douglaswise

Economy camping in Mara Conservancies

19 posts in this topic

IMG_2439.thumb.JPG.cba122000729dee24cd3a3a6b3d21a74.JPGThis a belated and brief report on a trip taken to Naboisho and Olderikesi from 17th to 24th August 2017.  It may be of limited interest to those, like me, who hadn't realised that such a thing could be arranged.  My wife and I had, for some time, harboured the wish to take our grandchildren on safari.  The problem, collectively, was the age disparity. The youngest grandson was very young to consider taking, but I'm getting very old.  We decided to go for it this year as the optimum, though less than ideal, time.  The party was originally to consist of self, wife, son, daughter-in law, grandson of 5 and granddaughter of 8.  It was increased by the decision of my daughter-in-law's parents to join us.

 

I undertook quite a lot of research without, at first, finding an ideal destination.  I was looking for a genuine wildlife and wilderness experience at a budget price.  I thought that Gametrackers' wilderness camps in Kenya might suit us, but was informed that they wouldn't accept children below the age of 12, quite understandable given the probability of other safari-goers having to put up with the small children of strangers.  I found Kingfisher safaris in Botswana, which might have worked, but for the extended travel time.  I then e-mailed Zarek Cockar for ideas and he was able to arrange the trip for us (with a variety of destinations offered).  I hadn't previously realised that licensed guides can book exclusive camp sites in the Mara Conservancies that are not available to others.  Zarek hired in the cooks, vehicles, drivers, camp staff and tents from Nairobi-based companies which specialise in safari outfitting.  We settled for the two Mara Conservancies mentioned above.  On arrival in Kenya, we spent the first night in a Nairobi hotel before flying from Wilson to the Olseki landing strip in the Mara.  Zarek met us with two safari vehicles (a third, with trailer, acting as the supply vehicle was at the camp) and we game drove our way back to the Naiboisho campsite at which we spent 4 nights.  We then moved to a beautiful campsite in Olderikesi for 3 nights.  We flew back to Nairobi via Keekorok and thence to our international flight without having to spend another night in Nairobi.  While at Olderikesi, we spent two half days (equal in cost to one full day) in the National Reserve where most of the party saw two leopards and a serval plus, of course, many other species and even an exclusive mini crossing (drama-free in respect of casualties) of the Sand River by wildebeest and zebra.

 

The great advantage of our arrangement was that we travelled as an exclusive group, having both campsites to ourselves and thus not having to worry about bothering or being bothered by other safari-goers.  The cost was no greater than we would have expected to pay in Gametrackers' Adventure camps.  Given that it was August and high season, we saw remarkably few other vehicles on game drives and had all but one of the major sightings (one of the two leopards). to ourselves.  The only downside of this time of year is the exorbitant cost of international flights, unavoidable because of the children.

 

I had expected Zarek to be a highly informed guide, being one of only a couple of handfuls to have aspired to gold level.  I was not disappointed!  What I couldn't necessarily have anticipated was his enormous empathy with the children which went way beyond the call of duty.  When not busy showing them things and educating them, he was inveigled into playing elementary card games instead of afternoon siestas and made to indulge in games of "wink murder" around the fire after dinner. Grandson George was inconsolable when he finally had to depart from his new best friend.  In fact, on the flight home, he was demanding an imminent return trip.

 

There was one downside to the trip in that my wife had a severe gut problem of 12 h duration on our last night at Naiboisho and then we had to get to Olderikesi next day.  Accordingly, I plugged her with immodium, but she became very dehydrated so that she eventually ended up in the Health Clinic in the Maasai town of Ololaimutiek on an intravenous drip.  Anyway, she recovered, but she and I missed the leopard and serval sightings in the National Reserve despite catching up with the rest of the party there later in the day.   

 

I'll finish with a few photographs that are an attempt to highlight the less typical parts of the trip.  Please don't take them as an indication that we didn't see a lot of wildlife.  We certainly did and greatly appreciated our time, both in the Conservancies and in the much less crowded south east of the National Reserve. On the first afternoon there we entered through the Ololaimutiek Gate and left via the Sand River Gate.  Next morning, we entered direct from the adjacent Olderikesi Conservancy before getting to the Keekorok airstrip a few hours later.

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Sleeping arrangements.  Longdrop and bucket shower behind

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Kitchen

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Messing arrangements

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Whistling thorns and ant associations proved an interesting topic for discussion

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What's under this rock?  Oh, a lizard, watch it go!  Hang about though!  There's still a beetle here (below)

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Faecal examination requires a lot of concentration

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But a bit of unscheduled muck spreading allows for subsequent relaxation.

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The armed bush walk is a classical activity, but, my God, does it have to preceded by so may instructions?

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serious stuff

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takes massive concentration

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and it can prove a bit tiring.

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The bed of the sand river at Olderikesi provided opportunities for lessons in elementary volcanology.

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Photography, of course, is all part of the deal

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Getting granny to the health clinic had its exciting moments

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and, finally, a few of many animal shots - just to prove we were being serious.  Missing are shots of hippos and vervets, which, for some reason, proved to be George's favourites.DSC_0176.thumb.JPG.f73cdefad2efe5e2ace0b6e9c90d6ca9.JPGDSC_0394.thumb.JPG.cd42280200329bb919b0a1e3de50ad16.JPGDSC_0703.thumb.JPG.7c8da1282e3d5327c435957246108413.JPG

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@douglaswise This looks like a wonderful trip - thanks for sharing the details. Something to think about if and when grandchildren become part of my life:)

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An excellent report on a great sounding trip. Lovely photos of camp, wildlife and people having a great time. Well done to Zarek!

