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My Safari #3 -- Kenya again and again


amybatt
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It's been about a week since my return and I'm fighting off the nostalgia along with the jetlag. I'll start this now but will likely have to wait for photos until the weekend. There's only so much I can get away with at work nowadays. ;)

 

My itinerary:

 

BOS -- LHR -- NBO via British Airways. Overall a fairly good experience but for freezing cold plane between NBO and LHR both ways, and too long layover at LHR (4 and 6 hours, respectively). I paid to pre-book seats in economy class, choosing to sit where the configuration goes from 3-4-3 to 2-4-2, so that being in that second "2" on the window allowed me additional legroom along the wall. Worked out well.

 

1 night Nairobi -- Eka Hotel

3 nights Amboseli -- Tawi Lodge

5 nights Mara -- Encounter Mara

1 night Nairobi -- Emakoko @ Nairobi National Park (arrived mid-day Wednesday, left at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, so in essence a full day and a half there, part spent at Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

 

Many thanks to @@Sangeeta for finding me Tawi and Emakoko. Tawi was the perfect place to decompress from the real world and really get into the safari mindset. Emakoko is where I want to retire, I think. Both were heavenly in their own ways, and I often wondered to myself "what did I do to deserve this?" Then I remembered that I work to be able to do this, and it all seemed justified!

 

On my first trip to Kenya, I sort of ignored Amboseli. My focus was cats and more cats. This time I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My guide Julius said "you come to Amboseli to see the elephants and the mountain (Kilimanjaro)". I was not disappointed on either front, but throw in an unexpected lioness sighting and that made it all the more tasty.

 

For me, the Mara was tough this time. The high grass made it a challenge for me photography-wise. Too many times I lost a decent shot because the focus was on the grass and not the cat behind it. Newbie curse, I suppose. All I could think about was how many cats we must be passing by because we can't see under bushes/trees like we used to. I had one trip into the Reserve itself and I am not exaggerating when I say grass is as high as a giraffe's knee and herds of elephant appear to be swimming in the fields of gold. I have photos to prove it. That's not to say I had a completely dry season in spotting cats, just lighter than last time. Two attempted kills and one intra-pride fight were pretty stunning.

 

I'd heard from many on here how fruitful trips to NNP have been so figured it was worth at least a night (a couple game rides, right?) In retrospect I'd spend at least 2 if not 3 nights here. I felt I only scratched the surface. I'll spoil the whole trip report for you right now and just say (because I can't hold it in any longer) that in my last 20 hours in Kenya there, a dozen rhino and an enormous, gorgeous male leopard were my highlights. What on earth more could I possibly ask for, other than another couple days there? I can only imagine what more I'd have seen!

 

Probably the highlight of the trip outside the game rides (and maybe even including the game rides) was my time spent at Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage. I had 5 fosters there before I left and was easily persuaded by one to foster him as well while I was there. I did the morning public visit, the evening foster parent visit and at the last minute, at the behest of @girlinstilettos who was there the week before I left, the 3:00 private visit, which was just me, my guide Peter and 24 elephants with their keepers in the nursery. Heaven!!

 

My biggest life achievement thusfar (and I say this only partially sarcastically) was to travel carry-on only. I used the Lipault bag that the lovely ladies @@SafariChick, @@graceland and @safarikit used last year, and it was hugely successful. Not having to wait for bags in NBO or BOS was such a plus. With Global Entry at home now, I went from deplaning to my awaiting vehicle in 6 minutes!

 

Having eVisa meant absolutely nothing. Other eVisa holders and I were herded into the "Visa" line, which seemed odd, and indeed when we reached the front were chastised by the immigration officer who was "only collecting money". He tried to force us to wait in another line, but after 70 minutes in line at that point, I refused. He stamped the passport and off I went.

Edited by amybatt
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Tawi Lodge -- Amboseli

 

Menno is the manager here at Tawi and he's such a gentleman and goes above and beyond to be accommodating. I came away thinking that he lives and breathes his guests' enjoyment at the lodge. He's very, very sweet and I encouraged him to come here and post. Hopefully he makes his way here!

 

There are 12 "bandas" or huts with thatched roofs. Each has a very good sized bedroom with queen bed (with flynetting), a fireplace, easy chairs and a step down into a large bathroom with double-sinks, bathtub and separate toilet and shower enclosures. The back windows and individual patios with deck furniture all face Kilimanjaro and when it's clear out you can't miss it. The lodge is about 20 minutes of African massage through conservancy land to the gate of Amboseli National Park, where all the game drives were.

 

The dining area also looks out on Kilimanjaro but also has a watering hole where there is near-constant traffic. Everything from three elephants, herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs make it constant entertainment while you eat, even at night. This is not even 30 yards from where you eat, and just over an electric fence from the fire pit and pool.

 

Dining is not communal, but rather individual tables. Not too problematic for an intrepid solo traveler, but I was grateful to be asked to join a delightful Welsh family a couple days nonetheless. I realize how much I enjoy meeting other people traveling this way. As a somewhat-newly-converted vegetarian, I was not holding out high hopes for eating on safari, but Tawi Lodge blew me away. The meals were so much better than even my favorite restaurants at home! Menno harvests many of the vegetables onsite and his chef went beyond the usual "pasta with sauce" or "creative bean option" that I thought I'd be stuck with. Extremely high quality meals here.

 

Guiding was excellent. Julius seems to know all of the families of elephants in the park, which travel together as herds and what their timetables are. He also knows where to find other wildlife if you're interested. He's very aware of how to position a vehicle for good light, for wildlife crossings and for interactions that he sees coming that I don't. I was very happy with the guiding and my time in ANP.

 

Note: @gamewarden I will post individual posts on the Camp/Lodge review forum shortly...

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Encounter Mara -- Maasai Mara

 

I chose to stay in Naboisho this time because my motto is "never try to repeat perfect". As wonderful as my time at Porini Lion was in 2014, I had to try something different. Encounter Mara seemed like a great choice.

 

Andrew and Sammy are wonderful managers. They deftly helped me through a logistical glitch and were always checking to see that I was enjoying myself. They paired me with guide Nabala and a family of four from the UK, who could not have been a better match for me to share a vehicle with. We had some great sightings in Naboisho and the Asilia network really seems to pay off, as guides are quick to share sightings amongst each other, and to let up for each other when a 5th vehicle appears (beyond the 4 vehicle limit at any one sighting).

 

There are 11 (or 12, I'm unsure) tents at Encounter. I was in 11, which is quite a trek from the common areas, but is so peaceful and quiet that it's worth the hike. The tents are pretty typical for this type of accommodation, zipped down at night, open during the day. I had a nice big bed and comfortable bathroom. I'd be quite happy to spend a lot longer here without question. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for them.

 

Gathering at the firepit every night was a highlight, as was getting to meet and chat with other guides and guests there and during meals at the communal table. Every night a different guide joins the guests for meals, which I think is a wonderful idea. The food here was not as interesting or well-executed as at Tawi, but it was still very satisfying.

