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After reading pault's great report on his recent trip it reminded me i am very behind on posting a trip report from our most recent safari. My wife and i celebrated our honeymoon 5 years ago in Kenya and Tanzania and after fully catching the safari bug we have done subsequent trips to zimbabwe, botswana, south africa and Zambia.

 

Each trip has been amazing and different but we both were excited about the prospect of returning to Kenya and Tanzania. We had some extra time for this vacation so we decided to add Rwanda and gorilla trekking to the end since it was a major bucket list item for both of us.

 

After doing a ton of research and with the help of trip advisor and the generous folks on this site we decided on 3 Serian camps. From our limited experience we have come to prioritize top notch guiding, the ability to do some off roading and night drives, and being in the right areas at the hopefully the right time of year. And to be honest the value proposition of a private vehicle for every guest with an extremely strong reputation for guiding at Serian camps sealed the deal.

We booked the trip directly with one of Serians agents based in england (billy jones) and she was patient with my many many questions and very responsive despite the time difference.

 

Final Itinerary

Arrive JKIA Nairobi, Kenya. Transfer to Giraffe Manor. Overnight Giraffe Manor, Nairobi.

Visit Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage & Giraffe Centre.

PM fly to Masai Mara. Overnight Ngare Serian, Mara North Conservancy.

Overnight Ngare Serian.

Overnight Ngare Serian.

Transfer by road to Nkorombo Mobile Camp.
Overnight Nkorombo Mobile Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve.

Overnight Nkorombo Mobile Camp.

Overnight Nkorombo Mobile Camp.

AM fly to Northern Serengeti, Tanzania.
Overnight Alex Walker’s Lamai Camp, Northern Serengeti.

Overnight Lamai Camp.

Overnight Lamai Camp.

Overnight Lamai Camp.

PM fly to Kigali, Rwanda.

 

 

 

 

 

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After being unable to secure a room at Giraffe Manor on our honeymoon we were able to get in off the waitlist for this trip. It is undoubtedly extremely expensive but my wife was really excited about the prospect of waking up to giraffe at the window!

Despite not having a ton of time we decided the splurge was worth it. Our flight arrived late in the evening and after waiting for all of the bags to come out of the machine neither of ours were there (among many other people). we waited in the line to give our information very worried about the prospect of seeing our bags at any point of the trip given that we were leaving the next day for the mara and not having a working mobile phone with us.

 

We took the short trip to Karen in Nairobi and entered the gates to Giraffe Manor. It was very late, maybe 2:30AM at this point as our ordeal took several hours, and we were tired, frustrated and hungry. We were greeted by the manager who was absolutely delightful and sensing we might be hungry said how about some chicken pot pie? at 3am!! it was the best pot pie we had ever eaten and we were so grateful for this type of service.

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having arrived in the pitch black we had no idea how gorgeous the grounds were. being the only place that offers this type of unique experience i was a little skeptical that we would be overpaying and they could rest on their laurels and let other aspects of the experience slide. this couldn't have been further from the truth. the grounds were immaculate, the food top notch and the service spectacular. (more on this later)
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We had scheduled a later flight so we could go back to Daphne Shedrick's elephant orphanage which we had done 5 years ago and was a highlight for my wife. It really is a special place and the work they do there is unfortunately only becoming more necessary as more and more elephant are poached or injured in traps or falling in wells etc..

Daily they allow visitors to make a donation and view the feeding of the ele's for an hour. watching the baby eles eat and play with their handlers who really are remarkable people spending all day with their assigned orphans including sleeping with them

 

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this guy hadn't quit figured out how to use his trunk yet!

 

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From here our driver took us to a local mall to buy 1-2 things just to have at least one extra change of clothes in case our bags never showed up. We returned to Giraffe Manor and the wonderful manager took all of our information for our itinerary and promised to look into our bags for us. We had a nice lunch and headed to the airport for our flight. At least we were traveling light!

 

Our flight was delayed an hour but once in the air our excitement level picked up. We made 1-2 stops and then landed at the airstrip close to Mara North conservancy. We were picked up by our guide James and elected to go straightaway on a game drive. Within the first 5 minutes we witnessed the first action of the trip, a pair of jackals hunting killed a baby warthog that had JUST been born. James noticed it was still wet from the birth.

