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Kenya - Dreams Realized


MMMim

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The final leg of our epic journey across the continent!

 

2019 October 05 (Saturday)

We had just the one day in Nairobi and of course did all of the first-time touristy things available to us.  We were picked up by a Gamewatchers guide, Sammy, at 1000 hrs, which was good because we really needed the sleep after yesterday’s travel day.  We had arranged for visits to the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre, but the rest of the day was open to suggestion.  Given the location of these 2 attractions, Sammy suggested that we stay in the Karen neighborhood for the day, as the traffic around the city can be pretty slow.

 

Our first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi National Park, for the 1100 hrs feeding of the baby elephants.  On our way past Nairobi National Park, we saw Cape buffalo, zebra, and giraffe, all by the road!  We arrived at the Ellie Orphanage in plenty of time, but as it was Saturday, it was very busy.  When the gate opened, we quickly found a spot near the front of the roped off enclosure that the little ellies would enter.

 

The keepers were waiting in the enclosure with giant milk bottles for their charges.  We were told there were 15 baby elephants at the centre, and that the first 7 to enter were under 2 years of age, the second group of 7 were the over 2-year-olds, and one little guy wouldn’t be able to join the group as he was quite lame and they didn’t want him to have to charge around with the rest of the group.  At 1100 hrs, right on cue, 7 little ellies came running in from the forest to their keeper (they have a bond and know exactly who is going to feed them).  I have never seen milk bottles get finished off so fast, I don’t think they tasted the milk, and certainly some of them wore more of it than they drank.  Oh-so-cute!!  I spent the entire time watching with them with a big goofy smile on my face; most baby animals are cute but little elephants got more than their fair share.    

 

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After they had been fed they were allowed time to wander around, get a drink, eat some greenery, and interact with each other.  One little guy cleverly picked up the hose and began watering himself from that.  They cuddled each other, had dust baths, played with sticks and rocks (testing their trunk dexterity), and visited.  The younger elephants were ushered out and the older group of ellies came running in for their 2 bottles of milk, also gone in the blink of an eye.  The older animals also drank from the troughs and the hose, had dust baths, checked out the trees, ate some greenery, cuddled one another (there were 2 that were best friends, so we were told), and busied themselves around the enclosure.  I’m sure they were hoping for another bottle to be offered, but soon (too soon) these little ellies, some with little tusks, were let back out for the afternoon.  I could have watched them all day.

 

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After the ellies, Sammy figured that the huge crowds would immediately run over to the giraffe centre, so to avoid the crowds, he suggested that we should visit the Karen Blixen Museum, located in the beautiful farmhouse where Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”, lived between 1917 and 1931.  The house was located in the Nairobi suburb of “Karen”, an area created when her coffee farm’s land was parcelled out after Blixen’s return to Denmark.  Karen Blixen arrived in British East Africa (Kenya) in 1914, and moved to this particular house to operate a coffee plantation with her husband, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, in 1917.  After the Blixens separated in 1921, Karen Blixen continued to live at the house and run the plantation, until she returned to Denmark 1931, after a series of personal tragedies.  The 1985 movie depicting her book, “Out of Africa”, used the house only for the exterior shots. We were toured around the museum and given a history of the house and property by a young guide.  It was quite interesting, and nice to see the original furnishings of Karen Blixen, and her paintings (the movie never touched on her ability to paint).  After the tour, we were turned loose on the property.  We walked the nature trail and saw some old coffee processing equipment, but really only saw birds in the back garden by the bird baths.  I did spot this little guy, a tree hyrax (or dassie) on the property.

 

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Our next stop was the Giraffe Centre, also in Karen, which is the creation of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (A.F.E.W. Kenya), a Kenyan non-profit organisation.  Their main purpose is to educate Kenyan schoolchildren and youth on their country’s wildlife and environment, as well as give local and international visitors an opportunity to come into close contact with endangered Rothschild giraffes. 

 

A.F.E.W. Kenya was founded in 1979 by the late Jock Leslie-Melville, and his wife, Betty Leslie-Melville.  They began the Giraffe Centre after discovering the sad plight of the Rothschild Giraffe, a subspecies of giraffe found only in the grasslands of East Africa.  At the time, the animals had lost their habitat in Western Kenya, with only 130 of them left on the 18,000-acre Soy Ranch that was being sub-divided to resettle squatters.  The Leslie-Melville’s first effort to save the subspecies was to bring two young giraffes, Daisy and Marlon, to their home in the Lang’ata suburb, southwest of Nairobi. Here they raised the calves and started a programme of breeding giraffe in captivity.  Funds were raised to move five other groups of giraffes to different safe areas. In 1983, the Giraffe Centre opened its doors to the general public, and is currently home to 7 female and 3 male Rothschild Giraffes. Six were born at the centre, while 4 were translocated from different parks and nature conservancies across Kenya. 

 

When we arrived, we were given a bag of food pellets, made of corn, wheat, grass and molasses, and we went over to meet the giraffe, Stacey, standing at the browsing area.  I held out a few pellets on my hand and she reached down to take them.  So gentle, and such a soft mouth (especially since they eat acacia trees and those are covered in thorns).  I was so surprised!  Then we went up to the feeding platform, where you come face to face with the giraffes.  The giraffe that we visited with was Daisy IV.  She was quite fussy about the type of pellets she got, she didn’t like the green ones, but loved the beige ones.  Jay and I both put a pellet between our lips and received a big slobbery kiss from her purple tongue (smelled like rumen).  Awesome! 

 

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After leaving the Giraffe Centre, we were at a bit of a loss for things to do, so Sammy suggested a visit to a crocodile and ostrich farm at Nairobi Mamba Village.  Okay, sounds good.  He took us to a rather neglected looking park with a large lake at its centre.  Off to one side was a “crocodile farm”.  We paid to enter, and were guided around the sad looking facility by a knowledgeable young man.  He explained that the farm did not harvest any of the crocodiles for hides or meat, and was only there for educational purposes.  He was able to answer all sorts of questions and provided a lot of relevant and useful anatomical/physiological information (explaining the palate closing when the croc attacks while submerged to prevent it from drowning), and evolutionary information about the crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds.  There were 2 ponds with adult crocs, a pond with ‘teenage’ crocs, and a pond with ‘babies’.  We were allowed to hold a baby croc, but it had to have a rubber band around its snout (probably an insurance requirement to ensure that all guests go home with all their fingers and noses).  There was also an enclosure with leopard tortoises and hingeback tortoises, and our guide educated us about those species, and allowed us to feed the 2 big leopard tortoises’ morning glory flowers.  I won't go into the ostrich part of the visit, or the horse rides in the park.  Just sad.  While the interaction and information regarding the reptiles was interesting, overall it was kind of a sad/weird sightseeing stop.

