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Leaping Leopards! Another Kenya Trip Report -- November 2018


amybatt

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Interesting what you say about Offbeat discouraging an all-day outing. Now I'm glad that I chose Serian over Offbeat for my upcoming trip...Serian stressed to me that days are entirely flexible, with possibility of all-day and even dinner on the road, continuing into the night drive, if we wanted.  I almost booked Offbeat Mara based mainly on your and Offshorebirders' recommendations!  I just hope that Mara North wasn't a mistake altogether, given what you've said about the lion prides. :(  But things are changing all the time, so who knows...!

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amybatt

@janzin, I want to clarify just to ensure my comment isn’t misconstrued...  I still think Offbeat gives great safari.  Last year was the best of the four I’d had to that point.  I do think the splintered natures of the prides and the skittish nature of the females really did effect the sightings this time though.  I just want to reinforce that Offbeat is still the best of the conservancy camps I’ve been at, and David and Kappen are really great.  I don’t want anyone considering Offbeat and reading this to think otherwise.  I will still recommend it as I have for the last year and a half.

 

I went back through my Porini and Encounter TRs to make sure I remembered correctly, and the midday return to lunch seems to be the norm.  The only times I went out all day then were for day trips into the Reserve and the two days I had a private vehicle.  Your mileage may vary since you’ll have the PV at Serian, yes?

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14 hours ago, amybatt said:

@janzin, I want to clarify just to ensure my comment isn’t misconstrued...  I still think Offbeat gives great safari.  Last year was the best of the four I’d had to that point.  I do think the splintered natures of the prides and the skittish nature of the females really did effect the sightings this time though.  I just want to reinforce that Offbeat is still the best of the conservancy camps I’ve been at, and David and Kappen are really great.  I don’t want anyone considering Offbeat and reading this to think otherwise.  I will still recommend it as I have for the last year and a half.

 

I went back through my Porini and Encounter TRs to make sure I remembered correctly, and the midday return to lunch seems to be the norm.  The only times I went out all day then were for day trips into the Reserve and the two days I had a private vehicle.  Your mileage may vary since you’ll have the PV at Serian, yes?

 

 

Okay, good to know that you still recommend Offbeat. But it still sounds like they discourage an all-day outing. And yes it may very well be different if one has a private vehicle! I do recall at Porini Lion we always came back for lunch, but I never requested otherwise, so I don't know how they would have dealt with it. Serian always is a private vehicle, its included (and reflected!) in the cost, so they stress their flexibility.

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And I dare say, I might have found someone who likes the cats more than I do.

 

What higher praise could there be? Always good to read a trip report from another crazy cat person!

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The wife and l have just spent most of the afternoon reading your report, and have to say what an entertaining report it is. The sighting and quantity of rhino, lion and leopard has us wishing we were going out tomorrow and not having to wait until June. Thank you.

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amybatt
29 minutes ago, CDL111 said:

The wife and l have just spent most of the afternoon reading your report, and have to say what an entertaining report it is. The sighting and quantity of rhino, lion and leopard has us wishing we were going out tomorrow and not having to wait until June. Thank you.

 

@CDL111, thank you! That makes it all worthwhile!  Not only do I enjoy writing it to relive it, but it's a bonus when it gets others excited for their own.  Now I can't wait to read your trip report!!

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Amy, Kicheche is also totally flexible but almost everyone does seem to come back around 1. We were out by 6 most mornings and it seemed the animals were less active as it got warmer out, and truly, a break, a Tusker and lunch was a nice change. Then back out 4-7:30 or later. I am sure the all day safari took its toll on you (being super tired). But your sightings at the camp in the reserve were truly amazing.

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amybatt

Yes, @plambers I think that the mid-day return is the norm and certainly my experience at Enaidura showed that there's still stuff to see midday and you can go much further afield.

 

I just want to be SUPER careful that my commentary is not interpreted as a slight against Offbeat at all.  I never specifically asked to go out all day and was never directly rejected, so I'm not saying that they're not flexible either.  I'm only pointing out what a shift it was in the operations after coming from three long but incredibly action packed days at Enaidura.  It was in passing to another guest that Chania said "we strongly encourage the siesta", not to me.  This is not a schedule unique to Offbeat in the conservancies, but is something people might want to consider and clarify with any camp in the conservancies or elsewhere if their expectation is that they'll be able to go out all day.

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offshorebirder

@janzin - for what it's worth, Offbeat was happy to do all-day outings on both times I visited them (2016 and 2017).  They pack a great picnic lunch.   For what it's worth, we were not in a shared vehicle, which may affect things.

 

@amybatt - thanks for the bountiful info in this TR.  And your photography is improving by leaps and bounds. 

Question for you:  with Jesse no longer at Offbeat Mara, do they still offer bush walks?   If not currently, did they mention if they plan to bring them back in future?

 

Your description of Ping and Enaidura is very alluring.   New item on my bucket list!

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amybatt

@offshorebirder I don't think they offer the bush walks as an option.  I know they have to have someone with a gun certification as well as a walking course certification, and I'm not sure they have someone with both right now. 

