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Kenya Nov 2018 - Part 3 (Naboisho and Ol Kinyei)


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SPOILER ALERT - this posting will involve lots of lion cub photos.  You have been warned.




INTRODUCTION - There has been a long lag between my submitting parts 1 and 2 of my trip report from last November (covering Samburu-Kalama and Amboseli-Selenkay respectively) and getting my attention back onto the two remaining sections of that trip.  Some of that delay was due to the interruption of service on Safaritalk in recent months, which killed much of my motivation, but I have also been occupied with selling one house and moving into another one in a new city.  So here, finally, is Part covering a visit on Novermber 25-27, 2019, to the Ol Kinyei and Naboisho private conservancies, based out of the Porini/Gamewatchers Mara Camp.  


NOVEMBER 25, 2019 - At the conclusion of our visit to Amboseli National Park and the Selenkay Conservancy, my friends Dick and Kathy and I caught the AirKenya flight from Amboseli back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, and then a different flight down to the Ol Seki airstrip in the Naboisho Conservancy.  Coming back to Mara Camp felt like coming home. This place just feels right to me, and it is still one of my favorite safari camps.  Intimate, quiet, and conveniently located near the boundary between the 18,700-acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy and the 50,000-acre Naboisho Conservancy.  It is also possible to do a full-day drive down into the Maasai Mara Reserve from this camp.  Camp manager Jimmy and his staff do a wonderful job, and I figure it is a good sign that he keeps many of the same staff here from year to year.  Mara Camp only has six sleeping tents, one of which is a double "family tent", which has two separate bedroom-bathroom tents joined by a common "living room."  Quite a nice arrangement, and it worked well for Dick and Kathy and me.  Fortunately, my threat of us having to share one big bed was unfounded (and unfulfilled :lol:).  In addition to a couple photos of the camp, I am including one photo of a current resident of the camp, who hangs out just outside the main dining tent - this is an African long-eared owl.  Amazing how much its plumage looks so much like tree bark.  Thanks to Jimmy for pointing this owl out to us, as we otherwise never would have spotted it.





So instead of building up suspense and working slowly up to the highlights of this part of the trip, I will proceed directly to the highlight.  Lion cubs . . . lots of them, each seemingly cuter than the last.  This first group of cubs belongs to Nemperis, a female of the Ol Kinyei pride.  












A few more creatures of interest from that first afternoon and evening at Mara Camp, starting with some young warthogs who body postures show they have already mastered that characteristic warthog attitude. 



A northern white-crowned shrike also displaying a little attitude toward the photographer, and a couple pictures of some of the usual suspects from the Mara region.





After sunset and dinner, Dick and Kathy and I went out on a short night drive with Wilson and George (our guide and driver respectively), first spotting a scrub hare (viewed under red spotlight, but with color balance of the photo subsequently adjusted in Lightroom). 



And then we were lucky enough to see an aardvark, one of my personal "bucket list" animals for Africa.  Strange little creature, and seemed mostly interested in hiding in his burrow.  Though I do question the effectiveness of that strategy when only the front half of the animal fits into the burrow, as that does seem like a recipe for disaster.



 NOVEMBER 26, 2019 - Our first morning at Mara Camp opened with the usual caffeine of choice delivered to your tent along with a couple cookies to fill an empty stomach, and then a dawn departure with Wilson and George as we headed west into the Naboisho Conservancy.  Our first encounter was with a grazing adult warthog and a nearby youngster, still at the playful stage before entering the ornery stage (nope, no parallels at all with human beings, none at all).  




Soon thereafter we came across a lone but rather stately female cheetah.



Two large olive baboons were having their morning meal of young impala; not clear if they had killed it or merely scavenged it), with the alpha male enjoying the larger portion.  They soon had some company from a steppe eagle (tawny eagle would be my second guess), looking to share in their bounty.  The eagle succeeded in finding a few scraps, but never challenged the larger baboons for the main course.






We were not sure whether this was a serious squabble between these two hyenas or simply harmless play.  They did seem to be adolescents rather than full-grown adults.




The bulk of our morning was spent observing a cheetah family, consisting of the adult female Selenkay and her four older offspring (3 females and 1 male).  They moseyed through the savannah scrub, and two times one of the juveniles sprinted off in pursuit of prey, once for a scrub hare and once for a small impala (no success in either chase).  The young ones did all of the running around, while Selenkay seemed content to just supervise.











Later in the morning, watching a small group of zebra drinking in the nearby river (possibly the Talek?) put us in the mood for our own lunch and an afternoon break from bouncing around in the safari vehicle.  Never pass up an opportunity for food, bathroom breaks, or naps in the shade (so sayeth Madame Selenkay).



Going back out with Wilson and George for the late afternoon game drive yielded a number of photogenic Maasai giraffe, including one enjoying the tender ministrations of a yellow-billed oxpecker.  







Other avian discoveries that afternoon included a yellow-throated sandgrouse and a bateleur that is looking rather majestic and intimidating despite its modest size compared to other eagles.




And then we come to more cats, more lion cubs to be specific.  These were a different set than those we saw the previous day, and while I did not make a note of their mother's name, it is very possible they belong to Naramat of the Ol Kinyei pride.  Regardless of their mother's name, cubs are cubs and it is always enjoyable to watch them explore their world.  As with the cubs seen the previous afternoon, the light was pretty dim by this time of day, necessitating photographing at ISO6400 with lots of noise in these images.  But I don't apologize for including so many cub photos - you know you want them. 














The afternoon ended with a beautiful African sunset, and a lovely dinner following our bucket showers. 




