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The Absence of Bibi and the Question of Rain - Naboisho, Nairobi NP and Meru in December 2013


pault
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Please read this much more interesting report on Koiyaki first. This one is early - Game Warden isn't even here to chase it up.

Here

 

But it's much easier for me to post from home, and I am not sure that I will have the opportunity again this week. So I'll get started, and hope it pushes me to complete the basic travelogue pictures for the rest of the trip. It usually works for me.

 

Anyway, here we go..........

 

 

It's time again for the annual ritual of reporting my seemingly ever less interesting and ever less challenging annual pilgrimages to hunt for the leopard; bump around for days on end with wind whistling around my head and dust in my eyes; sleep like an angel; eat like a king; defy the tsetses; develop an alarmingly red nose and sometimes a comically red neck; shower in a minute, rotate clothes without always washing them (not the inner layers though :) ); never read a page of the book I brought with me just in case; try desperately to be quick enough on the draw to avoid the traditional kudu bum-shot; try even harder to keep my worn out and crooked neck in reasonable order for two weeks; and wait patiently for the very, very special minutes or hours that I will remember until next year and beyond. Same as it ever was, new as it ever is.

 

What's around the corner this time? Will it be a hippo feeding like a croc? Could it be time for a pangolin? Perhaps a lion acting like a leopard? An elusive nocturnal creature seen in the middle of the day? Or just lions behaving like lions and a bird flying in the night?

If you don't want to know the answers to those questions, there'll be little new here. You can safely glance through the pictures and move on. No revelations, little of further educational value; just a few stories of familiar places and some familiar faces, with a couple of twists that you couldn't predict even if I gave you a clue....... which of course I already did.

This year's "sexy as a Donald Trump-in-string-vest-and-socks selfie" itinerary was

30 November - 5 December Naboisho Conservancy @ Encounter Mara Camp (one familiar face already!)
6 December - 7 December Emakoko @ Nairobi National Park
8 December - 14 December Elsa's Kopje @ Meru National Park
15 December Day room at Purdy Arms, Nairobi

We booked through Chalo Africa (another very familiar face, even if you don't know it) and they used Cheli & Peacock as the ground operator. Both took very good care of us and unfortunately there are no hitches, disappointments or crossed lines to amuse you with this year. Damned efficiency!

Safaridude and others recently wrote up Emakoko, while twaffle revealed most of Meru's secrets, and Naboisho is hardly a new destination any more (and covered by Stokeygirl at the least). So I'll just have to tell you about it as best I can, roll out the smoke and mirrors, and hope some minor mental disorder will make you forget that you have heard it all before.


And if you do forget, I'll lead you over dry hills and through dry valleys.

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I'll let you peek through the bushes with me.

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And I can hope at least to give you a different perspective.

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But in Naboisho and Meru, being "in the bush" can take on a very literal meaning, and so you'll have to take the rough with the smooth....

 

Picture perfect. All in a row... one, two, damn!

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Seriously, although this trip was not much of an adventure it was an excellent, relaxing safari holiday, and all the destinations delivered as much as we could have hoped for. The weather was kind to us in that we didn't have a lot of rain, although it was mostly cloudy and dull, making me glad of my new camera which finally brought me into the world of people who shoot at ISO 800 and above with more than a hope and a prayer. You will now hear me saying that you young people don't know how easy you have it, and "When I was young, if we wanted to get lions to stay still long enough for a shot on a cloudy morning we had to shoot them and have them stuffed."

 

That new camera and lens (cause of later horror) meant I was shooting with two systems, but that was not nearly as difficult as feared, although I had minor issues adapting to the new camera itself, and what it can and can't do. Next year will be better.

 

I wish we'd seen more in better light (if you concentrate hard on some pictures you will still be able to hear the echoes of my muttered prayers for just a tiny break in the clouds during the early morning and in the evening - prayers almost never answered, possibly as a result of the muttering). But frankly, I'm not under any pressure to produce anything, and its absence only made it sweeter when the light did come. In any case we were lucky just to see what we did - we really were. Moreover, given that I had been afflicted with "photographer's block"* since December 2012 (and not even a new lens and camera system had got me out shooting for more than it took to test them and work out where all the controls were) I was pleased just to find I was taking as many shots as ever (mostly rubbish, but sometimes that's what it takes to get a bit enthusiastic again) and was on my belly as early as the first day (didn't return there often though as my spine was sending warning signals from day three and I did some ligaments in my knee while running a few weeks ago, so that was complaining too. Oh the joys of reaching 50.).

