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Those Poor Animals – A Family Safari in Kenya


foggy27
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Our family (my wife, myself, and our two adult daughters) has been back from an amazing safari in Kenya for a while now.  I intended to write a trip report upon return, but kept putting it off.  Time flies, and almost six months passed after we got home.  I might as well get started.  To whet the appetite, we witnessed the celebrated Malaika cheetah in action a month before her untimely demise.

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Background

Although we traveled many times around the world as a family before our two daughters went to college, I would characterize ourselves as mainstream tourists.  While we certainly enjoy natural wonders, our primary interest has always been historical and cultural.  If I was to complete a travel survey and to answer what we would be “mad about”, the immediate response would probably be “ancient ruins”.  We are not outdoor fanatics, and we do not even own a pet.  I certainly did not expect us to be addicted to safari in Africa.

 

In 2016, I was traveling to Johannesburg on business.  That was a good opportunity to check off an item on the bucket list.  My wife joined me, and we had our first safari (mainly in South Africa) after my business meeting completed.  Needlessly to say it was a total success.  We enjoyed it so much that I started planning our second safari almost immediately.

 

Planning Phase

This time we wanted to go to East Africa, either Kenya or Tanzania.  A friend of ours expressed interest to join us for their first safari, and they indicated a strong interest in Kenya.  That helped us to narrow it down to Kenya and get started on research.

 

The first decision: time of the year.  Kenya has a (maybe somewhat deserved) reputation for crowding in the migration season.  With that in mind, it was decided to travel in Jan/Feb timeframe.

 

We reached out to a few travel agents.  Bill Given at the Wild Sources came up with a unique proposal: to stay at Enaidura Camp in the Mara Reserve, and have Ping (one of the top guides in Mara) guiding us.  In addition, Ping has some special arrangements with selected camps in the conservancies to take guests there on full-board basis, without using their resident guides.  Now even with just one safari under our belt, it was clear to us that the success of a safari depends largely on guiding.  I jumped on the idea, and Bill was very responsive in answering my questions.  An itinerary was quickly settled.

 

Our friends could not commit, but we succeeded in recruiting our two daughters to join us.  Both were at the early stage of their career, and had absolutely no idea what to expect from a safari.  My wife and I were excited to have them.  We had not traveled together as a family since their high school days.

 

Itinerary

01-28   Arriving Nairobi, 2 nights at Eka Hotel

01-29   Nairobi Day: Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum

01-30   Fly to Nanyuki, 3 nights at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp

02-02   Fly to Mara Naboisho, 3 nights at Encounter Mara, guided by Ping

02-05   Road transfer to Mara Reserve, 4 nights at Enaidura Camp, guided by Ping

02-09   Fly to Nairobi

 

Preparation

As this is our second safari, we were quite relaxed while preparing for the trip.  The Wild Source did a great job in guiding us along the way, from E-Visa to packing list.  Of course, we kept an eye on the news of Kenyan election.  There was some isolated violence, and it did not bother us.  We were aware of the remote possibility that it could escalate to the point of instability, but that was the trip insurance there for.

 

My wife and I did spend some time to help our daughters to set the expectation.  They compiled a short wish list:

 

-        Four of Big Five: elephant, buffalo, lion and rhino

-        Three iconic African animals: giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest

-        If lucky: one of the spotted cats (leopard or cheetah)

-        Anything else is bonus

 

The goal seemed realistic.  I was confident that they would not be disappointed.

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I will go through our time in Nairobi quickly and move on to the proper safari part of the trip. 

 

Our international flight was on time.  At JKIA, we were met by the representative from Safaritrails. the local operator.  It was evening time, and the weather was comfortable.  The transfer to Eka hotel was quick and smooth.  After 24 hours on the road, we were very tired and fell asleep easily.

 

Day 0

After a late wake-up and good breakfast, we were picked up by Safaritrails for a full day of activities in Nairobi.

