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It had been a looong time coming. 

My last trip to an African country (Gabon) was in July/August 2019 while H's was (to South Africa) in September 2019 - some 3.5 years ago. The quarantine restrictions imposed by our government were only lifted late last year for trips to Africa, but by then, H and I had a few trips already in place so we had to plan for an African bush getaway only for January this year.


During the lockdown, we had agreed that there was only one place that our first return in 3.5 years should be to - the Mara conservancies. The guaranteed plains game and predators and big cats would satiate our need for the bush and its wildlife.


And they absolutely did not disappoint. 


There were the babies. 




The giants.



the eternal fight 



The mortal enemies



A hunt, or two.



and always the glorious sunsets and sunrises.


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Jan 7-Jan 11 : Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Porini Lion Camp. Guides : Nelson and Albert

Jan 11 - Jan 15: Mara North Conservancy, Serian the Original. Guides : James and Joseph


It was easy to pick our two favourite Mara conservancies - it had to be Mara North and Olare Motorogi. and in Mara North, there was only Serian the Original camp for us. It was our third stay at that camp with our favourite Mara North guide James Kipetu.


In Olare Motorogi, H had stayed with Kicheche Mara twice, and I was with him there on his second stay. During that trip in 2018, we were parked on a ridge overlooking the hills and plains, waiting for a pair of cheetahs to hunt (it didn't happen) but right down in the valley, i saw the Porini camp and thought to myself, the camp was at a strategic point with plenty of game on both sides of the valley and I should stay there the next time.


So, for the 2023, we decided to give Porini Lion Camp a try. and since we were going to stay at Porini, I thought we would try Gamewatchers as the tour operator to arrange our trip. But I regretted the choice and the tour consultant assigned to us didn't have much knowledge about safaris or itineraries. Thank goodness we knew what to look out for, and we had to remind him about things he should have thought of (like insurance! and transfers from Jomo Kenyatta Airport to a Nairobi hotel). Initially, he would take a long time to revert. At one point, I was exasperated with him as he took a week to reply and then gave us less than a week to decide before he had to raise the rates. A friend is planning to go on his first safari in the Mara, and though we recommended a stay at Porini Lion Camp, we did not recommend Gamewatchers as we were concerned his interests would not be fully taken care of.


Having said all that, we had a fantastic stay at Porini Lion Camp. Manager Frederick does a fabulous job at the camp, he was efficient, competent (he remembered all our requests) and the staff loves him. The team works like clockwork and the camp is so well run. H and I also had a tour of the kitchen. Chef Shanzu (i'm sure I've spelt it all wrong) is the only chef there in the tiny kitchen, working wonders for packed breakfasts, delightful lunches and yummy dinners. There was one night the camp was full, and he had to cook for 30 people! and the dishes all came out on time. 


the proud chef and his kitchen


the "cold" room walled with charcoal and doused daily with water


 Tent no 2 was our home away from home. 



the dining tentDSC06492.JPG.0ed882db4e70b7eac2de70c362952f54.JPG


Edited by Kitsafari
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Let me begin at the end. 


We emerged from Wilson Airport and the transfer vehicle with two persons from Gamewatchers was waiting for us. we had small chat and then we went quiet as I watched the town of Nairobi rolled by, and then the Nairobi national park with an elevated highway looming through the dry brown park. We had just passed the Eastern bypass on the new highway, when I suddenly looked down at the seat for my camera, and then realised that I had left it in the ladies' toilet at the customs building at Wilson Airport. The Gamewatchers vehicle made a quick U-turn and the Gamewatchers lady called the airport and was told to go to the security unit. I went to the security unit with the lady and saw my camera sitting on the boss' desk. Then the boss gave the Gamewatchers lady a barrage of angry and upset words. I had no idea what was being said, but I was getting worried I was not going to get back my camera. Finally, the boss, satisfied with his tirade, turned to me and demanded to know what camera I had lost, and what happened. So I apologised for causing so much trouble, and thanked them for being so kind to keep the camera aside. And i got back my Camera! phew. i was so angry with myself for forgetting the camera, and upset that I might have lost all my photos and videos, and all my memories of our wonderful times back in the Mara. 


And the memories begin with our first game drive! Somehow when H and I are together, we seem to be a magnet for confrontations between buffaloes and lions. 

Our guides Nelson and Albert brought us to a river where there were already four vehicles watching the scene unfold across the river -  the second photo in my first post is a hint. Looking carefully at the right corner of that photo, you will see the lioness... and a cub.

