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A Kenyan Adventure - November 2021


Toxic
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The UK government started taking countries off the red list in September and travel being one of the things I missed most during the pandemic, I knew it was time to bite the bullet. I started researching a trip to Kenya and reached out to a variety of lodges and companies to see whether a last-minute trip was possible, and so the trip started taking shape. I initially only booked for ten days, but then work had offered me some additional time off and there were still a number of things I would have liked to do while in Kenya, so I added on an additional part of my itinerary. 

 

The power of hindsight and a better understanding of geography now shows me with a little more planning my travel could have been much more linear with perhaps fewer bush flights, but you live and you learn! 

 

My itinerary was as follows:

 

- Lake Naivasha, Loldia House: 3 nights (this would include a trip to Lake Elmenteita and Lake Nakuru) 

- Mugie House in the Mugie Conservancy, Laikipia: 3 nights [hindsight would have me do the latter half of my itinerary from here and end in the Mara...] 

- Little Governors Camp, Masai Mara: 4 nights

- Nairobi: 1 night

- Porini Amboseli Camp, Selenkay Conservancy: 3 nights (this would include a trip to Amboseli National Park) 

- Porini Rhino Camp, Ol Pejeta: 3 nights (including a visit to the Endangered Species Boma to visit the last two Northern White Rhinos) 

- Nairobi: 1 night

 

I flew with Kenya Airways and was really impressed with them. They were very strict about people wearing their masks; to the extent that they would wake people up if their mask slipped off their face. The food was reasonable, as was the entertainment.   Despite what I consider a lengthy amount of time on safari, I left feeling there was still so much left to explore in Kenya so a return trip is definitely necessary!

 

I will also admit, as I've posted before, I'm not much of a birder but I tried to make an effort this time round to appreciate all wildlife - including our flying friends! - though I must admit to only remembering a handful of their names, so any bird fans please correct me if I've posted something terribly wrong!

 

Also I am not a professional photographer but I played a little with the infamous black and white filter so please humour me while I get them all of my out of my system :lol:

 

A few photos to end this now lengthy post! More soon. 

 

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Having been to Kenya parks this year for the first time as well, I’m happily following along. 
when did you end up going on this trip?

the Buffalo pic looks cool in black and white

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4 hours ago, KaliCA said:

when did you end up going on this trip?

 

I only got home a few days ago (trying to organise a rapid PCR test to return home while in the bush was fun...!) but my trip started on November 20th and ended on November 9th :-)  

 

4 hours ago, KaliCA said:

the Buffalo pic looks cool in black and white

:lol: That photo was taken on the move too.  I thought Lake Nakuru had tons of Buffalo (more on that soon...) until I went to Ol Pejeta. I have never seen such huge numbers! HUNDREDS of them!  I told them they need to increase their lion population because the existing ones weren't cutting it for population control... 

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i've always thought B&W photos have more drama in them, so i enjoy them a lot. 

 

glad you were able to get out to Kenya and enjoy a safari, no matter how you had planned the itinerary. 

 

 

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Very nice start @Toxicand glad you could do such an interesting and long trip in Kenya with some nice camps as well ; looking forward to your report ! 

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Thank you @Kitsafariand @BRACQUENE:-) 

 

Lake Naivasha - Day One

 

Upon arriving in Nairobi at 5am and on the way to border control, all documents were checked multiple times: valid PCR test, temperature check, trusted traveller's code and finally the VISA.  We had some time before my scheduled flight from Wilson to Naivasha, the first of many bush flights.  I was the only passenger in the plane with the pilots (I had to purchase two seats to ensure the flight would run).   Not a particularly interesting flight but I hate heights and small planes make me nervous so I didn't look down often!  I discovered headphones and the ability to lip sync undetected while under the mask was a good cure for flight fears!

 

I arrived at Loldia House, which is on an old farm and at the shores of Lake Naivasha.  I had my temperature checked again and went through the usual briefing - unlike the majority of my other lodges and camps, this starting location had an electric fence close to the shore as there are resident hippos who enjoy grazing at night, and also buffalo who like to wander around.

 

You can see a couple of the hippos living their best lives in the photo below. It was a beautiful sunny day.

 

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I did some exploring and enjoyed some down time before lunch reading at this cool tree with its swing chairs. Something I would do more than once during my stay here.

