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I apologize for the large gap in posting Part 3 of this trip report.  The delay would have been longer, but reading the gripping trip report from @bettel, who visited this same area earlier in November, got me motivated to finish my own report.  I know I promised at the beginning of these trip reports that I would focus on just the highlights rather than a blow-by-description, but , . .  let's just say there were a lot of highlights from my visit to Lion Camp and the Olare Motorogi Conservancy (and adjacent Mara Reserve).


Day 7 (26 Nov PM) - After arrival at Lion Camp from the morning drive over from Mara Camp, I confess to having a bit of "civilization shock" on seeing a larger camp . . . 10 whole tents!  A separate lounge tent!!  After the smaller 7-tent Rhino Camp and 6-tent Mara Camp, this seemed like a small metropolis.  All camps were only half-full at this time of year, but more people around might stress my limited social skills to the max.  I needn't have worried, as all the guests were friendly and delightful, and the Lion Camp staff continued to demonstrate the excellent personal level of attention that I experienced at the other Porini camps.  We enjoyed a nice outdoor lunch with a few other guests who were not out doing game drives at the moment, and then retired to our tent to get settled in and get our photography gear ready for the next drive.  




I had some concern whether we could actually do an afternoon drive this day, since shortly after lunch the skies opened with one of those Mara downpours.  




But the rain had let up by the time of the afternoon drive (415PM), and we headed off with our guide Meshack and spotter George.  First encounters outside of camp were a couple colorful birds, a violet-backed starling and a malachite kingfisher.  Note - my bird ID book hasn't arrived yet, so take my bird IDs with a grain of salt.  To be error-free, I should probably just identify these as "BIRD".






We came up to our first river crossing of the drive after the afternoon rainstorm, and it took a little time to find a safe place to cross.  A Thompson's gazelle was going through the same decision process as us, running back and forth along the bank, though ultimately we didn't see the gazelle brave the waters.




We eventually made our own crossing, which Meshack negotiated with aplomb, while Harry and I hung onto the vehicle and our camera gear, and continued our afternoon drive through the southern portion of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy.  




This Conservancy is contiguous with the northern border of the Mara Reserve, and the benefits of this arrangement would become very apparent tomorrow.  Soon after the crossing, we found a marsh harrier (which I assume was enjoying all the wet terrain after the afternoon downpour).




Finally, a species that is moving at a pace an old guy like me can follow - fireball lilies.




And another species moving at a stately pace, even in flight - white storks.  I understand these large birds spend their summers in Europe and their winters in Africa.  We came across two large flocks of these birds in the Conservancy. You know how herds of zebra can be happily grazing away at their piece of the savannah and then, for no obvious reason, they all up and run to a different patch of grassland (that looks pretty much the same to us humans)?  These white storks displayed similar behavior, feeding peacefully along the ground, then the flock decides to fly off to another similar patch of ground.  Rinse and repeat.








Between the two stork flocks stood this proud zebra mother with what appears to be a very young foal.  With all the big cats in this part of the conservancy, I hope the foal survives into adulthood.




And yet more white storks from the second flock, doing their stork thing.








This is one of those iconic Mara scenes, a group of wildebeest making their way down a distant hillside.  After another exciting river crossing which put us on the same side as the wildebeest, a smaller subset of this herd raced past our safari vehicle.  Which is when I learned the difficulty of getting an effective panned photo of a running animal.  But it is still fun trying . . . 








Our guide Meshack found an interesting small group of young lions.  The female did not seem old enough to be the mother, so we hypothesized that these must all be siblings.  Which would explain why the younger cub is comfortably asleep next to the subadult male, a situation we probably would not see with an unrelated fully adult male lion.








The high point of this afternoon game drive for me was without question an encounter with a group of seven jackal pups claiming an old termite mound as their new home.  @bettel mentioned this same group in her report.




While the King of the Hill spent most of the time snoozing away, the other six pups kept a pretty alert watch on their surroundings.  Interesting to see how these pups immediately rotated their heads to follow any interesting sounds and sights.  At this age, the ears are roughly the size of the entire pup's head!  Bear with me for all these photos of the pups (and be thankful I am only showing you a fraction of what I shot!).