 

* "Photographer's block" is a sensitive and artistic term for "can't be bothered with the bloody camera"

 

As usual I left work after 5 on Friday, got home at around 6.45, said hello to Bibi (yes, there she was, visiting for a week) talked with her a while about her wish to return to Africa with us in 2015, among other things you don't want to know about, and then packed my photo bag and rechecked the bag of clothes and stuff I'd packed the previous day. We left home at 10 pm and arrived in Nairobi at 6 am on a cold, miserable, wet Saturday morning. Immigration was very smooth considering it was still being processed on the ground floor of the car park and then we were out and there was the Cheli & Peacock man in his nice two tone safari gear to take us to our nice safari-green town people carrier, that would just scream "jack me! jack me!" if I were a drug-addicted Nairobi thug with a gun. Fortunately, either the armed, drug-addicted nairobi thugs prefer other targets, C&P drivers are known to carry sawn-off shotguns under the seat, car jacking is pure comedy in Nairobi as they get about 200 meters before being completely trapped in traffic, or those kind of people were all crashed out somewhere at that time on a Saturday morning. We arrived very safely at Wilson airport after a cocooned, comfortable and air-conditioned ride.

 

Anyway, you don't want to hear outlandish, stupid theories about Nairobi crime. You want to hear about the new Safarilink terminal at Wilson airport and what happens to people who cannot decide which equipment to leave at home and are 13kg overweight (for two, in my defence).

 

The Safarilink departures lounge is new, light and bright and much smaller than the old one. The old one had a cafe and another larger area with just seats. The new one is simply the cafe relocated to a much smaller space with more light. However, there was more than enough space for our needs.

 

 

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The luggage got weighed and I was told with concern so genuine it must almost have been felt that we were massively overweight. Clearly there was nothing to be done, but I put on my best "let's fight this disease doctor; I'm a plucky chap" face, and after some puffing on cheeks, shaking of heads and heavy sighs on both sides of the counter I was told that it was my hand luggage that was causing this delicate problem of such clear concern to both of us.

 

"Of course if there was some mechanism whereby I could pay for the extra weight, as if it were cargo let's say..." I said rhetorically. " And of course if the captain were comfortable with that arrangement...." again rhetorically.

 

Voila! But of course! Delight swept across his face. Yes, perhaps I could pay a small sum - just a token really, per kilo. It would be only $100.... and that for both ways of course.

 

Anyway, they reduced the charge to $75 before I even had a chance to complain (not that I was planning to do so) and I had to go upstairs to the bright and airy Safaritalk offices on the mezzanine floor, to pay by credit card to the only guy there at that hour, who was fortunately not the cleaner. He suggested I could buy a seat for my gear at 75% of the full fare next time and I promised to consider that.

 

I knew I was probably going to get into trouble with Safarilink and probably not Air Kenya, because it is regularly this way. One day Safarilink are really going to take me up on my offer to send my other bag later, and I'll arrive in the Mara with all the camera gear in the world, a pair of socks and the pair of underpants that look respectable enough that I would be comfortable taking them out of my bag in a bright and airy domestic airline terminal. So don't follow my example unless you are ready for that eventuality.... and possibly persuading your travel partner to leave behind her only magazine and a book too. And of course I would not have done it if we didn't have three hours to kill until the first Mara flight anyway. I knew we had time to work something out.

 

With my special cargo now safely booked on board, we had our still-long wait and were finally called just before 10. All was well until we got on board, when we had to wait again because the air was filled with eagles. They were everywhere end even after the fire truck with lights flashing had been around to shoo away all the birds, there were some of these eagles still hanging around. I didn't have my binoculars handy and the 40mm lens I had on my camera wasn't helpful, so I am not 100% sure what they were, but they look like the migrating Steppe Eagles that Safaridude mentioned a few weeks back in his "not a trip report".

 

Birdwatching cabin crew

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Bird escort for take off (bottom left - I know it isn't very well placed to be noticed)

 

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And once in the air I had to ask who says Nairobi doesn't have effective zoning? Industrial, residential, recreational, fortified residential and business zones all in their places.

