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@pault - that was an amazing segment there ......

 

Have you stayed at the river before at any of the camps there?  If so, how was your experience.

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@Zarek Cockar  "It was an adventure"  Yes. and we are no worse for that - although probably not something to shoehorn into a two day itinerary, which I hope would be trhe lesson learned, rather than not to have some adventures! :)

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@madaboutcheetah  Not since 2006 I am afraid!! And where we stayed was washed away by floods - I wouldn't have really recommended it anyway.

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I just checked my thesaurus @pault.

Apparently 'wild dog magnet' and ' jammy bastard' are synonyms.

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It's the magic Bibi touch @Soukous 

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Wild Dog and Striped Hyena!

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Excellent sightings on the day you just posted, @pault  I normally don't get bothered much over wild dogs, but your first shot had me sitting up and taking notice.  Wow.

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25 minutes ago, amybatt said:

I normally don't get bothered much over wild dogs,

 

Are you serious @amybatt ?

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15 minutes ago, Soukous said:

 

Are you serious @amybatt ?

 

Yes, I am.  I just don't understand the excitement around them, but I've only ever seen them in zoos passed out cold.

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@pault - Striped Hyena in Buffalo Springs?     You lucky dog!
 

Also very cool sightings of the Grevy's mega-herd and the Wild Dogs.

 

Perhaps Bibi could set up a business hiring herself out as a good luck charm to safari-goers.

 

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5 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

@pault - Striped Hyena in Buffalo Springs?     You lucky dog!
 

Also very cool sightings of the Grevy's mega-herd and the Wild Dogs.

 

Perhaps Bibi could set up a business hiring herself out as a good luck charm to safari-goers.

 

 

It could work.., I bet there is a market

Bibi's Wildlife Adventure Tours

Experience the incredible, with lots of tea and naps

 

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11 hours ago, amybatt said:

 

Yes, I am.  I just don't understand the excitement around them, but I've only ever seen them in zoos passed out cold.

 

Well, although I never felt this way, I think my wife did (to some extent - at least relative to me). She has very much come around now. 

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Well we couldn’t really top the morning and we didn’t try. Mum decided she was a bit tired and preferred a swim, a nap and some tea with a nice book and the lovely view, and for us two the last game drive was a gentle potter around Kalama Conservancy with Lepayon and James. We sighted a few of the usual suspects and made a few offbeat detours in case something interesting might fall into our lap again (it didn’t, although I was allowed to have fun chasing a non-poisonous snake for a picture) but we were happy with what we had seen and 5 nights in Olare Motorogi and the Mara were waiting so we were not unduly stressed. Accepting whatever Samburu had to offer us had worked very well this far.

 

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We set up for sundowners relatively early and chatted with the guys and just relaxed and enjoyed ourselves a bit. Of course I was fiddling with my camera gear, but that is a kind of relaxation too I think!

Lepayon and James had been very good with us and on the basis of our experience can be recommended without hesitation. At Kicheche Nelson asked us who our guides had been at Saruni as he had spent time up there sharing experiences or something. We told him James and errr….. trying to remember Lepayon. “Ah James” he said. “Yes and Lep –an-yan or err.. damn.” I told him. “Yes Lepayon. James. They are the same.” I was going to tell him they were not the same person, thinking he was mixed up, but then realized what he meant – in his Maasai way he was saying James and Lepayon are like telepathic twins. And he was right. Although it is nonsense, you feel somehow that if James were to fall sick, Lepayon would surely rapidly decline in health too.

 

All aboard!! Choo choo!

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The last sundown

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That evening I was determined to finally get my star shots. I had things worked out very well – a perfect position where a kopje would block out most of the (minor) light pollution from the British Army camp. So I took my gear up to dinner, intending to set up afterwards. I had decided I would strictly limit my alcohol intake to a single glass of wine for obvious reasons – out on a kopje in pitch darkness with my equipment – plus the need to plan and calculate carefully. But everybody was in such a good mood and there was some nice conversation at dinner for once, and one became “all right just one more” and I guess I might have ended up having four or five, but it was difficult to tell as the glass kept on topping itself up.