 

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What a delight to see the classic type safari with dome tents etc.  The real thing in my opinion. 

 

It seems Zarek delivered on everything you could have hoped for including some great sightings. Lovely to see the grandchildren so absorbed with the very important  little things. 

 

So sorry to hear your wife suffered from a nasty tummy bug.

 

Thanks for telling us about it.

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Great idea - especially adding in the campsite in the south-west of the Mara for some variety, while still (it seems) avoiding the August masses. Really nice photos. I am sure you won't be the last family group doing this now. Zarek's a good man. I see Job there too.  

 

For others thinking of doing this, I believe opportunities are limited - you should probbaly find a guide with the necessary permissions (probably to a specific conservancy only too I think) before planning anything more - a bit different from the way you might normally plan a trip.

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@douglaswise...you finally gave us photos!

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Thanks for this informative and entertaining trip report @douglaswise.  Sorry to hear of the trip to the clinic, but glad it ended well and not too much safari was missed.

 

Kudos to @Zarek Cockar for the planning and execution.

 

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Many thanks to those who made appreciative comments.  I thought it worth producing the report purely because the trip was somewhat atypical of what most travellers to the Mara experience.  As several of you have stated, we were very lucky to have met Zarek and benefited so much from his guiding and organisation.

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@douglaswise, what lucky kids, a trip they won't forget in a hurry, good on you.  Love the 'serious stuff" photo, bet that made them listen up.I too would never have considered this arrangement possible and Im sure there many who will find this info very interesting.

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What a fabulous family trip!  What an eye opener.  And you had great sightings!  Sorry about your wife, but we've all been there and understand it can happen.  Glad Zarek worked out so well.  I'm sure he is another reason your grandchildren will have wonderful memories of this most generous trip! 

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@douglaswise Thanks for the details and photos from this trip. I hope it serves as an inspiration to families with small children that a quality safari experience is possible and away from the crowds.

 

Matt

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Well done in making the effort to take the family with grandchildren on safari. They will remember their experiences forever. A very valuable contribution to a balanced upbringing. I have read this with great interest and congratulations to you and your wife. 

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@elefromoz, @Atravelynn, @Game Warden and @Ritsgaai:

 

Many thanks for your kind comments.  Yes, the grandchildren are probably spoilt rotten, but I do think they got a lot out of the trip.  Anyway, the grandparents certainly enjoyed the childrens' enjoyment.

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Thanks @douglaswise for this trip report.

I don't have much to add, but yes, there are a few options for non-lodge safaris in the Mara (and indeed the rest of the country).  Having been involved with Naboisho since before it's official formation in 2010, I've seen it grow and "ripen" over the past 7 years, and it's a special place for me.  I'm very keen for it to get a wider exposure, but I'm also well aware that not everyone can afford the established options in Naboisho and the other Conservancies, or that they're not necessarily everyone's cup of tea - hence my eagerness to offer mobile camping there.

I had never done mobile camping in Olderkesi before, but was able to arrange it through Calvin Cottar, who provided an excellent campsite along the Sand River.

I'm not a photographer (lodge, wildlife, or otherwise), but I did snap a few token shots with my phone camera:
Our Campsite in Naboisho along the Enisikiria River

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A little stroll along the Enisikiria river, learning to skip rocks on water, picking up beetles, and gawking at dragonflies:

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The token "Whistling Thorn" ant demonstration, conveniently timed for a loo break:

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Wildebeest on the horizon at sunset.  Quintessential Mara:

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Sandcastles with real water in the moats, surrounded by Monitor Lizard tracks and calling Turacos

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Our dining area under a spreading Sycamore Fig on the banks of the Sand River (Olderkesi Conservancy)

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Posted (edited)

@Zarek Cockar Nice to see you back in Naboisho. A fantastic place to do camping there. 

Edited by Botswanadreams
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@douglaswise I missed this delightful report initially. Having spotted the recent question on family safari options I am tagging @espn24 as this kind of trip might be just the ticket. 

 

 I have a colleague who was taken on Safari when she was 6. She could remember snippets of it. When she returned for the first time two years ago.  She said the surprise was that the smells and sounds took her right back to being a six year in the bush. So It seems no matter how young you start on Safari, it never leaves you. 

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@Botswanadreams Yes, but this time we camped along the Enisikiria River, below the hippo pools, where we saw the Horse Safari outfit camping when you were with me.  Great campsite as well and well located for the core game viewing areas.

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The sandcastle pic is very cool. :) Never thought of doing that on safari for some reason. 

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@pault, as much as Douglas may recommend my ability to form a rapport with his grandchildren, I must say, they were a real joy to be around.  They were curious about everything, energetic (but not excessively hyper), polite, willing to get their hands and knees dirty looking at beetles, etc. and quite well-behaved overall.  It's difficult NOT to get along with them and release your own inner child when you see that much sand.  Sand castles were inevitable!

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