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It was my third trip to Kenya, a long time after my two previous visits of 1989 and 1994. Though it’s probably one of the most, if not the most interesting country in Africa thanks to its great diversity of natural beauties and wildlife species, it took me some years to decide to come back again.

 

We arrived in Nairobi with Kenya Airways at about 5 a.m. I did not sleep at all during the flight. Our driver, George, was waiting for us. We immediatly departed for Samburu. We arrived at Serena lodge after six hours drive, completely exhausted but just in time for a well-timed shower before having lunch. Following the post-election violence of January and February in Nairobi and in the western part of the country, the tourism industry had recorded numerous cancellations and as a consequence, the occupancy rate of the lodge was around 25 to 30 %. The situation was certainly similar in the other lodges. The positive side of it, at least for us, was that, apart from one or two occasions, we were very few vehicles on a sighting.

 

After a good nap, we’re in for our first game drive. Directly, we found four cheetahs (a female and its offspring) relaxing after a good meal. We could not see the carcass of their prey but the presence of two tawny eagles proved sufficiently that it was there somewhere. The time to do a little tour to search the carcass, there were already twelve vehicles on the sighting. So, we went elsewhere.

 

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On the river bank, we saw three lionesses. Suddenly, two of them ran away and a trumpeting elephant appeared. The third lioness remained unimpressionable. The elephant went to quench its thirst. This being done, it went by the way that it came, trying to scare the stoic lioness. Wasted effort, the lioness eyed it from head to foot contemptuously and haughtily ignored it. Spited, the elephant went its way, eye followed by the two other lionesses, remained cautiously away.

 

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Once again beautiful photography from you, all nice and crisp with great evening light. Got to say the second Tawny Eagle image looks a tad odd as the weavers nest looks like part of the tail with a quick glance. ;) Looking forward to more over the coming days while waiting for my trip to start.

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Happy you started another one! :) A very brave lioness there - or a very lazy one.

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The second day, we first met, in the beautiful morning light, an old buffalo with a broken horn.

 

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Then, we found the cheetahs again. We stayed a while with them until they disappeared in consequence of the arrival of a shepard with his camels and cows.

 

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Dik-diks were everywhere as well as reticulated girafes and vulturine guinea fowls.

 

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In the afternoon, we tried, in vain, to search the cheetahs. Just before going back to the lodge, we furtively spotted a lioness with its four very young cubs but they quickly vanished out of sight in the thick bushes.

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The second day, we decided to go to Buffalo Springs. Buffalo Springs (and the Masai Mara as well) is a perfect example of what the Kenyan authorities are very good at, they parceled out a territory into several smaller ones to better empty your wallet. Every time you cross a limit, you first have to go to the cash desk. We quickly saw three cheetahs, two cars were already on the sighting, but rapidly their number increased to reach a figure of more or less twelve, with a bus and a truck. The cheetahs were obviously hunting and this was confirmed by the alarm call of the impalas. Hunting was launched, the cheetahs bypassing skillfully the many bushes and the vehicles following them. It was very surrealist, to wander who was hunting who actually ? Instead of following the motorcade, we took a short cut, in a way, going directly where we estimated the hunt would end. The cheetahs had just killed one impala and dragged their prey behind thick bushes. So, we decided to have a look on the other side. Those bushes being part of a rather long stretch of vegetation, it took us some time, first to maneuver between all the vehicles that had joined us in the meanwhile, and then to pass round it. They were there, drinking water from puddles and climbing on fallen trees. Then, more impalas came and again they caught one they began to eat in the shade of bushes. What happened to their first prey ? I do not know.

 

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We continued our way to the springs. We saw a lot of birds among which grey-headed kingfishers and a couple of red-and-yellow barbets.

 

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I always love your threads.

The cheetah chewing on the branch is hilarious.

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On the way to the springs and return, we found again a lot of dik-diks but also some of the endemic species like somali ostrich, Grevy zebra and gerenuk. I think that some people already know the origin of the springs. So for those who ignore it, the water sprang in consequence of an Italian bombing of the area, during World War II. On the way back, the three cheetahs were lazily stretched out, full belly, in the shade of a big tree close to the river.

 

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The afternoon was less productive, we tried again to find the cheetahs but we found elephants instead. On the way back to the lodge, we caught a glimpse of lionesses on the other side of the river and saw probably the same ostrich seen in the morning.

 

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The third day, early in the morning, we spotted the lioness and its cubs that we saw the first day. The lioness came very close to the car to quench its thirst in a small pond.

 

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Then, we went around the hills to try to find a leopard but in vain. Besides, there will be no leopard at all during the wholeness of this trip. We only saw a family of warthogs, Grevy zebras ans guinea fowls.

 

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Close to Intrepids tented Camp, we heard a lot of noise in the thorn trees, around sociable weavers’ nests. A gabar goshawk was on top of one of them, trying to vainly enter. It moved on another one and changed strategy: while clinging, in suspension, to the lower part, it tried to penetrate by the opening. After multiple attempts, it managed to enter almost completely. Some down came out, followed by the head of the bird with a tiny chick in its beak. It flew away and a bit further, it went on a bush where there was a squirrel. It finally chose a francolin that quickly flew away, with a lot of screaming, with the goshawk on its heels.

