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Masai Mara, 2nd time, 9 - 14 feb 2014


Gregor
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Finally, after almost 2 years, it was time to return to Africa . Back to the Masai Mara.


This time I arranged the trip myself. I have booked the lodge via booking.com and a car with a guide that I found on the internet. And I 've got with me Lars and Johan, who I met when last fall in Finland. After a long flight from Stockholm via Addis Ababa, we landed in Nairobi. I was a little unsure about if our booked guide really would wait for us there, but he did. When you find things on the internet and pay to an unknown account , one can not be sure. But it worked. Tired after the long journey we took a bumpy ride through Nairobi's rush hour to the hotel I booked. I had booked us at Sarova Stanley, and it was really good and nice place. Felt like an American or English middle class hotel, but with a lot of staff. Anyway, I can recommend Sarova Stanley. It's quite nice to land on a clean hotel and rest after a long flight.


(Translated from swedish with google)


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Day 1


The next morning Stanley Sarova served a good breakfast, and then we began the long journey to the Masai Mara. Actually it is not very long, about 300 km, but the final 100 km is on a miserable and bumpy african dirt road. It takes time, a total of about 5 hours from Nairobi. For lunch, we arrived at our lodge. We had booked us at Keekorok lodge, which is the oldest lodge in the Masai Mara.


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Keekorok lodge is really good, and we were super happy with the lodge. Obviously, it is all inclusive, as there are no other restaurants in the National Park. They had a great buffet consisting of African and Indian food. Given that this is Africa, one should not expect so much of the food. But the Indian food was often really good.


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In addition to the buffet they had a wok where you could get the wok and pasta. Really good! They had no idea what parmesan or pesto is, but it was good nonetheless.


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Johan and Lars if filling up, before our first game drive.


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We set out after lunch. We went in the direction of Sopa area, as I well know, since last time I was in the Masai Mara. I took some amazing photos there. First photo of the occasion offered a fine pair of blue-eared starlings. This is birds that you see much of in Kenya.


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At the bridge over the small river at Sopa, we photographed weaver birds who had a colony with host nests in a tree. Lars and Johan has a lifelong interest in birds, and therefore we watched and photographed quite a lot of birds.


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After a while we found a lioness lying on a hill just outside the small road we came on. She lay there lazily looked out over the surrounding area, such as lions do. Flies bothered her, of course.


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After a while we found the local lion pack of sopa, but without males. They were propably out on patrol. As usual with lions, it is both lots of cuddles and a lot of bark and bickering.


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A couple of lion cubs were teasing and fighting all the time. So cute :)


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And a straight right punch :)


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The pack walked away, and the sun was going down. We had to leave them and hurry back to Keekorok before the national park curfew struck.

But just before we were going we saw a lioness began to pry into the tall grass, she had found something. Suddenly she went for something that we saw was a serval. Fortunately the Serval got away.



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Really pleased after our first game drive, we went back to Keekorok.


Day 2


to be continued.




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Love the photo of the "right punch" @@Gregor.

 

I had NO IDEA you could book a safari on Booking.com

 

Looking forward to more of the safari!

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I am really enjoying your photos, love the weaver birds. What a good start to the trip. I stayed at Keekorok way back in the '60s but don't remember it much! :D

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Looking forward to following your safari

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I had NO IDEA you could book a safari on Booking.com

 

 

Only the accommodation I think. It's limited, but you can book some quite surprising places through these sites. Have a look!

 

 

 

Google translate does a good job with Swedish! Only a couple of strange things and very easy to read.. And your photos are really nice so far. @@Gregor. I look forward to the rest.

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Yeah, I booked the lodge via Booking.com. Guide and car via a website i found googling for it. A week for everything inclusive flights was about 2500 euro/ person.

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Day 2, 10th February

 

This morning we did not see nearly as much as the night before. The weather was cloudy and misty. Beautiful anyway to be out in this landscape and anticipation over what any second might pop up. In a puddle we found some three-banded plover. These are quite common in the area.

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An black-winged Kite. Very unusual in Sweden, common in Kenya I would think.

 

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A female lion we found lying on a hill and looked out over a valley. Masai Mara has an astonishingly diverse landscape, ranging from open savannah to an mountainous landscape.

 

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Well, lions lying and resting at midday on a hill. Time to go on. Once down in SOPA, we made the acquaintance of this handsome antilop. In this beautiful landscape, the danger is never far away. Better be on the outlook.

 

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I like kingfishers, they are beautiful birds. In the afternoon we continued to drive around in the area between SOPA and Talek. A landscape that was beautiful, hilly and with a relatively large shrubs, trees and tall grass. But it meant that we did not see much. An occasional bird. As we understand, there is not much of herbivores there. They would like to have a line of sight for at least 50 meters. This means of course that the cats are not there either. If you were to find them, it's hard to get a good picture when they are likely to be more or less covered with tall grass.

 

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On the way back to Keekorok, just outside the lodge we saw a Hyena for the first time this trip. They were unusually anonymous. Probably because we were moving in the lion areas. This one, I think did best in black and white.