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Another great Kenya report @amybatt probably your best yet. I had to smile knowingly at your comments on sharing vehicles with newbies, hell I even had birders! The best thing I can say about your reports are that they really make me itch to get back to Kenya, hopefully someday....

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Alexander33

@amybatt

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this report, and I really love the infectious nature of your narrative. It makes me want to be back in the Mara right now.

 

Regarding the comments about all-day outings,  I used to think that was what I wanted as well. We’ve only stayed in Kicheche lodges, not Offbeat, but being out from the crack of dawn until 11:30 or noon (with a bush breakfast), and then back out at 3:00 or 3:30 until after dark (with sundowners), proved to be plenty sufficient in the end, and I really appreciated the effort to maximize our time in the bush at the best times of the day. 

 

I think the guides need a break, as they work awfully hard, and in the heat of the early afternoon there often isn’t that much going on anyway. But there’s always something going on, no matter when, which is what makes the Mara such a draw. 

 

Thnaks for another enjoyable trip report. 

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amybatt

Thanks for reading along @Alexander33  I'm glad you've got the urge to go back.  If that's the case, my job is done here!  ;)

 

I agree that the split day is fine.  I think what I was struck by is how much more territory you can cover out all day, not having to turn back to be at camp for lunch.  On one day in the Reserve, we went from Enaidura (at the intersection of the Talek and Mara rivers) south to lookout hill (near the TZ border) and then east to Keekerok lodge.  I mapped that and was astounded, it's a crazy distance we covered.  Two other days we went from Enaidura up toward the public land between the Reserve and Mara North (Kaboso leopard territory).  So while we managed to cover some ground, and got some stellar sightings by doing so, it also wore me out.  By the time I got to Offbeat, I was dozing off at dinner after 3 days of full-days.  Now that I've done both, I certainly see the pros and cons of each.  And last year at Offbeat we certainly had no problem with sightings doing the half-day circuits; this year felt a bit less productive, but I attribute that to the splintering of the lion prides.

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Wow @amybatt this trip report is fantastic.  I can't wait to experience Enaidura myself in February 2020.  Such a long time to wait!! I'm curious to know how you "bid" for a business class ticket.  I am flying from San Francisco and thought I would do what you did - fly to JFK the night before and take Kenya Air.  This would give me an extra half day in Nairobi. If I fly from SF via a European gateway, I would arrive late in the evening and have only one full day. I bit the bullet and flew B class to Uganda last year and it really made a huge difference.   But if there's a less expensive way to do it (by bidding) I certainly would like to learn more about that! Can't wait to read about the rest of your safari.

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amybatt

Hi @njs the bidding was fairly straight-forward. About 2 months before the flight they sent an email out with links to bid on both the outbound and inbound flights.  You could bid on either or both, but they are both separate bids and you can be successful with one and not the other.  There is a little gauge on each bid that shows you the likelihood of your bid being successful.  I found it fairly accurate.  You don’t find out until 48 hours before your flights whether you get the upgrade and if you do, your credit card is charged with your bid price.  You can go back to the link as often as you like up until 3 days before to adjust your bid and see if the gauge has changed based on others’ bids.  (I’m guessing if a whole bunch of people bid more than you did, your likelihood indicator would have gone down).  Given the length of the flights, it was totally worth the extra price and I did get a substantial discount off what Business would have cost me (and which I was not going to pay).  There is a lot to be said for hitting the ground running at 10 a.m. when you land and also for passing 9+ hours of the return flight asleep!  I wish I’d not had to fly to JFK the night before and waste time and money with an overnight but in the end I didn’t want to risk weather or air traffic delays  in Boston that might cause me to miss the KQ flight.

 

That said, on my next safari I’ll likely go back through Europe and stay the night in Nairobi on arrival.  I don’t think I’d do well in regular economy on the KQ flight and I’d rather have the extra legroom seats on KLM, which is far less expensive than my bids!  Either way I’m having to spend a night somewhere, either JFK or Nairobi.  Something to consider...

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23 hours ago, amybatt said:

Hi @njs the bidding was fairly straight-forward. About 2 months before the flight they sent an email out with links to bid on both the outbound and inbound flights.  You could bid on either or both, but they are both separate bids and you can be successful with one and not the other.  There is a little gauge on each bid that shows you the likelihood of your bid being successful.  I found it fairly accurate.  You don’t find out until 48 hours before your flights whether you get the upgrade and if you do, your credit card is charged with your bid price.  You can go back to the link as often as you like up until 3 days before to adjust your bid and see if the gauge has changed based on others’ bids.  (I’m guessing if a whole bunch of people bid more than you did, your likelihood indicator would have gone down).  Given the length of the flights, it was totally worth the extra price and I did get a substantial discount off what Business would have cost me (and which I was not going to pay).  There is a lot to be said for hitting the ground running at 10 a.m. when you land and also for passing 9+ hours of the return flight asleep!  I wish I’d not had to fly to JFK the night before and waste time and money with an overnight but in the end I didn’t want to risk weather or air traffic delays  in Boston that might cause me to miss the KQ flight.