 

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You may have to forgive the photos a bit of over-saturation, under-saturation, careless processing and so on, especially at first. Another thing about a new camera system - takes time to find the right settings, and I don't have time to go back and redo them now - can only move forward or I'll never finsih (and my wife won't forgive that).

 

Ol Seki airstrip in Naboisho was the first stop for our plane (only 6 passengers) and so by 10.45 we were there and ready for the game drive to the camp. So would six nights in Naboisho and two nights in Nairobi NP be a mistake? Should I have copped out and added four nights in a more "reliable" conservancy? Make up your own mind.


We were met by freelance guide Sammy (not to be confused with Assiatant manager and also guide Sammy of Encounter Mara) who had been assigned to look after us that day since it was Thanksgiving weekend and they were busy, but camp would be empty from the next day and a camp guide would be assigned.


The drive to camp (40 minutes or so gentle drive, but two hours plus as a game drive) had a nice little bit of suspense because cheetahs had been sighted in the morning, and so we went to see if we could spot them. We couldn't, but we did acquaint ourselves with the common residents of much of Naboisho - giraffe, Coke's Hartebeest, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles, Impala, very shy warthogs, Dik-diks, Eland (a brief glimpse now but we'd see many more) and Topi. Topi, Coke's Hartebeest and giraffe are present in unusually large numbers, compared to the zebras and gazelles.


And in the distance we saw 6 lions climbing a rocky ridge, and although we couldn't get any closer because the nearest ford for the lugga between us was a significant distance away, it was nice to see "mountain lion" and our guide was happy because he said the lions had been far away from camp or missing altogether recently, and as they headed over that ridge they were heading towards Encounter Mara. It seemed auspicious, although in fact the expected reappearance of the now 30-strong pride (the Enesikiria pride I believe, although since I am not a researcher or particularly interested in lion names, I didn't really care that our guide didn't tell us - they were just "the pride" when we talked about them) did not occur as hoped.

 

Naboisho.... dry, bushy and full of wildlife

 

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Ascent.... How many "rock lions" and how many "real lions" can you spot?

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The animals immediately appeared a little skittish compared to other conservancies, but many seem actually very close to habituation now to layman me. Some run from vehicles, but most will hang around if you give them a little space - although they may prefer to face you bum first or with a reassuring plant or twig or two in between. Giraffes, jackals and Topi are generally very relaxed, whereas warthogs (especially) and gazelles seem jumpier than usual. With the others the reaction is unpredictable.

 

One thing that surprised us was that the rains had not actually come here. They had had some rain in October and a bit since, but it was really dry and quite dusty. At the same time we weren't in a drought or anything - there was some grass and browse and water available - just not as fresh and rich as it should have been. There was both good and bad in this of course.

 

Dangerous treats..... This made me hum the Mission Impossible theme while I was shooting it. Unfortunately, I have to report that Tom Oxpecker got the head butt before he reached his destination.

 

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We wouldn't have close up mongoose viewing, but we saw quite a few of course.

 

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I was thinking that being here during the rains, we'd be doing a lot of birdwatching. I was wrong, and there are scandalously few bird mentions in this report.

 

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After getting our orientation, we were told we would be on our own with guide Daniel throughout our stay and that from the next afternoon, we would in fact be the only guests in camp for the next four nights. So we had our own private, fully-staffed camp in Naboisho. We could live with that.

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And the rest of the first day.... the number of pictures reflects the excitement of being back, I think. Other days would certainly be more interesting, but this seemed like a great start to us.

 

We unpacked and then went down for afternoon tea and chatted to the guests who would be leaving tomorrow about their impressions of Naboisho, which were uniformly enthusiastic. One very nice thing I have to mention about Encounter Mara is that there is a board in the lounge tent with good information about Naboisho and the conservancy concept, including a map of grazing rights and another of the Greater Mara showing all the camps. People at camp do seem to feel proud of Naboisho and to be a part of it and I appreciated that.

We left for our afternoon drive about 4, having met Daniel, who would be taking over from Sammy next morning (fortuitously for the whole camp as it turned out). We headed out for the other side of the ridge where we had seen the lions in the morning, since everybody wanted the lions back. However, they had disappeared and after a little while we decided instead to let the lions come to us and see what else there was in Naboisho. Well, all that I mentioned above was the answer and it was a very pleasant drive, although with nothing special to remember it by until we decided to take a relatively early sundowner ( by which I mean the sun hadn't actually gone down yet in case you were thinking we'd gone soft).

