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just us and another Serian vehicle carrying two very nice gentlemen from Germany hung around, admiring the lions in the setting sun rays and a cloudy sunset. 



we decided to check on the hyena den. We had been there twice before but saw mainly 2-3 adults and subadults with little activity. all the cubs were hiding. this time though, the cubs were out sleeping just outside the den. a tiny tot popped in and out of the den. a young sub-adult returned to the den, and the cubs were suddenly full of energy and started to play. It was a great entertaining time, just watching these cubs play. The other Serian vehicle didn't stay long so they missed the fun, but they did catch a large group of hyenas fighting over an impala kill.

Hyenas have had such a bad rap for being a scavenger and stealing other predator's kills, but they are very well capable of hunting themselves. and they are IMO very adorable, intelligent, unique and individual creatures. I love how they canter and trot with the gait their bodies were built for. it was a bewitching hour just watching how relaxed they were. 









being such curious animals, the young ones just couldn't resist checking the tyres to see if they were good to eat. 

(filmed with my android mobile)




the day was almost over and we had to head out to camp. En route, Serian's young manager Angus (who happened to be Emily's brother, @SafariChick -i'm sure you recall Emily who picked the flowers for our valentine's bouquets in Nkorombo!) called in on the shy male leopard. 

he was sitting on a mound but the light was fading and I cranked up the ISO or lighting on my bridge and obtained not so great pics of him, but nevertheless better than none, I say. 

When we were at Kicheche, we asked our guide also called James to check if this male was Olare, Fig's son who went independent and who had relocated to MNC. He took a close look and decided it wasn't Olare. 




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@Kitsafari you were far braver with that snake than I would have been.  I'd have been packed and back in the departure lounge in Nairobi in the time it took you to get your camera!  Didn't you have a late night encounter with a snake there on the way to the loo when you were there before?  Given that snakes are my #1 phobia (and my only phobia) I will say that gave me pause.  So far, knock wood, I've not seen a single snake on safari!


Lovely lioness sighting.  They look so regal.

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A lovely hyena sequence. They are fascinating animals, and the babies are very cute.

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15 hours ago, amybatt said:

@Kitsafari you were far braver with that snake than I would have been.  I'd have been packed and back in the departure lounge in Nairobi in the time it took you to get your camera!  Didn't you have a late night encounter with a snake there on the way to the loo when you were there before?  Given that snakes are my #1 phobia (and my only phobia) I will say that gave me pause.  So far, knock wood, I've not seen a single snake on safari!


Lovely lioness sighting.  They look so regal.

That was me who had the late night encounter with the snake on the way to the loo at Serian!!

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@Kitsafari yes I certainly do remember Emily and we are friends on Facebook too. That was so sweet of her to gather flowers for us at our husband's behest!  You've done very well with your photos, I'm impressed with the birds! And those hyenas are so cute!

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@amybatt you remembered well but it was stoic Jane who saw and photographed that python and didn't freak out. Me - I would have refused to sleep in that tent! or at least locked every zipper opening just in case it tried to squeeze its way through. 


Thanks  all for the kind comments. 


We wanted to spend a full day out in the bush, with the plan to go deep into the national reserve to search for the musketeers. The last we had heard was Bettel's last trip that they were in the Mara Triangle. But it appeared that they had crossed the Talek River and were now closer to the border with Tanzania - that's far south! 

However there was a massive barrier. SInce the first day we arrived, the skies had been pouring buckets of rain every evening and night. The paths were so wet, hubby and I would always arrive for dinner in rubber boots (we did that in Kicheche as well  - it was a very practical thing to provide in Serian's room, and indeed in Kicheche's room as well, since we would then keep our shoes dry). The rains were supposed to be short and quick but these were unseasonally and extremely wet. it had followed an unseasonal drought that had left the Masai people's cattle looking thin. so the rains were a welcome relief, and kept the grasses green, and in the reserve unfortunately, high. 

James had warned us repeatedly that we could not cross the Talek river as it was swollen with water and currents were very strong, but I remembered my last fruitful stay into the reserve also in the same month of that year, so I was still keen to venture into the reserve.

