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My Safari #3 -- Kenya again and again


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@@PT123, you make a good point. We were the fifth one on the scene, and were made to wait at a distance until a vehicle left. The four vehicles around the leopard sighting were mine, one right in front of me, and the two in the photo. The back and other side of the bush where the leopard came out of (where his tail is pointing) were open, although all the vehicles jockeyed around it as the two moved.


This and the mother with lion cubs were the two most crowded sightings. We were made to play by the rules at the leopard sighting tonight and one the next night as well, but the sighting of the mother lion with cubs seemed a bit of a free for all. Not everyone abides by the rules especially in desperate moments. I felt Asilia (who now owns Encounter Mara) were pretty strict with the four vehicle rule. Other names, not so much.


Just wait until the next day's leopard sightings. It was another case when I asked to leave.

Edited by amybatt
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Gosh, I am so sorry to hear that you had some not so pleasant experience. I mean we work hard to book the safari, then we wait for months, you really want it to be a positive experience. Lost safari time would drive me nuts! There is actually no more reliable way (except harassing animals) to make me mad than to cut some of my bush experience. I am feeling for you. Sightings where animals are stressed are even worth and you don't expect it in the conservancy :(

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@@amybatt, first off, good for you travelling solo, I'm a bit too wimpy for that. Oh dear, more bad behaviour around the Lions, good for you again for leaving the site, what a shame the irresponsible tourists and guides get the sightings and photos while the responsible ones miss out. Although a photo of a stressed Lioness is not one I'd want in my collection. Nevertheless you've got some lovely Leopard and Cheetah sightings, and continue to enjoy delish vegetarian food.

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I applaud you for telling the guide to leave the lioness in peace, well done. Sorry to hear you had your share of frustration on this safari. But then again, you had some great vistas in Amboseli, and excellent sightings of all the Big Cats so far in the Mara, especially the Cheetah family.

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@@AKR1, Tawi Lodge is right near the Kimana Gate of Amboseli NP (if that helps). It is on the Tawi Conservancy. We saw no one else on the Tawi Conservancy at all, and very few people in Amboseli itself. Maybe it was time of year, but I was very surprised how few people were in Amboseli. Even at what was arguably the most popular sighting there (the lioness) there were only 4 or 5 vehicles. Thanks for the comments on the photos!

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Wonderful Leopard sighting and excellent photos @@amybatt. Good for Sammy to investigate the clues and find them.


Sorry to hear about the vehicle scrum around the Lioness (Willow?) and her cubs. You did the right thing pulling the plug - I hope you are karmically rewarded for it later. You have already done better on Leopard and Cheetah that we did on our recent Naboisho trip, though I guess the Cheetah were in Ol Kinyei.


Also sorry one of your Porini guides spent a lot of the day on social media. Hard to spot game with one's face buried in a smartphone!


I guess one of the advantages of being a loony birder is that there are usually birds to look at when the mammal action is slow...

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@Amybatt-have been wondering about how your safari was going. Seems Amboseli exceeded your expectations but so far, not the Mara. I have only read about the tall grasses so seeing them up to the giraffe's knee made an impact. Love many of your photos-the elephant/killi perspective shot and elephants in the mist.


Sangeeta highly recommended Emakoko (we did not choose it) so looking forward to reading about it.


What month did you do your last safari? Seems you were happier with the Porini camps and this was to be a more luxurious safari.


Do hope it gets better...

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I really enjoyed your Amboseli section - wonderful elephant sightings (and photos) and lovely scenic views - including the clear mountain.

In the Mara area I enjoyed your leopard and cheetah sightings. I am surprised about the behaviour around the lion cubs - we would want to leave as well.

We were at OMC in January and recognise the long grass! I am sorry to hear about your vehicle problems.

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Thanks all for reading and liking and commenting.


To be clear, I've debriefed the whole situation with Gamewatchers since I've been home, so nothing here would be news to them.


@@plambers, I was gone Feb 14-26. This whole experience reinforces the notion that nothing is guaranteed on safari. You can't control Mother Nature or fate. What made it tough for me is I know just how incredible the Mara can be, from my stay at Porini Lion in 2014, and to feel stymied for two days was tough to swallow.


@@offshorebirder, Sammy got the prize for leopard-sighting for certain. Two other times he chased down noise that he heard from camp that sounded like something leopard-related was going on. To be that keen on hearing what's going on around camp takes experience and savvy, I'm sure! Yes, the lioness/cubs sighting was Willow. From what I could see of the cubs, they are walking on their own but still subject to being carried by mom! Stay tuned, I believe karma smiled on me on my last two days...

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Thanks for taking the time to write this trip report as I've enjoyed following along.


What a bummer your vehicle broke down a 2nd time and a guide on social media is simply unacceptable!


Would be interested in photos of the camps & tents if you happen to take any.