 

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A nice day with not that many sightings, or pictures. It is easy to get spoiled in areas like the Masai Mara.

 

Day 3

 

to be continued.

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Day 3, 11th February

 

This morning it was much nicer weather, sunshine and clear weather. We went slowly out toward the Talek. We took some pictures of birds as usual, here's a field hen, a red-necked spurfowl.

 

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We then found a lonely female cheetah. It was getting pretty hot, but she moved slowly, and then lied down and rested for a while. It is always interesting to follow cheetahs, anytime can happen, even though it is mid-day. Cheetahs are one of the few predators that normally hunt at during day-time.

 

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As we sat there and observed her, our guide Mike turned to us. He had heard something on the radio and said: I think I have something interesting to show you. We wondered what of course, but he would not tell. Typical for him. He did not have the habit of telling us where he drove us, what information he received via the radio or let us be involved in the decisions where we would go. We went on and we realized that he thought this must be interesting as he was driving quite fast. On the way we drove past a hoopoe, we stopped for moment and got some good pictures of.

 

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Then we came to a unusual situation. A cheetah who climbed up in a thread. Trees are leoparders home, but certainly not for the cheetah. Cheetahs stick to open areas where they have visibility, where they can see the danger from a distance and walk the other way. In a short distance there is nothing that can threaten them. Our guide thought that the cheetah must have been chased by hyenas and not found any other way to get away.

 

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The cheetah was obviously very stressed and uncomfortably in the tree. We waited for a one and a half hour before g became down. It was lunch time and very hot. I got some video of the situation with my D800.

 

(So, How do I post a link to youtube?)

 

After this drama it was high time for lunch and we went back to Keekorok. This morning was special and I was more than satisfied.
After lunch, our guide drove us back around in the parts of the Masai Mara which is relatively hilly and with tall grass. Here is a couple of oxpeckers sitting on a stump.

 

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Late afternoon, Mike told us that he heard on the radio of a cheetah with a cub. We decided to go there. It was some distance to go, in the Sopa area, right on the National Park boundary. There we could follow a female and her semi-adult cub. First, they stopped and cuddled a bit, but then they started to move through something that I think looked like an English parkland, towards the open plains where there was plenty of herbivores.

 

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It was beautiful to follow them in that landscape. We had to leave and go to the lodge. To bad as it looked like they were going hunting. This was really cheetahs today. I love cheetahs.

Edited by Gregor
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madaboutcheetah

Hi Gregor, I'm not seeing any images???

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I am seeing images (very good ones!)

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michael-ibk

So am I.

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Love the picture of the lioness on the hill with beautiful bokeh of the valley below.

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madaboutcheetah

I was having browser problems ........ Sorry - saw the lovely images now. Thank You @Gregor

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Yes, the images are great and your B&W hyena is especially nice. Hoopoe and kingfisher pics are really nice too.

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@@Gregor

Thank you for the report

Good to see Kenya at this time of year

I like your photos - especially the cheetah

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im enjoying the report. poor cheetah was driven to the top of the tree! i hope she was fine after that.

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Day 4, 12th February

 

We decided that we would drive directly to the Talek area. We drove towards the Talek, slowly along a river that meandered in that direction. Unfortunately, there was not more fun than this field hen, a Coqui frankolin.

 

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A picture of the Talek river. Every tree feels like a perfect place for a leopard. Didn´t see any though.

 

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Down by Talek, where there was an open field, we found this Kori Bustard. Kori Bustard is the heaviest bird that can fly. Lars thought this was really special to see and photograph, and he was on fire :)

 

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At midday, oddly enough, we found a lion pack that went over the plain. They were heading down towards the Talek River. They looked unusually thin. I wonder why they had a hard time, for suitable prey are everywhere.

 

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Just in the same area we found three southern ground hornbils walking around. Cool looking birds.

 

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I the afternoon, there was another game drive around in areas with bushes and high grass. Not much there, expect for this elephant bull.

 

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to be continued.

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The cheetah in the tree is very odd. I'm sure it was stressed. Not many photos like that. You'll see them hop up on a branch but this guy is hanging in the canopy like a baboon. Glad the serval got away. The colors in the blue eared starling photo are captivating. I see a hoopoe, my fav African bird.

 

Great lion activity.

 

I'm thinking of a Mara trip around that time of year. I see you were in Keekorok. Why that location? Any other places?

 

Thanks so much. Looking forward to the continuation!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Hi

 

I choose Keekorok because of it´s central location in this part of the Mara, och because it was easy to book. There is many other places, but most outside of the park. My experience is that it is the first and last moments of the day that is the best. Hence every minute is important. I´m not familiar with the western part of the mara. I suspect wildlife might be even better there. But I have not knowledge of nice lodges, with both reasonable prices and good location there. I guess a lot of people here have suggestions.

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Thanks for Keekorok info. I believe it was the first Mara Lodge. I recall having afternoon tea there a couple of times long ago it it looked nice. A reasonably priced choice of lodging inside the park is a great combo, I agree. So all nights were at Keekorok, I assume? I was thinking it might be very well located for the green season.

