon . . . Day 7 (26 Nov) dawned with a light overcast. This was our day to drive (rather than fly) from the Mara Camp over to the Lion Camp, a drive of roughly 2 hours duration. However, we coupled this with a morning game drive through the Naboisho Conservancy, so it became more like a 6-hour journey. The most fascinating part of this trip was watching a pair of young male lions slowly working their way from east to west through the Conservancy. Josephat thought they were from out of the area, and either looking for new territory or trying to reunite with their pride. You know how older male lions show their age with scars and other wear and tear? These two young lions (Joesphat estimated 5-6 years old) were in magnificent shape, positively beautiful. As you are about to see for yourselves . . . These two tended to mosey along at 100 yds or more apart, so I did not capture too many photographs of them together. A few more subjects of interest from our drive over to Lion Camp. Bare-faced go-away-bird Tawny eagle hunting on the ground White-backed vulture feeding on carcass A crested lark Blue-headed tree agama A Ruppell's griffon vulture (I think) And one more cheetah portrait I will end this portion of the trip report with a parting photo of our driver Julius and our guide Josephat, and a sincere thank you to both of them and to manager Jimmy and all the other staff at Mara Camp. And for those readers that have stuck with me so far, I should warn you that Part 3 will have cats, cats, and more cats. However, due to a travel commitment, I won't be able to post Part 3 until another two weeks or so. Sorry about the dramatic pause...
  3. 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: https://www.porini.com/kenya/porini-camps/porini-lion-camp/ 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 great...one 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: http://www.porinisafaricamps.com/responsible-tourism.htm 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.
  4. Just saw this blog post in my mailbox. I can't help but share it. This guy really had his wits about him to be able to capture the leopard Fig's takedown of an impala. When people wonder why I'd sit so long waiting at a sighting, this would be my answer!
  5. This was my longest, four weeks, safari, and the first time I was responsible for leading a group, unless you call my husband and myself a group. There were actually two groups. One group of eight visited three of the four David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust facilities, leaving out the Voi Reintigration Unit, and spent a week in the Mara at Kicheche Bush Camp in Olare Motorogi, and then a more serious group of photographers joined me at Kicheche Mara Camp in Mara North Conservancy for a week followed by a week at Lewa Safari Camp in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The first group consisted mostly of supporters of the DSWT who wanted to visit the orphan elephants they sponsor and add in a little safari. None had ever traveled out of the US before, let alone been on safari. I will spare you the details of the joys of managing that and stick to the facts you really want to know about the places we visited. The arrangements were all booked through Bustani Safaris. It is a husband and wife team, the wife being native Kenyan. They only do custom safari arrangements, no pre-packaged trips. You tell them what you want to do and they make it happen. Jambi has a way of getting things done! The safari really started in Karen with a visit to the Giraffe Centre to see the Rothschilde giraffes there. I know we all go to Africa to see animals in the wild, but there is also something about being really close. I mean REALLY close. (My beautiful daughter.) From there we went for a private visit with the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the Nairobi National Park. Our group was allowed to mingle with the elephants at feeding time. Dinner and overnight accommodations were at Karen Blixen Cottages. Highly recommend. The group was in high spirits from the day's activities and in anticipation of the bush flight the next day. The next day it was off to Wilson Airport. The completion of the Southern Bypass has definitely helped eased the traffic congestion. It's a shame though the impact it has had on the park. We chartered a Cessna 208 Caravan from Safarilink to fly us to Umani Springs in the Kibwezi Forest in the Chyulu Hills. There are no scheduled flights near here and with eight in the party plus extra photo gear the cost was reasonable. The even had a sack meal for us for the 45 min. flight! They took special care of my camera gear, two rolling bags, a large Gura Gear backpack and my 400mm in a soft case. They let me keep it in my possession right up until the time it was loaded into the cargo hold. Our two guides and vehicles and Jambi and Peter had left in the wee hours of the morning with the food and the ALCOHOL in time to meet us at the grass airstirp. The DSWT properties are self-catering in that you provide food and beverage. They provide everything else, including a chef named Peter at Umani who in my book could cook at any 5 star restaurant. The waiter, another Peter, was friendly and attentive. Housekeeping and laundry was done with a smile by Lefty and Michael patrolled the unfenced grounds at night to make sure wildlife didn't cause any trouble. It's about a 20 minute drive through Chyulu National Park and the Kibwezi Forest to the lodge, but it's not really a game drive. The bush is very thick and other than a few bushbuck and a squirrel that kept playing chicken with our Land Cruisers, we could spot very little wildlife. Tse tse flies were also in residence at the time, so the vehicles had to remain closed up. In other words, we were there to see the elephants, not go on game drives. The lodge itself rivals some of the finest in Kenya, as long as you enjoy outdoor showers and commodes for some of the units. Showers are running water, solar heated. Hyrax right outside my balcony As guest of the lodge you have exclusive rights to visit the orphans at the Umani Springs Reintegration Unit. Most of the elephants here have special needs and have been brought to this newest unit in the forest environment which is less demanding that the Tsavo region of the other units where orphans are reintroduced to the wild. You can visit at 6am at feeding time until the elephants decide it is time to walk out into the bush, usually about an hour, again at 11 am at the mud bath right in front of the lodge, and again at the stockades at 5pm for their evening feeding. The keepers are with you at all times for everyone's safety and are happy to answer all questions. They are also very happy to take pictures of you with the elephants, especially if your camera is set on burst! While relaxing at the lodge we were able to observe many birds, butterflies, baboons, and a distant herd of wild elephants. We took a bush walk to the springs hoping to see the 12 ft python that is a resident, but no luck. After three nights we packed into the vehicles and headed for the northern part of Tsavo East and Ithumba Camp. To be continued... And I hope this green tint is gone once I post. It's not in my photos in Lightroom, only when I preview them here. My monitor was calibrated two days ago.
