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    • Galana
      Mine too.   The unidentified B&W ducks on day 13 were Common Eider. (Called St. Cuthbert's ducks in Northumberland.) Enjoyed following your trip.
    • Toxic
      @Whyone?thank you for bumping this topic with those stunning photos! I will now go through the other pages and be in awe of these magnificent creatures (on my list to try and see in the real world one day!)   
    • Galana
      No Black pudding either. That would make it an American. Baked Beans belong on toast for a later snack.
    • JimS
      A short note on photographic gear:   Prior to this trip, I've always had a bit of an interest in photography, but not specifically wildlife photography. I was most interested in the kind of reportage/street style of photographers like Martin Parr. My own camera gear was aligned to this: Olympus Pen-F with 12-40 f2.8.   I'll save the detail for another post in a more appropriate sub-forum, afterall this is a trip report not a gear review. But the learning curve of the photographic experience was a significant part of the overall experience for me, so it feels worth commenting on.   The short story is: I decided to stick with the Pen-F, rent a long lens (Oly 100-400mm f5-f6.3) and add a grip for ergonomics. I found this combo to be adequate if not ideal: I have lots of shots I'm very happy with, but also lots of shots where the equipment (and photographer!) weren't quite up to it. Focus was OK, but struggled with birds in flight or when animals were framed by foliage. I also suspect in hind-sight I was over-afraid of high ISO and over-trusting in image stabilisation; if I shot faster speeds at higher ISO I might have more 'keepers'.   I also took both a bean-bag and a monopod. I quickly abandoned the bean-bag, it just didn't seem to help much, and was very difficult to maintain a comfortable shooting position. The monopod seemed to be much more useful. With more hindsight, I wonder if the monopod was giving me an impression of stability, but likely transmitted all the engine vibrations asking a great deal of the image stabilisation. In future I think I will just go hand-held and trust the camera.   My biggest learning from the trip was that I absolutely don't want it to be a one-off, and will gradually change up my gear. I'll stick with the M43 system though; the size/weight trade-off is equally attractive for safari as it is for reportage. Despite recently upgrading to an OM-1, I will be happy taking the Pen-F body on future trips as back-up.
    • Towlersonsafari
      thank you everyone- and sorry to hear of your problems @Tdgraves and @Toxic- we are going to build in a "resting day2 I think to all our trips- when w e self-drive we had in the past rushed to the first reserve but it is tiring! And yes @Whyone?that was a grave fault indeed. Having just stayed up to past midnight to watch the chargers nearly throw away yet another big lead i suppose you are right @dlo. we always ask the guides, scouts etc who they support- most folk seem to support Arsenal, with quite a few Chelsea and Liverpool- and strangely no forest fans- but they all laughed when we tried to convince them!
    • Whyone?
      This topic hasn't been updated for some long while, so in an attempt to resurrect it, here are a few of my favourite images from the Cuiaba River in Northern Pantanal, taken earlier this year.              
    • Kitsafari
      Zvezda looked unimpressed by the menu but the full English breakfast looks delicious! No Baked Beans!!
    • Csaba
      @webbieReally nice shots. Do you have any idea how old they are? I'm a bit surprised to see leopards of that size being comfortable with each other.
    • Whyone?
      Like you, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Flatdogs and wouldn't hesitate to return.  I think it makes a great 'stepping-stone' into the rest of the area.   We also had the pleasure of Jonathan's company and guiding experience - as you say, he is excellent, though if I have to find a fault, it is that he supports Manchester City!!!
    • xelas
      While both the triangle and the museum, and the overall location of Chiang Saen are why tourists are visiting this part of the country, our  main interest was the large body of water named Chiang Saen Lake, also known as Nong Bong Kai Non-hunting area. It is where in winter a huge flocks of water birds came, and it also has a spectacular harrier roost. These are the type of birds we have seen here.   Asian Openbill   Grey-headed Swamphen   White-breasted Waterhen   Bronze-winged Jacana   Pheasant-tailed Jacana   Indian Spot-billed Duck   Lesser Whistling-duck   Grey-headed Lapwing     There is relatively easy to do either birding from the vehicle or on foot. The lake is quite large, and there are several temples around it where also other type of birds can be found. The HQ of the non-hunting area is just a few steps away from the Viang Yonok Hotel where we have overnighted.               If back, I will choose the same hotel but for a night or two longer stay. It has a perfect location and is run by a Brit guy who knows what his guests are looking for.               It was no surprise to find a full English breakfast on menu.        
    • Dave Williams
      I wonder if one man on a binge caused all the problems ?!  
