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First time Kenya - a Self-Drive Safari TR to 5 parks, August 26-September 16, 2021


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obviously I concentrated on the animals but every once in a while you see glimpses of cars - much more behaved than on your trip, looks to me

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I have read that in very recent years ( pre COVID) at the peak of the migration in the Maasai Mara, when there is a really big crossing, as many as 200 vehicles may be present.

With something like 5000 beds in the Mara ( including the Conservancies) plus unlimited ? day visitors it’s not surprising.

I also wonder what effect this number of visitors are having on cheetah numbers there, as multiple vehicles are always following cheetahs, making very difficult for them to hunt successfully in the daylight , which cheetahs must do.


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That’s an excellent crossing video- you really captured the chaos in the water.  As @Ice says the crowd looked well behaved and much different from the outrageous behavior we have unfortunately come to expect in the Mara and as you described earlier. 

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so sad to see how much the behaviour of visitors has declined over the years 

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Some excellent sightings and photos.

Your descriptions of the practicalities are very interesting as well (even though I will not travel in this way, I greatly admire those of you that do!)

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Dave Williams

An interesting read for sure, thank you for posting! I would be feeling permanently angry during the whole trip if I had had to put up with that car. You could have bought one in that condition for what you paid in rent! 

I have to say, I have no ambition to go to the Masai Mara having seen so many scenes similar to the one you posted at the wildebeest crossing. However, if it maintains it's reputation that has to be good for other less visited places. 

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@icethanks for your excellent video capture of the mayhem created by a crossing. I’m kind of glad I missed seeing all that dying…. But at least the chaos was not created by humans. This is what makes me so furious: Rules and distances are not enforced anymore on the Reserve side, and, it seems, like many of you have pointed out, it has become worse over time and probably because of social media fomo pressure. I seem to remember the Warden walking up to a car and money was exchanged….so there may be an element of corruption as well. 
Well, we can vote with our dollar and not visit there any more….

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2 hours ago, KaliCA said:

Well, we can vote with our dollar and not visit there any more….


That (2012) was my last visit during the Migration Time and it will remain so. 

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Thank you all for your replies and interest.

Here a few more pics from our first afternoon with Ken guiding.




I'm always happy to see Eland, especially, when they show more than their backside!



 We are surprised to see many giraffe browsing on low bushes, not on trees.



I think this is one of Scarface's brothers, but his name escapes me. What is it with naming wild animals? Another negative thing of social media?





And not far away, the rest of the family is waking up and getting washed behind their ears.






Evening gymnastics







Oh Mom, do I have to?




Ugly in a cute sort of way...DSC_9065.jpg.57673977c63c2fdae1c09332a52d03e4.jpg


and then a debate with Ken: should the sun be in the tree or next to the tree? He says next to the tree. I agree.






Whew! we get back to Aruba Mara Camp exhausted from one of our best ever safari days. 

Ken rocks!





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Aruba Mara Camp, Talek.
fixed tent $30pppn
$9 pppn camping in our own tent. 
Dinner $20 pp

Good enough: Since there is no more public camping inside the Reserve, we choose this camp to pitch our tent. It’s located only 5 minutes outside Talek Gate and along the Talek river. The camping area is spacious with grass and trees, a kitchen cage, and one spot looks down at the river. The three showers have hot water from a donkey and the three toilets flush! They also offer fixed en-suite tents at various luxury levels and one can organize safari time with them. We spend one night in a Bush tent with shared ablutions, one night at the river front spot in our dome tent, and three nights in a fixed tent with en-suite bathroom and shower also along the river. Now this feels like true luxury! As an added bonus, we are able to do laundry and let it dry inside the tent over the two days. 
One night, the German owner, Gerdi, offers a scrumptious buffet dinner, much of it she cooked herself. The other dinners were only ok, but at least we didn’t get stomach aches. At $20 per person, the non-buffet dinners are certainly overpriced. As a funny aside: By the time we go to dinner, Gerdi has already heard through the grapevine of the self-driver who barreled through the barrier at Talek Gate, so she says, “Oh, that was you?”
Lowlights: We are a little shocked to notice that there is a generator pumping water directly from the Talek river to the water tank, and cows and hippos poop upstream into the same river! A Swiss lady tells me of getting Montezuma’s revenge when she neglected to brush her teeth with bottled water but used tap water instead. And one morning we had stinky brown water come out of our faucet!
The town of Talek is the main gateway to the famous Mara Reserve. But from the looks of it you would not guess that this is where thousands of tourists pass through. It’s exceptionally filthy and the dirt road through it looks worse than any game driving track. There are a few stores and at least two gas stations, and we buy some things like Coke and cookies. It’s a very unappealing town, in our opinion, and one wonders where all the tourist money from the park goes; sadly, it apparently doesn’t reach Talek. 