If you read my previous sections of this trip report, you know I have a thing for banded mongoose, especially when doing their meerkat impressions.






Never pass by a posing kingfisher.  As you can tell by these last couple shots, the clouds had mostly cleared and the sun came out at the very end of the afternoon.






We went looking for Fig the leopard, and found her asleep in a tree.  Not a very good shot, but it was getting to be late dusk at this point.  We also saw Figlet in a different tree, but at that time not much more than a dark silohuette against a slightly-less-dark sky.  All in all, a promising start for our first three hours of game drive in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy.




Day 8 (27 Nov) turned out to be an all-day drive, starting in the Conservancy and spending most of the day it the Mara Reserve, then returning to the Conservancy and camp later in the afternoon.  It is a seamless transition from the Conservancy to the Reserve - no fences, no gates, and no crowds.  Now I realized why the Lion Camp is so popular, and can charge a bit more than the other Porini Camps:  LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  And did I mention there were a few big cats in this area?  


I had hoped to start the day with a good sunrise photo, something I couldn't achieve on the other mornings due to overcast skies.  No luck this morning either, as we had a flat tire to fix and did not leave Lion Camp until shortly after the sun had risen.




But there was a nice consolation prize - a beautiful pair of lions enjoying the morning sun from their perch on a rock outcrop.  According to our guide Meshack, these were a juvenile male and female pair from the Moniko pride.














This time of year, the savannah seemed to abound with Thompson's gazelles, and especially with young gazelle fawns.  A fact that becomes significant later in the day.




Maybe it was the time of year, maybe the time of day in the early morning, or maybe it was the vegetation and associated insect life in this part of the Conservancy/Reserve, but colorful birdlife was also abundant.  We never had to look very hard to find some interesting birds.  I could make this the audience participation section of the trip report and let you do your own bird IDs, but I will venture some guesses here.


Some elegant secretary birds






A pair of superb starlings, with one working to collect material for the nest.  I assume they know which is the male and which is the female; I do not.






And a southern ground hornbill




And you already know that I never pass up lilac breasted rollers.




Even I know enough that this next one is not labelled "BIRD."  A healthy-looking Kirk's dik-dik.




It is interesting to see how quickly the savannah "greens up" after a rainfall.  Definitely makes for some happy grazers.  Having an ample food supply all around them, this group of zebra seemed quite content for the moment to simply run around and celebrate the joy of life with each other.  I believe the technical term for this animal behavior is "frolicking".  Seeing animals who often spend much of their days in a relentless search for food and avoidance of predators, it was refreshing to see this more carefree time for the zebra.  Of course, a trained psychologist would just diagnose my explanation as simply rationalizing away my obsession with photographing zebra. 














Most of this day was spent in the Mara Reserve with various big cats, and so the day is best explained in a series of short vignettes about these cat encounters.  Interspersed with the occasional photos of birds and other interesting critters.  We start with a group of young lions from the Ol Dikidiki pride (according to our guide Meschack),  The lions were not very active and seemed to be mostly interested in trying to nap.










But a nearby lone helmeted guinea fowl was constantly giving an alarm call.  I mean INCESSANTLY - it became the background soundtrack to watching these lions.  Occasionally the lions would glare at the bird and I thought one would actually summon up the energy to chase it off, but that never happened.  Instead, the lions all eventually got up and moved off to a different location.  Interesting interspecies dynamic here.  Possible the guinea fowl might have been protecting a nest?







Our next encounter with was a pair of male lions (Lipstick and Blackie) with one of the females from the Madomo pride.  I think the mating male was Lipstick, but I confess that I did not make careful enough notes to be 100% sure which male was which in this encounter.  Another interesting dynamic here, as the act of mating was enthusiastic but brief, followed by some napping, followed by the male getting in the mood again before the female does.  I must be careful not to over-generalize too much from this one pair of lions.


















The mating lions had another audience besides us




A little avian relief from the felines, first with a few photos of a tawny eagle in flight and then a great egret.










And then we come to my favorites, the cheetahs.  I share the passion of @bettel for these svelte animals.  These two are daughters of Imani.    They started sprinting toward our safari vehicle, though it wasn't obvious to us exactly what prey they were pursuing.  Then both abruptly reversed course, and came to a stop at a warthog burrow.  There was only room for one of the sisters to get her head down into the burrow, but eventually she hauled out a hare!  They ultimately ripped the hare into two parts, and each cheetah went to work on their respective parts of the hare.
