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Day Seven -- Naboisho Conservancy


I was up before the alarm went off again, as lions were nearby from about 3:00 onward. It's funny because it's sort of like me with thunderstorms in the summertime, I wake up well ahead of them and wonder why I'm awake, then the storm comes. Only I like lions so it was fine to be awake for no real reason only to then hear them roaring their heads off some distance away. They were not as close as the night before, but I relish any opportunity to hear them.

Joining the British family today, I was up and ready to be off at 6:30. I was back with Encounter Mara's Nabala as a guide, who was the one who picked me up on Friday and did the evening game drive. Right away, we went to look for the leopard from last night but didn't find a sign of her. Hyenas and jackals were about, which made us think the carcass had been dragged nearby, but we never found it, or her and her cub. Nabala then decided to drive on and look for lions.
It didn't take long to find them. In the early morning light, we saw two coming across the plains. We met up with them both just before they got to the orange leafed croton bush they'd be dozing in all day. At first it appeared to be a young (1 1/2 years) male and female, but on further investigation it was two males, one of which just hadn't developed much of a mane yet. The other male was the boy we saw wounded the other night! I was so happy to see he is still alive, I would not have bet any money that he'd have survived the night, just based on how he was struggling to breathe, let alone the wound. He was indeed walking with a pronounced limp and quite the scratch on his right hip, but he's moving and much farther than he was able to when we left him on Friday night (which is to say, not at all). Nabala posits that perhaps these two lost their pride or were pushed out, or they just had a bad mother. Their biggest challenge will be learning to hunt and eat on their own, as they are too young to be out of a pride yet. Perhaps what we saw happen the other night was them trying to integrate themselves into an existing sub-adult pride. We will never be sure, but we can guess.
Male but barely a mane:
Wounded boy:
We then heard from other Asilia guides that there was a pride of lions feasting on a kill near the Ol Seki airstrip. We got there in plenty of time, after a fast rough ride to get there. This was, Nabala said, the Sampu Enkare pride. They normally number 10 but we saw 9. There are two males that appear somewhat older than the others. One of those males is actually a female displaying male characteristics. They will be watching her to see how she develops in life and whether she gets any mating opportunities at all. We sat and watched them devour every last drop of their kill, but not long enough to figure out which of the male-appearing lions was really female. It's an interesting story anyway. I was in my glory, finally. Two really good lion sightings before breakfast!
Cleaning up after breakfast:
I like the curl on top of his head:
Big scratch:
We moved down to a plain where three male lions were spotted this morning but found no obvious sight of them. By then the sun was high enough that it was likely they were in the bush asleep already. So of course we decided that was the perfect place to stop for breakfast. I will say that using the bush bathroom with the potential that lions were watching was somewhat unnerving!
Breakfast was good, same as the other days with granola, bread with Mara honey (which is awesome!), hard boiled eggs, coffee, juice.
The rest of the game ride included stops for hippos in a seasonal pool, Coke's hartbeests and zebra. The British Dad and I said that when things get slow, the slow go to the hippo pool. They're reliably always there, and the sons of this couple seemed to like them.
I love how the plains species just seem to coexist:
Coke's hartbeest, another species I don't remember seeing so many of in 2014:
We passed a few herds of cattle and Nabala explained how they are branded (or carved into) to mark them as belonging to a particular family. Completely coincidentally, Nabala noticed his own family's brand on some of the cattle we were passing. He hunted for the herder and found him, a distant cousin of his. That was sort of neat to see.
Back to the camp for lunch. I think I prefer splitting the game drives. Doing long days every day is tiring. Not much really goes on out there once the cats go to sleep, unless you like plains game and hippos (which is fine, but not all day!). Plus I miss my nap and my book. A couple hours in bed in the afternoon with the warm breeze blowing through here is a luxury unique to safari.