 

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view of the 'hinged' palate

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Our next stop had been an earlier suggestion by Sammy’s that had been at first vetoed, but now we had time to kill before our reservation at Carnivore.  It was late in the day, and we hadn’t stopped for lunch, so Sammy took us to Utamaduni, an African craft shop and café.  We sat in their lovely garden, had a snack and a beverage, while watching all the colorful, funny little birds at the bird feeders.  

 

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We ended the day at the Carnivore restaurant for the 'Beast of a Feast' consisting of a variety of meats, including ostrich, crocodile, beef, lamb, poultry, pork, and sausages, which are roasted over a huge charcoal pit, and then carved at the table. The servers continued to bring meat for as long as a little white flag remained upright in its holder on the table.  When we needed a break or wanted to finish what was currently on our plate, we tipped the flag and holder on its side.  The feeding frenzy didn’t stop until we declared defeat by lowering the white paper flag.  My favourites were the grilled crocodile and ostrich roasts. 

 

Back to the hotel after a wonderful touristy day in Nairobi (first time to Nairobi - why not!?), to sleep and to dream of awaiting adventures tomorrow! 

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Atravelynn

Dreams Realized ≠ Mixed Emotions.  In fact, Dreams Realized > Mixed Emotions.  You're finishing out your trip on a high note.  That "goofy smile" is documented in several photos.  It's actually a lovely, joyous smile.  But the baby eles that almost look they have a goofy smile as they enjoy the 11:00 feeding.

Nice spot of the tree hyrax!  Ironic how the white flag is known as the symbol of surrender, but has the opposite meaning at The Carnivore where an absence of the white flag means you surrender.  Your term of frenzy to describe the Carnivore atmosphere is appropriate.

 

 

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@Atravelynn

Those are pictures carefully selected to ensure no-one saw the REALLY goofy facial expressions - these were the least goofy.  I really enjoyed the giraffes.  I've hand fed lots of animals, but this just surprised and delighted me.

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2019 October 06 (Sunday)

We were picked up bright and early (0630 hrs) by Gamewatchers and taken to the Wilson Airport for our 0730 hrs flight to the Selenkay Conservancy, and our stay at the Porini Amboseli Camp. The conservancy is located just north of Amboseli National Park, and shares the same ecosystem as the park.  It is established on lands leased from the local Maasai, with the aim of protecting the wildlife habitat and encouraging wildlife conservation.

 

Although we had arrived at the airport early-ish, our flight was going to leave as soon as possible (we left at 0715 hrs; we have learned that ‘scheduled flight’ is a very loose term), so we were hustled outside to our waiting Cessna.  The other 5 passengers on the flight came to be known as the “English Ladies” – wonderful ladies that we spent several days with at both the Amboseli Camp, and later at the Mara Camp – a good laugh was had by all!

 

As we left Nairobi, we flew over Nairobi National Park, and were able to see several animals roaming the park (buffalo, zebra, and giraffe).  We rapidly left Nairobi behind, and unlike Uganda, flew over miles of empty landscape.  There was the occasional Maasai village, with several small huts circled around a livestock enclosure. Approaching the airstrip at the Selenkay Conservancy, we had a beautiful, clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro (I have seen on several forums that this is not always possible, so I was pretty happy). On arrival at the airstrip, at 0745 hrs, we were greeted by Amboseli Camp jeeps and the Maasai guides and drivers.  We were introduced to Peter (guide) and John (driver), and were taken for a morning game drive.

 

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Lesser kudu - loved the horn spirals - thought they were a bit thin though

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This was awesome and I had really hoped to see the gerenuk feeding

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 The Selenkay Conservancy supports a broad range of wildlife, and within a very short period of time, before 0930 hrs, doing a short morning drive from the airstrip, we saw Thomson gazelle (tommies), Grant’s gazelle, impala, gerenuk, Maasai giraffe, zebra, Maasai ostrich, wildebeest, warthogs, lesser kudu, helmeted guinea fowl, teeny tiny dik-dik antelopes, and some Maasai cattle.  We were so excited.  I had waited all my life to do this!

 

Helmeted guinea fowl

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Following our game drive, before heading to the camp, we were taken to the viewing platform at the watering hole for morning coffee.  It was empty when we got there, but shortly after, an impressive male impala arrived, and then 2 groups of zebras, and lastly, a rather unwanted warthog; he was definitely not welcomed by any of the other animals, and there was a bit of a stand-off between Pumba and the impala.  Eventually everyone was watered and wandered off, and we were taken to camp.  It was very dry in the conservancy, and we were told that the dry season had dragged on a bit, and yet surprisingly, the animals still find plenty to eat.  All the trees looked dead, but later we were told that the trees drop their leaves to conserve water, and that with just a little bit of water at the start of the rains (due any day now) their sap would rise and they would leaf out again.

 

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White headed buffalo weaver

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Eastern pale chanting goshawk

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The camp had 10 tents, a main dining tent, a managers’ tent, and a ‘gift shop’ hut, managed by Frederick, and staffed by several young Maasai men from the surrounding communities.  The men all wear traditional shuka (typically red because the color represents Maasai culture, and is believed to scare away lions) and elaborate, beaded jewelery, with the odd t-shirt and ball cap thrown in for good measure.  There were no fences around the camp, and there was all sorts of animal dung scattered around.  Not 20 feet from our front door, there was a big pile of elephant poop, with giraffe and other assorted beasts’ poop scattered about, so best look both ways before stepping out in the morning (for fresh poop and/or the animals leaving said offerings)!  The tent was very spacious and decorated with a helmeted guinea fowl and gerenuk motif.  There was an en suite bathroom with flush toilet, washbasin, and bucket shower (a bucket outside the tent is filled with hot water and you judiciously use and share the water with your tent-mate).  However, I wish there were more solid doors in Africa – no privacy for this loo either (the Pineapple Guest House bathroom had also been short an actual door).  The wind always seemed to pick up just as you went to the bathroom and the curtain would blow inwards, allowing you to wave a friendly hello to all passers-by.

 

Lunch was nice, as were all the meals at camp, and it constantly amazed us what a bush kitchen could produce.  The dining tent was presided over by Jackson; an absolutely hilarious young man – quick to tease and laugh.  After lunch we had time to re-group and rest.  I sat on the porch for a while listening to and watching the white bellied go-away birds (with some imagination their cry sounds like “go-away”), francolins (they look like prairie chickens or partridges, but make a god-awful, very loud, rusty hinge noise.  It’s hard to believe that noise comes out of such a little bird), and the squirrels.  I know, I did not come all the way to Africa to watch squirrels, but while they initially do look like North American red squirrels, they are quite different.  They certainly move differently.  I had to look it up, but they are called unstriped ground squirrels, and are more like North American ground squirrels, not tree squirrels.  It eventually got too hot on the porch, so I went for a bit of a snooze, and while drifting off, I heard a lion roaring.  Amazing.

