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KENYA CONSERVANCIES IN LATE NOVEMBER - Part 2


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PART 2 - OL KINYEI AND NABOISHO CONSERVANCIES (PORINI MARA CAMP)

 

My gratitude to the kind folks who commented on part 1 of my trip report.  However, had you been more candid, you might have saved yourselves from the pain of even more photos in part 2.  Now my conscience is clear going forward with this section . . . 

 

Departure from Nanyuki West airstrip for the flight down to the Ol Seki airstrip (closest to the Mara Camp) was uneventful, but interesting nonetheless.  I had assumed that we might get a direct flight to Ol Seki, but it didn't work out that way.  In fact, it took two different aircraft (Twin Otter & Caravan) and four flight segments to reach Ol Seki airstrip, but all segments were reasonably short, skies were calm, and the flights were no hassle. Every one of our AirKenya flights left at a different time than originally scheduled, which I gather is routine for these safari flights in Africa, but what really impressed me was how well AirKenya and Porini handled these changes.  

 

Once AirKenya figured out
their schedule for the coming day (presumably looking for an efficient mix of aircraft, crews, passengers, and destinations), they would contact
with Porini main office in Nairobi with any schedule changes (and it seemed there were ALWAYS schedule changes).  The Porini main office would
then contact the relevant camp manager, and the most disruption a guest might see is to hear "your flight is leaving an hour later tomorrow
morning, so you will get an extra hour of game drive".  Amazing how smoothly this all operated.

 

Mara Camp itself has only six guest tents, situated in an arc along the banks of a small winding stream, and a dining/lounge tent located at the
approximate center of that arc.  In the larger sense, this camp is situated on the western edge of the 18,700-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy, but
that borders directly on the 50,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy, so the Mara Camp has easy access to a lot of productive terrain. I am not sure I
can articulate exactly why this is so, but I thought the Mara Camp had the best "vibe" of the three Porini camps I visited. Sometimes it is the
setting, sometimes it is the staff, sometimes it is the other guests - in the case of the Mara Camp, I guess it was all of those things.

 

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The camp has a resident bushbuck (not by any means tame, but clearly accustomed to hanging around the safety of the camp environs)

 

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As well as a troop of vervet monkeys that frolic around the camp (well, okay, also THROUGH the camp).

 

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An editorial comment here.  A small river forms the boundary between Ol Kinyei and Naboisho, and someone was very smart in how they handled the
river crossing.  Instead of just driving down one bank, through the water and up the opposite bank as you see in the Mara Reserve, the
conservancies here have built a short section of pavement through the lowest part of the crossing (what we would call a "Texas crossing" here in
the United States).  There are upright concrete posts on the downstream side of this paved section, which I assume gives the driver a visual
reference on water depth and also would keep a vehicle from washing downstream.  Not only does this type of crossing (also seen elsewhere in
these two conservancies) seem safer, it also reduces streambed erosion and creates a small impoundment of water upstream.  And you know how much
the local animals and birdlife benefit from reliable water sources in the savannah.  

 

In the vicinity of this border between the two conservancies, we saw a number of very healthy grazing animals, including numerous impala (always
graceful).

 

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And this unusual-for-me Coke's hartbeest.

 

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This terrain seemed to abound in birdlife, and I can never seem to resist a lilac breasted roller in good light.

 

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The highlight of this first afternoon (23 Nov) at the Mara Camp, and probably the highlight of my entire visit to this camp, was time spent with
a small lion pride on the eastern side of Naboisho Conservancy.  The weather was overcast, and looked like an afternoon shower was likely.  This
pride of two adult females and five cubs was sleeping off their evening meal of wildebeest.  The fifth cub is not visible in this first photo;
more on this cub later. WARNING - lots of lion photos to follow. 

 

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This particular cub is definitely well-fed; even lying on her back, her belly is enormous!

 

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One other cub found a nice plaything from part of the wildebeest carcass, and went looking for a playmate.

 

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However, an afternoon downpour started, and everyone, including the playful cub, headed for cover.

 

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Given the small size of the local bushes, most of the adult lion bodies were left stuck out in the rain.

 

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The cubs fared better in finding cover, but their attention span for sitting still did not last long, and soon they were back out in the easing
rain.  Some of the cubs began cleaning each other, and some others started playing together.

 

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But our little bundle of trouble with the wildebeest bodypart toy went back out looking for new playmate to engage in a little tug of war.