In fact, there were four cubs with the lioness and they were all cornered at the bank of the river by the Dagga Boys. The buffalo then turned its attention to another lioness, and the mum lioness quickly took the chance to get her cubs up the bank and into the bushes. the buffaloes started to move towards the bushes to look for the mum and cubs, but at that time, Nelson chose to drive away from the scene, and as we guessed correctly, he wanted to get across to the other side of the river to watch the action. Nelson is a good guide and always looking out for photo opportunities, but sometimes I feel he's a little too aggressive and always moving away from already a good position to a terrible spot. But he's a really nice guy and knows his stuff. 






Edited by Kitsafari
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As we drove across the bridge and meandered through the bushes, we finally came onto the scene. That was when we realised there were a  lot of lions on this side of the river! in addition to the mum and cubs, and the other lioness, there were a handful of sub-adults, including two male sub-adults, and two male lions. One of the males had sat at distance and then walked further on to a bush to rest, oblivious to the dangers that the mum and cubs faced. 




By then, the mum and her four cubs had managed to extricate themselves from the banks and moved back into the bushes. But mum remained very alert to the dagga boys which were still milling around the bank, searching for and harassing the other lions. 






And the buffaloes were chasing the other lions around, much of the action we would miss because we were at the top of the hill. Nelson drove closer to the bank and the buffaloes were giving the young ones a hard time. 





One male sub-adult lion was probably having the worst time of its life. (Please ignore all my excitable comments!)



The first buffalo tried to get to the sub adult which bravely fought back. the first buffalo stepped back. but unseen by all of us, a second buffalo went into the trench and emerged unseen and he gave a good go at the young male. Forced by the buffalo, the lion fell out of the tree in to the bank and scampered off, running for his life. 



Edited by Kitsafari
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The terrified young male managed to escape the buffaloes, climbing up from the banks at a further point. He ran towards the bushes where the other lions had gathered. But as he finally sat to catch his breath, the male lion came walking by and the mum and cubs followed along. the cubs looked like they were moving towards the sub-adult but the mum moved faster and growled at the sub-adult. unfortunately, Nelson chose that very moment to move and I missed all the subsequent action!




Now that the lions were out of the banks, the buffaloes seemed perfectly contented and moved off. Then the mum and cubs relaxed and we were treated to some minutes of cub bonding.

So, I guess you could say our safari started with a bang. 












Edited by Kitsafari
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Your safari started out with excitement, almost the kind you don't need, with a missing camera.  Was it the Sony RX10?  You must have been so relieved to find it again, despite some angry words.  You and the young male lion had a stressful day.  All's well...


Such adorable cubs.


Looking forward to the rest.

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Wow off to an exciting start! Although it does sound like you had a bit of a problem dealing with Gamewatchers (insofar as the booking process); interesting to hear as I've always heard good report of them. 


I've had that experience too with some (almost every!) guides...they think they are moving into a better position for you but in fact they make you miss a shot you were just about to take, or its actually worse for the way you envisioned it. Even the best photographic guides don't always get it 100% right in terms of what I want. But hopefully the best of them do really anticipate where the action is going to occur.


Sooooo glad you got your camera back...what a sinking feeling that must have been!!


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A great start to your report, and your return to Africa.

Good for you, and us, that you got your camera back!

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thank you @Atravelynn @janzin @TonyQ


it was a huge relief to have the camera returned to me, and yes it is the Sony RX10, Lynn.


@janzin if we return to Porini Lion Camp, we will still ask for Nelson and Albert. we got along pretty well. 

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@Kitsafari- so glad you and H made it back to Africa after all the Covid nonsense ....... You certainly had amazing sightings that lived upto the billing!

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@KitsafariI share your yearning for a return to Africa as its 4.5 years since I was last there. Maybe later in 2023 I will head over.


What amazing lion and buffalo interaction, look forward to more when you have time.

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15 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

when I suddenly looked down at the seat for my camera, and then realised that I had left it in the ladies' toilet at the customs building at Wilson Airport

Oh my, want some tips on organising your stuff from Bibi? 

Says the man who never, ever did anything like this. 


Great start to your trip and a happy ending for the lions. Great for you both to get back. How are you flying nowadays? Flights back to Singapore yet? Just starting to get back to something like normal for Bangkok but still well short of the 4 daily choices of old.

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Thanks @madaboutcheetah @Treepol @pault

1 hour ago, pault said:

Oh my, want some tips on organising your stuff from Bibi? 

Says the man who never, ever did anything like this. 