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Emakoko (aka my retirement home) -- Nairobi National Park

 

I only have to work about 22 more years until I can retire. I hope Emakoko can hold my spot until then!

 

I loved it here. What can I say. There are only 10 "rooms" which are really little houses set into the hill. They overlook a riverbed where various wildlife make their way along night and day (heard a rhino, saw waterbuck, vervet monkeys, hyraxes). The rooms are really nicely decorated/designed and very spacious and comfortable. This was probably my favorite bathroom anywhere, with a nice waterfall shower and separate tub. I liked that it felt "in the bush" but didn't feel as rustic as Tawi did. Two hyraxes scooted in and out of my room from the open balcony, but they seemed harmless (and I was warned as such). The bridge from the parking area to the lodge makes you feel like you are literally leaving reality and crossing over into another world.

 

Anthony and Emma run a tight operation here. The staff are amazingly friendly and very aware of what it takes to make a nice experience. I was greeted from every game ride with the warm/moist facecloth to wipe clean, which ordinarily you only get on arrival. The food here was quite excellent, possibly as good or even better than Tawi. No vegetarian fears here! I was thrilled that my day room on departure day included dinner, because I was desperate for "just one more meal".

 

Peter was my guide here and he has a great eye and an amazing energy and personality. I think we clicked pretty quickly, and I found someone who shares my interest and passion for wildlife. When I return, I'd do what I can to drive with Peter again. Anyone who spots a leopard like he did (details to follow...I'm building suspense here!) is incredible in my book!

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Oh, it is so great to read your trip report. I am looking forward for photos :)

 

My biggest life achievement thusfar (and I say this only partially sarcastically) was to travel carry-on only. I used the Lipault bag that the lovely ladies @@SafariChick, @@graceland and @safarikit used last year, and it was hugely successful. Not having to wait for bags in NBO or BOS was such a plus. With Global Entry at home now, I went from deplaning to my awaiting vehicle in 6 minutes!

 

I have been travelling with carry on for some time now. But for this trip I bought Lipault Paris carry-on and I loved it!!! We can now have a Lipault club here.

Edited by bettel
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offshorebirder

@@amybatt - I had the same experience in the VISA line at JKIA. They dumped everyone (eVisa and Visa-on-arrival) into 3 queues together.

 

Great trip report thus far. Sorry that tall grass caused problems for you in Naboisho. I guess we got lucky with the setup at our sightings.

 

Sounds like the grass in the main reserve south of Naboisho was as high as in the main reserve south of Mara North...

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Sounds like a great trip, looking forward to the rest.

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Let's skip the travel day and overnight at the Eka (it's much the same) and consider the first day in Amboseli Day One

 

I was met at the airstrip by a Tawi Lodge's guide Julius. He was dropping some passengers off and I joined a Welsh couple for the rest of their stay. Coming out of the airstrip, we hit upon a few birds of interest.

 

Ugandan cranes with chicks:

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{Need the name for this, not in my notes...}
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We headed off straight away for a scenic overlook called Noomotio. We stopped for coffee here with stunning views of Amboseli and Kilimanjaro (who had a shawl of clouds over her shoulders today). If I'd not been told that was the mountain, I would have just guessed that her snow capped top was just more clouds.

 

My first view of Kilimanjaro (midday light):

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Julius saw that there were maybe 30-40 or so elephants all headed toward the swamp. We had coffee and cookies and then headed in that direction too.

 

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The elephants are so majestic, and so huge, but so silent. They are like gentle giants. They move silently and just sort of float past our vehicle. Two or three times they crossed right in front of us, hardly a bother on them. Julius explained how he can tell how old the elephants are by their tusks, whether they're just starting to grow in on a young one (they come in at about 4 years of age) or the medium length tusks on a 25-30 year old bull.

 

 

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At the first swamp with an elephant family we came across, I kept angling for "that photo" of elephants in front of Kilimanjaro. The light was harsh, but I warned that Kili can be fickle, and I may not see it again while I'm there. So I took lots and hoped for the best.

 

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Lunch today was pretty good. First course was a wonderful asparagus salad, with diced asparagus over a bit of lettuce with chopped olives and balsamic vinegar. The main course was pasta pomodoro, likely a spaghettini with tomato sauce. Dessert was a watermelon, mango and pineapple fruit salad. I had a glass of red with that, I think a cabernet and some still water.

 

The afternoon's game drive went back into Amboseli. We were on the look out for a big bull elephant that the researchers have named Tim. Tim is known as the oldest male in Amboseli (at the ripe age of 47) but also for enormous tusks that are well past his trunk. In fact, one is practically dragging on the ground as he walks. It took Julius a while to track him down but we finally did, on his own just chomping on grass. The tusks were indeed impressive. Either he never gets in fights, or he always wins them, because for them to be that long without getting broken is quite the feat. Julius says Tim's in musth now, meaning he's ripe to mate. This period can last up to 20 days or more. So look out ladies, Tim and his tusks may be coming at you.
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Tim:
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I saw a lot of lone wildebeest out here, more so than I remember anywhere else I've been. I thought they were herd animals but Julius says the weaker males get chased out of a herd and aren't allowed to mate, so they then will live the rest of their lives alone. That's sort of sad. Adolescent elephants are also forced out of their pride when they come of age, but they will eventually form a boys' club with other adolescent males and live as a bachelor herd for a while. Funny how nature works.
The landscape here is also interesting. Amboseli National Park is flat with almost no trees at all. So inside the park, you'll see mainly plains game, but mostly elephants. There are no giraffes since there aren't any trees really. There are lions but they are hard to spot and I have to think the lack of available food might hinder them somewhat. Julius said he hadn't seen a lion in about 5 days, so not that long, but long enough for me to think I won't see one.
Outside the Amboseli, the conservancies are really bushy and filled with trees. There's a weird African palm that look almost like the palm trees we see in L.A. But also acacia and baobab. That draws the giraffes. And I saw them quite a lot more than I expected. Tonight on the way in we also saw some jackals, another hippo lounging in a pool, two parent Grey Crowned Cranes with four chicks and some zebra. I'd estimate today I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 elephants. They are EVERY where.
Ugandan cranes photo-bombed by a white bird:
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Julius our guide is an ornithologist. He knows more about birds than I think any guide I've had before. We stopped at a bush where hundreds of these yellow weavers (chestnut weavers, I think?) were building nests. These were the males trying to impress one of two females hanging about. Whichever male she picked, she'd mate with. It was quite a cacophony of activity, with the males squeeking and preening and fluttering their wings as they maniacally went about building these orb-shaped nests. That was really neat to see, and learn why they're doing it. There were other weavers doing the same thing over the path on the way to the reception area at Tawi.
Weavers:

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Kori bustard trying to impress the ladies with that neck of his:
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As the day went on, more and more of Kilimanjaro became covered in clouds. As the sun set, the clouds seemed to lift and we saw more of it at dusk than we did all day. I'd love to get one good clear view of it just to get the photos. It is truly beautiful.