Siesta haven:
Lunch today was salad, buffalo mozzarella and tomato and a veggie mix over rice. It was pretty good. The fruit salad with a dab of vanilla ice cream hit the spot though. It was pretty hot back in camp today.
For the afternoon ride, we'd been out about an hour when we heard that they'd found Osirata the leopard again and she was in the mood to hunt. We were the second vehicle on the sighting and there appeared to be a sick/lame/weak impala right nearby the bush where the other vehicle said Osirata was hanging out. The guides all thought sure that she'd go for the impala, because it was a ready-made meal. Well the third and fourth vehicles came and spooked the impala and off it went. I felt immensely guilty about that and even the 12-year old son in our vehicle said "we chased that off, didn't we?" It was another sense that we shouldn't be here and be this close in her world. Our being here was preventing her from hunting successfully. But she carried on and we tracked her for a bit, playing leap frog with each other and with her.
It then appeared that she'd go for one of three jackals that were in front of the bush she was in. The jackals were more worried about the vehicles pulling in close and all three headed straight for the bush she was in to get away from us. The first one got by her, but she tried to pursue the second and just missed it. The third jumped a mile and started barking like a lap dog to warn all near and far that a leopard was in the area. She didn't stand a chance now. But carry on she did, off towards some impala further down the hill. As she approached she was spotted by them and they started firing off warning calls. Both Sammy, the youngest son of the family I'm traveling with, and I asked Nbala not to approach so closely. Sammy felt as bad as I did about this. Finally the British Mom and I asked if we could just leave her to it. She was approaching a large harem of impala when we left her so hopefully she scored a meal without us around.
Disappearing into the grass:
Tell-tail sign of leopard!
That night around the campfire, the young son in my group asked about whether we ruined the hunt or not. The prevailing opinion from the staff was that we didn't. They say both Osirata, the impalas and the jackals are all habituated to vehicles so we should have been a non-issue to them all. But the young son was pretty steadfast in his belief that we did, which I thought was pretty observant and daring for a kid his age. {I will say, these two boys were a joy to spend time with. They were intelligent, polite and very aware of wildlife and what they were seeing. It was fun seeing things through their eyes for a couple days!}
Finally getting to see Osirata in person confirmed for me that she is a beautiful cat. I'm glad I got to see her after she was all hidden in the bush last night and sent her handsome male cub out to see us instead. I talked to Andrew about her and he said she's about 5 years old and this is her third litter. This is the only cub she's raised to this age (about 8 months) and originally there were two, a male and female. The female suddenly disappeared. He says she tends to disappear for long periods at a time so that she's shown up again now is great.
We went to have sundowners by a hippo pool and watched a gorgeous full moon rise over the water. Nabala brought an assistant who had an infrared light which we used for a night drive on the way back, but all we saw was a waterbuck and a bush baby way up high in a tree. Not a lot to write home about.
Dinner tonight was cream of tomato soup, red snapper over red bliss potatoes and spring snap peas and a custardy pudding thing that was good. I had my new favorite red wine with that, the Unbelievable blend. All in all, a better day for me in the Mara!
Edited by amybatt
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It is very sad to read about Osirata's hunt and very surprising. Both Jimmy and Meshack told me that there is the rule: if it looks like that an animal is hunting everybody should stay far way. And that was excellent. Practically it meant that with cheetahs hunting (and not even actually hunting but just walking around and looking for a target) we would be at least 200-300 meters away from them so that we didn't disturb them and so that we didn't attract antelopes' attention to them. I am surprised that it is so different with a leopard :(

