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Naboisho, Ruaha and Zanzibar


SaminKaz
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This is the second part to my trip report from November/December, 2015. This was a last minute visit to East Africa which included two new places for me which were Ruaha and Zanzibar. I would have to say a big thank you to everyone who wrote about Ruaha because these trip reports on SafariTalk were the stimulus for my visit.

 

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After visiting Asilia's Naboisho Camp in the Naboisho Conservancy for 9 nights (trip report on the Kenya thread coming soon), I decided at the very last minute to tack on a visit to Ruaha and Zanzibar. The ever patient Troy from True Africa was brilliant in organising these add ons and to get me out to Kwihala for 6 nights with 6 nights at Matemwe, Zanzibar. I was able to take advantage of the shoulder/green season rates and their special stay 3 pay for 2. I stayed at the Transit Airport Motel, Dar es Salaam before my flight out to Ruaha and used free transfers/local taxis to cut down costs as much as possible.

 

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I thought I was organised but unfortunately I forgot my additional memory cards so I ended up concentrating more on photography and less with my videoing to not use as much memory. I also spent plenty of time just waiting and watching because I really wanted to observe animal behaviour and to enjoy the scenery that I knew Ruaha was famous for.

 

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I arrived in Ruaha on the 23 November with only 3 other guests in camp. I think I waved hello to @@Jaycees2012 when they were heading back to the airport and I too had the Umbele Tent during my stay as well as having Alex as my guide. It was a pleasure to be welcomed by Tam and her excellent team at Kwihala. I was hoping to meet the Italian head guide Pietro because I was interested in having a foreign guide who had come to love Africa and the bush so much that they stayed. I really thought that they must be extremely passionate and dedicated to do something like that.

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The tent was very large with an attached bathroom, which had a flushing toilet, running water, a bucket shower and toiletries. Water for the showers were provided after lunch and evening. Due to the hot weather I chose to have showers with no hot water added. The bed was extremely comfortable, additional seating was provided, a desk and chair for catching up with trip reports and an undercover patio with seating and a birdbath outside to attract visitors. The tent was hot during the day so I spent most of my downtime up in the communal areas where a breeze would pass by and I had access to cold drinks and ice.

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I was fortunate to have to only share a car for the 1.5 days during my stay and was alone in camp for 2 days as well. My guide for the first 4 days was Alex who is a very experienced Asilia floating guide who moves around the different properties to where he is needed. He knew all of my previous Asilia guides in Tanzania so we were able to share lots of great stories. He was accompanied by a trainee guide during my time who was a lovely young man who was a little quiet but came out of his shell during my stay. Alex also accompanied myself and two other guests on a walking safari during my stay which was lead by Hamza. Hamza also guided me on my last 1.5 days when Alex left for his break. Hamza was permanently based in Kwihala and was able to share some wonderful stories about some of the famous leopards in the park. He was a real character and a brilliant mimic of animal sounds which were very entertaining throughout the evenings.

 

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The weather was extremely hot during the day, with storms circling the park but not necessarily bringing rain to the Kwihala Camp. The park looked a patchwork of brown and green from above as well as from the ground as we drove around really highlighting where rain had recently fallen. During my stay we had two drives affected by heavy rains, strong winds, lighting and thunder. This only lasted a maximum of 2 hours and brought a lovely fresh feel to the camp.

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The rain assisted in providing new smaller sightings for myself including emperor scorpions, a smaller clear/white scorpion (I can’t remember the name), red baboon spiders, many different types of flying insects which flooded the sky around the lights in camp and of course frogs. With everything in abundance it meant that the birds and lizards were having a field day with so much food around.

 

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Due to the rains we didn’t have daily lion sightings because I was told they normally head to the higher areas to stay dry. I did manage to see lions on 3 out of the 6 days but they were very inactive due to the heat. I had 3 spectacular leopard sightings and then an additional 3 from afar. I spent a day tracking wild dogs after the rains (when the lions headed to higher grounds) without any luck (we found spoor and scat) but then we found the dogs the next morning and spent the morning and afternoon drives with them with some brilliant photo opportunities for everyone including the Ruaha Wild Dogs Conservation researcher. The elephants congregated along the dried rivers digging holes to find water because there was not enough rain to even produce a trickle in the dry riverbeds. Giraffes were present but skittish and had what I remember as fungal infections around their knees which resulted in them having large hard inflammations which were supposedly contagious. Researchers and vets were trying to understand this disease and how to treat it. I was able to enjoy a wonderful walking safari and saw elephants, giraffes, kudu, impala and learnt about different flora in the area.

