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Self Drive Kenya Safari - July 2013


Safari Cal
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KENYA SELF DRIVE SAFARI - Safari Cal & Laurab

 

Better late than never as the saying goes :rolleyes: Here's our report at last :D

 

Our safari in July this year took us on a circuit of Kenya from Nairobi to the following destinations:

 

Part 1 13th Aberdares (Treetops)

Part 2 14th-16th Samburu (Elephant Bedroom Camp)

Part 3 17th-18th Nakuru (Mbweha Camp)

Part 4 19th Naivasha (Fishermans Camp)

Part 5 20th-26th Maasai Mara (Serena Safari Lodge)

Part 6 27th Nairobi (Stanley Hotel)

 

Departing back to the UK on the 28th.

 

 

Part One

 

Well, what a difference from last year, the arrival process at JKIA was a breeze and we were through in under an hour with bags collected (they all turned up this year) and waiting for the 4x4 to turn be delivered. Luckily we got there a few weeks before the arrival hall burnt to a cinder, but even so it was a remarkably wait and trouble free entry.

 

As you can see from the itinerary above our plan this year was to head north from Nairobi to Mount Kenya and Samburu first and then swing back south through the Rift Valley to the Maasai Mara via Nakuru and Naivasha.

 

On every safari we always stop off at a mall for provisions before setting off on our adventure, and so it was this trip. In record time we were at the Sarit Centre waiting for the shops to open and for friends to arrive to have breakfast with us. We headed to Java Coffee House and had a wonderful breakfast whilst catching up on all the local gossip.

 

After this we headed further out of Nairobi on Thika road to a new Mall to meet some more friends I used to work with and to share a drink and some great memories with them. I hadn’t seen some of them for a few years and it was great to catch up after so long.

 

All too soon we were heading north again to Treetops where @@laurab had visited when she was a child on her way back to the UK from South Africa. I had a surprise for her as she had asked to go there last year and I hadn’t managed to make it happen, so after a nice drive up to Nyeri we had finally booked in at the Outspan and were driving to Treetops. If you are self driving you either have to add money to your KWS card before you leave Nairobi or drive past the entrance for Treetops and go to the Park HQ about a mile further on and pay your entry fee before returning to Treetops entry gate.

 

On the way to the lodge we met the friendliest Warthogs you could ever hope to meet and saw numerous Bushbuck and bird species, but the light was fading now and the rain was beginning to fall. We needed to get to the lodge so there wasn’t much time to take photos, although @@Laura did manage to get this close up of a Warthog.

 

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Treetops is in the Aberdare National Park, about 17km North of the Outspan Hotel in Nyeri and lies in the path of an Elephant migratory route between the Aberdare Ranges and Mt Kenya National park, and is sited right in front of a natural watering hole and salt lick.

 

The view across to the site of the original Treetops

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There are 36 en-suite guest rooms consisting of 3 suites and 33 double/twin rooms. You can self drive to the Lodge as we did or alternatively you can park at the Outspan Hotel and be transferred using Lodge Transport; but you have to leave early on your day of departure if you choose the latter option.

 

The Lodge is impressive when you first see it, raised on stilts the way it is, and then you realize… the only way is up!

 

Me, happy to be back in Kenya!

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So up and up we went to one of the lounges for check in where we were welcomed with a drink and a briefing on the layout of the lodge. After check in we were escorted to our room, and I sprung Laura’s surprise, it was the Princess Elizabeth Suite.

 

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The views of the waterhole and surrounding countryside from the Suite were fantastic, we really didn’t need to leave it to see anything and it was just perfect for our first night in Kenya. For me it was enough to see Laura’s smile.

 

The view from our room window

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Now the reason I had never been to Treetops before was that I thought it was a waste of a safari day, but I have to say we had a wonderful evening and managed to have some close encounters with Elephant, Buffalo and Bushbuck in the low level hides as well as have a lovely romantic evening in the bar and lounge, finding time to talk about our forthcoming adventure as well as go through the old visitors books looking for Laura and her parents comments.

 

Me in the Treetops Bar Lounge

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Here are a few more of our photos from our night at Treetops:

 

Elephant approaching the lower hide, coming very close!