 

The first stop: Noon time public viewing at David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  There are many reports on this wonderful event and I am not going to add much.  The pictures speak for themselves.

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The second stop: Giraffe Center.  One can get really close to the endangered Rothschild's giraffe.  We found the on-site exhibit on giraffe informative and educational.  Now my daughters were really looking forward to seeing the reticulated and Mara giraffe in the wild later in the trip.

 

Side note: This is where we first heard of the term “Ugly 5” from an informational sheet.  It refers to hyena, wildebeest, warthog, vulture and the marabou stork.  It is not very meaningful, but fun nevertheless.  My daughters added that to their wish list to see on safari.

 

The third stop: Karen Blixen Museum.  A nice diversion from animal themed attractions.

 

The fourth stop: Late lunch at Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden.  We were a little apprehensive that meals on safari would be meat centric, and took the opportunity to feast on fish and vegetables while in the city.  The food was excellent.

 

The last stop: 5pm foster parent viewing at David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  This was a more intimate event, and we had a chance to chat with some dedicated keepers.  The stories of these orphans were both sad and uplifting.

 

Quote from my daughters: “Poor baby elephants, growing up with no Mom”.

 

It was an enjoyable way to spend the first day in Nairobi.  We were now rested, and ready for the main event of the trip.

 

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Good for your daughters to add the ugly 5.   Your daughter is also correct about the orphaned eles, but at least the ones in Sheldrick have good care.  In the first pic of the cheetah, what is in the background?  Doesn't look like real vehicles, almost something like toys.  Please shed some light on what that is.

 

How wonderful you had a family safari together!

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Day 1

We were picked up by Safaritrails vehicle for the transfer to Wilson.  The traffic was slow, with police road blocks.  The driver informed us that the opposition leader was to swear in that day as “president” in an unofficial inauguration.  That was a surprise.  Although we had been following Kenyan election for a while, we were under the impression that the drama was over.

 

Under the circumstances, the security was understandably tight.  It was good that our hotel was close to Wilson, and we got to the airport with time to spare.  Our flight was on time.  Duma, the head guide at Ol Pejeta Bushcamp, met us at Nanyuki Airport to take us to the camp.  He would be guiding us for the next three days.

 

Road Transfer to Ol Pejeta Bush Camp

The road from Nanyuki to Ol Pejeta Conservancy gate was paved.  Once past the gate, it was basically a game drive.  Duma made frequent stops, as he knew it was the first safari for my daughters.

 

Thompson’s gazelle was a first for us.  It is not found in Southern Africa.

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My daughters were thrilled to see Zebra.  It was good to check off the first item on their short wish list.

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Impala was my wife’s favorite antelope species.  When we got back from our first safari, we were frequently asked what our favorite animals were.  We honestly could not answer the question.  Each sighting of big cat and elephant was a highlight.  On the other hand, it was easier to name our favorite antelope: impala for her, and bushbuck for me.  Impala is unquestionably beautiful.

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We also saw some baboon, Grant’s gazelle, warthog, and a glimpse of shy eland.  It was mid-day and I did not take many pictures.  The light was harsh.

 

Duma spotted two white rhinos in the distance.  It was a mother and her daughter.

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The rhinos were on their way to have a drink.  White rhinos are more placid than black rhinos.   These two were very calm, and allowed us to get close.

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We were happy to have great sightings before we even reached our camp.

 

Ol Pejeta Bushcamp

On the way to camp, Duma told us we would be the only guests at the camp during our 3-day stay.  It was a nice bonus for traveling in low (or shoulder?) season.

 

The camp is nicely located on the bank of Ewaso Nyiro River.  Alex Hunter, the owner of the camp, was away in Nairobi when we arrived.  The staff treated us with cold drink, warm welcome, and a nice lunch with lots of fresh vegetables.  Afterwards, we were taken to our tents for a rest before the afternoon game drive.  From our tent veranda, we had a nice view across the river, and a herd of waterbucks coming to the river.

