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Wilddog & Blue Bird's Kenyan Adventure - Good times at Laikipia & Blue Bird Climbs a Mountain


wilddog
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In the early part of January 2015 I spent 6 nights at Laikipia Wilderness Camp together with an old friend @@Blue Bird .

 

My inspiration for visiting Laikipia Wilderness Camp came from various trip reports on the camp from ST members, the first of which came, I think, from @@stokeygirl. Blue Bird and I keep in touch regularly in the UK and occasionally travel together and he decided to join me for my week in Laikipa and then go and climb a mountain after I had left. More of that later.

 

The booking was made directly through Annabel Carey at Laikipia, who also arranged the meet and greet at Nairobi airport, overnight accommodation at Wilson Aero club and flights up to Laikipia. Annabelle arranged my road transfer back to Nairobi and also helped with arrangements for Blue Bird to extend his stay in Kenya after I had returned to the UK.

 

Thanks to @@ice for suggesting communicating directly with Annabelle; it all worked brilliantly

 

Wilson Aero Club Accommodation

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Our 8.00 am flight to Laikipia was short as there was only on stop off (Lewa) so we reached :Laikipia at about 9.15

 

We were met there by Annabell only to find we had a travelling companion; an immature bataleur, which had been found on the roadside somewhere and was missing his/her primaries so it could not fly. Apparently Steve Carrey has looked after raptors for most of his life so had agreed to temporarily adopt the Bateleur until it could be released. So I sat next to this bird, who seemed relaxed in his/her basket and we set off for Laikipia.

 

The plan was to meet the camp team at the bridge and this duly happened with perfect timing. I was just climbing into the game vehicle when a man came hurtling down the road on a bike (wearing a helmet, I noted), and cadged a lift for himself and his bike. This sighting was somewhat unusual and I was a bit taken a back and but, much to my embarrassment, a few minutes later it became clear that he was no stranger but Steve Carey himself. This could have been a tricky start!

 

We then set off for camp through some really lovely hills and valleys, passing through adjacent concessions and occasionally coming across herds of goats and cattle which are allowed to graze in the area.

 

The camp itself sits on top of a hill with a kopje behind and has uninterrupted views of the undulating terrain. There are only 5 tents set up just down the slope from the main mess area.

 

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Excellent! I have been waiting for this.

 

How was Wilson Areo Club and where is it exactly, in relation to the Air Kenya terminal (which I presume is where you left from)?

 

Interesting start with lame bataleur and your host arriving incognito on bicycle!

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@@wilddog

 

I have just come home, too - last Friday. Will be interesting to compare our experiences and thoughts.

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Ooh goody, a new TR from one of may favourite places

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@@wilddog What was the cost to overnight at Wilson? Looks like a good option compared to hotels in Nairobi?

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It was perfectly fine @@Game Warden. Saves a lot of hassle as you do not have to cross Nairobi in rush hour

 

I had a single room which was very clean, if a little worn, and had single bed, dresser bathroom etc. Bed was fine and had mosquito net around it. Perfectly adequate for a short night; we arrived at midnight and left at 7.30 am.

 

I believe they do have a evening meals but it was all quiet when we arrived. We had breakfast at the airport (Coffee and a slightly dry muffin). You cannot really walk from Aero Club to Wilson airport with bags, but hotel will provide a taxi transfer at minimal costs.

 

Cannot find my papers on costs we paid for Wilson . Will check with @@Blue Bird and advise.

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After dropping off our bags there was sufficient time to have a brief drive before brunch. It was good to be back in the bush.

 

We went to one of the large pans where we saw lots of elephants, turning up for their midday drink. What struck me particularly was the colour of the elephants. Due to the soil, they look much browner/redder here. A couple of youngsters were enjoying their bath time and another was having great fun playing with a bit of tree root. Then of course there were the young bulls who try to intimidate us in the vehicle.

 

A new thing for me was the bee boxes suspended from some of the trees close to camp. These were put there by the concession owner; they are out of the way of most things but do suffer from Honey Badger attacks.

 

We then returned to camp for brunch which was excellent. It seemed that for the next 48 hours we would be the only guests in camp.

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The routine at Laikipia is normally, a wake-up call with tea or coffee delivered to your tent, followed by predawn breakfast of cereals juice, tea and coffee at the mess tent and up and out on drive promptly. The time of the wake-up call was usually negotiated each evening, depending on the next morning's planned itinerary. Brunch around 11 or 12 a.m. tea, coffee and cake before the afternoon/evening drive and dinner on the return to camp or in the bush.

 

One of my main reasons for visiting Laikipia is the wilddogs. There are apparently 4 packs in the area, one of which normally dens on the concession and is most often seen there, two more large packs which come in and out and one small pack, which I think is 7 in total. The three large packs are collared but the small pack is not. Due to the undulating terrain it can be difficult to spot the dogs if they are in a valley so on most drives the antennae are carried on board and signal is checked for at high points on the drives. The most local pack lost the alpha female and some of the pups back in November but the pack has remained together for now and the remaining pups are doing well.

 

Our hopes were high.

 

As both @@Blue Bird and I like to walk in the bush @@Barend who was to be our guide for most of your time, suggested we did a walk along the river.

