janzin

Can one have too much time in the Masai Mara! A resounding NO! Safari Sept 2016

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14 hours ago, Galana said:

Also looking in and mightily impressed with your usual capture of the spirit of Safari going..Catching up took me to the Cisticola saga.

Your new puzzler in 98 could be a Stout although there are great similarities with your Wailer in 118.  Those Cisticolas are worse than our Sparrows in North America. You of course could be right, and if it were Stout, it would be a lifer! But should it count this far after the fact, lol?

You have no need to fret over the excellent Serval and single Cheetah cub quality. They are beautiful and you should be rightly proud of them.  (The Serval has a Grass Rat, you can see the tail!) Ah thanks for the ID!

Indeed the quality of both the Serval and the Cheetah on the termite are so good it lets me reach for my big drum.:o Your photos show to me that there is absolutely NO need to go off road at all. Even when you had to use the converter and allegedly 'messed up' the settings you got absolutely excellent shots. What would going off road have achieved except probably crushing the smaller unseen creatures and maybe ground nesting birds  & eggs as well as compacting the soil?

Surely those superb photos, the Cheetah cub is so lovely, are all the better for not having gone off road? It is a better and more eco friendly achievement. (End of drum banging!) To misquote Sydney Carton " It is a far, far better thing that you do, than you have ever done;":wacko: 

 

For the most part I agree with you about the off-road issue; in fact, what I've found in both Kenya and Tanzania is that "off-road" really means something different than what I'd expected...there are many, many tracks that are considered to be "legal" and so its not as limiting as one would expect. Even in areas where one can off-road, in the conservancies, the guides were careful to keep on these already existing tracks as much as possible.

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Yes indeed, we are not done with cats!

 

One may wonder at this point, are there any lions in the Triangle? Indeed, there are...although there did not seem to be the big prides that we found in the conservancies; if they were there, we didn't find them. However we did see lions every day.  On our first day we saw two large males but the were wandering away from us, and here was a case where due to the roads we could not really follow them, so we went on to other things.

 

One early morning we did spend a little time with this lioness.

 

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And later that afternoon, this tired lady.

 

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But our best lion sighting was on our very last morning, with our "new" guide Daniel. We were due to fly back to Nairobi at 11 a.m. from the Seronera airstrip. Well that still gave us plenty of time for a morning drive...and believe it or not, it was again one of the best! (There were many "best" drives on this trip!)

 

It started out bright and early with this pair walking towards us on the road. It had rained the night before...note the puddles.

 

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As they headed into the grass, we discovered they were not alone!

 

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In fact there were several cubs, we counted five.

 

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One can never have too much time with lion cubs...well, or any cubs for that matter.

 

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Practicing ferocity!

 

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We soon realized there was a kill.

 

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A little love over shared breakfast.

 

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After breakfast, it was time for a drink. Luckily the closest puddle was directly in front of our vehicle!

 

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I'm thirsty too ma!

 

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What's that big metal thing in the road?

 

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Full belly.

 

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After going back to the kill, the moms decided to drag it further into the bushes. The light was getting really flat and dim and we feared it might rain again, but the rain held off.

 

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The kids still wanted to play, however.

 

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Soon they were back into the brush and we moved on. Were our cat sightings now done for the trip? If so, we'd be content...but...maybe there was still a chance for more...

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Nothing I love in the world more than lion cubs.  Gorgeous shots and wonderful sighting!!  The suspense is palpable!

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My money's on another cat sighting or two! :)  Some classic lion shots there.

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Well the trip was rapidly coming to a close, as our flight was scheduled to leave from Seronera at 11:10--but the Mara wasn't done with us yet. We still had a couple of hours, so continued to see what we might find.

 

We came across a hyena with a stolen kill. But who was stealing from who here? And why was this kill abandoned? We couldn't be sure...

 

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As the hyena made his way with his prize, another interloper came looking for spoils...

 

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I do believe the hyena got the best of this, but soon they were running off into the grass, so we kept on.

 

There were a couple of nice birds that morning...

 

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And our first hornbill of the trip!

 

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But in the distance we could see several vehicles converging.  As we approached, this is what greeted us...

 

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Unfortunately, this was the one instance where there were many, many vehicles present, as it was not far from the crossing sites and I guess there was no crossing activity that morning, so everyone was searching for cheetah.  The rangers were present, and doing crowd control...only allowing (i think) 5 or so vehicles to approach at a time. We waited our turn. Yes it was frustrating but we'd had so many good cat sightings this trip, and it was our last day, so we put up with the circus and tried to be patient. This kitty was too good to pass by.

 

Once we were allowed a closer position, the kitty indeed proved to be worth the wait!

 

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What a beauty, and posing so nicely for us!

 

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We actually spent quite a bit of time with him; our guides seemed to be on good terms with the rangers and it was my impression they gave us more time than some of the other vehicles. We would move a bit, then return to a good spot. 

 

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Mr. Cheetah didn't seem at all perturbed by all the attention.

 

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Unfortunately I don't know who this cheetah is either, and again, while I sent his photo to the Mara Cheetah project, they never responded :( so I gave up trying to figure it out.

 

Eventually he seemed to be sleeping up on this mound, and we needed to make our way back to the airstrip, so this would be the last of our cat sightings. :(

 

The trip would continue for just a bit in Nairobi...once we got there!  We arrived at the airstrip at about 10:40 for our Air Kenya flight at 11:10; that time came and went...and other flights came and went...and still no plane.  After an hour waiting were starting to get really worried (of course, Daniel and our spotter waited with us) but we were assured it was coming...  Finally, at a little after noon, it finally showed up. We were at least pleasantly surprised to find that it was a larger plane than the SafariLink plane we arrived in, so it would be a little more comfortable (and we were pretty stressed waiting!) What a relief!