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Eager to read this report as we will be this February with Ping at Einadura also! I'm curious as to how you found the Mara in February. (And on our last Mara trip we did the Einadura/Encounter Mara combo with Ping also...although that was September...so it will be nice to re-visit!)

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Thanks for this trip report @foggy27 - I am enjoying reading it and look forward to more.   Sorry your safari coincided with political gamesmanship but it sounds like it was not a big issue.

 

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@Atravelynn Agreed that the elephants at Sheldrick Orphanage are the lucky ones.  As for the ugly five,  my daughters already knew two of them from Disney version of the Lion King: hyena the villain and Pumbaa the warthog.  It is  interesting that they grow fond of all five species in the end, ugly or not.

 

The vehicles in the cheetah photo are definitely real, not toy.  They do look funny in the picture, but I cannot recall anything out of ordinary at the sighting.

 

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@janzin It was your earlier trip report that got me interested in Enaidura.  We owe you (and this forum in large) for helping us in planning a great family safari.

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@offshorebirder Thanks.  Politics is politics.  It was merely a minor inconvenience for us the tourist.  We did not hear anything about it afterwards once we got into the "safari bubble".  But I do feel bad for the wonderful Kenyan people.

 

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Day 1 Afternoon Game Drive

We met Duma at the lounge area at 4PM for our first proper game drive.  Noticing that one of my daughters was having motion sickness from the bumpy flight in the morning, Duma proposed to have a relaxed drive along the river.  We agreed.  It was still very hot, and we thought it a good idea to introduce our daughters to safari gently.  Well it turned out to be one of the most action-packed drive.

 

The drive started slowly, and we spent quite a bit of time watching baboons, while having fun in learning the collective nouns for animals.  Ha, it was a troop of baboons, not a herd.

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It was quite entertaining, as there was non-stop interaction among baboons.  While explaining baboon behaviors, Duma stated plainly that he hated baboon.  It was a little odd, but we were too polite to ask at the time.  This was still out first drive, and we would ask him later.

 

Bushbuck is a shy animal.  I only had a glimpse of it in our previous safari, and it stayed as my favorite antelope.  I was pleasantly surprised to see one in the open plain.

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A hoopoe.

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The pace picked up quickly from this point.  First, a rather skittish buffalo that quickly disappeared into the bush.

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It soon became clear why the buffalo was skittish.  Duma spotted a tawny eagle not very far from the buffalo sighting.  With the rapid (and sad) decline in vulture population, tawny eagles were filling the vacancy as the main predator-on-the-kill spotter.  Two male lions were guarding a buffalo kill.

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Quote from my daughters: “Poor buffalo”.  It was good that they did not feel (at least not overtly) squeamish at the sight.

 

Duma estimated the kill to be about 2 days old.  He did not know about it, since he just reported to work after a well-deserved break.  No other vehicle was in sight.  This part of the conservancy was not crowded at all.

 

My daughters were very lucky on their first game drive.  Thank you, tawny eagle.

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Day 1 Afternoon Game Drive (Continued)

With full belly, the lions were not doing much.  We decided to move on.  Believe it or not, the next sight was equally thrilling: a crash of black rhinos.  We stayed at a respectful distance in silence.  Black rhinos are shyer and more aggressive than white rhinos.  They could charge if vehicles got too close.

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Oops, the rhino spotted us and started running away.

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After the rhino disappeared in the bush, we spent some time watching this elegant male waterbuck.

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Next up: a more relaxed herd of buffaloes.

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Day 1 Afternoon Game Drive (Continued)

By any measure, it was a productive first day on safari.  We saw three out of the Big Five, male lions on kill, both black and white rhinos.  On the way back to camp, Duma was telling my daughters how lucky they were when he made a sudden stop.  He looked through his binoculars for some time before muttering that we were the luckiest guests.  Duma had just spotted something special, although we could not see anything at the time.

 

It was his namesake, cheetah.  In Swahili, “Duma” is cheetah.