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Buffalo coming to drink from the waterhole and use the salt lick

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Bushbuck posing for the females

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We went to bed anticipating our trip to Samburu in the morning and the possibilities it would bring to see some new and interesting flora and fauna. It had been a decade since I'd last travelled there and @@laurab had never been to the area before. We knew it would be very different because of the flooding that occurred in 2010, but we were optimistic that the resilience shown in Amboseli following the drought in 2009 would be found in Samburu too.

 

Part 2 to follow soon :D

 

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Takes me back! My first African safari inclued a night here. But our room was tiny iirc!

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Part 2 - Day 1 Arriving in Samburu 14 July 13

 

After a misty morning start and a hearty breakfast with the whole dining room to ourselves – the other guests had left earlier - we left Treetops and headed across country to join the road to Nanyuki at the Brookside dairy and had a good run all the way from there to Isiolo, where we stopped to refuel and stretch our legs.

 

The terrain gradually changed during the journey, from forest to desert scrubland and the from the Kikuyu people of Mount Kenya to the semi-nomadic Samburu people from north of Isiolo.

 

I was pleasantly surprised at the pristine tarmac that greeted us as we left Isiolo. The road was a significant improvement over the murram road I remembered from my last visit. It probably saved us around 15 - 20 minutes on the journey to Archer’s Post.

 

Crossing the bridge into Archer’s Post we noticed that the Ewaso Nyiro River was flowing well and we were both full of anticipation at the prospect of our safari in a different Eco-system. We were also looking forward to seeing what Elephant Bedroom Camp had to offer and if it lived up to its name!

 

A few hundred yards later we were turning off the main road in Archer’s Post and heading into the park gate. On the way in we passed numerous dwellings and I noted how much had changed since my last visit, Laura took some photos as the dust and the heat really started to hit us.

 

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After our leisurely start to the day we were happy to arrive at Elephant Bedroom Camp at 2pm. The tented camp is situated right on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and all 12 tents have great views across the river.

 

The tents are raised on platforms which is just as well given the real chance of Elephants walking through the camp at any time of the day. The tents are very spacious, and offer a luxury safari experience. A few tents have king size beds but the majority have twin queen size beds.

 

We dropped our bags and headed straight out on Safari, deciding to find a nice shady spot by the river to eat our packed lunch. We ended up spending it with Superb Starlings, some cheeky Vervet Monkeys and a flock of Vulturine Guineafowl, with their gorgeous iridescent blue chests, as they came to the river to drink.

 

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We were enjoying our lunch and taking in the beauty of the scene in front of us when a shadow flashed past my open window with a swooshing sound as a Martial Eagle swooped down and caught one of the now fleeing Guineafowl in it’s Talons. We dropped our lunch, grabbed our cameras as the Eagle settled down on top of the Guineafowl and were just focusing our cameras on the scene when the Eagle started flapping in alarm and took off quickly.

 

Having my eye to the viewfinder I couldn’t work out what was happening initially, but this sequence of photos shows what happened next.

 

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We waited a while to see if the Martial Eagle returned but alas it didn’t, so after all the excitement we decided to find out what else the park had to offer.

 

During the game drive during which we saw our first batch of Samburu birds including Red Billed Hornbills, Buffalo Weaver, Red and Yellow Barbet and Grey Headed Kingfisher. We also saw our first and only pair of Grevy's Zebra and our first Gerenuk of the trip. Here is a selection of photo’s from the game drive:

 

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After our game drive Laura suggested heading back to where the Vulturine Guineafowl had been killed to see if the Martial Eagle had returned, it was circling overhead, but there on the ground feasting on the dead bird was a Tawny Eagle. We took quite a few photos of it gorging itself and stuffing it’s throat sack which looked fit to burst.

 

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After a great first days game viewing we headed back to the lodge for sundowners with a little friend and a nice relaxing evening reviewing the photos of the day and to write up our diary.

 

Our companion for sundowners

 

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Dinner was fantastic, considering it was cooked in a tent beside the dining area and apparently sometimes with an elephant assisting the chef!!! We reviewed our photos and after a couple of drinks headed back to our room in the darkness of the African night to our fantastic tent. Laura took a couple of shots.