There was a somewhat gruesome ending to this cheetah encounter.  When the cheetahs split the hare into two parts, there was one piece left in the middle.  It turned out that the hare was pregnant, and the fetus was wriggling away on the ground.  That wriggling in the end attracted the attention of one of the cheetah sisters.  




An interlude after the cheetah kill (which, by the way, was not silent) was a small wildebeest crossing.  Not a huge herd, but still exciting to see, in part as one witnesses the indecisiveness of the wildebeest.







Fortunately for the wildebeest, there were no crocodile attacks and the crossing came off without casualties.  Though we did spot a Nile crocodile in the river nearby just a few minutes later; must not have been hungry enough yet.



Late in the morning, we came across Malaika and her two sons, and we spent quite a bit of the afternoon (maybe 4 hours) following these cheetahs and watching them hunt.  An aside here - the guides at the other Porini camps were outstanding, but Meshack here at Lion Camp was a cut above that high bar.  Two reasons why I think he is so good: first, he has an uncanny ability to anticipate where the animals are going NEXT, so frequently we would pull away from their immediate location and wait for them to come to us.  Rarely was he wrong.  Second, Meshack is also an accomplished (and enthusiastic) photographer, so he sees things the way photographers do, thinking in terms of light, background, etc.  He was truly exceptional.

Full-grown cheetahs are beautiful and elegant.  Adolescent cheetahs are much the same, with the added attraction of that extra little ruff of fur on the back of the neck.  I could watch these cats all day (which is pretty much how we spent a large chunk of our day in the Mara).  One advantage of the location of Lion Camp is that you have relatively short transit times to good locations in the Mara.  For some guests, this could mean more time available to cover more ground and see different animals and scenery in the Mara, but in our case it translated to more quality time spent with individual animals or groups of animals.  

















More pictures below of Malaika and her two sons taking a leisurely stroll through the savannah.  They passed close to some possible prey, and made a few half-hearted chases led by mom, but ultimately no kills this afternoon.  And it was not because the teenagers were screwing up the hunt - they followed dutifully behind mom at a reasonable distance.  It just seemed that Malaika never really got out of second gear during her chases.  Not that I am complaining - an afternoon spent with these beautiful animals is about as good as it gets.  










Can't you almost feel the pleasure of this stretch?




I seriously thought this cheetah boy was going to climb into the back seat with Harry!  And of course I was wondering if I could turn around and capture good photos of their encounter. I was also wondering whether our guide Meschack could have anticipated Harry's reaction and move our vehicle so that I would be appropriately positioned to get good pictures of Harry and the pursuing cheetah sprinting TOWARD the camera.  For the photographers in the forum, this was shot at a focal length of 70mm on a DX format camera, so the 35mm equivalent would have been 105mm, the classic Nikon portrait focal length.  



Intimidating nosy tourists on the savannah is tiring work!




We stopped for a much-needed lunch break - watching cheetahs is also tiring.



Near a nice grouping of topi . . .



And found a bird I have never seen before, a Meyer's parrot.  Okay, I should have learned my lesson from multiple mis-identifications in Parts 1 and 2.  BIRD.



The water levels had dropped noticeably after the previous day's rains, but river crossings are always a little exciting, maybe because they represent a geographic boundary marking entry into a new area (at least to us) of the Reserve.



These elephants still seem a bit damp on the underside, so I suspect they were in the stream shortly before we did our crossing.






On the other side of the stream, our guide found us again the two daughters of Imani, resting in the shade.  




I fear she is expressing boredom at seeing us again.  If this wasn't a yawn, then was expressing a different reaction to us.








Eventually the two girls awoke from their nap and ambled to the top of a low rise, checking out possible hunting opportunities.  And then settled back down in a good vantage point by a fallen tree trunk.  






Lots of young Thompson's gazelles in the direction they were looking.




Since the cheetah sisters seemed in no rush to hunt, Meschack moved us ahead of them, on the other side of the gazelle herd.  We then explored a little bit around the banks of a nearby gully, and found another BIRD new to me (wooly-necked stork . . .  maybe).