 

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I loved my time at Ruaha and was very impressed with the fantastic management, staff, lovely tents, communal area, my favorite the bush tv as well as the wonderful park and its animals. I loved the authentic bush feel, the landscapes were amazing and the sightings were wonderful. It is a park that requires great guides to track spoor and to find animals in the bush and it is extremely rewarding when everyone in the car is trying to help out. There are pockets of tsetse flies but we generally chose not to drive in these areas unless there was a great sighting. It certainly didn’t detract me from my time at Ruaha. I will definitely revisit this camp because I found it to be the type of camp and park that offers a true safari experience.

 

 

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Oh wow. What a lovely series of sightings and images. Breathtaking. The boabab with leopard nestling at the base is certainly unusual and probably my favorite.

 

So glad you enjoyed Ruaha and have shared it in ST. Thanks

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~ @@SaminKaz

 

While all of your images were lovely, that final shot of a leopard on a rock is exceptional.

Although I'm pleased that you saw various scorpions and baboon spiders, I'm glad there weren't close-up images of them!

Truly a wonderful report of a very special add-on safari.

Thank you for sharing it here.

Tom K.

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Wonderful photos, thank you for sharing. Love the Bat-Eared-Foxes especially.

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@@SaminKaz

 

Good to see that tent Umbele was put to good use! :)

 

Some great photos of Leopard and Bat-eared foxes - but very envious of your Wild Dog sightings. We spent a week each in Selous and Ruaha and the closest we got was fresh scat. Timing is everything!

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Wonderful Photos, thanks for sharing!

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@@SaminKaz

Your photos are superb -in particular your leopard and bat eared fox. And of course the dogs!

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Wonderful photos. The bat-eared fox mother and cub will melt your heart. All the leopard shots are fantastic. Thank you for the post.

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Fantastic sightings and wonderful photos of Ruaha- a really beautiful chunk of Tanzania, as we also found out on our first visit last September.

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Part 1 - Naboisho Camp, Naboisho Conservancy

 

As soon as I returned from my African Mega Trip I immediately started to research my next safari. I needed to find somewhere that I could get to quickly without wasting downtime in Nairobi on either end of my stay. I had loved travelling with Asilia during the East Africa segment of the last trip and I wanted to visit a different conservancy in the Mara. I kept an eye out on the specials that Asilia was offering and calculated that I would probably get time off in October or November and prepared accordingly.

 

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I once again used Troy from True Africa when I saw that Asilia was offering their Stay 3, Pay 2 specials. I was unsure of the time frame so I booked for 8 nights with the opportunity to reduce it if necessary depending on work. I ended up having free time in November and flew down via a stop in Abu Dhabi and an overnight in Nairobi.

 

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I arrived in Nairobi and had a transfer arranged through Wildebeest Eco Camp where I was staying in one of their tents with no ensuite. The traffic was flowing and we made good time in arriving at the camp. The property is lovely with expansive grounds with lots of space, a lovely pool and deck. My tent had everything I needed and I dumped my stuff and took off again to the Giraffe Centre and then to the private visits for sponsors at DSWT. I had arranged a private transfer with the driver at Wildebeest and he then took me to The Galleria Mall where I had some dinner before returning back to camp.

 

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The following morning I was up early to enjoy a pleasant breakfast on the deck before driving to Wilson for the 10am flight down to the Mara. Wilson Airport is where I always start to feel the butterflies and the excitement that I am nearly back in the bush. The Safarilink flight was called and about 12 of us made our way out to the plane. This was the fullest flight I have ever taken to the Mara which was positive news considering all the issues Kenya has had to deal with over the previous two years.

 

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I love the photo of the two bat eared foxes and of the marabou stork and the poor hapless frog. You've got a great set of photos here. I enjoy them especially because of the focus on animal behavior. Well done.

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Love the color editing/highlighting you've done with this one.

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After a quick stop at Kichwa Tembo we flew over the Mara River and up to Ol Kiombo. Recent rains had prevented us flying into Ol Seki because roads were a muddy mess and creek crossings were still running high. This didn’t worry me because it would allow me a small game drive up through the reserve before heading into the Naboisho Conservancy which would be my home for the next 9 nights. This was my first visit to this side of the Mara Reserve and it was great to be able to see the location of some of the camps from above for future reference. Once down on the ground I collected my bag and I was off to look for my guide.

 

I was really lucky to be welcomed by Evelyn who was one of Asilia’s first female guides. This would be my second female guide to take me around the Mara area and I felt extremely priviledged. Evelyn was from Samburu and wore her traditional dress, which was colourful and complemented her lovely character. We put the bags in the back and I jumped into the first row along with my camera bag ready for my new adventure.

