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Lion in the rain - Kenya, November 2022


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It seems like people often hesitate to write trip reports covering areas that have been visited already by a lot of people, but hopefully there's an appetite for revisiting well-trod ground.  We also have a lot of good reports on-going right now, but none that I see from East Africa, so hopefully this also will fill a bit of a gap.  


We originally booked this safari with The Wild Source in late 2020 for February 2022, expecting (hoping?) that the pandemic would be over by then (oops).  Our plan was to combine a relatively short trip to Africa (8 nights in the Mara) with a family member's milestone birthday.  However, as the levels of Omicron were shooting up last January, we made the decision to push back our dates to November.  Our main concern was that we were going to be leaving the kids with my in-laws, and didn't want to risk exposing them unnecessarily.  This ended up being a good decision, as five days before we were planned to leave our 4-year-old came down with Covid, and then passed it along to the rest of us.  So we would have been scrambling to change our dates if we hadn't already done so!  


Changing our dates meant we could extend our trip to a full 2 weeks, which was a nice bonus.  Our February itinerary was to be 5 nights at Enaidura (in the main reserve) followed by 3 nights at Encounter Mara (Naboisho Conservancy).  So we had to decide what location to add.  Our previous Africa experience has all been to Northern Tanzania (see all 3 trip reports on this site if you haven't already), and so we have not crossed pathways with wild dogs yet.  So the decision was made to add 4 nights at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in the hopes of finding wild dogs. 


So our final itinerary was as follows:

1 night Nairobi, Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport

4 nights Laikipia Wilderness Camp

5 nights Enaidura Camp, Maasai Mara.  Private vehicle guided by Ping

3 nights Encounter Mara, Naboisho Conservancy.  Private, photography vehicle

Day room at Emakoko in Nairobi National Park, with a short game drive in the park


We had lots of great sightings, some misses, and in general it was great to be back in Africa.  As you might guess from the title, we had a lot of time with lions, and quite a bit of rain (both in the Mara - LWC hasn't had much rain in at least 2 years).  



Very wet lion in Naboisho


As often seems to be the case, I stopped taking notes after the first day, so this will generally be based on the photos taken.  Although, if I have one super-power it's that I never synchronize my camera clocks properly, so photos end up mixed up a little.  So we'll see how this goes!


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I love this wet lion picture! Looking forward to your trip report. Your choice of camps and areas looks great.

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I always appreciate how @Atravelynnalways has a quote of the trip, something I've never been able to incorporate one in my own reports.  But this year we had a clear quote that was used almost all of the time:


"Any day with elephants is a good day."  


It seemed like every time we saw some elephants in the distance, our guide would ask if we wanted to try to get closer, and we'd always answer with that quote.  And, so while lions were probably the main characters during our trip, elephants were definitely the other major players!



Elephant at sunset in Laikipia - I had to drop my G&T when I saw how great the light was! 



Big elephant in the Mara

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Great start and I like your itinerary. Look forward to more from Laikipia and the Mara when you have time.

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Brilliant photos to start us off.

I love the Lion in the rain, and the elephant at sunset

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wow fabulous photos already! Both the wet lion and the golden ellie are superb, can't wait for the rest!


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The lion in the rain and the ele in the sunset are superb!  Glad you finally got to go.  Luck was with you on the cancellation and reschedule.  Looking forward to some wet cats and everything else!  A fine quote of the trip, indeed!


Edited by Atravelynn
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Can i add my applause for the lion in the rain (la la la la la as the song says)- that would be on my wall f i had taken anything so wonderful @Zubbie15 

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Thanks @Biko, @Treepol, @TonyQ, @janzin, @Atravelynn@Zim Girland @Towlersonsafari for the kind words and encouragement.  Sorry for the slow response, I think this report is going to go pretty slowly!


Probably one more preamble post to go - it seems like camera equipment is often asked about, so I'll get that over with.  We had the following on this trip:


two Canon R5s (one ours, one rented)

one Canon R6

Canon RF 400 f/2.8 (rented, sadly)

Canon RF 100-500

Canon RF 70-200 f/2.8

Canon RF 14-35 f/4 (I was hoping for some good opportunities, but only put it on once and the pictures weren't even properly focused)


Generally I had an R5 with the 400, and my wife had the R6 with the 100-500.  Thankfully we had the third camera though, on the second to last day the R6 started to act up and it was good to be able to switch her over to the R5.  


