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Posted (edited)

@pault - I'd assume March/April when the rains arrive the game viewing moves away from the river and possibly into the conservancy?  Would the roads be a nightmare though?

 

Loving the report along with the fabulous photography as always ....... 

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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I have to say that I can't wait to go on safari with Zarek Cockar in October. It will be the first time for me, but there will undoubtedly to come. I first met him at Kichche Laikipia Camp in 2011 when he was working as the assistant manager, needless to say I was tremendously impressed with him. I then decided to go on safari with him because I was  inspired by him that I decided to go on safari with him this year. I missed my first trip in February due to severe illness, however, I decided to take a ten day trip instead of the four days which I had planned originally.  

 

I will write more later about Samburu and Saruni Samburu camp later. I have also visited the Singing Wells and two different Samburu villages one when I stayed at Ol Malo Camp and one at my first stay at Sarara Camp. It was simply astonishing. 

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1 hour ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@pault - I'd assume March/April when the rains arrive the game viewing moves away from the river and possibly into the conservancy?  Would the roads be a nightmare though?

 

Loving the report along with the fabulous photography as always ....... 

 

That's the theory - when there is water and fresh grass and browse available the animals will move to take advantage of that availability, although which conservancy and how far they go is up to the animals obviously.Far as I know near the river will always be the most reliable place. Roads would be slippy and slidy for sure, but shouldn't be a nightmare. Roads are not really inferior in quality to e.g. Olare Motorogi.

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@pault loving this report, the amusing tales of part I and the great sightings of part II - and your spectacular photos throughout. Especially love the lion photos!

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Wonderful Lion hunt you saw in Samburu @pault!   

 

And I love the group photo of everyone in post #53.   Always nice when the guys with AK-47's are smiling.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Second full day at Saruni and we opted for the same morning routine, but there was a twist today as we would be joined by one other guest. We were at the door to our palace at 6 am but no vehicle. Since we knew something was wrong (those guys take their job very seriously and there is no way they would just be late) we walked up onto the rock next to our villa, where we could see up to the central area. Sure enough the guys and their vehicle were there and so I jogged up (the last of the stiffness had left my legs now) and asked what was up. The other guest hadn’t showed and James was just on the way to see what had happened to her. While waiting for we enjoyed the dawn (but this bonus didn’t save the offending young woman from the patented “Mrs K Ice Bath” treatment for the first hour of the morning drive I regret to report).

 

Gently seething woman, beautiful dawn

 

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Within Kalama we saw some of the usual suspects, although we were moving a little faster today as the guys tried to let the wind blow some of the frost out of the back of their vehicle.

 

Nah, nah… I see you.

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Hmmm.... I see only part of you.

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Okay, well you are not even trying to hide.

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Upon exiting the conservancy today we took a different route into the reserve, much closer to the escarpment. The endemics were less common here but there would of course be a chance of a leopard, klipspringers, kudu and other treats.. I could see the logic and silently agreed it was a good move - even if it turned out fairly unsuccessful that day.

 

Birds were also much better on this route.  For example….

 

A pair of grey go-away-birds

 

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A white-throated bee-eater in the wind

 

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None of the target animals this time, but a view all the way to Mount Kenya again (in the left of this panorama looking down towards the river, which you should be able to enlarge by clicking).

 

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And this is later, with the line of trees marking the river (again you should be able to click if this isn’t already clear enough for you)

 

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When we did get down to the river we didn’t have to spend long wondering what to look at. The giraffes down there? The elephants way over there? The impalas right in front of us? The lion preparing to hunt those impalas?  What? Where?

 

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Just as well we had a spotter or I surely wouldn’t have seen it. The only other two vehicles in the area didn’t seem to have noticed her yet; in fact one of them headed off back to the lodge for breakfast. I think we would have told them if they had been close enough, but the guys were not going to put it on the radio.

 

The first part of the stalk took some time, as there was a lot of ground to cover to the drinking impalas and no cover except for one dead tree and the camouflage of colour. Same girl as the day before, looking a bit leaner but not yet desperate (which could be very dangerous given the number of livestock around on the other side of the river).

 

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When there was no more cover left, the lioness edged forward for a minute more and then just went for it.