With his warning ringing in our ears, we were going to spend the day in the reserve. As it would be a long drive, we agreed to leave at 7.30am after breakfast. Roisin informed us that they were going to have breakfast in the bush at 10, and said we should join the breakfast and get into the reserve thereafter. It sounded a pleasant option. so we packed only lunch along


Early morning and a yellow billed stork perched high in the tree on the opposite bank of our tent. 




thereafter it was a very quiet affair before, during and after breakfast in the bush, with some birds and of course, another dik dik in attendance. 











and then we were on our way to the reserve. It took about 45mins to an hour of a slow drive to Musiara Gate where James would do the documents (such as showing proof of payment; the park fees were part of our package to stay in Serian) to enter in the reserve.

The surroundings around the route to the gate looked changed. It was around this area that the Masai people had moved to when the private conservancies were created. This time, there were newer and shinier and nicer looking homes, there were more cattle roaming and grazing in the area. We passed by a town which supplied groceries and necessities to the various camps in the greater Masai Mara. I forgot to check the name of the town but James pointed out the new school and medical clinic that were funded with income from eco-tourism in the various conservancies. 




we reached the familiar Musiara gate. There was a pen next to the gate and there was a lot cattle in there, seized by the rangers for illegally encroaching into the reserve land. there are no fences between the national reserve and the conservancy but there are concrete markers which we saw a few of. 

The new rangers have become tougher on illegal encroaching, and that includes safari vehicles from the various conservancies. This has brought to a complete halt to past practices where safari vehicles could cross into the reserve for short periods of time without paying any park fees. If caught, the vehicles are fined US$160 - i hope i got that figure right. for the cattle, the owners would have to stump up a big sum, but James said the sale of one cattle would easily cover that fine. 




map of the Masai Mara National Reserve - courtesy of Musiara Gate's wall. 



cattle waiting to be freed




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And we were in. We were heading to the Musiara Swamps where James thought there would be some birds. Some of the roads were in bad shape given the rains and soft soil. In particular, the stretch of roads to the Governor's group of camps and along those camps were in pretty bad shape scarring the roads which were apparently just recently graded. 



I had hoped to see the main Marsh pride, remembering that on my last trip, the first main thing we came across was the pride with cubs feasting on a kill. This time, it was mainly in the tree line that we saw more animals - mainly elephants - lots of them with baboons, bandied mongoose. hippos were enjoying the more water in the river. 







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James mentioned that we had crossed back into Mara North, which confused me a little but it appeared we were in the far south-western side of MNC that edged into the reserve. and it dawned on me how close the reserve was to the conservancy and how the Leopard Gorge Marsh pride-breakaway group could cross the border so easily.

A buffalo had been killed by lions and we were on our way to the sighting. oddly, it wasn't crowded at all and i think there was only a handful of vehicles there. A young male lion was guarding the kill jealously against a horde of vultures and hyenas keeping an eye out for a chance to nip at the dead buffalo. He looked far ahead, and decided he needed shade and a rest. The minute he walked off, the scavengers dived in, but looking up every few seconds to watch for the lion. 




what was exciting about the lion is that he is one of 6 young males from the Marsh pride. If they all survive, they'll be a huge coalition and a super force to reckon with in a year or two. I think the Mara will be have a very interesting time in lion dynamics for the next few years to come. 

There were only 5 at the scene; it wasn't clear where the sixth was. It was also fascinating to see how the male lions took turns to guard the buffalo. as the first lion headed for the shade, a second male stood up and walked to the carcass. after a short time, he too returned to the shade and a third lion took up duty to protect the carcass.










The other four resting in the shade.







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And then, it was downhill from then on. aside from birds, Paradise Plains looked empty of game. the grasses were high - about a metre high - so only elephants and giraffes could be seen. There was not even any grazers - no antelopes, no buffalos, no zebras - it was as if the animals had followed the wildebeests out of the reserve. James said once the wildebeest were gone, the reserve was usually quiet. It was not that bad the last time I was here, but I could see the emptiness on the plains. Not much of a paradise but I supposed the rains had dispersed the animals widely and the tall grasses were no help at all. 