Great start to your trip and a happy ending for the lions. Great for you both to get back. How are you flying nowadays? Flights back to Singapore yet? Just starting to get back to something like normal for Bangkok but still well short of the 4 daily choices of old.


Bibi needs to do a checklist for us, @pault  ! 

we had to fly to Johannesberg, then Kenya Air to Nairobi but the timings aren't good as they force us to stay a night in NBO, and another in JNB. We are hoping that Kenya Air starts flying to Bangkok and retain the previous time schedules - they were great at getting into NBO early in the morning (then straight onto Wilson) and then flying out of NBO late.   

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Thereafter, it was a sedate afternoon, getting to know the residents once again after a few years of absence. Lots of birds to keep us busy too. 


we saw this spur-winged lapwing and its mate (picture not here) often at this bridge crossing



a male red-headed agama or rainbow agama and its female partner




A hooded vulture looked attractive in the afternoon sunlight, while elands watched us from afar. I was surprised by the numbers of elands on this trip, and although they would stay far from us, they didn't necessarily run once they spotted us. 







The Tawny held on tight to a small kill - an unfortunate crowned lapwing, and further on, the yellow mantled widowbird made an appearance - a first for us. 1272441219_DSC02387tawny-2.JPG.d3189233ad9f88b2045414930be8bf9c.JPG



Edited by Kitsafari
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As a large black cloud hid the sun from the land, Nelson wound his way to a rocky hillside.




Up at the slope, we could see five vehicles parked around a tree. We had to wait until a vehicle pulled out since only five trucks are allowed at any major sighting. Well, no prizes for guessing what's up in the tree!

We pulled up and just in front of us was a Great Plains vehicle, which was parked close to the tree. The leopard was high, stretched out as any well fed leopard would along the branch. how they balanced and looked thoroughly comfortable on a branch is a question I always asked myself. But there she was, as comfortable as she could be. There was a kill further along the branch. It seemed that its cub had fed earlier, and then climbed down and disappeared into the bushes. 

The Great Plains guests were clearly enjoying themselves underneath the leopard, a lady clinking her glass of wine obviously conscious that she was in one of the most expensive accommodations in Olare. I should know - I stayed there once too. no big deal, but she appeared to think it was. Note I spent a bit of time on her because she made our guide very angry at another sighting. and the Great Plains vehicle monopolised that position underneath the leopard for the next 20 mins, which meant all the other vehicles could not stay as long as they had to take turns to leave for other trucks to come in.  


So, back to the leopard! This was Natito, daughter to Tito, another well-known leopard in the conservancy. 










We didn't stay long. there was no need to since the leopard was unlikely to move any time soon. We went in search of hopefully a kingfisher by the stream down the hillside. No kingfisher this time, but a family of dwarf mongoose were very curious about us. Wonderful to see them, as we hadn't seen the dwarf mongoose for a while now. 







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Then we all noticed a dik dik walking slowly. Nothing unusual about it - it was our first dik dik this trip, and this little antelope species has done very well in the Mara conservancies as we saw plenty of the cute animal. But this particular dik dik stopped and stared, not at us. Nelson drove forward and looked towards the direction where it was staring, and it was another leopard! 




This was Faulu, daughter to the late Fig. I never had the luck to see the famous beautiful Fig during my last two trips, although H saw her twice. From what Nelson said, Faulu seemed keen to take over her mother's territory, but was hiding as Natito was now controlling that territory. In fact, Faulu was not that far from where Natito was lounging in that tree. So we had a good few minutes alone with Faulu before Nelson alerted the other Porini vehicles in the vicinity. when the other vehicles arrived, we left. By the way, Nelson and Albert said they were there when Fig was attacked and killed. really sad. I didn't want to ask too much - it'd would have been too heartbreaking to hear. 


Just have to put up a few photos of Fig's beautiful daughter.











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So glad you saw Falau! She is so beautiful, like her mom! And so happy she is doing well.


This report is making me realize I never did a trip report for my trip in June...somehow it got away from me. I don't think I'd remember enough to do one now.


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13 hours ago, janzin said:


This report is making me realize I never did a trip report for my trip in June...somehow it got away from me. I don't think I'd remember enough to do one now.




aha no wonder! I was searching for your trip report and I couldn't find it and I thought it was because I didn't put in the right key words in the search box!

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I wanted a shot of our first sunset in Mara, so Nelson drove across the river for that familiar horizon where the sun would dip but somehow it wasn't the perfect sunset. Nelson and Albert got ready the sundowners - our first and last for the entire trip! the other evenings were too busy with sightings that we didn't bother with sundowners and James at Serian didn't ask either as he knew what we wanted, and not wanted. 

and with that our first night was over. 