 

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This time although we had a great angle for the stalk, the latter part of the chase was away from us. In any case, the distance had been too great and although she got surprisingly and excitingly close, the impala she had targeted got away without the damage the warthog had suffered the previous day.

 

Giving up the chase and returning to the shade on the banks.

 

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It was time for breakfast and so we had breakfast right there, but the lion didn’t go away. She kept on walking around looking for prey and we twice had to prepare to mount the vehicle when James lost sight of her and felt she might be too close. Lepayon told me he thought this was a “bad lion” i.e. not scared of humans and likely to cause trouble.

 

She was certainly a bad lion as far as the other animals around were concerned as she kept on stalking things for the next hour or more, although never getting closer than she had to the impala. She was hungry and not staying still.

 

Stalking zebras

 

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Looking for something else

 

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And causing the helmeted guineafowl to roost about 8 hours early!

 

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She was much too impatient to be successful now, and in the end the rising heat got to her and she decided to rest.

 

Back down at the river, elephants were drinking.

 

No space at the water for the little one.

 

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Or maybe just enough to squeeze in....

 

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… and get a refreshing drink.

 

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Vulturine guineafowl were always around

 

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And there were dik-diks

 

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And as it got towards 11, other animals like this greater kudu were forced to come down from the hills and escarpment to drink at the river. Not the prettiest light by this time, but a very pretty beast.

 

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Grevy’s zebras

 

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And then goats and sheep across on the Buffalo Springs side.

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Elephants warily watching the humans warily watching the elephants

 

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By this time the light was so strong and harsh that is was barely worth taking pictures. It was also very hot and very dusty. In any case, our companion had taken the front seat and James was stranded with my wife at the back, unable to track as effectively as usual. We traveled pretty much straight back to Saruni without stopping – at least that I remember, although I am sure we must have stopped at least once.

Edited by pault
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I have to say that Saruni Samburu is not only one of my favorite lodges in Kenya,but anywhere, I just loved the time that I spent there. I have to say that I've never been anywhere with more astounding views. I also enjoyed being able to walk in  the concession, and take night drives. I would also like to hike the Mountain.

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@pault gosh that first lioness in the post was remarkably well camouflaged. She must have had a hungry day.

 

Lovely photo of the vulturine guinea fowl, such an elegant bird and one of my all time favourites.

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more beautiful stories and photos @pault 

The light looks superb for photography - or is that just your skill :P

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@Soukous It depends on which photos you mean but yes the light up Samburu way was great, with the atmospheric dust and "winter" sun.  However by 10 it was already very harsh and almost unusable (many things I didn't even photograph) and then I do believe experience (rather than skill, although I suppose they could be the same) was useful in continuing to get pictures that could be saved with a little help from Lightroom (well some could). 

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Welcome to Kalama

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Now seems like a good time to take you on a quick tour of Saruni Samburu and Kalama Conservancy. It’s not really the kind of place we would normally stay. The villas – can’t call them tents – are mostly bigger than our house I think, and there are more rooms than we would prefer usually (capacity is easily over 20 people, including kids) but I can’t say that it and the conservancy are not a bit stunning. And of course it is the only option in Kalama – apart from camping.

 

The following shots are taken at different times of day, on different occasions and for different purposes (some are intended to be aesthetically pleasing photos, some are for the record and to remember and some are failures to achieve something else, but happen to illustrate what the area is like) but should together give you an idea of what to expect.

 

My wife will take you on a quick tour of our room – what you see is only half of it though . Mum's part is behind the screen (this was a family villa).

 

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Shhhh…. see the dik-dik?

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H is for helicopter

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Can you see the elephants? (probably not, at this size!)

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Our little villa

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Pool with a view (upper pool)

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The way back to our place (right) from the upper pool

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And some aerial views (which may include more than Kalama of course)

 

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Okay, together with the shots I’ve already shown, I think you get the picture.

I have to say that I probably wouldn’t stay here again, but my reasons for that wouldn’t be something that would concern most people who are considering it. I didn’t really feel like I fit here, although people were very attentive to me. I got on fine with the guides though – and generally that is the most important thing to me. Maybe going from that wobbly little tent on top of Mount Ololokwe to a villa at Saruni Samburu would be too much for anyone? I would recommend it though – no doubt. You can hopefully see why - and it is very important to the keeping the community there  positive about the wildlife and to sustaining the area as a place where wildlife (and us tourists) can continue to wander freely and safely.