I wouldn’t give up though and set out to take my shots, closely watched by a concerned askari. The first two shots came out quite nicely but it was really cold out and so I went back to shelter for a minute and maybe my wife had another glass of wine waiting for me there. When I came out again the whole thing had become much, much more complicated, and I kept on having “ideas” which usually involved messing the shots up. Plus for some reason the stars seemed to be moving faster than before and I couldn’t stop them. It was also getting more and more difficult to set focus at infinity for some reason.

 

So all I have to show for my efforts is this. There was supposed to be a third shot to the left, but it was either forgotten or came out so badly I deleted it there and then in camera.

 

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Next day we got up a bit late and had breakfast in camp. We then drove on the “main road” to the Kalama airstrip so saw as many people as wildlife (skittish dik-diks and ground squirrels excluded), although we stopped for a couple of shots of rocks and trees. We were in plenty of time for our flight, and in fact it was delayed by 30 minutes, giving Bibi a chance to do her morning exercises.

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And check out the airport shopping

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However, when the plane did arrive it was with very good news – there was plenty of room on board and we would be flying direct to Olare Motorogi with no stops at all. And the pilot (an African woman) had the most beautiful smile in the world, shining from deep behind the eyes.

 

Over the hills and bye bye to Samburuland.

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Some additional bits and pieces.

It’s very important to keep in mind just how dry it was when looking at what we experienced. Remember the first time we had seen water (other than the foot in the hollow in that rock that Ian took us to and the swimming pools at Saruni) was in Buffalo Springs. Wildlife had to come down to the river to get water – there were few alternatives. Some wildlife has undoubtedly died. Some has been killed due to conflict or just to "stick it to the Man". Grazing was going on in areas it normally would not have been. Another time – a “normal” time if such a thing exists – there would have been more wildlife in Kalama and away from the river. There would probably have been more wildlife in the area altogether. There would have been animals around Sabache. The waterhole at Saruni would have been full and visited daily by a wide assortment of animals. Dipa might not have been quite so busy. The singing wells would have been only a few feet deep. Everything could have been different.

Saruni serves really good food. It is staffed almost completely by Samburu, right up to Assistant Manager (who was acting manager during our stay) level. Sabache was completely Samburu. The Samburu may sometimes appreat to be a people from another planet, even from the perspective of a lot of Kenyans. That is the way I think when a culture is so strong and so emphatically entwined with personal identity. The level of service that the Saruni management has managed to get their staff to provide is amazing to me. Regretably it is also a bit pointless to me too as I don’t really want that level of service – a faux pas with the cutlery or wine or a too slow removal of used towels at the pool won’t lose you my custom – but its impressive. They have their own (very good) reasons for taking this path too and I hope they continue to succeed and grow. The rhino tracking on foot and singing wells experiences available at their new camp in nearby Sera Conservancy should appeal to the market they are aiming at... and a lot of other people too.

This is fantastic, magical country. A very special place in Africa. The dust and heat and miles of scrib will drain you but the landscapes, people and wildlife will fill you with joy.

Most importantly, no Bibi has been harmed in the making of this trip report. She may have been exhausted sometimes and she may not be quite the force she was at 74 but she ahd a good time and everybody everywhere did all they could reasonably be expected to do to make that happen for her.

 

And if you think that it's on to a "boring" wind down in Olare Motorogi now, you haven't taken into account the Bibi effect!

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I can't believe your luck. Great not pleased Bibi photo. Glad the Mara part won't be boring. That's when I usually start to nod off ;)

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I have to read about the Mara again? Pffft!

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Another trip report section from Paul in the Mara. You don’t really need it and you are unlikely to learn much at this stage – unless you want to take Bibi there yourself; in that case I can pass on a few tips – just let me know. Maybe there will be some sightings worthy of comment, or a couple of photos that are interesting. My only advantage is that your sights won’t be set too high – admit it, you expect to kind of skip through this section. Regardless, just for fun, let’s play mythbuster – based mostly on my opinion without getting too weighted down with fact.