 

Unstriped ground squirrel

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Crested francolin

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White bellied go-away birds

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At 1600 hrs, we convened at the dining tent for tea prior to leaving for our afternoon game drive.  An order was taken for our libation of choice for our sundowner, and off we went.  We shared our vehicle with another couple from San Jose; really nice couple.  We saw a lot of the same animals on this drive that we had seen in the morning, but added a sighting of a wonderful big bull elephant (my first elephant!) trying his best to hide in the bushes, a big male lion (turns out he was the loser to the honeymooning male lion), and a male and female lion on their honeymoon (we were so close to this pair it was ridiculous).  While watching the lion couple, Jay and I definitely recognized courting behaviour (just like tomcats), and sure enough, not long after we arrived, the lion showed his interest.  At first the lioness was displeased, and roared (what a noise) at him and took a swipe at him.  She then relented and he mounted her.  In the blink of an eye, it was all over – 30 seconds – but apparently the courtship lasts for 3 to 4 days, with several mating’s per day (a pair generally mates every 20–30 minutes, with up to 50 copulations per 24 hours).  Exhausting, and they don’t eat during this time either.  We spent so long with the couple that we missed our sundowner (I would rather miss a sundowner than miss an animal sighting) and just headed back to camp for a drink around the campfire before dinner.  After dinner, we headed back to our tent, escorted by a Maasai fellow (rules for after dark), and turned in early.

 

Dik dik

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Red and yellow barbet

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My husband calls this the push-me-pull-you shot

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The lonely loser lion - I still thought he was pretty handsome

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The honeymooners

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@TonyQ

I'm pretty sure this was the collared lioness that you saw at Selenkay - I had another look at your pictures and compared them to mine.  She has the same markings on her ears and the scar across the right side of her nose.  I also noticed how much drier/browner it got in Selenkay between September and October.

 

 

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2019 October 07 (Monday)

We were awakened by noisy birds (probably those damn little francolins), and the good morning of the Maasai bringing us our morning coffee (coffee, cookies and a jug of hot water for washing).  After an early breakfast, we left for Amboseli National Park, sharing the jeep with the couple from San Jose, and a young Australian teenager.  Kili was again visible.  Before leaving the conservancy, Peter spent some time tracking a lion for us to see, but all we found were its tracks.  Peter also explained why impala have a black ‘M’ on their hindquarters – lion’s McDonalds! 

 

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On the way to the park we saw many different bird species, and happened upon a large group of elephants in the bush (there were some babies, but they were deep in the bush and we didn’t get a good look).

 

Von der Decken’s hornbill

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African hoopoe

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Von der Decken’s hornbill

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African hoopoe

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Lesser spotted eagle

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Kori bustard

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A highlight was the sighting of a very large snake.  Peter noticed the snake, as there were a lot of superb starlings making quite a fuss near a termite mound.  It was black and very long, and as it retreated back into the termite mound, Peter believed that it had been a (spitting) cobra – very cool.  If my son, a budding herpetologist, had been with us, we would have been hard pressed to keep him in the jeep; heck, I was having a hard time staying put.

 

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We passed a few herds of cattle, and a few Maasai communities, with goats and donkeys (Peter called these a Maasai Land Rover) grazing roadside. 

 

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As we approached Amboseli, the landscape opened up, and there was nothing but a wide-open plain and a lot of sky (Montana’s claim to “big sky country” doesn’t come close to this), all in the shadow of Kili.  Where were they hiding all the animals, the plains looked empty?  Soon enough the animals made their appearance; martial eagle, golden and black backed jackals, wildebeest, zebra, warthogs. 

 

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Martial eagle

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golden jackal

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We are actually driving down the ditch as it was a much smoother ride than on the road!

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We stopped at the airstrip for tea and coffee, and to use their bathroom facilities; so far, I’ve avoided ‘having to check the tire pressure’. 

 

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As we left the airstrip, a strange thing happened, we found water.  I wouldn’t have believed it possible, as at first glance Amboseli had looked like an arid plain, but there was a huge body of water, and we would continue to find these watering holes and marshes throughout the park.  These areas teemed with wildlife, as you would expect.  We stopped for a while on the road, as we cannot off-road like we can in the conservancy, and watched zebras battling for dominance, lots of birds, and wildebeest. 

 

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lesser flamingoes

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Glossy ibis

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African jacana

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Common squacco heron

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Grey heron

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It was there that we saw our first Amboseli elephants (this park is famous for its large elephant population), a herd of 9 – 6 females and 3 small calves.  They crossed the road right in front of us!  They were incredibly close; I was awestruck.  The matriarch had her own baby, and warily led her family towards another marsh, carefully gauging the herd’s pace to allow for the babies’ slower pace.  We watched their progress for some time, and then we drove on to their eventual goal, another big wetland area, already full of elephants!  More elephants!!  I was in heaven!

 

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What I love about the following 3 pictures is if you look in the background at the diversity! Impala, zebra, baboons, buffalo, warthogs...as well as the awesome, cute baby elephant in the foreground :) 

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Goliath heron

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Baby elephant with companion cattle egret

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Sorry, can't get enough of the Goliath heron

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Common squacco heron

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These elephants were up to their bellies in the water, and the little baby was up to his shoulders.  There was one cow busily pulling trunkfuls of grass from the water, and if the clump came up with too much mud attached, she swished it back in forth in the water to wash it off.  It was very interesting to see how dexterous their trucks were (I had first noticed this at the elephant orphanage). 

 

We moved along and saw some cape buffalo and more elephants on the far side of the wetlands, got a good look at 2 hippos grazing, and 2 grey crested cranes (a much better look than we had in Uganda).  Way out in the distance (too far for my camera) we saw a spotted animal leaping about in the wetlands (trying to keep its feet dry?).  It was a serval cat! 

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The ubiquitous Egyptian goose.  If we were in Canada it would be the ubiquitous Canadian goose.  From what we observed, they have a very similar temperament too!

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We headed back down the road, passing the defunct Amboseli lodge, which appears to have been taken over by vervet monkeys and yellow baboons (including one ugly-cute baby). 

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Grey headed kingfisher

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We slowly made our way around to a viewpoint for lunch, sighting all the usual suspects, as well as muddy spotted hyenas, more cape buffalo, and more elephants.  John stopped for me to take a picture of some roadside baboons and there was a young male that was "showing off a bit".  Later that evening, the English Ladies told us they had stopped for the same group of baboons, and as soon as they were stopped, a young male pleasured himself for their benefit.  I am sure it must have been the same culprit!

 

The culprit!

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On the main road to the picnic spot, there was a huge cow elephant standing in the middle of the road on the bridge, causing quite a traffic jam.  She gave no indication that she had any desire to move, until the very brave, or very foolish, driver of a vehicle coming the other way, decided to “push” (without actually touching her) her with his vehicle, towards us.  I do think if the cow had a mind to, he would have lost, and it would not have been pretty. 

 

Amboseli traffic jam

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Anyway, she did finally decide to clear the road, tromping right past us, again, very, very close, and with a bit of a grumpy face-on.  Who needs a telephoto lens?  The rest of her herd were shoulder deep in the water right next to the road, so we had a good opportunity to observe these elephants at close range while the traffic cleared.