One of the things that I like most about Mara Camp is something that seems like a negative at first glance - no internet service for the guests.  Its absence encourages the guests to do something more and more rare these days - actually talk to each.  This was a delightful set of people at Mara Camp this trip, and we probably stayed around for an hour and half after dinner, just chatting like old friends. 



The previous evening, Dick, Kathy and I were the only ones to do a night game drive, and naturally the subject of our aardvark sighting came up (possibly embellished just a wee bit).   Eventually, seven of us decided to go back out this night in search of said aardvark, and the staff easily accommodated our late request.  Yes, some alcohol was involved in our decision-making process.  Our guide for the night drive was Jeffrey, and he did find the aardvark for us, or at least AN aardvark (I assumed it was the same one, but who knows?).  Below is the best photo I could manage this night, but burned into my memory is the sight of this little animal trotting quickly along the vehicle track, raising a rooster tail of dust behind him.  Who knew they could move this fast?  Somehow I pictured aardvarks as slow-moving creatures, but I guess they need the ability to put on a burst of speed or they would not survive long in the Mara.  Funny how often birds and animals will run down the dirt track ahead of an approaching vehicle, instead of heading off at right angles into the bush.  I guess the network of dirt tracks provides easier walking and better sight lines to watch out for predators.  So I did not come away with any award-winning photos of this aardvark, but to be honest, I am not sure I really want a poster-size enlargement of the south end of a northbound aardvark hanging over my sofa.  



NOVEMBER 27, 2019 - Up and out at dawn the next morning, our final morning at Mara Camp, we with a small group of elephants.  And, as I had warned my friends Dick and Kathy on the first leg of our Kenya trip, we would be stopping for every lilac-breasted roller offering good photographic prospects (and stopping at many more that did not).




Less than an hour after departing Mara Camp, we came across - of course - more lions.  Or I should say, more of the same lions.  This time, Nemperis and Naramat were out with their teenaged cubs (presumably the little ones were safely hidden away), engaged in a slow-motion hunt of wildebeest.  It seemed the two adult females were trying to separate out a single wildebeest from the herd, but with no success.  No real drama ensued, but it was interesting watching the lions' offensive efforts come up short against the wildebeests' collective defense.  Nemperis and Naramat were the only two lions putting in much effort in the hunt - the youngsters were mostly just sauntering around, sometimes in the right direction, sometimes not.  And sometimes not sauntering at all.















After leaving the lions, we headed back to camp for breakfast and to pack up for the roughly 2-hour drive from Mara Camp to our next stop, Lion Camp.  But like most drives in this part of the world, there is always something interesting to see on the way.






All in all, a delightful stay again at Mara Camp, and a surprising amount of time with different sets of lion cubs.  Not too much time, mind you - just right.   Thanks for reading.  Part 4 coming shortly.















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Pleased to see you continue. Really beautiful photos, excellent stuff. Very cool Scops Owl. Aardvark in the Mara - just wow. Not sure, could be a Safaritalk first. Looking forward to part 4!

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Nice report @KCAZ

You saw some really good game - and an aardvark - twice -  wow!

Like you, I really love Mara Camp. 

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Your report is excellent, and the pictures even more so.  I'm a tad jealous about all the lion cubs you saw, and the aardvark is still on my to see list.  I'm headed to Porini's adventure camp in a couple of months.  This report has really gotten me excited.  Waiting anxiously for part 4!


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So much great stuff.  The baboon eating the baby impala is not often seen.  Does make you wonder how that death occurred.   The lion cubs are a find!

Good luck on your move.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Great report @KCAZ.  You can never have too many cubs!  I bet we saw some of the same lions you did when we were there a few months after you.  I agree that Porini Mara is an outstanding camp.  I only wish that owl was still there when we were there...:)



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Such wonderful photos, thanks for sharing! Looking forward to the next part.

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YAY CUBS!! My favourite! :) I also wonder if some of the cubs you spotted were the same as the ones we saw in February. Mother Nemperis sure looks familiar.


Hey I recognise that room! We really did follow in your footsteps. I'm glad that you took photos of things around the camps like the dinner table. I'm sure it brings back lovely memories for everyone who has been to those camps before :) 


And how lucky were you... an aardvark!?!?

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What an incredible sightings! Those cubs are too cute! All the ladies at work instantly gathered around my desk to see the photos.


That owl looks amazing, almost exactly the same as the tree, great camouflage!


Your tent looked comfortable too with a nice living room.

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Incredible pic!  Thanks for sharing---to see an aardvark and then go out and find another one or the same one is pretty remarkable!  Such cute cubs and although its gruesome, interesting to see the baboons feeding on a baby gazelle....look forward to more!

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I want some of your aardvark pixie dust or whatever it is you have.

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Sorry, Atravelynn, but no magic pixie dust.  Just my inherent animal magnetism - they all view me as possible prey.  I am beginning to realize how unusual the back-to-back aardvark sighting was.   the lack of sightings is due to the general lack of night game drives in this area.  For this trip, I promised myself to do at least one night drive at each location, and always saw something of interest.  In previous trips to Kenya, I had taken along a 180/2.8 lens specifically for night drives, and never saw anything really worth photographing at night.  So naturally I talked myself out of bringing that lens along this time, and this was the one trip where that extra speed would have been really useful.


Thanks for all of the kind comments and positive feedback.  I must plead for your patience on Part 4 as a trip to Costa Rica looms in a couple days.

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Good call on doing the night drives!  At least you got aardvark documentation with the camera you did bring.

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  • 3 months later...

Those cubs! Your images are fabulous, thank you so much for sharing! 

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