Myth: Olare Motorogi is the best conservancy for big cats.

I think this is a true-ish myth, although it was a little bit quieter this year than the last couple of times, which I would guess book-ended a peak of big cat activity.

Myth: Olare Motorogi is the least crowded of the bigger conservancies.

On paper it certainly is, although due to its current reputation among the safarista it probably tends to have a higher proportion of beds full than Naboisho or Mara North. So, in practice I would guess it is the least crowded conservancy only 2-3 days a week, but I have no evidence of that.

Myth: My presence actually causes wildebeest to cross rivers.

I think this is a classic case of attempting to rationalise something that otherwise appears to make no sense.

Myth: Cheetahs never scavenge.

I believe this one is true. Faced with a gift a hungry cheetah showed no interest.

Myth: White men can’t jump.

Hmmm…. While technically sort of generally true, especially from the Maasai perspective, in fact it’s not just white men - so let’s tag this “misleading”.

Myth: Richard Branson is an honorary Maasai elder.

May be true if some old dude telling you “Hey, you just gave us a sack full of cash so I’m going to tell you that you are an honorary Maasai elder” actually made you a Maasai elder. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

The “technically correct” (so-called because I use it) spelling Maasai is now almost exclusively dropped for the friendlier Masai.

This one is true, and I should just give up and throw my logical explanations in the bin.

Myth: The frequency of supposed likely leopard sightings near to Mahali Mzuri increased by 68% when Angelina Jolie was staying there.

I think this one is probably untrue – I believe the guides that there really was a leopard there. In any case most guides would be more excited about a particularly beautiful bull than any

Myth: Paul will go to any lengths, including breaking a promise not to drop celebrity names and creating faux @atravelynn lists , in order to attempt to spice up a report on a visit to the Mara.

True.

 

The flight down was incident and excitement free and I was able to see just how good/bad the rains had been in various locations. Laikipia was mostly very dry and then as we headed out further south-west, although the picture was mixed it became much, much greener and many small farms appeared to be blossoming as you would expect at the end of June, although even there uncultivated areas looked grazed out and a bit parched.

 

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It’s easy to know when the Mara is getting close, even before you descend much. The plains become endless and the fenced smallholdings disappear, although this picture actually shows how some people have fenced small areas (the different coloured rectangles) which I hope is not a worrying sign of times to come.

 

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When we arrived at camp we got the bad news during our briefing from managers Darren and Emma that neither our requested tent nor our requested guide were available. Neither thing had ever happened before. The good news was that we would have both tomorrow, and have our own vehicle throughout our stay.

By lunch Darren had told us that in fact he’d moved a few things around and we could have Nelson from that afternoon.

“What happened? Did you complain?” I asked my wife.

“No. I think it’s because I cried” she said.

“You cried? You were that disappointed? I didn’t even notice – sorry.”

“Oh it was just a little cry. But actually I was only crying because I was so happy to be here. I don’t know why – it just happened.”

So I would like to say thank you to whoever sacrificed Nelson to us one game drive early, but actually it wasn’t necessary. No doubt my wife was disappointed, but not to the point of tears. Maybe all the little stresses up in Samburuland had just made her a bit emotional.

Anyway, the tent we got for the first night looked identical to our requested tent to me and I would have been happy to stay there – but according to my wife there were significant differences. I would tell you what they are if I could have seen them – something to do with the sheltered ante-tent area perhaps?