Okay, I feel my confidence coming back (always a dangerous thing): an African fish eagle keeping a close watch on the stream.  The eagle flew
down and landed on the streambank but came away empty-handed, so flew off to better hunting grounds.







A stately yellow-billed stork.



And a pied wagtail (I hope).



A grey heron taking flight.  These watercourses in the northern Mara turn out to be quite productive for bird life. An advantage of the occasional rains in November is that the savannah is just teeming with life everywhere.




The cheetah girls were still perched by their fallen log, still keeping an eye on the Thompson's gazelles.  And there were certainly LOTS of gazelle fawns bouncing around (I don't know how else to describe the gait of these young ones).



We waited at this spot for a half hour or more, just to see what would develop.  Finally, an alert from Meshack:  "THEY'RE COMING!"  Both cheetahs were running at moderate speed towards the gazelle herd, and diagonally across the front of our Land Cruiser.  I didn't have the sense that they were each pursuing individual prey this early in the chase, but rather that they were simply running into the herd and would then choose a suitable prey animal once they saw how the herd scattered.










Maybe fifty yards away from our vehicle, the two cheetahs diverged in their respective paths, and seemed to kick their pursuit into higher gear.  If these were automobiles, you would say they have a continuously variable transmission - no obvious change in effort to reach higher "gear", but you realize they are now moving at much higher speed.  Okay, the cheetahs seem to possess a turbocharger as well!












This one cheetah has singled out her prey and is pursuing the fawn away from the front of our vehicle.  With one swipe of her paw, the cheetah upends the little gazelle, and shortly thereafter has her jaws clamped on the prey's throat.







Once both cheetahs had their respective kills firmly secured, Meshack slowly edged our vehicle closer.  Clearly some nervous neighbors keeping a close watch on our cheetah.  This was another kill that was not a quiet one, but at this point in the process, the only sound on the savannah was the cheetah panting to catch her breath after the chase.  She did not seem to be in any hurry to begin eating her meal.










By this time, it was approaching 5PM, so we began working our way slowly back to the Conservancy and home at the Lion Camp.  After all the time with lions and cheetahs this day, the drive back was somewhat anticlimatic, except for one nice Kori bustard.




But wait, there were several more significant rewards waiting for us at the end of this long day.  First, a little clue for you . . . 






Yes, Fig the leopard was back in her tree, but she was awake this time, and in daylight as opposed to the dusk of the previous evening.  Technically, "awake" was really an intermittent condition with her.  Only this ST crowd could get excited watching a leopard doze and yawn, but hey, this is FIG we're talking about.









On the way back to camp from our Fig sighting, we passed by this magnificent lone male lion.








We may have missed out on sunrise this morning, but Meshack went to extra effort to find us a good sunset location.  A fitting end to a rather spectacular 12 hours in the Conservancy and the Mara.  Now I definitely understand the appeal of Lion Camp.






I had modest expectations for our final morning at Lion Camp and final day in Kenya (Day 9, 28 Nov).  I was already thrilled with everything we had seen so far, but you never know what surprises Africa will throw at you.  The day started well, as I finally got to see my Mara sunrise.  This is one of the advantages of staying in the private conservancies versus staying in the national parks and reserves, which don't let the guests out before sunrise or after sunset.





What could be better than an iconic Mara sunrise?  How about Fig being wide awake and out of her tree?  If I thought that watching her sleep was moderately fascinating, imagine watching her do her runway model walk!  Gorgeous creature.

















She seemed to be casually looking for breakfast, but the only obvious nearby candidate (a hare) scampered away, and Fig did not pursue.  We left Fig alone so that we would not interfere with her hunting efforts.  A dwarf mongoose also out looking for breakfast.  These seem like they would be an easy prey for eagles, especially as the dwarf mongooses don't appear to live in larger groups with designated "watchers", as the banded mongoose do.



Then Meshack received a report from another guide about a group of lions nearby, with one digging in a warthog burrow.  And here I thought that male lions lived a life of leisure, letting the females do most of the hunting, mating when they had the urge, and fighting off challenges from younger males.  Well, this fellow did not get the memo, as he spent quite a while determinedly digging up this burrow.  With the females of his pride . . . just watching.