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I was glad to see you smiling after your long ascent that was fun for only 100 meters. The eggs and salt no doubt helped. 

 

This is truly an adventure, not like some of the more "boring" (your words) trips of the past.  The lion chase is phenomenal. Bush babies in the daylight--your reward for all the hardships and lack of showers.

 

You nailed the bikini shot.  Also its interesting the dik dik was on its hind legs like the gerenuk.  I saw that once in Namibia and was intrigued.

 

Thanks so much for your detailed account of the singing wells and photography rules including that you accidentally photographed a naked man.  Nobody's perfect.

 

The mother ele holding the baby with her trunk is truly precious.  You always do such a fine job with people photos!

 

 

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@Atravelynn  The eggs and salt helped enormously. I should have got some energy bars and electolytes - they would have made a real difference. The naked man was actually somebody else's fault. Someone said "look someone is digging a well over there" but I couldn;t see clearly either with the naked eye or through my viewfinder due to the reflection of the sun off the sand. So I was shooting quite blind and only realised when I went through the pictures later.

 

 

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By the way,that reminds me something very nice about Sabache Camp. When we visited the village and went to the singing wells we had to pay for the activities (not very much actually, but a fixed price) and we paid that direct to the people there - not to our guides or to the camp. That was very impressive to me and I really should have mentioned it.

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Since we were having an early dinner to go on a night drive. I wanted to walk around the kopje at sunset one day to take some photographs (some sample results above) my wife wanted to wash her hair and not rush, and Mum was happy to go for a swim and have a nap, we decided skip any organised afternoon activities after the second lion hunt morning. We had dinner at around 7 with our contrite, late-rising travel companion and then sat around waiting for Lepayon and James. They showed up a minute before 8 but our new friend was AWOL and James jogged off to her villa as my wife began a quite loud lecture on punctuality and other matters of good manners that absolutely everybody agreed with (even if she had been wrong - which she wasn't - nobody would have dared contradict her).
 

Anyway, leaving 20 minutes late actually turned out to be a good thing/ bad thing. It was bad because I had not set up my camera for spotlight shooting before we set off – deciding that I could do it in the dark as we drove rather than spending more time. It was good because almost as soon as we left the camp, James picked out a mongoose- big mongoose- strange mongoose – not mongoose- not civet… er… “Oh wow, a zorilla!!!!” I said – this being the first but not last time (okay, there were two in total) on this trip that I identified something before my guides. Turns out neither of the guys had even seen one before and (with the greatest respect to me I am sure) they had to check out their field guide just to make sure.

Result of not having changed the ISO yet…… a two headed zorilla, presented only as proof.

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Well, that was an interesting start, but the rest of the night drive couldn’t live up to such a start, although it was not bad, delivering two genets and three bat-eared foxes of interest. There was a bushbaby too, but it wasn’t worth a picture.  

This genet tried to avoid us for a minute, but eventually just gave up.

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I am not going to go into the drive in any detail. We got back quite late, both because we left late and because the guys were working hard and we went out quite a long way. We did take a pass by the bins at the staff quarters in a desperate’ “just in case” attempt to maybe see a honey badger before being dropped right beside our villa as usual (ours was the only one with road access by the way).

 When we walked inside we found Bibi lying on the sofa in the living room in her underwear. “Thank goodness you’re back” she said. “I’ve been here for 40 minutes. There was a genet in the room.”

“Really?” said my wife. “In the room. On no!”

“Yes” said Bibi, misinterpreting jealously and disappointment at a missed opportunity for horror and sympathy. “I just froze– like you and the guides have told me to do when confronted by a wild animal. I don’t even know if it is still here or not,”

“Look, you were right to stay still, although a genet isn’t going to hurt you. But why didn’t you use the radio to call someone if you were so concerned, or just shout for help?” I asked.

“I didn’t dare to put my feet down as I don’t have any shoes on. And I couldn’t call for help because I am in my underwear.”