 

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Meanwhile, one of the adult females did her best to shake off the excess water, and then sprawled out on her back - because it is important that
the ENTIRE lion be clean and dry.

 

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Trouble eventually did stir up some interest in a game of tug of war, but probably not with the body part he had in mind.

 

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This cub seems to be trying to strike that perfect balance between cute and fierce.  Sorry, buddy, still too cute!

 

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Most of the cubs began wandering further afield into a shallow depression, and became much dirtier in the process.

 

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Meanwhile, the fifth cub stayed tucked under the bushes near the wildebeest carcass.  Our guide was concerned this cub could be ill and might not
last too much longer.

 

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After a quick round of seconds on the carcass, the pride began moving off to stage right (minus the fifth cub).  

 

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The adult females looked pretty clean and tidy at this point, if still a bit damp.  Some of the cubs . . . not so much.  This one female doesn't seem very happy with a muddy
cubby walking so close to her.

 

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At this point, an adult jackal was approaching from stage left, and one of the adult females was keeping a close watch on this jackal.  With the
pride apparently departing the scene, we were worried what this jackal might mean for the fifth cub.

 

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Fortunately, this cub got up and walked away (and looked normal walking) as the jackal approached the carcass, and eventually the jackal was left
to dine in peace.

 

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I did alert you there would be a lot of lion photos.  But lion cubs are so adorable, even when wet.  Maybe especially when wet.  The adult lions
seem really annoyed with being wet, whereas the cubs' joy at being alive seems to override any temporary discomfort from the rain.  Beyond the
photos, the memory that will stay with me from this time with the lions is the SOUND of the pride members softly calling to each.  Not really a
MEOW like our domestic cats make, more just the "OW" portion of the sound. Interesting that it was hard to distinguish whether it was an adult or
a cub making those OW sounds.  All made for a memorable encounter.

 

The sky stayed overcast at dusk, and we were in for heavy rain through the overnight hours.

 

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Day 5 (24 Nov) dawned clear and a little cooler.  This seemed to be the pattern for the next several days- cloud cover building up during the day
with late afternoon thunderstorms, typically with the rain continuing overnight.  I knew going in that this was at the end of the short rainy
season, so some rain was not at all surprising.  The camp manager here (Jimmy) said that the rains were a little later coming than usual this
year, as it more typically dry by the latter part of November.  The rain did not really cause any problems or prohibit any game drives. Some of
the river crossings, especially down in the Mara Reserve, were probably more challenging for the drivers than they would otherwise be, and I was
surprised how much standing water there would be on flat sections of ground after a rainstorm.  The most significant impact for me was just the
lower light levels from the overcast skies - I spent a lot of time shooting at ISO3200.

 

Our morning drive with Josephat as our guide and Julius as our driver was quite productive in terms of bird life, especially around some of the
river crossings in the Naboisho Conservancy.  Morning sun highlighted the coloration of the Maasai giraffe, noticeably different from the
reticulated variety up in Ol Pejeta.

 

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A group of grey-backed fiscals enjoying the morning.  Would this be called a flutter of fiscals?

 

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An Isabelline wheatear, a new species for me.

 

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And a male Maasai ostrich, looking for a mate.

 

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A mated pair of Kirk's dik-diks.  This little species seems to be fairly reclusive, which probably keeps them from being eaten.

 

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This scene struck us as a bit unusual, a group of five vultures in the morning sun.  But three different species of vulture all together:  
African white-backed vulture, lappet-faced vulture, and Ruppell's griffon vulture.

 

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We sat for a while at one of the river crossings and just watched the birds come and go.  Starting with a grey-headed heron reclaiming his
favorite parking spot.

 

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Continuing with this vulture flying from tree to tree looking for the perfect perch.

 

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A nearby Thompson's gazelle had a pair of horns that seemed nearly as long as his legs.

 

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A white-headed buffalo weaver busy collecting construction materials for a new nest.

 

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And a pair of yellow-billed oxpeckers was just hanging out at their local breakfast joint.

 

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Our guide thought this topi calf might be only a day or two old.

 

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Harry, driver Julius, and guide Josephat enjoying a bush breakfast in Naboisho Conservancy.

 

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And a lilac breasted roller enjoying his own bush breakfast (I think I'll just stick with my toast, thank you)

 

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These helmeted guineafowl seem to be fairly common, but are surprisingly hard to photograph as they are always in motion (and usually moving AWAY
from the photographer).  Sort of the avian equivalent of warthogs . . . 