  6. I am back from my 10 nights safari in Maasai Mara: 3 nights in Naboisho (Porini Mara) and 7 nights in OMC (Porini Lion) Warning #1: it was a little bit different type of safari so I guess this trip report will have a very limited audience. I spent 80% of my time with cheetahs. I sat with them almost from sunrise till sunset. We visited other animals only when cheetahs were sleeping (e.g. early morning or after cheetahs seemed to be settled for the night) or if we could not find our "victims". Saying this we still had some very very nice leopard and lion sightings but there will be a LOT of cheetah pictures. Please don't complain , I warned you. Warning #2: Please don't shoot the pianist, he is playing the best he can ©. While I was trying to do all my best to have good pictures, due to the lack of light, a lot of action, and lack of photography skills some photos are not that good (or better to say " not good at all") but I will post them anyway as they are part of the story
  7. Our first trip to Kenya. (MrsQ a.k.a @Thursday’s Child and I) We have visited a number of other African countries but never Kenya. Why? – ignorance based on inaccurate stereotypes of a Kenyan safari. Well, Safaritalk has put us right – many thanks to those of you who have contributed Kenya trip reports. The trip was booked through Expert Africa following long and helpful discussions with Richard Trillo (a Safaritalk member @@richard Trillo) and with Eleanor Dunkels. We had used Expert Africa to book our Zambia trip a couple of years ago and were pleased with them again. Summary of Trip: Wilson Aero Club Nairobi 1 night (January 9th) Offbeat Meru 4 nights Kicheche Laikipia, Ol Pejeta 5 nights Kicheche Bush, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights The rains had been heavier and longer than is usual. Before the visit we nervously checked the weather forecasts and hoped! All of our previous safaris had been in the dry season. Still, it would be interesting.
  8. 1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Kicheche Bush Camp 2) Website Choseaddress if known: http://kicheche.com/our-camps/bush-camp 3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known). September 2014, High Season 4) Length of stay: 4 nights 5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what? Chosen due to its guiding reputation and accommodations for photographers. Unlimited game drives. 6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently? Booked through Bustani Safaris 7) How many times have you been on Safari? Twice 8) To which countries? Kenya only 9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to? Several of the Serana properties, Galdessa 10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No. Our first night there we were visited by both elephants and lions in camp. All is good as long as the hyenas don't get into the mess tent. Askari patrol at night to keep you safe. 11) How many rooms/tents does it have? Six tents 12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? Tumbili. View of the savanna. Private 13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? Very comfortable 14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why. The food was outstanding. Darren, the manager was formerly a baker. Request the Macadamia Nut Tart, or the Creme Brulee, or... 15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?) Set menu, but dietary preferences and restrictions were cheerfully catered to. 16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? Communal dining with the managers supplying interesting and lively conversation and information. 17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives? Excellent, especially the Kenyan Quesadillas! 18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. 19) How many guests per row? We had a private vehicle 20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken? You set the length. You can stay out until lunch, or even take a packed lunch and stay out until dinner. No specific route. You go where there is something interesting to see. Game sighting starts in camp. 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 above 22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like? Private conservancy. I think the most we saw was two other vehicles at any given time. 23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity? 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. The one to make the sighing does not get bumped. That way everyone is more likely to inform everyone else when they have made a good sighting. 26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings? Big cats. Fifty different lions in one day! Five different cheetahs in four days. A leopard within the first 3 hours. All the species the Mara is known for. 27) How was the standard of guiding? Top notch. They only hire Silver level guides. 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? Nelson and I are now Facebook friends and he keeps me updated on what's going on with the different animals on the conservancy, so no bad experiences! 29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why: His knowledge was immense and his ability to read the environment to find cheetahs was almost mystical. He was able to find lions in complete darkness. Always seemed to be able to anticipate an animal's movement and be able to position the vehicle for the best angle for viewing and light. The guides at the Kicheche camps have driven for some of the best wildlife photographers in the world. 30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs? Absolutely. 31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known. Yes. http://www.mmconservancy.com/wildlifeconservancy/ 32) Safaritalk trip report link: 33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: The Kicheche camps are owned by a wildlife photographer and therefore know what the needs of photographers are and cater to them. The guides are well trained to drive for photographers and many are accomplished photographers themselves. 34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings. Inside tent Veranda Bucket shower Path to tent Visitor that strolled past during lunch
  9. Kenya - February 2016 It was the best of safaris. It was the most provocative of safaris. I experienced the single greatest day amongst countless safari days I have spent in my life – a day in which I shed tears of pure joy and appreciation for life… twice. I witnessed the aftermath of the severe drought of 2015 and the associated livestock encroachment into many parks and reserves of Kenya. And along the way, I was able to share fantastic wilderness moments and heady conversations about conservation with an old friend, James Sengeny, and a new friend, Squack Evans. This one… hit like a ton of bricks.
  10. 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
  11. Gotta escape the snow and the cold. In a few days, I am heading for Kenya once again… Namunyak (Sarara), Samburu (Elephant Bedroom), Loisaba (Cottages), Tsavo West (Severin and camping near Lake Jipe), Masai Mara/Olare Motorogi (Kicheche Bush). I will be guided by Squack Evans in the north and James Sengeny in the Mara. The highlight, however, will be when I will be with both at Lake Jipe. Squack is going to provide a very simple mobile bush camp there (and James must come since a few years ago James and I sort of "discovered" that Lake Jipe might be the best kept secret in Kenya). Will report back soon.
  12. Here is another of Mr Cheetah80's videos - summarising sightings from our 3 trip to Kenya. Makes me want to go back! PS - watch in HD

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