 

We found a herd of elephants up wind of us, so we followed them carefully along the river, keeping a watchful eye on them and a bull who seemed to following them, but on the opposite bank. This was a challenging 'walk' as we often had to climb up the rocks to ensure we were somewhere the elephants could not climb, should they notice us. It is amazing where you find elephant dung and a reminder how well they can climb.

It proved to be well worth the effort as we were often quite close, and above them and could watch the relaxed herd browsing.

 

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We then returned to our vehicle to carry on with a drive which would include driving after dark as this is a concession.

 

I found it interesting to see the Plains and Grevy Zebra together here. I had not realised that the Grevy's Zebra was so much bigger.

 

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Bum shot of nervous impala

 

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As the drive came to an end something was noted in the spot light.............................

 

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Dinner was a barbeque on the rocks behind the camp and was delicious.

 

We had an unexpected visitor spotted by one of the camp staff while we were eating................. a very large spitting cobra which disappeared down the back of the rocks into a crevice.

 

What a great first day!

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@@wilddog

 

who was your guide?

 

sorry, I just noticed it was Barend

Edited by ice
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@@wilddog

I have been looking forward to this as we are thinking of going next January - so please give lts of detail!

Lovely pictures of the elephants and I was surprise to see a leopard.

The camp looks in a very nice position.

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Bringing back lots of memories, wonderful start.

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Loving the start to your TR, @@wilddog. Tell me, is that a bunch of twigs that the juvenile Ellie is handling in that pic?

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Excellent ellie encounter. I like the look of the Laikipia accommodation as well.

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@@Christopher Moran. Not sure but I thought it was some roots from a small bush that had at some point been pulled out of the ground; it proved to be a excellent toy!

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@@wilddog really enjoying your TR. The comparative photo of the Plains and Grevy's zebra really shows the size difference between the species, very interesting shot.

 

Thanks for tip about the Wilson Aero Club accommodation.

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I'm going to be at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in less than 3 weeks time. Your post is already getting me very excited! Please post more soon.

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@@wilddog

 

Just returned and found your TR...what a special place; I would have loved to add a bit of Northern Kenya to the itinerary but dates prevented it...enjoying living through your eyes and words and snaps.

 

I had read about the Aero Club accommodations years back and thought they had mentioned a renovation of the slightly worn rooms. For a late night arrival, it'd be perfect!

 

I arrived afternoon and found EKA delightful and affordable. Very nice room (ask for the back off Mombassa Road); very friendly,helpful staff; nice outdoor terrace with sofas to chill out with a cold drink; chat with other guests; and a good dining room with plenty of fresh food. Ride to Wilson was pretty quick.

 

It was nice to be able to go safely outside after 24 hours sitting in metal. :D

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@@graceland Stop commenting on other trip reports and get writing your own... ;)

OH dear, OH dear, Oh dear...how did you EVER catch me? :wacko:

 

 

Have you ever wondered how THREE WOMEN could possibly get their acts together one week after returning home?

 

We DID start the discussion today-- I will let you know that :D dear Warden.

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The following day we set out hopefully to find the dogs. We were up and out in good time the next morning as the plan was to go back towards the Jessel Ranch which was towards the bridge where we were picked up on arrival.

 

It was a little chilly in the mornings and sometimes the skies were over cast so I was pleased to have brought my fleece. Once the sun was fully up it was hot. Often in the afternoons it was good to feel the breeze that often developed and blew up the valley through the camp giving some respite to the heat.

 

As we progressed South we saw a nice herd of Grevys

 

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I was still wrapped up when I suddenly spotted something against the distant bushes ( I am normally a rubbish spotter) and asked Barend to reverse and there it was, the head of a lion peeking out of the bush, and, no there were two of them.

 

As soon as we stopped they got up and retreated into the bush but I just managed a couple of shots (apologies for Quality.) You can just see the second lion to the right behind the rocks.

 

We went off road to see if we could find them again but they had disappeared in to dense and inaccessible bush down the hill.

 

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We continued south............

 

Steenbok

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Grants Gazelle

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The tracking antennae had been used regularly during the first hour or so hour but there was no sign of a signal for any of the 3 collared packs. Magambo had just put down the antennae, and we had started driving down the road, when suddenly he called out 'Dogs'. he had spotted the dogs as they came up the rise of the hill. This just shows how the terrain makes tracking the dogs, even collared ones, so difficult and good eyes remain essential.

 

We drove down to find them milling about in an excited fashion sniffing the ground, probably examining the scent of another pack that may have passed through. This gave us time to sit and watch and take some pictures before they disappeared again. They are noticeably dark compared to most other packs I have seen in Botswana and Zimbabwe. They look fit, healthy and well fed despite the loss of the alpha female.

 

Downhill from the pack was a nervous giraffe mother with her youngster, watching proceedings very carefully. Despite our concern the dogs did not bother with them and after about 30 minutes they set off back down the slope and disappeared.

 

 

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On the way back to camp we had several other nice sighting some of which I was able to record. Shame the White Bellied Go away kept hiding behind the bramch playing I can't see you so you can't see me.

 

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@@wilddog

 

the name of your tracker should be spelled "Mugambo" - he was my guide and driver a few weeks later

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