 

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What kingfishers eat for breakfast when they get tired of fish . . .

 

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And another satisfied bug-eater, this one a female Von der Decken's hornbill.

 

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I expect most everyone else has already seen these mwanza flat-headed agamas, but this was the first time I noticed them.  

 

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In part 1 of this trip report, I did ask readers to take notice of where the elephant calf was nursing.  No, the answer is not that the calf
was nursing in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.  I meant where on the mother elephant the calf was nursing - strangely enough, and something I never
knew, elephant mammary glands are located just behind the front legs.  And that is relevant why?  Well, because the elephant's closest
terrestrial relative shares this distinguishing anatomical feature, as does the elephant's closest marine relative (the sea cow/dugong/manatee).  
In addition to the locaton of the mammary glands and having a long gestation period, these terrestrial cousins share some other common features involving the

shape of the toes and toenails, tusk-like dentition, and internal testes in the males.  If you were to see these two creatures standing side by side . . . well, you
probably wouldn't even notice one of them.  Welcome to the world of the little rock hyrax.

 

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This little fellow is politely posing for his school yearbook photo (voted LEAST LIKELY TO BE MISTAKEN FOR AN ELEPHANT).

 

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And a creature that you might think is closely related to an elephant, but is not.  Unfortunately, I did not note down the name of the river
where these happy hippos were found.

 

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Here is a lovely violet-backed starling:

 

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And a hammerkop poised to do something, I'm not quite sure if it was actively hunting or just thinking about it.

 

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Our afternoon game drive went to the eastern side of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, new terrain for Harry and me.  Finally, a presentable photo of a
little bee eater!

 

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A lovely striped kingfisher

 

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I am always a sucker for zebras.

 

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A mother giraffe next to junior

 

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What a magnificent pair of horns on this impala

 

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When not hunting or scavenging, jackals are really quite striking animals.  Definite look of intelligence behind those eyes.

 

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The afternoon rain arrived, and soaked a pair of cheetah brothers.  Like the lions, still gorgeous even when soaking wet.

 

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Day 6 (25 Nov) was an all-day drive from the Mara Camp down into the Mara Reserve.  This daytrip bears a little more explanation.  I understood
that stays of 3 nights or more at Mara Camp include a one-day admission to the Mara Reserve, so Harry and I assumed that one of our two full days
at Mara Camp would include this trip.  The camp manager Jimmy and our guide Josephat, knowing that we were going on to Lion Camp next, assumed
that we would prefer to do our Mara Reserve visit from there, a much shorter drive.  However, we only had a 2-night stay at Lion Camp, meaning
only one full day there, and I felt we had more time for the Reserve visit during our longer stay at the Mara Camp.  Was I right in persisting
for a one-day visit to the Reserve from Mara Camp?  Well, you will have to keep reading to learn the answer to that question.

 

As with the previous day, this one dawned clear and that first hour provided some of the best game viewing and photography.  Most of these photos
were taken during the drive through the Naboisho Conservancy to reach the Talek Gate into the Reserve.  The total drive takes maybe two hours,
but the last hour or so is not particularly scenic.  Here is a tawny eagle warming up with the sunrise (and probably also scoping out breakfast
opportunities).

 

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An already-beautiful lilac breasted roller looks even better in morning light.

 

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Everything looks good in morning light, even this Ruppell's griffon vulture.

 

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After entering the Reserve via the Talek Gate (and resisting the urge to buy a shuka, necklace, or a Maasai spear (not that the opportunity did
not present itself), we did come across this lovely zebra mother with her young foal

 

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I do like the "milk chocolate" coloring of the young Zebras.

 

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And the zebra lookout. Almost should qualify as a "dazzle of one".

 

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Further into the Reserve, we located a leopard sleeping in a tree.  Well, maybe more accurately, we located a gaggle of safari vehicles full of
tourists all trying to observe a leopard sleeping in a tree.  I think our guide quickly understood that this wasn't the Mara we came to see, so we headed off in different

directions from the rest of the crowd in search of something out of the ordinary (and, to be honest, some solitude).  Josephat soon found us a yellow-throated longclaw . . .

 

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Enroute to more open spaces, we did see a herd of elephants (being somewhat harried by safari vehicles and white minivans) and what I gather is
somewhat unusual for the Mara, a couple of black rhinos.

