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Hi folks, in keeping with the delay to the trip, I apologise for the delay in starting this TR. Mainly this was due to processing the c. 17K photos, but also still recuperating from my operation. I can't really work out why, but we had never been to Kenya before. I suspect some of it was due to the high levels of traffic in the Mara and cheap package holiday tour buses, possibly high prices when we had looked at smaller camps, but mainly because we have been doing Southern Africa repeatedly. As the trip was first booked in September 2019, for the end of August 2020, I also can't recall why we finally decided that we should go to Kenya, but we did. Given our experience and focus (sic) on photography, Richard Trillo @richard trillo (not very active on ST) at Expert Africa was quick to suggest Kicheche camps, given their small size and highly trained guides. I decided to add on Amboseli and Meru to give different environments and hence a wider variety of birdlife. I think by keeping to two suppliers, we were able to get long stay discounts from both companies. The order of the trip was dictated by the timetable of AirKenya Express, as some journeys are in a circle, rather than round trips. Our international flights were booked using miles with British Airways and one of the many annoying things about the pandemic cancellations, was that I lost out on a return in first class for 2020. When the Africa flights were reinstated after the prolonged FCO red listing, NBO was one of the many destinations that lost their first class cabin. When the pandemic hit, we were initially optimistic that it would only last a few months (how wrong were we?) and so when it came to pay the balance, we paid up, hoping that we would be able to get away. As the red list updates came every three weeks, the numbers moving from red to amber or green were depressingly small and with a heavy heart, we realised that this trip was not going to happen in 2020. Unfortunately, everyone else who had cancelled and rebooked had much more realistic expectations and had cancelled in March, April, May and June, so that when we tried to rebook in July, we could only get the camps we wanted for October 2021. Expert Africa kept an extra 10% deposit to send to the camps, which kept the same rates. Again, in 2021 we were optimistic as the world seemed to be opening up and we paid the full balance when due. Unfortunately HMG seemed unkeen to allow travel to/from Africa and we admitted defeat. As it turns out, we could have just made it, but the uncertainty was not good and we probably would not have enjoyed it so much if we had to wear a mask everywhere. Luckily rebooking this time was easier and we slotted back into September, our preferred safari slot. Again Expert Africa kept an additional 10% deposit to send to Kenya and the repricing was minimal. This had the consequence of lessening the blow of paying the final balance in 2022. When we go to South Africa, we tend to stretch the trip into two and a half weeks. Our budget would not withstand that, but as a way of adding an extra day, we had a day trip to Nairobi National Park, which was the most cost effective way of adding an extra night. This also had the advantage of prolonging our time in the Mara Conservancies, as the bush flights seem to be very early in the mornings, leading to missing game drives. After flying back from the Mara in the early afternoon, with 5 touchdowns and take-offs after ours, I was glad not to be going directly to the international airport to hang around before they would allow check in, as that would have been extremely tiring.


Our final itinerary was:


10th September 2022. Fly LHR-NBO, overnight Four Points Sheraton

11th Wilson airport to Amboseli National Park. Stay Tortillis Camp 3 nights

14th Fly Amboseli to Meru National Park. Stay Elsa's Kopje 3 nights

17th Fly Meru to Wilson, Wilson to Mara North Conservancy. Stay Kicheche Mara Camp 3 nights

20th Game drive transfer to Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Stay Kicheche Bush Camp 3 nights

23rd Late flight to Wilson. Stay Karen Gables, Nairobi

24th Game drive Nairobi National Park. Dinner and late check out Karen Gables. Overnight flight back to LHR.


As I had just treated myself to a new (second hand) lens, we decided to pay for a freight seat, as AirKenya Express would not sell extra baggage in advance or guarantee space to do so. Even without my new lens, I think we would still have had to do this, as they have the stingiest baggage allowance I have ever come across: 15kg for both hold and hand baggage. I think that even our old camera equipment would have used up the vast majority of this. The child seat added some cost, but meant that we weren't stressing everytime we checked in, or carrying cameras around our neck to try and disguise the amount we had with us.


It turned out that Kenya was worth the wait. It was the best safari ever, as evidenced by the sheer number of photos taken. The difference in scenery, climate and animals over a relatively small distance were surprising. We saw all of the Northern specialities we would expect from Meru, much more than elephants in Amboseli and wall to wall action in both Mara conservancies. We saw our first ever lion, hyaena and cheetah kills, as well as our first serval (not appreciated by our vehicle mates) and lots of new birds. There is nothing about the trip that we would change (apart from staying longer!). Despite using air miles for the flights and all of the prices rolling forward, this was still our most expensive safari ever, by quite a margin. Must try harder to win the lottery!!