 

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I freshened up a bit before dinner and then had a gin and tonic at the bar with the Welsh couple. They then invited me to join them for dinner, which was really good fun. Whomever the chef is really knows how to do a salad. Tonight's was beet root salad which was just wonderful. Then a potato leek soup. My main course (vegetarian option) was a succotash with zucchini, cauliflower, mushroom and tomatoes over a handful of french fries. I'm not sure what the sauce and seasoning was, but it was very good. Dessert was a slice of cheesecake. All very very good. Portions are just the right size given that we do nothing but sit around in the vehicle all day!
Edited by amybatt
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Placeholder for Day Two.

Edited by amybatt
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Great shots all around and especially Tim. His tusks are amazing and Its even more amazing a poacher hasn't gotten to him. Hopefully I'll see him in october.

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offshorebirder

Very cool latest post @@amybatt. Thanks for the description and photos of Tim!

 

I also like the photos of the Cattle Egrets riding Elephants. I did not get to see that.

 

I think the heron you needed the name for is a Purple Heron.

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@@amybatt, looks like Elephant paradise, never tire of the image of herds in front of Kili. That vegetarian food all sounds so good, "succotash" over fries....yum! Nairobi Nat Pk has had some excellent, and is very deserving of, reviews here lately.

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Yay for the Lipault Ladies.

 

What a great shot of Tim. he sure is magnificent, his stocky big body and those stunning tusks. May he stay safe always.

 

that's an awesome close up of the weaver.

 

so sorry that the grasses were tall. the baby ele is almost hidden in it.

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armchair bushman

Great trip report so far.

FYI, your unidentified Heron looks like a mid-plumage Goliath Heron, though its colours do seem rather drab. If you have any other photos from a different angle, that would help.

Your yellow weavers are Speke's Weavers. Chestnut Weavers are much more...... Chestunutty :)

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@@amybatt - great stuff both words and pictures. And these pics are with your "current" malfunctioning camera? Really like the elephants crossing the road. I would have enjoyed that along with a few minutes silence in the vehicle to take it all in. Lovely image.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Lovely elephant pictures - and great to see the Crane chicks!

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Day Two -- Amboseli

 

Now that I'm back and I've been through the photos about 3 thousand times, I think this day ended up being my favorite photography-wise. I ended up with shots I hadn't imagined and looking at them takes me back. The problem with a longish (for me) safari is by the time I got to the Mara at the end of the trip, Amboseli seemed light years away. Looking at these it all comes back in an instant.

 

The overnight was interesting in that I was surprised by a rather good sized lizard behind my bathroom window shade over the sink while getting ready for bed. I had one contact lens in, one out, and really thought (hoped? prayed?) that it was just my blind eye seeing things. But no, he was there, sticking his head and front legs out. I'm not a reptile fan in the least, but I'm marginally more tolerant of lizards than snakes. I made do by sprinting through the bathroom between bed and toilet when I needed to. I'm such a wimp.

 

We headed out early after the 5:55 wake up call of coffee and biscuits (ok, honestly, can we get this at home please? I might become more of a morning person with someone kind offering caffeine and sugar to rouse me out of bed!). From the back deck of my banda, Kilimanjaro was looking clear at 6:15 a.m.

 

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As we turned on to the road that led to the national park, we bumped into a bank of very low clouds that burnt off as the sun rose higher. Before that though, I ended up with some interesting, ethereal "elephant in the mist shots". Completely inadvertent on my part, I had no idea how cool they'd turn out.

 

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Julius had hoped to find our big bull with bigger tusks Tim to photograph in front of the mountain, but instead we found three or four good sized herds that lined up for us poetically in front of Kilimanjaro. I think somewhere in there I got some good shots. It seems as if we are seeing the same few families each time, and always headed in the direction of the swamp, so their daily activities pretty much revolve around getting to and from the swamp each day.