 

Evelyn like most guides when a guest first arrives was asking plenty of questions to understand what I was most interested in, where I had been before and what I had seen. I always love stirring the pot and letting my guide know that all I wanted to see is blood. This usually brings a questionable look to ascertain if I am serious or not. I laughed at Evelyn and said that cats, cubs, kills and blood would be the top things on my list, letting her know that I am happy to wait as long as necessary to see what we can find and I love hearing guide’s stories and fun facts. This seemed to please Evelyn and we set off towards camp.

 

Evelyn and I were enjoying the first of many great conversations that we would have over our time together when she pointed out there were cheetah up ahead. I had a look out the side of the car and sure enough there were 4 male cheetahs walking along very comfortably with only another two cars in the vicinity. I was completely blown away at the luck of such an awesome sighting as we pulled up alongside them. One of the males suddenly stopped just in front of our car and scanned the horizon and Evelyn announced that there were topi approximately 200m away. The remaining three cheetah didn’t seem interested and certainly lacked confidence in their sibling being able to complete a successful hunt and continued to walk up the track. I too thought there was no way anything was going to happen so I just continued to watch and wait.

 

Within the blink of an eye the cheetah was off and running with both Evelyn and I verbally encouraging him but thinking nothing would happen considering the distance. I was also swearing as I realized that I didn’t have a camera on hand and wasn’t prepared for anything to happen. As we continued to watch the cheetah quickly closed the gap with the topi I was frantically trying to get my camera out of my bag. The topi seemed to be winning, with the cheetah out of luck from where we were parked on the road but quickly the tables turned and we saw the cheetah close the gap and take down the topi as his siblings bounded up to take advantage of such an impromptu kill. I was completely lost for words as we drove closer to see the life die from the topi’s eyes and the boys start to enjoy their reward.

 

Of course this was when I finally managed to pull out my camera and fire off a couple of photos to remind myself of what I was witnessing. It was an unbelievable hunt and kill with exactly what I had asked for “blood”. It didn’t stop there, the brothers were enjoying the spoils of their brothers heroic kill when two of the cheetahs stopped and the hairs on the back of their necks rose as they started to hiss and growl. Out of nowhere two hyenas came bounding along with no regard to the four cheetahs. The two cheetahs who were on the kill literally turned around and walked away, leaving their siblings to look over their shoulders and with no family support they too turned to join them. None of the cheetah looked especially sad to be leaving such a fresh kill, whilst the hyena was laughing all the way as it ripped apart the topi leaving the second hyena watching enviously from a distance.

 

We stayed and enjoyed the opportunity of witnessing the hyena enjoying a fresh lunch on the reserve plains under a brilliant bright sunny sky. Evelyn was ecstatic as she turned around and told me that I was the luckiest guest she had ever had to get what they wanted within ten minutes of arriving. I completely agreed as we wrapped up the sighting to follow the cheetah boys for a while before they went cross county leaving us to continue towards the Naboisho Conservancy. Evelyn had another little something up her sleeve as we drove off the main reserve road towards Olare Olok Conservancy. She slowed down and as I turned my head I discovered a cheetah mum and her two young cubs. What an amazing sight to have seen 7 cheetahs within an hour. With the heat of the sun pounding down on them, none of these cats were in the mood to play and mum looked very content having hunted successfully the previous day. We stayed for about 30 minutes taking photos and hoping without luck that another hunt may occur but there was nothing in sight. With photos taken we drove onto camp with a great deal of anticipation considering the amazing sightings I had just witnessed. I was looking forward to seeing what else the Naboisho Conservancy would provide.

Edited by SaminKaz
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Edited by SaminKaz
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Livetowander

Wow, you were incredibly lucky!

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Wonderful start@@SaminKaz .

 

Re Cheetah kill I think your mistake was that you should have said 'I want to see blood, hunt,kill etc ..........when I have my camera ready'. I am sure Evelyn would deliver. :rolleyes:

 

Lovely report so far; Looking forward to hearing the seeing the rest.

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What a fantastic TR and the photo's are first class - well done @@SaminKaz.

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I am going to deviate now to a general overview of my time in Naboisho and to highlight it with some photos. I didn’t take notes on a daily basis on this trip so I will not be able to do a daily report justice.

 

Naboisho is a luxury camp with nine tented suites with fantastic views over the conservancy. Each tent has running hot/cold water for the indoor shower and sink with an outdoor bucket shower. There is also flushing toilets. The tents are extremely spacious with comfortable king size beds, sitting area, desk with chair and day bed. There is also an undercover outdoor area to sit outside an admire the view of animals walking to and from the waterhole that is situated in front of the main communal area. The communal lounge is a semi permanent structure with an indoor fireplace, large comfortable chairs and lounges to sit in and enjoy a drink before or after dinner. The dining area is a large long table where guests are joined by different members of staff who host the meals throughout the day. The camp also had an additional wifi tent with very slow access for anyone needing to contact the outside world. There was also talk of a pool being built for the 2017 season. Like all of Asilia’s camps the food was spectacular and probably the best I have had apart from Mara Bush House. The staff were particularly professional, helpful, friendly and proactive. Definitely on top of their game when it came to service that was beyond expected.