52548060763_32ed895d03_k.jpgJ19A1832 by tdgraves, on Flickr

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Also looking forward to this as we are hoping to do a return visit to Kenya ( probably in 2025). We also have in mind to stay at Elsa’s Kopje for a couple of nights, and obviously include Maasai Mara, plus a couple of other locations including Laikipia. We stayed at Tortilis Camp back in August 2004 so very interested to hear about your experience there.


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Fantastic picture to start!

Also looking forward to reading this as we have included both Elsa's and Tortilis in our Kenya itinerary this year in part based on your good experiences.

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Day 1/2: London to Nairobi to Amboseli


There were still (apparently) some COVID restrictions in place: we had to complete a landing health card and wear a mask inside Wilson, but not Jomo Kenyatta airports! So we were expecting to have a wear masks on the plane, but this was never even mentioned. We were upgraded into the first class cabin with club world service, which was some consolation after our 2020 flights were cancelled. Having extra space, but more particularly more peace and quiet was good, given the long day time flight, so I actually got some sleep, something I would not usually contemplate on anything other than an overnight flight. The immigration queue was short and efficient, as was baggage delivery, leading to our quickest arrival in Africa. I guess the late evening arrival has some perks. We were trying to get local currency out of the ATM as UK forex suppliers do not carry shillings. However, we were not aware of the withdrawal limit and as the OH's card decided not to work, we were short of the amount I had calculated for tips etc. We were assured by the hotel that there was an ATM at Wilson, but if there was, we didn't see it. Because of the ATM action, I had the folder with our itinerary and passports in hand, rather than in a bag as we exited the airport terminal building. I put it into the basket of the trolley and we were immediately met by the hotel car and driver, not Southern Cross as indicated on out itinerary. They took charge of the luggage and I was ushered into the waiting car, rather than watching to ensure all the bags were loaded correctly into the back, although I thought that the OH was doing so. It was only a couple of minutes drive and a security check to get to the very new looking hotel, alongside the Emirates crew. As we stood in the queue to check in to the hotel I had the awful realisation that my folder, with it's very important contents were not with the rest of the bags. Cue huge panic. The hotel staff couldn't have been nicer and more helpful. The car and driver were still outside and confirmed that the folder was not in the car. They then called the airport greeter (who should have made sure that the trolley was empty when he put us into the car) who luckily found it. The Southern Cross driver could then complete his booked job by bringing it over to us. Not a good way to start the trip. It was now getting very late, so as soon as our bags arrived to the room, we had a quick shower and went to bed.


We had an early pick up the next day, but the restaurant has 24 hour catering so we did not have to mess around with packed breakfasts etc. The breakfast spread was excellent, although it was a bit early for me to capitalise and the OH didn't want to eat too much as he is prone to travel sickness on small planes. The drive to Wilson gave a hint of the sprawling capital, but it was still pretty dark to see. The traffic however was fine, contrary to Richard's expectations. We had to wear our masks to enter Wilson, where the luggage was screened and check in was sorted by our driver. This was also a newly refurbished building and was very smart. There were several flights leaving around the same sort of time. I didn't see any game in Nairobi National Park as we flew over. Our flight to Amboseli was not full and we touched down in Tsavo first. Three of the other passengers turned out to be our vehicle mates at Tortillis. It was very cloudy, but we managed to catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro as we flew from Tsavo to Amboseli.


52361945175_6f17da0ee2_4k.jpgUntitled by tdgraves, on Flickr


52361944575_721fa25c85_4k.jpgUntitled by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672136112_1283490cf0_k.jpg7T4A0031 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673135908_dbe66b6f49_k.jpg7T4A0034 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672929534_a72f9e0f26_k.jpg7T4A0038 by tdgraves, on Flickr


It was really grey when we landed and I thought that we would be rained on, but the ground suggested that there had been no rain for a very long time. It was really dusty. There were a few game vehicles waiting at the airstrip and as we were last off of the plane, no one was there to meet us. We found our bags and managed to carry them with the camera equipment in the direction of the game vehicles. We were half way across the airstrip when one of the Kenya Wildlife Service staff came over to help. Our driver had been given the impossible task of meeting 5 people simultaneously and had taken the first guests that he came across. After a comfort break and coffee (did I mention the early start?) we were off to camp. We were told it was approx 1 1/2 hour drive, but the transfer took a lot longer as we had lots of sightings. I had not been prepared to see water in the park and so much of it. The entire area around the airstrip was marshland and was under water, covered in waders and other bird life. Apparently the water has been present for the past couple of years. Lucky for us!