 

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We went to bed with a smile on our faces, looking forward to our morning safari.

 

Tune in for more of our Samburu adventures soon.

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Feel free to grab whatever you think will work GW and I'll be sure to post some of the bird shots to the birding subforum :)

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@@Safari Cal great report and photos - those Samburu vervets must be tough! Looking forward to more.

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I'm enjoying your TR and photos very much - great shots of the Grey Headed Kingfisher and the very serious looking hornbill.

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On 9/29/2013 at 11:31 PM, twaffle said:

Great start

Thanks @@twaffle, I hope it's as enjoyable to read as it was to experience, but definitely wish I had the TR writing skills of you 

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Very nice! I am eagerly anticipating more.

 

Glad it's of interest. I hope I can finish Part 2 soon :)

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Takes me back! My first African safari inclued a night here. But our room was tiny iirc!

 

I was surprised at how big the room was, it was positively palatial for a treehouse

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@@africapurohit I was surprised it attacked the Eagle, is it normal behaviour? Anyone know?

 

@@PT123 Thanks, it's been fun writing it

 

@@Treepol The Hornbill was sifting through Elephant dung when I took this, don't think he liked me interrupting his search for food!

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What great action on guinea fowl kill, and you got photographic evidence. Impressed.

 

Thoroughly enjoying your trip.

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Great stuff. Just as well that wasn't your first Vulterine Guineafowl..... "Oh what a gorgeous bird... splat!" :lol:

 

Fine photos and fine reading. Really like hearing about your trips as a self-driver - something a bit different. Your comments about the journeys between places and the various sights with which you are familiar from times past add a lot to the report that you probably don't even think about.

 

Look forward to the rest.

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@@africapurohit I was surprised it attacked the Eagle, is it normal behaviour? Anyone know?

 

I've seen baboons chasing off large raptors before but never vervet monkeys - if anything, they usually duck for cover.

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What great action on guinea fowl kill, and you got photographic evidence. Impressed.

 

Thoroughly enjoying your trip.

Thanks @@twaffle, why do these things always happen when you're eating greasy food though haha

 

 

 

Great stuff. Just as well that wasn't your first Vulterine Guineafowl..... "Oh what a gorgeous bird... splat!" :lol:

 

Fine photos and fine reading. Really like hearing about your trips as a self-driver - something a bit different. Your comments about the journeys between places and the various sights with which you are familiar from times past add a lot to the report that you probably don't even think about.

 

Look forward to the rest.

Thanks Paul. Reading it back I could have added quite a bit more about the journey, but you're right @@pault, I guess I assume the route is pretty well covered in other TRs so concentrate on the game viewing.

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@@africapurohit I was surprised it attacked the Eagle, is it normal behaviour? Anyone know?

 

I've seen baboons chasing off large raptors before but never vervet monkeys - if anything, they usually duck for cover.

 

It was almost like it was so surprised or shocked that it just reacted without thinking. The Eagle was worried enough to take off though, so obviously on the ground the Vervet has the upper hand... if it's not already in the Eagles talons ;)

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Part 2 - Samburu Day 2 15 July 13

 

We got up early for our first full day of game driving after a night spent listening to the hippos in the river and the tent canopy flapping in the breeze.

 

We set off towards the west and had only been out around half an hour when we came across our first cheetah. There was only one other vehicle and they didn’t wait long so after around 10 minutes we had the sighting all to ourselves… and what a sighting it was!

 

The Cheetah approached a bush and, as we were pondering what he might be up to, he leaped up onto the top of it to get a better view of the prey in the area. We were chuckling as he stumbled onto the top in such an ungainly manner his feet regularly disappearing through the gaps, giving him the appearance of a toddler trying master the art of walking for the first time.

 

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We spent the rest of the early morning, before breakfast, trying to track it, but it eventually headed into the scrubland in search of prey after which we couldn’t follow. This is the last shot I managed to get as it disappeared from sight.