“You didn’t dare to put your feet down? You thought it was going to bite your toes?” I asked

“Or worse! Who knows? It was big! I mean what if it had been a leopard? Look at that big gap there. Anything could get in.”

So I bravely checked under her bed, in closets and everywhere else a vicious genet could be hiding, and then instructed Mum to not in future lie around in her underwear, just in case she did want to call for help. She protested that it was hot and this is when we learned that a pair of shorts and a singlet were two other items that she had not brought to “save space”.

When she was convinced all was clear she went for a shower and our faces could finally make the shapes they had been wanting to make for some time. Of course they were faces of extreme sympathy, guilt and regret, and if anybody rolled on the floor is was only to check for genets under the sofa.

To give some context, I should add that the first night at dinner the genet had been wandering around the dining area like he owned the place – seen by everyone (although Mum claimed she had not had her glasses on when confronted with this). In addition, the day before we had ordered coffee and when we later came back from lunch I found the milk spilt and had told everyone this was certainly the genet – a suspicion confirmed by one of the owners himself at dinner that evening. Finally, we had been told upon arrival that the leopard was often resident on the rocks next to our villa, and we should really not be alarmed if we saw him – just stay still and he would go on his way. So, this wasn’t quite out of the blue. And who sits around on their sofa in their underwear apart from Homer Simpson anyway?

That night in bed I wondered about Mum’s claim that the genet was big and about past identifications of cheetahs as cougars and wildebeest as bison. But it was such a ridiculous thought I was having that I told myself not to be stupid and went to sleep instead.

 

Next morning we were having no company and were out at 6 am as usual. We found James outside out front door with Lepayon looking at tracks. “Looks like Ugali was here last night.” they said.

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I still don’t think so. I really don’t, but then when Mum saw Fig the leopard in Olare Motorogi she did say “That’s not a big leopard. That genet was nearly as big as that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, pault said:

I still don’t think so. I really don’t, but then when Mum saw Fig the leopard in Olare Motorogi she did say “That’s not a big leopard. That genet was nearly as big as that.”

Haha.  Classic.  Sorry been out on a couple of safaris and I haven't caught up on your report at all, but scrolled through the photos and this line caught my eye.  

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9 hours ago, pault said:

@Atravelynn  The eggs and salt helped enormously. I should have got some energy bars and electolytes - they would have made a real difference. The naked man was actually somebody else's fault. Someone said "look someone is digging a well over there" but I couldn;t see clearly either with the naked eye or through my viewfinder due to the reflection of the sun off the sand. So I was shooting quite blind and only realised when I went through the pictures later.

 

 

That makes your nudity shoot more acceptable. 

Paying directly to the source is a good method.

I caught glimpse of a fast moving zorilla in the night coming up.

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What a fantastic report, @pault! Even by your very high standards this one is truly special. Of course I do love your wonderfully sharp and beautiful pictures but this report would even be a joy without any shots, the narrative is that engaging. Had to laugh out loud a couple of times - bad Paul, scaring all the kiddies! Did you tell Bibi about your LeopardGenet theory? Is Ugali a small one? :)

 

Good to see Fishing Lodge Nr. 2 again, and I am super-jealous about not only one but two Servals! For the life of me, I really can´t work out that curious road you used. Did you actually get as far as Wandare gate? We were always told that there used to be a road connecting the Salient and Wandare but that it had been closed down.

 

Hats off to you for the hike, looks like a great activity, and being painfree is overrated anyway. 1,000 m in altitude is no small achievment.

 

Wonderful sightings of the Northern animals, love the Gerenuks, and what a snouty Guenther´s! The lion-warthog hunting sequence is fantastic, and just wow to that Bushbaby sighting and the Zorilla.

 

Eagerly waiting for more!

 

 

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Whaaaat?    SO Bibi had a Leopard in her room?   Wow!   

 

And a Zorilla sighting!  Double wow.   @Tom Kellie will be intensely jealous if the "Great Firewall of China" relents and starts letting him access Safaritalk again.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Umm.......so she just sat there...in her underwear....while a leopard walked in?

 

 

OMG!  I would have been beside myself.