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As we got closer, we could see it was a coalition of two cheetah brothers.  Please excuse the high ISOs.  The light was almost gone.

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The cheetahs were a little nervous because a troop of baboons was nearby.

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Suddenly the male baboon charged and chased the cheetahs away.  It happened so fast that I did not capture it with my camera.  To prove what we witnessed, I stole a picture from my daughter.  It is nice to have someone young on the team, with sharper eyes and faster fingers.

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My wife and I had read reports of baboons intimidating cheetahs, but my daughters were really surprised.  Cheetah is a feared predator, while baboon is just a “kind of monkey”, right?  How come the table was turned?

 

It was then Duma told us a horrible story that happened not long ago.  A female cheetah hid her cubs and went hunting.  While the mother was away, a male baboon flushed out the cubs, killed them, and ate them.  We were shocked.  Baboons are omnivores, but active hunters?  Now we understood why Duma hated baboons and we could not blame him.

 

Back at the camp, we met Alex Hunter, the owner.  He was back from Nairobi, and hosted us at the dinner.  Among the many interesting topics that we talked about, he told us that he was working on a filming project.  He would be featured in a documentary “Hunter Legacy”.  We are looking forward to seeing his story.

 

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Hmm, I need to scale down a little.  This is only the first drive.

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Day 2

After the wake-up call early in the morning, we sit around the camp fire for coffee.  Alex joined us and shared an interesting tidbit.  We would be having “Super Blue Blood Moon” today, a rare celestial convergence.  A super moon is when the Moon is closest to Earth in its orbit.  A blue moon is when there are two full moons in the same calendar month.  Finally, a blood moon refers to the total lunar eclipse when the Moon would turn red, although it would not be visible tonight in this part of the world.

 

Stars were aligned.  Out first full day on safari was expected to be a great one.

 

Day 2 Morning Game Drive

As we left the camp, the first thing caught our eyes was Mount Kenya.  When we arrived on the previous day, the mountain was hiding behind the cloud throughout the day.  This morning it was clearly visible.  As a bonus, Duma found some conspicuous foreground subjects.

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When the sun finally rose behind Mount Kenya, it was too bright for sunrise photo.  As we continued with our drive, we had beautiful lighting for an hour or so.  For some reason the game was sparse this morning.  There were baboons, gazelles, warthogs, and zebras in the distance, too far for photos.

 

We decided to check out the site of buffalo kill where we saw male lions on previous day.  The tawny eagle was still there, a promising sign.

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This time, the lions were feeding.  The sound of crunching noise was fascinating, but the smell was rather unpleasant.

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Not far from the two male lions, a lioness was patiently waiting for her turn to feed.  She looked old, with a blinded eye.  It was probably difficult for her to find a meal.

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Quote from my daughters: “Poor lioness, do lions know the manner of ladies first?”

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Day 2 Morning Game Drive (Continued)

After leaving the lion sight, we saw a young black rhino at the edge of the bush.  It was exciting because my wife spotted it before Duma.

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The rhino was shy and dashed back into the bush.  We decided not to get any closer and move on.  Humans had inflicted so much damage to rhinos, and they deserved some peace.

 

Fittingly our next stop was the rhino cemetery, the final resting place of rhinos illegally killed by poachers.  It was a sad reminder of the devastation that brought rhino to the brink of extinction.  I could not think of a more compelling conservation story than that of rhinos.  My daughters were very quiet, but I knew it sank in.  With increasing awareness, it is hopeful that rhino horn and ivory will be viewed as “symbol of shame” among the younger generation, instead of “symbol of status”.

 

A large dazzle of zebras passed by the rhino cemetery.  The lighting was getting harsh, and I did not bother with my camera until Duma spotted a special zebra among them.
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This was a hybrid, the offspring of common zebra female and Grevy’s zebra male.  The hybrid exhibited distinct characteristics of the endangered Grevy’s zebra, with thin stripes, white belly, and rounded ears.  Integrated into the common zebra society, it was noticeably larger than the others in the herd.