 

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Stink-eye!

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We were taken to Noomotio (it means a place with inward hollow curved rocks that can hold water, or the place of water pans), a now extinct, small volcanic peak formed in the Pleistocene Age after the eruption of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The interpretive sign indicated that it was a gift from the Gods, and that the short climb was worth the while – they were right.  The views from the hilltop were ‘superb’ (just like the many starlings flocking to the picnic area).  We enjoyed a nice lunch, viewed many animals in the wetlands below the hill, and watched the dust devils (apparently a sign of the impending rains) swirling across the landscape, all right under Mt. Kilimanjaro!

 

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hundreds of pelicans in the wetlands below the picnic site

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Superb starling

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Yellow necked spur fowl

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Mount Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Tanzania, but it is clearly, and hugely visible in Amboseli. It is the highest mountain in Africa, 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  The Mawenzi and Shira cones are extinct, but Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again. The most recent activity was about 200 years ago, with the last major eruption occurring 360,000 years ago. Unfortunately, the mountain’s snow caps are disappearing, and they have lost more than 80 percent of their mass since 1912. In fact, the mountain may be completely ice-free within the next 20 years, according to scientists.  The Maasai call the mountain ‘Ol Doinyo Oibor’, meaning the ‘White Mountain’, and it is the reason that so much life thrives on the dry Amboseli plains.  Water from Kili trickles down through porous rocks and underground channels, forming numerous springs throughout Amboseli.  Sadly, climate change, and the disappearing snow caps may change this, and the Maasai may have to come up with another name for the mountain.

 

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On our return to the plain, we saw a male common waterbuck and a bohor reedbuck – something new to add to the growing list of sightings.  We came across a den of spotted hyena, with a young pup, and an older pup, awaiting the return of the muddy (I think we saw these animals in the mud earlier) adults.  The area around their den was absolutely littered with bones.  We watched the young pup nurse, and then moved on.  A pair of lionesses was sighted, after a cursory glance from them, they went back to snoozing in the shade.

 

Waterbuck

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Spoonbills and Egyptian goose

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After a very long, hot day, we began our almost 2-hour trek back to the camp.  Along the way we were treated to giraffe and antelope sightings, and some glorious sunset colours.  I was completely in my element, and had enjoyed every moment of the day thoroughly. 

 

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sorry - grainy - getting dark now and still on the move

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Our last stop - a visit to the honeymoon couple

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Edited by MMMim
Corrected some bird ids
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shazdwn

Thanks for sharing. I am looking at Porini for 2022 so good to have another report from those camps. 

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Zim Girl

Enjoying your storytelling very much and you have a lovely array of pictures to illustrate!

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Thank-you both @shazdwn and @Zim Girl

We were amazed at what we saw on this trip.  It was our first safari and far exceeded any expectations.  shazdwn, you won't be disappointed if you do travel with Gamewatchers/Porini.  The camps were very good, comfortable, clean, food good, good guides, and the conservancies are awesome.  We did enjoy our time in Amboseli and the Mara too, but the conservancies had lots of animals that you could really get close to.

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@MMMim I enjoy your TR, and to recognize how exited you are on your first safari. Am thinking about which camp and conservatory to choose for a trip in Febr 2021, and the Porini camps are still on the list (among others).

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Always great to read a first timers account of their safari. Your enthusiasm is very much evident in your writing @MMMim

Looking forward to the rest of your report.

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wilddog

I can only agree with others . Lovely report and your passion/interest shines through. I guess this will not be your last safari?

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@mopsy Thank-you

 

@wilddog Haven't quite gotten to posting that part of my TR yet, but yes, I had already made up my mind by the end of our trip to Amboseli, that I would be back as soon as possible. :) 

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2019 October 08 (Tuesday)

We headed out for an early morning game drive in the conservancy; Kili was visible today too!  We were paired with a new driver and guide, and sharing a jeep with a lovely couple from Dundee, Richard and June.  Our first stop was to visit the honeymooning lions (I can’t believe they aren’t annoyed with us yet).  The lioness was looking a little bit chewed up now, as when the male mounts her there was a lot of neck biting involved.  It was surprising and a little unnerving at how close we got to these big cats, probably no more than 15 feet away, in a completely unprotected, open sided vehicle.  Richard made a small move, getting up ever so slightly, to shift for a better vantage point, and the lioness gave him a very angry stare and a bit of a half-hearted lunge, just to remind him to respect her and the distance he was keeping.  She made it perfectly clear that she could have had him for breakfast if she really wanted, but she was a bit busy right now – sobering. After watching 2 bouts of mating, we left to find other animals.

 

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a bit blurry - sorry - but she is really looking chewed up

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Bit of a tart really!! :) 

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And he looks just a bit smug! :) 

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Blue naped mousebird 

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long tailed fiscal 

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On our return to camp, we had breakfast and a bit of down time.  Just after breakfast I finally came to be acquainted with the camps other residents, the black faced vervet monkeys.  They are very cheeky, and we had been warned earlier about leaving shoes and clothing outside the tent, less they be whisked away into the trees.  I was unaware up to that point that mature males have the most shocking, electric blue colored testicles; oh my!

 

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Really!?  I had no idea!

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Later in the morning, John (our new guide) and another young man, Edison, took us on a nature walk with an armed escort (oh!).  Edison started by explaining all of the skulls by the dining tent; he was very knowledgeable.  He showed us one of the small 5, the ant lion, in its sandy lair.  Poking the sides of the funnel with a stick to mimic an ant falling into the trap and trying to get out, the ant lion emerges and pounces on the ant.  During the walk, Edison talked about the plants, animals, animal poop, and footprints (we saw elephant footprints – big, wrinkly ovals).  Boy was it hot!  On foot we saw some giraffes and impala, but luckily no elephants (they are the reason the armed guard comes with us). 

 

Chevron throated dwarf gecko

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Edison

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White bellied go-away bird listening to Edison's talk

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Some white headed buffalo weavers join in the talk

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The Cape buffalo skull

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explaining elephant dentition

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the little watering hole next to the dining tent

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the lair of the ant-lion

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the ant-lion revealed

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off on our escorted walk

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it might be difficult to make this out, but it is a large wrinkly oval (elephant track)

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Following an afternoon rest, we convened for the afternoon game drive.  Jay and I were scheduled for the Maasai Village visit, so Richard and June carried on after we were deposited with the Chief of the Maasai Community (Jonathan), who took us to the nearest village for the cultural tour.  I have really mixed feelings about what went on at the village (especially after I found out that Richard and June had been taken to the water hole and watched a very large group of elephants, with babies, taking a mud bath).

 

Gamewatchers pays the Maasai community $14 USD per visitor to the village, and the proceeds are shared among the villages.  Part of the deal is that visitors are allowed to take as many pictures/videos of the residents as they want (some villages make you pay for that privilege), and there is no hard sell at the end of the visit for visitors to purchase Maasai made souvenirs (again this happens at the end of many village tours).  The villages in the community make various crafts, which are sold in the little stick souvenir hut behind the dining tent at the camp, with the money being returned to the community member contributing the item.  

