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A Cat Trick, A Crossing and a Kill - an Outstanding Opening to a Superb Safari


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@@JulieM - beautiful panorama shot from Lookout Hill, remembered the scene from "Out of Africa". Great lion portrait, as well. Your report makes me feel like returning to Mara... The jackals shots, each with a half impala are very nice.

Edited by FlyTraveler
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I have missed a lot over the past few days! Your sunrise on page one is among the best I've ever seen. I also really like the bat-eared fox, "laughing" cheetah, and Malaika & cubs.

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Gorgeous shot of Fig, and I just received word yesterday that she appears pregnant, so maybe more little Figs in a few months.


Your kill sequence is PHENOMENAL. I'd be thrilled just seeing that, but you managed to get shots??? WOW. Just. Wow.

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I am speechless at your photos, Julie - wow, wow, wow!! Your portraits are wonderfully expressive - the two cuddling jackals are simply phenomenal, as are so many of your other shots including the laughing cheetah, the cheetah cubs in the tussock of grass, and so many more! Enjoying the writing too. What a trip this was!

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Our next day was spent in the conservancy. We spent most of the morning game drive watching these two male lions. Charles told us they were former Moniko pride members who were now on their own and they were about 4 years old. They were tucking into a topi when we first came across them.




This hammerkop was very cheeky and managed to get some breakfast too!




They ate almost all of the poor guy and then moved the carcass around a little before leaving it to the vultures...









We decided to visit a Masai village before heading home for lunch.




Now I did approach this with a certain degree of cynicism and I am still quite unsure about how much of what they told us what true and how much was "sanitised" for the tourists. We were taken around by a young man known as Kisaika, who told us he was the Chief's son and that he was going to be the next chief. We were shown dancing by both the men and the women, how they start fires and we saw the inside of a hut before we were taken to the market.






Kisaika is the jumper on the left.








We did meet the chief and although he didn't speak English, he seemed so gentle with a very soft voice and kind face.








We ended up buying a bridal necklace from this woman and it does look good up on our wall at home. They certainly seemed happy with the sale so we probably paid too much!!






I would be interested to know more about the real life of the Masai. I'm a family doctor and so I am interested in health issues. If anyone can point me in the direction of some accurate information I'd be grateful. I wonder what happens when the tourists leave.


We spent most of the evening game drive with Fig who was initially spotted under a tree but who then went for a bit of a wander. We followed her until it was too dark.




On our way home we came across a pride of lions who were calling. A big brute of a male gave quite a performance within a few metres of the car, freaking Augustine out again! It was too dark for photos or videos, but I did shoot some video (of the blackness) just to capture the audio. Such a classic safari sound!

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What more could the Mara possibly deliver?? We had one last full day in the main Reserve and we headed out with happy hearts and cameras ready to be clickin'!!


What would Charles serve up for sunrise this morning? How about an elephant on the horizon? Yes please, that would be lovely….




Part of the Moniko pride was also watching the sunrise, as were these two guides who Charles told us come from the Samburu region. They had their own seats outside the vehicle right at the back - must be quite a ride up there!




We spent a bit of time watching the lions (no really interesting photos from this though) and then we tried to get some shots of the plains filled with wildebeest - without much success unfortunately but it was fun looking. Lunch was under this lovely tree:




We started the afternoon at the river, where we saw big crocodiles and then spent ages watching two hippos fighting. It was fascinating watching one trying to dominate the other one, repeatedly pushing him away from the group of females.






Some were less than excited by the action...




Later on we came across this old matriarch with her herd - she looked really old!




As we were following them, Charles suddenly slammed on the brakes and shouted "Serval"!! He knew that was one of the cats I really wanted to see, and he had managed to spot it hidden right in some bushes. He took off as soon as we got close.




We drove around in front of him, and he took off again! I was literally just aiming my camera in his general direction, hammering the shutter button and wishing, so I was THRILLED when I saw this:




Unfortunately he disappeared back off into the grasses.


Our next bit of adventure was when we found the Marsh pride. We started off watching this pair of lionesses in the rain...



…when suddenly, an old bull buffalo decided to have a crack at the cubs!




The cubs scattered, as did the lionesses and unfortunately he did manage to batter into one of the tiniest cubs (the one far right in the photo). Luckily he was okay, but walked with quite a limp afterwards. His mum arrived, and started taking two of her three tiny cubs into a safer place, but interestingly she actually carried the healthy one, and made the injured one walk. It was so sad, and he was mewing the whole time. Not that it looked like the one being carried was having a good time either!