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The biggest herd numbered about 30 I think and even had a tiny little baby, less than a month old, Julius said. They are expected to walk and keep up with the herd pretty much from birth. This cute little one didn't yet have control over its trunk and kept itself tucked in pretty close to its mother until it raced off ears flapping, then realized how far it had strayed and turned and ran back to its mom. There is truly nothing cuter than a baby elephant.
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This mother was interesting to watch because with the way her tusks are almost crossed, she had to thread her trunk up and down through them in order to reach high and grab something and then feed herself with it. Seemed inconvenient, but she'd adapted:
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At one point Julius stopped alongside a guide in another vehicle who seemed very excitable. Apparently he'd just seen a cheetah far on the other side of the park. Julius felt that by the time we got there and found the location, the cheetah certainly would have moved on. Instead we drove around through the palm trees looking for lions, to no avail.
Amboseli has 56 unique elephant families and the census in 2013 counted 1600 individual elephants. There has been only one poached elephant here in 2013 and none since. They presume the numbers now likely reach 2000 as there have been a fair amount of births in the last couple years. I've noticed since I've been here that there is a pervasive marketing campaign against elephant poaching called "hands off our ivory", with posters and placards and bumper stickers everywhere, in the airports and air strips, on planes and on the safari vehicles. Awareness is critical and they have certainly stepped it up since I was last here. None of that was around when I was here in 2014.
We returned to the lodge at about 9:30 where a huge breakfast spread awaited us. I had yogurt with granola, scrambled eggs and grilled tomato (nicely herbed!), toast, coffee and mango juice.
The morning game rides were short (6-9ish, generally), as were the evening ones, as we had to be heading out of the park by 6:30 pm. But that left the middle part of the day to enjoy the spa services (facials, massages), pool and walk around the grounds if you were so inclined. Coming off a rough patch at work and general winter doldrums, I spent the time on the back deck of my banda, reading for pleasure and snoozing. I read two books on this safari (it'd take me two months to do this at home!) and at one point was sleeping 10-12 hours a day (overnight and during siesta) in the breezes of Amboseli. There is something to be said for sunshine, fresh air and being completely unplugged from home to relax me!
Lunch was quite good and we watched two bull elephants and a herd of zebra right in the watering hole outside the garden near the lunch area. That's just incredible. Our meal was a pizza caprese starter (small pizzas with a sweet tomato sauce, mozzarella and arugula), then a pasta with a carbonara sauce (minus the bacon) and grilled mushrooms. Dessert was a small plate of banana fritters. Delightful. It just hit the spot. The chef came out to say hi to us and I told him how much I appreciate what he does with vegetarian food. I know it's likely a challenge for him and I appreciate it so much.
It became quite cloudy since we came in this morning, so I couldn't see the mountain at all after lunch. It had gotten fairly hot though. All morning I felt as though I needed the fleece but after breakfast it really warmed up nicely.
I've neglected to mention the dust here. It is insane. The earth here is just so incredibly dusty, more so than I've seen anywhere else. Now whether this is just a special feature of Amboseli or the result of an El Nino season, I don't know. But not long into the game drive today, I reached down to get something out of my day bag and a layer of dust poured off the bag on to the floor of the rover. And me, my hands, my face, are just filthy dirty by the time I get back. The elephants kick up the dust when trying to get stubborn clumps of grass up out of the ground and they will also give themselves a dust bath as sun and insect prevention. Remember that, it'll play a part later in the day.
It was just me with Julius this afternoon on the game drive. I got to learn a lot about him, how much he loves what he does and never gets bored after 7 years. He said every day is different, but he has learned the patterns and habits of different elephant families so he can pretty much tell when and where he'll find them.
We saw nothing but elephants tonight really. There were a few giraffes, a herd of wildebeest with some newly born calves (one of two herds in the park) and we stopped to see those funny orange weavers again, each male trying to outdo the other in nest building. But the highlight was well and truly the elephants. We saw three different families making their way either from swamp to where they'd spend the night or toward the swamp. The smallest herd we saw was about 20, the largest we saw was nearly 75 (likely separate families all in the same area around a swamp). The golden light around sunset really made me pleased with the shots I got as the herds headed back from the swamps into the trees for the night:
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"Blowing dust"
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It is so heartening to see the number of very young babies. Just tonight I think we saw about 10 all under a month old. This bodes very well for the future of Amboseli's elephants. I love to see the wee ones, just barely tall enough to nurse from their mom, still unsure of how to use their trunk, so they just swing it wildly. They do so well to keep up with the family, which can move 30 miles in a day! One little guy was either asserting himself or complaining about the pace and he trumpeted boldly but it came out like a squeak. I couldn't help but laugh. Although it was "only" three sightings, they were majestic. It is humbling to be sitting on the road and have the herd come directly toward me to cross to the other side. That they move so silently but for their purrs and whispers amongst themselves is hard to fathom until you see it. To have a massive bull elephant coming head on is simply breathtaking. What incredible creatures they are.
The last sighting we saw was the biggest, but we were up against a time crunch to get out of the park by 6:30. I took a few hasty shots and we ran for the exit. As the sun was almost down, Julius said "that little elephant just ran across the road looking for his mamma". Then the elephant passed again to the side he came from. Then back and forth again. He was lost. There were no other elephants in sight. Julius tried to reassure me (and it turns out, himself) that it was a young elephant but not that young, it appeared to be almost 10 years old. Older, but not old enough to be independent. Julius slowed the rover down and crept along looking for a family. "Come on family" I heard him say. The elephant seemed to be heading in a solid direction, and it was running now. "He is focused, he knows where he is going", Julius said. Finally from a stand of trees, Julius spotted huge clouds of dust rising up, right in the path of where this elephant was headed. In the near darkness, we could see the shadows of at least two elephant families, both of which were kicking up a storm of dust. Hopefully one of the two was the lost ele's family. I said to Julius, "I would be heartbroken if we hadn't seen those elephant families". "Even me too," Julius said. It made me feel good that he was as worried as I was.
We returned in time for a gin and tonic and dinner. I chatted with a Dutch friend of Menno's and then had dinner on my own. The salad tonight was a yummy spicy cole slaw. The soup was a ginger carrot leek soup. The main course was a vegetarian curry (leeks, zucchini, snap peas) over jasmine rice. Dessert was a slice of tiramisu. I washed this all down with a bottle of water and a glass of South African Sauvignon Blanc. It was delightful. My worries about eating vegetarian here were definitely for naught.
Another wonderful waterfall shower tonight. It's so good to feel clean, even if only for the overnight. No lizard in the bathroom tonight but a mouse did run across the rafters in the same place. Ugh. I wish there was a way to seal the mosquito netting around my bed!! Goes with the territory, I suppose!
Edited by amybatt
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Day Three -- Amboseli

 