 

Sightings in Naboisho were a mixed bag due to the weather. November is the start of the short rains and prior to my arrival there had been some very wet days that had created havoc throughout the Triangle, Reserve and Conservancies. The wet combined with the wonderful black cotton soil meant that some camps were not able to pick up or drop off guests from airstrips, roads were closed and creeks were overflowing. This continued throughout my stay but in different areas of the Mara and on two occasions we had extra guests due to the temperamental weather. I ended up having only two/three big downpours during 18 game drives although overnight rains did create adventures for the guides when driving around.

 

I was extremely impressed with Evelyn’s ability to drive in all the different conditions we encountered. She was probably the best driver I have had in wet weather because she didn’t need to assert her skills to anyone, would put the car into 4WD when necessary and take the precautions just in case. This meant that we never got bogged during my stay and we were in some very interesting situations but I took it all in my stride and had full confidence in her. I especially appreciated when we went off road during a heavy storm to watch a pride of lions playing in the newly formed creek as the rain pelted down. We ended up parking as the water flowed around us and the lions played in every direction. It was a brilliant opportunity to see the sub adults and cubs really interacting in the cooler temperatures and playing in the water.

 

Other highlights of my stay was the amazing Osirata and her two cubs (male and female). This is one brilliant and beautiful leopard mum. She was extremely comfortable with cars around her and this was passed down to her cubs, especially the male. During my stay she had two dens with the first only being active for the first two days of my stay whilst the creek level was high and then she moved and remained at the same den in bush for the other 7 days. It was a great privilege to enjoy Osirata’s company and her two cubs were absolutely divine. I spent nearly 5 drives just concentrating on her and her family which allowed for some very intimate experiences as they explored the nearby rocky creek, scaled trees and logs and also performed an unsuccessful hunt.

 

 

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Cheetahs were plentiful around the conservancy and also during my two visits to the reserve (arrival day and another full day drive). My main reason to visit the reserve was to find Malika and at the time her three cubs. We eventually found her in the afternoon and spent about 2 hours with her as she too tried an unsuccessful. She gracefully posed for a number of photos and then decided to settle down to rest as the light ebbed away. We also found another shy male in the conservancy, a mum with a single cub and another mum with three cubs who had successfully made a kill within the front of Encounter Mara and we were able to enter the camp and see it due to their being no other guests in the camp. I calculated that we saw at least 14 individual cheetahs with three of the families at least two times each. All the cheetahs looked really happy and healthy with at least 50% of our visits were when they were on kills. I was amazed at how many cheetahs I saw during my stay with most of the sightings being alone or maybe one other car whilst in the conservancy and with three other cars in the reserve.

 

 

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Lions were a hit and miss during this trip compared to other visits when I would see them daily. Honestly, I can’t complain because the sightings were great (6 out of the 9 days) and the opportunity to stay with the cats after dark to see what they would do was fantastic. The pride of lions that were close to camp were split into two and they were generally late movers in the afternoons. To guarantee being with the pride as it became dark it was important to find them and then we were able to follow them as they normally went up to the nearby plains. Two evenings we spent just parked on the plain with the lions close by, watching them under the quarter moon and waiting to see what would happen. During these evenings we had five unsuccessful hunts which was exciting to listen to and see at the last minute when we used the red spotlight when we realized the herd had escaped. The communication between the lions was also an incredible experience with the sound just reverberating through my body with goose bumps forming as the males continued to roar and the females echoed back. A special experience with this pride was finding them playing one afternoon when we had a huge storm and to be in the middle of them. Even with the rain coming down we put the flaps up and enjoyed the spectacle and of course I tried to get photos when possible. My favorite lion encounters were when the pride was on the move in the early mornings which we saw twice. This is always a great opportunity to get more active photos and to see behavior between the family members. The days we didn’t find the lions we came back to camp to find that they were in the vicinity of the camp and two evenings actually saw them on the edge of camp walking down to the waterhole and beyond.

 

Lipstick who I saw in the Mara Reserve

 

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Edited by SaminKaz
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COSMIC RHINO

good report , great photos and trip

 

good to see that the wifi connection is slow, it is a time for connecting nature, forget chronic compulsive superficial digital engagement disorder

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@@SaminKaz

Your photos are superb- leopards, cheetah and lions. The lions are beautifulagainst that green background.

I particularly love the lion running through the river

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