Eventually, the sqealing warthog burst from his burrow, and the male lion promptly latched onto the back of the warthog's neck.  The male lion did not instantly kill his prey, as at this point the warthog was still making a fair amount of noise.  Though some of that was because the female lions finally became interested, and several moved in to start feeding on the warthog's hindquarters (while the warthog was still alive).   Not a sound one will soon forget.  The scuffle with the warthog kicked up a fair amount of dirt, which is why these photos seem peppered with lots of small light spots.












The other sound I hear in my mind is the frequent growling and snarling of the lions at each other, as the male sought to protect his kill and the females sought better portions for themselves.  No harm done to any of the lions, but finally the prize was torn into two pieces and the male came away for the front end of the warthog.  Both halves of the warthog were taken down the banks of a small creek, which later furnished the lions with a drink after their meal.


















There must have been some of the back half of the warthog still left, as there was still some visible (and audible) tension between a couple of the remaining female lions.  Or maybe that is just how the pride females dialog with each other after a meal.






By contrast, the little grey-headed kingfisher is a quiet diner . . . 




We finally had our own breakfast after an exciting morning, with Meshack finding us a nice riverside spot with nearby giraffes and hippos, and some attractive little avian company (little bee eater and malachite kingfisher).










 And one final discovery on our drive to the airstrip at Mara North.  We found a male Von de Decken's hornbill repeatedly flying back and forth to a particular tree. On getting closer, it became obvious he was bringing insects to his young tucked away in a hole in the tree.










In the same tree was perched a Bateleur eagle, holding a small rodent in one claw.




With that, we come to our last wildlife sighting, and time to say farewell to George and Meshack.  The ride back to Wilson Airport on AirKenya was uneventful, as was the short "dayroom" stay at the Eka Hotel.  I suspect I am not alone in thinking that JKIA is not a comfortable airport in which to spend a long period of time.








A couple parting thoughts on this trip:


- As you can tell, I was very impressed with the Gamewatchers/Porini operation.  The three camps I visited were all different, but all exceptional in their own way.  The Porini emphasis is on quality gamewatching, which is at it should be.  If this matters, I am already thinking about returning to the Porini camps the same time of year in 2018, either late Nov or early Dec.  I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in this part of East Africa.


- There is one thing I would do differently, though.  I would definitely stay at least one more night at the Lion Camp, now that I know what all that location offers.  For some non-budgetary reason, I thought my wife would not appreciate it if I was gone overseas for too long.  I may be imagining this, but on my return home, her reaction might best be summarized as "Oh, you're back already?".  Lesson learned.

My friend Harry is a quiet retiring sort of guy, so he might not want me ending this trip report with a photo of the back of his head on the return flight to Nairobi.  So I will bow to crowd pressure and instead close with one more shot of our dappled girl in dappled light.




Thanks for reading this 3-part trip report, and I hope it provided some mid-winter relief for our ST readers in the Northern Hemisphere.  I also hope it may be of some value to the person contemplating when and where to do their next safari.



Edited by KCAZ
Deleted excess images at end of report
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Thank you @KCAZ for such an interesting and well presented 3 part trip report. I really enjoyed your photographs and dialogue that accompanied them. If I continue to read trip reports I don’t have a clue how I will find the budget or the time to ever visit my bucket list.

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Thanks for your positive feedback, @Ratdcoops.  I can't help you with the time or budget issues, but am happy to help you build a bigger bucket list for you!


As you no doubt noticed, my trip report included an extra set of photos at the back end of the report.  Most are duplicates of photos that did include in the report, but there are also ones that I uploaded for possible inclusion but ultimately decided not to use them.  Don't know how exactly  I did this (definitely "pilot error" of some kind), but I sent a message to @Game Warden to ask his help in cleaning up my mess.  My bad for making this trip report longer and more confusing than it should have been.

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I really enjoyed the cheetah kill photo series and the male lion digging out the warthog. Such amazing sightings! We were there around the same time but did not have the same luck with the animals, but it would be tough to have a bad time in the Mara :) Thank you for sharing your trip.

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@KCAZ amazing sightings of the hunts! we were there a week ago, and the 7 jackal cubs are down to 6 - but no less delightful in every way! 