 

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 By only 10AM in the morning, the sky was already starting to cloud up.

 

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At our stop for another bush breakfast, we discovered some lion pawprints in the vehicle tracks (hopefully made prior to our arrival, not during
. . . or so we convinced ourselves!).

 

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There is something special about those Mara landscapes.  Those who have been there already know what I mean.  Those who haven't been there yet -
you have to go and experience this place.  

 

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As the lion tracks attest, things were a bit damp from heavy rains the night before.  The other evidence of recent rains - it seemed that half the puddles were

occupied by hyenas cooling their hindquarters!

 

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Josephat soon found us a close cousin to the yellow-throated longclaw we had seen earlier in the morning.  This would be the rosy-throated variety
of the longclaw.

 

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I have earlier confessed to my fascination with small mammals in Africa, and thought at some point in my safari future I should visit the
Kalahari to see those cute little standing meerkats.  Just saved myself a trip, when we came across a group of banded mongoose doing their
best meerkat impressions:

 

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Not that I can pass up some of the larger mammals:

 

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Another of those iconic Mara landscapes.

 

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I am pretty sure this is a pale variant of a tawny eagle, but feel free to correct me if that is wrong.  That request goes for all of my species
identifications and misidentifications.  

 

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This one I think I can identify with some confidence (always a dangerous thing).  Superb starling.

 

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Part of the magic of the Mara and surrounding conservancies at this time of year is seeing how quickly everything "greens up" after some
rainfall.

 

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All the grazers seem to thrive with all the fresh green grass.

 

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This small pod of hippos was either on the lower reaches of the Talek River just before it joins the Mara River, or on the main Mara River itself
just after the confluence with the Talek (I forgot to ask).

 

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And where there are hippos, there often seem to be Nile crocodiles.

 

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The riverbank was a promising place to search for small birds.  First, a little bee eater (why do they often looked so pissed?)r:

 

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And a grey-headed kingfisher:

 

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Black-winged Plover (or Black-winged Lapwing, pick your poison)

 

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More banded mongoose, some in motion, and some other ones . . . also in motion.  I didn't take the photograph of the mating mongoose pair out of prurient interest. 

Rather, note that the female is continuing to look for food.  So much for the whole dinner-and-a-movie thing first!

 

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The river levels were still high from the previous evening's rain.  They would get higher.

 

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The sky began to darken, there were rumbles of thunder in the distance, and the temperature dropped dramatically.  Interesting to watch how the
animals reacted to an impending storm.  Even us humans finally figured that something was coming, and we decided to head for home.

 

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We were not quite timely enough with that decision, and spent much of the drive back to the Mara Camp through the pouring rain, with the canvas
side covers rolled down.  Photographing from open-sided safari vehicles, I expected to come back and have to wipe off some dust and occasional
moisture from the cameras and lenses.  This was the first time I came back and had to clean mud spatters off of EVERYTHING (including myself).  I
mentioned before how I was surprised at how water stands on the flat terrain after a rainstorm - this photo gives you a sense of that.  Even when
the land is dry overall, I guess the soil type here does not allow for rapid infiltration of the rainwater.

 

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Closer to camp and through the worst of the rain, we found a couple soggy cheetahs - I think these are the same cheetah brothers we had seen on
the previous afternoon.  Unlike the young lion cubs from earlier in this Mara Camp adventure, I guess these adolescent cheetahs are old enough to
capture that feline look of aggravation and misery at being wet.

 

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So, was I right or wrong about insisting on a daytrip to the Mara Reserve this day?  WIth the advantage of hindsight (and especially after
visiting Lion Camp), the camp staff at the Mara Camp was right and I was wrong. You do lose some transit time getting from camp to the Reserve,
and some of the drive right after entering the Talek Gate is not particularly interesting, but in a sense you gain that time back by having lunch
in the Reserve instead of returning to camp for a lunch break.  My real issue is that, after enjoying the relative solitude of the private
conservancies, the Mara Reserve just seemed . . . overcrowded with tourists.  Some behaving badly.  I still love the Mara, it is a special place,
but I fear it is being loved to death.  Too many people for my tastes, even in off-season.  In retrospect, I would have done as well for game viewing and photography

to have stayed in the Ol Kinyei and Naboisho conservancies for those 12 hours, and I would have had a more enjoyable time in the process.  End of sermon . . .