 

One giraffe right outside camp wasn't skittish

 

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Sign that it was the rainy season, despite appearances..

 

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Topi action - so many youngsters about but so difficult to get shots of uncooperative animals between the bushes.

 

Strong!

 

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Hungry!

 

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Rejected! (seriously - mother wouldn't feed her right then, although I accept the timing of the pose could have been coincidental)

 

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Fast!

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Ungainly!

 

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White-bellied Hyrax

 

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Stereotypically sly jackal

 

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Team has no "I"

 

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Hunting for fawns (and they found one later, although they pursued it over a rise in the near-darkness, and by the time we got to the top we could see nothing)

 

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While Sammy was setting up the table and chairs (we had time for this today) we noticed a.big hippo heading directly our way. Was she coming for a drink? Anyway, she got close enough that Sammy insisted we remount the vehicle, but about 50m away she noticed we were there and took a right turn, allowing us to get out again. Sammy had already mentioned that with the dry, hippos were walking long distances to get fresh grass but this was quite unexpecteded as it was only 6 and we were a long way from any water and up quite high. We bid the hippo farewell and watched the only half decent sunset of our stay. Would you believe it? Two weeks in Kenya and every single day low clouds obscured the sunset? Whether the rest of the sky was clear or not a little bank of clouds condemned us to early murk every single day.

 

Well, you can't have everything.

 

The unexpected guest

 

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Keeping an eye on the guest ...

 

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Ah.... I'm back in Africa at last!

 

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Watchful Topis

 

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We would not see this again (and even for this one I had to isolate a tiny bit of the sky)

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That's all for now. It'll get a loss less wordy once the introductions are done, as really there will be little left to say until we get to Nairobi.

Edited by pault
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@@pault Don't forget some of us are new to ST and all the reports are interesting and enlightening so put in all the info you can/want it makes great reading for me. Loving the images as well, which new camera and lens combo do you have now?

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@@pault

Great start, beautiful photos (new camera working well!)

I love the baby topi sequence!

I agree with @@Big Andy - not all of us have seen all of these places

Looking forward to the rest

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PT - wonderfully written as usual! Great series of pictures of the topi calf. I'm very much enjoying and looking forward to more.

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@@TonyQ and @ Big Andy.... Usually about page 10 I admit I was being economical with the truth when I said there was nothing to tell you. :P I absolutely realise that, and I'll definitely cover all the places in my way.

 

The new camera is a Canon 5dmkIII and the lens is a Sigma 120-300/2.8. A poor man's (well, not so poor) 1D X and 200-400, which is what I really wanted but was impractical in so many ways.

Edited by wilddog
A
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@@TonyQ and @ Big Andy.... Usually about page 10 I admit I was being economical with the truth when I said there was nothing to tell you. :P I absolutely realise that, and I'll definitely cover all the places in my way.

 

The new camera is a Canon 5dmkIII and the lens is a Sigma 120-300/2.8. A poor man's (well, not so poor) 1D X and 200-400, which is what I really wanted but was impractical in so many ways.

 

That's my kit exactly, or will be at the end of the month when I get the new body. Hope I get the same sort of results and more to the point the chance to get those results

Edited by Big Andy
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The 'Ah, I am back in Africa' photo is a stunner, Paul.

 

Even in April when it was all very green in Olare Motorogi, Ol Kinyei and the main reserve, Naboisho was noticeably dryer. Did you notice the same thing or was it consistently somewhat dry everywhere?

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Wonderful start, @@pault. Brought back fond memories of Naboisho last year. I also saw many Giraffes sitting down peacefully, one of the few places I have witnessed resting Giraffes en masse. However, we never saw lions climbing rocks on the hillside, just a solo male leopard doing that!

 

Loved your picture of the sundowner with the hippo walking around nearby and the Masai blanket apposed in the center of the frame.

 

Look forward to more.

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"Moreover, given that I had been afflicted with "photographer's block"* since December 2012 (and not even a new lens and camera system had got me out shooting for more than it took to test them and work out where all the controls were) I was pleased just to find I was taking as many shots as ever (mostly rubbish, but sometimes that's what it takes to get a bit enthusiastic again)"

 

I hear you brother!!