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A little further on we found this little jackal pup waiting outside of his den waiting for his parents to return with a meal
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After another hour or two of seeing the first of many many hyenas, some large bull elephants and assorted other antelope we arrived at the Serian camps. The main camp is on one side of the river tucked into the trees, and Ngare is located across a suspension bridge. Quite an entrance, and we loved everything about the camp that Alex Walker designed. We had requested Room 4 which is the last room so the most private with a view of the hippo pool. Elevated on platforms but with tented size, the rooms were enormous and had a great bathtub built into the deck. Some people might be turned off by having to zip out of the tent to use the bathroom at night but i thought it added to the fun.
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We met camp managers Adrian and Roison (rosh) and their dog Wifi, all three of whom we loved. Rosh was so nice and let my wife borrow some clothes since we still didn't know where our bags were.
They did update us that the manager at Giraffe Manager had contacted them and he was in touch with the airline and tracking our bags down for us. great service for a one night stay...
We had a great dinner, and exhausted from jet lag and a lot of activity we crashed for the evening ready to head out early the following day refreshed.
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We wanted to take advantage of as many of the special activities allowed in Mara North and on offer at Ngare as we could in our limited 3 nights: hiking, fishing, night drives, offroading etc..

We had a spectacular morning the day we chose to do a hike. We were supposed to have Alex Walker joining us in Serengeti portion of the trip but he had been busted off roading there and had been suspended for 3 months to make an example of him! So he was with us for the masai mara portion of the trip and led our walking safari with armed guards.

We departed straight from the camp and walked up to the top of the escarpment behind the lodge.

 

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We saw some giraffe from a safe distance and then some klipspringer dangling on the side of the rock face but for the most part it was a gentle safari from a game viewing perspective but the view was well worth the effort and we had time to talk with alex about some of the local politics and his concerns and hopes for the mara and the conservancies.

 

Here one of the Masai guards taking in the view

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On the way back to camp we stopped by the treehouse located a short distance for the camp to check it out as we were thinking of spending a night fly camping (if i could convince my wife!!)

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marci checking out the accommodations while debating whether she was up for it

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Alex told us how the first night he spent up in the treehouse after building it he saw a leopard walk right by. Not sure if that helped or hurt my chances convincing marci..

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The dog was named Wifi? Love it! Wonder if they advertise as having "Wifi available at camp."

Good stuff so far, interested to see whether you ended up staying in the treehouse!

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The Giraffe Manor shots are classic! What a catch with the jackal kill.

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Posted (edited)

The Mara North conservancy really is a special place, and each drive there are just so many unique things to see, shared with so few vehicles. it was really hard to choose which camp given the unbelievably strong following that these camps have. Kicheche has so many loyal followers on these pages and trip advisor and we saw their vehicles occasionally, but really you can do your own thing and rely on your guides to provide special and unique drives.

 

A few seconds onto our drive we spotted this hyena

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I could use some help identifying this eagle (maybe tawny)

 

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Stunning flower, also need help from the crowd for this one

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Secretary bird, one of my personal favorites (always taking notes on our trip!)

 

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Our first male lion of the trip, a great looking healthy young male

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The kicheche guides found this leopard, and this was the only time i felt a little crowded in Mara North (3 vehicles)

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Nursing thompson gazelle recently dropped

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Crowned cranes, absolute treat of a sighting

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Baby giraffe (yes this is all the same drive, the mara is absurd for density)

 

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The mara north has to be one of the best places to see and watch gigantic clans of hyena. even with the consistent lion presence the guides said its the hyena who are the constantly dictating the action in the conservancy

 

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Edited by sek07
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Thanks for posting. Very enjoyable to read of your experiences and you have some great shots. Really like the jackals and the male lion is a beauty.

Did you ever spend the night in the tree house?

Looking forward to more...

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Oh, I got a call out! :) Thank you.

 

Hey, I know some of those animals I am sure.... well, it could just be my imagination. Good to see and hear about it. And I am very happy you got to see some Crowned Cranes and decided to do all the activities on offer. Marci looks up for the tree house to me (if we are betting).

 

And some gossip - Alex Walker busted! it is still gossip if he told you himself, isn't it?

 

That is a "maybe" Tawny Eagle for me too. for sure maybe. A common name of the flower is a Blood Lily.

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Back to camp with a wonderful lunch by the river. I would like to point out that one of the staff was a deaf masai and i'd like to commend Alex for hiring him as we understood that culturally this young man would have very little opportunity presented to him and would likely have been ostracized to some extent in his community. Its little things like this that make a difference in peoples lives, and i'm happy to support someone with my business who will go against the norm to do something like this.

 

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perfect time for M to take a tub overlooking the hippos during siesta

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and perfect time for me to try fishing during the siesta with camp manager Adrian. we set out on foot from camp with WIFI and maybe some of the beef from the pantry for bait..