Edited by bettel
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Day Eight -- Naboisho again


The day was pretty telling, I think, when I realized at 5:00 am that I hadn't heard the lions. A pretty stiff wind had picked up overnight and Nabala said that the cats don't come out in the wind. I don't understand the reasoning, but in any event, it definitely was an indicator of how our morning would go.

We headed out at 6:15 and saw both the full moon set and a gorgeous orange-pink sun rise. Nabala wanted to try to find the mother lion with the young cubs, but we returned to the spot where she was last seen and came up empty handed. Indeed, most of the morning would be like that: looking for lion, leopard and cheetah and finding nothing at all.
Our ultimate destination was far from camp on a vast flatland with next to no grass, bumps, logs or trees, definite cheetah territory. None were to be seen though. So we settled in to have breakfast near a manmade dam and watched the plains game (zebra, topi, wildebeest) come by to drink. I spent a lot of today taking photos of that sort of game, as I feel I ordinarily give them short shrift. Breakfast was the same as previous days, with the addition of mini-vegetable quiches which were quite good.
Literally, taken while I was sitting having breakfast:
Candleabra tree
Kori bustard
After breakfast we started to head back towards camp and came upon a family of 10 elephants, so we stopped to watch and take some photos. Elephants are somewhat harder to find here in Naboisho. Someone among Encounter's guests was desperate to see elephants here, and Nabala radioed that we'd found some and where.
I call her "Petal"
As if we were being paid back for that tip to other guests, as we turned to drive back to camp for lunch, Victoria (British mom in my vehicle) spotted another vehicle flashing its lights to Nabala. We told him to go back and good thing we did. That vehicle had spotted a lioness stalking a small group of hartbeests and zebras. She was low in the grass, only her ears could be spotted from where we were. We watched as she paw-by-paw slinked through the grass closer to the game, narrowing the distance between them. The folks in the other vehicle said that there had been 5 females and they fanned out. We could only see her.
All of us decided we'd wait this out in case they ended up attacking. She didn't slink quite close enough but decided to leap and when she did it set the hartbeest on alert and they and the zebras bolted. It seemed a half hearted attempt on her part and her sisters never materialized to help. We rode through the low bush to see if we could find them, but we never did. We followed the one lioness until she laid down under a bush in the shade, panting from the exertion in the hot sun. Nabala thinks she is one of the sub-adult females we saw on Friday night with the eland kill. Whatever the case, she needs to dial in her sisters for help, there's no way she was going to make this kill on her own.
Not a great shot, but for the cast of characters staring at her in the background!
Lunch today was excellent, or at least one dish was. The avocado, tomato and onion salad was absolutely to die for. I would make that at home for sure. It would be fabulous in the summertime. There was also a romaine, tomato and mozzarella salad, egg noodles with mushroom stroganoff for me. A little slice of fudge for dessert really hit the spot. I went back to the tent with a Stoney Tangawizi to read on the bed.
The family I've been doing game rides with wanted to visit the Maasai village nearby. I couldn't think of a reason not to and was glad to tag along. I doubt I would have done it by myself. It was essentially a large plot of land with several bomas and a few mud and stick houses built on it. The 70 year old man who owns the land and all the cows, sheep and goats on it has several wives, each of which has their own home on the land. They all have kids, ranging in quantity from 13 to just 1. One 15-year old wife has one already and another on the way.
The littlest kids were the first to greet us. They all came right over to us and offered us the top of their heads. I had no idea what was going on so I backed away from them. Nabala told me to put my hand on their head and say "sopa" as a welcome. Then we took photos of them and showed them their image, which they loved. Sam, the youngest son of the family I was with, was playing chase with some of them, while Bill the dad was teaching them how to high five and do a handshake. The best I could do was hold their hand and pretend I was being electrocuted. Hey, I'm not a kid person, but they seemed to think it was funny.
The homes were ridiculously simple. Sticks and mud made up the outside, and the bed was made of sticks and a cow hide. There was a small stone stove that could hold two pots and the very small room was hot and smokey, despite the holes in the walls to let the smoke escape. And the rooms were loaded with flies. And there were flies all over the kids. I have no idea how they don't seem phased by that.
The women did three songs for us while the kids watched. Then we got to ask questions. I asked what they were making for dinner tonight and they said some sort of corn meal and water mixture, sometimes with salt and fat. They asked us the same question, and while the British family had a very traditional answer, I said I am vegetarian and they asked why. When I said that I didn't think animals should have to die for me to eat, the matriarch asked if I was Christian, to which I answered yes. I'm still unsure of that connection. She informed me that when she felt unwell and ate meat, she felt better. Ok....
One non-sequitur though was that one of the younger women had a cell phone. Somehow that just doesn't follow for me. They live in mud huts with no running water, electricity or plumbing, yet she has a cell phone. How does she charge it?
They have dogs, a cat and chickens. The dogs alert to danger, the cat kills mice and the chickens do nothing. These Maasai don't eat chicken or their eggs, so we're unsure what they are meant for.
This was a very interesting visit, surely more authentic than the Maasai village I visited in Tanzania. It makes me feel very fortunate for what I have.
One of the sons in my vehicle asked Nabala on the way back why he is missing the bottom middle tooth. He said it is first a marker of his Maasai tribe. Second, it is for if/when he gets lockjaw from tetanus, they will still be able to feed him. Honestly, I can't make this stuff up. We noticed that most of the women in the Maasai village we visited were missing that tooth. That is so hard to believe, but a simple reality, I suppose.
Heading back to camp, buffalo
On the way back, I think we were all expecting a sundowner and an early night. Instead we came across four lionesses dozing in the low thorny acacias. The lions started to yawn and lick their lips and I knew they'd be getting up. Nabala thinks these were about 5-6 years old because their noses were mostly black. It was so touching to see them bond, clean each other, nuzzle. I'm always so astounded by how similar they are to house cats. Or how similar my house cats are to them! I could not have been happier seeing four cats on my last night, especially given slow the day had started out. It was a joy to share my sundowner with them.
So hard to spot!
Group hug
A crooked smile:
Three of us see something...
If there's a heaven...this is mine:
Moving on for the night:
I would miss my adoptive game ride family. They were very nice, very smart and a joy to be with. I appreciate like minded travelers and have found so many here.
Dinner tonight was split pea soup, a vegetable bake with cheese for me and tiramisu. I had my last glass of Unbelieveable red tonight. I will miss that.
Off to Nairobi tomorrow, after an early morning game ride!
Edited by amybatt
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Day Nine -- Naboisho to Nairobi (subtitled "Now THIS is how you leave the Mara!")


4 a.m. found me awake just before what sounded like a pair of lions started to roar right near our camp. I made note of the direction and listened, then heard a chorus of jackals start yipping like the next door neighbor's yip yip dog. When I got out to the land rover to leave for our game ride at 6:00, Nabala hadn't heard them! I tried to explain where they were coming from. Sammy, the camp manager, heard them and was going out to find them. We got about 20 minutes out and I could tell we were off course, because by now I could see my tent on the other side of the plain and knew we'd gone too far. Sammy radioed and said they were right where I said they were, and off we went.