James drove a long long way to bring us to the crossing at Talek River but the river was roaring and churning and there was not a chance of trying to cross over. He wanted to show us to ensure we would understand why we could not see the musketeers. and that put an end to my wish to see the super five. 

Not much of note to say except that as we were returning to Musiara gate, we took the eastern road closest to the conservancies and there the animals had congregated and had shorn the area to short grasses. 

It was a very long drive and we came back rather deflated.

But we did see the 5 lions, and we did see a few new birds, among which - the yellow-throated longclaw, a first for me and a nice foil to the rosy throated longclaw. 







and a frisky stallion trying to make babies




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It was our last morning drive in MNC. A Kicheche vehicle was coming into camp to pick us up at 11am so we still have time to go exploring the beautiful conservancy. I still think MNC is more beautiful in terms of landscape than Olare Motorogi where we would be heading next. The vast 30,000 ha conservancy has such a variety of landscape and scenery. I've heard about how crowded it can get, given that there are nine camps in the conservancy. A ratio of one bed to 350 acres is applied and in a conservancy as vast as MNC, I honest didn't feel our sightings felt crowded. 


Once again, a cloudy morning and the sun was trying to break through some grey clouds on the horizon. Two very young male lions greet us. these were two of the three sub adult male lions who are siblings to the Serian-C&P females. They had gone into the Mara Triangle but it didn;t look like it worked out for them, and two were back, staying quiet and together. 




we then headed out to see if the hyena cubs were up and active, but the cold morning air kept some of the cubs in the den. 







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we were back with the Marsh pride again. they looked bloated - another good hunt over the night. they were walking to the edge of a hill, attracting attention from jackals, gazelles and an elephant as they marched in a single file, regal and confident of themselves as uninvincible at the top of the food chain.









then it was time to turn back for the last time to Serian Main camp. We had a wonderful stay and a fabulous time with Roisin and her staff, as well as the other guests in the camp (there was a family of three Americans and after they had left, the two German gentlemen were the only other guests). Mara North was as lovely as I had remembered. Definitely a place to return to when I'm in need of an overload of the big cats and animals. 



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Ah, Kit, we just got back from Kenya this week (including MNC and Olare Motorogi — at Kicheche Bush also), so your report definitely tugs at the heart. I’m “home”sick already, and your report is like a comforting letter from a familiar place. Looking forward to savoring more. 

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@Alexander33 what a lovely expression - thank you. I can't wait to hear all about your trip.  Get cracking! I've still got 3 more nights to cover n haven't got round to it because of work. 

Who guided you at KBC?

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time to squeeze in one instalment before I get tied down at work. 


The drive from Serian camp in MNC to Kicheche Bush Camp was an estimated 2-hour drive. We would head south towards the Musiara gate, then turn eastwards along the border between MNC and Masai Mara National Reserve where the Masai villages were relocated and settled.

We would then cross two rivers - Olare Orok and the Ntiakatek Rivers. The southern side of Olare Orok forms the broder between the 2 conservancies, while the Ntiakatek (which I never could pronounce!) river is in MNC, and is where Mara Plains and Kempinski camps are located by. 

As mentioned earlier, we had heavy rains in MNC every night, and presumably in OMC. On the day that we were in the national reserve, @KI-NRT and his wife were driven from Ngare in MNC to Mara Plains. we had heard they couldn't cross the Olare Orok and had to wait until the water levels dropped. On the day we were being transferred, the Olare Orok was passable but the Ntiakatek river was not.



The Masai cattle had suffered from a drought and little fodder but with the rains, they would have bounced backDSC01987.thumb.JPG.f82b0b7181cf683c96a80d72f21a5e83.JPG

New Masai houses


The plan was to drop us off at Mara Plains and use a public footbridge to get across to KBC. When I had stayed in Mara Plains,the Ntiakatek river had looked like a stream and only a small stream of water was flowing. Imagine my shock when I saw the swollen river, boiling and churning. it was impassable by a car. so we used the wooden bridge across the river where another Kicheche vehicle awaited us. 