 

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There was one family staying here comprising of eight people, though they were leaving the next day and COVID regulations meant that dinner was no longer communal anyway, and that I would be in my own car. I was informed I would then be the only person in camp until my last full day where one other group would join.

 

The afternoon came and with it my first game drive of my trip. I will say now that the drives here were not the most interesting - there isn't a huge range of mammals - but it was a nice way of easing myself back into the safari routine.  You will also see from the pictures that Naivasha was very dry - contrary to the above photos where the grass is lovely and green, largely due to human intervention, the rest of the park was very dusty and dry.

 

I was also told the lake has risen substantially over the past couple of years, causing it to swallow the existing road to my accommodation.  As an example - the trees in the water here used to have the road between them and the lake.  It has started to subside again but the locals are wary on it happening again.

 

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On to the animals (and the change in scenery... the further away from the water you are, the drier it becomes):

 

I think these are a pair of crowned lapwings if my scribbled notes are to be believed:

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Some guinea fowl (I dislike them - always running and such trouble makers!) 

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My first ever Dik-Dik!

 

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Three generations of unimpressed Buffalo 

 

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I saw some jackals, whom I've always liked, though my opinion of them would change later in the trip :lol:

 

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The bachelor's club - the white ring around the one on the right's neck is due to a snare he was caught in and had to be rescued from.

 

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And time for sundowners!

 

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Back to the lodge for dinner and an early night: the next day would bring a day trip to visit Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Elmenteita, so it was an early start.

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Good start @Toxic.  I love Kenya and have booked a trip back for January 2023...sigh...too long.  I was just reading an article about Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha and the terrible flooding that has occurred, and its impact on both the human and animal populations. https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/domino-effect

Looking forward to the rest of the trip!

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Thank you @MMMimfor your comments and also for sharing a link to that very interesting article. I hope I took some pictures similar to the one above that show where the road should have been vs where Nakuru is now. If I did it will be in the next post!   The guide was telling me a lot of animals were scattered due to the flooding.  Nakuru was also very dry on my visit, but the lake obviously very full - some roads gone completely and others too treacherous to attempt. 

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Yes, @Toxic, very difficult for the residents, as so many have lost everything.  And the tourism dollars may decrease as the wildlife scatters and there are no flamingoes on the lakes, which I understand was a big draw.

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Nice itinerary.  Looking forward to the birds that will appear.  I bet the serval looks forward to that too.

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@MMMimdefinitely! As you'll see from the next post there was a distinct lack of flamingoes at either lake. I did see many in Amboseli though.

 

Thank you @Atravelynn- did you manage to go on your trip? I think you were travelling a couple of weeks before me, apologies if I have missed any of your reports or photos! I think you were visiting the orphanages? 

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DAY 2 -  Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Elmenteita

 

It was an early breakfast before we headed out. Enjoyed watching these birds, which I think are village weavers, while eating my toast.  I think in my next day report one of these (or perhaps it is another bird) stole butter from me with photo evidence :ph34r:

 

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The first stop would be Lake Elmenteita. It was my first trip to Kenya and of course most itineraries won't tell you, as MMMim has pointed out above, that most of the bird life has dispersed, so we headed there with lots of enthusiasm from me!

 

Our stop here was not very long as there wasn't too much activity. Here are a few pictures captured. It was very serene and tranquil though I was approached by someone who was quite persistent in trying to sell me flamingo feathers I didn't want. 

 

If I am correct some of the birdlife captured are the flamingoes, the yellow-billed stork, the spoonbill and an ibis and the Egyptian geese who were very loud. I'm confident in my ability to only name the flamingoes and the geese :lol:

 

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We continued our journey on to Nakuru National Park. Journey was uneventful and took approximately 2 hours from my departure point; it was fun watching baboons sitting at the side of the road begging for treats, zebra, camels, donkeys and horses. It was also my first experience of the matatus - they were bonkers!

 

Anyway, we get to the park, buy our entry ticket and off we go. Immediately the observation is that it is very dry, much like Naivasha. It was also a very hot day so wildlife spotting could prove tricky, though things started well.

 

Not 10 minutes after the entrance, we saw my first rhino of the trip lounging in the shade.