These were 3 males, likely the mohawk boys I saw earlier in the week. They had full bellies but there was no sign of a kill around. Two of them were quite skittish and ran off when I moved around in the vehicle, but one stayed to comply with photo requests. We followed the other two to a large bush that would be their bedroom for the day. The morning light was just perfect. We went back to the remaining boy and waited to follow him back to the same bush. He followed the scent his brothers' paws left in the grass and went right though the same opening to the bush to sleep the day off. How funny!
Vulture en route:
It wasn't much longer before Nabala spotted a lioness in the grass evaluating a herd of zebras. We watched her for a bit and then she disappeared. Further on though, the 6 sub-adult lions from Friday night (who attacked the two interloping brothers) were all lying in the grass keeping an eye on the same herd of zebras.
What's on the menu:
The artillery, waiting to be summoned:
Checking out the situation:
One female was quite in the lead, crouched low and watching as the zebras cluelessly (oblivious to the lions' presence) wandered in her direction. We sat there for about 90 minutes, just Nabala and me, waiting. I suggested we go eat breakfast and come back if he thought it'd be ok to do. He felt it better to wait, so we ate right there. Just as we'd finished the food but still had coffee, I was watching through the binos as another of the females (not the one who'd been stalking so closely) went for it. She sprinted down into the salt lick where a few zebras had gathered and out she came, with her siblings joining as quickly as they could. It all happened so incredibly fast. When the lioness was very close, it seemed like she'd grabbed the zebra but it flipped over and tried to kick her, then flipped back and got away, all the while still moving in the same direction at speed. I didn't even have time to even think about lifting the camera until it was well past me.
Ridiculously bad shot, but if you look closely, you'll see the one lion chasing two zebra. It took me this long to even think about picking up the camera.
It was just insane, but what a rush!!! I've never seen anything happen so fast, and so unexpectedly, even though I was totally expecting it! Of course that would be my last sighting in the Mara, and it left me hungry for more. Incredible. If there's such a thing as being a safari junkie, this was the hit I craved. How quickly can I get back for more?? It's like they've dangled the carrot!
The lions then gathered right in front of our vehicle to commiserate. They nuzzled and nudged each other, cleaned and yawned together as if to say "we'll get it next time, nice try though."
Surveying the one that got away:
I was so thankful that I'd brought my bags with me so we could go straight to the airstrip. Others from camp had been with us but had to go get their bags before heading to the flight. Nabala dropped me at the airstrip and we said goodbye. Changing guides was the best move I made in the Mara. I ended up having a good time with him and also some really great sightings. As the plane lifted off, I was a blubbering mess. I so love it here. I hated to leave.
Got to Nairobi and was met by Peter from Emakoko. He knows a lot of the folks on Safaritalk, so we have that in common. He asked what I'd not seen so far and I said "rhino" and next thing you know, we were in front of 6 white rhino. Unbelievable. It seemed effortless for him to find them. I cannot believe this is in the middle of a major city! (My one regret is I never took a photo of the skyline or a landing plane over the gorgeous landscape here...how foolish of me!)
The Emakoko is gorgeous. It's made up of ten houses set into a hill. Each house opens out on to a balcony with large double doors. There's running water and electricity, which is a bonus! A beautiful queen bed that is dying to be slept in. Rock hyraxes are all over the place here, and they even come into the rooms! The girl who showed me to my room said it's ok to leave doors open, they are completely safe. I wrote most of this sitting on my balcony where it was nice and cool, and getting ready for an afternoon game drive. Lunch was fabulous. There were little spicy thai peanut spoonfuls that were heavenly. The entree was a fish (red snapper) fry with salad, grilled tomato and eggplant. They offered me a glass of sauvignon blanc. Dessert was a warm rhubarb custard with meringue top. I could get used to this!
Resident hyrax:
Vervet monkey, seen during lunch outside Emakoko:
Went on a game ride this afternoon with Peter, my guide here at Emakoko. The contrast between the city skyline and the expanse of the land here is striking. 45 square miles of beautiful with a skyline looming in every direction. Just incredible. We spent some time at a hippo pool for one lone hippo and at a lake for several others. Peter says the lone hippo likes the shallow pool for himself, even though he can't submerge himself, he will loll about and do flips in it to cool his back off. Lots and lots of white storks and some Maribou storks at the lake, many Coke's hartbeest here too, many more than I've seen anywhere else, I think.
"Studio Guy" the loner hippo:
All this in Nairobi?!?!
In the few short hours I was out, I managed to see 12 rhino, both white and black, so I've seen the big 5 on this trip too. We spent that golden hour before sunset with some black rhino and that was quite impressive and very memorable. I can't believe what a treasure this park is and that it is so accessible. I'd be here all the time if I lived here.
Hot damn, if this day wasn't a complete turnaround in safari luck, I don't know what is. Could it get any better??? I didn't think so...
My sundowner tonight was a Stoney Tangawizi. I think my time with Stoney is drawing to a close so I'm trying to remember it as best as I can.
Dinner tonight was wonderful. More Sauvignon Blanc, with cream of tomato soup and vegetable phylo, followed by white chocolate mousse. The phylo in particular was very yummy. These folks here know how to do vegetarian food. It may be a toss up between here and the Tawi Lodge for best food!
Edited by amybatt
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Last Day -- Saving the best until Nairobi?