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15 hours ago, KCAZ said:

 To be error-free, I should probably just identify these as "BIRD".


@KCAZ Glad to see I'm not the only one who's been to that Birding Identification School...

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18 hours ago, KCAZ said:



Not quite how Disney portrays Timon Simba and Pumba's relationship...


Wow, Lion Camp really delivered on the sightings and kills. Amazing cheetah and leopard images, but that series with the lions at the warthog burrow... super stuff.

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@Game Warden, maybe we can collaborate on a "Bird Identification for Dummies" guide?  I can provide the photos and you can handle the text - BIRD.


I also was amazed at how much we saw at Lion Camp, given that we were only there for one afternoon, one full day, and then one morning.  Impossible for me to tell how much of that was due to the location, how much to the time of year, how much to Meshack's guiding skills, and how much to just plain old luck.  I suspect that Meschack would deliver some great game encounters wherever he was guiding.  Though this is one of the advantages I mentioned in the intro to Part 1, that I was hoping camps with "resident" guides would have valuable local knowledge.  That enabled Meschack to know where the jackal pups were hanging out, where Fig was most likely to be found, where might be a good sunset photo location, etc.

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@Kitsafari, I am sad to know that the group of jackal pups are one less.  They are so adorable.  Most mammals are pretty cute when little (especially young warthogs!), but the jackals are special even into adulthood, probably because of their resemblance to domestic canines.  And watching the jackal behavior in the wild reminds us of how far our dogs have come from their wild condition.  But every now and then, a jackal or hyena or wild dog looks you in the eye and it feels like there is some connection.  Not that I would trust one sleeping on my bed . . .


I am resolved on my next safari to spend more time with the underappreciated animals.  We all love the big cats and wild dogs, but I realized I never spent much time watching giraffes do their thing.  Or hyenas.  Or topi.  I have tended to photograph these animals and then move on, instead of taking the time to understand their behavior better.

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@KCAZ Thanks - super images and a lovely description. I had 4 days at Porini Lion in March last year and thought I'd seen a lot.....

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5 hours ago, Game Warden said:

BTW @KCAZ this topic is waiting for your contributions...



Careful what you wish for, @Game Warden.  Do you really want me posting any more photos until I figure out how NOT to post everything twice?

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Thanks for reading through all this, @pomkiwi.  I am curious how you found the weather at Lion Camp in March.  How was that time of year for seeing young cubs?

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@KCAZ Apologies but I mislead you as it was actually February last year and not March.  I wrote up a trip report here:


To answer your questions. The weather was generally fine although we did have heavy rain on one or two nights. The conservancy was visibly becoming greener during the time I was there having been very dry and it was commented that the 'normal' weather paterns had become unreliable. This was a good thing for us as quite large numbers of animals were following the rain and probably contributed to size of the crossing we saw.


Yes we saw lion cubs - mainly within a single large extended family group (2 males and I think 4 sisters with an assortment of cubs from 18 months down to about 3 weeks). We saw what we think was the introduction of a couple of the youngest cubs to the older cousins:




There are a lot of images of the older cubs in the report.

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That you caught that gazelle up-ended and in midair with the bonus of the cheetah in pretty good clarity too is really something to behold.  Love that shot!  What a great chase and kill sequence overall.


Yes, Olare Motorogi delivers the cats.  Fig remains my favorite cat any time any where (my four-footed housemates excluded), she's a stunner and I swear she knows how to "work it" for a camera.


Interesting that you saw a successful warthog dug out of a hole.  I saw the same thing but not with any success but obviously it sometimes pays off!  A guide somewhere once told me that warthogs are the "last choice" on the menu for cats because the wiry fur isn't very appetizing or easy to get off the body and the meat overall is quite fatty.


I had to go back and confirm those were jackals after I read that they were.  Those enormous ears really made me think they were bat-eared foxes instead!


Thank you for sharing...you've given me something to enjoy as I await my own trip back to the Mara!

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Thanks, @pomkiwi.  I will definitely go back and read your entire report on your trip last February.

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wow wow wow! I loved the gifaffe silouttes but then the warthog/lion sequence was thrilling! we are going to kicheche bush for the same reason-we want to see fig and all those kills by the cats. and all this with 1 night at lion? you are so lucky.