Another very restful night. Even though I took the Ambien, I still heard footfall outside my bana, of the human kind, around 4 a.m. I managed to go back to sleep and slept until the alarm went off at 5:40 though. Oddly, when I heard footsteps outside, I went to turn a light on to check the time and the light above my bed didn't go on. When I got out of bed to get ready for the day, none of my lights had power. So I had to get dressed and ready by the light of one flashlight. No worries, it's not a fashion show here and I'd laid my stuff out the night before anyway, so it was just a matter of wetting my hair flat and brushing my teeth.
This morning I was alone for the game drive, which was fine by me. We headed out at 6:10 and it was nearly pitch black. But I could see that the mountain was clear which is always good news. Just as we got into the park, the first visitors in for the day, we turned to look back and the sun was just peeping up over the horizon. I'm still blown away by how fast it comes up.
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I think Julius really wanted to show me lions today, even though I've not made a fuss over it, and have told him multiple times that I came here for elephants and would get my cats in the Mara. We drove for over an hour in another part of the park that is known as lion country only to find nothing. He said they are good at hiding, and they must be, because I couldn't figure out where they'd hide. Parts of this terrain looked like moonscape and others were just very low scrub. No bother, we saw a couple of lone hyena, two Thomson gazelle mothers with their babies and a bunch of baboons that we've been passing out near the old shut down Amboseli Lodge, which the baboons seem to have taken over for themselves. They're so funny and so expressive and some of them are quite stubborn when it comes to getting out of the way of vehicles.
One of the many baboons who now occupy the vacant Amboseli Lodge:
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Finally we came across that massive herd of elephants that we saw last night that we couldn't stay to watch because the park was closing. We determined there were nearly 90 elephants, likely 4 different families, and they were all gathered right beneath the mountain and heading to cross the road right in front of us. I'm aware it might sound incredibly boring, but it takes my breath away to have so many of these gorgeous giants pass right in front of me, and they're completely silent as they do so. There were quite a few babies in this group, and it's sweet to watch the moms guide them up over the hump on either side of the road. Julius pointed out to me how cute they are when they flap out their ears, and I have to admit he's right. They are really sweet. And how the herd looks after them and surrounds them if they think there is a problem is very endearing. It was such a privilege to sit and watch them.
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I really only like this shot for perspective: mountain vs. elephant:
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Documentary photo, it seems like every which way you look, you see clusters like this on the horizon:
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We returned to camp for breakfast around 9:30 and made plans to meet up again at 4. Breakfast was the same as yesterday except instead of juice they had a mango smoothie which was nice. Today I ate a little less since lunch is right around the corner. We had three elephants at the watering hole on the other side of our garden, and I couldn't help myself but abandon my breakfast to scoot over there and take photos of them. They are so close and seemingly uninterested in us. It was so pretty to see the elephant and the mountain right here at the breakfast table.
The view from the table at lunch at Tawi Lodge:
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From the firepit/pool area:
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Some guests wouldn't bother with a game ride, but rather would just watch the turnover in the watering hole from the comfort of the pool, from elephants to giraffe to zebra and wildebeest:
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Back out to lunch. I spent a little time over by the watering hole again. Three elephants, 5 giraffe and a whole bunch of zebras were there. I also watched a bunch of eland come in and a handful of baboons. Julius told me that the plains game have wisened up and know that they are safe near the lodge since it patrols for predators. So they are here pretty much all the time. The elephants at lunch were bathing and splashing like mad and really having a great time of it. Then when they come up out of the bath, the zebras bolt like they're going to get crushed by these massive beasts. During my meal, one zebra let out a panicked bark, as they do, and all the others just rolled their eyes as if "chill out buddy, nothing going on here".
I was thrilled to see the asparagus salad was back on the menu today. I loved that the other day. The main was a mushroom tart on puff pastry. I'm not a huge mushroom fan but this was actually really good, with some arugula and shaved parmesan. Dessert was a mango and watermelon salad. It all really hit the spot as it's now a lot warmer mid-day than it has been.
Menno caught me in the reception area and said my flight back to Nairobi has been changed from 9:00 to 8:00 tomorrow, which is good in that now I had longer than 10 minutes between flights in Nairobi, unless my flight to Mara changed too! Menno also mentioned that other guests spotted four cheetahs today in Amboseli and Julius knows where they were spotted. Knowing how transient cheetahs can be, I assured Julius there was no pressure and I'd be happy for my last game ride to just find a whole lot of elephants. And off we went.
The first hour or so was pretty slow, no sightings at all. I could tell we were headed to the far side of the park again so I assumed we were heading for the cheetahs. En route we saw a massive herd of elephants, and by massive I mean maybe 100-150 easily, but they had already mostly crossed the road we'd take to access them and by the time we got to them they'd be well past. About an hour into the ride, another guide stopped Julius and there was some chatter in Swahili between them. This happens pretty frequently and usually I never hear what comes of it. But when the other driver moved on, Julius looked at me over his shoulder and said "we must go back, they have spotted lion." At this time of year it is near impossible to spot either cheetah or lion and I reckon that Julius was opting for a sure thing with the current sighting rather than a shot in the dark with four cheetahs spotted hours before. So back we went over the same land we just came over, doing it in half the time. At 5:30 we arrived on the scene of the sighting, a lioness lying about 100 yards off road on a large sandy patch. I could see her well with binocs but photos were mediocre to poor. Still, I saw a lion in Amboseli. Julius recognized her as a new mother who has two cubs. I think he hoped the cubs would surface but they never did. She changed locations twice, finally flopping down and throwing her paws in the air in tall grass, never to be seen again. So we moved on.
Not the best shots, more documenting the sighting than anything:
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Here you can see she is a lactating mom:
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Just near the entrance to the park there was another good sized herd crossing the road. We made it in time to them to see the last 30 or so go by us. I've never felt so small and humbled as I did watching all these elephants so close to me. I certainly got a sense of my place in the universe. As they silently crept by us, one stopped and approached our vehicle, only taking a few steps to break from the path his family was cutting through the grass. He paused a moment, then turned and rejoined the line. I may be crazy, or perhaps wishful thinking, but he really looked a lot like the lost boy we saw running for his family last night. It was in the same location and at the same time as last night, and he was roughly the same age and tusk size. I hope it was him and maybe he was thanking us for worrying about him. I'll choose to believe it was.
Cape buffalo, grey with dust:
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After we left the park, we came across a bachelor herd of four elephants right outside the conservancy. The biggest of these was Greg, Julius said, and he's a very shy boy, meaning he moves pretty quickly when vehicles approach.
Conservancy elephant Greg:
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I was back early enough to shower before dinner and do most of my packing. I finished my book and sat at the bar for a bit with Menno and his visiting Dutch friend over a gin & tonic. Dinner tonight was pretty good. I had a chef's salad, which was a pretty little stack of greens, cucumber, tomato, avocado and onion with a creamy vinegarette. The soup was out of this world: a sun dried tomato soup using tomatoes both grown here and dried here. Menno is a true Renaissance man! The main course was a fish cake (I think) and french fries. The dessert was heavenly, a chocolate fondant (similar to molten lava cake) that I was so tempted to lick clean. I washed this all down with the South African Savignon Blanc.
Mid-meal we heard a big splash and the night light over the watering hole caught an elephant belly flopping in there by himself. He carried on for a good few minutes and seemed to be enjoying himself. That mini game park we have going on in the garden here is just spectacular.
In bed by 10, 5:50 wake up call! Off to the Mara!
Edited by amybatt
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Day Four -- Moving to the Mara

 

It was a good night's sleep except somewhat hot. I heard rain at one point and woke up hot a few times but otherwise I slept well. I had a nice breakfast (same as previous days) around 6:30 but was alone, both in terms of animal and people guest. I'll miss that watering hole at breakfast and lunch!