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Duma told us it was very rare to see pure-blooded Grevy’s zebra in Ol Pejeta, outside of the endangered species enclosure.  Luckily the reticulated giraffe, another beautiful northern species, was easier to find.

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We thought giraffe were exclusive browsers, but was this female grazing?

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Hmm, the giraffe was gnawing on an impala carcass.

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Duma explained that giraffes were known to supplement their leafy diet with bones, as source of calcium and phosphorous.  The act is known as osteophagia, and apparently not uncommon among herbivores.  It was an interesting sight.  The wild animals do not always stick to the script.  Baboons can hunt, and giraffes are not strict vegetarians.

 

Back to the camp around 10AM, we had full breakfast, a rest and light lunch.   We loved food at Ol Pejeta Bushcamp, with a lot of fresh vegetables from their own organic garden.

 

While we were at out tent, a grumpy buffalo watched us from across the river.  The camp is discreetly fenced to keep out large games.  It was nice to be able to view wildlife safely in camp.

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Day 2 Afternoon Game Drive

Before heading out, Duma discussed the plan for this afternoon.  We were to search for lions.  They were heard roaring throughout the night on the other side of the river.

 

Before getting to the river cross point, we heard the rustling sound from behind the trees on the right side of the road.  It was a herd (or should I say a wisdom) of elephants feeding among the trees, occasionally giving us a clear view.  These giants were amazingly quiet as they gently moved in the thick vegetations.  We could have easily missed them.

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The matriarch of the herd.

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The youngest member of the herd.

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A young male elephant (“teenage boy” per Duma) was curious, walked towards us, and entertained us by showing off his skills with his trunk.

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As if that was not enough, the mischievous elephant came over to the vehicle, playfully tapped the hood with his trunk, and walked around the vehicle to the other side of the road.

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An even younger elephant (the baby) followed the suite, clumsily maneuvering its trunk.  It was a hilarious sight.

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Now the baby elephant crossed the road to join its elder brother, inadvertently placed our vehicle between the matriarch and the baby.  We had been told many times that it was a dangerous place to be.  When the matriarch came over after the baby elephant, the mood changed instantly from light to intense.  Duma was cool and signaled us to stay calm.  The matriarch was equally cool and just tapped our vehicle hood gently with her trunk, as if sending us a message to get out of her way.  No argument who was the boss here, and Duma moved the vehicle back a little.  The matriarch calmly walked over to the other side of the road.  I did not dare to raise my camera earlier, and finally took a quick shot as the matriarch crossed the road.

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Later Duma explained that he had been keeping an eye on the matriarch all the time while our attention was on the baby elephant.  Elephants are intelligent creatures, particularly the adult females.  They could sense that we meant no harm, and would not overreact.  If a bull elephant was involved, it would be a different story and Duma would have parked much further away.

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Day 2 Afternoon Game Drive (Continued)

After the close encounter with elephants, we continued the game drive at a more relaxed pace.  At least we felt more relaxed mentally.  The drive was already a huge success.  Whatever we saw from that point on would just be bonus.

 

The first sight after crossing the river was buffalo.

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Next, a herd of waterbucks.  Somehow in my pre-trip research, I got the impression that only common waterbuck could be found in Northern Kenya.  But these were defassa waterbucks, without the characteristic white ring on the rump.

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A velvet monkey in the tree.

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Black winged plover.

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A pair of grey crowned cranes, and an uninvited photo crasher.

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Zebras were abundant in Ol Pejeta.  Suddenly they started running in the same direction.  Something spooked them.

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We soon located the source.  It was impressive that a single lioness commanded so much respect.  In the distance we could make out giraffes moving in the same direction as zebras, away from the lioness.

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It was getting dark, but we had another treat on the way back to camp: white rhino. 

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It was a magic sight with rhinos under the super blue moon.  Stars were aligned indeed.

