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Masai Mara November 2015, 31st October - 7th November


Gregor
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This is my third trip to Masai Mara. My last trip can be read om this trip report; http://safaritalk.net/topic/12479-masai-mara-2nd-time-9-14-feb-2014/. My first time I haven´t come around yet to write a trip report on Safari Talk. But a trip report of that trip can be read in swedish here; http://www.gregorbergquist.com/blog/2011/11/masai-mara/

 

After an uneventful night flight with Ethiopian via Addis, I landed in the morning att Nairobi. This time a choose to use a operator I used my first trip, Bush Adventure.They provided a excellent service first time and was just as excellent this time. At Nairobi airport my driver and guide for the week, David, collected me and we started the tedious drive to Masai mara. On the way to Masai Mara we talked about my exceptions för the week, and my previous experiences. I don´t have any wish to see anything special, i have already seen and photographed all animals, but there is always a new picture to be taken. It is all about light, angle, situation, interaction between animals and background. First light in the morning is always the best, and the last light in the evening second best. This makes for long days :) I brought my "standard" equipment kit: 2x Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm f/4, Nikon 300 mm f/4 PF, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2,8, Ricoh GR and a bean bag.

 

Day 1, 31st October

We arrived late in the afternoon at Sekani gate, and decided to stay out and do some "game drive", before going to the Keekorok lodge at curfew time. Masai Mara is always so wonderful, and I love the landscape. Cruising the Sekani area was really lovely and there was a lot of animals. Large groups of Elans (I have never seen so plentiful with Elands ), zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, topis etc.

 

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Suddenly a Thompson gasell ran past us very fast with a jackal tailing it. Luckily the gasel got away. I didn't even have time to adjust camera settings, hence the 1/640s shutter time.

 

One advantage (sometimes disadvantage) with popular safari destinations like the Mara is that the drivers communicate sightings over the radio. And David told me a Leopard had been sighted close to Keekorok lodge. With just a few minutes of daylight left we found the leopard (no other cars left in the area). This was a large male. He looked very grumpy and not at all happy to see us, I guess he wanted the place to him self. I was glad to see him, though :)

 

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Then it was just to say farewell to him and continue to my favorite lodge in the Mara, Keekorok. They know me by now and I was warmly greeted :)

 

 

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Some fabulous shots so far, following the rest of this report with interest. Looks like you have great equipment too.

Love the first and third Leopard shots.

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"Grumpy" is the perfect description for that leopard. You can see it in his expression. The black-and-white shots really reflect his disposition well.

 

Great start!

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I love the reaction shot of the jackal and gazelle.Very handsome leopard. Looking forward to the rest!

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@Gregor

 

What great sighting before you even checked into the lodge. I've been to Africa a few times and have never seen a jackal actually pursuing prey - nice shot!

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This is my third trip to Masai Mara.

 

On the way to Masai Mara we talked about my exceptions för the week, and my previous experiences. I don´t have any wish to see anything special, i have already seen and photographed all animals, but there is always a new picture to be taken. It is all about light, angle, situation, interaction between animals and background.

 

~ @@Gregor

 

What you've expressed above is exactly how I feel.

Unlike you, I haven't observed and photographed that many species, but I'm more than satisfied with what I've already seen. *

Your comment about “light, angle, situation, interaction between animals and background” powerfully resonates with me.

To what you've eloquently expressed, I might add that seasonal differences are an aspect which I find especially interesting.

Thank you for preparing this trip report.

Tom K.

* However, were a Zorilla to ever cross my path during an evening game drive, I hope that my cardiovascular system could handle the overload!

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That leopard did look grumpy. Love the dusk shot of it in the tree. The frames set the photos off really well and your settings are so helpful.

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That is a very solid looking leopard - and great shots in fading light!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Day 2, 1st November

 

I think Masai Mara will always be loved by me and I will return from time to time, even if I have started going to other destinations. Masai Mara is just such a beautiful place, with so much wildlife to offer and is comparable easy to access. Some people seem to complain over the crowds. I don´t, and I don´t think it is very crowded. Mostly you go around by your self with no other car in view. Only at some sightings there is a small crowd, but still just a few cars. I have newer experienced 20+ cars in one place. Normally the other cars will just stop for a few minutes until the turists wants to go on, and then you have it for your self. Just think of the crowds in a normal ski resort in the Alps... But then I usually don´t go in high season, and I think November is a great time (better than Mars).

 

This morning we went back to look for the leopard from yesterday, but he was nowhere to be found. So we continued towards Talek area. After a while we got a report of a mating lion just in the vicinity. The resident pride is four brothers I think. I saw them on my last trip one and a half year ago.

 

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It is great to se them doing well and getting older. But they are still young. Just look at this guy and his light mane.

 

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The female is really courting him :)

 

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Such a handsome couple.

 

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I think this is a magnificent lion, and he look good with his pale colors.

 

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This year there was a lot of animals around, and I think some some wildebeest and zebras of the migration were still in the Masai Mara. Here you can see how it was. A Hyena was moving straight through the crowds, and they hardly did bother. One Zebra even lying on his back 50 meters from the hyena.

 

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At lunch break I walked around inside the compound at Keekorok and took a picture of this rather big croc :) Keekorok have build some kind of bridge/structure so you can look at animals at the waterpond.

