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I call this a Safari Talk Safari as we followed in the footsteps of two ST members on this trip @Towlersonsafari and @michael-ibk . Once we read their trip reports we knew immediately that our journey to Kenya would include their recommendations and they proved to be perfect for us. Thank you so much for all the help you gave us in particular @michael-ibk who introduced us to Petra Allmendinger who has a guest farm near the Aberdare's, Sandai Homestay and arranged a wonderful 11 day tour for us with our own private vehicle.

 

We spent 5 weeks discovering this new, for us, country travelling from Nairobi where we met our adopted orphans and their wonderful keepers at the David Sheldrik Wildlife Trust orphanage onto the Masai Mara, The Aberdare's, Solio and Samburu. We also stayed at two of the fabulous DSWT release sights Umani Springs and Ithumba and finally to Amboselli before a last wet and muddy visit to the orphanage on our last evening in Nairobi. We travelled with different companies and different drivers and all of them were friendly, helpful, welcoming people who took great care of us.

 

We arrived a few days after the disputed general elections and everyone went out of their way to reassure us that we were safe. We had no problems what so ever.

 

Although we began our trip with a couple of days in Nairobi I will begin with our 6 nights spent in the Masai Mara at Brian Freeman's camp and will return to Nairobi and our onward journey from there later. @Towlersonsafari had so enjoyed their stay at Brian's 'secret' tented camp that we contacted Brian and booked with him direct. He included a private vehicle and if we wished we could stay out from sunrise to sunset. Brian does not advertise his camp on any web site other than his own. He has a few, excellent, reviews on Trip Advisor but his business is mainly return clients.

 

We flew to the Masai Mara on 16 August 2017.

 

We left Nairobi on the early morning Air Kenya flight and landed at Ol Kiombo airstrip. Its only a short drive to Brians camp and our guide/driver Josh met us and we immediately set off on a game drive before going to camp for lunch. Josh asked us what we wanted to see most of all. 'Leopards please! and everything else of course'. We have had bad luck with finding leopards on our previous trips to Africa and hoped that this time we would fulfil our dreams of spending quality time with a leopard/leopards. Josh promised to do his best for us and boy did he deliver :) 

 

 

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Edited by penolva
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Hello @penolva sadly we have only been to Kenya once so I think you have us confused with a much more deserving safaritalker!

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Glad I could be of help, Pen, and looking forward so much to this. 

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4 hours ago, penolva said:

We spent 5 weeks...

 

:o Now that's a safari... 

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@Game Warden we were very lucky to have 5 weeks. ?

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Thanks for reading along! :)

 

Josh told us that we had the camp to ourselves for the first 5 nights as a big group had cancelled! :o Even Brian was away. We were thrilled as during down time in camp we always like to relax quietly and listen to the sounds of the bush. We don't often sit around the camp fire after dinner either as that hour or so before bed is such a pleasure watching the amazing night skies. Are we the only 'antisocial' Safari Talk members? 

 

First interesting sighting was a hyena with the remains of a kill. It was dragging it somewhere and was quite happy for us to stay with it for a while.

 

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A few moments later a lion just lazing around. @Game Warden I love the new way of adding photographs!

 

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We realised straight away that the Mara was heaving with animals. Thousands of wildebeest, topi, elephants, giraffe, hartebeest, a herd of eland and more. Many cats and they were all wide awake! No lazy sleeping lions in the Mara. The landscape is wide open with lovely trees, golden grass and we could see for miles. We knew we were in peak season but we were very surprised how much time we had completely alone with animals. Many people went to the main crossing points at the river and waited all day in the hope of a big crossing. Josh said sometimes he spent 6 days with clients spending 12 hours just sitting waiting :wacko: We were glad people did that as apart from two occasions during our drives with Josh there was hardly anyone else around. 

 

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I love your phrase "heaving with animals." we were there late june/early july and we were in awe of all the varied animals and the openness of the mara.

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I'm very glad you had a fun safari @penolva - I am also looking forward to this trip report!