 

Day 7 (26 Nov) dawned with a light overcast.  This was our day to drive (rather than fly) from the Mara Camp over to the Lion Camp, a drive of
roughly 2 hours duration.  However, we coupled this with a morning game drive through the Naboisho Conservancy, so it became more like a 6-hour
journey.  The most fascinating part of this trip was watching a pair of young male lions slowly working their way from east to west through the
Conservancy.  Josephat thought they were from out of the area, and either looking for new territory or trying to reunite with their pride.  You
know how older male lions show their age with scars and other wear and tear?  These two young lions (Joesphat estimated 5-6 years old) were in
magnificent shape, positively beautiful.   As you are about to see for yourselves . . . 

 

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These two tended to mosey along at 100 yds or more apart, so I did not capture too many photographs of them together.

 

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A few more subjects of interest from our drive over to Lion Camp.

 

Bare-faced go-away-bird

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Tawny eagle hunting on the ground

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White-backed vulture feeding on carcass

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A crested lark

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Blue-headed tree agama

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A Ruppell's griffon vulture (I think)

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And one more cheetah portrait

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I will end this portion of the trip report with a parting photo of our driver Julius and our guide Josephat, and a sincere thank you to both of them and to manager Jimmy and all the other
staff at Mara Camp.

 

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And for those readers that have stuck with me so far, I should warn you that Part 3 will have cats, cats, and more cats.  However, due to a
travel commitment, I won't be able to post Part 3 until another two weeks or so.  Sorry about the dramatic pause...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A very enjoyable Mara tale! Since you asked about IDs: the light-coloured Tawny looks ok to me (Brown eagles are quite tricky though) but the last Tawny looks quite peculiar with those markings on back and primaries. You could well have a youngish Greater Spotted Eagle there. The Isabelline Wheatear is in fact a Northern (European) one, the Violet-Backed a Rüppel's Starling and the Black-winged A Spur-Winged Lapwing. The last vulture you asked about is a Lappet-Faced.

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@KCAZ Really enjoying this TR. Beautiful photos, but honestly? Your humorous commentary is fabulous. Just about fell out of my chair laughing with the whole banded mongoose still looking for foodduring the love scene comment- among many others that had be laughing out loud. And you are right....those views of the wide expanses of the Mara....seriously soul changing. And you got some great ones. And those milk chocolate zebra babies? Love them. Now will have to wait for the rest of this captivating TR :( 

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Thanks, @michael-ibk, I think.  Ever time you help me with my bird IDs, my batting average goes down!  I knew I never should have listened to those debates between our guides and my birder friend.  Instead, I should have just trusted my first instinct, which is why all these avian photographs were imported into Lightroom with the keyword "bird".  Maybe not 100% precise, but at least I was 100% accurate up to that point!  I really need to get a good bird book for East Africa . . . 

 

Apologies to you and other readers of Part 2 for those stray photos that appear at the end.  I tried an edit to remove them, but with only limited succcess.  I have sought professional help and asked for Game Warden to  clean up my mess.

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I breathed a huge sigh of relief on reading your comment, @Imonmm, as I wasn't sure how women readers would take to my observation on the mating mongoose pair.  After all, with the right female, a bowl of fresh insects would clearly be just the ticket!  But thanks for seeing the same humor that I saw in the situation.

 

I hope I didn't come across too negative in my comments about the day spent in the Mara Reserve.  It truly is a special place.  I confess to getting turned off really quickly to crowds of any kind, but especially in national parks and reserves.  Living only an 1:50 south of our own Grand Canyon, the changes it has seen from increasing tourism have been dramatic, so Kenya isn't the only country being challenged on this issue.  And don't get me started on the Park Service continuing to allow tourists to climb all over some of the arches in Arches National Park.

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Wanderlust4evermore

What fantastic photos. I am anxiously awaiting your report of Porini Lion Camp. I was just there in Feb and loved it!.  I am planning a trip back in two years with my grand daughter and want to add on another camp. Perhaps Porini Mara may be a good choice after reading your post.  I also took endless video and photos of lions, they are my favourite too.  Maybe being a Leo is why.  I look forward to reading more.  I may have missed it, but what kind of camera and lens do you have?