 

In the afternoon we started out driving in the Sopa / Ololamutiek area. Here we did get some nice bird photos. The light was good, the weather was changing between rain and and sun coming through.

 

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An Usambiro Barbet

 

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A Hildebrandt´s Starling

 

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A Rufous-naped Lark

 

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A Liliac-breasted Roller

 

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This (I think) Long-crested Eagle raided the Starlings nest.

 

In the evening we turned our way to Talek once more and there in the falling light we found two of the brothers to this mornings mating male. First they lingered in some deep bushes, but then one walked out and I got some shots of him.

 

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As you can see, the brother is quite a bit darker then the other.

 

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You can almost hear the thundering roar? Oh no, this was just a very big yawn.

 

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I try a black and white conversion.

 

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In Sweden, during the long winter, I always dream of these african sunsets (ans sunrises). Do you see the wildebeasts, like ghosts in the dark.

 

To be continued..

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"In Sweden, during the long winter, I always dream of these african sunsets"

 

Your dream was answered with that shot!

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Beautiful photographs. I especially like your shots of the birds.

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Your photos (especially the birds) are so crisp and detailed.

The Mara has clearly rewarded your love for it with excellent sightings.

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What to add?! The bokeh produced by your 600 is so creamy, and the B&W conversion worthy to be hang on the wall. The sunset shot ... to be admired!

 

Just yesterday, when the first snow has fallen in Ljubljana, I was about to post a photo of it saying: "That is why we are fleeing to warmer places in winter time!" Then I have realised that for many out there, the crisp white snow on the sunny day might be the highlight of the year!

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Just superb pictures. Love the Mara.

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Beautiful photos! I especially like the B&W lion and the sunset.

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@@Gregor

 

Your comment "I think Masai Mara will always be loved by me and I will return from time to time, even if I have started going to other destinations. Masai Mara is just such a beautiful place, with so much wildlife to offer and is comparable easy to access." is exactly how I feel. If you visit in low/shoulder season you get fantastic and plentiful sightings without the crowds (and discount offers as well).

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Day 3, 2nd November

 

So time to leave Keekorok, next destination was Ashnil Mara. But we started with going back to Talek area, and the mating lion couple. The female was still there, but since yesterday she had changed to a new male. :) A little bit surprising and funny, but I gather that is not unusual within lion coalitions.

 

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A bit of cuddling.

 

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This male had a habit of holding the female in her tail..

 

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Growl...

 

After a couple of hours we left Talek and started driving towards Ashnil. We had a lunchbox and stopped in a nice place, sat down under a tree and had a very nice lunch break. I can recommend this. And from this day we had both breakfast and lunch boxes every day.

 

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After reaching the mara river we found a lion pride maybe 300 meters from the river. They had a great view looking out over the area and the river downhill.

 

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A young female.

 

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Down by the river we found one of the pride male. This is one of the Notch sons. Mara Lion project have publish quarterly reports (Q2 2015), and I found their maps over the mara prides home ranges very interesting.

 

As you see, the weather changed and it started racing heavily. We waited and after a while he started to walk uphill toward the females (no cubs).

 

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This is a very large male and he is impressive. I took hundreds of pictures during his walk uphill. Many of which I am happy with, despite difficult light and heavy rain. But I will post only a few here.

 

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Great looking couple ;)

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Gregor, you are an exceptional photographer. Thanks for sharing this.

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Day 4, 3rd November

 

Another beautiful morning in the Mara after a night with lot´s of rain. Just outside the gates of Ashnil, we saw this giraffe and her calf every morning and evening.

 

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The Ashnil Mara Camp seems to be a very good lodge, a smal step up from Keekorok. The Tents are large with very nice africa/safari style interior design. The food was ok. I think the ambition is to be like a good restaurant. Service was for me a bit to much, but I guess that was because it was low season and they had maybe 10 guests (and 4 times as many service people). But I do prefer Keekorok before Ashnil, even if i think most people might think opposite. I think both places have fantastic locations, and I think If you have enough time, to spend a few days at both places and locations is the way to go.

 

Just a few seconds after I took photos of the giraffs we almost did run over a turtle. I don´t know what kind of turtle it is. I do think they are fairly common in the ponds in Masai Mara.

 

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Yesterday was lion day. In the morning we drove back to where the Notch pride was last night. But they were long gone. But we did find a black rhino. According to my guide David they are rare and it is not so common to see them in the Mara (and elsewhere, we all know the state of rhino poaching).

 

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We did get some good shots, from a pretty long distance.

 

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Later other drivers tried to find the Rhino, but without luck. It pays to get up early.

 

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During the day, there is always time for some bird photography (no running back to the lodge for lunch and long midday rests.) Here a Striated Heron.

 

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And the very common and beautiful Little Bee-eater.

 

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In the afternoon we were back to the usual weather, sun and rain.

 

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Just as we crossed through a creek I for a moment saw something moving and with a quick reaction I caught this Monitor Lizard on my sensor :)

 

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This evening we had a wonderful golden evening light. An ostrich.

 

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And a black-bellied Bustard.

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The usual weather: sun and rain ... and clouds ... and light :) . Perfect settings for perfect photography!

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@@Gregor - enjoying your report along with the brilliant photography!

 

Question about Ashnil - If my Geography is correct, they are located in that Look-Out area? or atleast close by?

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