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Some really nice photos in these posts @foggy27.    One full day into your safari and you already had a great elephant encounter and some nice lion + rhino + cheetahencounters as well!

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love your pics of the baby eles learning to use their trunks. can they be any cuter? we had quite a few scary elephant encounters last year-both with bulls and moms. glad you kept your cool!

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@offshorebirder Thanks.

 

@plambers Looking back, my daughters reckoned that the close encounter with elephant was the only time they felt uneasy.

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Day 3 Morning Game Drive

For the second day in a row, Mount Kenya was clearly visible at dawn.  It was not hard to find interesting foreground subjects either.  A large herd of buffaloes was walking in single file.

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We followed the buffaloes for a while as they moved in and out of bush.  It was nice to catch them in the soft early morning light.

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As the game drive continued, we met elephants on the road, with a little one among them.  The baby was under heavy protection.

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With a baby around, these elephants were a little skittish.  We decided to leave them in peace.

 

It was getting hot, and animals were hiding from the heat (and us).  Up to this point we had all our sighting to ourselves.  Now a vehicle caught our eyes.  Two NGO workers from Nairobi were on a self-drive trip.  They were watching some action in a shallow waterhole.

 

African spoonbill fished for food by swinging its bill from side to side at a fanatic pace.

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Marabou stock was far more efficient.

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It was breakfast time, and a bush breakfast was waiting for us at a scenic spot next to the river.  I knew about it in advance because Duma discreetly discussed the idea with me the night before, and I kept it to myself to surprise the others.  We never had a bush breakfast previously when my wife and I were in South Africa.  I was expecting some simple picnic fare with bread and cold yogurt.  It was more elaborate than that.  The camp sent a separate vehicle with cooked breakfast, and set up a nice table for us.

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We were told hippo was frequently found around this section of the river. We did not see any hippo on this day, but we were compensated with the sight of a hamerkop.

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After the breakfast, we dropped by the chimpanzee sanctuary.  It was a sad sight and we did not stay long.

 

Back to the camp, we had another nice sight of animals on the other side of the river.  This time it was a bachelor herd of impalas.

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Day 3 Afternoon Game Drive

This afternoon we were scheduled to visit the remaining northern white rhinos in the endangered species enclosure.  On the way we saw the hybrid zebra again.

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It was unmistakable from the common zebra.

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Since we were leaving Ol Pejeta next morning, it was unlikely we would have a chance to see Grevy’s.  The hybrid was a nice consolation prize.

 

The remaining northern white rhinos live in the endangered species enclosure, along with a small population of southern white rhinos, Grevy’s zebras, and Jackson’s hartebeests.  Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, was sick and unavailable.  We only saw the two females.

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It was difficult to tell the difference between northern white rhinos and their southern counterpart.  The most visible indicator was their legs, which looked a little “funny” to me.  The keeper explained that it was because they grew up in the zoo and spent a lot of time standing on concrete surface.  Well the whole story of northern white rhino is a sad one.  Sudan died a month after we got home.  The only hope for the subspecies now hinges on in-vitro fertilization.

 

Quote from my daughters: “Poor rhinos, so lonely out there.”

 

The section for Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s hartebeest in the endangered species enclosure was closed for the day because of some ongoing animal relocation work.  We did get into the section for southern white rhinos, where we saw some surrogate mother candidates for the in-vitro fertilization project.

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A herd of impalas outside of the endangered species enclosure.

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Duma wanted to take us to a cattle ranch to see some impressive horns.  But we had a pleasant surprise on the way: a herd of Jackson’s hartebeests were spotted.  We were happy to catch sight of the endangered subspecies on our last game drive at Ol Pejeta.

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We made it to the ranch in time, just when the herders were bringing in the cattle herd.  Those long horns were indeed magnificent.

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As the sun went down, we had a beautiful view of waterbucks against Mount Kenya in the background.