It's always strange how these trips turn out, I suppose, with the least expected segment being the one that is the most memorable in the end. I had hoped Nairobi would be good for the elephant visits alone, but I didn't know how good and why.

I had the chance to sleep in this morning, but I think being conditioned to be up and ready for a 6 a.m. game ride had the wrong consequence today, as I was awake and ready to go out at 5:15, but we weren't leaving until 9:15. Ugh.
So I laid in bed and listened to the noises outside. It had been fairly active most of the night, with some weird honks and growls I'd not heard before. At one point it sounded as if the greenery were being rushed by a trampling herd of something. At breakfast I learned it was likely one of Nairobi National Park's rhinos passing through, as it has done the past couple nights. That's right, right under my window. Crazy.
When I finally got out of bed (a very good sleep, by the way) I looked out the window only to find two waterbucks out there. It is not often that happens.
I took a good shower (waterfall no less) and dressed for the day. It was finally here, elephant day! This was the day I made three trips to David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, to meet my five fosters and all the other orphans. I had no idea how incredible that would be.
Breakfast was unbelievable, as all the meals here have been. I had scrambled eggs, granola and the tastiest cinnamon pancakes. OJ and a fruit smoothie to top it off. I had had coffee delivered at 7:30 but still had another cup anyway. No way I can resist Kenyan coffee.
Peter met me at 9:15 across the Emakoko bridge. We were off first to a shop for me to buy some souvenirs and then to the elephant orphanage. Shopping quickly done, we headed off.
The orphanage is pretty much how I pictured it, with enclosures for each little ellie, the mud pit where they get their bottle during the daily public visits and various areas for staff and supplies and whatnot. It's all dirt and clearly an animal habitat. Peter got me to the best spot for the public visit, shooting photos away from the sun and right in front of a whole lot of mud and a large bucket of water. As folks gathered around the rope separating us from the orphans, I got so much more excited than I thought. Finally, the first little ellies came running down the hill and into the enclosure. They'd go right to their keepers who were standing with bottles and quickly gulp them down. If the keepers weren't fast enough, they'd trumpet to show their displeasure. Some are more impatient than others!
Edwin, a keeper at the orphanage, presented to us the purpose of the facility, how it got started and the rules of engagement (don't get down low and look like a soccer ball to them, don't yell, don't use your phone to call people). He also introduced each elephant one by one and told what each of their stories was. Meanwhile if the bottles were done, the elephants would be off basking in the mud, getting the mud shoveled on to them by a keeper, rolling in the dirt or over at the water buckets. One clearly wanted to tip the bucket on us. It kept sitting on it and rocking and rolling it forcefully in our direction. Another was a little more direct: just suck up some water and blow it at us. I got splattered with mud on my pants and a big glob on my chest, but it was fun being that close. Little did I know how close I'd be in the afternoon!
The orphans were split into two groups, so the littlest ones came out first. My Mbegu, Alamaya and Mwashoti were in this group. It's hard for me to identify them if they don't have easily identifiable characteristics, but the keepers can identify them at a distance. Unreal. Alamaya is known for his missing tail, and because he was thought to be a she until that injury was examined further and it turns out that most of his genital region was eaten away and they had to create an artificial means for him to urinate. He seems to be doing well now. Mwashoti has the tell-tale sign of having been stuck in a snare, with the swollen foot. It was hard for me to identify Mbegu without the introductions. Maybe because Mbegu was my first foster, I had her in my head as being a lot older but she was still with the little ones.
Mwashoti, one of my fosters, not weight-bearing on a foot injured by a snare
The keepers cleared the area and led the little ones out. They know the signals and the routine and off they went. The bigger elephants came down next, and it just broke my heart to see poor Simotua, last in the line, slower than the rest. He was the victim of a snare on his foot, so he has the deformity of his foot but also a hatchet wound on his forehead. As soon as he took his milk he turned inward to face the bush and never came out to play. (I would later ask Edwin about this at my private visit and he said it's because he's afraid the other elephants will be rough with him. I asked and he said that he'd get over that eventually, it will just take time.) The poor guy. It broke my heart.
Alamaya, missing his tail:
This is about how I felt back at work last Monday...
These elllies played and wallowed just like the others. Whenever one stepped out of line, like trying to sneak another's milk bottle, the keepers would make a sound or point a finger at the offender and that was usually enough for that elephant to behave again. Or just sneak around the other side of that keeper to weasel in on someone else's milk bottle. It was fascinating to watch, especially how they can use their trunks to grasp the bottle and hold it for themselves.
Much too soon, it was time for these elephants to go too. They have a schedule to keep and they were off out to the fields of the park again.
We drove back through the park (as Sheldrick's is part of Nairobi National Park) to the Emakoko for lunch. As usual, it was delicious. It was a cucumber yogurt amuse bouche, which was fabulous. The main was butternut squash ravioli, incredible. And I love how you just start to regret having eaten it so fast, and the staff appears automatically with a second serving!
Back out again at 2:00 to Sheldrick's for the private visit. Private meant me, all 24 orphaned ellies and their keepers and my guide Peter. That was it. To say it was worth every penny is a vast understatement. I cannot believe how good it was and how fast it was over. The ellies came in either individually or in small groups. Edwin the keeper would recognize who was coming and shout out the name to the other keepers to have the bottles ready. These elephants know what's coming and they go right to their keeper for their milk. They guzzle it down with record speed and then know it's time for them to wallow and muck about. I was thrilled to see Simotua was the first elephant down, and he looked quicker on his feet and happier than he did this morning, although he still stayed out of the way of the others once his bottle was done.