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@KCAZ having just re read this again following our editing discussion, what was your highlight and why? How on earth do you pick something that stands out when it seemed everything stood out? 


That cheetah hunt series, superb...



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I am pretty sure those pups with the huge ears were jackals, @amybatt, as mama jackal was nosing aroung behind the termite looking for something to eat. 


I went back and reviewed my photos of that cheetah hunt.  Unfortunately, I hadn't reacquired framing and focus at that moment the paw swipe upended the little gazelle.  What is interesting is that the frame taken a split-second later (wish I had been shooting at a higher frame rate) shows the fawn having just landed and now FACING the cheetah.  Probably not a sight the gazelle fawn wanted to see.

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Really enjoyed reading you report and when you submit your 2018 ST you should have no problems on BIRD names. For us Rhino, Lion and Cheetah are for another visit and probably Amboseli. 

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I hope you have a good visit to Kicheche Bush camp, @plambers; it is in the same part of the Conservancy as Lion Camp, and we often shared our Fig sightings with Kicheche vehicles.   I remember that their guests always seemed to have a glass of champagne in their hands!


To clarify, we had two nights at Lion Camp, with a 3-hour game drive on the afternoon of arrival, a full 12-hour day in the Conservancy and adjacent Reserve, and then a 5-hour drive on departure day.  I sure cannot complain about how much we saw in those 20 hours of game viewing time.

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Okay, @Game Warden, you have to stop with these homework assignments.  I may have to go on vacation again just to escape from all these post-vacation duties!


Good but tough question on THE highlight of the trip.  For Rhino Camp, it was the solo wild dog and the relative isolation of that camp.  For Mara Camp, it was definitely the wet lion cubs, plus the comfortable vibe of that camp.  From a combination of layout, staff, and the other guests when we were these, Mara Camp would be a great place to sit out some bad weather days.  For Lion Camp, the highlights were the jackal pups, the cheetah kills by the Imani daughters, and the lion-warthog kill.  And of course Fig.



This will sound corny, but after two months reflection on this trip, my favorite time was actually the four hours spent with Malaiki and her two sons, following along with them through the savannah and watching several unsuccessful hunts.  They are such elegant animals that any time spent with them is quality time.  Heck, an old overweight cheetah drinking beer and watching football on TV would still be elegant.  I really enjoyed just being out there, at the right time and place, seeing what would develop with these cheetahs, letting them decide our itinerary for those couple hours.  It helped that Harry, Meshack, and George were all cool with this more patient approach, not rushing off to see if something more interesting might be lurking behind the next treeline.  This time might be more memorable for me precisely because it was inconclusive, not ending in a kill.  Maybe it is simple as four hours appreciating the sights, sounds and smells of the Mara created more memories for me than a few action-packed minutes of a big cat kill.  Sometimes the images etched most strongly in my memory are of the photographs not taken. 


Now back to our regularly scheduled programing . . .  

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@KCAZ I really like the reflection on the most rewarding part of your time at Porini Lion. On my stay it was also a morning that involved Malaika and her boys. However we were spending time waiting for a crossing of the Mara  and Jackson & Christopher correctly felt it would be a while before it occurred. They took of us to see the cheetahs, Mum was resting and the boys chasing and tree climbing. After 30 minutes or so we went back to the river and waited watching things build until the crossing happened.  As you comment the moments of stillness were as memorable as the moments of action.

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Thanks for the vote of confidence, @CDL111.  I visited Amboseli in Sept 2016 as part of my first package safari tour, but I'm pretty sure that Porini would do a much better job of it.  Lots of birdlife attracted by the permanent springs down there.



On further reflection on my situation and that of the other birding-challenged folks out there, I realized that titling our book "Bird Identification for Dummies" might be seen as insulting to our potential audience (starting with the book's co-authors).  @Game Warden and I needed a title that is more honest and non-threatening but still appealing to our audience in a retro, hipster sort of way.  And then the new book title came to me, almost like hearing a song in my head - BIRD IS THE WORD.  Text and crayon bird illustrations by @Game Warden and @KCAZ.

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:) Which of us is Peter, which is Brian and just who is Stewie?

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