 

News from the Mara never grows old or tiring and your photos are as good as we all expected, perhaps even better. You must have a good camera ........... (ROTFL). Which I'm reliably informed means "roll on the floor laughing" and if it means something else rude, I apologise. :D

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The title and the photos are equally fabulous.

This year's "sexy as a Donald Trump-in-string-vest-and-socks selfie" itinerary--with material like this I can't wait to begin! You always make the "less interesting" and "less challenging" very amusing and appealing.

 

I see 3 real lions. You can let me know if I missed some. Beauty of a photo. Your camera is working fine so far!

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Really enjoying this report and looking forward to more!

 

'the team has no I' photo is really clever, as both jackals head merge into one - very effective.

 

The topi calf sequence is very cute, will you be adding these photos and the captions of course, to the Show us your babies thread, sometime in the post-report future?

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Short and Sweet...

 

I love you on Safari......

 

Your reports make me so happy,

 

 

but I miss Bibi, I love her too.... :rolleyes:

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A very amusing read with some nice images thrown in...

 

i particularly like the first image in the report.

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At last! I'm having loads of fun reading your funny one-liners, clever phrases, hilarious encounters with the human species, and the great pictures of the wildlife. The topi baby and the jackals are my favorites - so far. Looking forward to more humorous and witty installments to brighten my days now that work has once again started again.....

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Great start, your witty writing style and wonderful pictures make for a most enjoyable read. Love the Topi calf series and the Jackals. More, please!

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@@pault

Great start to your trip report. Loving it and chuckling merrily away!

Edited by ZaminOz
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Daniel took over as guide for the first morning drive and would be our guide for the remaining 5 days. Coincidentally, he had graduated in the same class as Ben, who had been our guide at Kicheche Mara in 2009, and was from the same village as Nelson, our guide at Kicheche Bush in 2011, and so it was relatively easy to make a connection and realize when we should talk to him and make suggestions, and when we should pretty much shut up, enjoy the (often a bit rough) ride and let him do his thing. We enjoyed being guided by him and I wouldnt hesitate to recommend him, especially if you like the Koiyaki style.

 

Anyway, the fortuitous thing that I mentioned before was that as we were walking to the vehicle after our coffee and cookies, one of the askari stopped Daniel to tell him that he had just seen a lion from in front of our tent. So of course we hopped in, drove around the camp until we could see where our tent was (pretty tough if you werent looking for it) and then looked for a lion. We found her very quickly and Daniel decided we should follow her since she might lead us to the other group that we had seen the previous day. He was very pleased that the pride appeared to be back in the area, and we were too. However, after a few minutes of walking she just flopped down under a bush and appeared set to sleep. We still decided to stay with her, in case she called the pride in or they called her, but the odds on successfully using her to find the pride that day had just lengthened significantly.

 

After 10 minutes or so of waiting, we saw another of the camp vehicles arriving. I felt sorry for them as I think they had hardly seen any lions during their short stay, and this wasnt going to be a very exciting sighting! Immediately I thought this, the lioness leapt up and ran around the bush, preceded by an Impala fawn that we hadnt seen until the moment before the lion slapped it down and then grabbed it in her jaws. The fawn went into shock, came out of it and struggled for a very short while, and then either its neck or its skull was crushed and that was that. Nobody was sure whether the fawn had been spooked out of cover by the arrival of the other vehicle or had just not noticed the lion was still there. I hope not the former, but really they didnt do anything wrong; that kind of thing is bound to happen sometimes when you allow offroad driving, however much we may not like thinking about it.

 

Of course the lion had chosen the shady side of the bush to lie in, and so with the sun still low and a bit hazy right behind it, in dark, dark shade, the light for photographing the kill could hardly have been worse. Sigh.

 

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Now with a kill, the lioness decided to walk back in the direction she had come from. Perhaps she would take us to the pride this time?

 

 

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But after some minutes, during which she covered a surprising distance, she just took the kill deep into some bushes and, rather than eating, simply made sure it was secure under her paws and settled down for the nap that had been interrupted by the fawn and the arrival of the two other vehicles from camp. There were two jackals following her with us, but surely even they wouldnt dare to try to steal it in these circumstances.