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@Tulips @offshorebirder We are still assuming it was a genet and that Mum was exaggerating its size, because we cannot believe the alternative. But I just present the facts! You decide. :D

 

@michael-ibk We hinted to Bibi but she did not like that theory and so we do not discuss it. We Never actually saw Ugali so I am not sure about size. That road is for real. - or at least it is on the map  - but very little used apparently (note not even the ranger at the gate knew it existed). @Zarek Cockar will maybe confirm that the route was what I thought when he has time to catch up.  Mum would tell you that she knows why that bloody road was closed down. Actually it would be rather unsafe in the wet.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

The following morning was our last full day at Saruni, and for reasons best left unexplained (although feel free tro imagine that perhaps to do with murder being a serious offence, even though I had assured her that our travel companion would not be accompanying today, perhaps just a wish for some time alone, or perhaps to watch for invading genets) my wife stayed behind and sent Mum and me out on our own, thus practically guaranteeing it would be an eventful drive.

 

Bibi was recovered from the genet (?) invasion – or rather she was forced into recovery when even the reliably sympathetic Lepayon and James assured her that a genet was at worst “naughty” – although they did try to make her feel better by telling her just how naughty they could be and agreeing wholeheartedly that they could be bold and destructive (to cookies, milk and food scraps) if not discouraged, and it might be a bit reckless to let them wander around unchecked – although perfectly safe. Well, that was not what Bibi wanted to hear and I wasn’t going to mention the leopard theory (although on reflection James could certainly have confirmed/ refuted it in a minute by scanning the tracks out the front of our villa) so the subject was firmly changed to something else.

 

We took the same route as the first day at first and things were rather similar in the early morning.

 

A particular treat of the area (and other arid areas in Kenya like Tsavo) is the golden-breasted starling, which is even more splendid than its superb cousin, although much less common and not as bold. This was never going to work as a flight shot, since the branches were certain to get in the way and it wasn’t light enough yet, but Lepayon thought I should take a shot anyway (every decision that Lepayon made this morning would be important, although he didn’t know it yet) as I hadn’t got a decent one yet (hmmm.. he had been paying attention!).

 

Imperfect but still charming shot

 

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More gerenuks of course – and who could resist today, since there would be no more from tomorrow.

 

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I was a bit off form today – I could feel it and didn’t know quite why. Things weren’t going particularly well, so Lepayon took a different route towards the river once we had entered the reserve – somewhere between the two we had taken the first two days at first, and as we got near the river we found some quite bold mongooses, one of whom was searching for tasty morsels in elephant dung. Mongooses are very interesting to me and this sighting made me feel more alert and I think I started to get my mojo back - which was just as well as I would need  it soon.

 

Excavation

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Discovery and consumption

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However, there was no sign of the lioness today and it was still a bit early for watching the river (just a couple of giraffes and some impala at the moment) so Lepayon decided to turn around and head east to an area we had not visited before. There was some nice general game here – animals leisurely making their way to the river – although nothing that we hadn’t seen before. It was very nice. Mum then spotted a naked mole rat hole with an active digger. We had been targeting these in the vain hope of seeing one since Sabache and Mum had got into the spirit of the hunt. Generally you get to see sand flying out of the hole but rarely do they come out. Nevertheless they do sometimes, and so this had been part of our daily routine.

 

We were there watching the sand fly for maybe 5 or more minutes, without any joy but still enjoying the challenge and ready to wait – there were two busy little excavations going on. That was when James and Lepayon noticed something a bit odd – a group of impala leaping and running at full speed. They scanned and saw what had spooked them. “Wild dogs.” I had seen nothing yet but we were traveling at pace in a specific direction, and then I did see (sort of) flashes of activity which 30 seconds later I would find out was a wild dog kill. The bush was thick and we had to circle back to get any kind of an angle for some shots, and by the time we found one the victim was already being (very literally) torn to pieces by three dogs.

 

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The view we had wasn’t good, with only a narrow channel unobscured, so as each dog took chewed down on their own piece of dik-dik we found better spots to view them.

 

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I’ll spare you the shot of the dog who got the head.

 

There were only three dogs – possibly part of the larger pack that roam the area and possibly new dogs – Lepayon couldn’t be sure, but he thought the former.