Simotua, another of my fosters, foot damaged by snare:
The keepers asked me to stay on the bench until the bottles were finished. That was fine by me as I was completely captivated watching the elephants invade the little space. I was so mesmerized that I did not even notice when a little one crept up on my right side and rested his trunk in my lap!! This was Ndotto, one I did not foster, yet, and he then proceeded to try and fit his nearly 300 pound body on my lap. At this point any thought of keeping clean was out the window as he was covered in mud and rolling on me from foot to lap. He loved to be rubbed and talked to and seemed frustrated that I couldn't hold him better. I know I was!
Finally I stood up because all the elephants were done with their bottles and I could walk among them. I found Alamaya, my tail-less boy and my first foster Mbegu. I couldn't identify my other fosters as they were all mingling about, so I just sort of wandered among them and pet them when they seemed open to it all the while Peter and Edwin were snapping photos, for which I'm SO thankful. It was a tremendous honor to be among so many of these beautiful creatures. It is fun to watch them interact and see their personalities play out. What a perfect little universe, if only it wasn't so necessary.
Like clockwork, the elephants knew it was time to head back out to the fields and off they went, except for little Ndotto. He was doing whatever he could to get my attention, standing on his head, rolling belly up. I knew I'd have to be the one to say goodbye, or neither of us would leave. I walked off and he went his way. This little salesman got me to foster him too, how could I not?
Elephants moving on, except my Ndotto:
Edwin took us to see Maxwell, the blind rhino whose mom abandoned him when he became blind. He will live out his time at Sheldricks because black rhinos need to fight for their territory and he won't be able to. He didn't seem to want to come out for a look, as his pile of scrub that he was munching down seemed much more enticing.
As my visit came to an end I realized how absolutely amazing it had been and how very lucky I was to be able to do it. I will never, ever forget that hour.
I spent the hour between the private visit and the foster visit drinking Stoney Tangawizi and chatting with Peter in the car. We get along really well and I was sad that we won't have another few game rides together. But the best for us was really yet to come...
The foster parent visit at 5:00 every day is really very good, if you haven't done the private visit. The foster parents line up and wait to see all the babies paraded in from out on the plains. They come in in little groups and Edwin announces who they all are as they pass by. It's so funny to see them run in, or saunter in in some cases, and they head right for their own enclosures as they know that's where they'll get their milk and fresh foliage. It seems like they are very much operating on a set schedule and they know how things play out when.
Once the elephants are in the enclosures, the foster parents can walk around the enclosures and visit them. I found all my kids: Mbegu, Alamaya, Mwashoti, Simotua. I also found Ndotto, who is still little enough that he likes to have the Maasai blanket over him for comfort when he's in his enclosure. His keeper still sleeps with him too; there are soft mattresses in all of the enclosures where the keepers still need to sleep with them.
Simotua, with the spear wound in his forehead, but so much more at ease than when I saw him this morning!
I have one other elephant that Mom fostered for me, but he has already been reintroduced to the next step of the integration process so he is not at the orphanage. I took photos of all my fosters, and found Kiko the giraffe for Mom and Rapa who I fostered for my friend Bev. I told Edwin that when I hear the names and finally get to see them in person, it's like seeing a rock star. I read so much about them every day.
I passed by two enclosures that had no names or rescue dates on them yet. I peeked in and found two teeny little elephants, so much smaller than those I'd just seen. They'd just been rescued in the last week or so and have names but there's been nothing made available about fostering them yet. One sweet little one (his name began with an L) came right over to me and wrapped his trunk around my wrist. He was strong! But he kept opening his mouth and wanted me to scratch the roof of his mouth or allow him to suckle, which we aren't allowed to do. It was so sweet to see how he reached out to his keeper when he was unsure or in need of encouragement, but brave enough to investigate newcomers.
I passed by Alamaya again and his keeper asked "are you still here?" with a big smile. I told him that I can't get enough of the elephants and he said "me neither!" I thanked those I could talk to for taking care of them. They do such important work and look at how successful they are in giving these babies a second chance. Wow.
My flight home left at 11 and we left Sheldrick's around 5:45. That should have been plenty of time to get back to the lodge, have a shower and pack, have a nice dinner. Then the sighting of the trip happened.
We were driving along heading back to the lodge and just chatting as we had been most of the day. The light was that beautiful golden light right before sunset that is a photographer's dream. Suddenly Peter stopped, reversed and told me to look directly right. Up in a big acacia, straddling a branch was a gorgeous male leopard. This was Peter's first leopard sighting of 2016 and it's a big deal because leopards are so seldom seen in Nairobi National Park! And I'd never seen an adult male anywhere! I could not believe my luck. Peter was thrilled, this was an incredible sighting for him and under such spectacular lighting conditions. Except he hadn't brought his camera along! Oh no!!! He rang Anthony at Emakoko, who is a big leopard aficionado. We hoped he'd be able to make it to the sighting in time but he was 20 minutes away and this leopard was starting to make motions as if it was going to move, standing up and cleaning himself. Finally he went down the tree and disappeared into the tall grass. Sighting complete. I was leaving Nairobi National Park with a bang!
Anthony met me when I returned to camp with a big smile. It was an amazing sighting for us. He asked for photos to put on the Emakoko Facebook page and I complied. While they were a bit too far off to be crystal clear, they are still pretty good. That was one handsome cat. Anthony confirmed this was a male based on the size of the neck and the paws. He was a big boy!
Back-side to see the thick neck!

