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The (wild) dog regurgitated my trip report - a SafariTalk Hong Kong-Italy Mara-Sundowner-get-together and other things


johnkok
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The (wild) dog regurgitated my trip report - a SafariTalk Hong Kong-Italy Mara-Sundowner-get-together and other things

 

I thought I would put down a few things about the recent safari (end September - early October 2015) my wife Jill and I enjoyed before events and procrastination overtake me (yet again). I suppose, since it was a wild dog which ate my previous trip reports, the wild dog kindly regurgitated this one up [some of you already know I’m pretty bad at trip reports. I tend to start and then run out of time and steam.]

 

Our itinerary was straight forward, and in keeping with my desire to stay in one country and not waste precious game drive time waiting for border (officials and) formalities. I provide details in the hope that it informs others (those researching these places) as to what to expect at various junctures in their own safari. We did 3 nights in Sasaab Camp in Samburu and 7 nights at Serian Main Camp in the Mara North Conservancy. (Plus 2 nights on aeroplanes).

 

Day 0: Evening flight out of Hong Kong International Airport to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) on Kenya Airways (KQ). This is the best value business class flight for getting into Africa from HKG. KQ flies new Boeing 787’s. The seats are horizontal-lie-flat. Everything else is secondary for me. The cabin crew is Thai for the first leg of just over 2 hours into Bangkok. I believe it is the Thai authorities who want us all to de-plane (with all our cabin baggage) and spend money in their airport for this short stop (about an hour to an hour and a half). This is a negative, but bearable. We troop through the gates, go through security (another negative), head upstairs and go straight to the Lounge. Then we troop through the gate back onto our own seats – now cleaned and with fresh pillows and blankets. The cabin crew changes to a new set – all Kenyans now – for the 8-9 hours into Nairobi Kenyatta. This pattern is repeated in reverse for the return flight.

 

For this flight, we already started an ST HK GTG. As we had known, we shared the cabin Lots of excited chatter ensues before we settle down. This continues in the Lounge in Bangkok. So you could say we had a 12 hour GTG right from Day Zero.

 

Day 1: KQ arrives in NBO around 6am local. We get picked up for our transfers to Wilson. We separated but when we saw again a little later, she was a little bit tense as her driver had not shown. We of course said we’d accommodate her in our vehicle but she spots her guy shortly thereafter and all was well.

 

We have to get all our bags through X-ray to get into the Wilson domestic terminal for Safari Link check in. We cool our heels for several hours at the terminal refreshment café area. At round about 10am, we get called to board, which is a rigmarole of getting out of the terminal, going through X-ray screening again, and into the Safari Link departure gate. X-ray screening twice just to get onto a SafariLink Cessna seems a bit excessive.

 

A few hops later (10:20 airborne from Wilson; four of us last out at Samburu Oryx air strip 11:40) we were picked up from the strip for our 3 nights at Sasaab Camp.

 

Our expectations were not high. We had come to see the Samburu Five for our first time (Gerenuk, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Beissa Oryx and Grévy’s Zebra). post-17725-0-41479700-1445495671_thumb.jpg

Here are a few observations:

· There’s a drought in Samburu; there’s been little to no rain for the last 4 years already. The Ewaso Ngiro River which Sasaab is built next to has largely dried up; elephant and man have to dig to get water.post-17725-0-58351400-1445495540_thumb.jpg

 

Never having been in Samburu in non-drought conditions, I cannot compare. But people are saying it’s been and continues to be pretty hard on man and beast alike.post-17725-0-55589100-1445495608_thumb.jpg

· Samburu is cool in the evenings and mornings, but it gets pretty hot during the day. Sasaab only does morning game drives and we all return by lunchtime. Visits are offered for the afternoons but we declined so I cannot say what they would have been like. We did do sundowners (on Baboon Rock (or was it Baboon Hill?) and did go for leisurely drives along the “river” on the 3 evenings we were there. As it is pretty hot, and even though the winds blew strongly pretty much all the time we were there, we did use the plunge pool in our unit. Quick dips (without drying off after) and padding around sopping wet helped. There’s a Masai spear which is used as a house signal – placed in the opposite slot, it means “Privacy Please”.

 

· Sasaab serves a buffet lunch; Margaret and Ron (from the Carolina’s in the USA if I recall) will sit at the long lunch table to eat with guests. My safari diary is my camera. If I did not take pictures of something, I tend to forget. So I forget what the food was.

 

· Samburu (& Sasaab) has spoiled us for Günther's dik-dik. All quick movements spotted during game drives turn out to be dik-dik. This gives the impression that there are more dik-dik than impala. Whether this is because the drought has resulted in the low vegetation being decimated, and hence revealing all those dik-dik, or whether there just is a higher density of dik-dik here than anywhere else I do not know. Then there are those dik-dik which have taken to hanging around the Lodge. As Sasaab have their own vegetable garden (which supplies fresh salads for meals), and as conditions are so harsh, people have been feeding them. post-17725-0-09699900-1445495626_thumb.jpg

And the dik-dik here have taken to emulating your taller brethren, the gerenuks. We saw many of them rising on their hind legs to browse on leaves. We have never seen other dik-diks do this anywhere else.post-17725-0-33683600-1445495654_thumb.jpg

 

· Seeing herds of cattle and/or goats where one expects to see wild animals does tend to spoil things a little. This is true of Samburu and the Mara. (For that matter, this is also true in Uganda – especially where main public trunk roads cut through national parks and reserves.)