 

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Having consumed their dik-dik snack, they remained very active, as dogs do. Everything of interest, any excuse for a run or jog. At this point Lepayon called in the other Saruni vehicles out, but he gave us another little while before doing the right thing and putting out a call to other vehicles in the area – well they would have been lynched if they hadn’t, right? It had been a while since dogs had been sighted, although there had been a period not long before when they were seen every week.

 

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One of them was really, notably dark.

 

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Of course we had never been off the road and so when a few other vehicles started arriving we were doing the necessary thing of guess where they are going to cross a track, get ahead of them and wait for them to pass. There were fortunately a fair number of tracks in this area and so this was pretty effective thanks to James and Lepayon’s ability to guess right every time. After maybe an hour from the first sighting it was getting hot and the dogs did start to slow down and then eventually stop – lying down under a bush. By now there were maybe 10 vehicles around, although there was plenty of space and the dogs were moving so it wasn’t an unpleasant one, and we decided we’d go and see if we could find the lioness again. We had no luck with that and hoped that it was because she had caught something now (preferably not a sheep) and was sleeping it off somewhere. In any case, it was time for breakfast, at which we decided we had to credit the wild dog spot to Mum, since if she hadn’t spotted the naked mole-rat excavations we would not have stopped there, where James and Lepayon could shortly later spot the wild dogs hunting from.

 

After breakfast we headed across the dry Ewaso Nyiro river into Buffalo Springs National Reserve for the first time. There was no sign of people bringing in livestock today – at least not in the immediate vicinity – and I am glad we went across because there was a noticeable difference in the grass (much greener in spots) and the availability of water, with the springs providing the first non-excavated water source we had seen since we had arrived in the area nearly a week before. Seeing water like that was a bit strange! However, some of the water sources were not wholly safe.

 

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There were a few large ones as well (surprisingly few) but they weren’t as pretty.

 

But the main attraction over this side was an incredible gathering of Grevy’s zebras. There were hundreds of them forming a mega herd – very unusual since Grevy’s tend towards life in small herds, or even solitary living. I suppose it was the water and good grass that drew them, but I doubt I will see such a number in one place again. Unfortunately the light was most uncooperative and since we couldn’t offroad it was not easy to get a shot showing how many there were.

 

I took a panorama – this is 5 shots stitched – but doubt you can see the numbers in the background. Basically for every one you can see there are probably another 20 behind – and this isn’t even the whole herd. You should be able to click to enlarge this a bit more.

 

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And more zoomed in – a detail from the above picture- again a 5-shot panorama, but 85mm this time and closer to the herd (the horrible light is why I didn’t want to shoot from this location at first, even though it brought us closer to the zebras). Again you can click to enlarge if you want to see a lot of zebras and calculate density or something.

 

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They were amazingly quiet compared to a herd of plains zebras even a tenth of this size. Very happy to graze in large groups of male and female without a lot of talking, complaining and biting – although there was of course some. In a way that was a bit of a disappointment as normally a herd this size would be rocking. Grevy’s – the studious zebra? Well, they would probably have been more active and unruly earlier in the day – and they are mostly studying the grass, I think.

 

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The future

 

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There was a fair amount of other game about too, including a cooperative impala.

 

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And we were watching elephants (not good light but nice action) when James shouted out “Striped Hyena”. I turned, saw and pointed and shot as quickly as I could – managing to get off three shots before it disappeared into really thick scrub. We circled for a while hoping for a repeat with the camera a bit more ready but there was no sign of it at all.  Still, a first! Every trip should have a first and this was essentially one – I believe I saw a striped hyena on my first trip to Kenya but since I had no idea what it was I couldn’t say for sure.

 

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After than we drove and ended up in the middle of the river, watching a pair of grey crowned cranes. Everything had gone so well this morning that I asked Lepayon to go a little closer. Of course he was reluctant – very sandy – but he said okay – quickly. We got closer and he asked if we could go – we should. I asked for one more shot, waiting for the crane to turn its head, got it and said “okay”. But it wasn’t okay – in the time it had taken one wheel had sunk just a little too far into the sandy river bed and with very limited traction for any of the wheels there was no way we were just going to drive out.