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So not only were we a few feet away from Hippo in the water, but i looked down next to my feet and there were FRESH leopard tracks in the mud.

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I had several bites but couldn't reel in the catch, but Adrian brought in a catfish which we released (terrible picture but i was trying to balance my rod and camera and keep one eye out!)

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we were having such a nice peaceful time we lost track of time and were late for our meeting time for our evening drive

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We finally met up with James, Alex, and Marci and set out on our next adventure. After trying unsuccessfully to find a leopard for a bit we came across this standoff

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The jackal was extremely agitated by the marauding hyena, and we didn't realize why until we came around the corner

 

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these little pups we so curious about the vehicle.

 

After spending some quality time with the jackal family we continued on after James heard some lions calling.

After a bit of searching this is who we found. Normally i wouldn't post a picture with red eye (or green eye here!), but i think it accurately depicts what is on his mind...

 

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I always feel a little guilty not giving more privacy

 

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As you can see it was getting dark and thats one of the main reasons we always try to include somewhere we can do night drives. In other parks we would have left before it got interesting. I tried to upload a video of what came next but the file is too big. we got to sit in the pitch dark as the lions all around us starting roaring and calling. what a way to end the night!

 

 

 

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A very special hyena/jackal interaction!

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Still no bags after a few days! Supposedly they have been located and wheels are in motion but we were making due with the help of the great staff and having a great time

 

After such a great end to the night we got a great night's sleep and were recharged to go early in the AM.

Again as we pulled out of the camp we were treated to another sighting of a hyena. we couldn't tell if they had stolen the kill or had done it themselves.

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James thought we should make a quick stop to one of the known hyena den's and never one to question a great guide's advice we went.. it provided this great sighting

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Next up, our first crossing of the trip. A very small one, but it still counts!

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A little while on we had what would be one of our best sightings of the trip. An extremely relaxed leopard on a walk about marking his territory for about an hour.

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who's watching who?

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They seemed to know he wasn't in hunting mood but still kept a very close eye

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James then made a decision that seemed random at the time but that every great guide we've had seems to make. they just sense where the animals are going next. we drove way ahead and parked the vehicle and only to have the leopard change course and come directly at us. Look at those blue eyes

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And then we knew why we parked where we did

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There is nothing quite so adrenaline-pumping and thrilling as hearing and seeing lions at night!

Isn't it amazing to see how difficult it is for animals to protect their offspring from predators?

Hopefully the hyena did not harm the jackal pups?

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Love hyena pups, too. They are so cute and adorable...until they grow up

You were so lucky with this beautiful leopard. Great sequence.

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KAlica the hyena left them alone after the mother persistently harassed it thankfully, although you can see in one of the pics the one pup has some blood on its head

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Posted (edited)

After the leopard layed down for what appeared to be a good rest we continued on.

We found a baby ele playing in the mud

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a lioness found a nice spot for a snooze

 

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some baby piglets

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an ostrich mating dance

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a herd of buffalo

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That afternoon we did a game drive down to nkorombo camp with alex and james. on the way we had some great cub activity

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And our bags arrived in time for us to take them with us. The manager from Giraffe Manor picked them up at the airport for us and dropped them at wilson airport for a flight to the mara. Next level service.

Edited by sek07
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Just adorable. Great sightings. I hope to be in the Mara Jun/July 2017. It seems when you went the grass was still green, but quite short. Correct?

They tell me that June has high grass and it will be harder to spot cats.

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Amazing so far! Can't wait for the rest!

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KaliCA they had experienced recent rains but the grass was short because the migration had just left.. we caught up with it in the reserve and serengeti mara

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Really good leopard sighting! That looks like the big old male I saw resting in Leopard Gorge, doing absolutely nothing. Do you know if it was in that area? And if ir was him, James might have told you thte story about him raising his younger half-sister after his mother died.

 

And they have more hyena and jackal pups? They must have a conveyor belt of them there.

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That leopard sighting would have made my trip! Wonderful.

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KaliCA they had experienced recent rains but the grass was short because the migration had just left.. we caught up with it in the reserve and serengeti mara

We were in the Mara Serengeti side during August and while it was green at some spots along rivers, it was mostly golden grass plains like we have here in CA. So I'm looking to go during the green season but still see lots of game. Not sure if that is even possible. If the grass is tall it will be much harder to spot cats.

I'll be curious to see where exactly you saw the migration in September. Were they on their way back to Lobo and further east?

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James is incredible. super guide. we loved him!

 

great capture of the leopard, and amazing interaction between hyena and jackal.

 

can't wait to see how you found Nkorombo.

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