 

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Followed by some common zebra-

 

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Some pictures of the lake and how far it has expanded - the furthest tree in the first photo used to be by the road:

 

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Followed by some very dusty Buffalo-

 

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And a fish eagle and pelicans by/in the lake, and we enjoyed watching this egret stalking bugs and having some lunch.

 

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More zebra and buffalo

 

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Makalia falls

 

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For some reason I only took these photos in portrait mode, but they were some very curious colobus monkeys and a kingfisher of some sort (I think)

 

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A very horny (😉) buffalo and then a terrible picture of some more buffalo but I thought all the birds flying were cool!

 

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Heading out we see our friend again:

 

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A long day but enjoyable. We didn't see any cats in Nakuru but I didn't leave feeling disappointed. I'm not sure I would visit again but good to tick off the list. I don't think Lake Elmenteita was worth a visit and I wouldn't recommend it to my friends but good to see once (and it must have been beautiful before all the climate changes).

 

The next day would be my last full day in Lake Naivasha, which included a boat ride on the lake and my first night drive. 

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8 hours ago, Toxic said:

@MMMimdefinitely! As you'll see from the next post there was a distinct lack of flamingoes at either lake. I did see many in Amboseli though.

 

Thank you @Atravelynn- did you manage to go on your trip? I think you were travelling a couple of weeks before me, apologies if I have missed any of your reports or photos! I think you were visiting the orphanages? 

Good memory!  I went, returned, and will start the report tomorrow!

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Congrats in Dik dik #1.  The weavers were in an enchanting little bird bath thing!  I often think that the birds make the photo when they are flying around buffalo or elephant.  Portrait mode was perfect to include the long colobus tail!  Nice to see the rhino.

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17 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Good memory!  I went, returned, and will start the report tomorrow!

I look forward to reading it!

 

17 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Congrats in Dik dik #1. 

 

I saw a lot of Dik-Diks - never for very long, but OMG I love them; they're so cute! 

 

Thank you for your kind comments :-)

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DAY 3 - Final Day in Naivasha

 

Today started with an early morning breakfast, followed by a boat ride on the Lake. It was fascinating hearing about the fishing, and that there is an average of one death from hippo attacks each month on the fishermen. I was lucky to see some boats out fishing, as well as some very young men checking the nets with no boat. We also saw one who had built a raft from various cans and plastics so he could balance atop it while checking nets. I would have fallen straight in!

 

Starting with the breakfast birds, here is the Protector of Weetabix, a Superb Starling.

 

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And in haste to get some more photos, some more breakfast birds in portrait mode (can't recall what they are but they are pretty, even if one is a butter thief) 

 

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On to the lake, which rather than walking the short distance to the dock, I had to be driven to, as a buffalo and her calf were spotted near the property. Sure enough, not even 60 seconds after departing the dock, we saw mum and baby in the bushes making a quick exit in the opposite direction of us.

 

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The lake was very still, and we saw a variety of birds. Don't ask me to name them - I can remember the fish eagle and the jakana and not much else! :lol:

 

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We spent approximately 90 minutes on the lake, and it was great. It was relaxing and at my request we didn't get too close to the few hippos we saw... they scare me!

 

The evening saw my first night drive, where I played spotter. I got to hold the giant torch and was searching for the animals.  I also learned at this point that my camera which I think served me pretty well during the day throughout this trip was absolutely shocking at capturing anything in the dark so aside from a few blurry photos of some hyena and hippo, I chose to see with my eyes rather than through the screen. Taking pictures of moving targets while holding a spotlight was a surprisingly difficult task for someone with very little coordination anyway!

 

The only highlight of the night drive was seeing some hyena, hippo and my very first bat-eared fox! He didn't stick around for long, but it was nice to be gifted with another first on my last night in Naivasha.

 

Tomorrow would be an early start for the long drive from Naivasha to Laikipia, and more specifically, to Mugie Conservancy. 

Edited by Toxic
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Also, I know this is another portrait photo, but just to say the service at Loldia House was incredible and there was a resident puppy named Poppy. She was very friendly and I enjoyed her company! 

 

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Congrats on the bat-eared fox.  You were coordinated enough to get the grey heron in flight!  The butter thief is a white-browed robin chat I believe.