It was back to playtime for the rest of the pride.








There were a lot of vehicles around this pride, but they were all very civilised so it wasn't a problem. There was so much action, with lots of cubs of varying ages, and we really enjoyed our time with them even though it was a bit damp. I would have loved to have spent some more time around that area.


We hadn't seen many monkeys to date, and those we had seen had run away very quickly, so we enjoyed watching this pair in the tree.




The weather was closing in so we started to head for home.




These guys were on their way home too.




But Charles threw in one more sighting just to round out the day! Cheetah brothers in the conservancy - nice ending to the day!




Another fabulous dinner followed and we headed for bed, excited for the big adventure planned for our last day at Bush camp….











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Fantastic serval shot, and the ele on the horizon is just beautiful! You really had outstanding sightings in the Mara. :)

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Great serval, lions & cubs and vervet shots!!!

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Wow fabulous shot of the serval in mid-air! i also love the b&w zebras drinking.


and the two males walking in the wind with their manes blown back. supermodels indeed.

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Great photo of the serval in a mid-air stretch. Enjoyed the photos of the lions too - poor little cub that was injured by the buffalo.

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Another corker of a trip report. Fantastic images too.

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Another vote for the serval in mid-air - wonderful shot

I am also enjoying all of your other photos - the one of the lion with the cub in her mouth is great, and I love the zebras drinking.

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@@JulieM, just catching up the last few days; what a great shot of the serval....and who could not resist cubs. Fantastic photos all around. Mara came through for you and you captured it beautifully. Enjoyed all the local shots as well. I have several beaded pieces from Kenya that I wear and enjoy, no matter the price!

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Thanks again everyone - your positive responses are really kind! @@graceland - you are right. The Mara really did come through for me - I'm not sure we'll be able to top it as a safari destination, but I'll give it a go!! :)

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So, what was our big adventure for our last day in the Mara?? Well, against my better judgement, we took a balloon ride!




Why against my judgement? I am really afraid of heights! My husband once found me plastered against the back wall at the top of the Duomo in Florence because the barrier fence was too low - below my pivot point - and I was convinced I was going to fall! But, Darren told me that previous guests who had also been afraid of heights had done the balloon ride and hadn't found it to be a problem. Seeing the balloons going up in the mornings at sunrise just looked so damn good that I decided I had to do it. And you know what? Hot air balloons are now my favourite mode of air transportation - kicking the helicopter to the curb. So quiet, so gentle and peaceful, unlike the frenetic noisy windy helicopter (with the doors off to get better photos of course!). I'm definitely going to go up in one again. Of course, the incentive of the champagne breakfast at the end was pretty enticing too!!


We were picked up at some sort of stupid o'clock (4.45am I think) as the drive was quite lengthy, made longer by a flat tyre on the way. It was still pretty dark when we got there. It was fascinating watching them get the balloon ready and before too long we were up, just as the sun was peaking over the horizon.




Mike the Pilot




I really enjoyed the views we got of both the landscape and the animals as we slowly drifted where the wind took us, sometimes quite high and other times really quite low. I wasn't afraid once!






A different view of Lookout Hill.




We flew over the rest of the team setting up for our breakfast.




All too soon it was over - the flight lasts around 60minutes - and we had a sideways landing. All emerged intact though!




On the way to breakfast who should we spot again but this lovely Mum and her cubs.




Breakfast was a buffet with freshly cooked eggs and omelettes, washed down with champagne of course! We even had a surprise marriage proposal which was quite exciting, and luckily she said yes!


I thought this was a nice touch - beats the "bush wee"!




All in all, to be recommended, even if you are a fraidy-cat like me!


We were back at Kicheche in time for lunch and a wee rest before we headed out into the weather again. Wet lions were a bit of a photographic request, but this guy's mane was so thick that it would have taken ages for him to really look wet! He just looks sad instead.




The cubs looked after each other though.




Tucked way into some bushes, we were lucky to see these two cubs, not even a week old and still blind. They were wet and muddy, but still very cute!




Another great day on holiday!



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@@JulieM, I love your pics, your excitement, your bravery with the balloon ride - but I also love your quote by Dr. Suess on your signature.

(and the still blind cubs - oh my!)


I think you can relate it to the Mara - it happened. You are smiling!


I can think of other places that you can visit in Africa as well! We felt we'd never match Kenya on another trip, but we just completed the fifth...and each one is different and has its' own personality. I left all of them falling in love with Africa all over again.