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Day 4 Transfer to Airstrip

For a change, we had a late wake-up call at 7AM and a leisurely breakfast before bidding farewell to Alex and the wonderful camp staff.  We were to fly to Mara from Ol Pejeta airstrip instead of Nanyuki, so it was basically a game drive.  We left the camp a little early to allow stops en route.  Right out of the camp, we saw a starling on the road.

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The drive was quiet and we arrived at the airstrip with about 30 minutes to spare.  Duma proposed to wait at a nearby waterhole.  He spotted some giraffes in the distance, and was hoping that they would come for a drink.

 

In the end, giraffe did not show up but a big elephant bull did.  It was a very nice sight to conclude our stay at Ol Pejeta.

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Impression of Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Bushcamp

We were happy to include Ol Pejeta Conservancy in our itinerary.  I initially wanted to go somewhere a little further north for the unique northern species.  At the time of planning, however, there were some security concerns with pastoralist attack.  Ol Pejeta seemed a safe destination as a rhino sanctuary with armed guards.  Once my daughters decided to join us, I knew we made the right choice.  The story of rhino conservation alone made it a uniquely worthwhile destination.  On top of that, the conservancy was uncrowded, and we had very good sightings to ourselves.

 

We all enjoyed our stay at Ol Pejeta Bushcamp.  The camp was smoothly run, with great staff.  Probably because we were traveling as a family, the staff seemed very relaxed, and shared with us their stories, their triumphs and their challenges.  It was refreshing (and rare these days) to be treated like friends rather than paying clients.  We were indeed privileged to have a peek into their life.

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Day 4 Transfer to Encounter Mara Camp

The flight to Mara was smooth.  We made a stop at Mara North to drop some passengers, before arriving at Mara Naboisho airstrip.  Ping was there to meet us.  He would be our private guide for the next 7 days.

 

The first impression of Mara was an impressive one.  It was green, in sharp contrast to the arid landscape of Northern Kenya.  Our transfer to the camp was short but productive with lots of games.  A portion of Loita migration was in Naboisho Conservancy.  Wildebeests and zebras were everywhere, literally as far as eyes can see.

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Animals appeared habituated to tourists.  This relaxed lilac-breasted roller let us get quite close.

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Even impala did not flee from us.

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While we were happy to meet a cooperative impala, Ping saw it from a different angle.  The impala ignored us because it was more concerned with something else, either a rival ram or a threat.  It did not take long for Ping to spot what the impala was looking at: two cheetahs resting in the shade.

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It was noon, and there was no other vehicle around.  Presumably everyone was in camp, having lunch and taking siesta.  The cheetahs were not active either under the mid-day sun.  Ping discussed two options for us: (1) checking into the camp for a quick lunch and starting afternoon drive earlier; or (2) staying with the cheetahs for a while.  We decided on option (2).  Lunch could wait.  It would still be there if we arrive at the camp late.  On the other hand, we might not be able to find cheetahs again after lunch break.

 

We spent about an hour with the cheetahs.  No other vehicle joined us, other than a truck.  Later the staff of Encounter Mara Camp told us that the truck was delivering food from Nairobi, and the driver was delighted.  It was the first time he saw cheetah in the wild.  We were happy for him, ever though we never met him in person.

 

Although the cheetahs did not do much, it was still fascinating to observe them staying alert while resting.  Revisiting the pictures that we took at the sighting, I did not see a single image of both cheetahs falling asleep at the same time.  At bottom of the predator hierarchy, they need to constantly watch out both for promise of food and threat of predators.

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Eventually we left the cheetahs for the camp.  The last sight before we arrived at the camp: a relaxed eland greeted us near the entrance of Encounter Mara Camp.

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When we arrived at the camp, we learned that our family was once again the only guests throughout our 3-day stay.  That was a surprise, given the over-crowded reputation of Mara.  As much as we enjoy the undivided attention, it must be difficult for safari operators.  They deserve more business.

 

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Really enjoyed reading of your adventures...specially at Ol Pejeta, my favorite place.  Looking forward to reading of your remaining adventures in the Mara!

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