 

Anyway, Jonathan took us to the village, on the way explaining some of the trees and their uses by the Maasai.  He advised us that we were free to take as many pictures and ask as many questions as we wanted to.  On entering the enclosure, we were greeted by the villagers who were lined up and singing a welcome song.  When the villagers finished their song, we were instructed to shake hands with all the men and women, and pat all the little kids on the head.  This all seemed very condescending. 

 

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Of course, Jay and I were really very interested in the livestock in the enclosure, and would have been happy to stand and discuss the cattle, sheep, and goats, and their herding practices, but any interest we had was waived off in order to complete the set program.  So, we watched a young man kindle a donkey poop fire, the old- fashioned way, and learned about some of the women’s chores (washing out the milk/blood calabash, jewelry beading, building the wood and cow dung houses). 

 

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Our next stop was a visit inside a house, but Jay and I were waylaid by some of the little kids who love to have their pictures and video taken.  We were busy having fun with the kids, and then we heard an impatient noise, and saw Jonathan standing at the entrance to the hut, practically tapping his foot with his hand on his hip (we got a real ‘hurry-up, times-a-wasting’ vibe).  We quickly crammed ourselves into the ridiculously small, ridiculously dark hut, but didn't really get a lot out of that experience, before being directed to go back outside for more dancing. 

 

Again, I got the feeling that the villagers’ hearts were not in this performance.  I look at my pictures now, and there was one young fellow at the end of the line who was clearly unhappy (angry, sullen) at having to join in.  There was also something strange going on with some of the women, and I had the distinct feeling that Jay and I were the butt of a joke.  It was all really uncomfortable and strange.  At the end of the half-hearted dance, we were literally dismissed from the village, and told rudely  that we should leave the village (it was milking time and the villagers were busy - ok, I get that).  

 

What I felt could have been a very good cultural exchange was ruined by having to follow a script.  I can understand the need for a formalized tour if there were a large group touring the village, but with only Jay and I present, I felt that the ‘performance’ could have been relaxed to allow a more natural interaction.  It was a very strange visit, and we both felt that we have gotten more out of interacting with the guides/drivers/employees at the camp, in a more natural way.  Honestly, I can see that the villagers might get absolutely sick and tired of tourists visiting them, and I understand that the money they receive from this helps the community, so it is hard to say no to Gamewatchers, even when they are fed-up.

 

We were picked up by the jeep, and our last stop before sundowners was to visit the honeymooning lions (I can’t believe they aren’t finished yet). 

 

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A late evening return to the water hole platform for our first real sundowner resulted in a no-show for animals, all mud-bathing elephants had finished up and gone, but nonetheless, we enjoyed a nice sunset with our G & T. 

 

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After dark, a lone bull elephant came for a drink, but it was too dark for a picture.  Shortly afterwards, he was joined by an even bigger bull.  I managed a picture when the guides spotlighted them.  They believe that the larger of the bulls was 27, and the other was approximately 20. 

 

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On our way back from sundowners, just outside the camp entrance, we encountered a large snake on the road, illuminated by the headlights – a black mamba – wow!  Another good reason to have a Maasai escort in camp after dark!

 

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shazdwn

@MMMim do you think you could have stayed on the game drive rather than visit the village if you preferred, or did you feel this was not an option? 

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@shazdwn I think, as first timers, we thought it was part of the itinerary (which I guess technically it is), but I don't think they would force you to go if you didn't want to, and would allow you to stay on the game drive if it were arranged ahead of time (when you first arrive, speak to the camp manager, or your travel arranger for Gamewatchers).  My husband and I thought it might be interesting so we went.  When we return to the Amboseli camp I'll just let them know we wont be going - been there, done that. 

 

Interestingly, we weren't the only ones that got that vibe.  The 5 English ladies (referred to in my TR) also did not enjoy their visit to the village.  They didn't say anything to us (they went the day before us) because they didn't want to influence our visit, in case we enjoyed it.  But after our visit we compared notes, and we all felt it had been a bit strange.  There was a new guest arrive the day before we left and she made it clear to the manager she did not wish to visit the village.

Heather

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wilddog

I was reluctant as I have been on these visits before but found that if I did not go I would also miss the game drive. 

 

They do benefit from our attendance in various ways. 

 

Did you meet the sunglass wearing motorcycle taxi chap? Very stylish. 

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Pamshelton3932

Not to hijack your TR, but my 2016 trip to the Masai Warriors at Amboseli with Gamewatcher's was a lot of fun.  I've attached a picture where the women seemed to be enjoying the interaction.  Maybe they are sick of visitors by now, or maybe they were laughing at us!  I still found it a bit awkward although enjoyable, so I won't be returning either.  AS you said, been there done that.

 

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@wilddog Gamewatchers didn't let you go on the game drive either?  That seems like a bit of a punishment.  It's not like the vehicle was full, it was just Richard and June in the 8 seater, so there would have been room for us if we had declined (maybe that really isn't an option).  I would rather just donate the $14 and skip the village visit and go on the extra game drive.

 

Oh and I missed the stylin' dude.  We saw a few motorcycles, but I never noticed the driver :) 

 

@Pamshelton3932 not a hijack, glad to see you village visit appeared happy.  Nice picture!  There were no smiling faces, except the 1 little boy we had been interacting with when Jonathon beckoned us into the house.  Perhaps it was just an off day.  I'd probably get fed-up with all the visitors too, but then they have made the agreement with Gamewatchers.  Perhaps they should rotate the villages (maybe they do, I don't know) to take the pressure off just the one, as it is the entire community, of many villages, that have entered into the agreement.

 

I did have a lovely time talking with the guys in the camp and our guides and drivers.  We had a lot of good discussions.  Jackson in the dining tent was hilarious!

Edited by MMMim
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wilddog

Not quite @MMMim If Ihad skipped the trip to the village the vehicle would not have had time to return to camp to collect me for the evening drive. I could have gone to the village and just stayed in the vehicle, while everyone else had a look around, but I felt that would be rude on my part. So I did. the whole thing. 

 

Sorry you missed super dude. Perhaps he has done so well he now has a vehicle taxi instead of a motorbike. It is all progress 🙂

 

 

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2019 October 09 (Wednesday)

After breakfast, John and Daniel took Richard and June, and us on a short game drive, en route to the airstrip (Kili still visible, btw).  We said our goodbyes (hugs all round!) and flew, with the English Ladies, back to Nairobi.  We spent a while at Wilson before heading on to the Maasai Mara. This time the flight was on a twin-otter plane – yuck.  The flight left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach, especially as we had 3 take-offs and 3 landings – a bit of a milk run really – between dropping off and picking up passengers.  We flew for about 35 minutes, landed, took off, flew for 5 minutes, landed, took off, flew for 5 minutes, and finally arrived.  We did have to laugh, as the flights went further out, the airstrips got more primitive.  At the second airstrip, we saw a guy on a motorcycle chasing the wildebeest off the runway.  We arrived in one piece, and we were greeted by David (guide) and Daniel (driver) – D2.  They took us back to camp, and there were quite a lot of game sightings, including topi (new to us) and eland (amazingly close so we were able to get a good look at them) on the way between the airstrip and camp, through the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, into the Ol Kinyei Conservancy where the Porini Mara Camp was located.