 

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So, no pride. I was just wondering whether there was any possible reason to stay with the lion, perhaps on the grounds of just in case, when Daniel got a message from a camp guide to say cheetahs had been spotted by one of our guides, walking along the side of a slope some distance away. Did we want to go and see if we could find them? Well, yes we did. It didnt take much to reach a decision that we could come back and see the lioness later. We headed off at speed (well 30 kph or so - any faster in Naboisho and the guide is likely to bounce one of his guests right out of the vehicle driving over that stony, stony ground) and after about 15 minutes speeding in the direction the cheetahs had been seen, we saw the other camp vehicle parked near three cheetahs it seemed to be a mother and two very well grown cubs, but on viewing the photographs I am wondering it isnt actually a sister or a boy with some localized development problems (more about this on Day 4). I wish I had paid more attention and talked with Daniel about it, but of course he assumed I knew (and so I should have done, but I was too busy behind the lens, cursing the light. I will check out my other pictures to put my own mind at rest, but the quality isnt particularly conducive to sexing and aging. Unfortunately I was having really poor luck with the light that morning, and although the cheetahs were really quite active playing games with each other (mother/sister included) and it was just wonderful to watch them, again they were in the heavy shade with the sun more or less behind them (and no justification for going around the other side to the other two camp vehicles and possibly making it difficult for them to spot either prey or threats; very especially since it would only have improved the light slightly anyway). I tried to work some Photoshop magic so you could enjoy the cheetahs at play too, but am not sure the results are all that pleasing.

 

 

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What I guess was about 20 minutes after we arrived (I could check the photo times but I am lazy the full set are stored on a backup drive) they spotted a hyena running about 200 meters away and became more serious and less playful. When it became obvious that no hyena threat was going to materialize, they this time chose sleep over play and the active sighting was over. Since they had fed recently, it seemed very unlikely that they were going to move for some hours, so we decided to return to the lioness and the (now very small) chance that she might lead us to the pride, or perhaps another creature would jump into her mouth.

 

On the way we stopped to watch some giraffes that were walking past the camp (see tent top right), play spot our tent (we lost), and discuss what we thought had happened with the lion and the impala fawn. Daniel perhaps unsurprisingly thought the other vehicles arrival hadnt been a key factor.

 

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Other sightings

 

Zebra with grass "to go"

 

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Savannah terrapin

 

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We found the lioness in the same location and just beginning to feed on the fawn. She didnt bother to gut her snack and started by crushing the skull to suck out the brains, before biting the head off from the neck entirely. She then chewed the skull like a piece of sugar cane, getting out all the juicy goodness. Not favorite sighting of the trip, but it had taken some really careful planning and precision driving to get into a position where we had an almost clear view through the bushes to the lion, so I felt obliged to record the spectacle, although not to share the results with you right now. Will you believe me when I say I am being delicate in my description? We then realized it was 11 and thought wed better get back for brunch.

 

Fortunately, they werent serving barbeque spare ribs or anything crunchy.

Edited by pault
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After brunch I decided to stay in the lounge tent to charge some stuff and to check out the hide that the camp have built overlooking part of a salt lick, which is very close to the camp. You can sit quietly outside the lounge tent and watch animals coming down for water and salt for most of the day, which is very nice too, but the hide obviously offers better photographic opportunities since you are beyond the bushes that surround the camp. Encounter Mara is a cool place.

I was surprised that the path down takes you out into the open, which means you are pretty much guaranteed to spook the animals already there, but since it is on a steep slope I guess there would be no way to make a back entrance without excavations. After much reflection, I’d suggest looking at ladders, like those down to the cave hide at Meno a Kwena on the Boteti River in Botswana, but at the time I had no ideas. Anyway, the hide is covered with green meshing (like the gardening stuff) and once inside it is quite shady. You can choose to leave it open (guaranteeing few animals will come close) or partially or fully close the netting. Obviously, the full closure option would make photography difficult, and although it might have been interesting to see what comes, I went for partial closure, which occasionally became full closure anyway when the wind got strong and blew the netting down.
I didn’t see anything too exciting, but it was a really pleasant way to spend siesta time. There were impalas, eland, topi, hartebeest, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, wildebeest, zebra, warthog and baboons. Many favored the salt lick spots away from the hide (they haven’t survived living with lions this long by being completely stupid) but some came very close indeed.