Cows drinking in the Talek River. Aruba Mara and other camps are situated along the Talek river



Camping at Aruba Mara campsite in our dome tent. It was a weekend and and busy, so other campers were talking loudly past midnight. GRRRRRR



View across the river into the Reserve, a better view is from the terrace by the restaurant.




We spent three nights in this comfy tent. 



A smelley mishap: the suds from the water tank are coming through the faucet. Yuck!IMG_7153.JPG.6e7f062b32d033f18574d2d620819610.JPG


Talek Town









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@KaliCAI am really enjoying reading this TR. The short anecdotes are fun to read, even the negatives. I think we all get a bit blinded by the wildlife to remember these - it sounds like you had a some interesting experiences with your car and that tap!!  I've loved looking at your pictures. The serval, cheetah and that glorious sunset (definitely to the side) are particularly beautiful shots, and your river crossing sequence transported me there (even though I've never been!). I promise I was in one of the behaving cars. :lol:


Thank you for sharing!

Edited by Toxic
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On 11/1/2021 at 7:40 PM, KaliCA said:

That second photo with the zebras and mountains is fantastic. Such lovely colours! 

I am astonished that Peter wasn't more sympathetic regarding the brake incident at the gate. It could have been so much more serious. 

That photo of the trucks on the highway to Sekenami reminds me of self-driving on the highways in Zambia - quite terrifying. 

Regarding toilet paper - when self-driving, we always have brown paper lunch bags with us for disposing of toilet paper. Once full, we simply burn them in our camp fire. 

Were the spike belts on the highway put there by the police or "municipality reps"? We often encountered the latter in East Africa, who demanded money for travelling on whatever road we were on - not usually the major highways, but most often on back roads through the villages. 

Love the photo of the six wildebeests. You'd swear a photographer arranged them for a family portrait. 

Since you asked...When we were in the Mara Reserve in 2019, we were appalled by the behaviour of those at the (Mara River) crossing points. The guides showed absolutely no respect for the rules nor the well being of the animals. We wanted no part of it and left. We would not return to the Mara Reserve - because of what is happening at the crossing points but also in the reserve as a whole - too many people/vehicles at any good sighting. There is somewhat better control at the crossings on the Mara Triangle side but not a lot. However, there is very strict control at big cat and rhino sightings in the Triangle, with rangers handing out fines on the spot. We would return to the Mara Triangle but not the Mara Reserve. 

Looking forward to more!


Edited by Birdie
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@Birdie Thank you! 

good idea bringing brown lunch bags for TP. Hope more ppl will do that. It's so unsightly to see TP being blown about in any NP.

The spike belt just showed up without any warning! No one there manning it, though.

I feel the same way about the Reserve. No rules, it's The Wild West!

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Our second full day with Ken (more than 12 hours!) starts with a bang: We find the famous 4 Cheetah Brothers Coalition. Ken is parking close to a tree and says, "We will wait here, because they will come to this tree to mark it." Well, I thought that's  a little presumptuous, but wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened. They walked towards us and the tree while all the others followed them and saw butts!