 

 

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7 hours ago, plambers said:

I love your phrase "heaving with animals." we were there late june/early july and we were in awe of all the varied animals and the openness of the mara.

@plambers It must be one of the most rewarding places on earth to visit. ?

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5 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

I'm very glad you had a fun safari @penolva - I am also looking forward to this trip report!

 

 

@offshorebirder thank you. So much happened in those 7 days it’s going to take a while! 

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I'll be very interested in Umani Springs and Ithumba! 

"No problems whatsoever" is what we all want!

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13 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

I'll be very interested in Umani Springs and Ithumba! 

"No problems whatsoever" is what we all want!

Hi @Atravelynn its going to be a while before I get to Umani and Ithumba but needless to say it was absolutely amazing :)

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We drove to camp, checked in and had lunch. The camp is on the banks of a small stream that leads to the Talek River. The area around the Talek is supposed to be 'leopard central' in the Mara and is one of the main reasons we stayed with Brian.

 

This photograph is from the dining area.

 

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We left for our evening game drive around 3.30pm. We found two cheetah just finishing their evening meal. Both were in perfect condition and very active. They were in a small clearing with a bank behind so while we were parked beside them we looked up and two very inquisitive giraffe were peering down at us. After the cheetah had finished eating they went for a drink and then had a play before we left them in peace. No one else around at this sighting so we had over an hour with just the cheetah and us. 

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We could see rain in the distance and Josh said it was in Tanzania. We thought we were looking north! We drove around so much in the Mara we often totally lost our sense of direction. The Serena Lodge in the Triangle was our main point of reference and the small wooded area near to Brian's cap. We would have got totally lost if we had been on our own and there are no signposts. Josh pointed out lots of vehicles with a 'Permit' stuck in their windows. "Permission to drive off road. Do not follow"!. To be honest we went everywhere they did as far as we could tell. The only time we had to turn back was when we came to the border with the Porini concession one day. Off roading is not allowed but the unmarked tracks went everywhere with no indication which was on or off road.

 

We came to a clearing near the river with lots of cars. A leopard had been seen. This was only one of two occasions when there were lots of cars, around 20, at a sighting. Of course we saw a lot when we did venture to the Mara River! Suddenly a beautiful leopard stepped into the sunlight. Everyone moved position to get a good photograph. Josh said 'quick take a photograph. Its very rare to see a leopard'. Gulp!!:huh: We were glad to see the leopard but not so many cars. Was this to be our only leopard sighting? We did get some great photographs of him/her.

 

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It was getting darker and we drove high up over the plains. We could see thousands and thousands of wildebeest running towards the rains. It was amazing, all running the same way. It was worth coming all this way just to see that. We were so enthralled we only took a couple of photographs. There was a lovely sunset. Back to camp for a lovely dinner and bed by 10pm. What a fantastic first day. What would we see tomorrow?

 

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@penolva what a fabulous start to your 5 week Kenya safari. I like the view downriver from the dining room at Brian's camp - were you distracted from your meals by checking to see if anything was moving downriver?

 

Thanks for the tip about Brian's camp and the combination with Sandai, I have filed it away for a future safari. I also am interested to hear about Umani Springs and a recent report from Ithumba. 

 

So looking forward to reading more about your 5 week adventure as this TR unfolds.

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@Treepol thanks and I am glad the information is helpful. There were quite a lot of animals coming to the river to drink that we watched from our tent and the dining area. Strangely we saw hardly any birds in the camp the whole time we were there. Pen

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9 hours ago, penolva said:

Hi @Atravelynn its going to be a while before I get to Umani and Ithumba but needless to say it was absolutely amazing :)

I'll check out your sites and sightings in the meantime.

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Great start to your report! Leopard on the first day in the Mara; I sure hope we get the same luck!

Awaiting the next day's adventures....

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9 hours ago, Dawnvip said:

Great start to your report! Leopard on the first day in the Mara; I sure hope we get the same luck!

Awaiting the next day's adventures....