 

· The Samburu Five are numerous enough that we were pretty much guaranteed sightings. Apart from the aforementioned Günther's dik-diks (Madoqua guentheri), we also found healthy populations of birds we have not easily spotted elsewhere, such as:

  • Von der Decken's Hornbill (Tockus deckeni)
  • Blue-naped mousebird (Urocolius macrourus)
  • Yellow-necked spurfowl or francolin (Pternistis leucoscepus)
  • White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (Plocepasser mahali)
  • Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum)

 

  • Probably due to the drought conditions, we did not find the landscape and scenery to be remarkable

 

  • The young warriors of the Samburu tribe dress up even more colourfully than their cousins, the Maasai (both tribes speak Maa). We saw a vehicle (marked with a sign “Ewaso Lions”, a lion protecton project founded in 2007 ewasolions.org) with some of these colourful peacocks peering out excitedly at a lion sighting. We were told many young Maasai/Samburu have never seen many of the big mammals (or indeed many wild animals) which bring the rest of us on safari in Africa. This had never occurred to me (leading my cloistered life) and it was an eye-opener.

More to come (my intentions are good - now to see a man about a dog)

 

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yay! About to go to sleep but had to take a quick peek at this - so glad that wild dog regurgitated your report!

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yay! About to go to sleep but had to take a quick peek at this - so glad that wild dog regurgitated your report!

 

We had James Kipetu at Serian just like you did. Small SafariTalk world

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Ha! Glad to see this! Well done with persuading the dog.

 

It's definitely very dry there - as you have no doubt noted I had an aerial tour of the area and it's dry, dry, dry. That's probably why there are so many catle issues up there at the moment. Did the camp managers say if they were normally as prevalent. Is it a community-run conservancy they are on, or something else? I'd like to know your impressions of Sasaab as a destination for intrepid wildlife obsessed travelers.

 

Love the dik-diks. Seen that before Ihind leg feeding, not feeding with the birds!!) in arid areas. I guess they need to improvise to get enough food within their tiny territories? Look at the amount of browse on the lower branches around. I like both your dik-dik density theories.

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Great stuff already, love the dik dik pictures.

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Great start. Lovely pictures and I particularly like the very first one- zebras drinking. Look forward to more.

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@johnkok Please do consider writing a review of the properties you stayed in for Safaritalk's new Lodge and Camp Review subforum.

 

Thanks, Matt.

 

I'm thinking about it but find the questionnaire a little daunting. If I do get around to it, I might just do it "free form" as it were.

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It's definitely very dry there - as you have no doubt noted I had an aerial tour of the area and it's dry, dry, dry. That's probably why there are so many catle issues up there at the moment. Did the camp managers say if they were normally as prevalent.

 

Knowing that there is a bad situation up there, I can empathise with the villagers who might "stray" a little. We did see Samburu scampering away from the approach of the vehicle. They know that they can get into trouble if it was a ranger.

 

I do get the feeling that there is a lot more human activity along the dry river bed. People have to dig and people do go to fill up their containers. Also there will be goats and cattle drinking in those "wells".

 

A 4-year drought is a tough situation.

 

Sasaab is located in private land - it is a longish drive into the Park/Reserve. (If memory serves, it's about an hour).

 

One remarkable feature (based on my own experiences of course) is that the elephants in Samburu are about the most relaxed with vehicles that we have ever encountered. Stopping very near them did not faze them a bit. Even with young 'uns present. (At the other extreme is Hwange in Zim - the elephants there would turn and hurry back into the bush at every approach of a vehicle. Skittish to the max. I think it is because there is a hunting concession near Little Makololo where we stayed.)

 

As for Samburu/Sasaab - I would put it thusly. We have been on safari quite a few times, and have always stayed in safari camps (except for the houseboats on the Okavango panhandle) - I stopped counting after 100 nights. Apart from "lifers" - e.g. to see something for the first time, we are now always after the rarer event. There needs to be another word with the animal - e.g. cheetahs hunting; elephants charging; giraffes fighting. So Samburu ticked the "lifer" box for the Samburu Five and a few others. We did not go there expecting hunting cheetahs, etc. And we got what we expected.

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madaboutcheetah

How you been @jonkok - enjoying this .... look forward to the re

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How you been @jonkok - enjoying this .... look forward to the re

 

Life has been hectic. Trying to find time for everything and failing miserably. When are you coming to HK for another GTG?

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yay! About to go to sleep but had to take a quick peek at this - so glad that wild dog regurgitated your report!