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Peter Connan

Gregor, the lion on the hill in post #7 is exceptional!

 

Loving your report

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Day 5, 13th February

 

At this point I begin to feel more and more familiar with the southeastern part of the Masai Mara. I've been here twice now. And riding around in the area between the Talek, Sarova and Ololamutiek (SOPA).

 

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Before we went out, I had a discussion with our guide. I told him that I thought he should listen more to what we asked, and in all communicate more and not just drive around without saying anything. One lesson is to be very clear from the start with how you want it, and express that as a wildlife photographer I want something other than the regular safari tourist. It is important to describe that one is not interested in going around and see the "area" and the most number of lions. I want to be in the areas where most animals are, scout out the area, and follow the animals that are interesting. It is also important to describe that the pictures i want, is when you have good light and good angle. You obviously like to have interaction or a unique event. The best thing is usually to wait for it, not drive around for it. I think he listened some, and he was slightly more communicative after this. Anyway, early on this misty morning , we came across this magnificent male antilop.

 

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Later at the Talek we visited this nice Goliath Heron.

 

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In a lonely tree, in the middle of the savanna, we found this Tawny Eagle.

 

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Next to it, a Secretarybird was walking around.

 

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This giraffe looked to have found his place :)

 

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In the afternoon we decided that we wanted to go to a new area, and headed due south towards the Sand River. It proved again to be a hilly area with tall grass. Very beautiful, but of course not as much animals. But there was a lot of bustards in this area.

 

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to be continued..

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Try to post youtube video of the cheetah in the tree. A bit long clip, but anyway hope you enjoy it. Last seconds of the clip he comes down from the tree.

 

 

Edit: Ok, now I think it works.

Edited by Gregor
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The cheetah does seem to get comfortable momentarily. Maybe he has been watching leopards. Most interesting video.

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Day 6, 14th February

 

Last day. We decided to go directly to Talek. From here early in the mornings there usually is ballons going up.

 

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Down by Talek we were met directly by the area's reigning male lions. In the Masai Mara, it has become increasingly common with coalitions of several males. Competition is so fierce that one or two males are disadvantaged. These four males are still young, but together they are strong. And as always, they devote a lot of time cuddling and strengthen the bond between them.

 

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The fourth brother did not want to be left outside, and soon they were all in a big pile :)

 

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About a hundred yards away stood two buffaloes, unaware of the four lions males. The lions disappeared into the bushes behind them. We hoped that they would sneak around the buffalo and make an attack. But they never showed up again. One of the brothers lingered, and for a few seconds some warm sunlight shined through the morning mist on him.

 

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Magical morning. On the way back to Keekorok for lunch we met a baboon out on patrol and then some elephants that roamed the plain.

 

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After lunch we found this Pallid Harrier. It had just taken a small rodent and sat on the stump and ate.

 

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Late in the afternoon we drove to the Sopa area. There, on the slopes were some antelopes, and we got some good pictures in the evening light and with the rocky background.

 

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Mike our guide told us that he heard on the radio that the female cheetah cub, which we photographed earlier this week in Sopa, was a little further ahead. And it looked as if she would try to go hunting. We went quickly there and found them resting just beside the main road. On the other side of the road was a large flock of antelope. Next right away when we arrived, we see how the female cheetah changed to "hunting-mode". She hurried off the road and into the bushes. Frustratingly enough, we could not see and observe more then it was both cars and bushes in the way. We understand that she hunted, the reaction in all animals fleeing. We tried to take us closer and it almost looked like the Garden of Eden, with all animals going away from the area.

 

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We drove around the vegetation and saw that indeed the cheetah had taken an antelope. She lay there breathing heavily, while her cub started eating the antelope. Mike made a dirty move and drove off road so we could get close. In my opinion not entirely necessary as we have our long telephoto lenses, and it must be a disturbance for the cheetahs. The photo shows even the teethmarks in the throat after the cheetah stranglehold. A few seconds later we raced away from there.

 

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On the way back we stopped when Mike wanted to help his brother to change tires on their safari van that had got a flat tire. Mike is in the middle of the photo, making a gesture.

 

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When we got ahead on our way back to Keekorok, we saw about a hundred White Storks sitting in the trees along the road. Apparently, they were resting on their way north towards Europe. Lars and Johan thought this was a good sighting. Nowdays white Storks are common in southern Sweden, but they came back just a little more then 10 years ago. Conservation is in many ways working in Europe, and some wildlife is coming back to our fauna. I hope that development comes to Africa too.

 

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This last day was for me the best day. I was not at all eager to go back home, although I longed for my wife and children. Last time I was in Masai Mara and also for a few days in Lake Nakuru was a better trip, and then got more photos I was pleased with. I was very happy with this trip nonetheless, so were Lars and Johan. It was there first time to Africa.

 

Now I am planning my next trip. I will not wait two years this time. My plan is to go to Zakouma in Tchad in december.

Edited by Gregor
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