I was impressed at how well the eye-focus worked, in general it worked for most animals.  There were a few random animals that didn't seem to fit the algorithm so well; I'd forgotten about it until reading @Wild Dogger's report, but it did really like to focus on hippo ears for some reason.  I have double back button focusing (one eye, one normal) set up on the cameras, so I'd just switch as needed.  


The other thing it would have issues with would be if the animal was walking away from you, and another part of the anatomy that is also dark and round (trying to keep things PG).  A situation like the following could cause issues:



Greater Kudu, Laikipia


But that wasn't a common occurrence, so not a major issue - I just know some pro photographers think it makes a good photo when the animal is walking away and then turns its head to look back, so I was looking for those opportunities at time.   


I was going to start immediately at Laikipia, but just one anecdote that I'll mention since I'm talking cameras.  We were quite a bit overweight on our baggage (at least 5kg), so in the morning before heading to Wilson Airport I loaded up all of the pockets in my safari cargo pants with batteries, memory cards, etc, as well as having a camera around my neck, to try to lighten the load when the bags were weighed.  Well, since this was our first time in Nairobi I realized quickly that I overestimated what type of "airport" Wilson is; it's very small.  And the security is right at the entrance, before weighing the bags.  So our driver took our big bags through the scanner, then my wife went through with just her purse.  I step up to the security, and take probably 2 minutes emptying all my pockets, before having to refill them again after going through the scanner.  All this meant that by the time I was through the security, they had already weighed our main bags and didn't include my camera bag, so we made it underweight by about 1kg.  So we got rather lucky, just because I took so long to empty my pockets!  

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We left Wilson, and had a fairly bumpy ride up to Laikipia.  It's always odd being in the smaller planes with the open cockpits, where you can see the clouds coming up and anticipate the bumps to come.  We'd heard a lot about the drought in Kenya before leaving, but it had rained in Nairobi during the night and probably 75% of the flight was through/around rain clouds.  But as we started our descent toward the airstrip (we flew into and out of Loisaba), it was like a switch had been flipped and the skies cleared completely.


From the airstrip we made our way slowly toward LWC.  I have to admit I didn't even take out my camera for the ride, the combination of jetlag, harsh light, and a desire to just enjoy being back in the wild making me prefer to just enjoy the scenery.  We stopped a couple of times for elephants, and scanned for cheetah as we were in a good area, but no major stops.  LWC is down in a valley, right near the Ewaso Narok river - as we approached we realized the vegetation was going to be very different. 


We reached camp for a late lunch, and met our guide and tracker for the duration.  The main camp guide seems to be Dan, a Zimbabwean ex-pat who was working with a group of gap year students during the week.  He seemed like a really great guy, we talked to him a lot at meals and around the campfire when he was trying to escape the teenagers.  Instead, we were to travel around with Albie Venter, a South African who was normally located at the sister camp, Sosian.  Albie is a really good photographer himself, and would bring his Nikon mirrorless (Z7 or Z9, I don't remember) and 600 f/4 on our drives.  @IamFisheyehas a trip report of a trip with Albie to this area from 2015 on ST.   Talking to Albie, we told him we really wanted to see the wild dogs - he told us it is hard these days, as there is only one small pack, but they had been seen the morning before so maybe we'd get lucky.  


After a bet of a break in our tent, we set of with Albie and our tracker Francis, heading for where the dogs had been hanging out.  They were in a tough area, generally - it was off the main road, but in a region with no real access so you had to drive along the main road scanning with the radio (the pack has a collared dog) and then hope that they would come down to the road.  Further, because this was a busy road, there wasn't a lot of wildlife around either.  We scanned for a while, but not even the hint of a signal, so we started back toward camp. 


It was actually a pretty quiet afternoon overall - there are a ridiculous number of dik diks on this ranch, a pair or trio seemed to be around every corner.  One couple that was staying at camp set out one morning to count how many they would see in a day, but gave up after reaching 27 in 30 minutes.  However, they were challenging to photograph, as they would run away the second the vehicle would stop.  We did make a couple of stops for elephants, but were told a lot of elephants had moved toward Mt. Kenya as it had been raining in that area.