Because of this, it took a little longer but we made it to the camp and learned that Darren and Emma had stolen away for a holiday, exhausted by a Paul Goldstein's photography safari which had just ended that morning. The relief manager was Peter who is a guide/tour operator/manager in Kenya. 


Kicheche Bush Camp is quite a beloved camp of many ST-ers. It is due for an upgrade and the managers know it. the tents are all being replaced and about time too. We stayed in one of the older ones - although comfortable, there were a few things that can be improved. the zips to the bedroom could not zip down all the way; the outside tent had a big tear that a hyena could easily get through; the shower was trickling and one day while I was showering, it stopped altogether. but there were cool things also in the tent - Peter and the housekeepers managed to get us a small bench for the water basin which was too high for short people like us, and they got me a hard mattress somehow somewhere that was perfect for a good sleep; there were two wardrobes for his and hers; the charging of batteries and phones could be done in the room; and there was a small tank of cool water in your room that you could top up your water any time, and a bird guide in your room too!


the zebras and buffaloes would come through the camp in the night. I could hear them walking by. and so did the hyenas.

so all in all - it was a great camp to stay in.DSC03096.thumb.JPG.76d727f30a2ecff5282e7527bfc7780a.JPGDSC03097.thumb.JPG.494d3658ce7d99cc6e9defcb0b499537.JPG

the cool water tank




lunch was always under the trees. it was incredible how they managed to have beautiful fresh flowers supplied from Nairobi and kept them so fresh



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we are returning to the mara this june with our teens and staying at all kicheche camps. we start at k mara, where we have stayed before, then to valley and then bush. any idea when the tents are being replaced? will it be during the rainy season? i am sure the wildlife will be amazing but i also like my creature comforts. am glad it is being updated.

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@Kitsafari  Just read all your report in one go, a perfect activity while recovering (still) from influenza! As always, you write beautifully and your photos are superb. The sequence of the young lions jumping across the stream is just lovely. And what a gorgeous leopard - those pale green eyes! I do agree that hyenas get a bad press and are under-rated. I love them, such fascinating creatures. There's an excellent feature in the current BBC Wildlife mag which looks at their misrepresentation and apparently they are so intelligent they outperform chimpanzees in some cognitive challenges!    Lovely Rosy-throated longclaw pics - I remember seeing my first one in the Mara. Such a gorgeous bird. I stayed at Kicheche Mara exactly the same time of year as your trip for a week long 'safari skills' course which was fun, but rather soggy at times. Looking forward to the rest of your report when work allows you to get back to it.

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That tent looks suspiciously like Mbuni, but they all look the same to me. If so you are incorrect. The hole is not big enough for a hyena.... it is big enough for a honey badger, mongoose or genet and was probably made by my wife for that purpose. ;)  Mbuni is in banded mongoose territory.


Yes they are pretty old now - 2007 or something. The "ante-tent" never seemed actually designed to be animal proof - just vaguely animal resistant. Part of the charm - as was the slight scruffiness, but all things must end.


Surprised about the shower though - the plumbing is much more recent, although Mbuni (if it is she) got a rigged up plumbing system before any other tents I think - as a test run and it's always seemed a bit dodgy - knowing the room boy is usually a shout away during the day and a torch flash away after dark was/is another part of the charm (and I have always known it wouldn't be charming for everyone). Still, tsk. tsk. I hope the staff were suitably shamefaced.   @plambers You should be among the first occupants of the new tents - unless something goes wrong. 


Shame you missed the dog - man, it's cute.



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A good Olare sighting, @Kitsafari - good to see him again! 


Cats, cats and more cats - Wow!!!

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@pault-hope you are right! my kids are also excited to meet the resident dog. 



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@plambers two tents were replaced before we were there but as we wanted to be close to the main tent, we got the old one ,which is not Mbuni as @pault presumed. It was Kombo, but I would have welcomed banded mongoose in my tent any time, but probably not a badger!


But it will all be moot because I suspect when you get there in June Plambers, all the six tents will be replaced by brand news ones. the plan was to replace all over the next few months. the camp is closed in April to May every year so they have plenty of time to update the camp.  