 

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On the way back to the lodge we managed to see a Fischer’s Starling, a lovely Yellow-necked Spurfowl posing beautifully on a dead tree, a Yellow-Billed Hornbill and another Tawny Eagle. We were especially happy having seen the Cheetah though.

 

Here are a few of the shots I took:

 

Fischer’s Starling

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Yellow-necked Spurfowl

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Yellow-billed Hornbill

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After a lovely breakfast which was served on the decking overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River we were quite surprised to find out that Sam (short for Samburu) the Elephant was eating the Acacia fruit off of the roof of the tent adjacent to ours and right next to our path!

 

So, after a bit of deliberation we eventually managed to get round the back of the tent and climb onto the decking safely out of sight of Sam, in time to get a few photos from the safety of our raised platform. We did wonder how safe it was really, but what a wonderful experience, as you can see in this photo of @@laurab.

 

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We decided to have a lazy morning and go out again after lunch as there was so much to see around the Lodge… and Sam was moving around the area as well.

 

I spent some time sitting on the decking watching the Weavers outside flitting back and forward from their nests as well as seeing a lovely Spotted Morning Thrush, numerous Bulbul’s and a pair of Slate-coloured Boubou. I watched a Lizard successfully hunting butterflies on the tree trunk in front of me for a while and then Sam eventually headed off down the path towards the lodge building… lunch may be late today I thought!

 

White Browed Sparrow Weaver

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Spotted Morning Thrush

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We decided to have an early lunch and head out straight away afterwards. Sam was at the side of the kitchen tent when we arrived so we quickly climbed onto the platform after which he decided to help the chef... naughty elephant!

 

Taken from the safety of the raised platform.

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In the kitchen area!

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Lunch wasn’t as early as we had planned, Sam made sure of that as the chef had to make a sharp exit from the kitchen until Sam decided to move on. But eventually he did head off and lunch was served in front of the decking in the shade of some trees.

 

As we were eating a Red-billed Hornbill flew into the tree above us and I could hear the drilling of a Woodpecker as well. Leaving the table I climbed onto the decking to get a better view and managed to get these shots of the Hornbill and the Cardinal Woodpecker.

 

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It was time for our afternoon game drive and we decided to head towards Koitigor Hill in the hope of seeing a Leopard. Some guests had seen one on their early morning game drive while we were tracking the Cheetah.

 

So off we went, heading west again and hopeful that lady luck would smile on us. We reached the Koitigor area and stopped on the eastern side of the hill and scanned the area with binoculars but alas we couldn’t see anything moving or laid up for that matter. So we scouted out the western side of the hill where we saw both Kirk’s and Guenther’s Dik-dik; the long nosed Guenther’s was a new sighting for me and very cool to see.

 

Kirk's Dik-dik

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Note the elongated nose on the Guenther's Dik-dik

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As we drove around the scrubland to the south eventually heading to the river to see if there were any animals drinking or crossing. En route we saw Crested Francolin, Unstriped Ground Squirrel, Gerrenuk and another Cheetah which posed nicely in front of a distant elephant.

 

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As we entered the riverine forest it became apparent very quickly that we were surrounded by a large herd of elephants, lots of mothers with calves, so we decided that because of the enclosed nature of the track we would reverse out the way we had come in and head back out into the scrubland. As we were reversing I noticed something out of the corner of my eye and I was really surprised to find that I was staring at a Greater Kudu and it wasn’t running away as they do in Tsavo. It was in dense bush, but I managed to get a photo for the record before it nonchalantly walked behind a large bush and disappeared from sight.

 

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We added it to the list of species we’d seen that day and headed back out of the forest to see the herd of elephants emerge as if playing a game of follow the leader. We watched as they gracefully passed us allowing us the opportunity to take lots of photos.

 

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We eventually found ourselves back at the southern tip of Koitigor Hill where another guide had spotted something moving, and scanning the tree again there indeed was a Leopard, I’ve no idea how he spotted it as it was quite a distance away, but we were happy to get our first views of a Leopard in the same spot we’d looked at earlier.