 We really didn't stop for anything else until we had sundowners, and then set off for our night game drive.  I'm going to combine all night drive photos into one post toward the end of the LWC section, there was one specific star of those efforts and it probably makes sense just to keep those all combined.  

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The  intimacy of your ele shots--the pose, expression, and size of your elephants really reminded me of Sheldrick's.

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8 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

The  intimacy of your ele shots--the pose, expression, and size of your elephants really reminded me of Sheldrick's.

Thanks Lynn - the elephants were generally really relaxed in the area, and we were able to spend some real quality time with them during our stay.


At dinner, we discussed goals and plans with Albie for our visit; in addition to hoping for the dogs, since we had previous safari experience we agreed we'd focus on quality of sighting (especially photographically) versus quantity.  So we headed out just as it was getting light in the morning, hoping for some luck.  I believe we didn't have the dog tracker this morning - we only brought it with us ~50% of the time, letting other groups try to find them and contact us if they got a hint of a beep.



We were greeted fairly early by this elephant.  This photo shows what the vegetation in the area was like more often than not - areas of thickets large enough to hide an elephant, interspersed with fairly empty space.  We generally didn't off-road much, but when we did it was a lot of zigging and zagging via the empty areas!



Vulturine Guineafowl - these guys were almost as common as the dik-diks, we'd see flocks of easily 100 birds multiple times.   They were pretty wary of us...



....so we ended up with a lot of running away shots in most cases.



We also had a nice view of what I believe is a Northern Red-billed Hornbill.


Now, anyone who has looked at my previous trip reports may recall that we really aren't bird photographers, so the fact I'm showing bird photos is probably a good indication that this was a fairly slow-starting morning.   But things turned around when we came across a bachelor herd of Grevy's Zebra, we spent essentially the rest of the morning with them.



Zebra sandwich



Making sure everyone knows he's around,



They were reasonably comfortable with us, but definitely kept an eye on us.  Love the big ears!  We never got a good picture, but it was impressive when you'd see the Grevy's beside a Plains Zebra and were able to see just how large they are. 



We repositioned ourselves at one point to try to get some backlit shots, but the sun was pretty high at that point and I don't particularly love the photos. The best effect was when some of the animals kicked up a dust cloud, and it passed in front of other zebras.


Having had a nice, extended time with the zebras, we decided to head back to camp for lunch and a siesta.  


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Yippee looks great. 

Brilliant wet Lion photo. 


We are leaving for Lewa Safari camp among others next week. 

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Thanks @NSY!  I'm sure you'll have a great trip, I hope you'll write us a trip report on your return.  


From the zebra, we headed back to camp for brunch, followed by an afternoon relaxing in camp.  There was a family of 3 Dik-diks that lived just outside our tent (we had the one furthest from the mess area, it was very private and quiet).  I spent a fair amount of time trying to get photos of them, but they were very shy.  Eventually my patience was rewarded.



Dik-dik outside our tent - I had never realized that they could raise the fur on their heads in display!


We headed out on our drive around 4PM, we went off to a fairly green valley.  The drought in Kenya had really hit this area quite hard, they hadn't had any appreciable rain for 2 years. Of course with our luck, while it didn't rain it clouded over most of the nights we were there, so minimal nice sunset light.  But there was one valley that was green at the time, which seemed to draw in the animals.



Greater Kudu, we saw a small herd here


Lots of elephants were also in the area.



Making due with no hands


We found a nice, smaller breeding herd of elephants, and stopped to have our sundowners while watching them (and them watching us too).



What are they doing over there?  Just enjoying some drinks (as an aside, I'd never had a G&T before - now I'm hooked)



I'd switch regularly between sipping my drink, and pulling up my camera for photos.  I don't know if I was the best company... :)






Coming over the ridge, with the sunlight almost gone.  The elephants had clearly been bathing in some very red dust!


Overall it was a relatively quiet day, but still fun to be out in the bush. 

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Beautiful photos @Zubbie15! The barking zebra photo is really special and an excellent use of B&W (he says as if he knows what he is talking about! :lol:) and am enjoying reading your TR. Looking forward to more.