 

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The Ol Kinyei Conservancy is an 18,700-acre reserve, owned by the Maasai, that has been set aside as a wildlife sanctuary, with open plains, forests, and riverine habitat supporting a wide variety of wildlife, including all the usual suspects, as well as many lions, cheetah, and leopards. It is one of the sixteen conservancies making up the Maasai Mara National Reserve.  The wildebeest migration also passes through Ol Kinyei when herds from the eastern plains of Loita join the migration to the Mara Reserve, although we arrived too late for the migration, and the wildebeest we have seen in the area are year-round residents (David said that they had failed to obtain their passports in time).

 

Entering the Ol Kinyei Conservancy

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The camp was situated along the banks of the Laetoli River, surrounded by yellow barked acacia trees, and was really very lovely.  We were greeted at the entrance to the camp by an assortment of wildebeest, zebra, and waterbuck – the welcoming committee.  The camp was quite small, having only 6 tents, managed by Jimmie, and again staffed entirely by Maasai men.  Our tent was a bit smaller than at the Amboseli Camp, but still very nice, decorated with an elephant motif, and also having an en suite bathroom with a flappy curtain for a door.  Jay and I got to know way more about each other, even after 27 years of marriage, than we really wanted to. 

 

The welcoming committee

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After lunch, Jay and I obtained a libation, found a shady spot (it was stupid hot) by the river, and watched the best TV screen ever (Jimmie’s description).  All afternoon, just across the river, right in front of us, paraded a constant stream of zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck.  I was supposed to be journaling, but the view was too good.  Jay also had lots of birding opportunities (after all this time, he finally saw his first parrot – a brown parrot).  Fantastic!  I was truly in my happy place; I was always supposed to be here.

 

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not the brown parrot, but another little visitor near our seats - grey headed kingfisher

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In the late afternoon, we headed out on a game drive with fellow Canadians, a couple from Halifax, John and Gwendolyn, spotting many of the usual antelope, including the topi, which David described as wearing blue jeans with yellow socks and a Coke’s hartebeest.  As well, we saw some mongoose, warthogs, red headed rock agamas, olive baboons, and finally, some vultures. 

 

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Black-backed jackal

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Grey backed fiscals

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African white-backed vulture

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And giraffes, we’ve never seen so many.  When you think there is just one, look around, because there will be more poking around in the bushes.  It got to be a bit of a game with us, upping the ante.  I think the most we counted at one time was 13 giraffes. 

 

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One of the other notables on the drive, and I’m not sure how David spotted it, was a tommie fawn that was only a few hours old, lying down and trying to remain inconspicuous out in the middle of no-where on the open plain.  

 

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The big prize of the evening drive was the sighting of the female cheetah, Nebahati, and her 4 cubs (about 9 months old).  Her name means ‘lucky one’, and was obtained when she survived a lion attack when she was a cub that killed all of her siblings.  We arrived at their snoozing spot, watched them rise and get on with their evening.  I think there were another 4 vehicles with us, a far cry from what we would later witness in the Mara.  Nebahati was elegant, and everything you would expect a cheetah to be.  I’m not sure of the gender of her cubs, but they were sure mischievous and playful.  The family wandered down the hill, had a drink, and crossed the river.  They stayed a while on the hillside, surveying their domain, and returned to the river valley.  By this time the other vehicles had abandoned the sighting, but we stayed to watch the cubs chase each other around, and hunt birds, enjoying a sundowner with the cheetah family.  Magical!  As the sun went down, Nebahati took her family off into the dark.

 

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Edited by MMMim
Corrected some bird ids
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2019 October 10 (Thursday)

We awoke quite bleary eyed this morning, as some unbelievably noisy bird, or birds, woke us 2 or 3 times in the night.  While I was awake, I also heard lions, hyenas, zebras, and jackals making a racket, but it was still pretty wonderful to hear.   We described the night noises to David and our jeep companions and we were told that it was actually a bush baby making those ungodly screams above our tent, not birds.  Hard to believe that such tiny creatures (David was able to show us one later that evening, just after dark) could emit a noise like that.

 

On our early morning drive we first encountered a pack of black backed jackal pups, followed by a rambunctious encounter with Nebahati and her cubs.  It was difficult for her to look elegant this morning with several of her cubs pouncing on her and wrestling with her. But she overcame her adversaries with well-aimed rabbit kicks, sending her offspring tumbling. 

 

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Next up, a spotted hyena youngster having ‘breakfast’, toting around a wildebeest head (or part of one), and refusing to relinquish it to the other hyena, more giraffe, and mongoose too. 

 

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Dwarf mongoose

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Slender tailed mongoose

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We stopped for a scenic bush-breakfast, and were amazed at what was served; a hot breakfast including sausage, egg, beans, pancakes, coffee and tea. Ridiculous!  I asked David about a silvery, smaller type of thorned tree I had noticed.  He informed me that about 80% of the trees/shrubs in Kenya have thorns (I found that out disembarking from the jeep last night after the high-test sundowner, and I stepped on a very small plant that bit my calf quite hard).  This particular plant was called the Whistling Thorn Acacia, which produces a pair of straight thorns at each node, some of which have large bulbous bases. The swollen thorns are naturally hollow and are occupied by a symbiotic ant species; in the tree we were looking at it was a teeny-tiny species called the cocktail ant.  The ants drill a hole in the bulbous thorn when they ‘move in’, and when the wind blows through the thorn, the tree whistles.  In exchange for shelter in the bulbous thorns and tree nectar secretions, the ants are thought to defend the tree against herbivores, such as elephants and giraffes.  The ants certainly swarmed out of the bulbs when David disturbed the tree branch. Also, David told us that the Maasai use the very young thorn bulbs as a remedy for stomach ailments, so David picked us one and we all tried it.  It was very astringent, and I would prefer a Tums, thanks.

 

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Our next unusual sighting came at what looked like a man-made water hole; a hippo, covered in turtles.  We were all pretty sure the hippo was dead and was being used as an island haul-out site, but then the hippo opened its eye.  Weird; was this a hippo with a turtle problem, or turtles with a hippo problem? 

 

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At that point, David, with a wry smile, challenged Jay to a swimming competition, but offered Jay a head-start.  This started a running joke between David and Jay, with each challenging the other to poke a lion, swim a race with the crocodiles, and to clear the brush away from sleeping lions and hidden leopards…. Always with David insisting that Jay go first and that then he would surely follow.