 

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@bushdog off topic, Mike, see my PM to you. Thanks, Matt. (I delete this comment when you've seen it)

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The drama at the weaver nest is captivating. It's fascinating to see the goshawk going about its deadly business with such a seemingly implacable expression. Great stuff.

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The afternoon was quieter. We found a group of seven female ostriches, proudly led by a male, many oryx beisa and a couple of porcupines that, time to say "porcupines", had already disappeared. At the end of the afternoon, I had the chance to enjoy a brief moment of magic light, in the company of reticulated giraffes and impalas.

 

 

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The fourth day was very windy. We found a group of kudus of which we had caught a fleeting glimpse the day before.

 

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Suddenly, we thought we saw a dead animal, but perhaps it was only a rock ? A cheetah stood up, yes it was a dead impala. When we arrived at the sighting, we did not immediately spotted the cheetah because it was lying down in the grass, recovering from its efforts. On the other side of the road, a colony of rock hyraxes. Three impalas arrived, the first one passing by the cheetah (flattened in the grass not to be seen) without seeing it. Suddenly, it stopped, detecting its dead congener, and launched its alarm call, soon joined by the other two. After a while, they moved away. Then the cheetah, after much effort, managed to pull its prey in the shade of a small tree, and really began to feed on it, two hours after our arrival.

 

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On the way back to the lodge, a large group of female ostriches and a kori bustard.

 

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Mike, having not been to Samburu yet - love this report and images that go with it. Stunning - that reticulated giraffe is!!!

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Great report and photos @@Bush dog - I especially like the low perspective in a couple of the Kudu shots.

 

And the Red-and-yellow Barbets and Gerenuk portraits are superb!

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In the afternoon, we, of course, went back to the place where, in the morning, we found the cheetah. It was still there and had already eaten some of its prey. It was resting at its side, using its flank as a pillow. It stood up, as in the morning, all senses excited. And then came, from the other side of the road, a flock of guinea fowls, making a hell of a noise, as soon as they spotted the cheetah. That would have been enough to alert any other predator around. In fact, nothing came to disturb the animal between 7.30 and 17.30, happy cheetah !

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@@Bush dog

 

Great barbet shots!

 

The photos of the greater kudu group appears to be taken from a hill (??? it might be an illusion). If so, where were those taken? Thx.

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@@Bush dog

The photos of the greater kudu group appears to be taken from a hill (??? it might be an illusion). If so, where were those taken? Thx.

It's partly an illusion because of the low perspective, but it's certainly not a hill, just a ground elevation. It's of course in Samburu but where exactly, I can't tell.

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Mike, I need to get to Samburu for the Northern species and the Vulturine guineafowl ..... Now, I'm afraid there are so many cheetah there to distract me away from my photographic subjects ;)

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Mike, I need to get to Samburu for the Northern species and the Vulturine guineafowl ..... Now, I'm afraid there are so many cheetah there to distract me away from my photographic subjects ;)

Hari,

 

Concerning the cheetahs, what was true seven years ago might not be today ot tomorrow!

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Mike, I need to get to Samburu for the Northern species and the Vulturine guineafowl ..... Now, I'm afraid there are so many cheetah there to distract me away from my photographic subjects ;)

Hari,

 

Concerning the cheetahs, what was true seven years ago might not be today ot tomorrow!

 

Just read your TR. Fascinating. And such great pictures.

 

Just having come back from a cheetah-less Samburu safari, your note is sadly true (at least, it was for us). A four year drought has also really really dried the place up. However, am happy to say the Grévy's and the Reticulated's are just as photogenic, the Vulturine's, Beisa's, Somali ostriches and the Gerenuk's just as unique.

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The next day, we left SAMBURU to the LEWA WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY, but first we went to see if the cheetah was still there. It was gone but there were no scavengers at all around the impala, even though there was still a lot to eat: strange ? Perhaps was it because of the terrain ? The prey was on a gentle slope of a rocky ground exposed to winds, making it difficult for other animals to pick scents.

 

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A ranger, who live in Isiolo, came with us. The road to Isiolo was under construction (Chinese enterprise, chinese engineers). Soon after Isiolo, we reached the gate of Lewa. The minute we were in, we saw white rhinos, Defassa waterbucks, warthogs, Grevy and Burchell zebras, elands, reticulated giraffes, oryx…..

 

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We reached Lewa Safari Camp, where we stayed three nights, at lunch time. We were authorized, for the game drives, to use our own car, but accompanied by a local guide, a young women, Caroline.

 

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Cheetahs, as it was three brothers, were, like in Samburu, the stars of our stay at Lewa. Indeed, we saw them several times. Concerning the other cats, we just saw five young male lions in their favorite position in the shade of a bush.

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