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@Zubbie15- Simply superb!!  Thank you for writing this up .... 

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Thanks @Toxic and @madaboutcheetahfor following along.


7 hours ago, Toxic said:

The barking zebra photo is really special and an excellent use of B&W (he says as if he knows what he is talking about! :lol:)

Fully agree. :D  I thought the color didn't really add much to the image, and that it would make more sense to have it in black and white.  It allows for more focus on the zebra, in my mind.


It seems like now might be a good time to talk about camp, to give those who've never been an idea of what it's like, and maybe to bring back memories of anyone who has stayed there.  It's a relatively small, and definitely very relaxed camp.  The owner, Steve, was out guiding a walking safari unfortunately - everything I've read is that he is a major character.  But we were well taken care of by the camp manager, Kennedy, and all the other staff members.  They were happy to accommodate guests in whatever way - apart from our first full day, the other two days we went out midday to see if we could find elephants bathing (more to come), with no issues (in fact Albie suggested it to us, we definitely didn't have to ask for it).  Another group that was there the last two days we were there was focused on nocturnal animals, they would do the afternoon/evening drive until 8PM, come back to camp for a quick dinner, and then head out again from 9-11.  They'd then come back for a few hours sleep, before heading out again at 4AM to try to catch animals before the sunrise.  Again, absolutely no issue (at least as far as we knew).



Entrance to our tent.  There was a bar hidden by the green fabric, over the stairs and

relatively low - I hit my head basically every time, coming and going. 



Inside our room - relatively simple, but all that you could need. 

There was a power strip that they said technically wasn't for camera batteries,

but we eventually found out no one was following that guideline, and there was sufficient

current to charge batteries if you so wished.



Fully outside bathroom, a first for us.  It got hot in the sun in the afternoon, enough that our soap melted!



Sitting area, that wasn't used too often. 



Because this was the alternative.  



Pre-dinner drinks were by the fire, such a peaceful location.


Somehow, although I was sure we took some, I can't find pictures of the kitchen.  The amazing part was the oven was just an old wheelbarrow with coals in it - it's always amazing what these cooks can do in the bush, as the food was always excellent.  Dinner was fairly communal, while any other meals were variable.  We met a very interesting group of travelers here - there was a retired couple from Wisconsin that seemed to travel to a new location every month; two British brothers and a Kenyan girlfriend, who all worked in the travel industry and were doing a site visit; a French lady who lived in Bali and brought her private guide with her (we talked photography a bit, he claimed to have been a Canon Explorer of Light previously although I don't remember his name); and an American lady with her Indian-American guide (the ones interested in the nocturnal safaris).  A varied cast of characters, but all ended up being nice to talk to.  



I don't have a great photo of our truck, but that wouldn't be so valuable as it seemed like they were all different. 

We did have a flat tire one morning and sotook out a different vehicle for that drive - it was fairly similar, although my

wife found it less comfortable.  



Front of the truck. It was open, but as the sun got high they would unroll a

canvas to givesome shade as it got fairly hot for our Canadian constitutions.


Overall we really enjoyed it here, and would happily return, with the caveat that the density of game clearly wasn't as high as, for example, the Mara region. 


Edited by Zubbie15
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I just saw your TR this morning which is a bit late as I am going there myself with the whole family in August be it not in the same camps but I am very impressed @Zubbie15from what I have read until now and your photos are stellar!

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Thanks @BRACQUENE, you will undoubtedly have an excellent trip!


Day 3,.  I've mentioned how common the dik-diks were, however getting a photo while we were out on a game drive was next to impossible as they would run off the second we started to slow down.  So it became a bit of a goal to get an actual shot of one!  Well, we stopped early in the morning because our spotter Francis saw a leopard go behind a bush, so we waited a while to see if it would come out.  It didn't, but a dik-dik got curious enough to come see what we were doing.



Early morning dik-dik - I like the rimlight effect of the backlighting.