@Dawnvip welcome to Safari Talk! We did have a lot of luck. You will have to stick around to find out how much ?? When are you going? Pen

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We could see rain in the distance and Josh said it was in Tanzania. We thought we were looking north! We drove around so much in the Mara we often totally lost our sense of direction. The Serena Lodge in the Triangle was our main point of reference and the small wooded area near to Brian's cap. We would have got totally lost if we had been on our own and there are no signposts. Josh pointed out lots of vehicles with a 'Permit' stuck in their windows. "Permission to drive off road. Do not follow"!. To be honest we went everywhere they did as far as we could tell. The only time we had to turn back was when we came to the border with the Porini concession one day. Off roading is not allowed but the unmarked tracks went everywhere with no indication which was on or off road.

 

We came to a clearing near the river with lots of cars. A leopard had been seen. This was only one of two occasions when there were lots of cars, around 20, at a sighting. Of course we saw a lot when we did venture to the Mara River! Suddenly a beautiful leopard stepped into the sunlight. Everyone moved position to get a good photograph. Josh said 'quick take a photograph. Its very rare to see a leopard'. Gulp!!:huh: We were glad to see the leopard but not so many cars. Was this to be our only leopard sighting? We did get some great photographs of him/her.

 

1X1A2358.thumb.jpg.c15a69a51aeebf44d71c4d6b94c8e85b.jpg_DSC7369.thumb.jpg.3462302b6e4f64898cc37a9a91b00060.jpg_DSC7370.thumb.jpg.24dc88859c0fa686c4c5625a9cb0a0b7.jpg

 

It was getting darker and we drove high up over the plains. We could see thousands and thousands of wildebeest running towards the rains. It was amazing, all running the same way. It was worth coming all this way just to see that. We were so enthralled we only took a couple of photographs. There was a lovely sunset. Back to camp for a lovely dinner and bed by 10pm. What a fantastic first day. What would we see tomorrow?

 

1X1A2415.thumb.jpg.b21dd6bd79eb5008a1ca6939775ac2d3.jpg_DSC7372.thumb.jpg.65ed9167597179a9f1697a09569a0975.jpg

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I keep a diary of our trips and with the Mara its a good job I did. There is no way we would remember what happened and how we felt at the time if I had not spent half an hour each evening writing the diary. 

 

Our first whole day. We decided to start early, 6.00am come back for lunch and then go out again at 3.30pm and see if that worked for us. As it happened each and every drive was so full on, and we did not want to spend hours at the river waiting for a crossing, we decided quite quickly we would not go out for the whole day. If we had wanted to the chef would have given us a packed breakfast and a packed lunch. As it was we got a call at 5.30am, had a quick bowl of cereal and coffee and then set off. We had coffee/tea/sandwiches/cake for breakfast out in the bush around 9.30am. 

 

First sighting two blonde male lions. They both walked beside the vehicle so close we could have touched them.

 

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As the sun rose the grass turned golden and the scenery became very beautiful. 

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We soon found some more of the pride who were very active and still feeding on the kill. The cubs were very healthy looking.

 

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We had a drive down to the Mara river and the crossing point opposite the Serena Lodge. There were a lot of wildebeest gathering there so we had breakfast and waited half an hour. They soon started to cross. There were lots of big crocodiles in the river but also lots of drowned wildebeest so there were no crocodile attacks. The hippos seemed more annoyed at the disturbance and several swam towards the crossing. The wildebeest jumped from the bank even though they could have walked down and entered the water from the 'beach'.



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Edited by penolva
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4 hours ago, penolva said:

@Dawnvip welcome to Safari Talk! We did have a lot of luck. You will have to stick around to find out how much ?? When are you going? Pen

 

@penolva we are in the midst of planning now for a trip in June. Really enjoying your trip report thus far, making me excited about our upcoming trip and hoping we can get some great action like you obviously did!

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7 hours ago, Dawnvip said:

 

@penolva we are in the midst of planning now for a trip in June. Really enjoying your trip report thus far, making me excited about our upcoming trip and hoping we can get some great action like you obviously did!

@Dawnvip hope you have a great time.Pen

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