As I got dressed this morning, my little lizard friend reappeared. It stuck its head out from behind the window shade and didn't move (thankfully). I hadn't seen it since that first night, so I thought maybe it had moved on. I guess not. I think it was mocking me as I departed.
Menno woke up early to settle my bill and wish me well. I let him know he should visit Safaritalk and get more exposure here. Tawi is a great getaway and was the perfect way for me to decompress between home and the Mara. Julius is a wonderful guide and Amboseli is enchanting for her mountain and her elephants. I really enjoyed my stay there.
The rain seemed to keep everyone inside this morning. We hit the road for the airstrip at 7 and saw absolutely no one, not a vehicle or an animal for ages. Julius says the rain keeps the animals from being as active, since the grass is wet and it's overcast and cooler (to them anyway, to me it was practically beach weather!) So there were no significant sightings along the way to the airstrip. It was a sedate, understated goodbye to Amboseli.
We got there at about 7:50 to little fanfare. There's no checking in, showing of ticket, etc. Julius checked and my SafariLink flight to Nairobi was to land at 8:08, but so was Air Kenya. Only an Air Kenya flight landed. It let people off and gathered up two, and I was left standing there at the edge of the airstrip with my two little bags and no where to go. Finally the captain of the Air Kenya flight came over and asked my name, saying that I was on his manifest. It appeared that SafariLink didn't have anyone to drop off and didn't want to pick up only one person, so they did a code share in essence. In any event, it was an excellent flight, very professional and a nice plane.
It dawned on me as we landed though that when I landed in Nairobi I'd have no idea where to go. There are several small airlines operating out of there and I had no idea where SafariLink was in relation to where I would be let off. No worries though, as I came down the stairs from the plane there was the nicest SafariLink rep who said he was here to pick up his "VIP" and take her to her plane to the Mara. (That would be me!) So he shuffled me and my carry-on to the SafariLink terminal where I waited about a half hour to take off.
Naboisho, the conservancy in the Mara I'm staying at this time, was the second stop on this flight. It was funny as hell to be landing and see zebra and wildebeest standing along the airstrip watching the plane. Maybe not as funny if they attempted to cross the strip, but hey, I'm easily impressed. I was met by an Asilia driver Nabala who took me on a nice 90 minute drive to get to the camp. Along the way I saw some baby topi, baby warthogs, baby giraffes (all along with some adults). The land is just as I have been remembering it these last couple years, all warm and yellows and blue sky and puffy white clouds. It's just good to be back here again.
Finding shade:
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It may be the failure of my memory over time because I don't remember this being the case two years ago, but my guides here confirmed when I asked, that there are many, many more topi, warthogs and eland than I remember there being. They said especially the topi and warthog populations have "exploded".
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Do you see it? I didn't...(next photo)
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One noticeable difference here is how high the grass is. I guess everything has been effected by El Nino and the rains. This makes game spotting somewhat of a challenge especially for the cats. It is warmer here than Amboseli although it's also somewhat overcast.
Encounter Mara is a traditional tented camp. While it is behind an electrified fence, that only keeps the buffalo, elephants and hippos out. Cats, zebras and wildebeest still scale it so I'll need to be escorted to and from my tent during dark hours. I am in the tent that is almost the farthest from any of the common areas, which is good for the remote isolated experience, but not so good for the potential snake encounter climbing the path to this tent. It is just like other tented camps I've stayed in, so no surprises there. The other guests at lunch said that they heard lions and hyenas last night, so here's hoping!
Lunch was interesting, it was mostly Indian cuisine. I enjoyed the tomatoes and the salad with the beets. I'm wishy washy on curried vegetables over rice, especially with it so hot midday, but it held me over until dinner.
Along the path from the dining tent to my tent, there are two birds' nests at eye level, one recently vacated, but the chick is still nearby, and another on which the mother bird is still incubating.
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Flown the coop but not ready to leave the comforts of home yet...
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Well if any game ride had mixed emotions, it was tonight's. I have been waiting for this and lions in particular for two years. I made no bones about it, stressed to Nabala that I'm only here to see cats and there is no such thing as too many cats. Nabala did the game ride for me. I shared the vehicle with a couple and their young (4 year old) son. Bearing in mind how much I dislike kids, you can imagine that that set the tone. They were only supposed to be with me for an hour until we could get them back to their vehicle, the other occupants of which had gone on a nature walk.
Nabala said we were headed to the river to look for lions and leopards, which we did. I found it almost discouraging how high the grass is, because we could be driving by bushes that have cats sleeping under them and never know it. Good for the cats, I guess.
We then ended up at a hippo pool, which is interesting enough for a bit, and there were two wee babies floating on their mom's back which I'd not seen before. But they weren't cats.
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Finally we happened upon 8 lions, 5 males and 3 females, six of whom were sleeping off a meal while 2 others were still working on the carcass of an eland. This was a substantial kill for these 8 sub-adults. The males were just starting to get their manes in, so they were still young. Nabala thought they are from the Enolari pride.
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I love big paws!!
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After about 10 minutes watching the pride, Nabala suggested that we move on and give others a chance to see the kill. We were the fourth car on the scene, and only four are allowed on a sighting at any one time in Naboisho. Not to sound totally b*tchy, but this didn't go over well with me because we were the fourth car there and had only been there a short time, we should be the last to yield to someone else. I could also see three of the sleeping lions yawning and making motions to get up. Nabala kept insisting we leave. I don't think the other woman in our vehicle wanted to go either, she kept suggesting other options for viewing while staying here.
Finally a fight broke out over the carcass (the lions, not us in the vehicle) and the lions ran off to a clearing nearby where there was a lot of scuffling and growling. So we left to catch up with them, spinning around quickly and got there in the aftermath. I quickly spotted one lion who couldn't get up from where he was in the grass. He was panting heavily and just not moving. Every time he tried to stand, he'd fall over. Three of the other lions were nearby watching him intently. It turns out he was wounded in the fight, with a tear in his right hip. He kept trying to stand but couldn't, and was still really struggling to breathe. From the old scars and scratches all over his body, this wasn't his first rodeo, but it didn't make it any easier for me to see. Nabala then decided these weren't all Enolari lions but perhaps also some renegade lions from the reserve who were trying to interlope. Whatever, at this point I was sad for the lion and frustrated for me. This wasn't really the game ride experience I'd hoped for.
Five of the six siblings in the aftermath of the fight
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I love cat head shots, I can see so much personality in them. So bear with me...
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Surveying the aftermath:
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Wounded boy, bottom right, being guarded by his sibling (these two were determined to be interlopers likely from the Reserve):
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Three of the six pride siblings still on edge:
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Wounded boy:
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Vultures waiting nearby for the remnants of the eland kill:
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My first sundowner of the trip was nearby the lions, It was a good gin and tonic and I needed it to take the edge off a fraught first sighting. We started to drive back to camp to be there in time for dinner, and with the roads so bumpy it was hard to drink my G&T. Every so often Nabala would stop the car and shout "Sip Stop" and make me sip my drink. That cracked me up.
Took my first bucket shower of the trip just before dinner. I miss my waterfall shower already! Headed down to the fire pit and had my second Stoney Tangawizi of the trip, how good that is! Andrew said the news of today out of Nairobi was that 8 lions had escaped from Nairobi National Park, where I'll be next week. That filled me with dread, but then it was later reported that they were found and returned the park safe and sound. Phew. A happy ending at least.
Dinner was good, although I think Tawi did it much better. We started with pumpkin soup with a bit of chili powder in it for a kick. Then I had grilled fish over fingerling potatoes and spring peas. Dessert was a fruit crumble. I washed that down with a Gato Nero Sauvignon Blanc.
So I laid there in the tent, listening to crickets and the whine of hyena. They said the lions were out here last night, l was hoping to hear them tonight!!! I've waited 2 years for this!
Edited by amybatt
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Day Five -- Mara Reserve

 

I'm going to be honest. I debated what, or how much of what happened today, I'd write about here on ST, because a lot of people were involved and it wasn't the best of experiences, to put it mildly. I was blogging as I went along, or rather writing as I went and uploading when I had a connection. Much of what I wrote as it played out is here. But now that I'm home and have been able to put all the pieces together, it makes more sense than my blog did at the time. So I've edited it to make sense to those who weren't following along then. Here goes...

 

Andrew, the assistant manager at Encounter Mara told me that I'd be doing full-day game rides in the Reserve with Porini guides. I wasn't sure why or how this happened, but went with it. It turns out that Encounter wasn't doing game rides into the Reserve then (presumably because the grass was so high...Sammy the other manager said they've been advising guests to stay in the conservancies now). As my booking had been made through Gamewatchers, which owns Porini camps, they made arrangements for me to have a private vehicle and Josephat and Ben from Porini Mara, the same camp I was with in 2014 when I broke down in the Reserve. I was somewhat surprised/befuddled, but at this point, there was no changing it.

 

This day would go down as the day that I played Tetris in the Maasai Mara Reserve for 45 minutes while I waited for another car to rescue me from the one that had broken down. Yes, it happened AGAIN.