(p/s: I'm gong to stop using my processed photos (via LR) as they have appeared very red or very green on ST although they look normal when I put them up on FB. I don't know what is causing this extreme saturations.) 



from my Samsung mobile: 



from the camera



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Nelson initially wanted to start at 6.30am for the morning drives but we overruled him and opted for a 6am start. In the end, all the guests in the camp also had an early start at 6am. Which meant, we would get some awesome sunrises!






The chilly air rushed towards our faces as the truck moved out in the dark with only the headlights showing the road out of camp. it was cold and we were dressed in a few layers, the tops of which would be shed as the day warmed. It was also quiet, but for the sound of the vehicle. Still I could hear the good old two-note songs from the rufous-naped larks, acknowledging the mornings and calling to each other.  


The plains game was already out in the dawn light. it was great to see familiar faces - the Thomson's gazelles, a couple of which were dashing up and down along the ridges, the wildebeests, the topis. 




We followed a hyena, head down, on a purposeful walk towards a den and near the den another hyena was already there, feeding a young one. 








Only an adult was in the hyena den. Nelson thought the other young ones had been moved away. 


A pair of black-backed jackals had followed the hyenas but the hyenas brought no food, so no scraps for the little canines. 







Now the morning light glowed on the plains game. We loved this hour of the day when all the animals were awake, immediately starting to graze, and ready for the day.  











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I had asked Nelson if we could  catch a sighting of the leopard cub. He brought us to another location, not sure where, but several vehicles were already there. we drove past them and Albert said the leopard and its cub were walking in the tall grass. we parked after the long line of cars, which were parked close to each other on one side of the road. Nelson parked so that we could see the mum and the cub on the right, and on our left was a small stream.


THe leopard and cub were too far to take shots and the grasses were blocking our views. the mum suddenly turned course and walked towards the cars. as she walked closer to the cars, it was clear she was used to vehicles and people, but not the cub. it froze as the mum walked between the cars. the cub was intimidated by the vehicles lined up in front of it. we were at the far end so we couldnt see the cub but we knew it refused to come forward as the mum walked past the cars and walked down the hill towards the stream but the cub was nowhere in sight. 






She stopped halfway, turned around and called softly for the cub, then she crossed the stream and went up on the opposite bank. she stopped again and looked towards the cub but the cub had run back to where they came from.




Some of the vehicles then rushed forward to follow the cub but Nelson decided to move forward behind those vehicles still parked along the road facing the cub. Our truck leaned towards the stream and I was sure the truck would flip into the stream but of course it didnt happen.

Instead, Nelson came to a stop because we had stopped just behind a Great Expeditions vehicle and the haughty lady guest had leaned out and said something nasty to Nelson. I couldn't hear what she said but Nelson answered "So what?" and looked really annoyed. Nelson refused to tell me what she said, but later at breakfast, Albert said she said something like "you stop right here - you're putting pressure on the cub."

A statement which boggles my mind. any intelligent person will know our vehicle being behind hers could have no way any bearing on the cub. Her vehicle was one of the handful parked in front, and packed so close together that they had frightened the cub off. What's more, her vehicle was parked in front of the leopard mum lounging in the tree the evening before, and was right in the way of the cub which could have returned to feed in the tree. It just shows the level of intelligence of some people. It takes all kinds.

I told Nelson and Albert they should have told me what she said and i would have retorted to her. it's easier for a guest to answer a guest, rather than a guide answer a guest from another camp.     




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Glad your vehicle remained upright and sorry for the unpleasant encounter.  Those young hyenas are adorable in a scruffy sort of way.

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Enjoying your report. Too bad you didn’t have a tranquilliser dart gun for Lady Muck B)

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@Kitsafaribrilliant trip report so far. I am sorry to hear about your less than par experience with Gamewatchers. I am leaving soon on a trip organized by Amanda from the UK office and have only good things to say about the experience. Very timely responses also during weekends and very good recommendations. Amanda also readily accepted that I could get a better hotel deal at the beach. 

Edited by mvecht
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Great report Kit, you really deserved all those awesome sightings after too many years away from Africa. Love the sunsets, and that wet Hyena is so funny! Sorry to hear your booking process with Porini was not exactly stellar. The on the ground people were all excellent when I joined Sangeeta and friends in the Mara last year.


There´something about Wilson Airport toilets making people leave their stuff there. I left my trousers - true story! :D


What a relief you got your camera back!

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