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Transfer to Tortillis Camp


The clouds made the light very odd.


52361751888_3ebbd2b3df_4k.jpgUntitled by tdgraves, on Flickr


52361939835_ce1b8ad3e7_4k.jpgUntitled by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446199563_0de46b087e_k.jpg7T4A0050 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445958569_fa8e0bd718_k.jpg7T4A0059 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445852956_a1e81c950d_k.jpgJ19A6400 by tdgraves, on Flickr


One thing I was not expecting to see were flamingoes!


52361751868_761ab190bc_4k.jpgUntitled by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446125605_459c13036c_k.jpg7T4A0063 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672634531_fd236a4e5b_k.jpg7T4A0091 by tdgraves, on Flickr


I asked our driver whether they had hyaena in the park, as we had already seen several untouched carcasses. It was a reflection of how severe the drought was that there were not enough scavengers to clear up. However, it was not long before my question was answered...


52672634601_cbff46d069_k.jpg7T4A0135 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673072810_9e2119e525_k.jpg7T4A0156 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672634836_24d4974137_k.jpg7T4A0163 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446127180_a0e3e60f07_k.jpg7T4A0102 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446202178_fcff19d029_k.jpg7T4A0104 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446202483_758d8073ee_k.jpg7T4A0106 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446202758_067c592dc0_k.jpg7T4A0112 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446364578_abbad2d8a8_k.jpgJ19A6406 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445694666_e08dcfdc5c_k.jpg7T4A0249 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446204388_678d8f7f7b_k.jpg7T4A0268 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52453682061_364f3ffaaa_k.jpgJ19A6433 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445963464_59f0920d64_k.jpg7T4A0281 by tdgraves, on Flickr


We were almost to the boundary between the park and the conservancy when we came across a herd of elephants


52672929679_67c217da23_k.jpg7T4A0293 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673073345_e4179b6dad_k.jpg7T4A0303 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672635361_858605bd3e_k.jpg7T4A0325 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672137012_350fecf5a7_k.jpg7T4A0348 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673136778_c78cb0ae8f_k.jpg7T4A0352 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672930494_652d415bc7_k.jpg7T4A0356 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52502585348_4e49c6631a_k.jpgJ19A6585 by tdgraves, on Flickr


The conservancy was quiet and the weather started to improve as we arrived into camp. The main areas are on top of a hill with an extensive view towards Kili and the surrounding area (clouds notwithstanding - we only saw it briefly on the last morning). There is a steep walk down to the tents and swimming pool/spa area (not tested - pool was freezing to the fingers). Such that our elderly vehicle mates arranged the vehicle to pick them up/drop them off at the lower level for the rest of their stay. The tents are on slightly raised wooden platforms and are built into the surrounding bush, so there is good visual privacy, if not audible privacy! The birding around these tents was excellent. We unpacked and then walked up the hill for a delicious restorative lunch. In fact, I think this camp provided the best safari food ever. We were slightly concerned about this camp as it was larger than we usually stay in and the largest of our trip. However, being larger has some upsides, like having lunch and dinner exactly when you want it, not at a specified time and at a communal table, so when you are tired after an international flight, you can eat early and retire, which was exactly what we did. I think we also benefitted from the post-COVID lull as the camp was not full and so felt smaller.

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A nervy start with your trolley, but it seems to be going well after that

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@Tdgraves- Looking forward to this ..... I'm told that section of Amboseli where Tortillis camp is located is well reputed for Striped Hyena sightings?

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3 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@Tdgraves- Looking forward to this ..... I'm told that section of Amboseli where Tortillis camp is located is well reputed for Striped Hyena sightings?

I never heard that, but no we did not see them, but we had a different special sighting….

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You arrived missing your paperwork, @Kitsafariarrived without a camera.  If it is as good of omen for you as it was for Kit, then you had a great trip.  So glad everyone was reunited with their belongings before setting off.  That intro photo is quite a specimen.

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Day 2: Tortillis evening game drive


First a few birds around our tent


52448309064_a60c9892a9_k.jpgJ19A6603 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52448037341_d125379915_k.jpgJ19A6615 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52448309364_ed83e371b4_k.jpgJ19A6619 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52448037561_fec8acd36d_k.jpgJ19A6639 by tdgraves, on Flickr


Our first game drive proper and we were introduced to our guide, rather than a transfer driver. Our three vehicle mates were a couple and their grown up daughter from Costa Rica. They were delightful company although it took a while, probably due to the jet lag and a bit of a language barrier. They were extremely obliging when it came to sightings and were happy to let us have the front of the vehicle for better photography. The first two thirds of the drive were very sedate. The conservancy was drought-stricken.