Camp is the same as ever. More small changes slightly for the better – half to get the gold eco- certification and half to improve the guest experience slightly. The main change was the presence of wifi in the shop/ second lounge tent. And only there. A sign of the times if there ever was one. Same managers, same group of guides, same staff – at least the ones I can remember. And I am glad for all that.  Darren and Emma were always an excellent team – now they are polished and experienced and you won’t find many better teams in Kenya I imagine – although there is always a taste issue I suppose. The guests were all as nice as ever, although once again we were on the junior end (in terms of age and number of nights, if not biggest lens) so that does seem to be a trend there. Based on smallish recent samples there is generally a 3:2:1  UK:Australia:US mix, with the Americans or an Australian occasionally replaced by other Europeans.

Nelson was to all appearances the same too, but we’d learn he too might have had some subtle software updates. He’s taking his own photos now, seems to have worked further on his guest relations skills, enunciation (how now brown cow the third bird is a kori bustard) and bird IDs when needed – it was odd when he slipped back into “old Nelson” a bit after Mum left. I don’t mean he was being insincere – he was just I guess being practical and adapting to his guest’s (in this case Mum) needs. Anyway Mum liked him very much, so job well done.

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This year there wasn’t as much on the game-drive menu for the first evening as last time. “Fig is somewhere with new cubs, but not seen much. Somebody saw a cheetah earlier on xxx hill and we could go to look for it, but it has probably moved on by now. There are lions with cubs – not very young cubs - on a kill, so they will probably still there. We can try to take a quick look for the cheetah and then go and look for the lions if you like?” Sounded good – although I knew we may never see those lions as Nelson isn’t going to stop looking for something else going on –I think he views going to a known sighting is a bit of a fail; just a back-up in case other things don’t work out – and of course they often don’t. That’s actually part of the reason we like him so much I guess – it suits us. Anyway, that kind of assessment of the state of play on your first afternoon is a bit poor by Olare Motorogi standards.

And that evening other things didn’t really work out. We saw a number of usual Mara suspects, but nothing too exciting – other than one of only two encounters with tsetses on this trip – fortunately Mum did not notice but my wife had two baseballs under the skin on her back for the next two days.

Topi calf meets tsetses

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We spent a little time watching some banded mongooses, although the grass was much too long for that.

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And so we were soon enough with the lion pride with a lot of “teens” and “not very young” cubs on a kill. The light was particularly poor this evening – one of the few times this trip – but this would do to start, and of course with all the younger lions there was a lot of activity.

 

Full belly

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Who had seconds?

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There was also a lot of long grass and bushes to deal with, although that didn’t detract from the experience of course – just the photo ops. I’ll probably talk about long grass later, seeing as it was the end of June and all that.

Damn that grass, eh?

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There were great scenes but they aren’t recorded here. Look at this and use your imagination!

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Too full to eat, but food can be a toy too.

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After over an hour watching the lions from various positions we headed off back towards camp, stopping to watch the last of the light disappear.

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That night most of the staff put on a short performance at the request of one of the guests there, who was leaving next day after a long stay. I was surprised, having not associated Kicheche with “shows” before, but it was short and fun and Mum enjoyed. It also gave me a chance to try out ISO 25600 in the field. Actually it was so dark, that wasn’t enough and all the faces are a bit blurred by movement - but it’s still quite impressive with no significant noise reduction and I was able to pick out the brightest stars, which is interesting from a "would x photo be possible?" point of view.

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Next morning it was leopard time. Fig had surfaced and two cubs had been spotted, although not wellI think. We’d have daily Fig news after this as one of the guests was determined to (and did – see Kicheche Facebook page) get some tiny leopard action and spent a lot of time with her. We were okay with this, and although we spent less time than some others as she was out next to Porini Lion Camp and there is a lot more to see, we had to check on her once a day.  Fig and Nelson and us go back quite a long way and she had always provided some interesting sightings, got into strife and got out again, and generally entertained. Her lifespan also coincides almost exactly with Nelson’s life as a guide at Kicheche Bush Camp too, although I am not sure Nelson thinks too much about that. Anyway, there we were. Very early morning and still dark and cloudy (the weather is about to clear) but Fig is looking at a wildebeest she has stashed in a tree and we are looking at her.