But I'll get to that. The day started off well enough indeed. I had a very solid night's sleep, out cold around 10:30 and awake at 5:30. I didn't hear anything all night long, fortunately for the sake of good sleep, unfortunately for wanting to hear lions in the night. My wake up call came at 6 and was coffee and juice and the peanut butter criss cross cookies. I hardly had time to eat them before the askari came to take me down to the car. It was 6:18 when I left here.
Off we went for a day in the Mara Reserve. We had to leave Naboisho Conservancy where Encounter Mara was, cross through Maasai lands and through Olare Motorogi Conservancy to get to the Reserve. That took about 90 minutes to 2 hours, I would guess. Leaving Naboisho, I had the spot of the day when I spied three lions in the predawn light off to our left. It turns out they were young males, likely brothers, coming in from a night out to sleep in a bush. I was beside myself with joy. Being in the conservancy we could drive right up to them and move with them as they headed toward the thicket where they'd likely sleep the rest of the day. We estimated they were about 4 years old as their manes weren't grown in yet but for a mohawk up and over their heads. Very handsome boys, what a thrill!! I called them the "Mohawk brothers" for obvious reasons:
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Leaving the conservancy, we also came across the funniest hyena...what a joker!
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Topi, topi everywhere!
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Then there wasn't really much but scenery until we got to the Reserve. The grass is insanely high there, with it being so frustrating to think that there may be cats asleep just about anywhere and we can't see at all. Instead we're looking for a flick of a tail or a depression in the grass to tell us something is there.
I daydream about landscape like this:
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Fortunately, we hit a somewhat open area where there were a few cars gathered and found a mother cheetah with three young cubs walking across the grass. It turns out this was Imani, daughter of Amani, both of whom I saw last time. Imani and her two brothers had just broken with Amani and were still a threesome when I last saw her in the Reserve. Right after I left Kenya last time, Imani left her brothers, as female cheetahs do. She had three 8-month cubs following her today, which is just incredible to see. She is at the point now where she's teaching them to hunt, and my guides thought she looked like she is in the hunting mood, but the foursome settled under a low tree and we decided we'd come back later to check on her.
Horrible shots, but we were easily 100 yards out:
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We headed toward the Mara River to look for crocs and hippos and to see the crossing points. Not so many crocs this time but about 100 hippos at different points along the river. That was sort of neat, as was seeing one on land, making his way from one mud pool to another.
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Grass is knee-high on giraffes:
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Elephants swimming on golden grass:
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Bush breakfast was served around 9:30 and was pretty good: a nice museli with peanuts, hard boiled eggs and home made bread with jam, apple juice and coffee. I was full for a while from that.
At some point we realized the left rear tire had blown. After that it was all a blur. Insert that, plus the two spares going flat. Insert having to wait an hour for a replacement vehicle. Insert me waiting that hour out playing Tetris on my phone. Hey, you don't bring a book and an iPod on a game drive, it was all I can do not to scream at that point, and I'd stood outside the car so much (can't stay in it all jacked up) that I was almost sunburnt and had heat rash on my arm. Insert my guide accidentally dumping my day bag and camera in the land rover, and the camera not turning back on (ultimately fixed but still harrowing). But hey, the worst day on safari is still better than my best day at work, right? RIGHT???
Finally we were back on the road only to find the replacement car's starter failed. Hoods were popped, things were finagled with, all the while I was playing with the manual settings on my camera and shooting the same topi with different focal lengths and apertures. At least that time I had something besides waist high grass to look at.
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My "Ode from a Broken Down Land Rover" shot:
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Interestingly, this time I'm finding the quantity of some animals in particular to be much more than I remember. Warthogs are high in number this time, especially piglets. Topi are in abundance, even massive herds of them. Eland are more prominent than I remember, not in herds but I've seen more than I remember. I wonder if this has to do with the same reasoning for the high grass or whether certain species growth spurts are cyclical, who knows.
We came across a set of ostriches, four males trying to court a female. That was rather funny as the males would lift their wings to reveal pale bare legs that reminded me of Moulin Rouge dancers. The female seemed unimpressed, but it was quite the show for me. We also found a group of about 12 ostriches, most of them young, just milling about. I saw only one adult, so wonder if that's a babysitter or if all those are really her kids?
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On our way back, we passed a very newly born impala with its mom. It was so tiny and unsteady on its feet, but it seemed that all it could do was jump rather than run or walk. It was really kind of funny!
As the sun started to set, I decided to opt out of a sundowner in order to get back to camp and gather my senses again. It wasn't the best day and it was hard for me not to dwell on it. Tomorrow would be a new day and we start again. I just need time to clear my head and hit the reset button. I was so relaxed coming out of Tawi Lodge, I didn't want to lose that over something I can't control.
We started the day on the road as we ended it, with the three mohawk brother lions. My guides spotted two of them in the tall grass and we were able to pull up right next to them. Both ended up flopping over for sleep as I took their photos. That left the question, where was the third guy? We made a pass around the grasses nearby and came up empty. Then as we drove on, we saw a shadowy figure lying on the other side of the river. We crossed over and there he was, lying in wait for some poor soul to come drink at the river. What handsome boys they are.
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Returned tonight to take a quick shower and lay out my clothes for tomorrow. I kept hearing a sick-sounding cow noise right near my tent, which I think is a hyena. No one else heard it, but I am the furthest from anything so maybe it's just me hearing it.
Dinner tonight was good on all fronts. Some pretty cool Canadian retirees joined us as guests and they were a hoot. The meal itself was split pea soup and a barbecue. The BBQ was really just grilled veggie kabobs for me, but there was ugali (African polenta) with creamed spinach and a really good homemade salsa that was big chunks of tomato and pepper. A peanut butter cake with chocolate sauce was dessert. I had the "Unbelievable Red" wine tonight which was quite good.
Tomorrow we'd spending the day in the conservancies, thank god. I opted out of a second day in the Reserve. Because the guides are from Porini in a Porini vehicle, we can also go into Ol Kinyei Conservancy (where I've been before) as well as Naboisho. As much as I wanted to try something new, I'm desperate for good game viewing, so hope this does the trick.
Edited by amybatt
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@@amybatt

 

Great report so far. I'm glad that you got to see elephants in front of Kilimanjaro - truly an iconic African experience that lasts a lifetime. Amboseli and the Mara are a great safari combination. Sorry that your vehicle broke down again - what are the odds of that happening! It must have felt like deja all over again!!

Edited by PT123
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Amy,

Lovely pictures of Amboseli and Killi. Really liked a number of the elephant pictures juxtaposed against the Killimanjaro massive that most mostly unseen due to mist except for the summit. Thanks for your report.

 

Where exactly is Tawi camp - we had stayed at Tortelis in the Kitirawa conservancy that was essentially completely free of other vehicles and recall far more traffic within Amboseli park.

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Day Six -- Mara conservancies

 

Forgot a sunset shot from last night:

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Being awoken this morning by lions at 4 a.m. is not necessarily a bad thing, at least it made me smile. I heard them off and on for about a half hour, getting further from camp. It seemed two were trying out-roar each other. I had to think this bodes well for my day.

 

Sunrise happens so fast. These photos were taken less than 2 minutes apart!