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Thank you @Atravelynn, for both your identification and your comments!  We saw many grey herons so I was just there pressing 'shoot' hoping one picture would turn out reasonable :lol:

 

DAY 4 - To Mugie Conservancy in Laikipia 

 

We left Naivasha early for what would be a 2.5 hour drive to Mugie House in the Mugie Conservancy.   I didn't know what to expect here, but this was next level luxury. The room was amazing (I have a video but I'm not sure I can post it here) and each night housekeeping would come in and light the fire near the bed. It was bliss.   There was one couple here on my arrival, though they were leaving the next morning, at which point I would have exclusive use of the entire camp for the rest of my stay.

 

I was also instructed that usually night drives were an option here, however due to the very dry lands surrounding the conservancy, they were no longer running as each night locals are sneaking in with their cattle to allow them to eat the grass, making it unsafe. Fair enough!

 

In exchange for the video, here is a photo of the room that I've taken from Governor's website, just for visualisation purposes. Not my image.  I enjoyed watching the birds from my balcony, as well as a lovely view of a watering hole, where I saw a group of 10+ elephants having fun one lunch time.

 

Governors' Mugie House - The Governors Camp

 

The following are photos I took, and you can see some more birds enjoying the pool at lunch before my afternoon drive in this conservancy.

 

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My first Grevy zebra! There was a healthy population here, and we saw tons of common and grevy zebra every day, often mixing with each other. It was fun learning to distinguish between the two.

 

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And my first elephants of the trip. I love them so much so any time we get to spend with them I treasure.

 

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We also saw my first Oryx, who had lost one of his horns. Oryx here were very shy, so I could only catch him with his back to me. I named him Unicorn. This was not the last we saw him, he also came to say goodbye on my drive out of Mugie to the airstrip. 

 

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Other sightings include these ostrich, and this yellow-billed stork.

 

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Satisfied with the sightings after a long travel day, we proceeded to have a sundowner and then back to the lodge for dinner and an early night. 

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Day 5 - Mugie Conservancy, and the first big cat of the trip

 

Up at 6am, we headed out for my first morning drive here. It was cold here. Up until this point I felt silly for packing a fleece, rain jacket, warm hat and scarf.  I no longer felt silly. As you can see it was very dry here too. 

 

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In the distance we could hear lions roaring, and so we went in search for them and boy did we find them! It was the biggest pride I've had the joy of seeing, with 14 lions. They were on a mission to find somewhere to rest for the day, and as you'll see from the photos there are three different generations here.  

 

This is the Lisa Pride. 

 

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This was such a special sighting, and also because of the adorable cubs, we followed them for a good two hours. I loved it. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

 

I would have been happy with just this sighting this morning, but nature had other plans. On the way back to camp, we also saw my first reticulated giraffe.

 

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A grumpy tawny

 

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Grevy and Common Zebra mixing, with one of the common nursing an injured leg. This was apparently caused by an unsuccessful lion attack.

 

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Some more birds, the first two both rollers, I think the first may be a European one? Then a hornbill and the pretty green bird I think is a bee-eater but will let someone with more bird knowledge confirm :)

 

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We also saw this impressive male elephant, some buffalo and some water buck.

 

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Quite the busy morning, we got back to the lodge for a well-earned breakfast. Or so I thought...

 

As I approached my room to put away my morning extras (hat etc), my guide caught up to me and told me to get back into the jeep.  He received a call that they had spotted a cheetah, and if I minded breakfast being delayed.  Having never seen a cheetah in the wild before, breakfast would have to wait.

 

 

 

Edited by Toxic
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What a treat to see those lion cubs and some of the special Northern species.  Little Bee-eater I believe for the bee eater.   Rollers can be hard to distinguish, at least for me.  European is a good guess.  The next one looks like a rufous crowned roller.

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With breakfast on hold, out we went in search for my first ever cheetah.

 

I will say I have no idea how anyone managed to find this cheetah, because it was perfectly hidden in a bush, but I guess that is the magic of safari and the skill of those trained to find such things!

 

Here is us approaching the cheetah:

 

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And a facial close-up 

 

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Those eagle-eyed will see blood dripping from his mouth.  We initially thought, because he also looks quite full, this was the remnants of a kill. It turned out he was injured.

 

We spent a good 30-minutes observing him resting as it was so exciting for me. What beautiful cats!    With the promise that we would return during our afternoon drive, I left satisfied and ready for breakfast. 