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There were two tiny cubs around and everyone was at the tree hoping they would come out to eat (rather too young, but you can hope I suppose). Since the light was poor but was going to improve soon (it was one of those clouds on the horizon days) I wasn’t photo-ing much and so we went cub-hunting. Someone else found one, and a couple of vehicles came over to see (actually nothing really to see as it was hidden) while we sat and Nelson tried to work out where the other little one could be. And then, for the second time this trip, I spotted something before our guide - because the second little one ran from under a bush behind us and disappeared under another bush about 20 meters away. My first reaction was to get Nelson’s eyes on it, as I knew I would lose it in no time, and so I don’t have a shot. I expected this would not be an issue as it was bound to come out and head for mother at some point, but that never happened. Actually, I think we were the only people to see that cub that day or for the next few days – to the point where Nelson suspected it might have been lost.

Anyway, Fig got under the bush with the other cub and there was really nothing to see, so we went for a little drive and left the keen ones to stake out Fig.

Since we had left camp well before first light (and we were third vehicle out!) even now it was still only just getting light but a pair of lions were engaged in mating #130 or whatever it was. This guy and his partner do a lot of mating-  tough!.

 

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And off he goes again.......

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We saw his massive-maned partner with a questionably young partner too, but mating in long grass so less photogenic.

 

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Posted (edited)

Returning to Fig, we found she was now visible (but these photos required quite a bit of maneuvering as she was much more obscured by grass that she appears here. More interestingly, the cub had got up the courage to show, although the long grass was a real problem there (at the same time, consider that without the long grass as cover, the cub might have been more reluctant to show its face at all).

 

Spot the cub.

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 This spot may be even more challenging, although it’s so obvious once you see it.

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Are you starting to see a pattern here? The grass was protective – that was clear (and again, there is a lot more in the way than you can see here).

 

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But Fig was not comfortable. There were baboons visible some distance away and naturally she does not like baboons at all.

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She went to check something out. Not the other cub, we knew as that was in the other direction, but the kill. But she didn’t eat, just checked it out and got a closer look at the baboons. The cub was ordered deeper into the bushes.

 

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We left and came back a couple of times but nothing really changed and so some time after 9.30 we headed off for breakfast.

 

More of the same.

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Breakfast

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I demonstrated the silent shutter to Nelson, who didn’t really see the point until I told him I had just taken 5 photos of him… and he then wasn’t wholly sure he liked the point.

Nelson smiley but sceptical.

 

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On the way back from breakfast we found an agama doing push ups for the girls, which Mum liked, and a few other things. We were having a very nice morning like this – seeing lots of the “less exciting” stuff between leopard and lion viewing at our leisure (both lions and leopard were clearly in position for the morning and would not move far).

 

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Back with Fig, we got our best view of the cub so far…

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But Fig was clearly concerned somehow about the baboons and her kill.

 

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And even when she returned to the cub, which suckled for a while, she was restless.

 

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After Fig has ordered the cub back into the middle of the bush for half an hour and becames less restless, we got restless ourselves and decided to see what those baboons so vexing Fig were up to, and what else the morning had for us.

 

The baboons were just traveling and feeding and clearly had not see Fig.

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We introduced Bibi to topis and their mounds (remember this is her first visit to the Mara and they are not as prevalent in Northern Serengeti as here, where numbers have really boomed over the last 10 years). She could never quite remember the name but she did get the vowels right (kopis was close) so we all knew what she meant.

 

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We also watched the wildebeest for quite a while, but I think the rut deserves a longer segment that I may not have time for right now, so we’ll skip over that here and fast forward back to camp, where we could move to our “favorite” tent with its obscure differences.

 

Honestly, this is just about to get interesting! No more lion and leopard dominated posts. Fig is going to disappear and we'll only bother those mating boys again as a kind of “what can we possibly do now that wouldn’t be disappointing?” time filler. Bibi is going to shock me into silence and then I’ll be even more shocked into silence as a direct result of her departure. Hang in there dear readers.