 

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I would have happily stayed all afternoon, but to be honest I hadn’t expected it to be very good and so I hadn’t bothered to put a fresh battery in my camera. When the old one gave out I decided I should go up and see if my wife had enjoyed her siesta, opened the door to leave and found myself about three meters from a male impala grazing. I got to two meters (not deliberately towards the impala – that was just where the path went) and the impala became aware of my presence and bolted. I guess his lack of awareness was because the wind was strong and noisy and the door of the hide was banging a bit in the wind anyway. Just as well for him I wasn’t a bloody leopard, though. This impala seems to be a regular visitor to camp as he led the group pictured above to feed on the lovely green grass around the path back up to camp.


For the afternoon drive, Daniel asked if we wanted to look for the pride, but warned us we might not be successful on our own (the other guests had now left) unless we caught the lioness or another lion moving to give us a clue. Upon finding she was still where we left her, with no apparent intention of moving, we decided to just drive and see what we saw. This turned out to be more of the usual suspects. We watched a Secretary Bird hunting, but her prey wasn’t big enough to see. Whatever they were, they were either down her gullet before her beak got out of the long grass or she failed to catch them. There was an eland or three in thick bush and some nice viewing of giraffe going about their business. Dik-diks too. The morning had been really good but maybe we had to expect that was as good as it was going to get? And the light was really weak. I have never come across such dim light in Africa. Would I get many good photographs at all?

 

 

 

 

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Fortunately, although there was no classic Mara sunset at all, the dusk was really lovely. I have never seen so many shafts of light and we watched ostrich mating on the horizon (I imagine offroading to get closer to ostrich mating would be too much of a stretch of the conservancy rules, so we had to watch from that distance. On reflection, maybe I should have made the case for a minor exception – the shafts of light were getting very interesting).

The lover

 

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Shake that booty, ostrich-style

 

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Love them and leave them

 

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Then rain started to fall behind the shafts of light and it was beautiful. I mused that it was a pity I didn’t have a skylight filter given the very weak warming job being done by the actual sun) and then remembered that in fact I don’t have one because I don’t need one any more – you can add the filter in post processing. And so I did – gently and tastefully I hope – it really was this nice.

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In the last of the light we watched a pair of jackals waking and preparing to hunt for the many, many newborn fawns and foals littering the plains. It was really easy pickings for them as the rains hadn’t come properly, meaning the grass was still very short and they had almost no cover. They just had to stay still like this.

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The answer to day one’s quiz was “three real lions”. Contratulations to @atravellynn who wins the prize of being correct. There are three more lions somewhere, but they are hidden behind rocks or bushes in the picture. Today’s post also ends with a quiz. Can you interpret this jackal behavior?

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And then it was back for dinner at our now private camp for two. Having your own cook, waiter, askaris and camp manager is a strange experience. The askaris were doubling up at bringing the water in the evening and the waiter was probably doing a bit in the kitchen, but you can only cut so far, and even a skeleton staff is a lot of people for two guests at a camp the size of Encounter.

 


And if you are thinking that Paul is sure to have a bit of luck, but I’m glad it wasn’t me who decided to go to Naboisho in December, you are putty in my hands. If you are thinking “Paul, come on and get to days 3 and 4 already!” either I have failed miserably in my attempt to casually build tension or you just know me too well.

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armchair bushman

Loving the report. keep it up.

And although your Jackal shot isn't a sequence, it looks very much like a dog scooting its bum across the ground when it has worms.

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Encounter Mara

Hi Pault,

Thanks very much for writing this all up. Your photos are fantastic (despite your comments about bad lighting)!

We also wanted to comment on the hide and the access path. Thanks for making note of the fact that the location of the path is not ideal. We could look into taking the path through the bushes at the back and then straight down to the hide from behind.

The main reason we chose the side path is that we have a fair number of elderly guests who like to go down there for the birds (which come back quickly after being disturbed). We wanted the pathway to be easy and accessible to them. However, your point is very valid. Perhaps we could have 2 paths - 1 for the more serious photographers, and the other for the casual observers? What say ye?

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Loving the report Paul. Super photos and reportage. want more, much more. :rolleyes:

 

I assume the jackal has worms - at least that what my dogs do when they have worms.

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@@pault

Very enjoyable - text and photos - despite what you say about the light.

In fact the light makes some of them - ostrich sillouette, and the antelope with big sky.

 

It is hard seeing the fawn being killed - and that picture later of the other fawn laying low - it is a tough life out there.

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