 

Bibi was mightily unimpressed with this, especially as she had “told you that Lepayon wanted to go” and “told everyone she didn’t like this”… oh and also because she had decided her boots were too hot so she should wear her sandals today – and they were not walking sandals.

 

Bibi displeased, in sandals.

 

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James did a couple of jogs to the banks to get some driftwood while Lepayon jacked up the vehicle to make space for it, and we were out of there in no time really. However, Lepayon was not going to stop once he got going and headed straight to the safety of the bank, some 50 meters away. So Bibi got to walk across the Ewaso Nyiro river in sandals, and when it got boggy James and I just carried her.

 

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Of course James was wearing sandals too, but it is not quite the same perhaps.

 

We finished off the morning by watching some baboons playing on a tree for a while and then drove back to Saruni.

 

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A goosing

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Improvised support

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 Edit: Oh  I forgot to post the offending pciture of the crane... I know the light wasn't really favorable and it's not really doing anything special, but we all have to convince Bibi itr was worth  getting stuck in sand for. I'm thinking I'll put it on the cover of the photo book I make for her this year - like it was my crowning photographic triumph of the trip......  :P

 

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Edited by pault
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@pault your story of Bibi and the genet is very funny, and I do hope that it really was just the genet! How lucky for you to have a zorilla sighting as this species has managed to elude me, maybe next year...

 

The photo of the golden-breasted starling is amazing, what a stunning bird.

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Congratulation to the wild dogs @pault. Thanks very much for showing us your incredible pics and the nice writing around them.    

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13 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

For the life of me, I really can´t work out that curious road you used. Did you actually get as far as Wandare gate? We were always told that there used to be a road connecting the Salient and Wandare but that it had been closed down.

@michael-ibk which curious road are you talking about?  The one with the Tolkein-esque "fangorn forest" where we saw the Serval, or the one heading North and eventually East to the Salient?
The Fangorn road section is about 400m from a 4-way junction on the way to the Fishing Lodge and Kiandangoro Gate. One road goes to Mutubio West Gate, one parallel to a long-disused airstrip and eventually past the Sapper Hut, one towards Chania Falls, and the last towards the Fishing Lodge.

The Northern road turns off to the left from the MAIN road from the moors to the Salient.  It does NOT connect to the two gates far in the North (maybe Rhino and Shamata?), and in my memory having been going there since the 90's I don't think it ever did.  It does drive to the Southern foothills of Satima hill (Ol Donyo Lesatima) before turning East towards the northern edge of the Salient, dropping down to where it finally meets Wandare gate.  It has been closed for a couple of months previously, but never permanently, for road works.  When we took it, it was in a similar condition to most of the other roads.  
The REAL mystery road (and now I click that this is probably what you're talking about), is the road FROM Wandare Gate to somewhere in the middle of the Salient, where it comes out near Rhino Retreat.  It shows up as a main road on my not-so-old map, printed by "Kenya Tourist Maps" and commissioned by KWS themselves!  From Wandare gate, it runs right along the fence line for a couple of KM's before turning inwards and following a steep valley edge, dropping down, crossing it, and coming up the other side, where it eventually meets the rest of the established road network near Rhino Retreat.  The rangers DO NOT use it except for patrols on foot.  It would be a little dangerous to try it in the rain.  The bush was somewhat clear, but there was no bare soil.  We were driving on a nice grassy lawn for much of it - which is a clear indication it's not a well used road!  The road was originally built by the British Army many years ago as a shortcut.  You can see that quite a lot of work went into cutting the road into the hillside, laying down concrete on the steepest section of the hill down the valley, and building a cement bridge across the river at the bottom (which is still in perfect condition).  It was certainly an adventure!

As Paul mentions, the ranger at Wandare gate did say that another vehicle (a land cruiser prado station wagon) had come out the other direction a few days previously, hence our willingness to try it.  

As you mentioned, that Wandare gate road is often closed, so I had actually never been that way before.  In hindsight, it probably would have saved us a little time (and a lot of stress on Bibi's part) if we'd just exited from Wandare and driven around to Ark Gate or Treetops Gate.  I felt terrible that we had "wasted" so much time traversing that short section, in an area too steep and remote for most wildlife, when we could have been game driving in less time had we chosen a different route.  Lesson firmly learned.

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