 

Later, David pointed out a fireball lily, which blooms during the wet season.  Apparently there had been enough rain recently to allow this one to bloom.  The flower was a beautiful big red ball, apropos name.  I think I was the only one impressed enough to take a picture of it.  

 

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There were more hippo sightings, these ones obviously not dead, a croc sighting, and some yellow-billed storks thrown in for good measure.

 

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Yellow billed stork

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Egyptian goose

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Bare-faced go-away-bird

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Red headed rock agama (male)

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Rock hyrax

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Von der Decken’s hornbill

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On our return to camp we discovered that the English Ladies had caught up with us.  After lunch we were shown, just outside the dining tent, the worlds cutest little owl, the African scops owl, only 6.5 inches tall, and perfectly camouflaged against the tree. 

 

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We shared the secret of the worlds’ best TV screen with the English Ladies, who joined us for the afternoon, and lo and behold, Miki and Rod showed up too (the couple from San Jose).  While viewing TV, we saw a female bushbuck; looks like a deer but with stripes on its back.  John and Gwendolyn had told us that they had seen one outside of their tent earlier that morning.  Late in the afternoon, Rod thought he saw a rhino at the very top of the hill and convinced everyone that the unicorn had been real.  Not long after, we found out that Richard and June had arrived at the camp. It was like old home week – the gang’s all here!

 

White browed robin chat

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We headed out on the evening drive with John and Gwendolyn, and told David and Daniel that we had seen a rhino behind the camp.  They were highly skeptical (laughed their asses off really) and informed us that there was no rhino in the conservancy.  We may as well have seen a unicorn!  Not long after, we found a lion pride with a couple of lionesses and their young, sub-adult, probably 2 years old based on their mane growth, male lions, part of a bigger pride of 12.  David was always pointing out “loser” impalas with no girls; he seemed to enjoy that.

 

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Later into the drive, we came across a very big herd of elephants decimating the landscape in order to feed themselves.  There must have been at least 30 elephants, but it was hard to count as they were scattered all through the brush.  There were bulls, cows, babies, and juveniles in the group, and it was amazing at how close they were to us.  We moved a bit to go watch some of the bulls feeding, and then returned to the main herd with the cows and calves.

 

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It was fun to watch the juveniles sparring with each other, and babies nursing, but I was a bit nervous, as one cow was teaching her calf to uproot trees not 12 feet from the jeep.  However, she didn’t appear to mind at all and it was fabulous to watch.  In fact, we were all so engrossed in the activities of this pair that we hadn’t noticed the approach of other animals.  John looked up and asked D2, “what about that one”, a cow rapidly descending on us, with purpose and ears flapping.  She looked like she really meant business.  David, as only David could, stated “she looks quite gloomy, we should leave”.  Well I’ll tell you, those jeeps don’t have a good turning radius, and we had the baby elephant behind us, a tree right in front of us, and the gloomy elephant immediately to our left, and yet somehow, Daniel managed a 3-point turn and got us out of there quite quickly all things considered.  Gloomy ran after us just to ensure we were truly on our way!

 

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Gloomy bearing down on us

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We all had a laugh at our scary predicament as we enjoyed a sundowner on the plains, surrounded by wildebeest making their ‘mooing’ noise, and watching a glorious Kenyan sunset.  We finished-up our liberally poured drinks (we all felt we needed them to steady our nerves after our earlier encounter) and headed back to camp. 

 

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At dinner, we realized that another Amboseli Camp guest had been at the camp, although we hadn’t got to know him or his wife at the other camp.  Rick sat with us at dinner and shared a funny story that happened at Amboseli camp.  He recounted that one morning, they had been brought their allotment of water for their bucket shower.  His wife showered first, and when it was his turn, he wet himself down and soaped up, but when he went to rinse, there was no water.  He roundly cursed out his wife, and yelled at her for not leaving him enough water for a shower.  She was adamant that she had left plenty of water.  Their tent was configured as such that there was a ventilation panel that provided a view of the bucket.  When Rick looked out, he saw a vervet monkey sitting in the bucket, effectively plugging the water flow, taking his own bath! 

  

 

 

 

 

 

ST Mara (110).JPG

ST Mara (111).JPG

Edited by MMMim
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@MMMimyou are a very entertaining writer, I read your lastpart with a big smile. Beautiful pictures of the cheetah at the river.

Could you say something about the atmosphere in the camp, was the service good? I ask this because I saw a quite critical remark about this specific camp on Expert Africa’s website.

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@Biko Thank-you for your kind words.  The cheetah were very special.

We absolutely loved the Mara camp.  Our guide David and drivers (we had 2 because of a shift change), Daniel and George, couldn't do enough for us, and were excellent at sighting and tracking wildlife.  All 3 of them had a wonderful sense of humour.  I am still in touch with David regularly.  The manager of the camp, Jimmie, was very friendly.  There seemed to be 2 groups of Maasai men at the camp, the 'background' workers (cleaned tents, guarded the camp at night), who didn't interact with the guests very much - I think it was a language barrier and they may not have been used to talking with guests, but they were polite and helpful.  The second group were those men interacting with the guests regularly, in the dining tent, tending bar.  A bit quieter than the guys at the Amboseli camp, but still really nice, and helpful.  The service was great, the food was great.  I would go back in a heartbeat.

 

There was plenty of room in the tents - we had one with 2 double beds.  The tents were kept spotlessly clean.  I loved the camp, very beautiful setting and small, only 6 tents, so not busy or overwhelming.  The wildlife in the conservancy was wonderful too.  I would highly recommend this camp.  We are planning a return to it in 2022.  Can't wait!!

Heather

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2019 October 11 (Friday)

We were up early today for our all-day trip to the famous Maasai Mara Reserve (Narok County), which is contiguous with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The park is named in honor of the Maasai people and their description of the area when looked at it from afar.  ‘Mara’ means ‘spotted’ in the local Maasai language of Maa, due to the many trees, which dot the landscape (and probably the number of wildebeests dotting the landscape).  Due to work-shift change, today we had a new driver, George, who turned out to be another really great guy and a fantastic driver.  John and Gwendolyn had decided not to come with us, as they had already visited the Mara when they stayed at Lion Camp, so Jay and I had the vehicle to ourselves.  It was to be a long, dusty day out, but one we’ll never forget. 

 

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Leaving the camp, we crossed paths with the large pride of lions, some of which we had seen yesterday.  Overnight or early in the morning, they had killed a wildebeest and were still feasting on it, surrounded by the requisite hyenas, jackals and vultures.  The King of the Beasts was busy having his breakfast and was reluctant to let anyone else partake, although he occasionally let what must have been his favorite lioness in for a bite. 

 

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Nom-nom-nom

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A tawny eagle flies off with a bit

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We moved on, and a little while later we came across some more sub-adult male lions – looks like they forgot to shave this morning.

 

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We travelled through the Ol Kinyei and Olare Motorogi Conservancies, into the Maasai community lands, on our way to the Mara.  The tracks and roads were brutal; a real ‘African massage’, but George did his best to minimize the trauma.  We had a laugh at the road grader doing his best to fix an impossible situation.  Jay said, “That’s African job security”. 