 

A little in the distance we could hear impala alarm calls, and very noisy birds. So en-route back to the lodge we decided to quickly check it out to see what was going on.  My guide, Jacob, pointed to a particular bush not too dissimilar to the one above, that birds were circling and being very noisy about. He said there is a possibility something is in that bush, and it was the bird's way of drawing attention to it for the impala (who were looking in the opposite direction). 

 

We drove towards this bush, and out jumped a leopard. It happened so quickly I had no time to take any photos. He ran off - we had spooked him and probably ruined brunch for him.  But three big cats in one morning, and to then be told no one had seen a leopard for three weeks in Mugie, made it even more special. The safari gods were smiling upon me on this morning :)

 

We got back to the lodge and I sat down to eat. The game-viewing wasn't over though - there was a playful herd of elephants at the watering hole that we could see from the breakfast table, so here are some photos of them (keeping in mind I am quite far away and all of these photos are with 10x zoom!). Nothing better than enjoying some apple pancakes while watching elephants drink, throw dust over themselves, and tiny babies finding their way.

 

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In the afternoon I had a stop at Mugie HQ, as it was time to meet Tala the Giraffe.  I shall quote what the website says about her, which I think explains it so beautifully:

 

On the 6th February 2014, at just a few days old, a baby giraffe was brought to Mugie Conservancy by a local herder after she began following his herd of goats. She was names ‘Tala’ which means ‘goddess of stars’ by the Hahn family who own the conservancy. With much love and attention, she was cared for by Mary (‘Mama Tala’), who quickly became her surrogate mother.

 

Now seven years old, she wanders freely within the conservancy, but often returns to her chosen ‘home’ at the Head Quarters – where the staff are quite accustomed to being overseen by this towering presence! Meeting this wonderful reticulated giraffe is a treasured memory for many and she is definitely one of Mugie’s ‘cast of characters’!

 

I was able to meet Tala, feed and pet her.  She definitely was a towering presence and she was very naughty - she kept trying to steal the bananas and the bread before we were ready to feed her!   This will be the first photo with me in it on safaritalk so everyone better be nice :lol: You can probably see the fear in my eyes!

 

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A lovely experience that went into more detail as to how she came to be here, filled with lots of giraffe facts, and also that they have tried to reintroduce her to wild several times but each time has failed - other giraffes reject her, and she tends to go into the local villages which obviously is a risk to their crops and such.

 

Back to check if our cheetah friend was still around and to my joy - he was! He was a little more active after some rest, just moving about before laying down again, but it was beautiful to see him in all his glory. 

 

 

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I know these two photos are portrait but I think they better show his mouth for the aforementioned injury. As an aside, none of the tracking collars I saw on any of the big cats in here were said to be working (and allegedly haven't for years!).

 

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A very busy, fulfilling day! 

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On the next day, up at sunrise, and asked what I wanted to see. I asked for some elephants, and so off we went searching for them.

 

First, here are some landscape shots for those that haven't been around. It must be very beautiful in green season!

 

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It didn't take us too long to find a lovely family unit of eles, which we spent a lot of time with just listening to them rip grass up and chomping away.

 

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Unbeknownst to me, the lodge was preparing a bush breakfast, which would be another first but I did feel so guilty about it afterwards. It took 8 people to set up a portable kitchen, a sanitation station, a dining table and a bush toilet just for me. It was a nice surprise but I would have been just as happy going back to the lodge for breakfast and saved a lot of people a lot of energy!

 

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We also saw our cheetah for the last time, who wasn't too far away from our breakfast station.

 

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Thanks @Toxicfor this fantastic TR and cheetah are without any doubt amongst my favorite animals ! Have a wonderful Christmas!

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A really enjoyable report, thanks so much for sharing. That´s a lovely photo of you and the Giraffe. Don‘t see any fear there, just a bit of healthy respect. ;)

 

We were in Kenya at the same time and even to some of the same locations. I was in Porini Rhino Nov 19th to 22nd (which was the end of my trip). Lovely bird photos - your butter thief looks like a White-Crowned Robin-Chat. Never been to Mugie, looks very enjoyable. Ah, the boat on Naivasha must have been wonderful, I always like those.

 

Looking forward to seeing more. Happy Christmas!

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