 

Very close crop

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We bumped into Julius, the Samburu guide from our Lodge and showed him where the Leopard was, his guests were happy to have seen one however far away it was. He reciprocated by letting us follow him to an area where he thought some lions were laying up. Sure enough we found a lioness, just as the light was starting to fade but managed to get a few photos as she headed off on her hunt.

 

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We then headed back to the Lodge following Julius, but he started to speed up as if he’d heard there had been a sighting, so we followed close until we realized he was dropping off his guests by the river for what we thought was a bush dinner. We stopped and started to reverse realizing our mistake and were then waved to come and join them. Joseph the lodge manager had forgotten to pass on the message to us that there were sundowners for all the guests so Julius had speeded up knowing that I was following and would likely think there was a sighting and follow; they’re not daft these guys!

 

So we had a lovely drink by the river chatting with the other guests from the UK, America and Holland. The UK couple were revisiting their honeymoon with their children who were just such great kids. But it was the American party that had us all entertained with their stories from the Serengeti, of Lion kills in front of them whilst dangling their legs over the river bank watching a crossing and of a buffalo being taken down by a pride. They had it all on video as well as the stills. Incredible stuff, they had what I expect comes close to most peoples idea of 'the safari of a lifetime'! We all chatted and had snacks washed down with a few drinks as we watched the last of the suns rays leave the river to the night, after which we reluctantly had to return to the Lodge.

 

What a fantastic day it had been, Samburu had been very good to us so far, we hoped it would continue tomorrow.

 

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Part 2 Day 3 to follow…

Edited by Safari Cal
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Beautiful, evocative pictures. You are a very talented photographer. I am now sold on the Canon 300mm F2.8. Thanks for your trip report.

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Beautiful, evocative pictures. You are a very talented photographer.

 

Agree 100%.

 

And that Sam made for an eventful lunch.

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It's always decidedly dodgy writing about a place so well visited by most ST members, but for the time I've spent pulling the trip report together so far, I've realised I'm definitely not offering anything new. So... I've decided to wrap this up.

 

We had a great safari, as did many of you, Samburu was awesome, as was Nakuru, Naivasha has never let us down and the Mara was exceptional.

 

Hopefully next year will be even more awesome and we'll all have more to contribute..

 

Good luck in 2014 all you ST addicts.

 

Cheers.

 

Cal

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What an amazing set of cheetah shots. Who would have thought they would get that creative looking for a viewpoint? No wonder they climb on vehicles - a lot less difficult than that! Great shots of it too. Glad to see good cheetah sightings there.

 

The elephant is definitely in charge. That looks a bit worrying - just a little more curiosity and he'll be in the mess tent and some guests are not going to be getting much to eat until he can be persuaded that isn't a good idea. That thrush from the same morning is no LBJ either - what a beautiful bird.

 

I spotted the leopard! Not sure I would have if you hadn't cropped for us. I really wanted to see a leopard in one of those huge trees along the river in Samburu, but we had no luck on our one visit. - there are some amazing trees there. And a Greater Kudu - I didn't even know they were there. Quite a day for sightings.

 

Great photos of it all.

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It's always decidedly dodgy writing about a place so well visited by most ST members, but for the time I've spent pulling the trip report together so far, I've realised I'm definitely not offering anything new. So... I've decided to wrap this up.

 

We had a great safari, as did many of you, Samburu was awesome, as was Nakuru, Naivasha has never let us down and the Mara was exceptional.

 

Hopefully next year will be even more awesome and we'll all have more to contribute..

 

Good luck in 2014 all you ST addicts.

 

Cheers.

 

Cal

Oi! If the cheetah sighting isn't new I'm not sure what is. And the Greater Kudu there? I can only surmise that people (like me) missed your second Samburu post because it is the last one on that page... that happens . I came here, saw Leely's post and thought she was commenting on the earlier ones.

 

I am actually very interested to hear from you about Samburu and see what you found and shot in Nakuru, Naivasha and the Mara. And to hear about the journey! Oi!

 

The destinations may be well traveled but the exceptional eye seeing them and the mode of travel are both new and interesting. Please don't stop now... That's cruel..... Almost as cruel as @@madaboutcheetah giving us snippets of information about his Tanzanian safari and never posting so much as a picture that I've seen.

 

Oi!

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