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Thanks for your nice comments, @Wanderlust4evermore  I don't think I let our guides drive past too many lions without at least a quick look and a couple photos.  They sure sleep a lot during that daytime (the lions, not the guides), so it is especially nice to find them during those morning and late afternoon hours when they are awake and doing something interesting.

 

For most of the animal photos and all of the birds, I used a Nikon crop-sensor DSLR (D7500) with a Nikon 200-500mm zoom (purchased refurbished).  For the closer animals, landscapes, people, and everything else, I used a Nikon D7100 with an 18-140mm lens (this lens also purchased refurbished).  It was a good 2 camera/2 lens combination for safari.  This is the second Africa trip on which I brought two other lenses along - a Rokinon 16/2.0 manual focus lens for nighttime shots (never used) and an older Nikon 180/2.8 lens for low-light animal photography.  Never used that one either.  So I guess I know how I can save weight on future safaris.  I will likely decide to bring a third lens, probably a moderate telephoto zoom, along on future trips solely for the peace of mind of having a backup if one of the two primary lenses fails.  I have an older Nikon 70-300 or I could borrow my wife's lightweight 55-200 for this purpose.

 

Based on input from some folks on the photography forum here, I brought along a lightweight CF monopod (Sirui P-326) and a Manfrotto quick-release monopod head (234RC), and that support worked great for shooting from within the open-sided safari vehicle. The quick-release plate let me easily detach the monopod when I needed to photograph birds in flight. 

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Your bird IDs may have been a bit but the photos are spot on, which is much more important to me. During bird migration season when there are lots of migrants you might not expect I just give up sometimes.

 

I'm taking Michael along especially to do my bird IDs on my next safari as there will be lot of really tricky ones. I am glad to see he has his head in his books getting ready. ;)

 

Very nice report and so many great sightings. Thanks for posting it.

 

FWIW I think I'd prefer if you zoomed or cropped a little less tightly with some of the bigger critters - although I guess I tend to do the same sometimes. It's just something that came to mind when I was looking through, so I share it. .

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Here I am wondering which birding book to get for East Africa, @pault, and you get to have your own personal interactive birding expert along.  I am jealous!

 

I will be more conscious of my cropping when posting photos for Part 3 of the trip report.  From doing volunteer photography for our local humane society, it is automatic now for me:  full body shot + head shot + characteristic or interesting gesture/pose/expression. What worked for domestic animals up for adoption maybe does not work as well for wild animals out in the natural environment.

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Wanderlust4evermore

KCAZ my first safari i took a regular lens and a telephoto, but this time , and for most of my trips everywhere, I use a Canon 18-200 for the same reason, I hate packing around the extra weight and space. We were very limited on our last trip.   I found we were never too far away from any of the animals really anyhow.

 It is nerve wracking only having one lens however.  My first day of this trip was in Ethiopia heading to the OMO Valley, I took out my camera and the lens was smashed. I almost threw up, I was so upset and miles from any major city.  I discovered it was only the lens protector however thank goodness.And thank goodness I had a UV protector on it.   The same thing happened to a fellow on our gorilla trek.  It is an awful feeling to think you may not have a camera when in the midst of all this amazing scenery around you. So I will bring a back up next time. 

 I thought about the monopod but didn't bring it. I may do that next time.   Cant wait to hear your report on Lion camp.  

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@KCAZ I absolutely love the baby zebra and giraffe photos, but that headshot of the jackal is awesome! He's looking right through the lens into my heart.

I have been debating on which telephoto lens to bring in June. We will be in NPs for most of the trip except Ol Pejeta. I have a Nikon D7200 with a 18-140 and a 70-300mm, but feel it might not have enough reach. I don't own a 200-500 but would love to add it to my kit. Your thoughts?

Good idea re: quick release monopod head, added to my list now too, thanks!

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I am very happy with the Nikon 200-500, @Dawnvip.  In 2016, I got good pictures using the 70-300VR lens on the D7100, but no question the extra reach of the 200-500 is really useful, especially for birds.  You can get closer to the animals in the conservancies due to the ability to drive offtrack, so the extra telephoto reach might be even more important if you are doing mostly national parks and reserves.

 

A tip - sign up on the Nikon website so you get notified when they have sales on refurbished items, typically an extra 10% discount offered several times a year.  I bought my 200-500 as a refurbished lens direct from Nikon for something like $1150USD; it looks and functions like new.

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@KCAZYour photo's are fantastic. Great read thanks.

Edited by Hads
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