After they leave the tree, they get very agitated with each other and bite and pounce on each other, maybe some kind of dominance fighting? It all happens right next to our car and the noise and speed with which they attack each other is impressive.











Then Ken drives down the slope to a fallen tree and says, "We will wait here for them because they will come and mark the log." Exactly right again! We are so impressed, as we see them marching towards us head-on with cars following them and they see butts, while we see 4 Cheetah head on... but with the darn vehicles in back of them. at the log, they mark and another few fights break out. After that they have a rest under a tree and we leave them be. Ken says they wouldn't be hunting today, because they ate yesterday and of course, we believe him, he proved himself to be the expert.

Seeing the Cheetah Brothers was high on my list and I can tick that item off. What a performance we were able to see!









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What's wrong with this picture? P1540289.JPG.320f7e77c0fb40c52f5bfe386dcee37f.JPG

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@KaliCAthanks for posting your Kenya adventure. Sorry to hear of your vehicle and camping equipment problems, such a shame. Ken seems to think like a cheetah!

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37 minutes ago, KaliCA said:

What's wrong with this picture? P1540289.JPG.320f7e77c0fb40c52f5bfe386dcee37f.JPG


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Excellent Cheetah sequences. On the other hand, the camp descriptions and some photos are borderline horrifying. I suspect it was not that bad, but self driving in Kenya seems quite off putting😵💫

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8 hours ago, KaliCA said:

What's wrong with this picture? P1540289.JPG.320f7e77c0fb40c52f5bfe386dcee37f.JPG



That just made me feel so furious with these humans, and so sad for the cats. 


Kudos to you both for being so adventurous in self-driving in Kenya. i'm enjoying seeing the wildlife!

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What's better than 4 Cheetah Brothers? More Cheetah, of course, this time we find a mother and two small cubs, both still with their badger fur along the back. Too cute!












After watching them for a time, we decide to find a tree and have breakfast. We do not set up our camping equipment, but have a quick cereal meal while sitting in the car. After a few minutes into the meal, we see the cheetah mother giving chase, running after a gazelle. This time we are already in the car and Ken drives cross-country to the place of the kill. This is what we observe:







After her meal, the Cheetah mother is going back to the bush where she stashed her cubs and a happy reunion ensues.



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Later, we find half of a lion sleeping under a bush and  then have siesta under a single tree. It has been a very busy morning so far.













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When Ken finds a mating pair of lions, we wait over an hour for them to wake up, but they are not the client-friendly sort and so we leave them in favor of having another look at the 4 Cheetah Brothers. They are also lazy, resting, but not sleeping. We enjoy them in all their handsomeness in the golden evening light.










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When we get back to Aruba Mara Camp, we pay Ken and tip him generously for the two fantastic safari days we have spent with him. Dan, the manager is upgrading us to an en-suite bush tent, and we gratefully accept. The next day, we are self-driving and we find out that navigating in the Reserve is not as easy as we thought. We use maps.me and still many tracks are unknown to the app.  We are seeing a lot of general game, even a cheetah, and make it down to Lookout Hill. We see a leopard hidden under a bush, lions on a kill in tall grass and bushes, so no pics, many crocs and hippos, but no crossing. Since we are not connected by radio, we have no way of knowing what's going on where and only later do we hear that the 4 Cheetah Brothers were hunting and made a kill. Later in the afternoon, we drive along a river and I clearly see a leopard tail swinging behind a bush. a few seconds later, a leopard cub is visible, bounding through the bushes and then its mother appears. I'm super excited to have found not one but two leopards! Well, we have them to ourselves for about three minutes, before more cars appear. A game driver says it is Luluka with her cub. Here we go again with naming wild animals that are now youtube sensations. 

It is so wonderful to see how the cub is attached to its mother. The mother does something we and the game driver next to us has never seen. She stands up on her haunches, letting her paws drop, looking a little like a mongoose on look-out duty. We are thrilled to have seen two lovely leopards at the end of our self-driving day.












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wow that leopard 'standing' on its haunches! quite something.

Edited by wilddog
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