    • Galana
      10.  Going home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9smSP1dq-A All good things come to an end and one even wakes up from Nightmares eventually so here is the final part with, if space permits, a few comments and statistics. Sadly (or maybe not) there are no pictorial records for this part of the trip so it may look a bit naked. We packed up at Tayari Luxury Tented Camp and after an exercise in bad PR and Management we paid over a further $3 ‘due to exchange rate fluctuations’ demanded by Benson this morning and said our good byes to the helpful staff. Jackson had spent some time washing the travel stains off our faithful Land Cruiser and it looked good. Our homeward flight was due to leave NBO (JKIA) at 18.30 so there was no particular rush although we would allow lots of time for Security and Check in etc., as well as Nairobberie's infamous traffic.     Our route was straightforward and good tar all the way but mostly previously untravelled by us.   Our first surprise came in Narok when we met a traffic block where two people in some form of military fatigues and bearing Rifles waved us off the road to park up which we did. Huh?? Hijacking never crossed our minds so we waited until some chap wearing ‘civvies’ came up and demanded to see our receipts for Maasai Mara entry fees. I asked him why he thought we had been in the Park, now some 55km distant, as the road we were using was a public road that had many and various destinations. He alleged he ‘knew’ we had. I then asked him for ID which he refused so I waived over the ‘military’ and asked them. Turns out he was from Narok Council and they were checking for Fee dodgers.  I had better things to do than delay our journey by winding up a rude and petty official so I showed him our receipt which he wanted to keep. He was disappointed. After a conflab with a colleague we were waived on with narry a smile or even a ‘Safari Njema’ from him although the ‘military’ had broad grins. After leaving sunny down town Narok we drove through quite pleasant country with the landmark mountain of Suswa growing larger on our right as we approached the Rift Escarpment and the main road between Nakuru and Nairobi. We did a brief comfort stop just before the road junction and stocked up with bananas for Emmy’s layover in Nairobi. Then we joined the multitude of traffic crawling up the steep escarpment road  that is lined with all sorts of stalls for the delight of the unwary tourist before joining the new expressway that led towards Nairobi. Progress was slick and fast and so much better than I had seen on previous visits. We were bowling along at a brisk but legal pace when Emmy said to look out for a Bank or ATM as ‘we’ needed some Kenyan currency for the Tolls ahead. So Gladys Garmin was asked to search and she was up to the job. Off at the next intersection, through some leafy suburb and there was a Bank just where she said it would be. We were now in funds so drove back to the Expressway which was really impressive and the welcome product of all the road works we had endured for years. Praise where praise is due. Having paid our tolls we missed the correct lane for the airport and went down the wrong slip road. After being blocked by assorted side roads we were stuck with a very frustrating view of the airport but no sign of how to get there short of breaking down the security fence and racing over the runways. Again Gladys helped us as the little map shows and we got to the security gates for inspection before finding the parking spot that we had left three weeks earlier. Our trip was done. A nice Parking attendant gave us a longer stop than our permitted hour so we went and sat in a small cafe restaurant and indulged in a nice ‘Mango madness’ Sundae. We then bid farewell to Emmy and after working our way up the queue to the entrance to Terminal 1A we were then told that Ethiopian had been switched to T3 so we had to join that queue now and start again. Check in went well as did security and our plane boarded on time. I will spare you the transit at Addis where CT would leave for LHR and I for MAN. My plane left about 45 minutes late but caught up again so that my connection time on arrival at MAN of 2hours 35 was looking safe. Well it was until having swiftly passed Immigration with my ePassport it was over an hour before the luggage carousel even started up. And guess what? Loads of luggage but no sign of mine. Lots of happy folks picking each bag that came by before replacing it on realising it was not theirs. But no sign of mine until I started to plan to leave it in order not to miss my flight. I had even paid a £ for a trolley as it was quite 20 minutes walk from Terminal 2 to T3 check in. I gave myself until 10.00 as ‘decision time’. You guessed it. I was just firing up to go at 09.57 when up popped some late bags including mine. I cut a swathe with my trolley (oh for wheels like Boudicca’s chariot) through those darn folk who persist in wandering along in line abreast over the interlinking bridges where of course the travellators were not working as usual. My donation of £1 to Manchester airport for the non-refundable trolley was well spent as I gained the Loganair check in just as it closed at 10.20. For once Security was quiet despite my carry on getting selected as usual for examination and I was cleared through to the departure gate. Phew! The plane left reasonably on time and after the usual short hop I was home on the Isle of Man and a long awaited hug from Lady G. The trip was done and it went well.     Overall mixed feelings. Mostly good but sadly my fears about the Maasai Mara were well founded. Been there done that. I doubt I will be going back any time soon. Despite the good sightings it was not a good fit or experience. On the other hand I can’t wait to get back to Tanzania. I suppose that we get conscious that each visit may well be the last one but I have had so many ‘last trips’ to Tanzania that there is always room for one more and I don’t think it will be too long before I am back.     Stats. Overall we drove around 2,500 km, not counting game drives etc, Lodges.  All very good for the money paid. Costs varied markedly of course from area to area. At a guess I would say we averaged about US$100 per bed night. Beer prices varied considerably. From US$3 to $6 which was in no way linked to the liquid volume of the bottle. Local Gin was the same price although some places denied having stocks and offered UK brands until pressed harder. The one bottle of wine for CT’s birthday was US$30. Birds seen. I run lists for each country so the checklist for Kenya shows a total of 185, with 12 new to the country and 1 lifer and for Tanzania 269 with 26 new and 4 lifers. A basic attempt to strip out birds seen in both countries seems to indicate a trip total of 324. The five ‘Lifers’ being Cuckoo Finch, Karamoja Apalis, Fulleborn’s Boubou, Kilimanjaro White-eye and Zebra Waxbill.       That’s it.            
    • JimS
      Driving on after lunch, we soon arrived at a dry river bed with a stand of palm trees on the opposite bank. Maarufu explained this is a popular spot for a well known local lion pride to sleep in the shade. We scanned the trees with binoculars, and sure enough here were our first lions.     We were alone here for a few minutes, then a few other vehicles arrived, possibly up to 4 or 5, and we decided to move on having spotted a couple of elephants digging for water further down the river bed.     The rest of the afternoon brought more lions among many other species of interest                
    • JimS
      Thanks @AndrewB - it's one of my favourites from the trip. I realise when I go back over old photos that I'm drawn to pictures that are wildlife + landscape, rather than ones that are just portraits of the animals. I really like the reminder of how it felt spending time in that landscape.   Another favourite for similar reasons is this kudu. I keep meaning to make a print of this to hang on the wall at home so I feel like I'm back there any time I glance at it.        
    • dlo
      So glad to hear you enjoyed Flatdogs it really is a great place, probably my favourite in all Africa.  Also as Chargers and Forest fans shouldn’t you know better than to have hope😪 Enjoying the report so feel free to keep boring us.
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