52672635901_95569f43b1_k.jpg7T4A0358 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672635976_d8de50564f_k.jpg7T4A0360 by tdgraves, on Flickr


Inside the park we went to some local pools where there was some bird life, but not much else.


52445169812_f57677d0d5_h.jpg7T4A0378 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445963624_e50fbf7a23_k.jpg7T4A0381 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446204853_05dd1e908e_h.jpg7T4A0386 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446130385_ee85259e5f_k.jpg7T4A0394 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673074240_0b10835b12_k.jpg7T4A0390 by tdgraves, on Flickr


However, just as the light was fading, we found our first cats - lions!


52673138303_4e96a85edd_k.jpg7T4A0501 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672137687_87f4f5a83f_k.jpg7T4A0421 by tdgraves, on Flickr


Two females and two cubs were at a very recent wildebeest kill. The females had left it for the cubs and were resting, so the play we witnessed as we manoeuvred into place soon stopped as they began to eat.


52672137877_5945bee21a_k.jpg7T4A0423 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672138002_49330efe4a_k.jpg7T4A0427 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672138117_d92e036cb6_k.jpg7T4A0444 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672636766_c39168a376_k.jpg7T4A0453 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672931309_44941e1d59_k.jpg7T4A0466 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672138407_4534a14098_k.jpg7T4A0471 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673138088_68d41f0106_k.jpg7T4A0483 by tdgraves, on Flickr


The females


52672637376_b67c03aab1_k.jpg7T4A0508 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672138917_e56a971af6_k.jpg7T4A0519 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673138553_f5d433d5cb_k.jpg7T4A0541 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672637661_91e8f63b90_k.jpg7T4A0546 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672139227_497a10fba2_k.jpg7T4A0551 by tdgraves, on Flickr


And the cubs getting to work on the carcass


52672139307_25105ef2ab_k.jpg7T4A0557 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672139462_0f19fed481_k.jpg7T4A0593 by tdgraves, on Flickr


The light was really fading fast


52673076040_b8fd23ac85_k.jpg7T4A0581 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673076175_a21eb775ff_k.jpg7T4A0600 by tdgraves, on Flickr


We noticed that they were not paying attention to the task in hand


52672638106_0acb780922_k.jpg7T4A0620 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672139797_a9ed904d86_k.jpg7T4A0639 by tdgraves, on Flickr


and so I looked out of the other side of the vehicle to see what had captured their attention - a Thomson's gazelle, the females had also noticed that the cubs weren't keen on a wildebeest supper...Photos were a bit tricky as it was almost exactly behind us, so I was resting on the chair arm and leaning over


52673139403_644c303b60_k.jpg7T4A0668 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672933099_4af4676248_k.jpg7T4A0674 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673076585_e50fb96447_k.jpg7T4A0671 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673139513_0f253fe87c_k.jpg7T4A0673 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673139768_0c984e6b9b_k.jpg7T4A0680 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672933254_ec60d94299_k.jpg7T4A0690 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672140312_91edcbb302_k.jpg7T4A0691 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678597456_f5c55bfd3e_k.jpg7T4A0697 by tdgraves, on Flickr


I don't think our guide was very interested when we told him that there was a Tommie behind us that the lioness was stalking it. I think he thought that as they had just caught a large meal, that they wouldn't bother. It took a few seconds for it to register with him that not only did she stalk it, but that she had done so successfully. Our first kill! When it computed, he rapidly started the vehicle to reposition us, as the other 3 lions had done. It turned out that it had been so long since he had seen or heard of lions killing a Tommie, that he didn't think it would happen.


52672933364_cd541f4cd6_k.jpg7T4A0702 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672639006_c5b093f76c_k.jpg7T4A0712 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673140108_53e07ce82e_k.jpg7T4A0719 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672140702_f97264c547_k.jpg7T4A0726 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673140353_4c2e47729b_k.jpg7T4A0768 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672639451_cc88b42af4_k.jpg7T4A0804 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672639511_ae337353ce_k.jpg7T4A0822 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672639701_e262ebb806_k.jpg7T4A0847 by tdgraves, on Flickr


The cubs definitely seemed more interested in this dinner, than their starter!