 

That said, on my next safari I’ll likely go back through Europe and stay the night in Nairobi on arrival.  I don’t think I’d do well in regular economy on the KQ flight and I’d rather have the extra legroom seats on KLM, which is far less expensive than my bids!  Either way I’m having to spend a night somewhere, either JFK or Nairobi.  Something to consider...

 

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@amybattThanks for this info. I understand now. That happened to me when I was flying to Hawaii and I bid and got a great price for a Biz class ticket.  I agree with your logic of flying back to the States via Europe.  I was thinking the exact same thing. And I think its worth flying to JFK the day before to get some extra time in Nairobi.  Where are you traveling next?

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Tom Kellie

~ @amybatt:

 

This may well be the final Safaritalk trip report I read.

 

Although all of the images are fully blocked here, the text was a delight.

 

I'm so honored by my “65th birthday zebra”!

 

May your future safaris all be as joyous as this one was.

 

Tom K.

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Neeners815

@amybatt thank you so much for this trip report. We are planning on going to Kenya for the first time next year. Seeing your photos and hearing about your travels had gotten me even more excited to go. I wasn't sure about the weather in November, but after reading this it didn't seem like it was that big of a deal. Something to consider for cheaper prices and smaller crowds. Decisions, decisions. Thanks again!

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amybatt

@Neeners815 like anything nature-related it is a crapshoot, but I was pleased.  We saw maybe 5 minutes total the whole 10 days.  Most of that came in NNP at the end of the trip.  I'd go back at the same time.  The only real drawback is I found it a lot more dusty then than in February since it had been dry for so much longer.

 

@Tom Kellie you probably can't read this now, but thank you for using some of your coveted ST time to read this.  It is always a joy emailing with you and I loved hearing from you when I was at the Emakoko (which eagerly awaits your return!)

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amybatt
On 12/11/2018 at 8:08 PM, njs said:

@amybattThanks for this info. I understand now. That happened to me when I was flying to Hawaii and I bid and got a great price for a Biz class ticket.  I agree with your logic of flying back to the States via Europe.  I was thinking the exact same thing. And I think its worth flying to JFK the day before to get some extra time in Nairobi.  Where are you traveling next?

 

@njs I've started very initial planning on going back to Enaidura combined with another as-yet-undecided location in fall 2019.  I'm saving Zambia for my big 5-0 in 2020.  I'll likely do something non-safari in the spring of 2019, like Eastern Europe. Depends on how much I break the travel budget on safari!

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penolva
On 11/27/2018 at 6:40 PM, amybatt said:

For me, this was not meant to be a safari year.  In late 2017 I was planning to take this year off and focus on other parts of the world.  Indeed, I'd already booked Peru and London for the first half of the year and was eyeing Egypt or Eastern Europe for the fall.

 

And then the Kenya Airways flights from JFK to NBO were announced in January and I took it as a sign (however realistic) that I was meant to go. I mean, really, the fares were $800 or so, which is actually half what I usually pay to go via Europe in February.  Kenya was practically begging me to return by flaunting this fare.  This was truly a message from the safari gods that I was meant to go to the place I love most in 2018.  Come on, work with me here!  I decided to go the first week the flights were in service.  So I reached out to Bill Given at The Wild Source and told him I'm only going because of this fare and I want to keep the overall price reasonable, and I want to go back to Offbeat Mara (which I loved in 2017) and to the Emakoko (which I loved in 2016 but knew this would likely break my budget more than a little). I also wanted to try Enaidura Camp with Ping after hearing so much about it and him from @janzin, among many others.

 

So my itinerary went like this:

2 nights Emakoko (Nairobi National Park)

3 nights Enaidura (Maasai Mara National Reserve)

4 nights Offbeat Mara (Mara North Conservancy, pay for 3, stay for 4 special offer)

Dayroom at Emakoko

 

Short and sweet, this safari was meant to "get Kenya out of my system" and was sort of a greatest hits tour for me, returning to places I'd loved with an eye towards not being back in Kenya for a while, and despite my usual very rigid rule "not to repeat perfect".  But I did.  And this is the story....

When did you actually go @amybatt Did I miss the dates? Pen

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amybatt
38 minutes ago, penolva said:

When did you actually go @amybatt Did I miss the dates? Pen

 

Nov 1-12 this year.

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@amybatt you had such incredible sightings! I finished your trip report in 1 day. Thanks for all the details.

 

I do agree that full day game drives could take a lot out if you. We just got back from our trip. We did full day game drives at the beginning of the trip, but after the first few days, we didn’t think we would last until the end of the trip, so we opted for a break in the middle of the day. However, it was nice to know the option was there should we want to do it.

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@amybattYour travel plans sound great. I'm going to Vietnam this Monday night and to Egypt in March.  But all I can think about every day is my next trip to Africa - Kenya this time - in February 2020. 

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