I was told the JRT dog was very cute so I was disappointed to to have seen it. But hopefully you will get to see the cat in the kitchen, which I heard but did not have a chance to see. The staff told me the cat has been there for a couple of years. Im not sure if they were pulling my legs, but I am 100% sure I heard the cat calling. I really regretted not taking time to see the proof of a cat. 

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KBC is located within a sparse acacia woodland that attracts plenty of birds. we would pass through a beautiful valley filled with zebras busy grazing on the gentle hill slopes to get to the plains near Porini on a number of game drives. 

the first afternoon drive started as a sedate affair. birds were the first order - we found a yellow-billed oxpecker riding for free on our roof. James didn't believe me when I told him there was a bird on the roof as the car was driving through the valley, but the minute he stuck his head out, the oxpecker flew off. I think from that moment, i gained his trust a little more. 




white bellied male bustard who was trying to court a femaleDSC01995.thumb.JPG.2ef7fa2c40f464c9e65e5cca6b30fb9f.JPG

black-winged ploverKBC3-1.thumb.JPG.9303322d5591de51bcc49a82e6d8b327.JPG




temminck's courser


 But things started to look up - we were heading to where a couple of cheetahs were found. and very unusually, a pair of sisters about 2.5 years old who have been together ever since they left their mother. These are the Amani's daughters who became independent sometime in August last year. Herman had seen them as young cubs in MNC in June 2016. It was great to see them healthy and strong. given the high death rate among cheetahs - I hope they remain as they are. what a long way they have come. 


the following were from Herman in June 2016 in MNC when the girls were still with Amani:Ngare-29.thumb.JPG.9e985e18db22502c3577e6043a4b5f2c.JPGNgare-30.thumb.JPG.12fbc1e851a3dec77e939e6d1e856940.JPGNgare-31.thumb.JPG.b05bf4fe3e6198d1afd37de5b3deb63e.JPG




and here they were in January 2018: 






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the girls were hungry but there were few prey and those which were around were aware and wary. they sat down and we figured they weren't going anywhere real soon. so off we went to see another Big cat. Lions.


This was the Dik dik pride. according to my notes - this is a 17-lion strong pride with 5 mothers and 11 sub-adults of varying ages, including a male sub-adult who looked like he could be kicked out very soon. Indeed, the young male came sauntering back to the pride and greeted the younger cubs. But soon he sat up and stared in my direction. he seemed to look just beyond me, behind our vehicle, and he stood up and started walking purposefully towards me. I have to admit, I started feeling apprehensive then and shrank back into my seat and shook my camera, but he passed close behind the vehicle. what did he see? 






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It was a mother warthog and two tiny babies. They were running towards the lions, but sensing something amiss, the mother stopped several times, then ran to and fro trying to decide if she should continue running towards the lions. I was pretty sure she could see the female lions getting up and coming closer even as the young male chose to hide in a bush. But the warthog seemed confused and made the mistake of running alongside where the lions were. A lioness gave chase, and it was all over for one baby in a minute. 



The hyenas had hoped for a free snack but once they started cackling and calling, the rest of the pride rose up and ran towards the hyenas, which promptly dispersed. But the lioness kept her prize, refusing to share. 


The hunt had just begun. 

The terrified warthog mum and remaining baby raced off, away from the lions up the hill as they could go. One persevering lioness was not about to give up. she trotted off following the warthogs, and we followed suit, bypassing the stalking lioness and caught up with the warthog mum, but she made the fatal mistake of stopping at the top of the hill. once again she vaccillated between directions, changing each time she stopped. the fear and panic must have gripped her as the baby followed her every move. by then the lioness had closed the gap. and then she was off running. 




It was only after we got closer to her that I realised she looked blinded in one eye. 




she carried the warthog baby to where the pride was, and the hyenas were back to harass her. as we watched her, we didn't realise the skies had suddenly turned dark and the rain began. we had to close up the vehicle but to do so, we had to leave just as the hyenas surrounded her! talk about lousy timing. we learned from a couple also staying at KBC that,after returning from closing up the vehicle, they found the hyenas with the carcass. 




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