So you need not compare....just smile because it can happen - Again..and again..and again :)

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As another person afraid of heights, I totally agree that the hot air balloon is a very gentle and rewarding experience. You got some lovely aerials. Also, to echo everyone else, kudos on that serval shot!

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I really like the photo of the damp male lion, he looks so morose.


Lovely photos from the air, I did my one and only hot air balloon over Alice Springs in 1987 and I remember it as very noisy when the burners were going, otherwise a peaceful floating experience as you describe.

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@@graceland - very good advice! Smile because it happened, and enjoy the next one just as much, wherever it is!


@@Treepol - you are right - I had forgotten about the noise from the burners! It did add a bit of atmosphere though.

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And so it was that our 7 nights at Kicheche Bush camp had come to an end. What a ride it had been! We truly felt blessed with all of the wonderful sightings we had had. Add to that the fun and laughter that the four of us shared in the vehicle, and it really was a memorable week! Our flight out wasn't until about 1pm, so we left early, waved off by Darren and Emma, with our usual picnic breakfast. During the morning drive we were met by another vehicle, who transferred our bags to our car, and brought us a paper bag lunch for us to eat on route to Kicheche Laikipia. It was so plentiful that we ended up sharing it with other passengers waiting at Wilson airport and some of the airport staff as well! But, before we left the Mara, we managed to squeeze in another couple of memorable experiences.


First off, in the golden light of morning we came across this lion.




A lioness was nearby, so he followed her, sniffing the air as he went.






Apparently she wasn't ready for mating so he went back to sleep, as lions do!


Next up was a lone cheetah who was also mainly just interested in lying around.




From the distance we spotted this journey of giraffes. Charles, as always, anticipated the shot and sped ahead of them to get a front on shot.






And for his last hurrah, we had some fun with this bull elephant who was having a little jaunt across the plains.




Apparently he was in a playful mood, this elephant, as he threw his trunk around from side to side as he got closer to us.






We didn't know what to make of this behaviour, thinking it might have been a show of aggression, so when Charles didn't move as he approached the back of the vehicle, Augustine started to get a wee bit twitchy. "He's close Charles", she said. "He's closer!" was next, followed by a slightly more tense, "He's REALLY close now!" At what seemed like the last moment, for Augustine anyway, Charles moved away, giggling quietly in the front seat, while she regained her composure again! It was only then that he explained he was just playing with us and wasn't bothered by us at all. He's my new favourite elephant at this stage!


And then it was over. We were at the airstrip saying goodbye. We'll be back, we vow!




And with that, we disappeared back up into the sky….





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Before I move on to the next part of our trip, I wanted to just quickly mention the camera gear I was using. I've had some lovely comments about my images - thank you everyone - and I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know that I don't use the big fancy heavy expensive prime lenses. My cameras are good (I take both a Canon 5DMark2 and a 5DMark3) but the two lenses I use are the Canon 24-105mm f/4 (on the Mark2) and the very old now Canon 100-400mm f/4.5 - 5.6 (on the Mark3). That lens gets more than its share of criticism but I have to say I am thrilled with it. It is light enough to hand-hold if needed and is just so versatile in terms of the zoom range. Yes it is "slow" but the high ISO capabilities of the Mark3 allow me to get away with it. In terms of compromising between convenience and image quality I think this lens is very hard to beat! I even borrowed Darren's 1.4xii teleconverter and used that with it - making it an f/8, centre-focusing only lens - and I still got great images with it. The cheetah cubs were shot with that combo, and the big elephant face was too. Having said that, apparently a new version of this lens is on the cards, as announced by Canon at Photokina, and I'll definitely look at updating if/when it does.


I had looked into hiring the big new Canon 200-400 f/4 with built-in teleconverter lens, but to hire it and then pay for an extra seat on the plane because I would have been over the weight limit was going to add around US$2000 to my trip, as well as the headache of managing such a big lens, so I decided against it. I don't regret my decision. So, don't think you have to lug a big lens around to get good images. Just my 2c worth anyway….!

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@@JulieM - just catching up with your stellar report!!! Fabulous images ....... Thank you for sharing!!!

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Best trip report I've ever read. Seriously well done and honestly I'm now thinking my next trip might be in the Mara.


You know those unique/rare experiences that most people don't get? Like a hunt/kill or a fight with buffalo or cubs playing? You got like 10 of them. Crazy.


Also, some of those photos are ridiculous. The lilac breasted rollers are really really good - your amateur shots are as good as pro shots.

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