 

We had James Kipetu at Serian just like you did. Small SafariTalk world

 

 

we loved our time with James.

 

That's an incredible picture of the dik dik pretending to be a gerenuk. thanks for sharing!

 

looking forward to the serian adventure.

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@@johnkok Even a partial trip report from you is a treat.

 

I like the repurposing of the Masai spear.

 

The dik-dik shots are lovely.

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Having just had another HK ST GTG last evening and another one this evening, I am being gently nudged to continue. I definitely have to go see a man about a dog.

 

Last night was a presentation by Peter Fernhead of African Parks (http://www.africanparks.eu/) together with Passage To Africa's Michael Lorentz (http://www.passagetoafrica.com/) to the Royal Geographical Society of HK. Tonight, the both of them are hosting drinks and canapes.

 

Having looked up the activities of African Parks and heard Peter speak, their model seems to show promise, perhaps even more promise than most.

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Agree John... I would love to have gone. Tell them to come to Bangkok - after the drinks tonight it'll seem like a good idea.

 

And the continuing ..... of the trip report.

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Oh the pressure! The pressure! But the dog ate my trip report - he wails. To no avail.

Here's a little pressure breaker (he says in hope) - gulp.

 

Well - here is my house (well - it's not a tent, that's for sure) at Sasaab Camp. At the centre, hanging off the tree, is the other fellow's house.

post-17725-0-50584800-1446190459_thumb.jpg

 

And here he is, busy building a new house!!

post-17725-0-44592600-1446190478_thumb.jpg
Red-headed Weaver (Anaplectes rubriceps leuconotus)

 

And, getting this fellow's nose out of joint (get it? get it?), here is my house reflected in his eyes.

post-17725-0-13432400-1446190492_thumb.jpg

 

Since there were no afternoon drives per se at Sasaab, and we did not wish to go visit this nor that, we opted for sundowners up baboon rock instead. It is a mini-game drive as we do get out of the camp and into the wilderness.

When we got there, these fellows were already right at home. But then, it was their house.

post-17725-0-73132900-1446191274_thumb.jpg

 

And to round out all this tomfoolery, here I am, thinking this is all our house.

post-17725-0-15643300-1446190508_thumb.jpg

 

More to come - dog willing :-)

 

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Red-headed Weaver - never seen one and there he is, youir neighbour.

 

Hope for more, dog willing.

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Iam very pleased your dog has allowed youto post this. The Dikdik are beautiful - and the browsing one very interesting

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One of the rare events (like me continuing with a TR) is to witness giraffes fighting. Having only ever seen one fight previously (in all these years), we saw two while at Serian/Mara. And this is not counting the one other sighting where youngsters were practising (looked more like a dance, with the occasional caress, although all the postures and swings were there. Like tai chi compared to out and out kung fu fighting).

 

These fights between two adult males were serious affairs. While giraffes vocalise at times and levels where we cannot hear them, these fights were all but silent. Someone likened a giraffe skull to a battering ram. And I can attest to the sounds these battering rams make when they make contact.

*Please refer to Batman comics written sound effects*

They are loud, and they sound like they really hurt.

 

I apologise for the lack of photos as I have only had one done. You can already see that blood has been drawn. The one on the right of the frame has a fresh wound at the base of its neck.

post-17725-0-39838300-1446351516_thumb.jpg

 

The outcomes of both serious fights was that one fellow would eventually surrender, and walk away. The victor would give "chase", if you can call it that. They "chase" at the sedate pace of a giraffe walk. Once the victor thinks he has crowed enough, and the loser was cowed enough, they separate.

 

More tk, dog willing.

 

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I'm on a roll - well, at least until reality strikes tomorrow ...

 

While my wife Jill was threatening another camera melt-down (one had come a few days earlier when we had a cheetah come straight at us on the final zag of the zigging gazelle - but that's another story) in the shot sequence of the fighting giraffes, I was trying to keep my camera steady for the video I was shooting.

 

Since it is a 650MB video, I thought I'd try and see what I could retrieve from it in stills.

 

Here are my first two kindergarten steps in doing so (pretty *%$% poor image quality from a 36 mega pixel camera, but I think that's me and not the camera) :unsure:

 

post-17725-0-55230000-1446383928_thumb.jpg

 

Don't lose your head over this

post-17725-0-80469300-1446384271_thumb.jpg

 

More tk - dog willing

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Great giraffe shots. Crazy to see the angles they reach in order to deliver such force.

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madaboutcheetah

@@johnkok - quick question ............. John, was it easy to find the Samburu 5 in the private conservancy or did you have to drive a long way even for that?

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yay! About to go to sleep but had to take a quick peek at this - so glad that wild dog regurgitated your report!

 

We had James Kipetu at Serian just like you did. Small SafariTalk world

 

Ah, good news you had James! I LOVE those Dik Diks trying to be all cool and act like gerenuks - adorable!

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@@johnkok the red-headed weaver and dik-dik in post 18 are gorgeous shots! Those eyelashes on the dik-dik!

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