 

African Hoopoe

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Kory Bustard

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Southern ground hornbill

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We eventually reached Talek, a dirty little town where the Talek Gate allows entry into the Maasai Mara Reserve.  The signs at the entry to town indicated that they were trying to keep the town litter free, but I certainly saw no evidence of that, and hadn’t seen that kind of litter since central Uganda.  You would think, given the tourism this area receives, the balloon ride companies and the several swanky lodges in town would try harder to keep the town clean.  

 

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The Mara seemed to encompass all sorts of ecosystems, ranging from extremely arid plains, to lush forests along the streams and rivers, and everything else in between.  David asked what I wanted to see in the Mara, and I responded “Cape buffalo up close, secretary birds, lilac breasted rollers, a leopard and a rhino”.  David said he would do his best to deliver.  Sure enough, within 20 minutes we had seen the first 3 on my list. 

 

Secretary bird

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Cape buffalo with red billed ox pecker

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The old boys club

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I'm pretty sure we all know this one, but I'm going to say it anyway...lilac breasted roller

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kicked back and snoozin'

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We saw several un-shy elands, a small family group of Mara elephants, and another large group of buffalo.  Interestingly, the buffalo were the only animals that David and George gave a wide berth to (they were pretty cautious with the hippos too, but they were generally down in the water and didn’t prove to be a threat). 

 

I just like this foursome

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Following our morning coffee break under a lone acacia tree, David received a tip that there had been a leopard sighting.   When we arrived, there must have been 15 vehicles surrounding a bush with a very low overhang.  It took a moment, but when we knew what we were looking for, we could just make out a leopard taking cover under the bush.  I really wish we could have had a better look at it (Jay, go move the bush away from it), but then a lot of people say they’ve seen a leopard, and all they’ve gotten a look at was a paw or the tip of a tail disappearing into a tree, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.  Luckily the wind blew the branches to the side and the leopard lifted its head, and we got the best look we could under the circumstances.

 

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After the leopard, we drove a while before our next sighting.  A sausage tree!  Only I could be that excited about a tree.  It has a very strange fruit that looks, yes, exactly like an enormous sausage dangling from the tree.  David said that locals make beer by cutting up the fruit, mixing it with water and sugar/honey, and placing it next to the fire to ferment for 4-5 days.  And I thought Coors light was awful. 

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We next encountered a cheetah seeking out the only shade in that part of the Mara.  You could see the heat shimmer behind it as it made its way across the plain to the only tree in sight. 

 

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A bit further on...

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A bit later on we came across a loser lion, and a honeymooning couple.  While we watched them, 3 of the world’s stupidest wildebeest, completely oblivious to the lions, traipsed right past loser lion.  He made a halfhearted attempt to attack them, really only a bit of a lunge, and very quickly gave up.  This piqued the interest of the honeymooning lioness, but by then the wildebeest had run too far off to bother with.  Too much effort required.

 

Handsome loser lion

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completely oblivious

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still not a clue there is a lion 30 feet from him

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It was during our morning in the Mara that we were introduced to the Ferrari Safari.  On the main roads (road is loosely defined in the Mara) we saw mini-van, after mini-van, zooming by, making brief stops at the major animals, and then zooming off again.  That could have been us.  What a difference from our experience, where we were allowed all the time we wanted to watch and experience any of the animals and plant-life that we saw.  I even had George stop so I could take pictures of the very few wildflowers in the Mara (George and David assured me that there would be many when the rains arrived).  There were beautiful purple morning glories along the rivers, and a few other brightly colored, tiny flowers that I noticed, but one of the flowers was the tissue-paper flower (that is what George called it), and I had noticed it because I thought someone had indeed thrown away a tissue.  Online, this little flower (Cycinium tubulosum) was identified as the waste paper flower (again because it looks like tissue), or as it is called in Talek (in Swahili), the ‘takataka’ flower, meaning 'trash' flower.

 

 Please note - this is not my photograph (open search on internet - not copyrighted) to illustrate this lovely little flower, as ironically, my photograph was 'trash'!!

1205941895_africabook(1).jpg.b1e276e8c5d36b2ef9f29922ec0965b7.jpg

Edited by MMMim
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We made our way to the Mara River, famous for its wildebeest crossings and croc predations.  It was quiet now, but I was struck by how steep and narrow some of the crossing points were, both getting into and out of the water.  Even now, with nary a wildebeest in sight, there were a few crocs (not the monstrous ones) lying in wait in the water at the bottom of the steep, sandy banks.  Along the river were large island sandbanks, covered in hippos in close proximity to beached crocodiles; nobody seemed to mind. 

 

There is a croc at the bottom

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Very, impossibly steep

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A little bee-eater

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These hippos appeared not to be at all bothered by the presence of the crocs just up the sandbar a bit

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It had become a very, very windy day, so George found a sheltered grove of trees overlooking a hippo pool on the Mara River.  We enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch while we listened to the hippos grunting and honking. 

 

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David getting lunch together for us

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Every time I tried to video them making all their noises, they shut up, so George volunteered to replicate the noises for me; not bad at all! 

 

I really wanted to attach the video of George's hippo impersonation but couldn't figure out how to.  We'll have to settle for a still and just try to imagine it.  George has a great sense of joy and sense of humor!

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After lunch, we walked a little way down the bank, into the grove, and found places where hippos had come up the banks and sprayed dung all over little bushes, marking territory.  Looking down the bank, we saw a big female crocodile lying on the beach.  It really was not that far from us, but we were lulled into security by the steepness of the bank (almost vertical).  If we had been that distance from her on a horizontal surface, I would not have lingered so long!  

 

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On our way again, we got into a bit of a discussion about traditional Maasai roles, and I received an invitation from David to go to his village and train to become a Maasai mom.  I said that would be very interesting, and he said he was pretty sure his mom could whip me into shape quickly, and that he would come and get me in a month.  He then outlined what a day in the life might look like: first you go and fetch water, then firewood, and that all has to be carried back to the village, then light the fire, prepare the food…Hmm, I think I’ll reconsider the offer; hard work and a hard life.  

 

As the afternoon wore on, I was to think again, what fantastic eyesight these Maasai had.  David and George, like earlier guides we had, did not miss a thing.  We were so lucky to see so much thanks to them.  We came across a large flock of assorted vultures, but we were unable to locate any carcass, so I guess they were just hanging about.  Then we completed our sightings of the ugly 5 with our close encounter with a Maribou Stork.  A troupe of mongoose.  An our last animal sighting, before the grand finale, was that of an oribi, largest of the dwarf antelopes, not often seen in this area. 

African White Backed Vultures and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures

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Not 100% sure, but this might be immature Ruppell's Griffon vulture

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Ruppell's Griffon Vultures

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Maribou stork

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Edited by MMMim
Corrected some bird ids
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