 

 

Edited by pault
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We wouldn't have a good sighting of Fig again this trip as she got injured in a battle with baboons the next day. The cubs disappeared and Fig laid up in very thick bush licking her wounds - it took over a day of people looking to find her (wll done Charles and goodness knows how he spotted her) and even then she was not showing her face at all. By the time we left we were concerend that the cubs were no more and that Fig might even be badly injured, so I was glad to see a Facebook post from one of the guests at Kicheche with a lovely picture of Fig leading the two cubs on a walkabout a couple of days after we got home.

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Posted (edited)

Ah! the fabulous Fig ....... Well done! 

 

Re Topi in Northern Serengeti ....... What I observed was, there weren't the total numbers of them as in the Mara - but, there were two or three very big herds (number upto 30) which I've only seen on the Topi plains in the Mara.

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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On 26/07/2017 at 3:43 AM, pault said:

too.

Fig is beautiful but the wildebeest against the sunset is amazing 👍 I shall try that in a couple of weeks time. Pen

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Yes, another vote for the wildebeest against that stunning orange sunset, and really lovely pictures of Fig with the cub.

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28 minutes ago, penolva said:

Fig is beautiful but the wildebeest against the sunset is amazing 👍 I shall try that in a couple of weeks time. Pen

You need to get very low   - otherwise easy IF use the right settings^_^ I lool forward to the results! 

 

This is one of Nelson's Approved Olare Motorogi Shots. He's not happy until you get them all in the bag and keeps on parking the vehicle suggestively until he's satisfied. I'll identify them for you if I remember. They'll be fun to try.

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4 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Ah! the fabulous Fig ....... Well done! 

 

Re Topi in Northern Serengeti ....... What I observed was, there weren't the total numbers of them as in the Mara - but, there were two or three very big herds (number upto 30) which I've only seen on the Topi plains in the Mara.

 

Ah yes, I think we saw similar now I come to think of it. With Mum I meant the post-breakfast sight of every available termite mound occupied by a topi - even the flat mounds.

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Posted (edited)

35 minutes ago, pault said:

You need to get very low   - otherwise easy IF use the right settings^_^ I lool forward to the results! 

 

This is one of Nelson's Approved Olare Motorogi Shots. He's not happy until you get them all in the bag and keeps on parking the vehicle suggestively until he's satisfied. I'll identify them for you if I remember. They'll be fun to try.

We do have a vehicle with Brian Freeman that allows you to crouch down inside as the side is missing, if my arthritic knees will let me :( What ISO did you use and any other settings you can share as I am enthusiastic but not a very proficient photographer :) Pen

Edited by penolva

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4 hours ago, penolva said:

We do have a vehicle with Brian Freeman that allows you to crouch down inside as the side is missing, if my arthritic knees will let me :( What ISO did you use and any other settings you can share as I am enthusiastic but not a very proficient photographer :) Pen

 

I meant low as in down a slope - the less the slope (or the higher you are standing, sitting) the further away you need to be. Check it out in daylight and you'll see what I mean. Getting on the floor is helpful in creating an angle if you are on foot but not necessary if you can park the vehicle in the right place. Some spots are just made for it and easy, but you can make any slope work.

 

Just underexpose by 3,2 or 1 stops depending on how dark it is- or better still spot meter on the bright part of the sky (you don't want the sun anywhere in shot for this though - you need to wait until it has disappeared. If you don't have time or inclination to do that you can try making sure that most of the frame is bright sky and the camera will underexpose for you. Timing and framing of the shot can be important so it's good to have the settings right but try anyway. 

 

Crank up the contrast and saturation and maybe turn up the temperature to "shade" if you are shooting jpegs.. But try different things. F/5.6 will work fine - even f/4 - so you can easily get a high enough shutter speed - obviously you don;t want any blur.

 

Clouds are not good but some are fine - you need to make them part of the composition though.

 

And if you can't remember that or it is too much hassle, just keep on trying and you might get lucky!   :D

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