We saw a variety of other game (including our first buffalo and eland) but didn't really stop, as today was going to be our day to search for the wild dogs.  So we'd brought the receiver, and headed off to where they had been located a couple of days before.  As mentioned, this was on a larger road, so we did stop a few times to ask local ranch employees if they'd seen anything.  Long story short, no one had, and we didn't get even the faintest of blips on the radio.  So we eventually gave up, and decided to drive around again.  We found the gap year students - they had slept outside on a platform by a waterhole, but from the looks of them not particularly well!  The morning seemed tough, and we found out that there had been some lions nearby roaring all night and keeping them awake.  We tried for the lions, but they didn't show.  


Eventually, we arrived at a small hill (if we'd been in the Serengeti I'd call it a Kopje), and with the slow morning Albie suggested we get out and climb it to stretch our legs. The view was quite impressive.



iPhone snap of the ranch


From there, I think we tried to go find a couple of male lions that others had spotted (this might also have been after the Grevy's I showed earlier, I don't remember), but with no luck - they had headed off over a hill that had no access.


So we headed back to camp, with Albie suggesting a small breakfast and then to go out looking for bathing elephants.  We followed the track along the river, and while it took a while we eventually found a small herd bathing in the river.  The light was really harsh, but with the magic of B&W I think the photos still came out ok.



Small herd of elephants in the river



Time for a dustbath.


From there we went to a waterhole where in the past the wild dogs would come down from their den everyday. We weren't expecting anything, and wildlife-wise that was accurate.  But the camp had set up a bush lunch for us and the couple from Wisconsin - we'd become decent friends during our stay, and this was their last day, so it was nice to sit and chat.


Back to camp for a siesta, before heading out around 4:30.  Still a quiet afternoon, nothing of note or photographed until almost sunset, when we went to a waterhole that has a few hippos to try to get some photos. 



Guineafowl coming for a last drink



Hippo watching us - they really weren't very comfortable with us being there, unfortunately, so this is mostly what we saw.



We did get a couple of small yawns - this was one time where the eye auto focus struggled, and so often I missed the yawns as the camera lost focus and I was too slow to compensate.


So a generally quiet day, but it was nice to get out of the vehicle at the elephants and hippos and get a bit closer on foot. 


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Really fabulous photography!


But, did I read correctly...you'd never had a G&T before?? How is that even remotely possible unless someone is a non-drinker? :lol:

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On 1/17/2023 at 5:53 PM, janzin said:

Really fabulous photography!


But, did I read correctly...you'd never had a G&T before?? How is that even remotely possible unless someone is a non-drinker? :lol:


Yup, never had a G&T (that I can remember).  I'm much more of a beer and wine person!  


The next morning we headed out early, and spent a lot of time with a large flock of Helmeted Guineafowl that were hanging out near camp.  They were a little flighty, so it took a bit of work to get them to relax with us, but eventually I think the results turned out alright.








Backlight is a big thing these days in wildlife photography - I'm not sure birds are the ideal subject for this type of image, but it does add something different to the typical front-lit photos.  


Once they headed off, we went back looking for the wild dogs.  Still no luck, and we were now on our last day!  Eventually we went back to camp for breakfast, definitely feeling a bit bummed at our lack of success. 


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At breakfast, Albie suggested heading to one of the waterholes around midday to try to find some elephants bathing in the water.  It took a little while, and a couple of false-starts, but eventually we got lucky.





Here comes the herd


We got out of the car to try to get a bit closer (and lower), which was fun.  My wife has always been pretty adamant that she has no interest in any walking on safari, but I wonder if this may have changed her opinion a bit.  We thought we were pretty well hidden, but clearly the elephants weren't fooled and they did come to check us out. 



Who's that over there?


There were a couple of times we had to scramble back to the vehicle because an elephant started coming a bit too close, but they were generally pretty accepting of us.



Mom and baby heading our way


The highlight was of course the bathing of the elephants, but first we were treated to seeing them try to come down the bank of the waterhole.  Some were smart enough to take the path (as shown in the first picture) but others, especially the young ones, chose a different route.



Even young elephants like a slide!


The best sighting was one larger elephant who really seemed to like has bath, he was spraying water all over the place.






Other elephants would appear, it was actually hard to know where to point the cameras as so much was going on.  We spent a fair amount of time with the elephants before they all disappeared into the bush.



What are those people up to?


I have a ton more photos, but don't want to overload everyone.   But "any day with elephants is a good day" definitely applied here!

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