52672639931_7cc03ec84e_k.jpg7T4A0897 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672141387_c7abc94f5f_k.jpg7T4A0901 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673077995_c06e053be4_k.jpg7T4A0904 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672141642_38dd658e61_k.jpg7T4A0925 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673141303_d09ae15cb5_k.jpg7T4A0974 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52673078375_60eeb3ca66_k.jpg7T4A0992 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52672934829_cae4c044cc_k.jpg7T4A1026 by tdgraves, on Flickr


Wow! What a start. We were all very happy to return to camp sans sundowners!! 25 safaris and now our first lion kill. Maybe the COVID cancellations were meant to be?

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what an exciting drive! and splendid photo's perhaps Thompson's gazelle just tastes better @Tdgraves

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6 hours ago, Towlersonsafari said:

perhaps Thompson's gazelle just tastes better


and maybe a more tender steak than wildebeest.


Wonderful photos @Tdgraves- I keep returning to those flamingos in flight - beautiful.

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10 hours ago, Tdgraves said:

Wow! What a start.


What a start indeed!    The Tommie looks skinny in the photos - do you think the Lioness twigged that it was weak or somehow incapacitated?   Or did the Lioness take advantage of the Tommie thinking she could not possibly catch it?


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Superb pictures with special kudos on the capture of the lion kill action sequence- not easy. We also had stayed at Tortillis camp many moons ago and loved the location- were lucky with several Kilimanjaro views as the clouds happened to lift at the right time. Recall the food being excellent. Looking forward to the rest of your report. Thanks for sharing this. 


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What a great start to your trip with some wonderful images. Looking forward to the next chapters.

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Your new lens is getting some action early! Great pictures.


Nice itinerary I think - looking forward to hearing what the places are like now as it seems so long since I have been to them. Agree that prices do seem to be higher, even though item by item it doesn’t look all that much different. A extra seat won’t have helped. :PLucky you had points to use for the airfare.


Air Kenya and luggage weight. That reminds me to consider what to do about them and maybe think about packing to be able to dump a few kg in Nairobi quickly.

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The lions dine and you were table-side.  Great action shots!


Edited by Atravelynn
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Part of this documentary is shot in Amboseli and Tortelis camp. 


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Day 3: Tortillis AM game drive


It was overcast all morning and we were barely out of the gates when we came across our first sighting - a cheetah! They had not seen one in the conservancy for over a month. It was very dark, so not the best for photos...


52679328698_5338988ab2_k.jpgJ19A7199 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678833426_313495c8ca_k.jpgJ19A7215 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678320682_58d9be7e8e_k.jpgJ19A7224 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52679267880_794c0e482a_k.jpgJ19A7244 by tdgraves, on Flickr


It was pretty skittish, so we left soon.


52678833656_286356400c_k.jpgJ19A7251 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678320892_d0dfbff8ce_k.jpgJ19A7254 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52679329078_521048b7b6_k.jpgJ19A7260 by tdgraves, on Flickr


We passed by the site of the lion kill, but they had dragged the wildebeest carcass deep into the bush, so were not visible, although they were audible.


52678321077_3bf8af2f8f_k.jpgJ19A7263 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52679268225_d72435ddcd_k.jpgJ19A7272 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678833976_bc7f2c3601_k.jpgJ19A7275 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678834036_d763d32f58_k.jpgJ19A7278 by tdgraves, on Flickr


We then had the first of our special sightings, our first ever serval....


52678321287_991724251f_k.jpgJ19A7282 by tdgraves, on Flickr


and a melanistic one to boot!


It seems to be a Kenya thing to have breakfast in the bush and then continue the game drive before going back to camp. Both Tortillis and Elsa's seemed to do a proper communal bush breakfast with hot food every three days and so we were privileged to experience one in both camps. I didn't take a photo of the table laden with goodies, but I did get one of the facilities...


52678834151_a5e9357ea0_k.jpgJ19A7469 by tdgraves, on Flickr


And then it was back to the drive


52446130485_995a9ea050_k.jpgJ19A7312 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446130570_9037ac3e1b_k.jpgJ19A7328 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52679268525_43dcc55cc9_k.jpgJ19A7471 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52679118709_31ecd4ba89_k.jpgJ19A7473 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52678834516_bf3acf4c46_k.jpgJ19A7476 by tdgraves, on Flickr


We passed back by the swampy area, where there were lots of marabou storks cleaning up bones from under the water


52445170297_48a4f04349_k.jpgJ19A7444 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52446205298_475ef81bb2_k.jpgJ19A7484 by tdgraves, on Flickr


52445964259_7d6e31c129_k.jpgJ19A7494 by tdgraves, on Flickr


Back to camp for a rest!

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A melanistic serval, what a sighting!

Great to see a cheetah there as well.

I really like the bush breakfast idea, we have always enjoyed them

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The flamingos and the melanistic serval are both surprises!

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