 

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The late arrival would put a bit of a crimp on the rest of the day, because we only had a dayroom at the Ololo Lodge (I mistakenly listed this as on overnight in post #1, but it wasn't an overnight), and really wouldn't have time to safari in Nairobi National Park as we'd expected. But there was just a bit more to come.

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Wonderful trip report. Loved all the spotted cats from the large to the small. The descriptions it made me feel like I was experiencing it for myself. Thank you for telling your story.

 

Those crossings are crazy! We are immersed in them during our safariLive drives at times, and many either can't watch or root for the prey as well. I root for the crocodile, because they've not had anything to eat but fish for 9 months, but I also root for when the young that manage to cross without issue. I enjoy seeing how the bounty nature brings to the Mara allows for species of all sorts to benefit. From crocodiles to lions and even the vultures. Allowing them to survive on meager prey for the rest of the year. That's just my take on it, though. 

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Outstanding photos of some excellent sightings! 

 

So many kills. Even the Serval makes the kill in front of your camera. 

The private conservancies is really the place to be in Mara. Thinking of going there again but this time in low/green season. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Sadly, we are about to head home. But first we have a brief drive through Nairobi National Park (it should have been a bit of a safari drive, but since we arrived over an hour later than planned, we really had very little time to rest before our flight, so we told our driver to go straight through.)

 

However, we did pick up one new mammal for the trip during our drive--Eland!

 

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Otherwise, all we saw on our cross-park journey were a giraffe and some birds, but we didn't stop.

 

The Ololo Lodge is a lovely property on the far edge of the park. The property is high on an embankment overlooking the park and was originally a farm. On arrival (after a bit of a steep climb up from the car park) we were treated to a light lunch. My OH of course went off to nap while I wandered the grounds looking for birds, and finding quite a few to photograph. The property abounds with flowers and birds and I picked up a few new ones for the trip here--in fact, a couple of life birds!

 

I spent much time down on the lawn trying to photograph the many White-browed Sparrow-Weavers.

 

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Lifer!!

 

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And another Lifer!!

 

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There were also many other birds which we hadn't seen in the Mara, including some unidentified Weavers, finches, and a lifer Blue-naped Mousebird (no decent photo unfortunately.) 

 

After a too-brief rest and a shower, we had a delicious light dinner outside on the patio overlooking the park...and surprise, who else was having dinner but one of the couples we had met when we ran into The Wild Source's Tanzania group at the border! We had a pleasant time chatting with them and sharing stories (they had actually been at Ololo overnight, and were leaving for the airport after dinner, as we were.)

 

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the airport. :(

 

So to sum up, Ololo Lodge is a fantastic place...with lovely, friendly Australian hosts...and very good food...which I highly recommend...BUT...its a long drive to and from the airports (at least 45 minutes) and then a bit of a slog (after a tiring day) up and down their stone steps...so I'd generally recommend staying there overnight, unless you are arriving in early morning.  I'm glad we added these new birds but there was part of me that wished we had just stayed at the very serviceable Eka Hotel (where we stayed on our arrival night in Kenya) which was 15 minutes from the airport, to truly feel rested.

 

So that ends my Masai Mara trip report. Thank you for following along and I hope it may have convinced (those of you who haven't yet been) to visit Kenya and the fantastic Mara. If you've been, I hope it brought back some memories :) I am certainly eager to return and see more of this wonderful country.

Edited by janzin
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Thank you @janzin I have enjoyed this so much, including the Photoshop tips. It has kept my impatience level down so that now you have finished I only have 17 days until we leave for Kenya. Staying in the EKA on our last night so your advice is most welcome on that. If we see half the animals and birds you did it will be a fantastic trip. Pen

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Thank you, great photography as always, and you had many seriously awesome sightings, enjoyed this one a lot. Surprised you did not see a single Eland in the Mara btw, I'm quite sure I saw several every single day on my two trips.

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2 hours ago, penolva said:

Thank you @janzin I have enjoyed this so much, including the Photoshop tips. It has kept my impatience level down so that now you have finished I only have 17 days until we leave for Kenya. Staying in the EKA on our last night so your advice is most welcome on that. If we see half the animals and birds you did it will be a fantastic trip. Pen

Thanks @penolva I'm sure you will have an amazing trip and I look forward to your report!

 

25 minutes ago, michael-ibk said:

Thank you, great photography as always, and you had many seriously awesome sightings, enjoyed this one a lot. Surprised you did not see a single Eland in the Mara btw, I'm quite sure I saw several every single day on my two trips.

@michael-ibkI was surprised too, but for whatever reason we just didn't see any Eland in the Mara. Thanks for coming along :)

 

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Shame you didn't get longer in Nairobi NP - excellent for Rhino sightings!

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1 hour ago, michael-ibk said:

Thank you, great photography as always, and you had many seriously awesome sightings, enjoyed this one a lot. Surprised you did not see a single Eland in the Mara btw, I'm quite sure I saw several every single day on my two trips.

 

I was thinking this too.  On my first time in the Mara I saw no eland or topi.  Second time it was so many topi I couldn't count them.  Third time herds of eland which I'd not seen on the previous two trips. I wonder if weather/grass availability had anything to do with that?

 

I find the eland interesting for that enormous appendage hanging from their necks (my guide had a name for it, and said that on mature bulls it was extremely heavy).  How they run with that hanging in front confounds me.

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Wonderful report with wonderful photos, @janzin! Almost like being there myself. 

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@janzin Good pictures!

I used to live in Mara, so many nice places to visit :)

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