The trouble with lingering over an amazing sighting like that is that it left me with only 35 minutes to shower, change, pack and eat. But somehow I did it. I ate my last delicious meal at Emakoko: smoked salmon on puff pastry, eggplant parmigiana and a passion fruit and almond meringue. We were on the road by 8:20 and at the airport just after 9.
I have to say looking back over the last two weeks, the highlight was definitely the last two days. Regardless of whatever happened at any other point in the safari, my last sightings in the Mara, coupled with my time with the elephants, my time at Emakoko and the amazing leopard sighting in Nairobi National Park made these last two days unforgettable in so many ways. While I may have had my doubts at some points during the trip, I will definitely be back.
As I left Nairobi, I was so sad this is coming to an end, but blessed for the experiences I've had and the people I met. That's what this is all about.
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@@amybatt - thanks for this report! Brings back amazing memories from the Mara.


Naboisho resembles OMC in topography a little? with all those whistling acacias .......

WOW - Leopard at Emakoko. What an amazing find.....


Thanks again for writing this up!

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And so safari justice was done. :) Really glad your last days were more what you had hoped for, and lovely to see how happy you look with the Elephants. And how awesome to finish off with a Leopard in Nairobi National Park, who would have thought. Thank you for the report!

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Yes, @@madaboutcheetah, the terrain was very similar to OMC, which makes sense as it is between Ol Kinyei and OMC.


@@michael-ibk, if you'd asked me what I expected to see at NNP, the absolute dead last thing I would have guessed would have been leopard (or maybe zorilla, LOL!). I was THRILLED.


Thank you both for reading and for your comments!

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What an amazing last sighting and wonderful final day! I enjoyed following along!

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I've really enjoyed following your report. So glad it ended with a bang -- that was a beautiful male leopard! Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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@Amyb-I am so happy to finally see a picture of you! You have been so kind and helpful so it is wonderful to know you! So you had a wonderful first safari and it seems like a very good 2nd safari with alot of your control. Still happy you did it? also loved that you listed the daily menu.

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Thank you for an excellent report - masses of positive enthusiasm and a few negatives - but a great trip.

I really enjoyed your photos and I think you coped well with the long grass.

Your final day sounds wonderful- you put an picture in earlier labelled "heaven" - but from the look on your face with the baby elephants that might be heaven as well :)

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@@amybatt I have really enjoyed your TR. That last leopard in NNP was a real bonus at the end of what seems to have been a pretty good trip all round even if you did have vehicular failure - twice. It happens! Thanks for sharing the whole story with us.

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@@plambers, yes, I'm very happy I went on safari again. I'm fighting the impulse to book another for later this year. Just need to see if work can do without me again for 2 weeks! I'm warning you, it gets under your skin and you can't shake it!! :-)

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I'm fighting the impulse to book another for later this year.

Do you know where do you want to go :)?

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