 

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Askiris were here right at 6 to deliver my coffee, juice and today chocolate chip cookies. I knocked those back and was out the door in a jiffy.
We rode around Naboisho for a while with very little luck until the guides must have heard on the radio that the resident mother lion of the moment with her three one month old cubs was spotted. We became part of throng (so much for the 4 vehicle rule) surrounding a dense bush through which you could hardly see anything. I saw the mom switch location and three little cubs scurry quickly after her. Then everyone jockeyed for position again, trying to get the best spot for her. I got a bit upset by how the vehicles would just totally put their grill right into the bush (literally drive into the bush where she was), and, watching her through my binos, I saw her jumping back at each one of them as they busted through. I asked my guides to leave rather than add to her stress, because it just didn't seem fair to her. I cried pulling away, because there is nothing more I'd rather see myself, but I can't put my own desires ahead of those lions' well beings and I felt so badly for her. I'm struck again by that feeling that we really shouldn't be here. It occurs to me every once in a while, but this is the first time on this trip.
Our next spot also came by catching up with other vehicles. This was an odd set of lions because I couldn't quite place the relationships, and neither could my guides, as they are not native to Naboisho. It was one fully adult female, a 1 1/2 year old female cub (still had the cub spot pattern) a 3-4 year old male lion and a 3-4 year old female. It was just an odd assortment that I couldn't really comprehend. The youngest cub did the best job posing for photos as she could barely keep her head up and eyes open as a nap set upon her. I hardly saw the male at all other than through the bush. The mother posed regally at the opening to the bush until she too dozed off. The other female moved around the bushes for a bit before crashing back inside a bush. There was a really tender moment when the male rubbed heads with the adult female in a bonding manner. I of course missed that with the camera, but I took a mental photo.
We presumed this was "momma":
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Younger female:
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Youngest female:
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Letting sleeping lions lie:
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Breakfast was a yummy vegetable frittata, bread, muffins, coffee and juice.
We then drove on to Ol Kinyei Conservancy, which is where my guides usually work. It meant crossing through Naboisho, over some Maasai lands and then through the gate to Ol Kinyei. This is a private conservancy so only Porini Mara guests (and me) are allowed there. That meant in theory I could be the only one at a sighting. If only there were sightings!
Late morning we came across a female cheetah, Noosura (@@bettel, I confirmed with Mara Cheetah that Noosura and Nabor are not the same cheetah, I was misinformed), and three sub-adult cubs, two males and one female. They are about 1 1/2 years old and Nosura is getting ready to set them free. She herself was lying in the shade of one tree, while they were lying in the shade of another tree nearby. All were pretty tuckered out and didn't seem to want to get up, or need to, as they had full bellies. We pulled up within maybe 30 feet of them and just sat and watched for a while. Behind us, a line of zebras sat staring, probably wondering if they or their young would be lunch. It was funny to see. Nosura has been an excellent mother, by all accounts. This is her third litter, and she's not lost any. Her previous litters were two and three cubs and they survived as well. That was a great sighting and nice that I was there alone.
Mom, Noosura:
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Cubs:
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See them? Under the trees? Yeah, I didn't either!
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The rest of the day was a lot of plains game, elephants, lots of giraffes. We play a lot of "guess what gender that is" with the giraffes. I'm getting to the point where I'm often right. My newest clue is that females have rounder bellies while males have flat bellies, this in addition to the forehead "horn" on males as well as hairless horns on the tops of their heads (hair wears off in fighting with other males).
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There are a surprising number of elephants here, certainly more than I remember in Ol Kinyei especially. We sat and watched a large family of about 12 eat some very succulent greens high above a river. Some zebras were down in the shallow river drinking and when they heard us approach, they all tried to scurry up the one path to the river bank together. It was like a mini-zebra migration. Kind of funny. Another shot I missed with the camera though. Ah well, mental memory.
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Lunch was pretty good today. It was a vegetable salad with zucchini, green pepper, mango and olives, and more veggies stuffed into a wrap. Surprisingly even without protein it kept me full.
Coming in toward camp tonight, we saw two wildebeests attempting to fight. They seemed upset that we were watching and stopped fighting until we moved on.
For whatever reason, I was dropped here back at camp at 5:30, far later than the 7:15 of last night. We decided over lunch that tomorrow would be two regular rides: an early morning and a late day. The middle of the day was a loss for me so far anyway so not going out all day didn't bother me. But today had been nearly a 2 hour lunch and we saw next to nothing but plains game all day. I had decided after lunch when we were driving seemingly without purpose (and while one of the two guides spent a good part of the drive on social media) to see if I could go on an Encounter Mara ride instead for the next two days. Since it seemed an oddity that this was my arrangement to begin with, I figured this was my attempt to save my safari and the worst that could happen was Encounter could say is no. So I asked and thankfully they made all the arrangements for me. But, while I was off in the office looking for a solution....
There'd been a leopard sighting right outside of camp and my guides had heard. My Porini were looking for me to take me to it. The assistant camp manager gave them directions and off we went. We ended up being the fifth car on the scene so had to wait our turn. Once we got in it was one of those situations where we could hear a meal being eaten and we could see the odd tail flick, but in this case, patience paid off. This was Osirata, the famous leopard of Naboisho, and her cub. The cub quickly had its fill of impala and came out of the bush a bit. I managed several shots that I had to contort myself to get them. After a bit longer, the cub disappeared again, first stalking and then pouncing on his mom's tail with these exaggerated little jumps. It was just like watching my cats!
Hasn't cleaned up from dinner yet:
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Finally, it was as if Osirata told him to go out and greet the public, because he came right out of the thicket and stood in between the four cars, let us take our photos for a minute or two, and he went right back inside. It was like our token photo shoot for the night. Osirata herself never came out, but I did see her move position and I saw her face through the grass. Maybe in the next two days I'll see more of her. Apparently she hadn't been seen in almost 2 weeks and folks here were starting to worry.
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It turns out that Sammy, one of the two camp managers, spotted her. He heard baboons screeching and lots of raucous so he went to investigate. He saw game looking in the direction of this thicket and there was Osirata, sitting right on top of a very small tree with the kill (which then she dropped down into the thicket to eat with her cub). Excellent ears on Sammy and way to investigate. And coincidentally enough, Osirata's hangout is right past my tent across a small river. I guess I was meant to be this far up in the camp!!
Returned around 7:00, shower at 7:30 and off to dinner at 7:45. Andrew met me and confirmed the arrangements for tomorrow. I'd be joining a family of four from England who I ate dinner with tonight. They were a nice family and I thought it would be decent to hang out with them. They want to do two short drives, so that'll work out well for me. I enjoy my mid-day siestas.
Dinner tonight was quite good. The soup was potato leek, my veg meal was a spanish tortilla which was excellent. Dessert was chocolate mousse. I was quickly becoming addicted to my pre-dinner gin and tonic and my Unbelievable red blend wine. I could get used to this!
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Lucky sighting of the leopard so close to camp in the daylight. I am bit surprised as the leopard seems to be somewhat surrounded by vehicles (which are in pretty close proximity); also that there were five vehicles at the sighting. This seems so incongruous to what I've always read/heard about the benefits of being in a conservancy (fewer vehicles, better respect for the animals. Maybe it is just the angle of one of the pictures but the leopard seems a bit hemmed in.

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